Saturday, November 22, 2014

Preview of Coming Attractions

"StevenFUdvarHazy". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The above is a place I plan on visiting while in the DC area for the Thanksgiving festivities. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which is (and yes, I quote) "the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM)'s annex at Washington Dulles International Airport in the Chantilly area of Fairfax County, Virginia." (W)

Last time I was down DC way we spent most of our time on the Mall as our hotel was just a short walk from a Metro stop and then a fairly short ride to the National Mall. There is much to see on the Mall, including the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. A place where I could (and did) spend hours.

As we were in town for what was, in effect, a long weekend, we did not get out Chantilly way. So I am rather pumped about going there.

Expect pictures.

Lots of pictures.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Turkey Day

"Washington DC skyline" by Ad Meskens - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
And so the word came down from "on high" that La famiglia Sarge would be traveling to Our Nation's Capital for the celebration of Thanksgiving. Sometimes known as "Turkey Day" but not by me under normal circumstances. These, however, are not normal circumstances. Hence my uncharacteristic use of the term "Turkey Day." (Next thing you know I'll be talking about "Xmas." [Shudder])

A few weeks ago I had a call from The Nuke asking me what my plans were for the fourth Thursday in November. At the time I indicated that I was going with my new default plan of traveling up to the ancestral lands for to spend the holiday with my Mom (The Nuke's grandmother for those keeping score at home) just as I had done for the past two years.

That was when my oldest daughter, the middle child of my immediate descendants, i.e. the second born, told me that she thought it would be nice if The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe should board an aircraft and fly down to her place in Alexandria for the sharing of this meal.

I informed this sweet child o' mine that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was the WORST day to travel of the entire year. Perhaps it would be better to visit her and her man some other time. She left it at that with a "think about it."

I knew immediately that this would be elevated up the chain of command all the way to The Missus Herself. Here's what the change of command looks like at Chez Sarge -

You can see where I fit in the scheme of things. Even the cats outrank me.


But (wait for it) I digress.

For a few weeks we've gone around and around on this topic. I prevaricated, stalled and obfuscated. All to no avail.

The Missus Herself has signed the orders and I can but obey.

Therefore I will, on or about the 26th of November report to the designated transportation hub, there to board an aircraft which will, on or about 26 November deposit me at Reagan International. Ground transportation to be arranged by The Nuke.

I may be at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Saturday. If that excursion gets approved. The Nuke is in favor of the trip. We shall see.

We shall see.

Contact me on Guard if you will be in the Chantilly area on or about 29 November in the year of Our Lord Two-Thousand and Fourteen and have any interest in a meet and greet.

That will be all...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Me and My Coffee

"A small cup of coffee" by Julius Schorzman - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
While it's not exactly "coffee week" here at the Chant du Départ, an incident at my local Dunkin' Donuts on Wednesday morning got me thinking about coffee. Tuna's post Musings of a Coffee Veteran was a further spur to send me down this particular path. Let's relate that Wednesday morning story first.

Every work day I stop at the same Dunkin' Donuts here in Fair-Rhody-By-The-Sea. (Not my town's real name but as the Cap'n has his MetroParkCentralis and Tam her Broad Ripple I now have this. Such as it is. Okay, so I'm not that creative. Now where was I... Oh yeah, coffee.)

Now this is not the same 
Dunkin' Donuts I used to frequent on my way to my place of employment. No, that was pre-exile, this new one has become my Dunkin' Donuts only in the last couple of years. I started going to this one because it is within a quarter-mile of Chez Sarge and I got into the habit of acquiring the occasional Saturday breakfast there. I got to know the folks who work there, they chided me for using the one "downtown," and eventually I transferred my allegiance to this "new" place. (Which when we first moved here was something else entirely, not a Dunkin' Donuts, but that is a story for another day. If I remember...)


I arrive to find three annoying things. The first is the standard big pickup truck parked immediately in front of the store in the special "Fire Lane, No Parking" parking lot. Apparently if one is in a hurry it's okay to violate the parking ordinances here in Fair-Rhody-By-The-Sea. So that's the first thing.

Inside we have the owner-operator of said pickup truck waving his receipt in the air and looking all around as if he's expecting someone to react to that. As far as I can see, no one, other than me, even notices his somewhat odd behavior. So that's the second thing.

