Giving a General a ride…Part One…
Hello from non-snow bound Indianapolis. I caught a glimpse of every news station tonight and they all led with the same story. It is snowing in the northeast. I am shocked by the sudden arrival of snow and beyond traumatized that it is snowing in late January. I have never heard of such a calamity. Since the entire world must stop while the poor, unfortunate folks in New York and Boston deal with this week’s storm of the century, I thought that it might warm your hearts to have story time.
This is another story from a rotation to Iraq in early 2004. I was with the same crew as last week’s story time. Carlos P was the co-pilot, Bobby I. was the Navigator, Rich L was the Flight Engineer and Mark C was the Loadmaster. All these times and dates run together so please forgive me for not being more specific in some details. I should say for the benefit of our new friends, that I am relying totally on my personal memories from that time eleven years ago. I reserve the right to be wrong about some facts but this is the story as I remember it. A lot of the guys I deployed with follow this site and I promise you that if I am wrong they will let me know. Finally, the real purpose of story time is for my kids to have a record of who I was and what I did before they were born. My kids still aren’t old enough to know what I am writing about and my fear is that when they are old enough to understand, my brain will be totally full of mush and these stories will be gone. So here is the perspective of someone who was once somebody doing something, somewhere for some reason.
The day started out like all the others. An easy twenty hour day that hopefully end with us crawling into a bed at the place we started. That was never promised and we always carried a small bag with a tooth brush and a change of clothes in case we were lucky enough to break down in a real city with a real hotel. It would be a shame to miss an opportunity to go out and get a real meal on the economy just because you didn’t have some civilian clothes. This particular morning started out well before sunrise and making the first leg of the day from Ali Al Salem to Kuwait City a very short twenty mile flight. Once we shut down, we all found a place to sleep on the airplane and wait for something to be brought out to us. About half of the time nothing showed up and some ramp guy would come by and tell us to go to the next stop.
We called them Air Medal missions because we were hauling Kuwaiti air to Baghdad. Then we would haul Baghdady air to Jordan. Jordanian air back to Iraq and so on. Of course no matter how many trips we made to Iraq, we only got credit for one day’s worth of points towards a real Air Medal. I think we got five points per day and we needed one hundred points to qualify for a medal. The math be wrong but it worked out to be about a medal for each rotation. By the way, when the war started the point level per day was worth twice as much. I always thought that was because the fighter pilots were there and they were racking up points flying against the Iraqi Air Force that was buried in the sand. Ironically, when the fighter pilots left Iraq the value for the medal dropped by half.
So there we were trying to get some sleep in random places in the airplane and in various states of dress. I wore a two piece flight suit but most of the other guys wore a traditional jump suit flight suit. When Iraq kicked off in 2003, one of our pilots was a former Army helicopter pilot named Gerry E. Gerry is the kind of guy that everyone loves because when you first meet him, you are his best friend and he has a way of leading you into trouble. Not only that, he was a scavenger on a mythical level. Like everyone else in the unit at that time, I have about fifty Gerry stories and I can tell exactly none of them in this forum. Some I don’t tell because they would end with Gerry and a friend spending time in big boy prison and others because that someone would be me. Anyway in March 2003, Gerry had the bright idea that we all needed the two piece flight suits. He went around to every person deployed and got the right sizes and put the order into supply. I was hardly shocked when a month later, Christmas came to Tabuk and we all got two sets of the Army two piece flight suits.
Immediately, I feel in love with that uniform and that was all I wore afterwards (even though I cant produce a picture to prove it). The shirt was easily removed and the pants made it easy to sleep in. I would carry an extra change of clothes in my overnight bag. After we took off to the next place, I would go to the back and change into the other set of under garments and I would lay out the sweat soaked clothes in the back. By the time we took off on the next leg, it first set would be dry and I would repeat the process. It was nice to be in dry clothes in flight. So back to that particular morning where I wasTune sleeping underneath the wing of the airplane using the outer shirt of the uniform as a pillow, in an irregular uniform wearing an obnoxious Metallica black tee shirt, looking unlike a leader of men when someone woke me up. I don’t remember who but I would guess Mark C. because no matter what he was always a first class professional in everything he did. Unlike me.
We had three passengers and they were already on board. I didn’t bother to put on the shirt, I just poured some water on my head to cool off and finished the bottle before I drank the rest and pulled my illegal Arkansas State baseball cap on and climbed up the steps. I am sure I looked like a wreck looking for a place to happen. Of course, my crew didn’t let me down because they were all in their seats, strapped in, smiling like they know something I didn’t. They are ready to go to north and what they knew was that sitting on the flight deck was a real live Four Star General and in the back were his two Full Bird Colonel aids. All I could think was this really sucks. I welcomed the General on board and told him to make himself at home before I climbed into my seat and off we went.
Tune back into here tomorrow and I will give you the conclusion of the story. Maybe this will be just enough to give you all the will to life for one more day. Good luck, until next time keep on rocking.