Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Odie wants out.

He dropped significantly in the past couple of days, leading Superwife and I to believe that he's packing his bags. He's definitely active, and SW is known for popping early (Monkey 1 six weeks early, Monkey 2 eight weeks early). Our second kicked hard in response to external stimuli from the pre-natal idiot they had in the hospital at Yokota and broke his water, resulting in his two week stay in the NICU. My current goal is to keep Odie in there as long as possible, but it's starting to appear that he has other plans.

When Sam was born SW's blood pressure was high. The preferred method of treatment by he docs at Yokota AB in Japan was to check bi-weekly that the baby was still responding the way he was supposed to (neither I nor SW (an RN) knew why they were doing this). So every other week she would go in and they would strap a buzzer to her belly and zap it, presumably to startle the baby and get him to kick. SW's awareness of how much he was moving was apparently not good enough.

On one particular cold Thursday in March of 2001, I took the Princess (who was 21 months old at the time) out to run errands while SW went for her bi-weekly buzzing. I clearly remember singing "You Are My Sunshine" with her on the ride home, while SW was in a hospital bed.

As soon as I got home I ordered a pizza for supper, something we do quite a bit. SW was supposed to be home around 1800 or so, like normal. By 1830 I was getting a little concerned. At 1845 I got a call from the hospital. I remember staring at the phone ringing and my heart just sinking.

"You might want to get to the hospital," the nurse in the line announced joyfully. She clearly didn't know that the Cowboy wasn't supposed to be here for another two months. "Your wife's in labor."

I've gone through a military college, had engines on fire at max weight over cities, had instrumentation failures as a solo student, and almost ran out of gas one time--but I've never experienced sheer panic.

I did that day.

If you ever have the opporunity it is an enlightening experience to see what your reaction will be. Mine was motion. Just a lot of running back and forth and thoughts running through my head like crazy. I went from the front of the apartment in base housing to the back twelve times and never grabbed anything or got anything accomplished. The whole time the Princess sitting in her diaper on the floor watching Daddy finally lose his mind. We didn't have any preparations done--no bag packed, no diapers bought, no crib built. It took me a half an hour to get the bag together. And the pizza guy showed up. I think I gave him a fifty and slammed the door.

The hospital was just across the street, so I walked over with the Princess, the bag, and a pizza.

I guess I thought she'd be hungry.

There were a lot of things that were done out of whack with the delivery--they tried to hold off the birth for as long as they could because they couldn't decide whether or not he would be born there or we would be airevac'd out to Okinawa. That part was particularly frustrating for me, since my first three years of flying were spent flying C-9A Nightingales, the Air Force's airevac aircraft. I knew by heart the reaction time and flight time to Kadena AB. We could have made it easily. They just waited too long to make a decision.

When they finally let SW push, the Cowboy came out in a heartbeat. He was tiny--and we got to hold him for a grand total of about 30 seconds. They immediately put him in an incubator, loaded him in an ambulance, and told us that they weren't sure if he'd have to be in the NICU for long. It was the last time we would touch him for two weeks.

Since Yokota AB doesn't have a NICU (like Kadena, had they flwon us there like they should have), they had to take him to a Japanese NICU. Once SW was recovered and in her hospital bed, I was tasked with going after the Cowboy. After being stationed in Germany, I got used to the locals speaking English, or at least being able to read the signs. Not so in Japan, which may be one of the reasons we hated it so much there. The traffic is unbelieveable, too. What should have been a 15 minute drive ended up being a 1.5 hour ride by myself before I finally found the hospital, which didn't look like a hospital. To add to the situation, no one in the hospital spoke English. I just wandered aimlessly looking for my son. You don't know frustration until you've tried this out for yourself.

When I finally found the NICU, they dressed me in robes and I scrubbed my hands about 20 times. They brought me around a quiet room until I was at the incubator. It was a different box than the one he left in--this one bigger with gages and wires all over it. Inside was the Cowboy, all five pounds of him, with tubes in his arms and one down his throat. He looked nothing like the child that left the hospital hours earlier. I sat next to him and stared through the glass, thankful that SW didn't have to be here to see this.

A couple of hours later I ended up back in SW's hospital room on Yokota. "Survivor: Australia" was on TV, a show we were watching because one of the best people on the show was from Texas. As soon as I tried to explain to her how her son was doing I broke down and cried. In all my life, I think that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Two weeks later we got to hold him and take him home. He's a little smaller than most kids his age but his heart was definitely unscathed--he's the most compassionate person I've ever met.

So--that's why we're on pins and needles right now. The doc said that we're out of any "woods" that we may have been in with Cowboy, since we're a couple of weeks past that point with Odie. I'm thinking of starting a pool at work for guessing the due date.

In fact--I'm putting a poll on here just for fun. Take your best shot.

Odie will.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Checkin' In

To those who have sent messages wondering where I've been...no, Superwife hasn't popped yet. Her feet are about the size of watermelons, but she still has managed to devote an entire weekend to entertaining the monkies instead of doing stuff that we really need to do, like get ready for Odie's arrival.

Speaking of which, we have settled on a name for the little creature--Benjamin John. The other monkies have Biblical names, so we decided to stick with that, and John is my Dad's name.

I have officially been given a new job, probably much to the satisfaction of those who were changrined at my dissertation of what my current job day consists of. I am officially in charge of something now, so my days will fill back up once more. I still plan on blogging as much as time allows.

So, I'm still here. Just catching my breath :).

Iraqi's Pulling Their Weight

Just read about how the Iraqi counter-insurgency forces caught Zarqawi's top aide today. Nice to see the changes that are occurring as they take over more of the responsibility. What I did find interesting, however, was that news of the capture made it to the MSM before it made it to the US Military guys over there.

It said Abu Farouq al-Suri, previously unknown to the media, was captured by the Wolf Brigade, one of several counter-insurgency units operating within the Shi'ite-run Interior Ministry but accused by Sunnis of targeting civilians in their community.

The word Suri is Arabic for Syrian, indicating that the captured man may have come from Iraq's western neighbor.

U.S. military spokespeople were unaware of the capture.

I wonder what this means in regards to the coooperation between the two...

Friday, February 24, 2006


A lot of people in the blogosphere, and the MSM for that matter, have wrapped themselves around a cause. She-witch has the anti-war movement, O'Reilly had his "War on Christmas" thing--I think today I found mine:

I was already pretty irritated with the company when they announced that they had a $10.7 BILLION profit for ONE QUARTER after the nightmares the American public have gone through due to our "oil addiction." But--I just chalked it up to the capitalist system.

Lately, however, I have been reading more about the screw-job that the company is imposing on the fishing communities of the Alaskan coastline. It has made me, for the first time ever, seriously consider boycotting a particular company's product.

Essentially, the Exxon Valdez tanker accident of 1989 wiped out the livelihood of Alaskan fishermen. Exxon was found liable for the accident because they put a drunk in charge of the tanker, who ran it aground after one too many magaritas. It destroyed the habitat of the coastline in many places, and either killed or forced entire species to migrate. 34,000 fishermen and their families were left out to dry.

In the inital class-action lawsuit, Exxon was ordered to pay $5 billion (less than half of a quarter, for them) in punitive damages to the families. Exxon appealed, and the judge was told to reconsider his judgement. The judge lowered the cost to $4 billion. Exxon countered that they had to pay cleanup costs and that the familes whose lives were destroyed deserved to be paid only $25 million. They have repeatedly appealed over and over again--to the point that now, 17 years later, the families have not received one dime from a company bragging about it's $10+ billion quarter.

The latest round of hearings is underway in San Francisco. It will likely be a long time before another decision is made, and little to no progress is expected from me, anyway.

If Congress was ever considering whether or not to step in, now may be a good time.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Child of the Eighties

I am a child of the eighties.

