Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tradition

Tradition
Bronze tympanum over the main entrance, Library of Congress,
Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.
(
Olin Levi Warner,  1895)*
The WSO called me Sunday afternoon as she was heading from Fresno to her place of residence. Just a standard father-daughter chat, we have a lot of those. Not as many as there are mother-daughter chats though, as I am lower in the "call chain."

Now this "call chain," as The Nuke explained it to me, runs like this.
  1. Call Mom's cellphone, if no answer -
  2. Call the land line, if no answer -
  3. Call Dad's cellphone.
If, having had to exercise Option 3, Dad (that is me, Your Humble Scribe) the first question should be, "Where is Mom, why is Mom not answering her phone?"

Sometimes, on very rare occasions, it is Dad to whom the daughters wish to speak. Sunday afternoon was one such occasion. Though, truth be told, The WSO calls me more often than The Nuke calls me. I think perhaps it is because The WSO and I share a common aviation background. The Nuke will call me on the very rare occasions she needs "professional military advice," of which I am a font of esoteric knowledge. Having spent 24 years in Uncle Sam's pay, you pick up a thing or two.

(Does The Naviguesser ever call? Why yes, yes he does. But he's my son. Sons have an odd idea of how often to call their parents. Ask my Mom. "Why haven't you called?" - "Well, nothing's changed Mom. If you don't hear from me, you may assume that all is well." No, my Mom doesn't buy that either. But if The Naviguesser doesn't call, then everything is fine.)

Of course that overlong preamble was, for the most part, a digression. Which is, I think, the spécialité de la maison round these parts. As it were. (As is saying "As it were.")

One of the topics The WSO and I discussed was the upcoming holiday season. That long time period which (for me) starts on Halloween and runs through the end of the year and the first couple of days of the new year. Not that I make a big deal out of the so-called "New Year's" celebrations. For me that's just another...

But I digress.

For quite a few years, at least since The WSO graduated from college in 2006, we have made a point to spend the holidays together. Since The WSO went off to the Navy, we still get together for Christmas at least.

For a couple of years, The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe would hop in the Sarge-mobile (once) or an aircraft operated by SomeAirline (once) and head down to the Norfolk area for Christmas. If memory serves me right (and sometimes it does) we spent Christmas of 2008 in Virginia Beach and Christmas of 2009 in Norfolk. 2010 and 2011, the progeny came to Little Rhody for Christmas.

It's tougher now that The Naviguesser and his tribe and The WSO and her tribe are out in California. Even with air travel (such as it is) traveling to California is a non-trivial exercise. Christmas of 2012 we were all on our own at Christmas. 2013, we went up to my Mom's which was awesome.

After Christmas, we flew out to Michigan to spend New Year's. Again, we had fun.

What applied for spending Christmas together also applied to Thanksgiving. But when the kids went forth to keep the world safe for democracy, and as Thanksgiving is very close to Christmas, getting together at Thanksgiving went by the wayside a few years back.

But the kids now get together in California for Thanksgiving, usually at La Casa de WSO. Even The Nuke flies out there for that fiesta. For them it has become, drum roll please, a Tradition.

Now I am very keen when it comes to tradition but am by no means hide-bound when it comes to establishing new traditions. I know that may sound odd coming from an Air Force guy. My old service is not very good at tradition. Hell, we get new uniforms every time we get a new Chief of Staff! (Not really but damn near.) The Marines do tradition very well. Next best is the Navy. I used to think the Army did tradition pretty well. But their record has been spotty (at least in my book) since Shinseki introduced the beret for everybody.

But I have gone off on a tangent once again.

The WSO's tribe had been trying to do a Michigan-Rhody-Michigan-Rhody rotation for the holidays. This year, she informed me, she and Big Time wanted to establish a new, drum roll please, Tradition! Yes, indeed.

As Little Bit, the senior granddaughter, is now four years of age, she's going to start remembering these times when she gets older. So Big Time and The WSO thought it might be nice to actually stay home for Christmas this year. It will be the first time that they've spent Christmas in their own home. While I will miss them, I think it's a grand idea.

Of course, The WSO has floated the idea of us going "out there" after Christmas. For the New Year's festivities I guess. She sensed the hesitation in my voice, as the week of Christmas and the week after Christmas are known to be "the two weeks out of the year where Dad doesn't like to do squat." Seriously. My company shuts down for Christmas and if I sprinkle the time period with a couple of judiciously saved vacation days, Your Humble Scribe has 17 days where I can do whatever I want. Even The Missus Herself semi-honors this tradition.

