On a crew, everyone has a specific job that must be done. When it isn’t done or not done properly it is the beginning of the error chain that if left uncorrected can be catastrophic. The news world is glued to the Malaysia Flight 370, they are telling us specular tales of hijacking, false passports, sudden radio blackouts, and all other salacious theories of death at 40,000 feet. I don’t know what happened but one day we will look back at the chain of events and see several critical moments when this event could have been prevented.
It is really hard to know what is true and what isn’t true. Our good friend Karlene Petitt has a great post about her ideas concerning what happened on the flight. Not only has she been flying commercial aircraft forever, she is an International Line Pilot for a major airline. In addition she has written two fictional novels about what happens when things go wrong at 40,000 feet, she is completing her PHD in Aviation Safety and has researched TWA Flight 800 that mysteriously exploded on climb out from New York and Air France 447 that spiraled down out of control over the Atlantic Ocean. If anyone has a clue about things going bad at 40,000 feet, it is her. You can check out her post here http://karlenepetitt.blogspot.com/
I think it comes down to two possibilities. Alien abduction or a reality television of the show LOST. To me they are the only two things that make sense. No matter what happened it is a disaster in every sense of the word and my heart breaks for all those who lost a loved one. No matter what nationality you might be, we all love and we all hurt when tragedy strikes.
In the Fall of 2003, my crew jelled very quickly thanks in a large part to Doc Y and his witch hunt. But the major lesson learned from the miss-loaded cargo was that the Loadmaster, RB was over tasked. Normally we had two people to handle the back end but since RB was a one man crew in the back, it was up to the rest of us to divide his work. Things like re-configuring the airplane from cargo to passengers, pushing or pulling the cargo on and off and generally helping him while we were on the ground.
One flight early on, RB was busy so I told him I would brief the passengers. From that moment on, that became my role. For the poor passengers, I sure it was cruel and unusual punishment having to listen to me turn what should have been a three minute safety brief into a fifteen minute comedy routine. In fact I continued to brief the PAX on every rotation afterwards. It was good fun for me and for the soldiers, I can only imagine of what they thought.
I started off asking who was new to the AOR and who had never flown on the C-130 before. There were always new folks, so I spoke to them. Asking their names, asking where they were from and trying to make a connection before I busted out in war and drama. Everyone else got to enjoy the comedy show. It went something like this.
I started out the show handing out ear plugs. “These are ear plugs, not chewing gum. Roll up the end and put it in your ear. They don’t work as well in your nose or mouth.”
“There is a very good possibility that nothing is going to happen on this flight. But just in case you should know the parachutes are for the crew only. Do not play with them. From time to time, the crew puts on the parachutes and walks around towards an open door. If that happens please make a path for us. If we all happen to fall out that open door, the first one to the pilot’s seat gets to fly.”
“We are going to Baghdad today. We are going to fly low and fast to get in. The airplane will be banking in all directions, never being a stable target for the insurgents. We are not doing this because of the threat; we are doing it because it is fun. You will not enjoy it as much as we do. If you think you are going to puke and you like the guy your sitting next to, get the puke bag out and use it. Just be sure to take the bag of shame off the airplane with you. If you don’t like the guy next to you, feel free to puke on his boots. Just remember that he has a revenge puke still in him. And if you puke on the floor, I promise my Loadmaster is going to make you clean it up.”
“If you hear something hitting the side of the airplane with a sledge hammer followed by a very aggressive bank. The banging is the defensive system puking out flares and the banking is avoiding the missile that was shot at us. Count to five, if nothing bad happens we lived so you can go back to sleep. If your buddies’ blood is on you, it sucks to be him. If your blood gets on your buddy, it sucks to be you.”
