Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Today is the Day

Well today is the official day of my retirement from active duty service. Today is 20 years, 6 months and 16 days, since I first left Biloxi for Basic Training. Doesn't seem like that long ago I was getting on that bus to head to New Orleans to catch a plane to Texas, but man it's been a long strange journey to this point.

Hope to have more time to write out some more stories before I start forgetting them.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Because it's Memorial Day, this seems like a good place to tell to this story.

Marty Flynn. Great man, terrific NCO.

Marty died while flying a mission on a helicopter in Vietnam doing search missions for troops that had fallen during the Vietnam conflict and never returned to the United States.

He was a great NCO that took his job very seriously, but he also took a young Airman under his wing and taught him a thing or two when he thought he knew everything.

No humor in this story today. Just a small rememberance of a man that I was proud to call boss, friend, and compatriot.

Miss you Marty.

The Plane is on Fire!

So we were about half way through a mission one time, and things were going well.

I was sitting at my position doing my job, having a good time. The crew was working well together and we were looking forward to getting back to base.

I'm getting my butt kicked, being busy so the first time I notice a little flash out of the corner of my eye I think nothing of it.

Head down, still working I see it again.

Now this is getting kind of annoying. I'm distracted by this flashing light that I keep seeing, but I keep working.


"What the heck?"

I look over at the officer that is sitting near me, he's head down working away. I notice there are lots of lights and things on his position that could be causing this annoying little flash of light.

Get back to work, and ignore it I think to myself.


"Alright I'm gonna figure out what that is and cover it up."

So I sit there and I watch the officers position to see if I can identify the source of my annoyance.

That when I notice about two feet above the officers head a little dark streak is developing between two pieces of equipment.

"What the heck? That's not supposed to be......"

Then I see what the little flash has been.

Flames poke out between the pieces of equipment.

Flames on a plane. Not good. Really not good.

I fly on a fairly big plane, so we have about 90,000 lbs of JP-8 jet fuel in the tanks, as well as see hundred pounds of liquid oxygen. Which the flames are coming out right next to one of the ports to hook up our masks.

Now we have been trained to deal with these situations. We practice them. Again and again. I can deal with this in a calm manner.

I scream like a little girl. And smack the officer on the back of his head.

"What the!?!"

He is not happy that I have so rudely interupted him with a smack on the head.

Then I point.

He looks up, sees the flames coming out of his position.

Being the highly trained military officer that he was he puts his training to good use. He screams like a little girl, and runs to the other end of the plane.

"Fire, my positions on fire!"

As he runs down the aisle flailing his arms excitedly.

So now I'm standing there watching the flames lick out of the equipment, thinking to myself "will my underwear be clean when they find my charred body?"

Then the training kicks in. I call the crew on our planes interphone, inform them of the problem, and reach over and turn off the position.

That's the first step. Turn it off, and hope the lack of electrictiy will stop the flames.

It doesn't.

So I put on my oxygen mask, and check everyone else on interphone to make sure they are on oxygen.

We have these great fire extinguishers on the plane that work on any type of fire. It's called Halon 1211. Great stuff, it'll put it right out.

But you have to remember that while Halon won't kill you, when it mixes with carbon (such as from burned electrical equipment) it produces chlorine gas.

Chlorine gas is bad. It's really bad when you stuck in a plane at 30,000 feet breathing recycled air.

I shoot that position full of Halon! Man what a blast! That extiguish goes off, get a little kickback, and the fire is out.

We ride the 40 minutes back to base with our oxygen masks on, not really comfortable, but much better than the possibility of breathing chlorine gas.

Land without incident and get off the plane. Find out later that if it had burned a little longer we would have had a big problem because the flames were close to the insulation of the plane.

Too bad I was in Saudi and couldn't have a beer after that flight.

Survival School - You Want Me To Go Where?

After we were put in the big boxes for resistance training and allowed to enjoy our accomadations for a little while I guess the guards got a little bored.

One comes and bangs on my door.


We were all assigned numbers when we got there, and I was 53. But at the moment in time I had forgotten that I was 53.

That was the last time I forgot I was 53.

I don't respond to his pounding and of course this makes him very happy.

He flings open the door to my big box and reaches in and drags me out. He explains to me the virtues of remembering that I am 53, and responding appropriately when called. The happened with much yelling, spitting, and shaking me around like a rag doll.

At the time I was 6'1" and 140 lbs, so shaking me around was pretty easy (more on that later).

He's dragging me through the big room with all the big boxes and yelling and shaking, and shaking and yelling. Eventually we get to another little building and it has a row of small boxes in it. By small I mean big enough for me to fit in, if I sat down, pulled my legs up to my chest, and ducked my head a little. Then I was able to enter the box with a little help from my newest friend in the camp. If you apply a boot to someone's hip area you can get them to slide pretty good on concrete.

Anyway I'm in this little box, and it's dark. Not too scary I guess, and least the shaking and the yelling have stopped, and it's actually pretty relaxing being there in the dark.

Then I notice that there was a little hole in the top of the box. And light was shining through this little hole, making a perfect little circle on the wall of the box, as long as you didn't get in the way. And in the middle of that perfect little circle someone had scratched in a little happy face. At that very moment that was the best thing I had ever seen. And it made me laugh. Not a little chuckle but a full on laugh.

That was when I found out how loud it must be for a fish when you tap on the tank. The guard came over and pounded on the top of my box a couple times.

"Shut it 53!!"

And I did.

Not sure how long I was in the little box, because once the initial humor wore off I realized I was pretty dang tired. So I slept.

When the door was opened I was leaning against sound asleep. So I roll out of the box, and bang my head on the concrete.

"Good God 53!! Get your butt up!! Get up now 53!!

I tried. But for some reason my legs had gone to sleep. I was pretty numb from the waist down. So I'm laying there flopping like a fish out of water, trying to stand up.

"53!! What the hell is wrong with you??! Get your butt up now!!"

It was at this moment that I found out that you can pick up a 140 lb person by their shoulder if you hold on tight enough.

