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Moving Day

June 5, 2013
Last Night at Tabuk

Sunset in Tabuk. It looks pleasant. This was taken by Capt. Bill Grimes on his last night in Tabuk.

 

Hey Y’all,

Time for another trip down memory lane. Early May, 2003 was moving day. Our time in Tabuk was quickly coming to an end and we were moving. I have no idea about the politics of the situation, but during the summer of 2003, every base the United States was using in Saudi Arabia was closing, including Tabuk. I heard several theories in the following months about why we invaded Iraq and one of them was that the US had been kicked out of Saudi, and we invaded Iraq to provide the military long term access to bases in the Middle East. I don’t know if it was true or not, but it made for great discussion on our daily missions up north.

 

Sunrise at Al Udied

Sunrise in Al Udied. It also look pleasant. It is only 50 degrees hotter in this picture. Taken by Deron T.

 

Tabuk was in the high desert plains of north western Saudi. Sitting at about 3000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL) it was relatively cool, even in the daytime. It was a real pain to fly our normal 20 hour day, land and then start packing. Somewhere during the day/night/day evolution we found some time to sleep in the back of a C-130. The three hour flight was actually nice because it was cold and I slept the entire time. The airplane was packed with our household goods and four crews (24 guys) plus the crew providing us the lift. Our new home was Al Udied, Qatar.

 

qatar 1

Map of Qatar. From Yahoo.

 

Qatar is on the Arabian Peninsula, jetting out into the Persian Gulf. 100 miles across the Gulf is Iran. Doha is the capital and one of the most modern cities in the world. Al Udied, is twenty miles to the west of Doha.

 

qatar 4

Doha harbor. From Yahoo.

 

qatar 2

Downtown Doha. From Yahoo.

 

We didn’t get to live there. We lived here.

 

qatar 5

Al Udied. Home Sweet Home. From Yahoo.

 

qatar 6

Tent City at Al Udied. From Yahoo.

 

An little known fact about Al Udied, is that it is only three miles from the surface of the sun. I am going to describe hot and trust me when I say this description is lacking. Turn your oven on high and stick your head inside it, then turn on a hair dryer and let it blow directly in your face. When I stepped off the airplane, I promise that the air was sucked out of my lungs on the first breath. It was replaced with a fiery, dusty, stagnant super-heated air molecule. I was told that the good people of Qatar vacation in Phoenix when they want a break from the heat. (I kid you not!)

 

qatar 7

Yes they are playing basketball. It is probably very early in the morning. At night, the temperature would finally dip below 100. From Yahoo.

 

So here we are, hot, tired and hungry. But before we can find our new tent, we had to attend the mandatory briefings that accompany every arrival at a new base. We got to meet all the cool guys, Colonel So and So who said “Blah, Blah, Blah” and Colonel What’s his name whose briefing was a much different “Blah, Blah, Blah.” My favorite was from Tank. Tank, strode to the front of the tent full of confidence and power.

 

qatar 9

F-15 Strike Eagle. Two seat fighter/bomber. Tank was a pilot. From Yahoo.

 

You see, he was a fighter pilot! And not just a Fighter Pilot, but he was an F-15E Strike Eagle Fighter Pilot. A zipper suited, sun god to the Nth degree. He had actually dropped bombs onto Iraqi’s heads. A real American Super Hero, he was everything we were not. But we had one nugget of experience that Tank did not take into account. We actually landed in Iraq, multiple times a day. Sometimes while the field was under attack, sometimes when a missile was in the air, sometimes when it was light and sometimes when it was pitch dark. Poor Tank considered it an emergency procedure to consider landing at any place other than Al Udied. To us, it was our purpose in life, and it was the one thing we did exceptionally well.