If there is smoke and fire in the back end, put this plastic bag on your head.” I held up the personal oxygen system in an olive green colored bag. “Your mama told you to never put your head in a plastic bag and she was right but if you can’t see your buddy because it is too smoky, you can put your head in this bag or you can die. Pull the chord on the back and it is supposed to make oxygen. I have no idea if it will work or not but the bag it is rated up to temperatures of 1400 degrees. All that means is that your mama can have an open casket to look at your pretty face.”
Finally I would ask if anyone wanted to chicken out and take the bus up the roads littered with IEDs. There was never anyone who wanted to do that, but the experienced guys enjoyed a laugh and the wide eyes fear in the young guys eyes. Then I would get serious for a minute. “I like to joke around but know this. I’m going to take care of you; we have been here since March and we know what we are doing. You are flying with one of the most experienced crews in the premiere Air Guard unit in the world. I want you guys to promise me something, take care of each other up there. If it is you or them, you better pull the trigger because I don’t want to haul your sorry butt out of here on a Medevac or even worse in a box. Give em hell. Haooah?”
They always replied with a Haooah. Early on in March 03, we started a tradition of asking if anyone was from West Virginia. When we found them, regardless of rank, they got to sit up front. If we couldn’t find anyone from home, then we picked the two lowest ranking people and put them up front. A couple times, we had some very ticked off Colonels ridding in the back while two Privates sat up front and had a great time. Continuing that tradition, I found a couple of candidates and took them with me while everyone else got hosed.
Little did we know that a month or so later, this tradition would put us face to face with one of the defining people of the Iraq war.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
My first post is up at the Magill Review. If you have time, check it out.
I hope to have another story up within the hour.
Keep on rockin
Low pass by a French Mirage at Thumrate tower. I don’t care who you are, this is cool.
photo from yahoo
A couple of housekeeping notes before finishing the story. The biggest is that I have been asked by Mr. Josh Magill to join his weekly writing staff. I will be producing new, original works for his audience starting on Friday March 7. The site is geared as an online magazine in the mold of the Huffington Post. I am honored that he thought enough of my writing to ask me to join his staff. You can check out his site here. http://themagillreview.wordpress.com/
The second bit of news is that I typed the final two words on the novel, THE END! It has been a work in progress for almost six years now. I am shocked when I think about how long it took, but considering I started with nothing including any writing experience I am cutting myself a little slack. It is sitting at approximately 165,000 words, I know that is a lot but other than a tight edit I am not sure if there is any place to cut it down, nor is there a good spot to spilt it into two. It is what it is and I am relieved. I am going to let it rest for a while so I can think about how to tackle the next project. It was this time, two years ago that I cut the beginning 30,000 words and started over with a complete re-write. I know it is much tighter now and there are several additional minor story lines that hopefully give context and additional levels of intrigue to the work. I will give it time to rest and sometime in the summer will be a good time to re-visit it, maybe by the end of the year have something for a few beta readers to look over.
Back to story time. When I last left you, I was just informed that Doc Y was going to fly with us to observe one of my crew members because he thought my guy had PTSD.
After Sleepy told me the reason Doc was going with us, I went directly to my crew. I was able to get there before the Doc and I told them everything I knew, which wasn’t much. Of course they were ticked off; especially the guy Doc thought was having problems. I told them to keep it quiet, be cool, and we would get through the day. To be honest, I was seething as well. This isn’t how it is intended to be and I was beside myself with anger. And the truth be known, I should have been the one the Doc was investigating, not the other guy.
The first half of the mission was to fly about 100 miles to Thumrait Air Base, in Oman. Thumrait was being shut down as the entire US military was moving to Al Udied in Qatar. After we went to Qatar, we were going up to Iraq, to bounce around there for the day before heading back 20 hours later. It was just another normal day back at work. The flight to Thumrait was quick but that didn’t stop the guys from picking on the Doc. Flight Crews can be crude sometimes usually picking on those they like. But when someone enters the flight deck in an adversarial position there is only two ways it goes. Complete silence or harsh, cutting comments. The crew went harsh, very quickly because they were protecting their own. I witnessed this a few times during my career and every other time except this one, I asked them to knock it off. The only two people not saying a word were myself and the guy being examined.
