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Sometimes there are only winners…

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Sometimes I feel like this guy. Especially when I secretly hope that something tragic happens to a twelve year old girl so my favorite twelve year old girls can win a game. photo from yahoo


Hey Y’all,

One of the things I like to do here at my site is to give you all something positive to believe in because all we get from today’s media is death, hatred, and Trump. It is enough to make the sanest of us want to slice our collective wrists with rusty, dull butter knives. Last week, my daughter’s Middle School volleyball team completed their season, I have got to tell you about it. I hope that you will leave with a renewed faith in some of the girls the schools are pumping out. There are a lot of words here, please hang with me.

Last week my family and I were consumed with all things volleyball and by the time it was over, we all were plumb worn out. My daughter’s coach is a graduate of the school. When Coach Wilson played at the school, her teams had a record of 60-0 at one point and won the state championship three times in four years playing varsity volleyball. I don’t care who you are, that is very impressive. Coach Wilson went on to play college volleyball at Pensacola Christian College. After her first month, the head coach called her to his office before practice. She thought that he was going to make her a starter, instead he told her that she wasn’t good enough to play for the team. She wasn’t just bad but she couldn’t even do the fundamentals of volleyball correctly. Her only chance stay on the team was to come in an hour before practice and learn everything all over. She spent her Freshman year wearing training wheels never creeping away from the end of the bench but she didn’t quit and she didn’t let herself be run off.



Coach Wilson from last year. I probably should have asked her permission to use her image. I’m not sure what she could do to me other than making my daughter run laps. photo from rob akers


Her second year she got some court time and was a starter her Junior year playing on the back row and never left the court her Senior year. Just before graduating college, she had a job offer at a large private school outside Cleveland to be a Math teacher and the Head Coach of the High School volleyball team. She had the signed contract in front of her just waiting to mail it off when she decided to call the Principle of her former school. To her surprise, the Principle had an opening and it was exactly the same job description as the job in Cleveland. When she left our little Mayberry town, she swore that she wouldn’t come back but after a few minutes talking to the Principle she had verbally accepted his job offer.

Her first year back, she found that the program that she left four years earlier as the best in the state was now in shambles. The school had not put enough emphasis on the Middle School program and there was no talent on the High School team. At the tender age of twenty-one, Coach Wilson decided that she needed to start from the scratch. She became the Head Coach of the Middle School team. That year, they had one eighth grader, a couple of seventh graders and a handful of sixth graders. But there weren’t enough girls to have a full bench so Coach Wilson dropped down to the fifth grade and pulled six girls out to fill out the team. My daughter was one of those girls.



My daughter warming up before a game last year while the team looks on. She isn’t looking at the ball, we need to work on that. photo from rob akers


That first year, they got the ever living snot kicked out of them. We would drive two hours to play a match that was over in fifteen minutes. I don’t think they won a game let alone a match that first year. Last year, the team won a few matches but in the state tournament they lost twice and were out on the first day. But there were signs of improvement. This year they had seven eighth graders, four starters, one regular sub and two bench players. My daughter’s group are now seventh graders, provided the other two starters and my daughter was the other regular sub with three more girls on the bench. They were a strong team and after the first week of practice Coach Wilson told me they had a real chance to win it all this year. Coach worked them hard, they ran, they served and competed every day in practice. Wanting more competition, Coach Wilson invited a couple of the High School girls out on Saturday practices to play against the Middle School starters and Coach Wilson regularly played against the starters spiking the ball as hard as she could.

The first game of the season was against Elk Valley Christian School.  This school resides at the edge of the flood zone from earlier this summer. Even at the edge of the zone, the school received extensive damage and was closed for at least a month after all the other schools. Almost everyone in that town lost something in the flood; many lost their house. I imagine all of the girls and their families were affected somehow. After that game, Coach Wilson was determined that her team would not lose another game this year. And they didn’t.

My daughter’s team went into the state tournament as the number two seed with a 14-1 record. Elk Valley was the number one seed also with a 14-1 record. Our girl’s didn’t get a return match with Elk Valley because the night they were scheduled to play was the night before the re-opening of their school. They had an open house along with other ceremonies so the game was canceled.



This debris pile was about a mile from the Elk Valley school. Their entire area was a combat zone. photo from rob akers


The number three seed was the defending State Champion from Beckley, WV. We were not scheduled to play them in the regular season and they came into the tournament with two losses and a lot of attitude. Their school is easily twice the size of my daughter’s school but with a reputation of several state championships including last year. We played them last year and when Coach Wilson called a time out, their coach wouldn’t huddle up her players. They stayed on the court and waited. Intimation at its best.

The fourth seed was from Huntington and they were the classic never make a mistake team. They had a great back line and always bumped the serve, got it to the middle and hit it back over the net. Well coached in the fundamentals, they were not a team that would beat itself.  The fifth place team was from just up the road in Cross Lanes, they were the only team to beat Elk Valley this year and they had the very best player in the league. This young lady is already 5-10 and can jump out of the gym. She sports blond hair cut short with a strong face. She already has a broad back and her arms hang almost down to the floor. She is a total power player and wants nothing more than to drive the ball straight into the face of the girl on the other side of the net. My wife got mad when I called her a gorilla, but that is the best word to describe her. The thing is that off the court, she is one of the nicest, most polite young ladies you could ever meet. Their only problem was that she didn’t have a strong supporting cast, I described them as Snow White and the seven dwarves to my daughter and her team mates one day. One of the girls pointed out that only six people could play at a time so we amended it to Snow White and the five dwarves.