The first president I remember is Jimmy Carter, and I barely remember him, at that. I graduated high school in 1990, so my most formative years were in the late 80's. I constantly hear about it being a decade of excess under Reagan, but I didn't really see that. In fact, as far as culture is concerned, the only thing that I really feel I took with me from the decade is the music.

Oh--and a love of the VH1 show "I Love the 80's."

I listen to some current music, but not really a whole lot. I would much rather be rocking down the highway to "Bang Your Head" by Quiet Riot than anything by Nickelback (although I do like their music). When I take the monkies anywhere in my truck we splurge and crank the music up pretty loud. The other day I was taking them around and we were listening to the "classic rock" station (yes, my teen music is now officially "classic"). I guess as far as taste in music goes, they take after their father.

Cowboy was bangin' away on the drums, while Princess picked her air guitar and began jammin' away. Within two verses she had the words to "I Can't Drive 55" down and was singing with her Daddy.

There's still nothing like the first riffs of "Bang Your Head." Cures any level of frustration.


Mind you that on here (or anywhere else) I am prohibited by law (and duty) from saying anything bad about our Commander-in-Chief.

Why is it, though, that so many secrets are being held and released by this administration? It seems to me that every week a new one comes out--a result of the MSM's snooping.

Today's doozie is the Dubai port deal. The anti-Bush crowd was screaming about this having "insider" details all week. Of course, rather than admit it up front, it comes out today as a result of the AP getting its hands on some previously-unreleased documents.


And now it's coming out that the White House is issuing it's own findings for the problems with Hurricance Katrina.

The House review blamed all levels of government for indifference toward disaster preparations that contributed to deaths and suffering in Katrina's aftermath. That study, by a Republican-led House committee, also found that earlier involvement by President Bush could have spurred a faster response.

The report was expected to be less scathing than a House report issued last week.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006


What would you do if someone gave you $15.5 million today?

Superwife and I have had this discussion a few times, whenever a record-breaking lottery comes around. While I don't necessarily fault anyone who quits their job with tickets to their own private island in hand, I don't think I would do a whole lot different than I do today.

Maybe I'm naive.

I just see problems being a major factor in these people's lives from now on. You don't often hear of any great stories of happiness from people that have won the lottery. I think I would probably blow a lot on a great house, maybe my own plane and hangar--but beyond that I think I would just plop it into a rockin' mutual fund and never worry about money again.

With my kind of luck all the monkies would get full-ride scholarships everywhere and make millions on their own.

So when I see these goofs on TV quitting their jobs and saying they've already retired, I'm not too jealous of them. Granted, working in a meat-packing plant has to have sucked.

Maybe it's just an illumination that my life is pretty good as it is.

Don't think I would give the money back if I won it, though.

Staff Weenie

I am ready to insert a sharp object into my ocular socket.

As I've implied on here in the past, I am currently doing my "staff tour." Good for blogging, bad for attitude.

The Air Force more or less requires its aviators to perform a staff tour between 12 and 15 years of service. The timing was right for me, even though it was early for the Air Force, when I finished up my last tour at Del Rio. Since I loved that job so much, I wanted to line myself up to go back there after this tour--so I volunteered for the staff job. What I was told was not to look for a job so much as to look for a location. My first choice was San Antonio--primarily because I could do my staff tour and still fly. Of course, the anti-Christ of the United States Air Force, the Air Force Personnel Center, said a great big "hell no" to that one. So all I did was look for someplace warm that had year-round golf. Tucson.

Unfortunately, I can't fly on this tour. I, like 98% of the people that I've told this to, think this is a monumental waste of money. Not my call. I didn't think the flying would be that big of a deal--flying three times a day six days a week wore me down after three years. Boy-o was I wrong on this one...

It took me about three days to realize that this was an occupational error of the highest magnitude. The majority of the people I work with are at the tail end of their careers. Promotion opportunities are few and far between. The average age of the workers here (a weird mix of both military and civilian) is about 45. Oh--and we, unlike the majority of the US military, are so hopelessly overmanned that we have resorted to making up work to do--something that I absolutely refuse to do.

Instead of an office I have a cubicle. I have plaques from awards I had won for flying and instructing surrounding the laptop I surf the web on--leering at me as if they are the tombstones of my flying career.

So I blog. All day.

Once in a while they give me a job to do, thinking that it will take about 300 times longer to accomplish than it actually does. The other guys here are geniuses at making that happen. It goes against everything I've done in the military--and I'm a chronic procrastinator. So I finish it in a day, and then go back to surfing the net.

When I got back from the desert I swore I wouldn't come back to this type of a work day. So, before I even got orders back home, I wrote everyone I know and asked for some type of job transfer into a leadership position. It appears to have worked.

I had about seven job offers waiting for me. Unfortunately, it's my boss that makes the call as to where I'm going. And he has a wonderful job in mind where I'll be in charge of a branch of the organization I'm in--actually in charge of people.

Well, in charge of person. One civilian and me.

The office is supposed to have seven personnel in it, which presumably we'll get at some point. Until then it will be just the two of us.

In typical fashion, though, they're taking forever to make the transfer happen. So I'm waiting.

And waiting.

And looking for a pencil to place into my eye.

Filed under:

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Videos Updated

For those who were curious...I've swapped servers and I think I may have solved the video hosting problems. Give them a shot and let me know if there are still problems:

Twinkle Twinkle

Bareback Top Gun

Bottom line is that Yahoo! wasn't cutting it or answering any of my questions. I'm subscribing to Streamload now and it seems to be working ok.


Cold Turkey


I had never heard about this, but I just found out about a new movie in Turkey called "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq." Essentially it is a screamingly psychotic insurgency-promoting anti-American film produced by Turkish national Raci Samas. After doing some research, the same company produced a Turkish TV series called Kurtlar Vadisi, based upon a fictional Turkish mafia. The show was a big hit--so it's no surprise that the populace raced to see the version of the mafia that is cast upon the US military...

What scares me the most about this is that it is a no-holds barred, scathing attack on the US. From what I could garner from the reviews I've read, it portrays situations that are being taken as truth--Abu Ghraib, assaults on civillians, wacko nazi-like doctors, etc.--even though they are clearly and completely false. I would try to equate this to "Apocalypse Now" as to a false portrayal of the behavior of American soldiers, but this is so far over the top that if it wasn't putting (again) lives in danger it would be laughable. Even script-writer Bahadir Ozdener claims that "maybe 60% or 70% of what happens on screen is factually true." Of course, that doesn't necessarily matter--we've seen what cartoons can do.

And now for the point--take a look at the credits on the movie poster. The stars of this murderous anti-American garbage? None other than Billy Zane and Gary Busey. Busey I already knew to be a nutcase. But Billy Zane starring in this is tantamount to treachery. His claims were that he was anti-"any war" and he felt that this"is not against my country's people... I am doing this movie because I am a patriot. I'm against all wars, because wars don't have happy endings."

Should these guys be kicked out of the US? Nah. But I would like to see them dropped off in downtown Fallujah or Ankara for a weekend just to see the damage they've done.

Apparently I'm the last guy on the block to hear about this--since I've found it around a lot since it was released this weekend. Read more about it here.

Kinder and Gentler

I love four-day weekends.

I hate them, too. It makes going back to work all that much more difficult.

Surprisingly, I got a buttload of hits this weekend--presumably because someone linked my site to a Citadel Alumni server, which I didn't even know existed. One of said alumni sent me an email describing the new Citadel president, one Lt Gen Rosa. I was a little wary about his appointment, due to the fact that he was just finishing up as the head of the Air Force Academy. Terry validated my concerns...