Since the examiner was a Flight Doc, the guys were making up fake symptoms trying to get under the Doc’s skin. “Doc is it bad when it burns when I pee?” “Doc, I have some menstrual cramps, do you have any Midol?” “Doc, Rob needs a pelvic exam. Can I watch? Can I help?” “Doc, do you like giving prostrate exams?” “Is it normal for the doctor to have both hands on my shoulders when I get my prostrate exam?” And on and on it went as it de-evolved and got rude, perverted and funny. The bad part is that I don’t think the Doc ever figured out they were picking on him.
We landed and were given a 40,000 pound front end loader to take up to Qatar. This was one of the few times I ever had something that heavy on board. At the time, I didn’t think anything about it. RB, was the only Loadmaster so he was working with the ground guys to get this thing on. The rest of the crew was willing to help but we were more in the way than knowing what to do. Literally inches of clearance on any side, it had to be perfect or they would damage the airplane. While RB worked; the guy under suspicion and I took a little walk to vent, we came back and there wasn’t much to do other than try to get some sleep under the wing.
The unfortunate side to having one Loadmaster, is that there is no one to supervise the entire operation. There is no one to quality check the work being done and to keep the big picture. RB got the monster on before he reviewed the take-off weight and balance with me. The numbers looked right and I remember him distinctly confirming with me that it would be nose heavy. We kicked off the ground guys and started up. It was my leg up to Qatar so when we were at the end of the runway, I pushed up the power. When I fly, I am not the guy that jerks the airplane off the ground at rotate speed. I am the guy that pulls the nose up and lets the airplane fly itself off the ground. This results in climbing out about ten knots faster than planned but I always figured ten knots fast is good and it is within the specifications of acceptable performance.
When we reached rotate speed, I pulled the yoke back and nothing happened. Normally the nose would come up and I would add a little pressure forward to stop its rotation and to hold the deck angle. This time the airplane resisted almost like it didn’t want to fly. I had the thought to reject the take-off but I didn’t feel any pressure from running out of runway. The runway at Thumrait is 14,000 feet long. It is on the alternate list for the space shuttle. It is so long that we could take off, climb to 500 feet and probably still land with room to spare. In the time it took for my mind to process what happened, the speed increased about five knots. When I pulled back the second time, the nose slowly tracked upward and the airplane flew off the runway. I thought we ran the numbers wrong with the speeds being slow but I could feel that the nose was heavier than normal.
Climbing out, I said on the intercom that RB wasn’t kidding when he said it would be nose heavy. Passing about ten thousand feet, RB asked me to come to the back. That is an unusual request but I went on back. He met me at the foot of the steps, pale as a sheet.
“Dude, we can’t land!”
“The airplane will land, the question is will it be under control. What are you talking about?”
“The #@&*(!^&# guys loaded this thing backwards. We are out of CG.”
He showed me his new numbers with the tractor in its current position. He was right, it was too far forward and according to the numbers we couldn’t land. I was off headset so he relayed to Kevin to add fifteen knots to whatever speed he was flying and I would be up in a minute. I figured speed is good and more speed is better.
I went back forward to tell the crew what was going on. Gummy, the Flight Engineer began to run landing numbers, Harry the Navigator began to look at alternates for landing and I let Kevin continue to fly. The Doc sat on the bunk never uttering a word. We talked about dumping fuel but we had a center of gravity problem not a overweight problem. Finally we decided that it would be best to get back onto the ground. The closest airport was Masriah Island, our home base. I knew they had everything we needed there so that was the best answer.
I think it was Gummy’s idea to move the flight deck armor to the tail in order to help balance out the CG. Great idea and we moved the 2,000 pounds back quickly, we even took anything that wasn’t strapped down and put it in the back as well. Book bags, tool kits, loading ramps, ect. After we were set, we did a controllability check at 10,000 feet. Basically we configured the airplane for landing and slowed down to landing speed. It flew fine and at that point, I was convinced everything was going to be okay. I took a peek around and the Doc was still on the bunk wearing the “I’m going to die” look on his face.
