Friday, May 31, 2024

Mixed Feelings and Divided Loyalties

Beardsley pulled into the parking lot of the Super 8 motel in Hancock, he saw that Thompson and Batchelor were already there. He got out of his truck, took a deep breath, stretched, then grabbed his duffel bag out of the rear seat. He was beat and was wondering when he'd get a chance to sleep again.

He and Batchelor had been on the move for a few days now, Thompson said that "the plan" (Beardsley always put mental quotes around those two words) was close to being brought to fruition. In his own mind, Beardsley was starting to have trouble with this whole course of action. Treason was something that ate at his guts, he was a Marine, damn it.

He put those thoughts aside as he checked in, then went up to his room. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was clean and had a very comfortable looking rack. He was tempted to see how comfortable it was, but he knew if he laid down, he'd probably go straight to sleep. He checked his watch, he didn't have to meet up with Thompson and Batchelor for another hour.

He sat down and turned on the TV, he instantly regretted it as the previous occupant of the room had left the set on a 24-hour news channel. As he looked at the remote to change the channel, a politician came on, he was being interviewed on the steps of the Capitol.

"That's right, tonight, the United States Congress will meet and vote on a measure to authorize the President to use military force against insurrectionist forces in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Maryland."

"There can be no denying the fact, yes fact, that the recent massacre of Federal agents in Virginia and the ambush of Federal agents last month in a warehouse district just outside of the capital in Maryland means that dangerous, heavily armed, forces have arrayed themselves against Federal authority."

"Congressman! Do you have any information tying the murder of a state trooper in Maryland to this group, or these groups, ambushing agents of the BATF and the Park Service?" The reporter, from Baltimore, had a hunch and wanted to pursue it.

"No, no I do not. I can't speak to that, but honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if that incident was tied to the others. The suspect in that case had ties to militia groups in the area."

Beardsley switched the TV off, he then got up and looked out the window. Shaking his head, he wondered what he had gotten himself into. Then he realized, Wilt was right, elements in his own government were going to use these events to pass stricter gun laws. Didn't the idiots realize that gun laws didn't, and couldn't, prevent someone from having access to firearms. All it took was money.

He checked his watch, time to meet with Wilt and Willy. He was supposed to meet them at some place called Krazy Rayz Smokehouse, a local BBQ joint. He wasn't sure he was hungry or not, but it was a public place where they could eat and perhaps not draw any attention to themselves. He thought it was a bad idea, Hancock is a small town and strangers might seem out of place. But what the heck did he know, he was just an old Marine.

Secretary of the Interior John Nakagawa finished his meal and set his plate aside. "You were right Bill, that was pretty good. Much better than your average MRE."

Bill Aspinall, former Air Force pararescueman, or PJ as they were known, laughed and said, "Much better than a lot of things I've eaten, John. When do A-10 pilots eat MREs anyway?"

Nakagawa chuckled and said, "When we have to, being an Air Force pilot isn't all nice hotels and the sweet life. We Warthog guys get to rough it a lot. I mean, when I was in I lived in a tent for six months."

"Operation Inherent Resolve?" Aspinall asked.

"Nope, it was a classified op, think Yemen."

"Ouch, that was nasty."

"Yeah, now on to more pleasant things, 15 Mile Creek is supposed to be some good fishing, trout especially. I plan on getting up early and trying my luck. Do you fish, Bill?"

"Not since I was a kid. Be nice to try my hand, I'll watch and learn."

Nakagawa started to say something then realized, Aspinall wasn't here on vacation, he was here to keep the Secretary safe. So while Nakagawa fished, Aspinall would be watching things.

"John, you know we brought two teams out here, four men besides myself. They spotted something hinky right after we got off the Interstate, might be nothing, but it's why we're here at Number 3 and not Number Two as originally planned. I have them checking that out, before we hit the sack, one of the teams will be in our immediate vicinity. You won't see them, well, you shouldn't see them, if you do, let me know so I can chew their asses. But we're not alone out here."

Nakagawa nodded, "Good to know."

The Secretary got up and took Aspinall's plate, and his own, and headed for the opening to the tent.

"I can do that, Sir, er, John."

"Nah, I got this, you can watch my back."

As the two men stepped out of the tent, they noticed that the rain had stopped, but the fog was very thick now, it was seeping through the forest as night fell.