So yes, I am torn. She could sense that on the phone.

Then she said, "Dad, we could go up to Reno. And Fallon." Reno is an attractive sounding place and as for Fallon...

I have my reasons.

Many of you will get that. Some of you won't. Let's just say that Fallon is a big deal in Naval Aviation. There's also something I need to see there. A place I need to visit. Something which aligns with my visits to Shakespeare's and Fort Rosecrans out Sandy Eggo way. It's just something I need to do.

It's my way of honoring Tradition









* Photographed in 2007 by Carol Highsmith (1946–), who explicitly placed the photograph in the public domain.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Incentives



As you might expect, virtually all aspects of flying a high performance fighter were exciting, at times terrifying, but almost always exhilarating. Most guys would jump at the chance to fly.  I mean, as a scheduler, I rarely had to do any arm twisting, to get a guy to fly an actual mission.  Fly a Sim, pull SOF or Mobile (that dates me, since we don’t do that anymore) or any kind of ground related activity required pulling teeth, blackmail and/or bribery.  Tell a guy that he was on the schedule to fly and that was usually good enough.  Sure, they might try to weasel their way into a better sortie, but not at the risk of losing the one they had.  However, strangely, there was a sortie that most guys would pass up, given the chance.

Back in the Day, the Air Force had a program where people, typically enlisted and junior officers, who were recognized for outstanding performance could be given an “incentive” ride.  They’d actually get to ride in one of their Wing’s aircraft.  If you were on a MAC base, you might get a ride on a C-141 or C-5.  On a SAC base, you might get a ride on a KC-135.  Somewhat interesting, and you still got credit for Duty, but didn’t have any duties to perform, so okay not great.  But….if you were on a PACAF, TAC or USAFE Fighter Base,  you might get a ride in an F-4 or F-15.  Several orders of magnitude more exciting! 

But, incentive rides were the flights no pilot wanted to do, and I never understood why.  I actually enjoyed the rides.  The person getting the ride typically oscillated emotionally from giddy with excitement, through nervous and sometimes almost terrified out of their wits and then back to excited, and that was before the briefing started. One way or the other, they were always enthusiastic.  For whatever reason, I got a fair share of incentive rides.

Obviously, flying in a high performance aircraft on any mission, is a bit more risky than sitting at a LGMD-6D (large gray metal desk-6 drawer) all day.  So the missions, started with a bit of life support training.  How to work the helmet, strap in to the ejection seat, where the ejection handle was, how to pull it, how to unstrap from the seat without pulling the ejection handle.  All very critical items to discuss.  Strangely, the student was always very attentive at this point.

We’d then go into the flight briefing.  In a normal regular mission briefing, emergency procedures are usually covered as “standard” (i.e. we’ll handle them in accordance with the Dash-1 and/or Wing procedures).  If something out of the ordinary was happening on the flight, additional time might be spent on what could go wrong on that aspect and how it should be handled, but typically, that portion of the briefing was very short. On an incentive ride, I’d start out the briefing by telling the person that we could have a ride that will make the wildest amusement park ride they’d ever imagined pale in comparison, or we could have the most spectacular view from an airliner they’d ever have and it was their choice.

My thoughts were, this person had been selected for the ride by doing their job in some outstanding manner and whatever their duties were, in one way or another, they were supporting me doing my job.  So, if I made this ride memorable and fun, it might serve to reinforce the importance of doing their best at whatever their responsibilities were.  There were some who believed it was their job to make the person as sick as they could as fast as they could.  As scheduler and later as Assistant Ops Officer, as soon as I was able to identify that type, they no longer flew this type sortie.  I think both they, I and the recipients were all happier.

