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.