"Damn, I'd hate to be out there in that soup." Nakagawa said, without, at first, thinking of the four men who were out there. "Damn, hope your guys will be okay?"

"Should be no problem, John."

The barricades were up and signs placed to indicate that the exit was closed. There was a truck parked nearby, with phony Maryland DOT markings on it. Ted McAndrews and his partner, Jeff Conrad, would be spending the night there, sleeping in shifts. Though neither man expected someone to question why the exit was closed, you never knew when a nosy cop might poke his or her nose into things.

They hadn't blocked the eastbound exit 62 as there was a juvenile facility there. Blocking that would draw attention. But they were worried about people coming from the east. Well, not worried per se, but any trouble coming their way would be from that direction.

The other members of their squad were bivouacked up in the woods above the exit they had blocked off. They were well dug in and had an M60 machine gun in a camouflaged emplacement covering the off ramp.

They had another team covering National Pike NE, not far from the Exxon station where a shooting had occurred recently. The men all knew about the shooting but didn't know any of the details. No doubt they would have been surprised to learn that the man killed, and the man arrested, were peripherally associated with their own militia unit.

"Lou, better check the batteries in your NVG¹, you've got the first watch."

Lou Phillips nodded, he'd already done that, and picked up his M4 carbine. "I'm going to go back into the trees another fifty yards or so, sound about right?"

Frank Moscato nodded, "Yeah, we'll find you by the reflectors on the back of your helmet. Keep your eyes peeled, I'm pretty sure that government guy's security team is close to him. Probably nothing to worry about."

Phillips nodded, he had to take a piss and his back hurt, but he'd drawn the short straw and had the first watch. At least the rain had stopped. He tried his NVGs, muttering to himself, "Can't see shit out here."

"See him?" came over Woodrow Gaither's headset. His spotter, Kyle MacLauchlan had seen the man leaving the small bivouac. Both men had seen the M60 set up behind a pile of well-concealed sandbags. While those men had been setting up, they had moved in close to keep them under observation. In the fog, the dim light of the forest, and the ample vegetation, the two men were nearly invisible in their ghillie suits.²

"Roger. Sit tight." Gaither answered. He switched frequencies.

"Red Sun Two Alpha, Two Bravo, observing tangos, we'll stay put for now."

"Copy." The team chief, Larry Sellers, already knew that the men Hoss Winthrop had spotted were heavily armed and were probably up to no good. He and Winthrop were about a quarter back from Gaither and MacLauchlan. He'd already let the detail's chief, who was with the Secretary, know about the potential threat. But these men were facing away from where the Secretary was.

Sellers wondered why that was.

"Okay guys, there's going to be trouble in the morning, up along Interstate 68. A Maryland Guard unit is on maneuvers in the Green Ridge State Park area. We've got a team with heavy weapons who are going to ambush those guys when their convoy pulls off the Interstate to head to their maneuver area."

The three men were talking in the parking lot of the motel. Thompson was briefing Beardsley and Batchelor.

"After this, the Feds will have the ammunition they need to declare an insurrection and suspend Posse Comitatus. They'll probably federalize the West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland Guard."

Batchelor shook his head, "What's the point of all this, Wilt? We don't need the Army beating the bushes for us. I thought we were going to sucker the Feebs into a trap up near the Pennsylvania border. I don't mind gunning Feds, but Jesus, soldiers?"

"Nah, there's another element at play here. The ambush team are fall guys, there's another group in the area that are observing them. Guys on our side. Contractors out of Annandale, they'll ambush the ambushers. There will be a big stink, but no Guardsmen will be hurt. They will be on scene, they will report back. Then the Feds will make their move."

"I don't see how that keeps the Army out of the woods, looking for us."

"There's no real cause, the Guard should see this as the Feds making a big stink over nothing that requires military involvement. I'm pretty sure that the governors of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia will balk over letting their Guard go under Federal control. I'm betting that even if the call goes out, half the Guardsmen, or more, won't report."

Beardsley chimed in, he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, "What happens then?"

Thompson grinned, "Then the Feebs get a report of a big arms cache up on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border."

"They go in, guns blazing? Then what?"

"BOOM! Just like the Rod and Gun Club."

Back in his room, Beardsley couldn't sleep. This was treason, had to be. He'd been on board at first, now he was having second thoughts. This was an insurrection and it was being directed from higher up than Wilt Thompson, that was certain.