So, once I’d identified what the person wanted to see on the ride, I’d get into the more serious aspects of the sortie and what I expected them to do or not do (mostly) if things went wrong.  Then we’d step to the jet and have a good time.  Never had a problem, never had anybody get sick or GLOC (G-Induced Loss of Conciousness).  But I did have some moments……

So,  There I was…..* Moody AFB flying the F-4E.  I’m on the schedule for an incentive ride that I was really looking forward to.  The recipient was a Staff Sergeant who was the crew chief on the F-4E with my name on the front canopy (Blog ROE prohibits the use of the word “MY” to describe the Jet, even if it was on the tail”). 
Creative Commons

He’d been named NCO of the quarter and an incentive ride was offered to him.  (Off topic, but for a Crew Chief to be named NCO of the quarter was almost unheard of, as it was for a fighter pilot to be named junior officer of the quarter.  To much time required to do the real job and not enough to do the extra stuff that got the nomination.  That having been said, he deserved it, even if all he’d done was his job. He had, and I used and broke, the best F-4E in the fleet.)  But, as Sarge is not hesitant to let me know, I digress.  He’d stopped me after a mission and asked me about incentive rides and what they entailed.  He was a bit uncertain about whether to actually go on one.

 A bit about him.  I’m not sure exactly where he was from, but it was DEEP South somewhere.  I was always “Suh” to him.  Pretty big guy, 6’4”ish and probably 220 or so, all muscle.  His Phantom was always ready and, most appreciated to a good jinker like myself, the cockpit was virtually immaculate.  Very little dust appeared in negative G situations.  I think knowing a bit about the inner workings of the Jet made him a bit nervous about going up in one.  I spent a bit of time convincing him that it would be fun and he’d gain an appreciation for what the airplane breakers actually did with the jet.

He finally acquiesced on the ride and as I was leaving to get to the squadron, he stated “Suh, no Loop Dee Loops though!”

 I got with the scheduler and talked him into letting me give him the incentive ride.  Since there were no other takers, that wasn't a problem. 

We’re in the briefing and he says he’d like the airliner option and NO Loop Dee Loops!  Now, Moody’s airspace was primarily over the Okefenokee swamp and sightseeing things are pretty limited.  Point out things on Base, point out the sights in Valdosta, and you've still got about an hour and a half of gas left.  We’re tooling around and finally he says, “Suh, can we roll this?  Not too fast, mine yuh.”  I say sure and do an nice 1 G maintaining barrel roll.  Bob Hoover could’ve poured Tea during this one.


We roll out and I ask how was that?  He said that was fun, “Could we do another, Maybe a little faster?”  I do another barrel roll increasing the G to 2-3, and ask him how he’s doing?  He says,  “What’s the fastest this jet will roll?”  I say hang on.  Now, the F-4 won’t roll as fast as an F-15 or AT-38 (IIRC 360/sec and 720/sec respectively), but it does ok.  I unload the aircraft to minimize drag, slap the stick against my left thigh and do a quick aileron roll.  Roll out a second or so later and once again ask how he’s doing?  I can hear a little tremor in his voice as he asks “Suh, can we do a Loop Dee Loop?”

“Why, Yes we can!”

The stick smoothly goes forward.  The F-4 really needed ~500K to get over the top comfortably, and demonstrating the out of control bold face procedures on an incentive ride was sure to get me standing tall in front of the Director of Operations, so…to be avoided. 

Get the burners going.  500K on the dial and I start a smooth 5 G pull.  I maintain that as we get to 90 degrees nose high when I hear a scream from the back seat! It sounds like someone's dying.

 Now, I’ve got a problem.  The nose is pointed straight up and no matter what I'm going to have to do about the back seater, I’ve got to get the nose back to level flight first.  I tell him to hang on, and continue the pull until the nose comes back to the horizon, roll upright transitioning the loop to an Immelman, pull the throttles out of Burner.  Then I ask him “What’s wrong?”  

He tells me “Suh, That was Sheeeet Hawt! Can we do some more?”  Bang, go the burners and we’re off on a Split S.  The rest of the ride was as many G’s as the aircraft could handle. 

Down on the ground and he’s got a grin as wide as the Okefenokee!  Mission accomplished.

*What’s the difference between a fairy tale and a war story?  A fairy tale starts with “Once upon a time” and a war story starts with “So there I was”.  


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Salute!

LT (JG) Shaina Hayden, USN (Nov 2008)
U. S. Navy photo, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien
There has been much ado in the media lately about saluting. Well, not so much about saluting in general, put one particular salute. After giving it some thought, I thought I'd jump right in.

That business with the coffee cup and the helo? Nah, I'm not going to talk about that. Suffice to say, the man is a civilian and this old Master Sergeant wouldn't expect a civilian to know how to salute.

Especially that particular civilian. But enough about that.