The guy set my on my feet, which I still couldn't feel, but I was able to stay upright.

"Move 53!"

I start trying to move. I pick up one useless leg and take a step. It was at this moment that I realized that it wasn't going to hold me up. The "dead" foot hits the ground, the knee bends (I think still didn't really have feeling back yet) and I go face first in to the wall, then the concrete.

"53! You better be dead and not jacking with me!"

"ow, ow, ow, ow"

"53! Get up! Get up now and get moving!"


Eventually my legs woke up and I was able to get on my feet. I got to go back to my big box for a little while. All in all I got a nap, a scrape on my cheek, and a bump on my head. But man that little tiny happy face, made it all seem worth it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oaths and Toasts

As I've progressed through my military career there have been several things I have learned. Here is a couple of them.

In the 3706 BMTS (Basic Military Training Squadron) we learned and had to repeat on command the following:

Drill Sergeant: What's an 06 trainee?

Us: Sir, 06 trainees are
Highly Motivated,
Truly Dedicated,
Kill Crazy,
Air Force Recruits!

This was done several times throughout the day, and had to be at a volume that anyone within the confines of the base could here us. Funny the things you remember after 20 years.

The second is a toast that I learned many years ago, and as I close in on retirement it seems like it's fitting to share it now.

"I am an Air Force aviator, I will not drink.
But if I drink, I will not get drunk.
But if I get drunk, I will not fall down.
But if I fall down, I will fall face down,
so no one can see my wings."

Not sure where it came from, but I've known it for years now.

One other thing I've learned, and some people don't really seem to understand on a regular basis. Military members from every branch are trained to do one thing.

"Break things, and kill people."

That's it. While we can apply our training to other facets of life, but it all basically boils down to that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My plane, my plane

Back before our plane got upgraded with new engines we would have to do what is called a flare to land. Basically when we did a flare as we got close to the ground we would have to cut back the power to the engines and sort of coast the plane to the ground. Kind of a scary manuever when you consider we were flying on a big four engine, overweight plane.

One day after a mission we were coming back to land in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We had a brand new co-pilot and she was getting one of her first landings on this very day.

Now let me say up front I have nothing against female pilots, I have flown with some really good ones.

This unfortunately was not one of those times.

I was sitting back in the plane where I could look out the window we have there. It was a pretty clear day, and everything was going good. We were on the path and coming in just like we should. Then we flare. Usually when we flared there was a delay before we contacted the ground.

The engines cut back power.

And I waited.

And waited.

I sat up, looked out the window.

And waited.

I tightened my five-point harness a little bit.

And waited.

Then we hit the ground. Hard. Really hard.

Now in most instances this would not have been too bad, because most people have the sense to build things far away from an active runway. This was not the case with the Saudi's when they built their runway, and support facilities. There were lines of buildings right off the runway. On both sides.

When we hit the ground we were lined up right in the middle of the runway just like we were supposed to be.

I'm not sure what happened when we came off the ground again, but for some reason the plane turned on it's axis a little bit, and instead of all the buildings going by like on a normal landing I look out the window and see...

the runway.

This is not normal. Things are definitely not right at this time. Because if I am looking down the runway, that means the nose of the plane is pointed at some of those buildings that were close to the runway.

Now this wasn't quite the first time I thought I might die, but it was the first time that it seemed like a serious possibility. And the first thought through my mind? Man I hope my underwear are still clean when they find the bodies.

Then over the interphone I hear the greatest expression I have ever heard. The pilot comes over and says "My plane, My plane" and the engines start to come back up to power.

Then we hit the ground the second time.

And we bounce again, but the engines are up to power now, and the pilot is able to get us to where we are accelerating. I have stopped looking out the window, and I'm not sure if we are accelerating toward the sky or the buildings, but we are moving in some direction now.

As I peel my eyes open, sense we haven't exploded yet I decide I'll peek out the window. I see sky and and the tops of buildings just the way it should be. We come back around and land safely this time with a perfectly executed flare. Well comparatively speaking perfect. We didn't bounce, we didn't twist in flight. We landed parked shut it down, and got the heck off the plane.

Pretty sure I saw a couple guys kiss the ground after that one.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hi...I'm here.

I graduated from Technical School in Feb of 92. On my orders to my next base it had where I was supposed to go. So I took my two weeks of leave, packed my stuff up and headed for my new base, filled with excitement and wonder.

I drove from west Texas to the Baltimore area, checked in at the base and got a billeting room. The next morning I was up bright and early and eager to check in with my new squadron. I go to the orderly room and check in, only to find out that I'm in the wrong place.

The airman just sort of looked at me like I knew where to go next. I had no idea, that's how I ended up there in the first place.

Eventually I guess me standing there and looking at her dumbly had an effect on her, because she took my orders and looked at them again. Then tells me to report to the building across the parking lot that was surrounded by an 8 ft fence with barbed wire around the top. At this point my excitement kind of turned to fear, because the only buildings like that that I had seen to this point had prisoners behind the fences.

So I drive over to that building and watch it for a few minutes. People come and go so I figure whats the worst that could happen. Go up to the phone attached to the fence near the gate and call the number listed for entry.

About 5 minutes later someone comes out. "Airman Keener?"

"Yeah that's me."

"Why are you here?"

Oh great here we go again. "Well my orders told me to come here."

"But why are you here now? We weren't expecting you for another 3 months."

At this point I'm starting to get really nervous. Did I miss something? Did I somehow skip the last 2 months of technical school?

"Did you go to survival school?" the sergeant asked.

" I'm pretty sure I would remember that."

"So you came straight here from Texas? You didn't go to Washington?"

"Washington? No never been there."

Insert string of curse words here. Words I had never heard used together.

Then he takes me in the building and we go see the Chief (highest enlisted rank). Go through the whole why are you here? line of questioning again.

Eventually it is discovered that the last base I left seemed to fail to inform me of what my actual job was going to be, nor did they set up the 3 months worth of training that I somehow skipped. But it all worked out ok in the end.

Is that the plan?