I read your posts on hazing with much interest. I am an Air Force Academy grad class of 1988. From the founding class of 1959 through the class of 1986, Air Force cadets' fourthclass year began with Basic Cadet Training, (divided into two phases, the first in the cadet area, the second in field conditions at Jack's Valley), then moved into the academic year. In mid to late May, the fourthclass year culminated with Hell Week, originally a week of intense training, using up every second of the day a fourthclassman was not actually in class. By the time the class of '86 had their Hell Week, it had shrunk to 2 days, but it was after exams so every second of the day was dedicated to Hell Week activities. Morning runs, sweat sessions, room inspections, rifle manual, the works. Unfortunately, when '86 went through almost 200 cadets ended up in the hospital with varying degrees of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and other medical issues.

The local press took the story and ran with it, painting a picture of the military once again out of control. Of course a committee was appointed to investigate, and they took a year to decide that poor logistical planning, and inadequate water access was to blame. Instead of actually fixing the problem, the powers that be made sweeping changes to what was considered "legitimate training". Physical training (dropping a smack for pushups, making them hold a rifle at arms length, etc) as punishment was forbidden. Hell Week was abolished, replaced with "recognition training", a kinder, gentler version of what had happened in the past.

The class of 1987 had a fourthclass year mostly under the old system, with my class the first one to go through a fourthclass year with all the new regulations in place. It was a very mixed bag. Some upperclassmen did very little to enforce the fourthclass system, preferring to remind my class how much tougher it was in the recent past. (of course if it was somebody in '86 that made the comment I always wondered to myself if they were one of the candyasses in the hospital) Some of the training went underground, which was even more dangerous because it was completely unsupervised, and it started some cadets down the road of regularly breaking training regulations. I believe this was one of the early reasons for the rape scandal that enveloped the Air Force Academy recently.

The rape scandal force more investigations and Lt Gen Rosa was dispatched to put out the fire. Under his command, virtually all training as any military academy grad would recognize it is now wiped out. Basic training is a watered down imitation of what was once an actual challenge. The fourthclass year consists of corporate style team building exercises, with no raised voices allowed. Freshmen are put at ease by Thanksgiving, their "fourthclass year" essentially over by Thanksgiving. This is the "Officer Development System" (ODS) and it is headed straight for the Citadel in the person of Lt Gen Rosa, the new Supe at the Citadel. Unless he is a total hypocrite you can expect the same treatment. Good luck, you guys are gonna need it! He's already destroyed one former military academy, I hope he doesn't go 2-2.
I am not trying to belittle any of the cases that are ever brought up against the military or its institutions. I have just been a first-hand witness to the knee-jerk reactions these institutions put in place to handle the situation. Like quelling a riot with a nuclear bomb, so much more is lost in the effort to handle a specific problem, and the end result is a weaker unit.

I was Shannon Faulkner's armed escort (armed with a sword that I was strictly forbidden to even touch let alone draw) the first day she showed up as a day-student at The Citadel. I was unfortunate enough to watch as my beloved school was brought to its knees in the name of equal rights. My views on what happened, and military co-education, will come in a later post. Suffice it to say that while I strongly support women in the military, the school is most certainly not better off as a result of the Supreme Court's decision.

Many leaders in today's military are overwhelmingly concerned about losing their jobs. As a result, it is not uncommon to see them institute sweeping changes for a problem that are not proportional to the issue. In the end, they look good because the problem goes away. But a lot of good is destroyed in their wake. If these changes are put in place at my alma mater, will it be a better institution for the cadets as a whole? Or just for a few?

That remains to be seen.

Princess Post

Princess's goals for life:

Translation: "When I grow up I want to be a nurse to help people because they are sick and not healthy and broke their bones. I will care for them. They will see me again someday. I will be there for them when they come back."

It sucks when you bork your bon.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I have received a good number of great emails from people for the post I authored about Hazing a few days ago--quite a few from Alumni. Judging from the questions, there are two things that I have in the original post, but need to be re-stated:

1) I was not ever a member of the JSD--I elected to save my grades at a critical point in my quest for a pilot slot in my junior year, so I walked out of my rank-selection board--simply because if I had the opportunity, I knew I would try. So I eliminated that opportunity.

2) I don't think I clearly gave credit for these photos--I got them off of a website the post was linked to in a couple of places: www.sworddrill.com. The photos are posted there with the caption that they are from the scrapbook of Mr. Gary Durante, member of the 1980 JSD--one of the ones that we were told was legendary for the trials they had to go through.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


With all the excitement last night I didn't even get to notice--I hit the big 5000 hits last night.

Woo hoo!


Last night we had the opportunity to do a dry-run of the hospital drill when the baby gets here.

Superwife came home from her shift at the hospital last night and wanted only one thing--to lay down and be still. Not food, not drink, not monkies, just immobility. That kinda piqued my curiosity a bit.

Me: "You ok, hon?"

SW: "Yeah, I guess so. I'm just having some serious contractions."

Me: "Like, 'let's go' contractions or just uncomfortable contractions?"

SW: "I'm not sure."

Me: "I'll get the bag ready."

And the bag is a contentious issue--we've never been "prepared" for any kid so far. Monkey #1 (The Princess) was two weeks early and Monkey #2 was two months early. So we've never had our shit together before they showed up. We've been bound and determined to be ready this time, so this weekend the plan was to finalize all the prep for Odie. That sped up a bit when we thought Superwife was going into labor last night.

A few drugs and an IV and we were back home around midnight. Apparently she's not drinking enough water.

But at least the bag's packed.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Best Commander I Ever Had

In the last 12 years I've had 10 commanders. Of those, three were absolutely horrible, six were unremarkable, and one was amazing. I've learned a lot from this group of Lt Col's over the time I've been in the Air Force. I've also learned a great deal from the lower-ranking supervisors--the DO's, Flight Commanders, and Aircraft Commanders that I've worked for and with. From the Lt Col's, unfortunately, most of it was what not to do as a leader. By the time that I had the honor of serving under the command of the best commander I ever had ("Tina" was his callsign), I had already established my style of leadership. What made him great was that he allowed me to do my job...

The bad ones generally had one major flaw--they were excessively worried about covering their ass. In order to do this, their list of priorities went: 1) Self, 2) Mission, 3) Troops. When your list goes in that order, it doesn't take long for the people that work for you to figure it out. What I've found is that when a troop knows that the people above him are not all that interested in their welfare, they tend to take that particular subject into their own hands. When you have an organization that feels that way, and acts that way, it is destined to fail. Because then their priorities tend to shift as well--1) Self, 2) Mission, 3) Commander.

In the early 90's the Air Force rapidly sucked down it's pilot force due to overmanning. The Air Force has a habit of doing that (they're doing it right now, believe it or not). By the time I came in, they had realized their quandry of a pilot shortage and rapidly went the other way--bringing far too many pilots in. What this led to was good and bad. It was good for guys like me, who planned on making a career out of the military. The reason it was bad was that guys, when their time was up, were pretty much free to go. The airlines were hiring like crazy, and the bonus they gave us for sticking around wasn't sufficient to keep guys in. The promising guys who would have been great commanders all started to get out. What this led to was a horrible cycle: good guys would have bad commanders, and subsequently would get out, leaving nothing but poor candidates for command. They, in turn, would have no outside options to leave and, for lack of another choice, would be made commanders by the Air Force. And so it would go. SO by this point in my career, good commanders, with the right priorities, are hard to find.

That doesn't mean that they don't exist--it's just that I have to wonder sometimes if the promotion/commander selection process is broken. A lot of guys get there on brains. One of the commanders I had was brilliant, but a poor leader. He raced up the chain. Some guys got there on luck. One of the commanders I had, one of the worst ones, was put into that postion solely because the one he succeeded had to get out for medical reasons.