Another big thing in some media outlets has been that lady fighter pilot from the U.A.E., Major Mariam Al Mansouri or perhaps more appropriately "رائد مريم المنصوري" if Google translate is any guide, which it can be. The major's name being مريم المنصوري and her rank of major is رائد (Ra'Ed) in most Arab countries. So my sources tell me.

Women in the service. Nothing new, we had them when I was nobbut an airman basic back in '75, we'll have them in 2075. Those opposed to the concept need to get over it. Those who wish to sensationalize it, please, it ain't news.

Before going any further, I just want to mention the excellent salute being rendered by LT (JG) Hayden in that opening photo. Makes the old Master Sergeant want to tear up just a bit, that is a mighty fine example of a proper salute. Not to mention which, the young lady is a contemporary of my two daughters who were JGs around that time frame. Both of them are now full Lieutenants as, no doubt is Ms. Hayden. If she's still on active duty that is.

So saluting. Back in my day there were some who saw the requirement for an enlisted person having to render a salute to an officer as somehow demeaning. As my old Sergeant told me, "If they don't like it, let'em go to college, get a degree and then get a commission. They earned that rank. Gotta show'em the proper respect."

Of course, the officer is required to return the salute as well. We aren't some rag-tag aristocratic society where the hoi-polloi are not required to acknowledge the help. No, we are members of a republic. We have no aristocrats. Ya got that DC, Hollywood?

So saluting a fellow member of the military is something to be proud of.

Note that I said "fellow member of the military" - got it?

There's a reason I don't watch much television anymore. Much ado about nothing.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Long Time Gone


It struck me today that the last five years have passed in the blink of an eye. So much has happened, so much has changed, five years gone. What have I accomplished? What has been gained?

What has been lost?

In the fall of '09 (where I shall begin this tale) The Missus Herself and The WSO had availed themselves of a sale at our local Navy Exchange. (Which The Missus Herself insisted on referring to as "the BX" for many a year after we left Uncle Sam's Aerial Frolics. BX is short for Base Exchange, something the Army types call a Post Exchange, or PX. Confused? No? Yes, this is a digression. While not key to the story, it is interesting.)

So the senior and the junior human females in the Tribe of the Sarge returned from the NEX with...

What? Oh, yeah, NEX short for Navy Exchange. You know how we military types are about acronyms. Sorry.

So yes, the ladies returned from the NEX on a brisk Saturday in the fall of '09 with a rather largish plasma TV ensconced athwart the backseat of the old Sarge-mobile. (Which was a '97 Dodge Stratus, all in black it was, very sporty he was.)

"Wow!" I exclaimed, "whaddaya got there my fair ladies? 'Tis a TV for to grace the living room of Chez Sarge methinks?"

"No Dad, it's for The Nuke," spake the youngest of the tribe.

"Forsooth! Cannot The Nuke purchase her own television? She being an officer in the Naval Service of substantial means." I protested.

With that gaze I have mentioned before, my beloved flower from the Land of the Morning Calm looked at me, and said...

"You're an idiot."

Shaking her head she explained that as Christmas was coming and that we were traveling down to Norfolk for the holiday, she (and The WSO) had decided that this was a perfect gift for our oldest daughter, what with it being on sale and all.

So yes, we did go to Norfolk for that Christmas. Prior to that time though I was informed that the year of 2010 would find me far to the North, away from my hearth and home.

Business was bad, many would become jobless, many would be loaned out.

Though annoying, the prospect of continuing to draw a paycheck in the face of a corporate drawdown was a small price to pay for being in exile for a big chunk of each week.

So we went to Norfolk for Christmas, hauling that bloody great plasma television through the snows of Delaware and down the DELMARVA peninsula, sighting the lights of Virginia Beach across the dark waters of Chesapeake Bay on a dark December eve.

It was the last Christmas we spent with our single daughters. While there we met The Nuke's future (and now former) husband and reacquainted ourselves with future son-in-law Big Time. Within the next twelve months, both girls would be married.

Back to Little Rhody we went, there to spend a few more days before setting sail for Andover in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to begin my exile in the North.

Within the first week there, had a phone call announcing a pregnancy in the tribe. Went home early that week.

Within the month I learned that my Dad was ill, very ill. The last time I talked to him was from a hotel room in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. By the end of February he was gone.

The spring of 2010 was a painful blur. My Father was dead, I was all at sea, rudderless. The pain slowly faded.

The summer of 2010 arrived.