We were coming in for a landing and over the intercom we hear the pilot let out a "Oh crap". Now this is never something that you want to hear your pilot say as you are getting closer and closer to the ground in your 200,000 pound death trap.

Then he doesn't say anything for a little while. Our Mission Supervisor calls him up and asks if there is any reason to be alarmed. Then he comes over the interphone and says we're going to go around one of the indicator lights isn't operating properly. No big deal really, lights go out all the time. We're not really concerned at this point.

Nothing from the cockpit for awhile as we fly around in circles.

Then the pilot calls back and says "The nose gear lock indicator is not coming on. The tower tells us the nose gear is down and looks good."

Umm..the nose gear is a very important piece of equipment that really helps us to not end up as a smear on the runway when we land. So now we are a little bit concerned with the goings on and what is happening. The crew talks it over a little bit and the officers decide the best option for us at this point would be a Touch-and-Go. For those unfamiliar with it, that's when the plane basically lands, doesn't stop, accelerates and takes off again.

Now remember we have no idea if the nose gear is going to hold when we touch down. It could collapse and send us careening down the runway at 175 knots with no way to control where the plane is going.

To me this didn't seem like a good idea. If we land and it holds let's just stop and get out. That was my thinking, but apparently being an enlisted guy doesn't make me as smart as an officer.

So the pucker factor (that's what you do when you're scared, think about it) is pretty high as we all know we're going to come in, hit the ground, accelerate, and take back off. Without knowing if at any point in this endeavor that the nose gear is going to hold, or fold up under the plane.

Thankfully it held, and we were able to perform the maneuver and come back around and safely land the next time. As we were taxiing the little bumps and things like that apparently knocked the gear into it's proper position, or maybe just reseated the bulb, because it came on.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's in a name?

The first time I deployed as a young and naive airmen we had to fly from the States to Dhahran Saudi Arabia, then transfer planes to go to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Now when I was getting ready to deploy I got my supply issue, which included things like a A-3 Flyers Bag, flight suits, helmet bag...things like that.

I was only the 7th person in the Air Force to do what I was doing full time so I didn't think too much about what was issued to me.

So I packed up all my stuff and was so excited that I didn't get a lot of sleep.

I meet my trainer at the airport. Her name was Kotty. That wasn't really her name that was her nickname. You see we were such a small group it was like family back then and everyone got a nickname during their training rotation, so I had that to look forward to over the next couple of months.

So we get checked in, and get on our flight. A military charter flight isn't like flying commercial. They put a couple extra rows in each section, because they get paid by the seat (I think) regardless of if there is a person in them or not. So once we take off we're able to spread out, stretch out and get some sleep. In the floor, across the seats...pretty much wherever you can find a space you'll fit in.

We land in Dhahran with no problems, and that when I learn a thing or two about deploying. They offload the plane in Dhahran, and put all the bags out on pad so you can go out and claim your stuff. This is because a lot of the people are staying in Dhahran and the rest of us are going by C-130 to Riyadh.

We sit through our in brief in to the country and then we're released to go get our bags.

It was at this very moment that I realize that even though the bags we were issued were called A-3 Flyers Bags, everybody in the Air Force gets issued them. I hadn't marked my bags in any way so I could identify them when we had to claim them.

As I stood there dazed at the number of A-3 bags littering the pad I felt my heart sink. I spent a good 45 minutes wading through this sea of bags that all looked the same I started noticing little things. Like brightly colored tape or ribbon on the handles of some.

Man that's a great idea. Why didn't I do that?

After the 45 minute hunt of shame, I go back in and find Kotty. She's all happy to see me and asks if I'm ready to go.


No? Why not?

mumble mumble mumble.


I can't find my bags.

You what?

I can't find my bags.

Did you mark them or anything?

No. I thought that they would be easier to find.

What now?

I didn't mark them.

A smack to the back of the head comes at this time. This was not the first or would it be the last.

GAH! You're such a doorknob!

I know.

And from that day forward I had my nickname, and I've carried it proudly for these past couple of decades.

That's right, they call me Doorknob. And I'm happy with it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thump and Muck

I guess for some people, pretty much everyone in my group except for me and Alabama, are opposed to certain terms. Or maybe it was just the instructors attempt at humor or something. But anytime we talked about finding food and preparing it to eat it wasn't kill and eat, it was Thump and Muck.

See that squirrel? What do you do to squirrels? Thump'em and muck'em. You get the idea.

About the morning of day four in the woods we had pretty much eaten all the MREs we had been given. I was down to a pack of who knows how old M & Ms, 2 box o'corn flake bars, a packet of instant soup, and a packet of hot cocoa.

Lunch and Dinner were long since gone. And it was desperate times. At one point when we were evading capture I happened to notice a nice patch of grass under the tree I was hiding under. Grazing is good eats let me tell you.

So we're moving again and I'm on point as we are trying to get from point A to point B without losing anybody. We are climbing this hill and as I reach the crest I have one of those moments from Blues Brothers when Jake and Elwood are in the church and Jake gets his message from God.

Standing not 15 feet from me just down the other side of this hill is a cow. This was the most beautiful cow I had ever seen. I was already planning in my mind all the jerky and steaks and everything we could make from this one gift from above.

I guess I did one of those armed outstretched, sun shining down on me, choir of heaven reaching the "AAAAHHHHHHHHH" crescendo moves.

My instructor gets to me just as I'm pulling out my knife. I had murder in my mind. And the cow was just sort of looking at me like cows do. Just standing there. Not even scared or anything. I could walk right up to it.

"Don't you thump that cow."

"Huh? Don't thump the cow?"

"Do Not Kill that cow."

"But look at it. I could thump, we could all muck it. And jerky we could make jerky. You could teach us."

"You are not going to kill that cow."

"Why not?"

By this point the rest of our group has caught up to us and we're all standing on the top of this crest. Not a good place to be if you're trying to hide when you travel.

"That cow belongs to somebody."

"What now?"

"The cow, someone owns it. You can't just kill someones cow."

"Yes I can, look it's just standing there. I could walk right up and thump it. Quick."