But who? What was the end game here?

If things got much bloodier, Congress would act, whether it was Constitutional or not. Then what? Riots, fighting in the streets? Beardsley doubted it.

Sure, a few guys back in the hills might want to fight, but the majority of the American people? He had a sick feeling that many would just accept it. Then he had another thought.

What if Thompson and those above him were determined to kill more than just Feds? What if civilians were to be slaughtered under some pretext? Not by the Feds, but by the guys running this thing Beardsley was a part of.


¹ Night Vision Goggles, a device which enhances ambient visible light and converts near-infrared light into visible light which can be seen by the user. (Source)
² A camouflage garment designed to look like the natural surroundings. They are very effective, if set up properly. (If you don't match the local flora, you could stick out like a sore thumb.)

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Gone Fishing, Trouble Brews ...

U.S. service members participate with allies and partners from multiple nations in exercises throughout West Virginia, May and June 2023
Photo by Staff Sgt. Jake SeaWolf/U.S. National Guard
Wilt Thompson met up with Leroy Beardsley in the parking lot of the Walmart in Frederick, Maryland.



The men fist bumped then Thompson asked, "Where's Willy?"

Beardsley nodded towards the store, "He's inside, had a few things he wanted to pick up."

Thompson looked concerned, "He's using cash, right?"

Beardsley shook his head, "Come on boss, you know Willy's no fool."

"Can't be too careful these days."

As Thompson looked towards the entrance to the store, he saw Batchelor coming out. He turned to Beardsley, "You guys came in separate vehicles, right?"

Beardsley nodded, "Yeah, reminds me, I gotta gas up."

"I want to head out separately, can't be too careful. Did you know that the Maryland State Police killed Morgan and have Rossi in custody?"

"Damn. Probably for the better, Morgan was an asshole and I don't care much for Rossi."

Thompson grinned, "This isn't one of those Army-Navy things is it?"

"Nah, but do we need to worry about Rossi spilling his guts?"

"Nope, he only knows what we want him to know."

Batchelor joined the two men after stowing his purchases in his pickup truck. "Wilt, we ready to head out?"

Thompson nodded towards Batchelor's truck, "What did you buy?"

"Junk food, you know I can't go more than a day or two without chips and stuff."

"Enough for everybody?" Beardsley asked, smiling as he did so.

Batchelor shook his head, "Uh uh, no way I could afford enough pogey bait¹ for your fat ass."

The three men all laughed. Thompson got in his truck and said, "See you guys in a few hours."

"I've cleared your calendar for the next five days, Mr. Secretary."

"Thanks, Nancy. I'm looking forward to a few days in the wilderness." Secretary of the Interior John Nakagawa grinned at his administrative assistant as he picked up his briefcase.

"Where are you headed. Sir?"

"Way out in western Maryland, Green Ridge State Park. I haven't been camping in years, not since my wife died." His face darkened when he said that, but he recovered quickly. Someone from Japan would have noticed the brief emotion on his face, but Nancy Winkler did not.

"Well, enjoy! If we need you ..."

"Yes, boss, I'll have my cell with me."

Winkler laughed as the Secretary departed. She phoned down to the garage and asked for Bill Aspinall, the head of the Secretary's security team. It bothered her that such a thing was necessary in this day and age. Her mother had recently commented, "Well, when I was a girl, only the President and Vice President needed protection. Most people didn't even know, or care, who the Cabinet members were."

"Aspinall here."

"Mr. Aspinall, Nancy Winkler. You're not going to let the Secretary waltz out of town on his own are you?"

"No Ma'am, I'm going with him and we'll have a team follow us to the Secretary's destination. We won't leave him alone, but it will be a lot less intrusive than normal."

As Winkler hung up, she felt a little better. The Secretary would be protected and, better yet, he got along well with Aspinall.

She'd sleep better knowing that.

"You know where we're going, right Bill?" The Secretary was relaxed, he was glad he'd acceded to his security detail chief's offer to drive. He could now relax on the nearly two hour drive from his home in Bethesda. The big government issued Chevy Suburban was more comfortable than his own SUV, a small Honda CRV, and he could take more camping equipment. The tent alone took up a lot of room.

"Yes, Mr. Secretary, I've got it programmed into the car's navigation system. Along the way we can stop and get some food, I know a place that sells really nice camping packages, including a much better version of the MRE."

"Nice, and while we're on this trip, call me John."