Tina's priorities were, in my mind, in the right order. Again, he was the only one to get it right in my career. 1) Troops, 2) Mission, 3) Self. This goes against a lot of what the Air Force teaches--that the mission always comes first. What I have found, though, is what the troops want, more than anything, is for their commander to be looking out for them. If that happens, then their priorities go in the right order as well: 1) Commander, 2) Mission, 3) Self.

If the troops are concerned with the performance and reputation of their commander, then they will do everything in their power to get the mission right. Sure, if you put mission first, then the mission gets done. But if there is personal motivation behind it, and you are doing everything you can to support your commander's visions of what the end result should be mission-wise, then the mission gets done exceptionally.

What kills me is that so many commanders don't get that. I had the best flight in my squadron when I was a flight commander. But it was that way because my number one priority was the well-being of my guys. I made sure that they had everything they needed, and the authority and support behind them, to accomplish the mission. Those guys worked harder for me than I could have ever asked them to. I could enable them to do that because Tina gave me the same support to run things the way I needed to.

He was the most hands-off, and best, commander I've ever had.

Writer's Blog Alliance

I have been submitted into the Writer's Blog Alliance selections for my My Views On the War post back in November. They are collecting works from around the blogosphere to be included into a blog anthology. The other entries are pretty awesome, but I doubt mine will actually make the book.

Check it out.

Why Is It That...

I keep attracting anti-war/defeatist/lefty types to this site?

And why is it that they are the only ones commenting?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Twinkle Twinkle

Quite possibly the best video of Sammy to date...

He's such a stud.

New Photos

Another winner from the MSM.

Referring back to my post on how freedom of the press implies a serious dose of judgement, I simply can't understand why any sane individuals would see this as a positive piece of news reporting. They refused to put the Mohammad cartoons on their pages. Good call, in my opinion. The risk of causing more riots and offending Muslims in general outweighed the benefit of gaining readers.

So why publish these photos? This accomplishes the same effect that publishing the cartoons would have, except it gives the bad guys a specific target--the US Military. Nice job.

Beyond that, you never see the positive things that occurred at Ghraib. Of course not--publishing those would imply a level of support for the boys. The MSM simply can't have that.

Michelle Malkin called them out on this. I doubt we'll hear anything about it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Still Crawly

Back to back record-breaking hit-days and I've become (albeit temporarily) a Crawly Amphibian in the TTLB Ecosystem.

Where's the love.

Being a Dad Rocks

This is the card I got from the Princess for Valentine's Day:

I love being a Dad.

Hazing Part II

I was immediately dropped (into the pushup position) and a slight concern over what was going to happen began to fall. Over the next minute or so nothing happened. Then Fury started to whisper.

I always thought that was worse than yelling. A whisper in the ear of a cadet struck mulitudes more fear than a scream.

He implied to me how stupid that was for me to think I had a right to do that, and that he was going to make sure that I understood my error. Over the next 20 minutes or so I executed a series of pushups, hung by my hands from a pipe until I couldn't hold on anymore, and various other exercises designed to bring me to exhaustion. Mind you, this was immediately after our weekly PT run. Even with all of this, I was happy when I was released back to my room with strict orders not to breathe a word of this to anyone. I was still alive...

It wasn't until I got to my room that I started hearing the calls. JSD members from all over my batallion (barracks) were shouting across the galleries, gathering their number. Phone calls were being made to JSD members in other batallions. It wasn't long until my door was kicked open and I wearily stood at attention again.

Not all the JSD members had the same intentions as Fury. Some were sadistic and known to be. One grabbed a transom stick, a 3/4" wooden dowel used to open high windows. He weilded it like a baseball bat and ordered me to hang by the pipes again.

I don't recall ever being hit. I do recall doing more physical exertion than I had ever done in my life. And crying. Once fear overtook me, emotions started coming out.

It wasn't the PT I feared. With every other thing that had happened at The Citadel, I knew there was a limit. No matter how hard they pushed and threatened, I always believed that there was a point that couldn't be crossed. The fact that that line no longer existed was what frightened me the most, and generated stark terror.
Once it was over, Fury wrote a symbol on my soaked white PT shirt. The Crossed Swords, with the year of the JSD on wither side and the members position. Two others did the same. I'm not sure how many were actually in my room.

"That's three," whispered Fury. "You have eleven more to go." With that, they walked out. It was the only time in four years that I ever considered quitting the school altogether.

These sessions continued on and off for the next month or so, when either someone got busted or they lost interest. Along the way I picked up a companion, who was in the same situation I was. Fury made things easier for his crowd by kicking my roommate out and moving the other guy in. Throughout the trials we endured over the next few weeks, we became best friends.

We were inseparable for my whole knob year. In the end competition between us for promotion splintered the bonds we had created. We both later went on to become two of the higher-ranking cadets of the school. I chose a pilot slot over trying out for JSD my junior year, as (understandably so) grades suffered severly the semester you tried out for the Drill. He became my class's JSD commander.

My roommate's JSD had some individuals on it that the treatment we received as freshmen affected adversely instead of building us, as I strongly feel the treatment I received did. In my senior year several of them were expelled for hazing juniors attempting to make the cut. It was the last JSD that existed in The Citadel.

So--my point. The hazing that I was administered at my all-male military alma mater did not adversely affect me. It did not make me into a wife-beater or violent anti-women monster. It prepared me. Mind you, I was not set on fire, beaten with weapons, or made to drink overwhelming amounts of alcohol (the latter I did on my own). It made me stronger. It gave me determination to perservere. It gave me something that I strongly feel that I had to be proud of--above and beyond the immeasureable pride that one feels from graduating from that school as it is. I also don't think it is for everyone. There are definitely other ways to build character and pride. This is what worked on me.

I don't know what happened to Fury. He was commissioned as an officer in the US Army after graduation and I never heard from him again except in a book written about the JSD long after I graduated.

If he is like he once was, he is probably leading a batallion into combat somehwere in Iraq right now.

Hazing Part I

I was hazed when I was a cadet at The Citadel.

Hazing had occurred there, and my guess is that it still does, for the roughly 160 years that it's been around in Charleston, SC. You saw about it in the news all the time, heard about cadets getting the crap beat out of them and subsequently the offending cadets being expelled or had charges brought against them. But here's the surprising caveat:

I didn't mind. In fact I felt that The Citadel wouldn't have made me into the person I am now without it.

There's a caveat to the caveat: Hazing in and of itself is not the evil. It's the type of hazing, the purposes behind it, and the individuals performing it that give it it's dark side. Hazing done simply because someone is a sadistic ass, or done to get some kind of weird "high" is wrong. Hazing doen simply to hurt someone, or because "well, that's what happened to me" is also wrong. So is hazing done that is physical beating and what the guys that watch GITMO would call "torture." All bad.

But the problem with admnistrations scared to death of lawsuits is that they go to another extreme, one in which a military insititution is softened as a result. The hazing that I received, and administered, was physical extertion--pushing cadets well past whatever limit they had set for themselves, and reducing their personal comfort zones to rubble to prepare them for circumstances that they would have to face in the future.

Like a tent in Afghanistan. Or Iraq...

There was a group that has since been disbanded called the "Junior Sword Drill." Not many people I've told this to outside the ivory walls of my alma mater understand the mystique, but I'll try to explain it again here.

The Junior Sword Drill, or JSD, was a drill organization comprised of 14 cadets (and one alternate) that performed a 14 minute precision drill performance and then held the honor of arcing swords over the heads of the seniors when they received their class Rings. Being given the Ring, and walking under the sword arch, was a moment that every cadet longed for from the day they arrived at school as a knob (freshman) or earlier. Being on that organization was a distinct honor. Cadets were only eligible to even try out for the group if they were in the top 30 or so highest-ranking juniors. Those 30 were taken nightly for two weeks into a locked gym and driven to exhaustion in the rite of passage to earn the honor of being a member. One by one trainees would either quit or be eliminated, until only 15 remained. Through the screen on my darkened room (freshmen were not allowed to even look at the trainees) I saw my first seargeant (who would later become commander of the JSD) dragged into his room unconscious.