Not the Snow White from Cross Lanes but funny never the less. photo from yahoo


On Monday, we hosted Snow White’s team and beat them in two very close games. It was a great confidence boost for the girls. On Tuesday, we played a school that wasn’t very good. It was the last regular season home game for the eighth graders so they had their night getting their gifts and they proceeded to go out and win the match in fifteen minutes. Thursday the team had probably their very best practice of the year. Coach Wilson was pounding her serves at the team and they were returning them all. Imagine a former college player hitting a ball with everything she has at a twelve-year-old. It doesn’t seem fair but everyone handled the heater. I was impressed and excited.

The only problem was that in the game Tuesday, my daughter pulled a muscle in her shoulder when she was serving. It hurt and she couldn’t serve. She tried in practice to go but as it wore on, she couldn’t play. We tried treatments, ice and heat. We got the kinesiology tape but when she tried to warm up for the game on Friday morning, it didn’t look good. Coach Wilson put her in for a couple of plays on Friday morning but my daughter’s confidence was shot and I knew she was out. Our team dispatched their opening round victim in eleven minutes. It would have been faster but Coach Wilson emptied the bench in the second game. Their next game was against Beckley because they won their first round game just as easily.

Since we were hosting the tournament, our girls went back to class following their game but one of the most exciting things for me was that the entire school in attendance. The gym was electric as two hundred kids from Kindergarten to High School were cheering every single point. Originally the Principal wasn’t going to interrupt school to send the kids down but fortunately he is open to opposing arguments. I got chills watching my daughter and the other girls play in that environment.

The second round matchup was two verses three in a classic matchup of two teams that were mirror images of each other. They had two big girls and so did we but we had the better overall team and would have had a deeper bench of two girls that would be starters on every other team in the league except that my daughter was injured and mentally not confident enough to play. The gym was filled with parents, some students and the two teams that were playing in the second game. If the first game was the biggest crowd these girls had played for during the season, then the night game was the second largest. And both teams put on a show.

Beckley had the second best player in the tournament and she had a great supporting cast but we still had the best overall team top to bottom. The first match was a three-point game from start to finish.  It was crazy exciting as neither team flinched. The points were long and included digs out of the net and girls running from sideline to sideline. Our team won the first game 26-24. Before the game, I spoke to several of the Beckley parents just because I’m a nice guy and I was fishing for information. They had four girls that played travel volleyball exclusively and these parents never thought that our school would be too much trouble for their team. They were very nice and they said all the right things but I could tell that they were very confident going into the tournament thinking that they would win it again.

After the first game, one of the dads made eye contact with me and he nodded. Not arrogantly but as a sign of respect. I felt good, we had two games to play only needing to win one while they had to win both. We had home court advantage and we had not really played at the level that they had practiced at just a day earlier. The second game, our first serve went into the net and their opening server ran off nine straight points jumping out to a 10-1 lead. I was so proud of the girls as they came back and kept fighting but they lost the second game 25-19. But our confidence had been shaken.

The third game was another close game but Beckley was able to fight off every time we closed within four points. They ended up winning the third game 25-21. It was a gut shot to everyone from our school. The dream season had come to a close. The girls were in the locker room for about twenty minutes, in tears. We didn’t stay for the next game choosing to take my daughter home. Several of the girls did and it was tough on them to watch knowing they were playing for third place.

The next morning, my daughter and I went to the gym early to watch the fifth/sixth place game. Snow White’s team was playing and she was a monster. They lost to the team from Huntington the day earlier so she took out her fury on the team that we beat in the opening round. She was incredible and there was no doubt that she is the best player in the league. Our girls trickled in as the first game went on. The mood was somber. They all cried all night. Coach Wilson was just as devastated. She said she was working on a couple hours of restless sleep. Up at five, she didn’t have anything to do so she tried to go to some garage sales but couldn’t find the motivation to do anything but walk around like a zombie.

We were playing the team from Huntington as they lost to Elk Valley in what was described to me as a match that was as exciting as our match. Our school has a great relationship with the Grace Christian School. The schools always compete hard but we very friendly with them afterwards. Coach Wilson competed against the Coach of Grace Christian and they are friends. I was talking to one of the parents after we lost the night before and they were so wonderful. One lady noticed that my daughter didn’t play and they were sad that she was hurt. I wished them well and the next morning told them that we were sorry that they lost. Our girls would have liked to have had the opportunity to play Elk Valley and at least have the chance to win the re-match.

We started out slowly but our girls put the wheels when Coach put in the super sub and first girl off the bench. She was a rock star on the court and pulled the team out of their funk. Coach started her the second game and they rolled to victory and third place in the state. The Championship game started and the team from Beckley walked into the gym with all the confidence. But there is something to be said for having a team that just five months ago wasn’t sure they would even have a school to play for this year. There is a different level of determination that comes from seeing your life turned totally upside down in the course of a single night.

That team from Elk Valley didn’t look like a championship team when they got off the bus but they played like one. They dominated a much bigger and more talented team from start to finish and did what our girls couldn’t do. They won the state championship.

I have said a lot of words to this point and I hope you are still with me. As soon as the game was over, while the girls from Elk Valley were jumping on each other, hugging and celebrating their Championship; and while the girls from Beckley were holding their heads and trying to figure out what had just happened; and while three hundred parents from six schools were standing up and stretching for a car drive home. The girls from our school, all fifteen of them ran to the door of the locker room to form a victory tunnel for Elk Valley. Only they were not alone in making the tunnel as the girls from the other five teams ran out of the stands to join them. Very soon afterwards the girls that had just lost from Beckley joined the other players to form a tunnel that reached out onto the court.