In August, our first granddaughter, Little Bit was born. The Missus Herself and I had traveled down to Virginia Beach for that blessed event. Of course, the wee bairn came a day after I had to go back to work.

On the bright side Big Time, though his carrier (USS ENTERPRISE) was out at sea, his skipper and his CAG let him bring a bird back to Oceana so he could be there when his daughter was born. After a couple of days, back to sea he went. But at least he got to be home for her birth.


Christmas of 2010 was exciting and fun. Both daughters and their husbands were aboard Chez Sarge for the festivities as was the youngest member of the tribe, Little Bit. Well, it was fun for everybody but The Nuke, she spent the majority of Christmas Day fighting a very nasty stomach bug. Which in the spirit of the holidays she shared with me. Boxing Day of 2010 was perhaps the most miserable day I'd had in quite some time.

But, that passed. As did the holiday.

2010 wound down and 2011 arrived. With me still "up North" on my "one year" assignment. As there was still very little work at the Home Office (the one where I work, not the one in London) I was semi-content to remain in the North. Once again, that paycheck coming in every two weeks was incentive enough to quell my complaints.

2011 was very much like 2010. We went down to Norfolk to see the girls, their husbands and our granddaughter, always fun. Though that time we flew down instead of driving. While the whole airport experience can be a colossal pain in the nether regions, it still is the fastest way to get somewhere. And I do love to fly, once I'm in the air and gazing out my window, I'm in a different world. So I have that going for me.

For Christmas of 2011, the girls, with husbands and child in tow, again came to Chez Sarge to celebrate the birth of Our Lord. This year was even better, The Naviguesser, The DIL and The Big O traveled all the way from California for to join the rest of the tribe. It was a full house, it was a grand old time.

2012 dawned, again I was Up North. For those keeping score at home, 2011 was the second year of my"one year" assignment. 2012 was the start of the third.

Again, the paycheck coming in every fortnight was appreciated, though I was growing weary of life "on the road."

In March of 2012...

Well, let's just say that we lost a man I called friend. A man admired and respected by many. Those who have been visiting here for a while know of whom I speak. Those new to the blog, well ask around. There are clues everywhere on the blog itself.

As I spent the spring of 2010 in mourning for my Dad. I spent the spring of 2012 mourning for my friend. I'm beginning to dread the even-numbered years. (In the spring of 2014 I lost another friend to depression. My buddy Fred died in 2008. See what I mean about the even-numbered years?)

But like George Harrison sang, "all things must pass..."

My exile did as well. I was called home in August of 2012. It was good to be back, though passing strange in many ways. But I adjusted, I settled back into a routine.

Then in September of 2012 a new, bright light came into the world in the form of our newest granddaughter. She of the wise and oh so big eyes. So of course, I dubbed her The Owl. So now I had three grandchildren. Three! Man, I'm getting old!

The year passed, Christmas of 2012 was spent with friends rather than family. Though I enjoy the former, I love the latter. You may well guess that Christmas of 2012 was a less than excellent experience. Just another day in many ways. It was alright, I guess.

But 2012 passed into history. 2013 dawned.

And in the spring of that year...

I was back on the road. Different facility but in near enough proximity to the former place of exile so that I could stay at the same hotel. They knew me there and treated me very well. I do mean very well. Like visiting royalty.

Looking back at 2013, I remember being Up North, but I also remember the Boston Marathon bombing. Where two cowardly little shits murdered four people and injured dozens more. A friend lost someone close to her. A co-worker lost her leg.

Sometime in the swirl of those years Big Time had two combat tours on the Big E, flying the not-so-friendly skies of Afghanistan. Bringing in ordnance to support friendlies in contact with the enemy on more than one occasion. One time flying through a hail storm to deliver the goods. Bad guys pounded, friendlies saved, Big Time in hock for "hazarding his aircraft." Cooler, non-sissy heads intervened, investigation proved it was a righteous move on Big Time's part.

Okay, he scratched the paint on an expensive aircraft. The men he assisted on the ground had no problem with his actions. Neither did the CAG. Kudos to our folks wearing the wings of gold!

Now here it is almost the end of 2014. I ask myself, where did the last five years go. So much happened, yet it all seems so long ago. The years are a blur.



They say that as you get older, time goes faster. I'm sure it's an illusion.

But where are the flowers of those years, I ask myself as I gaze upon the last roses of this summer.

Where are those days, those weeks, those months?