My first seargeant was a wiry, short, Army-contracted cadet that I'll call Fury. Everything about this guy marked the position of excellence in being a cadet. From the shaved head to the reflective shoes and starched uniform, he could have easily have been on the cover of the yearbook. He made our lives a miserable form of existence due to the fact that his energy level was unmatched by anyone else that I've ever met. Throughout the course of my freshman year, though, he went from being a source of hatred from us to a source of motivation. The tenacity in which he led that company made us horrified at the possibility of failing his expectations. Throughout it all, however, we developed a sense that unlike other upperclassmen, whose purpose in dealing out pain to us was to serve some sort of ego boost, Fury's purpose was to make us better cadets--to better prepare us for what was to come.

The point that JSD became more mystical was when you would ask about it. No one, save the members of the team, knew the details of what was occurring behind the locked doors of that gym. And none of them would speak. It was a giant mystery that propogated an even more mystical existence.

As I said, Fury made the JSD and became its commander. As luck would have it, my commander (a senior), a 6' 6" 220 pound monster, was the commander of his JSD the previous year. So my company was kind of a hot zone for JSD types.

Whenever the JSD would run in formation, they unsheathed their swords slightly and slammed them back into their scabbards simultaneously. The shhhik-shhhik sound that it made eerily echoed off the barracks walls when they would depart to or arrive from training. They also had a chant that they would call out--"We Love...Sword Drill....We Love...Sword Drill." The trainees, I later found out, were not permitted to say the chant until the training was over--they said it backwards--"Drill Sword, Love We"--until then. I know, it sounds ridiculous. But at school, especially through the eyes of a knob, these guys were gods.

So there I was...we were on a PT run with all the freshmen being led by both Fury and my commander. The previous week, Fury thought it would be cool to have us yell the chant as we went through the barracks as a group with him leading. We got so fired up that we could've run forever. I found out later that he got in trouble for that. The following week we were on another run and my buds had started to sputter from exhaustion. So I took it upon myself to motivate my classmates and started a chant.

"We Love," I shouted. My classmates echoed it.

"Sword Drill," I shouted again. Noone answered.

My commander turned with a look from hades itself on his face and pummeled through my classmates like a bowling ball with them as pins on his way to me. At a full run, he pulled my then 185 pound body up to his face, dangling me by my shirt. He didn't stop running.

After receiving the verbal abuse (and subsequent drop onto the pavement at said full run) from my CO I thought my worries were over. It wasn't until we got back to the barracks that I realized that that was nothing. Fury stood glaring at me from the sidelines with his frighteningly cold stare as we took our last lap around the block. As we slowed to a walk I saw him motion from the corner of my eye. Without saying a word, I fell out and followed him into a room...


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bareback Top Gun

I don't know how many people have seen this, but I've seen it around 75 times and I'm still rolling....

Letter from Tall 'Afar

I found this through a link from Neptunus Lex today. It is a letter sent to the families of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment from the Mayor of Tall 'Afar, Iraq. When the pol's speak of how this may not be worth it and that we need to pull out now, they need to read this letter:

To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city...

Read the whole thing--you need to.

Why I Picked Air Force

I was originally going to be in the Navy.

After seeing "Top Gun" all I wanted to do was fly the now-retiring F-14 Tomcat and zip around like Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. When I showed up at The Citadel I enrolled in Navy ROTC and was well on my way. The requirements for a pilot slot out of Navy ROTC were a lot higher than they were in Air Force, but even though I had a 1.48 GPA after my first semester I still had my hopes up...

After another year of school, I was approaching a point in ROTC when I had to make a final decision as to what I was going to do for a career. My grades were still in the toilet, I had been pretty much told by the officers in the Navy Department that being a pilot was a pipe dream, and I was about ready to give up. In the middle of the night while studying for my final exams for my first semester of my Sophomore year, I went outside onto the gallery and asked for guidance from my guardian angel.

My sister, Jenny, was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and wasn't breathing when she came out. Mind you, this was the early 70's and the doctors tried to get things right but couldn't in time. As a result she was severely brain-damaged at birth, and never developed mentally past roughly six months old. I don't remember much, but I've been told that we were very close until she became too much for my parents to take care of and we had to place her in a home. She stayed there until she passed away in 1987.

After her death I actually came to feel closer to her than I did when she was alive. I talked to her all the time, and occasionally received "signals" back from her that were so bizarre that I could only attribute them to be messages from heaven. The night that I had reached my wit's end as to what path I should take in life, I was given an answer from Jenny.

As I stood on the gallery looking at the stars above the cold white walls that I called home, I said a quiet prayer to Jenny alluding to my confusion and asking for direction. "I don't know what to do, Jenny," I said to the night air. "I need some help."

Out of nowhere, breaking through the midnight calm, a four-ship of Air Force F-16's enroute to Charleston Air Force Base slowly roared overhead on final approach. As their engines droned off into the distance, my decision was made.

It was Air Force or a life as a civilian.

The next day, in between exams, I went to my counselor and changed my enrollment for the next semester from Navy to Air Force and never looked back.

It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Camel Tracks

Camel Tracks for Valentine's Day:

Holly Aho has some great telemarketer combat techniques.
Priest opines on Valentine's Day and how it should be.
Ric Moran on how the OIC is calling the cartoons the Muslim World's 9/11.
Suspended Minds on the wonder of having two little boys on Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Girls Raised by a Village

Many of you probably can gather that I am slightly protective of my children. I read this article from CNN via Gates of Vienna about a teen group that has had to form as a result of abusive relationships. A teen group. Here is my reaction from the comments I wrote...

I'm not endorsing violence here...

But if I heard of my daughter being treated like that the guy would seriously have to fear for his life--at the very least bodily harm. And she's 6 now.

I am constantly floored by what I see teenagers wearing these days, or how they behave and are generally "on the loose." I'm 33--not an old fart by my standards. And I also think the whole rebel thing is fine--do whatever--but I am falbberghast at how little day-to-day interaction these parents have with their kids at such a young age.

I never had a question in my head where my mother was 24 hours a day. And she had a pretty damn good idea where I was.

Spend some friggin time with your kids, people. Fathers show your kids--both boys and girls--how to treat other people--both boys and girls. And when that is done....

Teach them how to defend themselves, and when it is appropriate (contrary to popular belief, it is occasionally appropriate) how to beat the living crap out whoever it is that is threatening them.

I'm not a counseller (obviously), but my guess is that these freaks seek out women that will allow themselves, for whatever reasons, to be treated this way. Hank had it right--one swift kick to the big boys and he'll think twice about it. And girls having the confidence, and ability, to do that will probably keep these guys at a distance.

Top Ten Update

I've been home for a month.

I figured now would be a good time to update "
My Top Ten" things that I wanted to do once I got home. So far it feels like I have managed to slide back into my old routine, which I definitely wanted to change. Let's see...

1. Make Breakfast. PARTIAL SUCCESS. I've done it a couple of times, but the early morning computer habit that I've been trying to break doesn't seem to want to quit. I do make some mean scrambled eggs though.

2. Reduce the Load. SUCCESS. We've taken about 4 truckloads of stuff to Goodwill. More to follow.

3. Build a Wild Playset. SUCCESS.

4. Walk With the Kids. Haven't done it yet. We took them to the park one day to ride their bikes, but no excuse on this one. Still working on it.

5. Help Around the House More. PARTIAL SUCCESS. I am helping out, but I could be doing a lot more.

6. Keep Blogging. SUCCESS. Well, kinda. I guess if you call continuing to write a success, then yeah. But the interest has certainly vanished. With the exception of a handful of loyal readers and the occasional link love from Mudville and Military Outpost, no one links to me anymore. Oh well.