It happened so fast that I couldn’t get my phone out. At the time, I was surprised and now I am moved towards tears just knowing that these girls get it. When you are in the game, you play to win but afterwards your goal is to love and celebrate others. They didn’t learn that from me, they learned it from Coach Wilson and the other two assistant coaches.

Would those girls have done that for Beckley? I doubt it. Would the other teams have done that for our girls? I don’t know. On Friday night, I was a mess. I was mad, angry and just devastated. I was sad for my girls because they lost and I was sad for my daughter because she didn’t get to play. But after witnessing that spontaneous display of sportsmanship, I know that the tournament was meant to end just like it did. The right team won and the right teams taught a gym full of parents that we are so fortunate to have all of these girls in our lives.



Winning Championships is hard. If it were easy then everyone would do it. In five years, these girls will look back at this trophy and know this is where they first found success. photo from rob akers


Sorry for all the words but I really needed to get them off my chest. Until next time, keep on rockin.

Day One…Mistake One…

photo from yahoo


Hey Y’all,


In the spring of 2005, my crew took me out from home back to war. This time we were not headed to the relatively flat Iraqi desert, but to the very mountainous Afghanistan region. Like we did in Iraq, we were fortunate to have to live in country. The bad news was that Afghanistan was an hour or so away but the good news was that we didn’t get mortared every night. All things being equal, I was okay with the extra flight time.


Saw this when I was looking for pictures. The guy without the mask was one of our Life Support guys. photo from yahoo.


We moved into the nice, little oasis of Karshi-Kanabad (K2) Airbase in Uzbekistan. During this time, I was pushed out of shape emotionally but I immediately fell into love with K2. It was a small base that was run by the Army. I have no idea what they did there, but they did leave us alone. We had hard shelters made of shipping containers. They were a huge upgrade over tents. It was nice to have a hard walled, solid floor and a prebuilt cubicle as opposed to a flapping wall, dusty floor and sheet walls for privacy.


K2 in the winter. Looks cold. photo from yahoo


The bathroom connex box was right next door so no one had to make the 142 step walk of shame to shower or potty. The Uzbek Air Force occasionally flew their SU-27s and it was cool when they did because they flew a great low level air show over the base.


Uzbek SU-27. photo from yahoo


Richie found a coffee shop called the green bean. Every day before we went out to fly, I would stop into the green bean and get him a triple late’ with three extra shots of caffeine. I don’t drink coffee but the locals didn’t know that. When I walked in, they would start to make the drink to go. Shy Dog would always chuckle when he went with me to order the super strong coffee. But Richie was always happy with his piping hot coffee right before we started the engines.

Before our first flight, Shy Dog, Anita and I spent several hours in tactics, looking over the mountains of scattered information that we needed to know before we flew. I never understood why the important stuff couldn’t be put on a single document that would be easily accessed. It is the Air Force way so I didn’t try to fight city hall. We just learned it all. The nice thing, is that all of the important stuff did fit into a single five-inch binder that we called the Book of Knowledge.  We worked out a system where Shy Dog would get the secrets, Anita would carry the Book of Knowledge and I carried Richie’s coffee.

Flying in Afghanistan was more difficult than Iraq in that the mountains really prevented us from flying a true low level arrival or departure. The threat was from shoulder fired ground to air missiles known most commonly as the SA-7. There were several variants of the missile and depending on where the missile was made. Russia, China and Iran were the most common producers of the SA-7 design. There were others that were more hazardous to us, the SA-14, SA-16 and SA -18 were newer technology and considered to be a real threat. As a general purpose, my philosophy was that any missile fired at us was the SA-18 and we reacted appropriately. Also, as a general rule I considered any take-off or landing that was not in North America as a tactical departure. Not that Uzbekistan was a dangerous place, but I wasn’t willing to trust them as much as I was willing to trust Canada.


C-130 taking off from K2. photo form yahoo


The goal of every tactical approach was to fly to a point where we would pull the throttles to idle at altitude. Then we would try to fly all the way down to a very low level altitude of 100 feet or lower before pushing up the power again. I never strove to pull the power off and not touch it to touchdown because I didn’t want to be that close to the airport in the descent. I figured that we were more of a target there rather than dropping down twenty miles from the field and flying in from there. It was just a personal preference.

But coming in over the twenty thousand foot mountains into the valley where Bagram or Kabul were located, made things much more difficult to plan. In tactics prior to the first flight, we worked out or game plan and then we had the next two months to perfect it. It really helped to have Shy Dog and his experience on our side. By that time in his career, I don’t think he could have flown a “training instrument approach” but he was a fantastic tactical pilot. The reason he couldn’t fly an instrument approach was because he never had the opportunity to practice them. All things being equal, I would take Shy Dogs experience everyday and twice on Sunday.

One of the items of knowledge that we made a mental note of was that off the approach end of Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan was the base burn pit where they burned their garbage. The procedure was to turn off the missile warning system before passing over the burn pit so that you didn’t drop flares onto the people working there if the system sensed an incoming missile. That made perfect sense to me because no one wants a one-thousand-degree flare dropping on their head while they are working. That responsibility was Anita’s to flip the proper switches, but as Aircraft Commander it was mine to ensure it was done.