At this point I think the cow realizes how close it is to becoming Dinner II, and it begins to wander off down the mountain. I'm still not convinced that wasn't some lone cow. Just out on the mountain waiting for someone to come along and put it out of it's misery.

But needless to say I had a pack of cocoa for dinner that night.

I'm a Turtle!

We were doing E & E (Escape and Evasion) training one day up in the mountains in Washington.

In E & E training they teach you how to be stealthy as you're moving through the environment to hopefully get you to be able to get from where your plane has gone down, if you survive, to where friendly forces can rescue you.

We were in our 4 man teams cruising along when we came to this road. We had to cross the road successfully without being detected.

No big deal right.

There were guys out looking for us, but we hadn't ran in to any problems so far so morale was high, and spirits were up.

This was also the day after we had eaten Lunch, so bolstered by his steadfast desire to survive we think we're invincible.

There was a stream that ran under the road, but it ran through a colvert not under a bridge, because that would have been too easy. Hop in the stream go under the bridge nobody sees you. But since the culvert was only big enough for the water going through it, and we had our packs on our back going through the colvert was out.

I'm in the lead and go up as close to the road as I can and check both directions for a few minutes.

Not seeing anything on the road I decide it's safe, signal my group that I'm going to cross. And proceed to make my way across the road.

Just as I reach the other side I hear a vehicle coming up the road. I quickly scan the area and see a patch of large ferns near the stream that will make good cover. I dive into the fern patch and cover up. I'm safe. No way anyone is going to see me there.

Just as the car goes over the culvert and I feel the rumble of the truck passing by a strange thing happens. I don't know if it was because I had dove into the patch of ferns, or just my weight, or the rumble of the truck, but the bank of the stream gives out and unceremoniously dumps me in the stream.

I guess the guys in the truck saw the movement or something because I hear the truck come to a screeching halt.

Now I'm laying face down just out of the water, but on the stream bed, face down covered with dirt and uprooted ferns.

"You! Get up here!"

Nope, not me. They don't see me. I think to myself.

"Hey! Get out of there!"

Not talking to me, they can't see me. I'm a turtle.

Closer now. "You in the stream get your butt up here."

Not gonna happen. I'm a turtle. You can't see me here.

Then the guy kicks my pack. "Get out of there!"

Then he just jerks me out of the stream. Carries me over to the side of the road and throws me face down again. Still holding on the back of my pack.

"How many of you are there?!"

"Just me."

At this point he starts pulling on my pack until I'm a litle bit off the ground, then slamming me back down. It wouldn't have been too bad except for the fact that there was a rock poking up out of the dirt right where the middle of my forehead.

Whack, whack, whack.

Holy crap that hurts, what the heck is hitting me in the head.

"How many are in your group?!"

"Just me"

I guess his buddy was tired of watching him bounce me off the ground and had gone to search the surrounding area.

"Hey I got another one!"

Whack, whack, whack I go again. Now at this point that rock is really doing a number on my head. And things are a little fuzzy. I try to squirm a little bit to adjust the point of impact, and get rewarded with a kick to the side for my efforts. So now my head and my side are hurting.

I hear a thump next to me, and I assume it's one of the guys from group.

"How many of you are there?!"

"Just the two of us."

"Oh really you expect me to believe you now?!"

Whack, whack, whack I go again. I swear that rock has moved with me. Now I got tears in my eyes, and I can't see straight. Thinking is getting to be a little difficult and I'm thinking to myself if I pass out at least I'll feel a little better.

"I got another one!" his partner joyfully calls out.

Quick rundown in my head. That's 3 down, only one to go, then we'll see what happens. I also notice that my buddy isn't getting bounced off the ground like I am. Lucky punk.

"How many of you are there?!"

"Uh..I'm not sure anymore. My head really hurts."

Apparently he took that as sarcasm, and sarcasm wasn't to be tolerated.

Whack, whack, whack, whack, get the picture.

Now I think they have found us all. I think. At this point I don't really remember if they had actually found any of us, and I'm pretty sure I'm still a turtle in the stream and none of this has happened.

Eventually they stop the training, and we get together to discuss what we had done right and what we had done wrong.

"You can get up now?"

"Huh? What? I'm a turtle. Can't see me."

The instructor thinks I'm kidding around, and flips me over. That's when he notices two things. First that he'd been bouncing my head off a rock for however long it took to find us all, and second I'm now bleeding pretty good from my head. That kind of freaks him out a little bit, and does wonders for my state of mind.

That was the day that I learned that even little scalp wounds will bleed like crazy. But I got to spend a few minutes in the ambulance that they keep on hand for emergencies and stuff. So I guess it all worked out in the end.

Demon Rabbit

WARNING - This story does have what some may consider cruelty to animals. Survival School in the mountains in Washington. I wasn't too cold since it was the end of July, so it was a lot like camping. Only with fear and a little pain involved. And also the rabbit.

When we are getting ready to go out to the field we're given are MREs (meals ready to eat). We each got 4 packs and a can of what I can only describe as a box of corn flakes that had been compressed down to the size of a candy bar or so. You eat one of those, drink some water and you're pretty much full. But they tasted like crap.

When we get out to the field we are divided in to groups of eight, and the main camp has two such groups. So there are 16 students and 2 instructors per camp.

In my group of 8 there was me, from Mississippi, a guy from Alabama, and then the rest were from like New York City and Chicago and Los Angeles I think. So while me and the other country are loving life having a ball, everyone else is pretty much thinking how much nature sucks.

We go out the first day and we're practicing ground navigation and point to point movements using a compass. You would not believe how long it take some people to figure out how to get from point A to point B without using a road.

When we get back to camp after the first day of learning what you can and can't eat in the woods, and such we sit down and discuss the day. That was when I noticed the rabbit. He was just sitting there all calm and happy munching on some grass. Then I notice the second rabbit, much like the first happily going along with his business.

The instructor tells us that the rabbits, raised domestically, were provided so that we could get hands on experience killing, skinning, and preparing a meal. Me and the guy from Alabama thought this was a great idea, everyone else not so much.