Now at the counter is a guy ordering coffee and approximately 8 feet from the counter is another guy who is giving no hint as to his purpose in the store. Is he perusing the list of things one can buy at 
Dunkin' Donuts or is he actually waiting in line? Some folks around here have a concept of personal space that is admirable but rather impractical for waiting in line. If one is going to wait in line one should actually be, you know, in line.

The chap glances at me, I look to the counter and then look at where he is standing with a quizzical look on my visage. He gets the point and moves forward to actually be, in line. That was the third thing.

So now I'm actually in a line, Waves-Receipt-In-Air (Annoying Thing 2) has left the building (and moved his humongous pickup truck - Annoying Thing 1) and only Doesn't-Know-Where-Line-Is (Annoying Thing 3) is left. He gets his coffee and moves on. Probably to Montana as he does like his personal space.

I am about to order when OMG-You-Must-Be-Kidding enters the store.

I have seen this guy before and he is a colossal pain in the arse. He appears to be in his sixties but acts like a 12-year-old. A not very bright 12-year-old.

Today he has an old coffee cup full of change which he is cradling and shaking back and forth like some sort of weird tribal ritual is about to begin. Yes, the sound is mildly annoying. Then it gets better, much better. He approaches the counter and stares at the three people working behind the counter. Shakes his head and returns to the wide open spaces behind me. Where I can hear him pacing back and forth, shaking his change container. Then I hear this -
"What the Hell? Three people all working on one order! This is unbelievable! What is going on here?"
To be fair, I had to agree with him. But his antics weren't quite what one expects in modern society. After receiving my iced coffee, I quickly departed the store. As I did so I turned to see OMG-You-Must-Be-Kidding spreading his lucre all over the counter. My word, there had to have been ten dollars in pennies and nickels there. Not a dime or a quarter to be seen, folding money not in evidence.

Like I said, a 12-year-old. Bear in mind, the guy is not mentally handicapped or deficient in any but the finer graces of civilized society. Yes, he is what we like to call, an asshole.

I know, hard to believe but we get a few here. Not many, thank the Lord, and usually they don't get up that early.

Anyhoo. This post is supposed to be about me and my coffee, not random assholes you might meet on the street. At this point The Nuke and The WSO would no doubt point out that Your Humble Scribe could, on certain days, fall into that category. Yes, yes, it's true. There are days when I am not fit for polite company. But Wednesday was not one of those days. Tuesday? Yes. But not Wednesday.

So coffee. What about it?

Oh yeah, me and my coffee.

I didn't start drinking coffee until I got married. Primarily because The Missus Herself drank coffee and would actually make coffee. One fine morning she asked if I would like a cup. So I said, "Why yes, yes I would."

Bear in mind, I had tried coffee as a lad when I would go hunting with my Dad and kid brothers. Dad drank it black, I thought it horrid stuff. 'Twas my better half who taught me about cream and sugar. (I'm sure right now that there are any number of you guys out there thumping your chests and proclaiming your alpha-male status because "a man drinks his coffee black." Nope, sorry. The type of coffee you drink isn't what proclaims your manhood. I would say the ability to field strip a firearm is a better quantifier of manhood. And yes, many women know how to do that and many men do not. Still and all, seriously the ability to savor coffee with nothing in it makes you "a man?" Hhmm, I think I just revealed a pet peeve. So be it. Where were we?)

Coffee. Cream and sugar (nowadays milk and Splenda) and mostly iced. Something else the light of my life introduced me to. I will drink iced coffee when it is 20 below (and have).

One morning in February, walking into work with my iced coffee, one of the security guards fixed me with an unbelieving stare and asked,

"How can you drink iced coffee when it's this cold?"

First I played the born-in-Vermont-you-call-this-cold card and then countered his question with two of my own.

"Do you drink beer in the winter?" To which he replied in the affirmative.

"Do you warm your beer in the winter?" At which point he saw the unassailable logic of my position and ceded his position.

Typically I only drink hot coffee on the weekends. One cup on Saturday, at home, and another on Sunday, at church.

Though lately I have been quaffing a nightly cup of hot decaf in the evening while I ponder what tales to torture regale you, the readers, with. It may be the brew or it may be the coffee cup. I'm not sure.

The WSO got me that cup when I was last out Sandy Eggo way. For to ride the boat*, visit Lex and drink Guinness at Shakespeare's.

What, there are other reasons to visit Sandy Eggo?

Do tell.