"But Mr. Secretary ..."

"That's an order, Bill. Last one I'll give you until we get back to DC."

Aspinall smiled, "Alright, John. Relax and enjoy!"

The small group saw the big black Suburban go by and radioed ahead. "The Secretary is on his way, as planned."

The group moved into the open, the fog was setting in. Though it was supposed to be a nice weekend, fog and rain were predicted for Friday evening into the small hours of Saturday.

"All right boys, let's head back and get set up. Ted, Jeff, you have those Maryland DOT outfits and equipment?"

Ted McAndrews answered, "Yep, we'll have this road closed in a jiffy. No one else will be getting off at this exit tonight."

As the men began to move, another Suburban took Exit 62, the men slipping back into the trees didn't notice it, they were focused on their next task.

"Larry, better radio the boss. I coulda swore I saw armed men up in those trees, just above the exit." The Suburban's driver, Alexander "Hoss" Winthrop seldom missed a thing.

The team chief, Larry Sellers, nodded and said, "I think the West Virginia National Guard is out here this weekend. Maybe working with the Maryland Guard. But I'll let Mr. Aspinall know."

"Better safe than sorry." Winthrop said.

"Yeah, yeah, and I've never seen your eyes fail, even in this soup."

For the fog was getting thicker and it was starting to rain. Winthrop was worried about falling too far behind the Secretary's vehicle.

"Okay, boss said he'll slow down a bit, it's still clear about a mile ahead of us. Heck, they should be at the campsite soon."

Sellers thought a moment then radioed his boss back, "Red Sun One, this is Two, recommend bypassing the Campsite 2 and proceed to Campsite 3."

When he heard, "Copy," from the other end, he breathed a little easier.

Then he got on the radio again, this time to his parent organization's headquarters in Annandale. He murmured a quiet "Shit," then signed off.

"Problem, boss?" Winthrop asked.

"I asked for a chopper, nothing available until the morning, this area is going to be completely fogged in until around first light tomorrow." Then he looked at the other two members of the team.

"You fellows ready to take a hike?"

Woodrow Gaither nodded as he looked at his spotter, Kyle MacLauchlan, "Kyle?"

"Let's do this." MacLauchlan muttered, he was perhaps too ready.

Sellers continued as he looked at his map, "We'll drop you off just up ahead. Those guys Alex saw are back there somewhere. Sneak on back and check them out."

Gaither just said, "Roger that," as the big Chevy rolled to a stop. Fifteen minutes to gear up and the former SEAL sniper and his former Army Ranger spotter vanished into the woods.

Sellers slapped Winthrop on the shoulder, "Let's drive." He was still puzzled as to how his company, a private security firm, could afford to assign two of their five scout/sniper teams to the Secretary of the Interior's weekend fishing trip.

Sellers looked at his scout, "What are you grinning about?"

"You Army guys and 'choppers,' come on boss, everyone knows they're called 'helos.'"

Sellers a former 11-Bravo² grimaced at his scout, a Marine 0317³. "Chopper, helo, whirly-bird, I hope I never have to fly on another one."

Winthrop laughed, "Copy that, boss."

¹ Junk food, candy bars, ice cream etc.
² Army Military Occupational Specialty code for an infantryman.
³ The MOS for scout snipers in the United States Marine Corps is 0317. This MOS changed to 0322 in December of 2023 and people with that MOS are now referred to as reconnaissance snipers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Memories of NATO

Le Siège de Paris
Ernest Meissonier
Meissonier is one of my favorite painters, the one above is packed with historically accurate details and lots and lots of allegory. The lady at the center of the painting represents the city of Paris (Meissonier's wife actually posed for that bit), a city which has seen a lot of turmoil in its long history. (This was the second siege of Paris, the first was undertaken by Vikings in 885 to 886 AD.)

Now the French are an interesting lot (before you warm up your comments to hate on the French, tread lightly, the family name was originally Gaudry, changed by my paternal great-grandfather for reasons which have been lost to time), martially they are belittled by people without much knowledge of history. Sure, the French fell apart in 1940, but in 1812 they actually captured Moscow, something the Germans failed to do.

I've talked with folks who have served with the French, they, to a man, praise their abilities. Peuvent-ils être casse-cul? Certainement.¹ I remember a story related to me by a German colleague in NATO (so perhaps "consider the source" applies here, there is no love lost between the Germans and the French).