I should be more sensitive but I’m not. Remember the Doc couldn’t see my face as I spoke, he just can see the back of my head because his view is blocked by the other guys. Harry was in his position, leaning over Kevin’s seat and Gummy was sitting in the middle seat. I looked at the four of them and smiled before I gave my speech. They all quickly realized what I was doing, I had to trust that RB wasn’t going to do something dumb in the back. I finally got to give a Knute Rockne speech to the boys.
“Boys, I don’t know how this thing is going to go. We are probably 50/50 of pulling this thing off. If it goes bad, I will get it slow and make it look like a car crash. But I don’t think it will matter because the first thing through our brains will be that 40,000 pound front end loader. If we don’t roll out on concrete, there aren’t enough chains in the world to keep that beast strapped down. If anyone wants to take the silk elevator and jump, I am willing to consider it.”
Harry was the only one to respond primarily because Kevin and Gummy were trying not to laugh. He said something heroic like. “Boss we have been in worse pickles than this. You will make this look like a walk in the park, we are right there with you and wont let you down.” I wanted to cry I was so proud because it was our “Win one for Gipper moment.”
The landing was uneventful; the ground guys in Masriah took several pictures before turning the monster around and loading it the correct way. We did get the attention of the entire base as we declared an in-flight emergency. We got the fire trucks, ambulance, and all the Commanders including Sleepy out to watch the crash. They really didn’t understand what the problem was except that we had an issue with the cargo. Fortunately, Doc Y had seen enough. My guy was cool as a cucumber under pressure, he did not have PTSD nor did he have any anger issues. The case was officially closed.
Curiously though, This is the only time someone kissed the ground after one of my landings. The Doc took the rest of the day off to recover and I don’t remember him flying with anyone the rest of the rotation.
Until next time, keep on rockin.
Some exciting things are happening in my burgeoning writing world. In the next week or so, I hope to have some exciting announcements concerning my writing. Nothing monumental is happening but in my little life, just some more steps towards respectability.
But until then, story time continues. This story isn’t really mine although I was there and witnessed the event live and in color. I tell it because it is the lead in to a couple of other stories from the rotation. Since I don’t have permission from the person at the center of this story, I will not refer to them by name.
Since the dawn of manned flight, there has been an adversarial relationship between aviators and doctors. I don’t know any details of when exactly the relationship went bad, but I would guess sometime after one of the Wright Brothers had a headache and went to a doctor for one of those new-fangled aspirins. I envision the doctor checked the world’s first pilot for an aneurism because pilots don’t get headaches. The relationship spiraled downward, if you doubt me go watch the Right Stuff movie and tell me I am wrong.
It isn’t that aviators don’t like doctors, but you should never trust someone who holds the keys to your career in their hand. If a doctor gets a wild hair and grounds an aviator, it is up to the aviator to prove that they are fit to fly. It is not necessarily the job of the doctor to get the aviator back into the air. In my career, I have lived this nightmare out twice. The first time was in flight school. I had a simple head cold and instead of just going to the doc and taking a couple of days to recover. I jumped into the altitude chamber and promptly blew out my ear drum. I have never had an ice pick in my ear, but I know what it would feel like.
Of course, I went to the doc afterwards. The brilliant doctor gave me a couple of days off and put me right back into the chamber. Same problem and same ending. He gave me two more days off and put me in the chamber again, with the same result. The third time he looked in my ear, he said something to the effect that maybe I had an inner ear defect that was preventing me from passing the chamber. Maybe this was an elimination type event. I didn’t react with understanding, compassion, or softness. I got a little upset and I told him that he was not going to wash me out. My comments brought an additional hurdle to pass besides being under the intense scrutiny from the doctor. I got to visit the base shrink, who looked and acted like Stewart Smalley except in an Air Force blue sweater. It was all I could do not to laugh, and if the stakes were not so high, I would have.