* I know Nuke, I know, it's a ship, not a boat. Please humor me, I come from an aviation background. It's only natural that I would adopt the jargon of the Air Wing and not that of ship's company. Besides which, you hate the term "bird farm" even more. And I was sore tempted to use that instead. Sore tempted.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Musings of a Coffee Veteran.

We're a good week past the last Veterans' Day and I've finally composed my thoughts into some coherent order for public consumption here on Chez Sarge.  Don't worry, it's not all musings about that day, so grab a cup and enjoy the ride.  

On Veteran's Day, I had a great plan for my day off:

0700-0730: Visit 3 different Starbucks for free 12-oz coffee at each. Three, you ask?  Sure; It's easy since they're so close together around here.  In fact, they just opened up the first Starbucks inside another Starbucks. (h/t to Jay Leno for that joke.)
0800: Denny's (Free pancakes!)
0900: Great Clips (Free haircut!)
0930: Krispy Kreme (Free coffee and doughnut!)
1100: BJ's Restaurant (Free lunch!)
1200: Free Car Wash!
1300: Olive Garden (Free entree!)
1400: Free Car Wash (The other car!)
1500: 7 Eleven (Free slurpee!)
1700: Applebees (Free dinner!)

I told the wif, minnow and teenangster that they were welcome to join me, but I'm not buying. They can sit there and watch me.  

How much of that schedule did I adhere to?  Not a lick of it.  I can't really say I did much at all that day, other than to gratefully accept the day off and visit a local National Monument, passing by Lex's current locale. I didn't even partake in the free coffee at Starbucks which is about the easiest task on that list since there's one within walking distance from my not-so-crushing burden of debt.  

Remember that one?  Lex referred to his homestead as the "Crushing Burden of Debt" because he, like so many other San Diego-area residents pay/paid far too much for their housing.  But thanks to greed, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Clinton's Fair Housing Act, leading to the economic collapse in '08 and the plummeting interest rates at the time, our re-fi made our mortgage a bit more manageable for my family.

But I digress...

To be perfectly honest, I'm not a big fan of Starbucks.  I can make a decent cup right here at home, it's too expensive to drink it regularly (over $100 a month at my current consumption rate), and the coffee doesn't taste all that great to me anyway- too strong, too hot, too trendy.  I'll get a mocha every now and then, and during winter I love their Caramel Apple Spice drink, but the free coffee offer would only have been their regular stuff which I would have been grateful for, but declined nevertheless.

I really do appreciate all the offers of free stuff, but it just wasn't that convenient for me. I've already shared that I don't really like waiting in lines, and especially at those restaurants on Veterans' Day, whose generosity is only exceeded by the hunger of thousands of Sailors and Marines here in San Diego.  Not that I'd be taking food out of the mouths of young service-folk, but I'll happily give up the seat to a guy or gal who probably doesn't make as much as I do.  They just seem a bit more deserving than me.

More deserving...let me anchor there a bit.

Not that I don't deserve a cup o' joe, a slupee, or a nice meal.  Don't get me wrong, I love free stuff as much as the next guy, and I'm immensely proud of my service, but I admit I have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to that service.  Serving our country is honorable no matter what the job is, but I know my sacrifice doesn't compare to so many others. 

They say that if you do what you love, then it isn't really work.  Naval Aviation is damn fun, and I, like so many others, can hardly believe they paid me to do it, and paid me well to be quite honest.  These days, going into combat in a jet isn't very risky.  Sure, aviation in general is risky, but it's been a long time since we've lost a fast mover to enemy action.  For the fixed wing attack aircraft, they go into combat with air superiority already guaranteed, at least for our current conflicts.  Surface to air missiles are a threat, but not a likely one.  If an aircraft does go down, it's often due to an accident, and one that has pilot error somewhere among the causal factors.  I have to hand it to the Chinook drivers.  Taking a big slow beast into a hot LZ?  Those guys are crazy, with big brass ones!

It wasn't always like this.  Desert Storm wasn't a cake walk, and we lost a few guys.  In Viet Nam, the SAM threat was real and always present, and going toe to toe with a NVAF MiG was fairly common.  We had some great men who came out as heroes out of that war, and many who didn't come back.  WWII?  Even more so. 

Like many others that came after them, these two pilots in particular went up against nearly insurmountable odds, but showed the courage to flight into the face of danger, literally flying directly into the oncoming wave of aircraft attacking Hawaii on December 7th, 1941.  


It documents the actions of Second Lieutenants George Welch and Ken Taylor, two young Army Air Corps P-40 pilots that risked their lives for the sake of others.