Flying out of altitude towards Bagram, I was really struggling to max perform the airplane while trying to get the “feel of old girl” as Scotty described it from years earlier. There really is a difference between flying low and feeling comfortable flying low. When you don’t feel comfortable, you are really dangerous because you are pushing your personal safety boundaries.  I always found that it took me at least a couple of weeks to feel comfortable down low. When I had been out of the tactical environment for several months, it took much longer to feel safe flying at house top level.


flight line at Bagram. Notice the mountains. photo form yahoo


Since this was the first flight, I was working much harder than I liked and 99% of my attention was focused on keeping the nose of the airplane out of the dirt. Well we forgot to turn off the missile warning system and sure enough, we got a false indication right over the end of the runway. I immediately knew what was happening because when the flares are ejected from their canisters, it really sounds like someone is hitting the airplane with a sledge hammer. Fortunately, we had passed the burn pit but it really is a bad feeling to know that you are pumping out several one thousand degree flares that are bouncing off the runway in every direction. That is a loss of cool points and the tower guy made sure that we knew that we were required to secure the system.


C130 flying near the burn pit. Lots of people got sick from the smoke. photo from yahoo.


We shook it off and went out and finished the day without any other incidents. But the lesson had been learned, Anita always remembered to turn it off.


Very cool at 3,000 feet. Not so cool at 30 feet. photo from yahoo


Until next time, keep on rockin.


When the camera was off…


I am a French model so you can believe this story. photo from yahoo.


Hey Y’all,


Full disclosure before you read any further. I was not there; this experience did not happen to me but I saw the picture so it must be true. Unfortunately, I do not have any photo-graphical evidence and I can’t find it on the internet so take this story with a grain of salt and healthy skepticism.

Last time I wrote about how my former squadron was in a constant state of deployment from 2004-2006 and there were times when I went for months without seeing people I consider great, life-long friends because we were on different rotations schedules. This story happened to them and I ten years later, I can’t even remember who was in the picture. I had even forgotten about this small story until I reading the news ticker watching Dallas play last night.


Pictures are much better than words. photo from yahoo.


During one of the deployments, Seaborn and Tony were greatly aware of the disconnect that was happening to their squadron so they took one of the building directories at the building entrance and removed all of the letters turning it into a place to post pictures. I don’t know who put the pictures up but one day I walked into the building and there it was. I took a few minutes to scan it and it felt good to see images of everyone. One picture that caught my eye was a photo of several of the Enlisted crewmembers dressed in the tan flight suits surrounding so old, chubby man wearing a gold shirt and jeans. I didn’t recognize the guy but I recognized the background was Shannon, Ireland where we stopped to spend the night before on our return trips.

I reasoned that the reason there were only the Enlisted crewmembers and a couple of crew chiefs in the picture was because they were at the airplane doing the preflight checks while the Officers were in base operations going over the flight plan and doing other administrative things like reading emails, checking sports scores, calling home and raiding the vending machines.



Don’t you hate when this happens. photo from yahoo


Walking through the building, I saw one of the Loadmasters who was in the picture. Again, I don’t even remember who told me this story. But when they doing their preflight checks, a car pulled up to a business jet that was in the parking spot next to them. Instead of getting on the jet, the owner of the jet walked over to the closest guy to thank them for their service. As they were talking, another crew member walked up to see who was visiting. Then another and another until all the Enlisted guys had stopped performing their preflight duties and were talking to the visitor. He took time introducing himself to every new person and finally asked if he could take a picture with them. Fortunately, someone had a camera and asked his pilot to take a picture for us too. After the photo op, the gentleman went back to his airplane and left.


photo from yahoo


That man was Arnold Palmer. My thoughts and prayers to him and his family.


photo from yahoo



photo from yahoo



photo form yahoo



photo from yahoo


Until next time, keep on rockin…

Here we go again…

I am glad that I am not this guy any longer. photo from yahoo.



Hey Y’all,


I am going to start a new series as I go back in time to recount my personal experiences in the military. For a number of reasons, I have been putting off finishing off this documentation of my time “over there.” For our new friends, I don’t document this time of my life because I am trying to relive past glory or because I want to tell you how cool I was back in the day. These articles serve a different purpose; they are for my kids who are still too young to know or understand who I was before they were born. These articles will be saved for my kids and when/if they choose to read them in ten or twenty years, then they will know. When I started writing several years ago, my wife encouraged me to write down these experiences. I might be slow but I will get around to it. Until then, I hope this provides a glimpse into why I am becoming much more anti-war and pro-peace as time marches on. Also, everything I write is true as I remember it. I reserve the right to be corrected by those who were also there. If they let me know that I say something inaccurate or was misperceived, I will correct it.

There is another reason I need to tell these stories and it is much more personal. I have been thinking about this time period for a while and I need to get it out of my mind so I can move forward. 2005 was a very tough year for me personally and professionally. As I think about it eleven years later, I don’t remember it fondly. I do remember lots of failures, set-backs, guilt and shame. As you read this series, you may have the feeling that this reads more like a purging of emotions rather than recounting of events. That is probably because it is just that.

When we last left off, it was the Spring of 2004. I was selected (without my input) to be deactivated with the intention of being re-activated in early 2005 to finish out my twenty-four-month involuntary activation for the Iraq War. When we got home in April 2004, I came back to a pregnant wife, a house that I had owned for almost four years but had slept in for six months, two dogs that really didn’t know me and a job that I hated. I had spent ten out of fourteen months living in a tent with eleven other guys, I had been married for two years and had missed two anniversaries, two birthdays (hers), two birthdays (mine), two thanksgivings as well as almost every other important life event. The only things I made were Christmas, along with the conception and birth of my daughter.