7. Start Flying. FAILURE.

8. Buy a DVR. FAILURE.

9. Go Somewhere, Anywhere, Once a Month. SUCCESS

10. Manage My Time. FAILURE. This is a biggie...I've been horrible at it my whole life.

So--so far so bad. Granted, these were pretty lofty goals. I think the biggest problem I had coming back was that I had a pretty regular schedule and everything was laid out for me over there. Being home, I am once again left to my own devices which never really worked in the first place. Still not giving up.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Final Flight

In December I "celebrated" one year of not flying.

My last flight in the T-37 was in December of 2004. It was a significant flight in that Laughlin AFB was just finishing up retiring the Tweet in favor of the newer, sexier T-6 Texan II. Over the course of my tour I watched as a ramp full of hundreds of what would become my most beloved aircraft dwindled slowly down as the new kid on the block moved in. Most pilots were excited since there was so much more that you could do in the T-6, as well as it being safer and more comfortable. Like an old Vet who glares at the younger generation I refused to buy off on the new model. I didn't like the seating configuration (front to back versus side by side), I didn't think it was very durable, I was skeptical of the instructional use, and most of all I didn't like one engine versus two. To be honest it could have been the greatest trainer in the world--the fact remained that my baby had won my heart over and I was bound and determined to remain faithful to her.

They extended my tour a couple of months to finish the transition out. Week after week we flew T-37's out to Davis-Monthan AFB to park them in the "boneyard," a giant final resting place that the Air Force retires its aircraft to. Important components were pulled out, fuel was drained, they were sealed up and left to bake in the hot Arizona sun. In that last month, my last remaining T-37 brethren and I mounted up for the last show...

They did it right, at least. The media came out, the final crew chiefs that we had grown to know surrounded the four-ship of Tweets for that last engine run, and every IP and student that was available came out to the flight line to send us off. With four final takeoffs, the screaming whine that was responsible for reducing thousands of pilots' hearing capability was silenced from Del Rio's skies.

On the last leg into Davis-Monthan, I deferred to my younger wingman the honor of leading our two-ship formation into the boneyard. I had a hidden agenda: I wanted to be the last Laughlin AFB pilot to fly the T-37 by being the last to land.

We came up initial faster than normal, and I delayed my break several seconds in order to build up even more speed. At the last second I reefed into the break, pulling as many G's as the plane could handle for it's last bit a abuse before a long-deserved rest.

We taxiied into a special ramp area where they do the preparations for parking the planes permanently. After I stopped I hesitated before shutting the engines down for the last time and just listened to the engine whine and breathed the JP-8 in. Ironically, it wasn't just this plane's final shutdown; it was the last flight I was going to take as a pilot for the next three years, instead working a staff job not two miles away in the 12th Air Force Headquarters. My eyes watered as I pulled the throttles into CUT-OFF and listened as the tweet breathed her last.

I drive by the area that they parked the fleet every day. In a wonderful twist of fate, out of the thousands of planes in the boneyard they parked mine not 100 yards from the fenceline, several rows of my babies side by side just like they were on the ramp in Del Rio. The 16th hole of the base golf course runs alongside the display. I was out there last week with a good non-pilot friend of mine when he saw me quietly looking at the line of retired warriors with grass now grown up around the wheel wells underneath.

"Do you miss it?" He asked, apparently just making conversation. I thought of my response for a second.

"You have no idea."

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Get a Grip (Updated)


It isn't often that I allow things that I read or see on blogs or TV to change my opinions on things. Even with Trouble's comments regarding her views I remained steadfast. But considering what has gone on in the past few days, and after reading I Support Denmark by Den Mother, I have changed my mind since I posted this.

Though I still think it wasn't necessarily the smartest of moves, I support Denmark too.


Ok, enough.

I have two reactions to the "global crisis" that has swept europe over the anti-Islamic cartoons that were published as editorials last week. One is in response to the Islamic crowds throwing molotov cocktails, and one is in response to the MSM that published the cartoons in the first place...

To the MSM: Dumbass. Once again, you've taken the concept of freedom and used it unwisely. Yes, I strongly believe that the MSM has every right in the world to publish more or less what it wants. One of the costs of such freedom, however, is a healthy dose of judgement. Realize what effects your actions will bring about. That was just stupid. Kind of like our own MSM (Washington Post) publishing the editorial cartoon I wrote of here.

To the crowds: Get a grip. Your actions are demonstrating to the world a large level of hypocrisy and proving many of the critics of the Middle East correct. I understand your ire, as it was insensitive and ridiculous that any press organization in the world would have allowed publishing something like that. But it is not worth people dying over.

An interesting point--a prominent Iranian newspaper today announced a contest for the "best holocaust cartoon" that they could find, to see what our reaction would be. I may be out of some bucks here, but I'm willing to bet that they could publish it anywhere and the west wouldn't break into a theater-wide violent rampage over it. Thus the point of freedom.

Either way, wasn't it Iranian president Ahmadinejad that opined that the holocaust itself was a myth?

Heavy Threat

Hezbollah Leader to Bush: 'Shut Up'

The President's recommended response with the USMC behind him:

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but flag burning psychos will never hurt me....neener neener neener.... "

Madonna's Hot

I am not a big awards-show fan.

A lot of people get all giddy when the Grammys or Oscars come around--I didn't even know they were happening until I was flipping through the channels last night. It's actually pretty rare these days that I even buy a new CD (digtially or otherwise) since I haven't been too turned on by the music that's come out in the past few years.

So it was just as a sidenote to have some music in the background when I clicked on the stream Yahoo put on their site of the Madonna/Gorillaz performance at the Grammys last night...

I guess her "Hung Up" (I think that's it--her latest from "Confessions on a Dance Floor") video is a bit offensive to some, since I heard about it without seeing it from people that were saying that she should "act her age." Mind you that I grew up as Madonna was becoming a star, and she's been in the scene ever since. So I was 13 when she was on her "Like a Virgin" tour. Girls at my middle school shocked nuns when they would show up with a lace glove on (I wonder what they would say now, with what I've seen teen girls wearing). Either way, I thought she was pretty hot back then.

The performance I saw was really friggin cool. Somehow they took the 3D animated images of the Gorillaz and had them onstage, and in the middle of the performance Madonna rose up out of the stage to start her part. She danced around the stage, and the 3D images, as if they were actually there with her. At first I thought that maybe it was a screen behind her, until she walks around behind them, too. Pretty amazing stuff.

I hope when I'm her age that I look like that and can still move like that. I mean, she's 47 years old and still rocks.

And she's still hot.


Lowe's is having its grand opening this weekend.

In the last eleven years I've gone from nothing at all (Germany, Japan), to a half-assed hardware store (Del Rio, TX) to having a Home Depot a half hour away. Now, finally, Lowe's is opening about 20 minutes from my house.

Lowe's to me now is what Toys 'R' Us was to me as a kid. Home Depot is cool, but Lowe's just rocks. I've spent a vast amount of money in that place. One of the coolest Christmas gifts I got in recent years was a $75 gift card to my mecca...

When we bought our first house three years ago I had a power screwdriver and a hammer. Emily had more tools than I did from before we were married. As soon as we moved in she requested a shelf over the washing machine. Wth one sentence my Dad started a downhill slide that I haven't been able to stop since:

"Well, you're going to have to go get a power saw."

That was in January of 2003. By August I had roughly $3000 worth of power tools in my garage and was building Sammy's first bed from scratch. I had a late show at work that day and I was working on it until around 11 AM. When I left I hit the garage door button, but by the time I pulled away the door had popped back up, leaving it open with my mother-in-law and kids in the house.