The video directly above will be summarily panned by several folks here at the Chant as it contains footage from the movie "Pearl Harbor," dramatizing Welch and Taylor's efforts. I happen to like that movie, but I know it's no cinematic gem to the purists.  

Fortunately, due to our overwhelming advantage in the air today, at least against the current enemy, combat aviation isn't as dangerous and risky as it has been in the past. That's a good thing, and I take nothing away from the brave men and women who strap on an airplane and strike down upon the enemy with great vengeance and furious anger.

However, it's the ground troops that risk their lives every single day.  Air can only do so much- it's the infantry that really wins and holds territory.  I compare what I did in Iraq (ISR and passing gas), against what my Army brother did there (trying to win hearts and minds while regularly taking hostile fire) - apples and oranges as far as the risk factor goes.

If we were just killing bad guys- bombing ISIS targets, picking off the Republican Guard as they flee Kuwait, or blowing up terrorist training camps, air power is damn effective.  The Ground Pounders are good at it too- the M-1 Abrams and our SOF guys have no equal, but nation-building and winning those hearts and minds, while simultaneously trying to do counter-insurgency work, is a tough job that costs so much. You can't walk ten feet at the Naval Medical Center here in San Diego or Bethesda, or at the San Antonio Military Medical Center without seeing a dozen guys in wheelchairs, on crutches, or with prosthetic limbs, to know that the costs and risks are much greater for our Army and Marine Corps brethren.  

For that reason alone, I tip my hat to those servicemen, whose job is much more complex and challenging than mine was, with conditions far worse and compensation that doesn't really compensate.  


In this video, Kenneth Branagh recreates Col. Tim Collins' speech to 1 Batt., Royal Irish Regiment, on 19 March 2003, immediately prior to the invasion of Iraq. From the BBC production 10 Days to War.

I heard this gent got in trouble later on in the campaign, but great and thoughtful speech regardless...

This video is great for touching upon just how different it is for the ground forces.  We often just pickle off a bomb on a pre-assigned and pre-set drop point or DMPI, while they have to worry about distinguishing good guys from bad, which direction the shots came from, what building, how much fire they're taking, restrictive ROE that endangers their lives, avoiding collateral damage, and the fear of facing that enemy head on.

On the first day of OEF, I strolled into the Wardroom on CARL VINSON and made myself an espresso.  When NIMITZ arrived in theater for OIF, I lived in a lived in a two-man air-conditioned stateroom and flew in an air-conditioned cockpit at 30 thousand feet.  The ground-forces? They were pondering whether they'd live through the day.

Yeah, I might deserve a free coffee, but they deserve it more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Driving in Winter

"Car into ditch bad winter weather hwy 404 south near stouffville rd Jan08"
by Theonlysilentbob - Source
Winter is coming.

No, I am not one of the Starks, not even a Karstark*, but it is mid-November in the Northern Hemisphere and winter is approaching. Here in Little Rhody it has already snowed twice, the first time it didn't stick, the second time it did. (I have posted about both of those occurrences. No, I don't plan to turn this place into The Weather Channel, or a weather blog.)

So, that being said, here's what sparked this post -
That much snow down here would have us cancelling school and all forms of craziness. People driving at 10 MPH in a 70 because "Safety" and that's with NO ice. When there's Ice, the same dopes drive at 70. I love my state and it's people, but when it comes to winter driving, I think most leave their brains at home. - Juvat
I remember back in the late '80's I was visiting relatives in Mesquite, Texas and it had snowed the morning we were to head back to Tulsa. There was about an inch of snow on the ground (just about enough to leave a footprint). People in their cars were so traumatized that they almost couldn't function. It took us 4 1/2 hours just to get to the Oklahoma state line. But you know what? They're just about as bad here in Missouri. Like Chris said, most people are totally clueless when it comes to winter driving!
My wife has always said that in every city where we've lived, there's an insane asylum where they give all the inmates a car and tell them to go out and have fun when it snows!! - Russ Kinion
Winter driving is a skill, there are a few tips and tricks that can help but without practicing, you will probably never be any good at it. I have lived in a lot of northern areas where snow is fairly common. I have never been impressed with most people's winter driving "skills," not even in my home state of Vermont.

The biggest problem most people have with driving in winter weather? Hurrying.

The things that might work on a dry road will get you into a ditch or worse in the winter nastiness like that shown in the next photo.