That night we cozy up to the rabbits, we even gave them names. Lunch was the little fluffy one with patch on his back, and Dinner was the other one that was slightly larger, but not quite as cute as Lunch.

Me and Alabama were the only two that found this even remotely funny.

So these rabbits share our camp for 4 days. With me and Alabama doing everything we can to get them as fat as possible in this time. We even tried to feed them some of those box o' corn flake bars, but they weren't having it.

So when the time comes, the instructor asks for volunteers to prepare poor lunch to be fixed. He excludes me and Alabama since we had been talking about this since pretty much after that first MRE.

A Lieutenant (LT), from Chicago, that I guess was trying to impress the other young female LT in our group boldly steps up to accept the challenge.

At this point me and Alabama start giving him suggestions. Lunch was pretty tame because of all the attention me and Alabama had showered on him, so we suggested just picking him and cutting his throat. LT was not going for the option. Ok, what about just grabbing Lunch by his head and twirling him around a few times. Neck breaks, no muss no fuss. But LT didn't want to get bit by Lunch.

Eventually our instructor suggests getting a stick, and holding poor Lunch by his back legs and whacking him the back of the head. Oh..good idea me and Alabama tell him. At this point we just wanted to see Lunch freak out on the LT when he grabbed him by the back legs.

So the LT goes and finds an appropriately sized stick, grabs Lunch and hoists him up by his back legs. At this point Lunch kind of gets the idea that something isn't right. Someone had picked him up and hadn't offered the customary old and dry chocolate M & Ms. Lunch starts squealing and thrashing about, and the LT screams like a little girl and lets Lunch go.

Needless to say me and Alabama are rolling. This is quite possibly one of the funniest things I've ever seen. The LT glares at us but says nothing at this point.

Eventually we get Lunch out of the bushes, feed him some M & Ms as a last meal and get him ready to get whacked on the head by the girly LT.

The LT picks up Lunch again, and gets him all squared away. Pulls back with the stick and gives Lunch a mighty whack, in just the spot he was supposed to hit. Lunch goes limp and me and Alabama and getting ready to skin him.

As the LT is handing off Lunch to me something goes terribly wrong. Just before I take him Lunch starts thrashing around again. Screaming and wailing and making all sorts of noise. At this the other people in the group start screaming and running around, especially the young LT who up until that very instant was sure he was holding on to a dead rabbit.

I jump back because I notice what scared young LT is getting ready to do as he hoists his killing stick back up, and whacks Lunch again. Lunch goes limp, and we're sure this time he's gone.

But he wasn't.

Lunch was still determined he was going to get him some of that LT, now he's really pissed off and trying to bite, scratch, claw anything.

But to the LTs credit he held on to the rabbit that wouldn't die. And whacked him again.

This time as soon as I catch the running LT I grab lunch and just in case he wasn't dead I cut his throat. We string him up, and then we make the LT skin him. Which was in and of itself one the funniest things I've ever seen, because you could tell the LT still thought Lunch might come back and try to get him one more time.

Show Me the Knife

On one of my deployments to SW Asia I had the opportunity to fly to Germany and catch a civilian flight from there back to the states. Sounded pretty good to me so I jumped at the chance.

In Frankfurt, the military terminal is on one side of the airport and the civilian side is on the other. When we landed I checked the time and realized that I had about 4 hours before I had to be at the civilian side. So I went and got a room at billeting because a nap and a shower sounded like a pretty good idea.

So I get to room, unpack some stuff, shower and get in bed. Setting the alarm to allow me about a couple hours of sleep, then time to get something to eat and make it to the airport on time.

Sounded like a great plan. Except for the fact that I forgot to turn the alarm on. I wake up with about 45 minutes to get to the airport. I start shoving stuff in bags and get it all together and make to the airport on time.

I check in and get my boarding passes and my carry on bag and head for security.

The airport isn't that busy at this time of the day, so I'm looking around and noticing nothing out of the ordinary I proceed to the security check point.

Maybe it was the fact that the lady that was operating the x-ray was drop dead gorgeous, or her English was a little off, but our exchange was a little strained.

She scanned my bags, and I get to the other side of the metal detector. She looks at my bag and looks at me and says something in German.

I look at her funny, and say "Excuse me?"

"Could you take the knife out of the bag?"

"Uh..excuse me?"

"The knife. In the bag. Could you take it out?"

Now I remember that I had been shoving stuff in bags not too long before this exchange. Did I put my knife in my carry on? What was I thinking?

I open the bag, and it's still just me and the security lady who is intently watching me go through my bag.

I finally find the knife and take it out. It's a neon orange knife with about a 4 and half inch blade, and a parachute cord cutting blade. The way it was supposed to operate was you push the button on the side and the parachute cutting blade pops out. Since our stuff is made by the lowest bidder, what actually happens is the blade comes out.

That's right I had a government issued switch blade.

In my carry on bag.

In a foreign airport.

"Open the knife." the pretty security lady tells me with a slight smile on her face.

"Excuse me?"

"Open the knife." slight smile now gone.

Pretty lady tells me to do something, I'm a little frazzled because I running behind. I do what she tells me to do. I push the button.

The blade pops out.

I'm standing there holding a knife on the pretty security lady now. She takes a small set back and I can still remember what happened next just like it was yesterday.

The first thing I notice that is a little odd is a slight pressure in the small of my back. Then I notice a guy in black standing just to my right. And another to my left. Somehow two more of these guys have appeared on the other side of the security table from me.

Then I realize that the guys that I can see are all holding small semi-automatic machine guns. And they are pointing them at me.

Then my mind recalls the fact that there is an unexpected pressure in the small of my back. That is most likely a gun also.

I glance at pretty security lady, trying really hard not to pee on myself at this point. She again has that cute little smile on her face.

All of this happened in the time that it took my brain to register the fact that these guys were serious, and I needed to drop that knife right now. I'd say about 3 seconds, maybe 5.