My daughter was born in June 2004 and I got a phone call from my airline in July 2004 to interview. I started the new job in September 2004 and went through one of the hardest schools in my life when I was a flight engineer on the 727. It was also another two months away from home and then as a junior crew member I got to work through the entire holiday season of 2004. It was tough and my wife made everything work as a not so single, single mother because she is amazing. With the impending activation coming, I went to my Squadron Commander Tony and told him that I was going to put in my papers to quit. He said that if I did then he would activate me immediately and send me over for three rotations consecutively and when I came back, then he would sign my paperwork to get out.

That sounds harsh, but Tony was a great commander and I hope the above story cast him in a negative light because he was getting it from all angles. His guys were burned out, our lives were turning in shambles (including his own) and his Commanders were not supporting him or even putting him in a position to be successful. But Tony was not only smart, but he also cared about everyone and he had taken the time to know where everyone stood in our career arches. Before I walked in the door to surprise him with my desire to quit, he knew that I was eligible for promotion. But Tony didn’t yell, scream or threaten. He just told me what he was going to have to do if I tried to quit. But he told me in the very next breath that if I agreed to not put my papers in then he would promote me to Major. That required a promotion board of several of my higher ranking peers. The standard dress for a promotion board was wearing a dress uniform. I told him that I wasn’t wearing my blues. He said that he didn’t care if I came in naked just as long as I didn’t quit. I went home and talked with Donetta about our choices, as if we had a choice. The board was a formality and we talked about airline life for about ten minutes before I was promoted.

Today, thinking about Tony and Seaborn (the Operations Group Commander) I can’t help but think how great they were and how much garbage they shielded from the guys under their command. Their immediate two bosses had different motivations and goals for the flying squadron than what they had. Sea and Tony were in the fight with us. They deployed with us. They lived with us and they led from the front in prosecuting a real live being shot at war. The other two higher ranking commanders were managers who were intent making sure we did our paperwork, that we looked good in our uniforms and that we didn’t do anything to get them in trouble. I have no doubt that if one of the other guys had still been my Squadron Commander that when I said I was having thoughts of quitting that I would have been activated and sent over for the maximum amount of time and then kicked out. I saw that commander out in public with his family a few months ago and we made eye contact. I walked past him without any acknowledgement. He didn’t try to get my attention either so I guess the feeling is mutual.

So there we were getting geared up for a new rotation. The other Aircraft Commander and I sat down with Tony and Sea to set up the crews. That is another thing I loved about them, they actually listened to our input. I didn’t have any issues with anyone on the rotation nor did DCM, as I remember we both went with what they planned with no changes. Again, I remember this being a very dark time. The guys that we were replacing were finishing their twenty-four-month activation. Most of us were being re-activated and other were on a completely different cycle. One of the problems with the rotation cycle was that the squadron was completely fragmented. It started when the decision was made to split the squadron into two groups in the summer of 2003. Half of the squadron left the war and became known as the “Go-Homes” and I was a part of the “Leftovers.” We stayed another month before getting some time at home. Quickly we were split again and again based on rotation cycles with new guys shuffled into the mix so that a year later, we were no longer a cohesive group. I went for over six months not seeing some really close friends because we were passing each other in the air. It really started to suck and even worse clicks were being created and jealousies were being grown because of perceptions that someone wasn’t pulling their fair share. We were no longer a tight knit machine of interchangeable crews. We were separate, distant with our noses down and emotions raw.

That is exactly how our relationships were with our spouses too. By this time in 2005, a full 1/3 of the squadron was divorced. Many more of us were in marriages that were crumbling and the rest were single with no prospect of finding a long term relationship. Everyone had some type of addiction just to escape the reality of life at constant war. A clinical psychologist would have put us all into rehab or counseling if they had spent any time with us at all. A few guys needed to be committed into a hospital but the machine needed to be fed so off we went again. To make things worse, the flight doctors kept pushing Ambien on us to help us sleep when we were over there and never providing any help while we were home. Into this environment, I got my crew and off we went.

My co-pilot was a new guy I called Shy Dog. He was a brand new co-pilot when he went to war for the first time in Oct 2003 and had been on rotations since then. 70 days on and 50 days at home had left him slightly disillusioned into what the Guard should be. When we hired him, life in the Guard was totally different. It was before 9-11, we were going all over the world seeing the sights and terrorizing the locals. When we left home, he had seen all the wonderful locations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knew St. John’s in Canada and Shannon, Ireland. His flight time and combat time were almost equal and he had more Air Medals than night spent in different continents. He was always happy except when he wasn’t. He had a well-documented history of being very demonstrative on the flight deck. That meant that when he got upset, he would let a verbal stream of inappropriate language flow from his mouth. I never got offended by it, I thought it was funny but then again I wasn’t right at that time.

When the crews were selected, I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not switch my Flight Engineer for anyone else. Richie L. had decided that I was his pilot and from now on, I was the only guy he would fly into combat with. Of all the honors, medals and other decorations I earned. This was the one thing that made me the proudest. At that time, Richie was not the most senior Flight Engineer but he was closing on ten thousand hours and there was nothing he didn’t know about the airplane. He was there for the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq and now Afghanistan. I always thought he was the best of the best and I loved how he could communicate so much with just a few words. He started out in 2003 with Billy G and then went to Scotty L for a couple of months before he landed with me in August 2003. After a few weeks of flying, he told anyone that would listen that he would only go to war with three pilots. Billy, Scotty or Robbie. I certainly felt much better having my guy with me again for another trip down range.