"Toronto lake effect frontal squall". Via Wikipedia - CC

Low visibility and a slippery roadway are both present in that photo above. Can you see any idiots (other than the guy obviously in the wrong lane)? Check out the guys with their headlights off. Yeah, stealth mode, that'll work. If they can't see you, they can't avoid cutting in front of you or even slamming into you from behind.

Just like the old fairy tale, slow and steady wins the race. If your tires are losing their grip on the roadway, let off on the gas. But most folks will give it more gas, the temptation to do so is huge. Even winter drivers who know better will do that. We've all seen the spinning drive wheels and the car going absolutely no where.

The Missus Herself and I went down to Virginia Beach for Christmas of 2009, there had been a sizeable snow storm along the East Coast, particularly in Delaware. Now I don't know if we have any readers from Delaware, so apologies will be offered up front. Those folks have no clue how to plow the roads nor how to drive on the remaining ice and/or slush once they have semi-cleared the roads.

We decided to pull into a shopping center as there was a Dunkin' Donuts therein. We discovered that this fairly large shopping center had only two roads that had been semi-plowed going in and out. And this (mind you) just a few days before Christmas. Took us 30 minutes to travel about 100 feet. And that was after helping to push at least three vehicles that I remember just to clear the road.

"Please stop pressing on the gas ma'am. All you're doing is spraying crap all over us. Slow and steady, please. In fact, just put it in first gear and just take your foot off the gas."

"What's first gear?"

Yes, (oh my aching back) some people have no business behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, even when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. When it's snowing? Please, park it in the garage and take the bus. Or learn how to drive in the snow!

Slow and steady. No sudden moves. Don't let the snow and ice sense your fear.

A buddy of mine, I'll call him Dave, (because that was his name) and I used to look forward to the first really good snow. We would both hop in our Volkswagen Beetles and motor down to the junior high school parking lot to go what we called "slipping and sliding."

Before the parking lot (which was pretty big) was plowed we had a nice semi-slippery surface to practice our winter driving skills. We both got pretty good at it. Tricks using the emergency brake, controlled skids, even a whirling semi-out of control 360 could be done in that lot with nary a worry. (Though once I almost rolled my bug, I managed to steer out of it by sheer luck. But I learned!)

That's another thing about winter driving, if you don't do it a lot, you won't ever be good at it.

Even tanks have trouble on icy roads, I've seen a Sherman tank slide down an icy road in the Ardennes. (Well, film of it actually, not in person, though I am getting older, I'm not that old!) The French Hotchkiss H35 Char B** in German livery in the next photo probably had a driver from Nordrhein-Westfalen, where they don't get much snow. A Bavarian would have handled it, no problem.

"Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-174-1164-07, Jugoslawien, Beutepanzer H39 im Winter" by Heber - This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons

Yeah, winter driving. I am so looking forward to that.

As long as everybody else stays home.

*From time to time I will quote (misquote) A Song of Fire and Ice (That's Game of Thrones to you plebeians.)
** Yeah, yeah, wrong tank. I should have read the caption. H/T to Prairieadventure.

Monday, November 17, 2014


So, There I was......* Flight Commander at Kadena, flying F-15s, dodging Typhoons, F-5s and communists.  In general, having a good time.  Being a Flight Commander didn't involve any real "command" things.  I didn't have any UCMJ authority, and issuing an Order to one of my flight members would almost undoubtedly have reduced them to tears from laughing so hard.  Based on that, my leadership style was based on example,  I would work hard to be the best I could at my job and treat my people with the respect they deserved.  In general, it worked pretty well.  I did get the occasional call from the Squadron Commander inviting Lt Schmuckatelli and myself to his office for a "chat".  Usually followed by a second private "chat" between the Boss and myself.  Fortunately, both Squadron Commanders during my time at Kadena followed the same leadership style that I was trying to emulate.

I get the call one afternoon to stop by the Bosses office.  He invites me in and says he's got some good news, bad news.  I'm getting a new member to my flight, a Captain in his first tour in an F-15.  Now, this usually meant one of a few things.  He could be a fairly senior Captain who's had a couple of tours in an older fighter, then performed a "pay your dues" tour (say an AT-38 to Holloman) and finally got an Eagle.  He could be a First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) from ATC and got an Eagle out of there, or he could be a WSO who'd been selected for Pilot training.  Most WSOs I knew were fairly proficient at flying the jet and would have had no problem graduating near the top of the class, which was a requirement for getting an Eagle or Falcon.