At some point in the three hours it was left open before Emily got home, some jackass pulled up and walked off with my benchtop drill press, a brand-new router table, a 10" mitre-saw, and that power saw my Dad told me to get. I didn't realize it until Saturday when I went back out to the garage to work on Sammy's bed. Of course, our insurance didn't cover it.

It does now.

I was so pissed off that we stormed out and drove three hours to San Antonio and went directly to Lowe's. I blew $1300 on replacements, except this time I bought a 200 pound full-size drill press, and the Man-Saw which is the dominatrix of my garage. This DeWalt 12" sliding miter saw can cut through a 4x6 as if it wasn't even there. I bolted the Man-Saw to a table, sat back, and announced out my open-garage door: "Let's see you bastards come try to steal this!"

And I bought a new power-saw, too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Cool Website

Foreign militaries aside, one of my favorite places in the world to visit was Paris, France. I was absolutely floored by the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's tomb, the Champs, and just the general feeling of the city. I wish I was more into photography then.

Anyway--I found a great website called "Webcam Site of the Day" which highlights, obviously, different webcams throughout the day. In order to see this one refresh you'll have to do it manually--but the website I got it from does it automatically. Technology rocks.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Off-Road Solo

My recollection of El Tigre's spinning episode garnered a record-breaking hit day for me (largely due to a pick-up from Smash, once again), so I'll continue on with another experience of mine.

My last duty in pilot training was as the Assistant Director of Operations, with my primary responsibility being student training. What this translated into was that any student that displayed a less than 50% chance of being able to successfully solo was sent to me for their checkout. I would like to think it was due to my stellar instructional abilities, but I have a feeling it was more because no one else wanted the responsibility. They usually ended up passing on to the rest of the program, but occasionally a call to end the student's tenure as a pilot had to be made. It was the ones that were right on that edge that I was tagged to fly with the most.

As you could have probably guessed, Tigre was one of those students...

His big turn to solo was up. Plagued by a horrible case of airsickness, he had fallen way behind early on in the program and was the last student in the class to solo. Most of the instructors, though they thought his attitude was amazing, did not expect him to go up alone. We were scheduled for the first go of the day--just a flight around the pattern to decide once and for all if I was going to get out.

Almost immediately it wasn't going well. Normally on these flights I would turn my interphone off, so there was no sound whatsoever in the cockpit except what the student was saying and hearing, with the intent b eing that this was a safety check, not an instructional sortie, per se. Within ten minutes of flight I was back on the mike telling him what to do. After 30 minutes, I had just about had enough.

The weather has to be at certain minimums in order for Air Force students to go solo. When we took off it was right on the edge--by the mid-point of the sortie it was rapidly deteriorating due to increased winds. If the weather fell too far, I wouldn't be able to get out and Tigre would have another shot that afternoon. As if in answer to a prayer, the radio call went out changing the airfield status to "Dual," eliminating any chances of the solo sortie happening that morning. Had the weather not changed, I would have had to fail him.

"You just got a break," I announced, taking the aircraft and ending the sortie. He knew as well as I did that it hadn't gone well.

That afternoon we tried again. The winds had calmed and the sky was a deep blue clear. The sun was shining on Tigre's hands, as well, as he deftly flew around the pattern without any assistance from me. After performing his requisite landings, I took the jet and looked at him.

"You ready?" I think it kind of caught him by surprise--he didn't think I was going to let him go.

After taxiing back into parking, he left one engine running as I jumped out. I gave him some last words of advice and some guidance.

"Three landings and call it a day," I shouted to him over the engines. His helmet bobbed up and down in understanding. Student's nametags had only their names on them, while qualified pilots had their perspective rating wings displayed above theirs. I reached over and ripped his velcro nametag off, slapping my own senior pilot wings in its place. "Bring those back," I shouted, and jumped out.

Over by the squadron there was a picnic table on the flight line that was a common gathering place for students watching their buddies solo. Since Tigre was the last, almost the whole class was out there. Not many instructors took part in the tradition. I'm not sure why. I went to every student's that I soloed. Listening over a handheld radio, I watched as the tweet, now so completely far out of my control, zip around the pattern. He was doing a good job at his radio calls and it seemed to be going well.

"Pogo 50, gear down," crackled over the radio two times over the course of the next 15 minutes. Pogo was the callsign students adopted on the initial solos. It still cracks me up. I waited for the last one: "Pogo 50, gear down, full stop." Good boy, I thought. Calling it quits like I asked.

The runway at Del Rio sloped up and over a slight hill at its mid-point. From our vantage position we could only see halfway without jumping up on the picnic table and craning our necks. After Tigre touched down I watched as he rolled out over the hill. I switched the radio off and got ready to pat myself on the back for another solo under my belt.

Then a firetruck went by.

Not too out of the ordinary. No lights or anything, and emergencies happened here all the time.

A tug-truck lumbered past. I started to get uncomfortable.

One of Tigre's classmates was on top of the table with binoculars watching the rollout. I looked up at her uneasily.

"Sir, there's an aircraft off the runway down there." I closed my eyes and turned the radio back on.

"Laughlin inside runway is currently closed due to aircraft departing the prepared surface. All aircraft are restricted to low approaches only until further notice." I sprinted inside.

As it turns out, he was ok. The safety board decided that there was a fault in the braking mechanism in the plane, even though I saw no problems with it when I checked them myself only 20 minutes earlier. Good on him.

Air Force policy is that if there's ever a mishap the first thing they do is take some blood. When he got to the hospital they drew some blood and looked at his nametag for the information. Fortunately it was clean, since it was my name that went on the vial they took from his arm.

That night we were discussing the incident in the formal briefing that we had at the end of every day. This class, in particular, had shown a lack of discipline and work ethic in the first months of pilot training. I took this opportunity to go off on them as this was a possible contributed to Tigre getting into the bind in the first place. In all of my flying experience I had never had a feeling of dread as I did when I saw firetrucks chasing down a student that I had just cleared solo. With tears filling my eyes I swore to them that I would never have that feeling again as an instructor in basic pilot training. It was the only time I ever cracked while I was there.

It never happened again.

Friday, February 3, 2006

Operation Iraqi Children

Happened upon a great website today from lovemytanker's blog My Life as a Military Spouse called Operation Iraqi Children. Much like Soldier's Angels, the website aims to give people an easy way to support children in war-torn Iraq. While I am normally wary about celebrity-sponsored charity efforts, this project by Gary Sinise and Laura Hillbrand has provided school supplies, clothing and shoes to a large number of children in need. Recently they have expressed a need for items other than school-related due to the cold winter (blankets, etc.). The items are shipped overseas to our troops on the ground and are subsequently handed out to the children and families that need them. From the site:

"Many American troops have taken it upon themselves to reconstruct schools and gather learning tools for the children of Iraq. Their efforts have been met with immense gratitude from the local Iraqis and their children. Operation Iraqi Children is a grassroots program that aims to provide concerned Americans with the means to reach out to the Iraqi people and help support our troops' attempts to assist them. "

What a great movement. Stop by when you can.

Thursday, February 2, 2006


After the thrashing I took from the post on the State of the Union address, I figured I would stray a bit from politics and the war for a little bit.

I mentioned earlier that one of the things a pilot fears most is loss of control of his airplane.

I haven't felt that much. Only one time is immediately coming to mind.

My last assignment was as a T-37B instructor at Laughlin AFB, Texas. Over the course of three years I flew over 1300 hours in roughly 1100 sorties with students and and instructors alike. When I left I was one of three "Assistant Director of Operations" (third in command of a squadron) and a Flight Evaluator, which means that I gave checkrides to not only new students, but also to experienced instructors to maintain their own currency. It was by far and wide the best tour, and best job, I've had in my life. There are experiences that I had while there that I will never forget, and lessons about flying and life that I will carry with me any time I get behind the controls of an aircraft.