After the psychological testing, a counseling session, and an interview with the psychologist, I was released back to the original doctor’s care. He gave me a full scale allergy test to determine the source of my issue. Three intense allergy tests later, they determined that I was slightly allergic to a pine tree. But the other 199 most common allergies did not register. Finally, I got to see an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor who looked in my ear, listened to my symptoms and applied some common sense. Forty-Five days off to allow my ear to heal from the trauma of the three repeated blown ear drum. After it healed, I passed the chamber with no issues.
The second time I ran into a doc was in Instructor School. I woke up feeling nauseous; I thought that maybe my stomach would be soothed by some food. I drove to the local gas station and bought some doughnuts and chocolate milk. I figured that if I gave it back, at least it might taste okay coming back up. I was wrong on that count and since I had to miss a day of school, I went to sick call. I was still in the vomiting phase of the issue. I guess the hospital didn’t expect someone to actually be sick at sick call and I got the full attention of the doc. Before he gave me any medication, he took a blood sample. The next day, I felt better but before I could return to duty I had to see the doc again. I thought it would be a simple sign-off but it wasn’t. The blood test indicated that my sugar was off the charts high. I explained that I had eaten, but he wouldn’t believe it. He grounded me because he thought I had diabetes. I kept the sarcastic comments mostly in check so no visits to another shrink. Fortunately, it didn’t take as long to clear up, just a week of extensive testing.
I dare anyone to walk into the office of someone who potentially holds your career in their hands and tell them you have a headache. If you encounter the wrong person, you could spend the next six months getting multiple CAT Scans while Doc Quack gets to play House. Back to October 2003, the flight doc that we brought on this rotation was someone that we all felt that we knew and to a small degree trusted. I will call him simply Doc Y. He wasn’t a known quack and in the early days of the war, he gave out a little red pill called Ambien to us in a zip lock bag. Armed with a thirty day supply, no instructions, no warnings, and so explanations we were off and running on a path to addiction. But that is another story for another day.
On this rotation Doc Y was back with us and we still semi-trusted him. Early in the rotation, my crew was sitting outside the tent enjoying what was a very pleasant day. The extreme heat had broken and it was a nice afternoon. We all had folding bag chairs that we purchased prior to leaving home six months earlier. These chairs are made from the finest materials the Chinese have to offer the world. After six months of opening, supporting the weight of a grown man, and closing; not to mention sitting out in the world’s harshest environment these chair were in the same shape our fragile psyche was. We put on a strong outer appearance, but we were tired, bored and generally unhappy about being away from our families. Doc Y joined our little pity party and listened to us whine and moan, we never thought anything about his presence. Just so you know, if an aviator isn’t whining about something then you need to be concerned.
As we complained, the chair one of my guys was sitting on gave out. The leg completely broke in half dumping him on the ground. Of course we laughed, and if it had been me instead of him, he would have laughed. But what made this funny video worthy was his reaction. He didn’t laugh, he got upset at the chair. He cussed, kicked, and tossed the poor chair all over. We laughed more and he started to shove us over and we laughed harder and harder. We all got pushed or shoved, including Doc Y who took it all in.
The next day, we were completing our briefings before going to work. Sleepy came into the Tactics tent and asked me to step outside. He had the “I have trouble look” on his face and I was thinking that we had only been back for a week, how could I already be in trouble. He told me that Doc Y was concerned about the mental health of my crew member who fought his bag chair and lost. The Doc thought he was suffering from PTSD or something else. The Doc had added himself to the crew orders and he was going to observe my guy as he did his job. IF my guy failed the Doc’s evaluation, it was a one way trip to see the “professionals” with the strait jackets and rubber rooms.
Next week, I will finish the story I promise it will be a good one. Until then, keep on rockin.