The good news is I'm not getting a Lt.  I've already got 3 and while they are gaining proficiency and judgement at an astonishing rate, I've still got to keep close watch on them.  We had a D model come on the schedule when one of them was scheduled for Duty Officer.  He came and asked me if he could take it out for an advanced handling ride.  The hairs on my neck started standing up.  Then came the Kicker, he asked if one of his Lt buddies could ride along.  Now this Lt was not in my flight, but he was positive that he was the Sierra Hotel-ist of all the Sierra Hotel Fighter Pilots in the squadron, and he wanted to show my Lt a couple of tricks he knew about Advanced Handling.

The hair on my neck is standing straight up.  I told them, Yes, they could take the sortie and fly together.  That started a bit of wink wink, nudge nudge going on between them.  I then told them they were not to exit the Radar Pattern and that I expected them to have completed their semiannual instrument approach requirements by the time they landed. "Mannnnnn!"  Little bit later, I get a call from the Boss asking why I had done that.  I responded "Sir, I didn't want the last words on the tape to be "Let me show you how to do THIS!".  He responded "Good Call."

Anyhow, as Sarge is wont to say, I digress.  So, I'm not getting a Lt. Good.  "Wonder what the Bad News is?"  The Boss hands me his flight records.  He wasn't a WSO or FAIP but he was coming out of a "Pay your Dues" tour.  He'd done 3 years flying a T-33 as a target for the Air Defense guys.

"Oooh Boy!"  Target flying involves a lot of straight and level and not much else.  Not a good workup to flying Air to Air in an Eagle.  To compound that, he's come out of the short qualification course since technically he was an experienced pilot.  Getting him up to speed will be challenging.  

A couple of days later, I pick him and his wife up at Naha.  "Good Afternoon, I'm Juvat."  He says, "Hi Juvat, I'm Bones."  Now lots of guys come to a squadron with a tactical callsign that they had at a previous location, or that they would like to be called, but very few of those call signs survive first contact with a raucous squadron.  So, I'll humor him until his Eagle Baptism.

Very nice guy.  Personality wise, he's going to fit in.  No sweat.  But that's not what it takes to make it in a fighter squadron.

 I get him settled in and on the schedule with an IP to regain landing currency.  They go out do a little advanced handling to get down to landing weight, then come back in the pattern for some instruments and touch and goes.  Afterwards I asked the IP how it went.  No sweat, instruments were like glass, landings were fine.  All well and good, but that also is not what it takes to make it in a fighter squadron.

I decide that he is going to be "my" wingman and for better or worse, he's going to be the guy entrusted to keeping my butt out of trouble if the fecal matter starts flying.  I get him scheduled with me the next day for a BFM ride.  The ride goes pretty well.  He makes the usual new guy mistakes, but flies the jet pretty well.  We go up again the next day and I can see that he has learned some from the previous ride.  Improvement is always good.  The third ride, we've got a little added bonus, we're going to hit the tanker.  He'd gotten two tanker hits during RTU, one Day, one Night.  I asked him how those went and he hemmed and hawed a little.  OK.  We talk about refueling a bit more, but tanking in the Eagle is Easy!
Contact Position.  (I know for a fact that I have flown the closest jet on the left)

Ok, maybe not so much.  He gets stable in the pre-contact position and moves it forward into the contact position and is floundering all around.  The boomer sticks him and promptly pulls out as Bones slides out the front of the box. (Potentially very dangerous if the boomer doesn't disconnect in time, the boom is not able to retract further and can be driven into one or both aircraft.  That's bad).  Bones moves back into the Pre-contact and tries again.  Basically the same thing.  He doesn't have the picture for flying formation with the larger tanker.  Try a third time, no dice.  There are other flights on the tankers wing, so we clear off and head out to the area.  BFM is good, not great.  Debrief is long and lots of time spent drawing pictures of what a KC-135 looks like in the various refueling positions.

I go and talk to the Boss about it and what my plan to get him through this is.  Basically, I'm going to get him on a tanker every chance I can get.  On scheduled tanker sorties, and on drive by's.  The tanker track was right next to the airspace and you could usually talk your way to a dry hook up or maybe even a couple of hundred pounds if they weren't actively refueling others.  The Boss approves.

We do this for a couple of months.  I get him across a tanker 3-4 times a week. (This was the Reagan Build up years, we flew a lot!) and he's settling in ok, but never to the point that I can relax while he's on the boom.  and the first night tank was, shall we say, interesting.