Back when I was working on the E-3A AWACS², Boeing would occasionally have the various organizations who operated that type aircraft over to Seattle to learn "what's new" in a new software build. There were four groups: the Americans, the British, NATO, and the French. At the end of the week-long visit there was normally a party.

Except when the French were visiting. Apparently they were all business and made no effort to be nice or friendly. Boeing had a product to sell and the French probably didn't want any fripperies while doing so. I couldn't understand why the French were disliked by Boeing.

Until the day Boeing sent a representative to Germany to regale us with the grimy details of the new build of the Executive software (which was the heart and soul of the AWACS Operational Computer Program, i.e. AOCP, how I remember this 25 years later rather astounds me ...).

Your Humble Scribe and his close associate, one Oberfeldwebel Bendfeldt of the Luftwaffe (known far and wide as Benny), were detailed to sit down with this contractor guy, who apparently had been doing this task for years and enjoying every minute of it.

So on a Monday (why is it always a bloody Monday), Joe contractor walks in carrying a rather thick binder of computer paper. We all sit down, he opens the binder, and starts going through the JOVIAL³ code, line by line.

While Benny sits there, soaking it all in, and being nice, I'm flabbergasted, astounded, and mind-boggled at this latest display of NATO inefficiency (more on that in a bit). I think I lasted a half an hour, a mere 30 minutes, before I asked, "Do you intend to go through this code, line by line, rather than tell us what's new and where we might have problems with this version?" (Boeing issued a standard version which we then had to modify to suit our operational needs, each operating organization having slightly different needs.)

He sat there for a moment, stared at me for a moment, then went back to reading each line of code. I called "foul," went immediately to my boss, and said contractor was on a plane back to Seattle the very next day. (At least that's how I remember it.)

Now I think the reason this really irked me has to do with my "introduction to NATO" a couple of years prior to this incident.

Apparently every new enlisted assignee to NATO underwent a six month period of training. Not every day mind you, the courses were interspersed with one's regular duties, but it took six months to get all the training in.

The first couple of courses weren't bad, just I couldn't see the point of them. Most of what they taught would be picked up via On the Job Training, OJT. But then I hit a third course which was, essentially, Computer Programming 101.

Uh, what?

I had a degree in computer science, the Air Force had made me go to their school, which had been a waste of time and money (though I did have fun in Biloxi, even if it was summer and the average temperature seemed to hover around 90, with humidity the same). I smelled another one of those "someone decided that this was a requirement, so we must do it, even if it makes no sense.

Now I had a boss in those days, an American major, female, who did not tolerate bullshit and was outstanding to work for. I went and talked to her, asking why I had to, once again, learn how to convert numbers from hexadecimal and octal and how to write a computer program. She thought that was odd, so she went up the chain.

Turns out that not every nation in NATO sent programmers to NATO to, ya know, work on computer programs. Especially certain southern European countries whose names begin with "I" or "G." For NATO was sweet duty for them (one Italian told me that basically being assigned to NATO doubled their salary). So their governments liked to spread the wealth.

Among some of my colleagues were air traffic controllers, security policemen, administrative types, etc. From what I understood at the time, those nations didn't have computer programmers in their militaries (though I may be misremembering).They could spell "computer" but that's about it.

So someone, I suspect an American, decided that those folks from other countries should be trained. Then, I suspect a southern European, decided that it was unfair to make their guys take this training, everyone should take it!

I threw the bullshit flag, my boss reviewed the tapes (so to speak) and it was decreed that if someone showed up with a computer background, and had the proof of training therein, then that person need not take the NATO training. The cries of "unfair" fell upon deaf American and German ears. (Less people taking the training, less money spent on same.)

As back then it was primarily the Germans and the Americans footing the bill, our votes counted more. (To show the importance of those two nations at Geilenkirchen, command rotated between a German general for two years, then an American general for two. All the generals we had when I was there were Sierra Hotel.)

At least that's how I remember it.

You may note that there is no new chapter to Uprising, I am working on it but work has started to display an element of suckage that heretofore it did not. New management dontcha know, as people move on. Process is king, status über alles, and who cares whether or not we deliver crap to our customer?

Retirement is looking sweeter and sweeter. While I'll miss some of my co-workers, it's time to hang up the cleats. No later than the end of the year. I've enjoyed myself up until now. It sucks to watch it all turn to shit. Early days though, maybe it'll improve.