So far, I have told my story through a very narrow perspective. I feel that the strategic perspective that needs to be addressed before I continue. In many ways this perspective is hugely important to the story line. In previous posts, I told the story of how every C-130 Flight Squadron was divided into two different groups because of the decision of the leadership. In August 2003, it was apparent to everyone that Iraq was going to be a long term situation. The Army won the ground war before it ever started, but in the exact same way they lost the peace. The new challenge to the leadership was to figure out how to keep the airplanes fresh.
I don’t think the leadership ever considered how extended rotations impacted the individual soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. They care greatly about things that are hard to replace like airplanes, tanks, helicopters or ships. Therefore these items must be rotated out, refurbished and returned to the fight in good working order. Even by July 2003, I was keenly aware that we were running the airplanes too hard. It wasn’t just how we flew them; it was the extreme heat, sand, and constant use. They needed some attention.
Before the war started, the active duty units deployed to the region first. A large handful of Air National Guard units were activated just prior to the kickoff of the war with an equal number of units held in reserve. In May 2003, the active duty went home taking their tired, old airplanes with them. In August, the units that were held in reserve were activated completing the rotation cycle. When they arrived in the AOR (Area of Operations), an equal number of airplanes and crews were relieved to go back to the house. What I couldn’t see from the micro-perspective I had them was this was a planned event and would go on for years and years.
In early September, the second round of planes and crews came over to relieve the group I was with. We started our small break of 35 days. When we returned, the unit tasking dropped in half to four airplanes and eight crews. This meant that we could start our own rotation, essentially in relief of ourselves. The deal was sixty days in the AOR. The time in commute to and from came from the sixty days scheduled off at the house. At first, we could choose where we went as we went back and forth. Usually someone in the Squadron set everything up and they knew what guys liked and didn’t like. But eventually someone broke the airplane in a location off the beaten path and the micro-management started.
Going over, crews took the southern route of the Azores Islands spending the night, Crete spending the night, and arriving into the AOR. Heading back, the stops was a re-fueling stop in Romania, a night in Ireland, a night in either St. Johns or Halifax Canada and then the house. I didn’t care where we went, because they were all fine but I did prefer Halifax over St. John’s mainly because it was two hours closer to being home. The wonderful thing about the rotations is that everyone understood that went you were heading to the AOR, you were relieving someone else. I never saw anyone break the airplane because they didn’t want to get to work. And the airplane had to be hard broke on the way home.
We pulled out of Charleston, WV in early October. I had a completely new crew with two guys who were making their first appearance in a shooting environment. All of the new guys missed the initial call-up because they were in some type of school. Mikey O. was in instructor school. The other three co-pilots Shy Dog, Todd P, and Kevin M. were in some version of flight school. I wasn’t asked who I wanted to fly with this time or ever again. I got Kevin M who was an Instructor in the T-1, a small business jet trainer aircraft for new Air Force pilots. An easy going, laid back guy, I drew a good card from a deck of good cards.
I also had a brand new Flight Engineer, Nate G. We called him Gummy Bear. Tall and slender, he reminded me of Paul S., my FE who was hurt a few months earlier. In fact, I called him Paul at some point on every flight. Every time I did it, I grimaced and apologized to him. To his credit, he never yelled at me or seemed to hold a grudge. I think half of our greetings started with me saying something like Dude, I promise not to call you Paul today. I think the guys had a bet on how long it would take me to break my word. The Gummy Bear did a wonderful job.