We've got a wing wide exercise scheduled, "Defend the Island against all comers".
The Aggressors are in town.  They're playing Mig-21s.  
F-5s as Mig-21s (small, turn on a dime, hard to see)
The RF-4C squadron is playing Mig-23s
RF-4C as Mig 23 (fast as greased lightning, can't turn for squat)

 and the SR-71 is playing a Mig-25 (They called it a low slow flight for some reason).
SR-71 as Mig-25 (high fast flyer)

The three Eagle squadrons are rotating to protect Kadena from the bad guys.  I'm leading Bones in a two ship protecting the tanker track and we know the fight is going to start soon, since we can see with the radar the bad guys taking off.  The Tanks are about 100 miles behind me, and I'm getting to the point that I need to refuel now, or I'm going to be way to low on gas when the bad guys push.  I call the tank and ask him to turn towards us to shorten the time to rendezvous.  He does,  I stroke the burners and put Bones into a loose fighting wing position.
Obviously, NOT F-15s in Fighting Wing, but this is approximately the formation
Source: U. S. Air Force File Photo

  The formation allows him to use maneuver and cut off instead of throttle to stay in formation.  He's got a bit less gas than I so, my plan is for Bones to refuel first.  A gamble, since if Bones can't get his gas expeditiously, we've got two Eagles out of the fight, instead of one.  Well above the Mach, I'm starting my conversion turn and tell the Tanker to begin his retrograde.  I'm pulling slightly less than 9Gs in the turn and Bones is hanging in formation. 
Loaded for Bear with war shots
 I rollout with Bones in the contact position and the Boomer sticks him.  He's like glass.  Takes his gas, disconnects, I pull into position and the Tanker starts turning hot.  Smart guy.  He's not going to out run them, better to have two shooters between him and them.  I've got my gas as he completes the 180 and disconnect.  The Tank immediately starts the retrograde again as I light the burners and accelerate out from underneath.  The ensuing fight was epic.  Never did see the SR-71 (he was in a later stage of the battle after we'd recovered.)  Get back to the ramp and into the debrief.  I asked Bones how it went.  He said, during the conversion turn the G's were such that his vision was limited to a small circle with my navigation light in it.  He stayed with that, until he felt a thunk as the boomer stuck him.  He finished with "after staying in position during that turn, staying in position on the tanker was a piece of cake."

Bones will feature prominently in several more posts.  Suffice it to say, he developed into a fine Fighter Pilot, an excellent wingman and an even better Flight Lead. And, unlike most guys, actually kept his call sign.  (Which, may or may not really have been "Bones")

*The story is true, details are as valid as my memory and therefore qualifies as a War Story.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November, An Acquired Taste

November Sky
Yesterday I intentionally took a down day, I just wanted to kick back and enjoy a good book.

So I did. It was marvelous.

Then a new day dawned and I had nothing ready to post.


Perhaps after church, I thought, surely that will get me going.

At church we were apparently reenacting the early days in New England. No heat.

That's right, no heat.

We had a new oil tank installed not too long ago. Apparently the float by which the contents of the tank are measured was installed wrong. It was stuck at half-full (half-empty I suppose if you're a pessimist) and when the lads tried to turn the heat up this morning they discovered that the boiler was non-responsive. Nothing happened.

So we shivered through a very nice, though chilly, service.

As the service wound down I remembered that we were having a luncheon for the new members. Our head usher, Bob, let me know that the downstairs would be warm. He'd seen to that.

We have this eight burner gas stove in the kitchen (we Baptists enjoy food, a lot) and Bob had gone down during the service and fired that bad boy up.

Yup, when I got downstairs it was nice and toasty. The luncheon went well, got to know the new members very well. One of the new guys recently retired from the Navy, he and his wife are great, he was a corpsman. Served most of his time with Marine battalions. He's been to the sand box. He's seen some stuff. Of course I call him "Doc."

Got home and the day is one of those we see a lot of this time of year. Gray and cold, the smell of snow is in the air.

So is the smell of a wood fire somewhere in the neighborhood.

I do so love this time of year.

Thanksgiving and family approaches.

It's good to be alive.

It won't be long before this bush sheds its leaves...
As you can see, the Japanese maple and the cherry tree are busy dumping their leaves.
I know what I'll be doing next weekend. It involves a rake.