Though I shan't hold my breath ...


¹ Can they be a pain in the ass? Certainly.
² Airborne Warning and Control System.
³ Jules' Own Version of the International Algorithmic Language. I shit you not.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

John Blackshoe sends: Memorial Day - It’s not about BBQs, a day off, store sales or even all veterans.

Decoration Day
Carl Hirschberg
After the huge losses in the Civil War, (albeit more from disease than combat) citizens sought ways to honor the dead soldiers. In May of 1865 freedmen in Charleston, SC, decorated the graves of Union prisoners who had been buried in that city. In 1866 citizens and veterans gathered in Waterloo, New York, to honor their fallen with flowers, speeches and picnics. In 1868 the Grand Army of the Republic issued a call for an annual national commemoration on May 30th, and the name Decoration Day or Memorial Day was pretty much interchangeable from then on. In Southern states, more restrained honors and commemorations took place honoring the Americans who died fighting for the South. By the 1880s, secessionist animosities began to heal, and by 1900 joint Union and Confederate ceremonies were common. As time went on, dead from other wars, ranging from Custer’s defeat, the Spanish American War, WW1 and WW2, and our other forays into world trouble spots were included as honorees.

In 1968 a pandering Congress connived to move a bunch of holidays to Mondays instead of specific days, and Memorial Day became the last Monday every May. We began to see holidays used as excuses for sales, and actual reasons for individual holidays faded, especially with the distaste for the Vietnam War. In recent years, military appreciation has returned somewhat, and it is nice to have people think good things about veterans again, especially on 11 November Veterans Day (grown from the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month “Armistice Day” ending WW1). By all means, let all of us vets and supporters celebrate all who served, and hoist a beer in toast of all comrades, living and dead, but on Veterans Day, not Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is sacred to the honor of those who died in service to our country, not merely served.
Many people know many veterans, included a few who perished in service. Sadly, a growing number of Americans to not know any veterans, or worse, actively dislike veterans. 

This Memorial Day, spend a few minutes thinking of some you know who died in service, in peace or war, combat or training. They all served and paid the ultimate price. Here are a few I will remember:

William Allen Rees, 1943-1968. 1LT USA, died in Vietnam 5 May 1968 near Quang Tri when his AH-1G Cobra helicopter 67-15500 was shot down by ground fire, less than 3 months after he arrived in country. We were high school sports teammates.


Yup, it does feel like this.
Sixteen Navy officers and enlisted who died in the 6 October 1978 crash of U.S. Navy R6D-1 BUNO 13618 [C-118 aka C-54/DC6] transport plane which impacted a hill south of Santiago de Chile in bad weather, killing all aboard. The aircraft and crew from Detroit based Naval Reserve Transport Squadron VR-52 were supporting Operation UNITAS XIX, a joint training exercise by the navies of the United States, Peru, Chile and other South American countries. My ship’s postal clerk was one of the 16 dead.

Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon Mary Kent, USN (1985-2019)
This woman’s awesome accomplishments exceed the combined actions of a multiple superlative individuals. She overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges and truly made a difference in the field with Special Warfare operators. She was killed by a suicide bomber attack in Manbij, Syria on 19 January 2019.

CTICS Kent and her grave at Arlington National Cemetery
She survived thyroid cancer, earned Bachelors and Masters degrees while having two children and working full time with special warfare support units and the National Security Administration. She was fluent in Arabic and at least three other foreign languages. She earned the greatest respect from those she worked with as a truly overachiever “bad ass” in the most competitive and dangerous military environments. She volunteered for four deployments with Spec War types doing highly classified, dangerous, and effective missions.

Her husband (now widower), Joseph Kent is a (now) retired U.S. Army Special Forces Warrant Officer raising their two children in rural Washington state. He very narrowly lost an election for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District in 2022 and is running again this year. I chose to show my humble respect for his heroic wife by contributing to his campaign.

A biography on CTICS Kent was recently released, but I have not gotten a copy yet. “Send Me” available from Amazon) Meanwhile, I urge you to take a few minutes to read some background on her at these three links.

(The author of this piece teamed with her widower to write biography “Send Me” available from Amazon.)

New York Times Magazine account of her memorial service.

UK Daily Mail account of her service with more photos.

Thank you, God, for those who have defended our country, and paid the ultimate price.