I drop the knife on the table, and the pressure in my back lets up. But I know that guy is still there. None of the security guards say anything. They just keep looking at me, and pointing those guns at me.

Security lady steps back up to the table, still smiling at me. She looks at the knife, then back at me. That cute smile never leaving her face.

"Ok, pick up the knife."


"It's ok, pick up the knife."

"No, you can have it."

"It's really ok, you can pick it up."

"No it's alright you keep it. I never liked it anyway."

I smile at the security lady. She smiles back.

I'm still trying not to pee on myself.

Then she waves the security guards away, says everything is ok.

In the time it took me to put a couple things back in my bag, and pick it up..all those security guys, and their guns have disappeared again. Like they were never there.

I look around and don't see any of those guys all the way to my gate.

Get on the plane and have no more issues on the way home.

Give me some toilet paper.......please.

While I was out in California at Technical School I ended up being on casual status. While that may sound pretty cool it was basically you weren't in class so you were pulling weeds and painting rocks and various other functions that needed to be done around the squadron.

As it so happened I was able to get into the supply office for the squadron. Not a hard gig per se, but hard enough to keep you busy. The major downfall of the position was we were at the mercy of the Army get get most of our supplies. This included everything from paper clips to enough toilet paper for the 300 person squadron. We had to keep the community bathrooms on each floor stocked with hand soap and toilet paper, and when you have 200 males and 100 females per dorm building you're gonna need a lot of toilet paper.

We were down low in our stockpile of toilet paper for the squadron, so I called up the Army supply. Explained our problem to them, and got an answer that just wasn't satisfactory.

"We don't have enough toilet paper to give you the amount you need."

"How much can we get?"

"I can give you one case."

"One case? Are you kidding me? That wouldn't last us a day."

"Well that's what you can get. You coming over or not."

I hung up the phone and went and told our NCO (non-commissioned officer) what was going on. He told me to go pick up the case, and to figure out how to get more toilet paper.

I did just that. Picked up the case. Upon my return I wandered across to the street to one of the school houses to use the bathroom because I didn't want to use up what little resources we had when there was a legitimate source somewhere else.

That was when I noticed it. The mother load! In each stall in the bathroom I was there was at least 4 extra rolls. Just sitting there. begging to be used. And a plan was born.

I went back and told my NCO the plan, and asked if he could provide top cover if the plan went sour. He assured me that nothing would happen if bad things came down.

Armed with that knowledge I requisitioned a GOV pick-up truck, and bunch of garbage bags, just like what was used in the bathrooms of the 6 school house buildings. I also went and picked up six more casual airmen. Explained the plan to them and told them we had cover. I had some people try to wimp out but most were all for it.

We pull up the first school building and I lay out the plan. Each airman goes in, takes every roll of toilet paper that isn't in a TP holder puts in the bag. The throw some paper towels on it in case any stops them and asks what they are doing they have a viable excuse for walking around with loaded trash bags.

The plan went off without a hitch. We did this for about 10 days. Going in every morning and clearing out the bathrooms in the school houses. It was like picking apples from a self-replenishing tree. After ten days we about about 5 pallets of toilet paper, and the crisis was averted.

I think the Army supply guys did finally catch on, because they called me before the 11th day run and told me that if the toilet paper in the schools stopped disappearing they would make sure I would never run out of toilet paper again.

Then I got called to my Commander's office. I was scared as crap because when I walked in the Commander, my NCO, and the First Sergeant were all there. My Commander didn't look none to happy either.

"I just got a call from the base commander about a suspicious activity going on here on base. Do you know anything about it?"

Just as I was getting ready to admit my guilt and take whatever punishment was going to come my way, my NCO jumps in and explains to the Commander that the Army had been denying us much needed supplies and through my ingenuity and resourcefulness a possible situation had been avoided.

The Commander asked what had been done. I told him that we had been using the available resources to ensure that the squadron was going to be able to function as it should. He laughed his butt off. Shook my hand and told me to get back to work.

Later that day I got called to the First Sergeants office again.

Scared about punishment still, I entered his office. He read me the riot act for a few minutes about regulations and proper use of the supply chain. The he gave me a letter of appreciation from the commander and also a three day pass. It all worked out good in the end.

What's that noise?

In the early 90s when I would deploy I'd go to a place called Eskan Village. It wasn't a bad place, but there was the area where most of the people lived. Another area of Eskan was called the High Rises.

Now there was much mystery and danger surrounding the high rises. No one lived in them, and there were rumors of strange sounds coming from them and such. Your typical ghost story kind of deal.

One day my friend and I were out roller blading and we noticed we were getting closer and closer to the High Rises. We both kind of gave each other a nervous look, then we laughed and kept on going. We made it to the High Rises and found a pretty awesome spot to blade and have a good time.

Since we were having such a good time, and nothing odd had happened we didn't notice that the sun was starting to set.

What happened next ended up giving me a huge scare. It starts to get dark between the buildings and in the area where we were blading so we decide it's time to head back to our villa. Only we realize that the electricity if off in that area, and it's really dark now. Then we hear this weird growl/howl thing coming from back where we had been. Then it's answered a little closer to us.

At this point my friend takes off like a rocket. She was much faster on the blades than I was, and apparently the thought of being eaten by some unknown terror in the dark didn't appeal to her at that very moment.

That was when I saw the eyes the first time. When you're not expecting something like that it scares you pretty bad. But there they were looking out from under some stuff that was piled in an alley. Now being the mighty man that I am what happened next caught me completely off guard. In my rush to get the heck away from the crazy growling/howling things and the eyes glowing in the dark place I failed to realize that I had gone down to the end of a loading ramp type area. So I'm looking back over my shoulder and the next thing I know I'm flying! At least that's what I thought for about 2 seconds before I crashed into the street below narrowly missing busting my skull on the curb.

I flip over and looking down at me was one of the worst excuses for a dog I had ever seen. It was skinny, dirty, and looked rather hungry. One dog? Really I was running from one dog. I get back to my feet and keeping an eye on the dog I start to make my way back to the main roads. Then I notice another dog, and another, and another. I stopped counting at about 6, but there were more.