This is Richie on his final flight this past Tuesday. Scotty is flying him overhead, recreating a flyover from the past that Richie wanted to relive. When he retired, Richie had almost thirty years of service and 12,000 hours watching knuckleheads like me, Scotty and Billy trying to kill him. photo from rob akers



My senior Load Master was a crusty Vietnam era veteran named Carl David S or just CDS. A craftsman, he could build anything with a pocket knife and pencil. Like Richie, CDS was a man of few words and all work. When he was on the crew, I knew there was nothing to be worried about in the back. His partner was a new guy fresh from school, Patrick M. In other stories, I wrote about the smartest man I have ever known, Paul S. Paul is a real rocket scientist who approaches life from the perspective of a professor. He has the ability to discern fact from fiction and find the truth. Patrick is the second smartest person I have ever met. Unlike Paul, Patrick has the mind of a philosopher and the heart of a thinker. I didn’t know Patrick before this rotation and had maybe flown with him once but I would soon learn that he would be the perfect person for me to be around during this two-month deployment.

Into this cesspool of anger, frustration and weariness came a brand new Navigator. Anita J was a Navigator from the Arkansas Guard. A brand new 1st Lieutenant, Anita was a breath of fresh air. She was seeing everything for the first time and looking forward to the experience. She was assigned to a training Squadron so she spent the majority of her time flying a fifty-mile circle of Little Rock Air Force Base. It was her first trip across the pond and first taste of a deployment. This young, attractive, slender African-American female wasn’t able to tame our bitterness so she leaped into the fire with an uncommon courage and veracity. I met her for the first time, the day before we left. We talked about what we needed from her and what to expect from us. I apologized in advance for having lost the excitement of deploying and that I dreaded going away again. I didn’t hold back from her, I told her about the threats about the crew, how they would defend her from others but would not give her an inch when she made a mistake and how bad it was going to suck. Anita was so cool and clam although I am sure she wasn’t calm on the inside. She said something like “it sounds like fun.” Very cool!

Lots of words here. To be honest there are some great stories from this rotation that live in infamy to this day and some that I don’t really want to share. But, I need to get all this out so. If you choose to stay with me for the next several articles; Thank you.


Until Next time, keep on rockin.


c130 go around

Off we go…again. photo from rob akers

What Next…?


Hey Y’all,


This morning I found myself flying out of my hometown heading to Detroit for the week. Last night after the kids went to bed, my wife and I spoke a few words about the day that was 11 September. My son’s fourth grade teacher posted on Facebook that she was going to speak to the class about 9-11 and she included a video online. It was one of those heart wrenching, sad music type videos that opened with pictures of the sun rising all over the United States and after five minutes of typical, normal life it went into the events of that day. I had to focus on something else to keep from crying so please forgive my angst when you read the following words.


Several thoughts, the first is that I wonder how long my son and the rest of the class sat still looking at pictures of random buildings and sun rises. That’s not important right now. What is important is where we are as a nation fifteen years after 9-11. Using a limited comparison of where we were as a nation fifteen years after Pearl Harbor might not be appropriate but it is sobering. Please remember that I am not that guy who wants to live in the past but can it be more obvious that we have squandered the national unity that arose following the attacks.


This morning I sat in the Chicago airport and thought about what was different today than it was at 7:30 AM on 11 September 2001. You know as well as I do that everything has changed and probably not for the better. We are constantly told by those in power that they need more power, more surveillance, and more money to keep us free. But I just can’t see anyway that we have more freedom today than we did fifteen years ago.


Those same people tell us that we need to fight the enemy over there so we don’t have to fight them here. That sounds reasonable until you try to count how many people since 2001 have walked across the southern border or that we are importing another 10,000 more people from Syria on top of the 10,000 that we have already brought in this year. All this on top of all the attacks that have happened within our borders in the past five years.


I left the Air Force in 2007 because of the constant deployments and the strain that it had placed on my marriage. Even then, it was becoming apparent that we did not have the political leadership that was willing to take the restraints off the military and let us fight a total war with the intention of winning. At the time, I thought that if we were not going to fight to win, then we should pull out and bring everyone home. As a small personal form of protest, I resigned my commission. When I told the personnel office that I wanted to resign it, I had to talk to the Colonel. He told me that in his career that he had never had heard of anyone resigning their commission. I told him it was about time someone did. I don’t think he liked that but I really didn’t care. With the hindsight of history, I can’t think of a President who did more harm to the United States, than President Bush, Vice President Chaney and the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.


When President Obama took office in 2008, I was hopeful that we (as a nation) would choose peace over war and we would end the constant mind-numbing archaic fight of a nation state verses an idea. But here we are eight years later and we have lost total control of events. Russia and China are stronger than ever.  North Korea with China’s approval is in a proxy war with Japan. Turkey is aligned with Russia. Russia is openly fighting US forces in Syria. Our drones are killing people left and right in countries that we don’t even know exist. Someone (probably Russia) is hacking our government computers and trying to manipulate the election. The US consulate was burned to the ground and an American Ambassador was killed in the process. Britain left the European Union after our President begged them to stay in the EU. The NSA is collecting everything that I am thinking right now and Gitmo is still open. I guess that I am glad I voted for the other guy twice so it isn’t on me.