Monday, May 27, 2024

I remember

 Well, Folks, I hope you enjoy your time off today.  It's always nice to get away from the Rat Race and enjoy some family time.  However...remember the price paid for that privilege.  

In yesterday's post, Sarge had a pretty long list of folks that answered the call.  Mine is a bit shorter, but only because these were folks I actually knew and was assigned with at one point or another while on Active Duty.

Unfortunately, I only have photos of two.

First on my list is Captain Alan J (Joe) Pryor.  Joe had been a year ahead of me in ROTC at Texas Tech. He and I worked together fueling Jets at the Lubbock airport to pay for beer and stuff.  He graduated, got commissioned, went to Pilot Training and was assigned to fly the F-111.  After qualifying in the "Aardvark", he was assigned to Cannon AFB, Clovis New Mexico and eventually became an Instructor Pilot in the Airplane.

It's an Aussie Vark, but a pretty cool picture.Source

On  17 Oct 1984, He was out giving a new pilot a night upgrade ride. He was in the Weapons System Operator's seat.  The new pilot was in the left seat. Unfortunately, they hit a thousand foot (AGL) hill @ 700K.  I strongly doubt they even knew what happened.  More details (which support my hypothesis) can be found here.


Next on my list is Capt Ross LaTorra. 


 He'd been one of my students when he was going through Instructor Training at Holloman AFB, Alamogordo NM.  He'd had a couple of tours in the A-10 and it was time to pay his dues by instructing 2LT's in how to fly and employ a fighter.  He'd completed that training, gotten married, bought a house directly across the street from Mrs. J and I.  Good Stick, took a while to get "Up to Speed" (Literally, having flown the much slower A-10), but got it done and was a fine IP.

I had left Holloman and was going through F-15 transition training in Phoenix.  Mrs. J was still at Holloman finishing out her assignment.  She called one evening and told me that Ross had been killed in a mid-air collision with the other aircraft in his flight.   Rocked me to the bone.  Suffice it to say I was a bit "timid" in the next 1 v 1 air to air training.  Got called in to my Flight Commander's office and he asked "WTF was going on up there?" (Not only was he my Flight Commander but my IP on the ride.) I explained.  He said he was "sorry that had happened, but it does and you can't let it get to you in the air, that's what church is for. Get over it, or drop out."  I got over it.  But Ross is still on my weekly prayer list during Mass.

I graduated from F-15 transition and reported to the 12TFS ("Dirty Dozen") at Kadena AB Okinawa.  I was a senior Captain by now and needed a leadership position, so was appointed as the C Flight Commander.  Now, this position doesn't really carry any authority, just a lot of responsibility.  If one of my pilots screwed up, I got to go with him and get my butt chewed with him.  Got called in to the Squadron Commander's office one day (wondering who did what to whom?), he asked me to sit down, which reduced the anxiety level quite a bit, were he going to do some butt chewing, I'd be at attention.  In any case, he told me that we'd gotten an "interesting" new pilot assigned to the squadron. His name was Bob Schneider. His previous "fighter" assignment had been as a T-33 target pilot for Air Defense Command.  


 T-33 Source

Since this was supposedly a "fighter", he was not sent through Fighter Lead-In instead going straight to F-15 transition.  Since he was a qualified "fighter" pilot, his transition to the Eagle was primarily how to take it off and land and not much else.  So, The Boss, realizing that I had been an instructor at Lead-in asked nicely (yeah right) if I'd take him under my wing and give him an "Off the books" Lead-in program.  

Yes, Sir!  

Bob's first ride was very eye-opening.  The debrief was very long and detailed.  But the thing about Bob was he was a fast learner and rarely made the same mistake twice.  We had about a month to get him trained as an actual F-15 Fighter Pilot before we went to Cope Thunder in the Philippines.  Cope Thunder is a very large training exercise with up to 100 airplanes airborne at one time. It was quite intense.  In any case, Bob and I got it done and when the Squadron Commander took him up for a 1V1 to make sure, he came back and gave me an Attaboy.  Those were extremely rare from him.

Bob had one small Achilles Heel.  He didn't need more than a Beer or two and he'd be fearless and bullet proof.  However, in order to be a "REAL" Fighter Pilot, you need a tactical call sign.  (Think "Maverick" in Top Gun).  That Friday evening, Bob had his requisite two beers with the usual result.  An emergency meeting of the  tactical call sign naming committee (AKA the squadron) was called and quickly settled on "Rocket".  