I take off as fast as my blades will move me. But the dogs keep getting closer. I'm thinking of all the other crap that has happened to me up to this point and I'm gonna die and get eaten by a bunch of wild dogs in Saudi Arabia. I wonder if they would give me posthumous purple heart or something so my Mom doesn't have to think she raised a dummy for the rest of her days.

Just when I think I'm gonna run out of breath I pass under a street light that is actually on, and glance back over my shoulder. It was like the dogs knew that they were back in the part of Eskan that men lived in. They stopped just short of the light...gave another growl or two and slunk back off in to the High Rises.

I do a goofy little dance of victory, and head back to my villa. Never did see those dogs again. Also never went any closer to the High Rises than that street light.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rumble in the Distance

Surprisingly enough Southwest Asia is a pretty good place to play outdoor volleyball in the spring and fall. The temps are generally warm enough and there isn't much rain, so you can get in some good time playing.

We were out one day enjoying such a fine spring afternoon in the sun in our volleyball pit. The temperature was a nice 85 degrees or so, with a slight breeze to keep you from getting too hot.

We'd been playing for a couple hours when we noticed the wind was starting to pick up a little, but nothing too bad. So we keep playing. Then there was a gust of wind and the temperature dropped probably a good 10 to 15 degrees. As we stood there wondering what the heck was going on we noticed a line of clouds in the south that appeared to be moving toward us. As time was quickly moving now, and the temperature was still dropping we decided now would be a good time to vacate the volleyball pit and head back to our tents.

Just as we get to our tents the sky turned really dark and scary. Then way off in the distance you could hear this kind of low rumble.

The rumble moves closer and closer to us, and I for one was getting a little freaked out.

The tents we were living in weren't made of the sturdiest materials and they were pretty old at this point. The wind was still blowing pretty good, and steady now, and it was getting darker and that rumble was getting louder.

Then the dust started to kick up. Kind of freaky when the dust is blowing so hard you can't see but about 20 feet away, and that rumble was really loud now.

That's when we saw the first piece of hail. Nothing too bad just about a dime sized piece. As I was standing there wondering at the sight of a dime sized piece of hail in the Saudi Arabian desert, another comes down, then another...and pretty soon the rumble is on top of us. It was so loud we could barely make each other out as we yelled to one another.

Now the hail is coming down steady. Ranging in size from pea to about quarter size, and down the row we hear some poor schmuck that has decided instead of getting in any available overhang that he is going to try to make it his tent.

This poor dude is getting wailed on by Nature and yelling and cussing and screaming all at the same time.

We start yelling at him to get in the tent and stop running, but he just lowered his head, growled at us and continues on down the row until he faded out of sight in the hale and dust.

Not sure how long the storm lasted, probably not more than 5 minutes but maybe as much as 10. But when it was done the clouds cleared away, the sun came back out and the ground was covered in at least 4 inches of hail and ice. We found some that was as big as an orange. But we learned from then on that if the temp drops in's not a good thing, and you better find you some shelter.

Protest what?

When I was in technical school out in California we had to go through this thing called phased training. What that means is when you first show up fresh out of basic training you're basically restricted to base. I guess they want you to be able to readjust to a normal life surrounded by normal people. So for two weeks we couldn't go off base at all. Then after two weeks we could go off base in our uniforms.

Having just spent six weeks in basic training having nothing but chow hall food and another two weeks on base having nothing but chow hall food, and the food court at the BX (military shopping store) I got a serious desire to have a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

So we get up early on Saturday morning and start looking for a McDonald's. We ask around a little bit and find out there is one not too far off base. The base was on the top of a fairly steep hill, and the McDonald's we were told about was down at the bottom of the hill maybe a mile or little over a mile from the gate. Awesome...a mile walk is nothing.

As we're getting our Blue's on, and getting ready to head out to enjoy what could possibly be the best Quarter Pounder ever we notice a sign posted on the door.


Protesting? Seriously? It's 1990 not the sixties. What do people have to protest about?

So we kind of laughed at that and headed out to get some food.

After walking down the hill in the cool day and fresh sunshine we're all in pretty good spirits. And not a protester in sight. All is going well, and we're close enough now to see the golden arches. Our pace increases a little bit and we're totally focused on the goal.

That's probably why we failed to notice that the houses we were passing had slowly given way to a park. Not just any park. But the park where the anti-military protesters have decided they would set up shop for the day.

We continue walking along the road, dreaming about that tasty burger and fries that will very soon be ours. The first time we even noticed any protesting was when we hear in the distance "You suck!"

Being fresh out of basic training, and having experienced the joy of being yelled at, and degraded for six great weeks we do what any good trainee would do. Ignore it. Keep your eye on the goal. Accomplish the mission.

Apparently protesters in California don't take well to being ignored completely by the object of their ire. They come closer, and more remarks follow about everything ranging from things that we have never even heard of doing, to we killed JFK, to comments about our mothers and such. Only they are a little louder now.

We press on, heads down, eyes on the prize. Must have burger and fries.

Then things got a little more complicated. I guess in our desire for a burger and fries, we totally lost our situational awareness or SA. SA is very important because it will help you not do stupid things when things start to go bad. Now having been in a fairly protected environment for the last eight weeks tends to have a bad effect on your SA. And the fact that I could almost taste that burger and fries probably wasn't helping either.

From my right over in the park someone yells something to the effect that we were baby killers and rapists or something like that. Guess someone had watched one too many Vietnam films. But before I could stop myself I spin to my right and say "Why don't you shut up and let us go eat!"

At that point my SA becomes glaringly obvious and what I have done becomes apparent to me that I have just stepped in it. What we had figured would be a little group of people together in the park singing Kum-By-Yah or something was apparently a much larger much angrier group. The one I had just told to shut up was surrounded by a group of about 40 other people that seemed to share his opinion that we were the scum of the earth and shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets.