Long time gone.

A lament seems to be in order. This is piobaireachd (literally piping), or Ceòl Mòr (the great music), the classical music of the great Highland bagpipe.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Look At The Horns On That Baby!

White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus*)
USDA photo by Scott Bauer (Public Domain)
When I was young, my Dad used to take us hunting in the fall. In those days the hunting season for the wily white-tail was two weeks in November, starting on the second Saturday in November. Nowadays they've modified the season to ensure it always covers the Thanksgiving weekend. In the old days that was an occasional occurrence, not an every year thing.

Before going any further, I need to describe what a standard hunting exhibition was for my Dad and his three boys. It involved getting up early and making sure we had something to cook at lunch time. Dad had bought what we called a hibachi, this was a small charcoal grill that sat low to the ground, what the Japanese actually call a shichirin. (I did not know that until just now. Gotta love Wikipedia!) That hibachi/shichirin was always in the trunk of the car during hunting season. Along with the requisite charcoal briquettes and starter fluid.

My Mom claimed that all we really did when we went out hunting was drive around, find a place to cook, cook some sausage and stuff, eat the sausage and stuff, then drive around some more until sunset. Then we'd come home.

Well yes, that's exactly what we did. Okay, we did spend some time out in the woods, usually in the early morning, just after sunrise, and in the late afternoon, just before sunset. For that is when the wily white-tail comes out of the forest into the fields to browse. At least that's what they do for fifty weeks of the year. During hunting season they make themselves scarce.

While the white-tails are not generally Mensa candidates, they are not stupid. I swear they know exactly when hunting season starts and ends.

Dad actually got a deer one year, no we boys weren't with him when he did. When Dad wanted to hunt for real, he'd go out with Uncle Smitty. Or his brother, our Uncle Charlie. (Note the use of italics there. Uncle Smitty wasn't actually our uncle, just a close friend of my Dad. Uncle Charlie, on the other hand, was actually our uncle. Uncle Smitty was also drinking buddies with my Dad. That's a story for another day.)

Now I like being out in the woods, like it now, liked it back then. Looking back on it, it seems rather dangerous having been out in the woods on the opening day of hunting season in Vermont. There were lots of knuckleheads out there, most with high powered rifles.

One early morning, just as the sun was burning through the mist, I was sitting in the corner of a field. Conditions were perfect. I was overlooking a corner of a fairly good sized pasture which couldn't be seen from the road and which abutted the woods. These woods were extensive and just the type of cover a white-tail likes. The year before we'd seen the game trails back in the woods and had found evidence of another hunter's success in that vicinity.

It was a place Dad remembered to check out in the future. Well, the "future" had arrived and I was positioned to watch this corner of the field. Again, it was perfect. I was up against a stone wall, so I presented no silhouette and the wind was coming down off the hill to my front so the deer wouldn't smell me. The ground sloped up in such a way that my Dad and The Olde Vermonter were hidden on the other side of the pasture. No danger of friendly fire. Always something to keep in mind.

So there I was**, nicely positioned and we figured we might catch a buck coming down for brunch. I did see a doe back in the brush on the edge of the wood, but nothing with antlers. But it was still fairly early.

Then, off in the near distance, I heard a shot. Had to have been down the valley just a ways, it wasn't that close.

Then another shot. Kind of a pow, long pause, pow...

Then pow pow pow... pow pow pow... pow... pow... pow pow powpowpowpowpow....

It sounded like a firefight had broken out!

Shortly after that my Dad and brother came over the hill, my Dad with a look of disgust on his face.

"Let's go boys, sounds like the flatlanders have started WWIII just over the hill."

And off we went, back to the car. Time to find a diner for breakfast.

In those days, we called anyone not from Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine, a "flatlander" - it was not a term of endearment. When I was a boy we used to see (and hear) numerous stories of city fellers coming up to Vermont to go hunting and shooting everything but deer.

Farmers would actually paint the word "cow" on the sides of their cows to protect them from the flatlanders. (No, really, I'm serious.) I've heard of guys actually firing at a noise they heard in the woods. So yeah, kind of scary now that I look back at those days.

