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Katrina from Uzbekistan…

September 6, 2017

Hey Y’all,

 

I know long time between articles. There are lots of balls in the air right now so please forgive me, I am trying to keep this a once per week event but we are creeping towards the unacceptable once a month level. That isn’t cool and I promise I will feel more guilt next time I let so much time pass between posts.

 

By the way, I am in one of my moods today. When I started writing this article, I was listening to Five Finger Death Punch but I my mood wasn’t into easy listening music. So I went to Slipknot and I found that it was still to pleasant so I went to Lamb of god. Still not quite right but it is inching towards matching my mood. Be afraid…be very afraid!

 

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Five Finger Death Punch is too soft for me right now. photo from yahoo

 

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Slipknot is too fluffy for me right now. photo from yahoo.

 

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Lamb of god is just right. photo from yahoo.

 

Unbelievably, we have some new friends among us, welcome to all of you on my little corner of the internet and I hope that you look past my mood and hang around for a different day. As always this is a open ride across the synapses of my brain. Most people say it is a short ride and they are probably right. Anyway, I have been taking a peek back into the past documenting my experiences in the combines wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. These peeks are not to make myself seem like a war hero but they will serve as a bridge so that one day when my kids are old enough to understand, they will have a better idea of who their Dad was before they were born. Until then, I hope you enjoy the ride back to the future.

 

In August of 2005, we were deployed to Karshi-Khanabad (K2), Uzbekistan flying missions down range into Afghanistan. Picking back up where we last left off, my co-pilot was Steve (Shy Dog), Anita J. was the navigator, Richie L. was the Flight Engineer and the Loadmasters were Carl D. (CDS) and Patrick M. This was late into the rotation and we were all ready to head back home. But until we left, we were still flying twenty hour days followed by twenty-four off and another twenty-hour day. It was a grueling lifestyle. We never slept right or ate right but it was the job.

 

Sometime in the middle of the night on August 30th 2005, we showed up to head out on another air medal mission. It was a mission where we carried K2 air to Bagram, Afghanistan. We left that air and picked up their air and carried it to Kandahar. We took their air somewhere else and continued the process for twenty hours. One of the best things about living in K2 was there there was a actual television with real connectivity back to the world. It was on CNN until the football season started.

 

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Our idea was so simple and easy. We would be the hero of the skies. We were small minded. photo from yahoo.

 

At 2AM on that morning, we walked into the operations trailer and CNN was on. We went through the normal process of getting the intelligence and tactics briefings, checking out our weapons and night vision goggles and we hurried back to the television. We stood around the television watching the images of the people standing on the interstate begging for help.

 

On the other side of the world, we were totally helpless. We talked about how easy it would be to load up a Herc and throw out some water and food to those people. We were airdropping food and water to some Army dudes on a regular basis. The United States Air Force had totally perfected the technology to quickly and easily deliver much needed water and food to any place on the planet. Dropping it on a interstate in Louisiana would be easy. Putting it on Super-dome parking lot would be even easier.

 

Image result for hurricane katrina cnn people on the interstate

photo from yahoo.

 

Three hours later when we landed in Bagram, we had it all figured out. More than just being the right thing to do, it would have given us hope that we were more than invaders and occupiers. The drops never happened and we came home a few weeks later.

 

After our time off, our unit was flying humanitarian missions to New Orleans. I signed up for one. I would have done more, but they were already filled. Everyone wanted to be on the side of helping instead of hurting. When I went down there in late September or early October, I was shocked at the devastation. Several weeks after Katrina, it was still a war zone. It was absolutely total destruction, Biloxi was literally gone. We flew up the coast towards New Orleans. The mud stained coast looked just like Afghanistan. It was completely brown, not the green vegetation it should have been.

 

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Pictures don’t tell how wide spread the damage was. photo from yahoo.

 

Working our way into the New Orleans airport reminded me of Baghdad in April 2003. There was no radar and we were de-conflicting from the other traffic by calling reporting points, speeds and altitudes. There was a couple of guys in the tower clearing airplanes to land on a single runway.  The helicopters were using a taxi-way to take-off and land from. They airport was just as busy as Atlanta but the only controllers were in the tower. Everyone else worked it out and sequenced ourselves. It was fantastically fun as a pilot. We dropped off our supplies and carried out some people. Leaving, we flew over the same interstate that I had seen on CNN a month earlier. I have to be honest when I say that my blood boiled from the lack of support that was demonstrated during early hours of the relief effort. But I was proud to see the support roll in as the weeks went on.