All that having been said, he did quite well in the 12th.  I picked him as my wingman and flew with him whenever I could.  We got pretty darn good as a team. But, all good things must end.  I got my next assignment to Army Command and Staff and left that summer.  The Squadron at that time was gearing up for another Cope Thunder which started about the time I reported in to Leavenworth.  A couple of days later, the USAF ranking officer, also a Fighter Pilot, called me into his office and confirmed that I'd been in the 12 TFS at Kadena. 

Yes, Sir. 

He handed me an Accident Report of a Midair Collision at Cope Thunder.   One jet had managed to RTB, the other had spiraled down in controlled flight into the ocean.  No Ejection.


32 years ago, still gets to me.

Heaven BoundSource


Let's keep on Driving on though. 

I've now completed Army Command and Staff and Missus J has just informed me that she has been selected for Army Command and Staff.  Since we'd been separated for a year, I talked to my personal Personnel Person (AKA Missus J) to see what we could do to be together.  The School for Advanced Military Studies (AKA SAMS or the Jedi Knight Training Academy) chose me as their token Fighter Pilot for the next year's class.  First day of class, we're told we have to write a thesis and we'd have an adviser assigned to us to "help".   My thesis was on Command and Control of Tactical Air Sorties.  

Reasonable, right? For a Fighter Pilot?  Given that I had just completed the Army's version of Command and Staff College, I knew where most of the clash points were in discussing use of Tactical Air Power. 

I was told to see my Advisor, LtCol Harry M, Murdock to get acquainted and get started.  Reported in to him and quickly noted that his uniform was neither Army Green, nor Air Force Blue.  Seems he was a Marine.  

Suffice it to say, while a very nice guy (who outranked me), he was also very adamant about Marine and Navy airpower usage.  IOW, he thought it belonged to the Marines, past, present and future.

We had some interesting discussions, to say the least.

I managed to graduate, as did he, and went on to our follow on assignments.  I went to Camp Smith HI, the Headquarters Pacific Forces Command.  He went to Camp Pendleton where he took command of a Training Battalion there. On a training exercise, he was trying to get his battalion across a flooded creek.  Unfortunately, he lost his footing and was swept away.  His body was found four miles downstream. 


None of these fine Officers were lost in combat, but they all were lost training to be their very best should the need arise.  That does nothing to reduce their valor and love of Country nor my respect for them. Rest in Peace and Well Done!

Peace out, y'all!

Sunday, May 26, 2024

To the Memory of the Fallen ...

8th August, 1918
Will Longstaff
The long dusty column marches off into the distance. The soldiers look neither left nor right, only straight ahead, to some unknown, unknowable future.

They are the dead, they fought and they died. Does anyone remember why? Do they remember?

Will they be remembered at some dim point in the future? Long after their sacrifice, when even the history books have faded into memory, will anyone remember them?

I will ...

It is Memorial Day weekend, a time to remember, to honor those who died for us. Let it not have been in vain. What matters politics once the Last Post has sounded? Once the trumpet falls silent, once the last note of Taps fades into the stillness, it matters more that these brave men and women are remembered.

Always ...

Yes, this is a rerun, a post I have done for a few years and will probably use again. But it expresses how I feel about Memorial Day, I remember those who have gone before, I cherish their memories.


They were people, just like you and me.

They had hopes, they had dreams, they had people who loved them.

One day they went out to do their duty ...

And never came home.

Remember them, say their names ...

I remember these fine men, always, but particularly at this time of year.

I knew some, I miss them all.

Captain Carroll F. LeFon, Jr.
United States Navy
Lance Corporal Kurt E. Dechen
United States Marine Corps
Major Taj Sareen
United States Marine Corps
Lieutenant Nathan T. Poloski
United States Navy
Private Robert Bain
Royal Scots Fusiliers


Private First Class Albert J. Dentino,
United States Army

Photo courtesy of Kris in New England

SP5 Wayne S. Bates, "Doc"
United States Army

LCpl Gary Arthur Holsclaw
United States Marine Corps

SSG Brian T. Craig
United States Army

Captain James Albert Graham
United States Marine Corps
Medal of Honor

When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say, 
For Their Tomorrow, 
We gave Our Today

- John Maxwell Edmonds 

Enjoy the day, but take a moment to remember ...