Tank began his briefing with authority demonstrating his command of the PowerPoint briefing. He used terms, acronyms, and classified names of mandatory reporting points. As Tank talked, it became apparent that he was not talking too us, but he was talking down to us. His flight suit was zipped to the top and covered with his ascot (scarf). Our flight suits were zipped down to almost full open. Mine was almost off my shoulders, exposing a highly inappropriate black Metallica tee-shirt. My unapproved baseball cap was in my lap, sunglasses were resting on my messed up hair and I needed to shave. I was not alone in my unprofessional appearance; I was one of 24 unprofessional C-130 slime bags.

Finally completing his brief, Tank committed the ultimate mistake. The fatal mistake was asking if there were any questions. I don’t remember if it was Yogi, a rather large, crusty Flight Engineer or if it was Russ, one of the best pilots I have ever known. But they were a crew together and both of them have a great lack of respect for arrogant attitudes. The first question was “What is an overhead?” Followed by “What does initial mean?” The questions started flowing fast and they all were sarcastic. Of course I chimed in and stated “All of this is confusing, can we just fly a visual and land?” Tank’s face turned as red as his ascot and patches. He packed up his notes and stormed off. By the time he got out of the tent, we were all in tears from laughter.

One last Tabuk story. I did not see it, but I have it from multiple eyewitnesses that this is a true story. We were paired with several units in Tabuk, only Delaware, Oklahoma City and St. Joe Missouri went with us to Al Udied. Nashville went to Oman. One of their crews decided to do a low pass over tent city. Our old friend Colonel Jimmy “Two Balls” Simmons described it a spectacularly low. I do not know how low spectacularly really is. I did a low pass over a field in Pakistan once, about 40 feet and 300 knots. The guy at the end of the runway dove to the ground as we passed over. Another time, I did a high speed pass over a field in Kazakhstan. This time much higher, 100 feet and 300 knots. Another memorial one was when we returned home.

 

baghdad c130

C-130 low pass. From Yahoo.

I was the third airplane in a 3-ship formation. I was looking for clean air and was about 75 feet and 200 knots. From my seat, I would not have considered any of these low passes, spectacularly low. At the time, I felt safe and well within my personal limits. I did not feel that I was asking too much from the airplane, my crew of myself. Also, I felt that I could have been much lower, even on the pass that was 40 feet. I would love to see a video of the Nashville fly by. I am sure it was impressive.

 

c-130 desert

Another C-130. This one is taking off, notice the landing gear are still visible. From Yahoo.

 

Back in Tabuk, Jimmy “Two Balls” was incensed and called ahead to the new base. He ordered the crew to be arrested and grounded. They were met at the airplane by the police and were investigated. They all held to the same story. They received a missile indication immediately after take-off and were maneuvering to avoid the threat. Nothing ever came of it, and they were flying again a couple of days later. Thus a legend was born and I am sharing it with you. I salute my buddies from Nashville, rock on dudes!

Until next time, keep on rocking!

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From → military

6 Comments
  1. Oh the stories. Almost feel sorry for Jimmy and Tank… almost.

    • Tank is probably a good dude to hang out with. His only problem was that he was too high speed for the gaggle of Herc guys.

  2. I will salute them too! Thanks for sharing this wonderful story!

  3. Like your stories! Better be careful someone doesn’t see them tho and call you in for releasing state info – army can be touchy like that.

  4. Jane,

    Thank you for stopping by. It is always nice to have a new friend drop in, please make yourself at home. For those of you who don’t know Jane, she is a writer and with her first book in print and the second coming out this fall. Good for her, check out her site at the link.

    As far as secrets, I withhold last names to protect the innocent/guilty as the case may be. I do make an exception for Col. Jimmy “Two Balls” Simmons. He has earned the right to be called out, if you want to know why join us on a trip down memory lane. His story is documented in earlier posts. If he is your neighbor, tell him that I said hi. I would never reveal any real secrets. I have better things to do that be hanging out with Bradley Manning.

    The point of these stories is so that when my kids get older, they will have some idea of who Dad was before they were born. It has also served as a nice trip down memory lane for my good friends who lived with me during that time. The third goal is that if I ever join you in the published author world, it will give my readers an better idea of who I am. Plus it has been fun.

    Thanks again for the comment!

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