 

Image result for hurricane katrina damage before and after

photo from yahoo.

 

A few years later, I was flying with a guy at my commercial job. I don’t have his permission to tell this story so we should just call him D-Ray and not his given name. D-Ray was in a C-130 squadron in Biloxi. A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, we knew several of the same people and shared many of the same experiences over there. As we spoke, I finally got around to asking about Katrina and what happened. I was primed to express my displeasure about what I perceived as their non-support.

 

D-Ray is a great dude and I totally believe him when he told me this story. I didn’t have to drag this out of him either. He started talking almost as soon as I mentioned Katrina. His squadron flew out their eight airplanes and two crews each to the Dallas Air National Guard base a day or so before Katrina hit. When they landed, D-Ray was one of the tactics officers and he went to the tactics shop to say hi and to ask for some help. The Major in charge of the shop met him and took him back into the planning section.

 

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Hard to see, but that is a couple of airplanes from the Dallas unit in K2. Date unknown. photo from yahoo.

 

The Texas Major already had a planned out multiple DZs within New Orleans and the surrounding towns. But since he wasn’t from the area, he wanted some local knowledge. A couple hours later, they planned out an entire formation of air drops. They called their two commanders and briefed them on the contingency plans just as Katrina was making landfall. Both commanders approved the plan and they authorized a sixteen ship formation with eight C-130s from Biloxi and another eight from the Dallas ANG. The next morning, the base in Dallas was a flurry of activity preparing the water and food to be airdropped from the airplanes. They loaded the airplanes and the crews showed up ready to fly.

 

Image result for c-130 mass formation airdrop

D-Ray had a better idea. photo from yahoo.

 

At some point during this process, the word of the airdrop was on the street. People were calling from Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas Air Guard units looking to get into the action. The C-130 is a relatively small community and during the wars we all lived and worked together in the butt cracks of the world. People knew people and once something cool started, everyone wanted in. Had this progressed beyond the planning stages, it would have been a modern day Berlin Airlift.

 

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That would have been cool to be a part of. photo from yahoo.

 

But with the word on the street, it drew attention from the Pentagon and upper echelon of the military leadership. As the levy’s broke and the city of New Orleans flooded, the people sought higher ground and the overpass on the interstate was high enough to keep the people from drowning but it put them on display for the helicopters of CNN. Those were the people that we all saw on television, those were the people that needed immediate help and those were the people that D-Ray had prayed would not need supplies. But they were on the interstate and the world thought they needed a miracle.

 

Image result for hurricane katrina cnn people on the interstate

photo from yahoo.

 

Miracles were not in the plan. This was a basic airdrop mission. D-Ray and the Dallas folks had planned a very simple and easily executable mission that would throw out one hundred ninety two pallets of water to a few thousand people who were thirsty. It wasn’t a fly by night, rag tag group of men and women doing the job. It was steely eyed, combat hardened veterans of the wars who were expertly trained and razor sharp in this mission.  There were only two differences between what these folks did in combat and what they were begging to do on 30 August. There were no mountains to hit in New Orleans and there was no one trying to shoot down a airplane.

 

Anyway, the Generals in Washington decided that the risk was too great and they canceled the mission. The explanation was that it would make for bad television if someone tried to catch a pallet in the air and they ended up getting crushed to death. If me crew was upset on the other side of the world, you can imagine how the decision of a risk adverse General or President made a community of aircrews feel. D-Ray never heard how far up the chain the mission went but he was told that the decision came from the highest levels of the military.

 

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Uhh…yea. photo from yahoo.

 

Twelve years later, it doesn’t seem like much has changed. The folks in Houston had to be rescued by their neighbors and if you are in South Florida today. Don’t expect to see the skies filled with Air Force cargo planes dropping you water and food after Hurricane Irma is done with you. Good luck!

 

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Hope Y’all can make it to South Florida. photo from yahoo.

 

 

 

Until next time, keep on rockin!

 

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4 Comments
  1. Donetta Akers permalink

    Taking me back to the days

  2. Moi permalink

    This reminds me of the 9/11 pilots and air traffic controllers who got every plane down safely. If people depend on Washington for anything they are spitting in the wind, literally. It does not matter who is president. There are so many layers of bureaucrats that Trump saying he was going to drain the swamp sounded like a good idea. It will never happen.

    • Moi,

      I happen to agree with you. It really doesn’t matter who the Boss is, the bureaucracy will move at the speed that it wants and never any faster.

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