The Navigator was my good friend, Greg H. but we called him Harry. He was long in the tooth when I showed up in 1998. A Veteran of Desert Storm 1, Bosnia, and several other conflicts, it wasn’t his first rodeo. Of all the guys I ever flew with, I think my personality and demeanor was the closest to Harry. A quick story about Harry, in 2000, we were in Honduras doing some humanitarian work. When we landed at this dirt runway cut out of the jungle, there was a news crew that wanted to interview someone for their TV show. The FE, Crummy said he would do it. Blah, Blah, Blah he droned on about how pleased we were to help the good people of Nicaragua. He said it enough times that the camera guy put down the camera and told Crummy he was in Honduras. They argued for a moment while Harry and I were giggling above them listening to everything from the flight deck. Harry winked at me and walked off the airplane. Crummy asked him where we were. Harry simply replied Nicaragua and started to walk off. The camera man objected and Harry said, “I’m the Navigator and it is my job to know where we are. We are in Nicaragua.” I laughed so hard I cried. The lesson is never put a camera in the face of an air crew member.
The final crew member was Ron B. I called him RB, he had bounced between career positions throughout his career, when I first met him he worked in the Personnel section. He came to Operations to be a Loadmaster and to get a promotion. Another no drama type, RB was always smiling, happy and willing to work hard. I was glad to have him.
Our newest home was to be Masriah Island off the coast of Oman. Resting in the Persian Gulf it became the first point the USA used to prosecute the war after 9-11. By the fall of 2003, it had been through a couple of transformations and when we got there. I thought it was just about perfect. The tent was segregated by wooden walls, with a nice porch. If it was on MTV Cribs, it would have been the Mack Daddy of tents. Masriah had gravel roads, full functioning toilets plenty of water for long showers, a full functioning chow hall, and a recreation center. If you had to be in a war zone, this was a good place to be.
The down side was that it was almost four hours to Baghdad and six to Bagram in Afghanistan. From Masriah Island, we would be doing both and working some long days in the process. It could have been worse, so we accepted it and moved on.
Arrival day was always long. We arrived from Crete, which required that we fly aver almost the entire Middle East to get to Masriah. It was a long way, something in the neighborhood of twelve hours. After we arrived, we needed to get all of our briefings before we could go to the tent and unpack. From landing to bed was usually another six to eight hours. I cannot understate how long of a day it was. We piled into the make shift briefing room which was relatively speaking, very nice. Everyone had a chair, it was air conditioned and had a restroom near-by. I remember thinking that we were walking in tall cotton.
I sat next to Russ P. Russ is in the top five pilots I have ever flown with. He knew how to make the airplane talk but Russ is also one of the quickest witted people I have ever known. I almost never heard him miss an opportunity to give a verbal jab or sarcastic comment. He is close to the professional comedian level as anyone I ever met. So there are, back in the AOR after 35 days off listening to people tell us about a life that we lived a month earlier. We were tired, cranky, and ready to make out bunks and get some sleep. Our final briefing was given by Lieutenant Colonel Love from the Pittsburg PA Reserve Unit. It was our tactical briefing, basically telling us the rules of flying in a tactical environment. Instead of giving us a five minute update of changes in the past 35 days, he was giving us the hour long briefing of everything that happened in the past seven months.
Everything he told us to do in Iraq were the things we had already been doing. Some of the things he told us to do, we even invented. Strike one; the second strike came when he started telling us to do things that we knew were not correct. Somewhere along that path he was questioned and told us this is how it is “Up North.” like he was a bad dude, snake eater, back in the Nam, combat vet. Russ was fidgeting in his seat because he wanted to say something. I am a trouble maker and I whispered under my breath “Who does this guy think he is?”
Russ took the bait and called the Colonel a character from an Eddie Murphy movie “The Nutty Professor.” Russ yelled out “Buddy Love!” The little circle around us started laughing. But the Colonel didn’t see the humor in the comment. With his hands on his hips, his Captain Picard haircut and scraggly month old combat mustache he defended himself. “Listen to me. I have seventeen missions up North. I know what is going on up there.” Except for the new guys, everyone in the room had well over a hundred missions. He was greeted by a stream of applause, laughter, oohs and aahs.
The Colonel actually turned out to be an ok guy once he knew understood where we had been and we got to know him. But as far as I remember, his new call sign stuck.
Until next time, keep on rockin.