I had hundreds of students that I instructed over the course of my time in Del Rio, TX. Most of them just kind of blurred together and I recognize by face alone, a bunch I remember names, but a select few I remember even minute details, like what made them nervous or what their specific strengths and deficiencies were. One day one of these students got me in a bind...

The T-37 does one thing that, supposedly, no other basic flight training course does--it spins. The purpose of the manuever is to increase confidence in the student and to teach them to be able to recover from an uncontrolled situation if they were to ever get into one while solo. Essentially what you do is take the aircraft up to a high altitude (18,000-21,00 feet), stall it, and then jam in a bunch of rudder to start an autorotation. If you've never done one before, it's a pretty harrowing experience. If you've done a few hundred, like I had at the time, it's a blast. The plane violently shakes, flips over a couple of times, and then wraps up into a tight spiral where the only thing you see from the cokcpit is the earth spinning around like you're on a wrapped up tire swing.

The recovery procedure is relatively complex, but, when done correctly, extremely reliable in getting you out of the tight spot. The only recorded mishaps (crashes) that occurred when spinning were from actual damage to the aircraft (which caused the spin to occur in the first place) or (important point here) an improperly executed recovery procedure.

So...said student, we'll call him "El Tigre" (those who flew with him know who I'm talking about) was one of the best kids I taught as far as motivation and personality go. His hands--well, left a little to be desired. He was one of those students that barely had the skills required to graduate, but as they say "if the minimum wasn't good enough, it wouldn't be the minimum." El Tigre generated a couple of stories with me that I plan on putting on here. Suffice it to say that he eventually graduated, and was loved a great deal by the instructors. Sometimes this can be a bad thing, but I'm 100% confident that with Tigre we made the right call.

So there I was...Tigre was nervous, as most students are when spinning, and wrapped us up at 18000 feet. The airspace was cut into "blocks" of five to seven thousand foot sections to keep people separated. Our block this day went from 15,000 feet to 22,000 feet, with the block below us from 7,000 to 12,000 feet. So, essentially, we were completely safe above 15,000, mostly safe below 15,000, and unsafe below 12,000 due to the traffic below us. The ejection altitude for a spin in a tweet was 10,000 feet.

So Tigre wraps up and slowly starts to go through his procedures. He was having trouble, so I let him go further than I should have to try and figure it out. Passing 17,500 feet, I took the aircraft from him since the spin was getting faster, and I needed to save the day. I started the procedure at around 17,000--since it takes about 1,500 feet to accomplish, that was late.

Irritated with myslef for getting us in this position, I sped through the moves. One of the steps was to apply rudder opposite the spin to slow it down and get ready to pop out. Caught up with watching the altimeter rapidly spin downward, I looked out and saw the world spinning to the right. I stomped on the right rudder.

Suddenly the earth spun faster. A lot faster. I watched as the altimeter spun below 15,000 feet.

Realizing my mistake I released everything and the spinning slowed down. Passing 14,000 feet I took a deep breath and started over, slower this time. I remember crystal clearly verbally going through the motions as I applied them, this time stomping (really really hard) on the left rudder. The altimeter was passing 12,500 feet.

With a heavy shudder, the world stopped rotating and I jammed the throttles forward as I reefed back on the stick to gain altitude. The lowest we got, I think, was 11,500 feet. Tigre said not a word as the nose pitched up and the altimeter reversed. Passing back into our altitude block I turned my head to look at him. His face was white through his helmet visor.

"Woo hoo! That was fun, wasn't it!" I shouted through the intercom.

After gaining our breath I climbed as high as I could and let him try it again. He did much better this time.

I still think spinning is fun.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Fun With Flickr

Oh this is going to open a whole new world of doing stuff with my camera...

Tasteless Washington Post Editorial Cartoon

Received an editorial cartoon in an email from a friend of mine that works in the Pentagon (sorry, man). I've heard Fox and quite a few others bash the Washington Post for the things they publish, but I've honestly never read the paper itself at all. Unfortunately, they officially moved themselves into my "wacko" (sorry, James) column of things that I refuse to read...

This is heartless and done in an attempt at humor. I'm all for tasteless jokes, but this has gone too far. The saving grace, and the reason I'm posting about it, is that the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded immediately to the cartoon with a jointly signed letter to the defeatist rag newspaper. Incidentally, I've never set eyes on anything that the entire CJCS has signed together--which I thought was pretty awesome. Only the letter and first two signatures are on there--just take my word for it that the other four signatures were on the other page and chalk it up to my lack of prowess in image posting.

Due to the image being poor--here's a copy of what it says:

To the editors of the Washington Post:

We were extremely disappointed to see the editorial cartoon by Tom Toles on page B6 in the January 29th edition. Using the likeness of a servicemember who has lost his arms and legs in war as the central theme of a cartoon is beyond tasteless. Editorial cartoons are often designed to exaggerate issues--and your paper is obviously free to address any topic, including the state of readiness of today's Armed Forces. However, we believe you and Mr. Toles have done a disservice to your readers and your paper's reputation by using such a callous depiction of those who have volunteered to defend this nation and, as a result, have suffered traumatic and life-threatening wounds.

Those who visit with wounded veterans in hospitals have found lives profoundly changed by pain and loss. They have also found brave men and women with a sense of purpose and selfless commitment that causes truly battle-hardened warriors to pause. Where do we get such men and women? From the cities, and farmlands of this great Nation--they serve to be a part of something bigger than themselves. While you or some of your readers may not agree with the war or its conduct, we believe you owe the men and women and their families who so selflessly serve their country the decency to not make light of their tremendous physical sacrifices.

As the Joint Chiefs, it is rare that we all put our hand to one letter, but we cannot let this reprehensible cartoon go unanswered.


Gen Peter Pace, Chairman JCS
Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Vice Chairman JCS
General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps
General Peter Schoomaker, US Army Chief of Staff
Admiral Michael Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations
General Michael Mosely, US Air Force Chief of Staff

State of the Lack of Union

As much as it pains me to say this, I have taken a new interest in politics since I started blogging.

I mean, they just give you so much material.

If you've been reading for a little while, you'll recall that politicians as a whole, and the state of our political system as a whole, make my stomach turn. The State of the Union address last night, and the comments surrounding it, re-emphasized that for me.

I am simply baffled by the split-party system. It amazes me to watch the miraculous coincidence that occurs when there were just two views in that chamber, either virtually half the room complely supported or did not support what the President was saying. There are exceptions (John McCain, Joe Lieberman) to the rule, but I think this is why so much money is wasted and so little gets accomplished in so much time on the Hill. We need to get someone in charge that honestly does not care about his own party and only for what he believes is right. John McCain, from what I've seen, seems to be the kind of person who does that.

Mind you, I'm not an expert in politics. I hardly followed it at all until the last election...

A great moment last night that was (unfortunately) not caught on the cameras was some psycho Cindy Sheehan being arrested for wearing an anti-war t-shirt into the chamber. C'mon, girlfriend. I've never protested anything actively, but I would imagine that the smart thing for her to have done would have been to behave and just go to the speech. She would have been caught on camera probably a million times. Everyone knows what she stands for--she would have effectively protested the war with her silence if she wasn't acting like a complete idiot.

I liked a lot of what the Pres said last night. Some of it seemed a bit unrealistic, but I missed a bit since I was competing with the monkies climbing all over me while I tried to watch. I did get a good listen to the military stuff, the most important line to me being:
"As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels -- but those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by politicians in Washington, D.C."

The next couple of years are going to dramatically alter the political spectrum of this country. Although I don't think it will change (safety in numbers), the first step for our government to take to move forward is to drop the partisan politcs, and to vote for conscience and what is right, rather than for money and job security.