Even with having the two least qualified candidates running for President, I still think that America is the best nation on the face of the Earth. But is isn’t quite the slam dunk that it was fifteen years ago.


Until next time, keep on rockin.

One picture…One Thousand Thoughts…


Climbing out of 10,000 feet over Chicago. Photo from rob akers.

Hey Y’all,


Last week, I was in Chicago working. To be fair to Chicago, it is a great town. At least the downtown area where I stayed. I didn’t see anyone get shot and I was overwhelmed by all the choices for dinner. It really makes me pine away for tropical locations like Flint, MI or Allentown, PA where there are just a couple of food choices and I am afraid to leave the hotel.

On Tuesday of last week, I went with old school Chicago pizza. Because the hotel didn’t have a mini-fridge and I am unable to cram an entire pizza down my throat, I had some left over. Walking around, I passed several less fortunate folks who were looking for some extra money so I asked the waitress to box up the pizza leftovers and I intended on giving it to the first person I came across. When I stopped, the homeless guy was really happy and I felt good that I had not wasted the uneaten food.

That night, I told the guy I was working with about what I had done, and he said that he would do the same thing the next day. He chose Indian food for dinner and when he approached the homeless guy about giving him the food, the guy took a look inside the box and replied “Aw Hell No! I ain’t eatin that.”

My friend and I laughed about that the rest of the week.

A couple of Sunday’s out of the month, I volunteer to help teach the middle school kids at my church. This week’s lesson was on being grateful for our blessings and about giving to those who are less fortunate, just as I had done last week. The class was taught by a really great dude named John G. I really hate when he is teaching because he always makes me think, half the time he makes feel inferior and sometimes he makes me leave class an emotional wreck.

This past Sunday, he showed the class a photo. The thirty or so middle school kids didn’t flinch from picking their noses and scratching their butts. However, I was captivated by the image of the little girl. You can’t read the rest of what the caption says but this girl was wearing a dress that was turned inside out and on backwards. Her hair was matted and turning orange because of malnutrition. The lady that took the picture was in Haiti on a medical mission trip (I think) and after snapping the picture, the lady held the girl for a very long time. I know the words feel hollow compared with the picture but there is the other side of the story.

Later Sunday evening, my family had a very minor issue with some misplaced money that was resolved quickly and was a total non-event. But it got me thinking about that little girl and how a few dollars to my family here in the USA would have been a fortune to her and her village in Haiti. My wife and I spoke about it a couple of days later and we agreed that we were truly blessed. She also said that she was thinking about going back to Haiti and we talked about when a good time for her to go would be among other important topics like where we will vacation next year.

Even after talking it over with my wife, Listening to some soft rock by Slipknot and Metallica and trying to convince myself that I don’t need to get involved. I could not get the image of that little girl out of my mind so I texted John G and asked him for the link to the person who took the picture. He told me to go to Facebook and check out her profile. I confessed that I am not on Facebook and he called me a dinosaur so he sent me a link to an organization. He said he didn’t know much about it other than the lady who took the picture had something to do with it.

Armed with that amount of knowledge, I very hesitantly send them an email today.  I say hesitantly because that best describes my feelings towards online organizations that operate charities to “feed the poor” somewhere in a 3rd world sludge hole. I do like to think that I am a compassionate person but I also know a lot of the tricks and when I feel like I am being tricked, I throw the shields up and the stiff arm my way out. Do you hear me every sad infomercial on TV after midnight? Yes, I change the channel with no remorse.

An hour or so after I sent the email, I was at my daughter’s volleyball practice all ticked off because she is having trouble getting her serves in. She is more than physically capable; it is the mental part that she is struggling with right now. My phone rang. You all know that I am a huge social reject, that I am always excited when it rings even though usually it is a telemarketer. The person on the other end of the call was the lady who took the picture of the Haitian girl. Right off the bat, Jacqui Ranson thanked me for asking about the organization. Jacqui went on to tell me what she and her husband Mark do, how they got started, why they exist and so many more details that can only be shared by voice contact.

We spoke for just over an hour. Several times Jacqui apologized for talking so much. She said Mark warned her to be brief and to be considerate of my time. But to be honest, the hour flew by and I selfishly didn’t want to end the call which is crazy because I hate talking on the phone especially to some lady I have never met. But I was moved to tears several times, I laughed with her and shook my head in disbelief when she relayed how impossible it is that she and Mark started the organization and how looking back it is so obvious that there is a higher power at work in this organization. Just the sheer number of events that happened at just the right time are impossible to calculate and they all culminated with the beginning of the charity.

Just two weeks ago, Jacqui and Mark completed the requirements to be a legally licensed charitable organization. They started down this path in February, six months ago. When they started, the school that they primarily support now was supported by another organization. That school lost their funding at the start of the summer. Last week, less than ten days after opening they were able to send enough money to the school to ensure it would be opening on Monday (they don’t do Labor Day in Haiti) along with books and school materials for all of the students. I think around 350 kids. The most amazing thing is that Jacqui just called me to talk about the organization and find out how I found them. Not once did she ever ask for a dime, because I don’t think she cares about money. I know she cares about people. NOTE: I might have my facts off slightly but that is the gist of what they have already accomplished.

I know I have taken enough of your time. I am still dismayed that a single picture of a little girl could distract me from so many big events this week. Tonight, I spoke with John G and I blamed him for distracting me from the most important events of the week.