At this point training kicks in. We have a typical flight or fight scenario. There's three of us, and about 40 of them. So fight was out of the question. Flight was pretty low on the opinion chart too, because we weren't really sure where we were, and running in low quarter military issue shoes is pretty much impossible.

The guy in front steps closer to us and just starts repeating "What did you say to me? What did you say to me? What did you say to me?" and his face is getting redder and redder. He also has this little vein that is starting to kind of pulse right in the middle of his forehead.

Again I lose my SA. The vein is quite possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life up to this point. I can't help it. I point and laugh, right at the guy. It wasn't bravery or stupidity or anything that prompted this action from me, it was just so stinking funny at this point.

Apparently pointing and laughing at an angry protester does little or nothing to improve your situation. The guy tries to grab my arm, and at this point the flight instinct takes over. But we don't head back toward the relative safety of the base or anything. The three of us take off at sprint. Straight toward McDonald's. Now this may not be the greatest plan in the history of escapes, but if I'm gonna get the crap kicked out of me I'm going to have a Quarter Pounder first.

As we barrel in to the McDonald's full stride we almost run over a policeman who I guess had had the same desire for a burger and fries. At the sight of him the protesters break off pursuit but they are still hanging out in the park across the street. Still yelling lots of things in our general direction.

But I gotta say that was the best Quarter Pounder with Cheese I have ever had. It was followed a couple of hours later by another. Then a little while after that a ice cream cone. You see we were in the McDonald's for about 5 hours. It seems protesters in California are nothing if not vigilant. They were waiting for us. There were even some that showed up after we got in McDonald's that were just as ticked off as the original group, and no idea why.

But eventually they got tired of waiting us out, and I think the McDonald's employees were a little concerned through the whole thing. Heck we almost filled out applications so we could at least help out while we were there.

As the sun started to go down, the group across the street breaks up and heads home, and we leave McDonald's thinking we should be fairly safe now.

As we're walking up the hill back to the base a car goes by, we get yelled at again and the car speeds off. Guess they had to get the last word.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is the Firing Line Safe?

When I first joined I had to qualify on the M-16, just like every other military person. But since I have a aircrew job I was also able to qualify on the M-9, or 9mm.

Now the M-9 is not the most powerful gun in the world, but in the hands of a practiced shooter it can be quite effective. The first time I went to qualify I didn't realize that I was going to be surrounded by a lot of people that had never held a handgun. Ever.

The first thing we did on that cool fall day in Maryland was sit through some classroom instruction. Easy stuff like gun safety and things like that. Then we got to take the weapon apart and put it back together because after our fun day on the range we were required to clean the weapon before turning it back in. Now with step by step instructions you'd think this would be a simple process. Unfortunately for some it was not. But after a couple of hours everyone in the class could take apart and put the weapon back together.

Then we head out to the live fire range.

The spaces were about 5 feet apart. With the targets downrange and the embankments and everything like a typical gun range. But it was fall in Maryland and it was cold. We were outside in the wind with no heaters. As you know when your hands get cold your ambidexterity goes down. Now add this to the fact that you have a bunch of people that are nervous and jittery because it's their first time shooting a hand gun, put them on a line with 20 other people and let the fun ensue.

The first round of firing was set to begin. We had to go from a kneeling position, draw our weapon and fire 3 shots at our designated target. Remember we're about 5 feet apart at this time. When a shell casing is ejected from a M-9 it travels approximately 5 and half feet. It also has an uncanny knack of finding the neck of your shirt. The girl next to me was quite enthusiastic about firing her weapon. I think she pointed her weapon downrange and just started pulling the trigger as fast as she could. Her first shell casing hit me in the ear and bounced harmlessly to the ground, the second and third casing hit me just below the ear and wormed their way into my flight suit.

A flight suit is a coverall one piece type of clothing. So as my brain registered the fact that I had been hit in the ear by something, then the neck I started to get a burning sensation running down my back. Then it nestled itself right about my left butt cheek, and stayed there. At first I took little notice of the fact that there was hot metal in my pants at this point, fired off my shots, cleared my weapon and set it down. Then the pain really started.

Holy crap my butts on fire!

I started doing this crazy little jig to try to get the source of my discomfort dislodged. And thankfully it worked. But again the flight suit is a one piece garment. So the hot casing then went from my butt, down to the top of my boot, and rested against my leg.

The jig starts again.

At this point I'm drawing some strange looks from those around me. The kid to my right in his excitement decide he needed to check out what all the hubbub was about. But he forgot he had a loaded or possibly loaded M-9 in his hands. So he turns toward me and there I am with my butt and leg burning from the hot casings and someone is pointing a gun at me.

At this point lots of things are going through my mind. First and foremost being if he shoots me and I get carried away in an I have clean underwear on. Mom taught me that.

But they get him spun back downrange and the weapon safely put down. I finally get the shell casing out of my flight suit and we proceed to set up to fire again. This time five shots.

Now having just had my shell casings travel five and half feet epiphany I decide to scoot over a little bit in my area, so I don't have to experience the joy of hot shell casing in my pants again. I guess the guy next to me noticed what I did, and he didn't want any part of the hot casing dance so he moved over a little in his.

We get the order to fire, I pop up from my kneeling position. Get ready to fire, and then I realize that the neck of my flight suit is now directly lined up with the path of the M-9 shell casing being ejected. This time instead of hitting me anywhere in the head or shoulder it goes straight in and down my back. Followed closely by enthusiastic girls second casing. I jump, fire my shot somewhere downrange, and I guess my motions scared the guy next to me. With our chilled hands and his steely demeanor, in his attempt to get away from me, and get his shots off he drops his weapon. It spins a couple times and ends up pointing back at instructor who thought he would be safe standing behind us.

They call off the live firing at this point. And break us down in to smaller groups so we can get our qualifying done without having to worry about hot casings and potential gun shot wounds.

How this all got started....

I've been telling stories of things have happened to me over the past 20 years in the military, and a friend suggested I should blog about it, or put them together for a magazine. I decided the blog was the way to go for now so here we are now. Some will be in the order they happened, and some will just be random things that have happened. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I've enjoyed living them.