My son had his ninth birthday.



My son and all his loot. photo from rob akers.

Last week, we got a new puppy.



My wife and Penelope-PP. The shelter named her Penelope and we added the PP because she hasn’t figured out the potty outside thing. photo from ron akers.

Monday, Kevin Owens became the Universal Champion with a little help from Triple-H.


Triple H is in the suit. Seth Rollings is being faceplanted and Kevin Owens is in the far corner. If you like WWE, then you were probably surprised at the ending. photo from yahoo


On Tuesday, my daughter’s volleyball team won their first game of the year.



My daughter bumping with my Dad before the game on Tuesday. photo from rob akers

On Wednesday, I was all enthralled with Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand for the national anthem. I was going to write about him but this article is way more important. But, if you think you know the whole story because you saw it on the nightly news, think again. His comments that have half the nation ticked off were highly edited by the national media. Read this link about what he said after what was reported and maybe it will change your mind a little.


Tonight college football kicked off and tomorrow is a huge day for me sports wise. My daughter has a game at 5PM and at 8PM, the Arkansas State Red Wolves open their season hosting the Toledo Rockets on little boy ESPNU for the rematch of last year’s Go Daddy Bowl. I am a nervous wreck.


The Red Wolves take the field at 8:05 PM. photo from yahoo


I will be yelling at the television at 8:06 PM. photo from yahoo


Saturday and Sunday, we have a couple of cookouts planned so stop on by if you are around.



Win or lose Friday, I will need some comfort food. photo from rob akers


Like I said, there is so much to think about, but here I am up well after midnight writing about a little girl wearing a dress that is inside out and backwards.


One picture…one thousand emotions that wont stop.



Here is their website. Please check them out and contact them before you send any money. Not because they aren’t worthy but because their story will change yours.


Until next time, keep on rockin.


Why are you here…

Prepping for surgery. Photo from yahoo.


Hey Ya’ll,

I’m using a slightly different format today so pay attention to the time/date headers because this is a journey back in time. Also, there is a fairly graphic photo at the end of article. If your squeamish, you have my permission to not scroll down. If your nosy, they you’re going straight to the picture. I know how humans think.


Better than a emergency room. photo from yahoo

Sunday 21 August 2016, 11:45 EST

Medical clinic, Scott Depot West Virginia

“Mr. Akers, what brings you in today?”

“Doc. I got a new debit card in the mail.”



How bad could a little knife like this hurt? photo from yahoo


Sunday 14 August 2016, 16:35 EST

Couch in the Living Room, Hurricane, West Virginia

“Other than a puppy, what do you want for your birthday?” I asked my son.

“Pocket knife.” The soon to be nine-year-old boy answered.

“Pocket knives are dangerous. You really have to be careful when using them and it hurts when you get cut.”

“Have you been cut before?”


IMG (2)

Back Row Right to Left. Gary, Paul, Me, Tracy. Front Row, Deron and Scott. Of course that is Saddam in the background. photo from rob akers


Sunday 13 April 2003, 0930 AST (Arabia Standard Time)

Cargo Ramp, Balad Airfield, Iraq

“What did you do Rob!”

“I cut myself again. Can you grab the medical kit?”

“Sure.” The six foot three African-American Navigator passed up some napkins to sop up the blood.

“Hey, don’t tell Tracy.”

“They are having a problem get a pallet on-board. I will be back.”

Three minutes later, Gary returned handing over the olive drab bag with the red cross on the front. When I reached around to grab the kit, I saw a new face looking down at me. “This is Lieutenant Colonel I forgot her name. She is an Aero-Med.”

As he spoke, Scott the co-pilot and Paul the Flight Engineer returned helping to load the airplane.

“Dude, did you cut your leg?” Paul asked

“No, my hand. Just bled a little.” I replied.

“Keep pressure on the wound and hold it above your head.” The flight nurse ordered.

“I know what to do.” I fired back.

“I doubt that.” The nurse said.

Gary, Paul and Scott laughed.

The battle axe flight nurse took her time putting on her rubber gloves and opening her medical kit. “Well the good news is that you’re in better shape than most of my patients. How did you do this?”

“I was trying to tighten up the approach plate holder on the yoke. I couldn’t find a screwdriver so I used my knife.”

Tracy called out over the intercom. “We are closed up and ready for taxi.”

“It is going to be a couple of minutes. Rob cut himself again.” Paul responded.

“When he gets patched up, take all his knives from him. If we ever get steak, I will cut it up like I would for a kid.” Tracy said.

“Maybe we could put a cork on the end of the knife. Like Rupert.”

Everyone laughed.


This is me in a alternate universe. Patch on one eye and a cork on the fork to keep the other eye safe. photo from yahoo



This is probably still clean. photo from yahoo

Saturday 20 August 2016, 22:15 EST

Master Bathroom, Hurricane West Virginia

“Keep pressure on it and hold it above your head.” My wife said.

“I know what to do.” I fired back.

“I doubt that.” She replied.

“What did you do Daddy?” My son asked.

“I couldn’t find scissors to cut up the debt card. There was a box cutter on the office desk.”

“That old, rusty box cutter?” My wife asked.

“Yes, I thought it was too dull to cut the card that easy.”

“Guess where you’re going after church in the morning?”




This little gash was a bleeder. The doctor said she would have done a couple of stitches if I come in sooner but she glued it closed and gave me a shot. Fortunately, she didn’t laugh too hard when I told her how dumb I am. photo from rob akers

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