But usually we just spent a lot of time motoring around the back country. Finding a place to cook lunch, then cooking and consuming lunch. So in an eight-hour "hunting" day, we'd spend maybe an hour actually "hunting." But it was fun. (One game we loved was parking beside the road and staring intently through our binoculars. Eventually a car load of flatlanders would pull up, see the Vermont plates on our car and figured we know what we were doing. They'd all pile out their car and charge into the woods, hunting rifles carried at a high port. Heh. Ee-jits. There were no deer on that hillside and the flatlanders looked like they were assaulting Omaha Beach. Good clean fun back in the day. Heh. Maroons.)

We'd see a lot of doe, it was like the white-tail males had all fled to Canada. (Maybe my kid brother the Musician hauling the ball turret gun around scared them off. Hell, I wouldn't want to face that thing! I regaled you with that tale here.)

I did see one buck for sure. Walking slowly up a hill. He was right next to a sign that read "POSTED - Trespassers will be prosecuted." It's as if he knew he was on posted land, right next to a highway. It was just Dad and I that particular time. Dad saw it too. A nice looking animal, four points as I recall. (That buck in the opening photo appears to be an eight-pointer. Every tine of the antlers counts as a "point" - here in the East. Out West, they count the tines then divide by two. I don't know why.)

There was another time when my brothers were with us. I swear I saw a buck back in the woods off the side of this dirt road we were traversing. I can still picture him. Big and proud, with a magnificent rack (that's what we called the spreading antlers, get your minds out of the gutter, boys) standing in an opening of the forest.

I called out (in my excitement), "Look at the horns on that baby!"

Dad, slammed the brakes on, just in time to see the tail of the biggest wild deer I'd ever seen this side of the Mississippi turn and saunter off. All everyone else saw was his white tail, flicking back and forth in annoyance.

The Olde Vermonter commenced to giggling, Dad started chuckling. I looked from face to face (The Musician was on the ball turret gun, scanning our six, i.e. he was paying no attention to the rest of us) and asked, "What's so funny?"

The Olde Vermonter pitched his voice an octave lower (which is how he mimics his big brother) and shouted out, "Look at the horns on that baby!" In a very mocking tone I must say.  Dad lost it, he was laughing so hard, tears were rolling down his cheeks.

Of course, I failed to see the humor in the situation. These plebeians were mocking me, certainly they must have seen the antlers on that deer.

They did not.

For years, every November, that story would be told. Always with The Olde Vermonter pitching his voice an octave lower and shouting, "Look at the horns on that baby!"

Sigh...

I know, deer don't have horns, they have antlers. But I know what I saw. Perhaps in my excitement I was a bit overwrought and perhaps I used the wrong terminology, but I saw what I saw.

Sometimes it happens that way, you see something, everyone else misses it.

But seriously, before you bellow something out, choose your words carefully.

Mention that phrase to my brother now, he will still chortle.

Sigh...

I love my brother, even when he is an asshole.















Odocoileus—from the Greek odous, meaning “tooth,” and koilos, meaning “hollow,” referring to prominent depressions in the molar teeth. virginianus—Latin for “of Virginia,” referring to the point of collection of the type specimen. This blog tries to be educational. So yes, you will be subjected to Latin from time to time. And other foreign languages.
** While this isn't exactly a "war" story, it does involve the great outdoors and firearms. Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Believe...

The sky isn't always blue
(Shut up Mr Science I know it isn't really blue.)
I believe that in life, there are good days and there are bad days. Sometimes being able to tell them apart is tricky.

I believe that the world contains 4 basic types of people:
  1. folks who just want to be left alone and do their own thing, they'll do their jobs and do them well - just don't bother them
  2. assholes who want to control what other people do,
  3. sheeple who will do whatever they are told by the assholes or will do whatever the other sheeple are doing and
  4. those who serve. I call them samurai, though that is not a strictly accurate use of that word, it's close enough. They are the folks who get things done, who go out of their way to help others. You probably know some of these folks. Hell, if you're reading this post you probably are one of these folks.
I believe that my classification of people types above is probably overly simplistic. But it works for me.

I believe that the designated hitter rule is an abomination. (On the other hand, watching a pitcher take his turn at bat is pretty boring.)

I believe that the extra point in football is useless (until you miss one!)

I believe that if someone wants to be a vegan, they should have their canine teeth pulled. Those are for eating meat, so vegans don't need them. We are omnivores, meaning we will eat damn near anything. In fact, we evolved to eat different types of food. Including meat. And vegetables, so quit whining and eat your broccoli. (Vile weed!)

I believe in evolution, I also believe in God. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. He is a lot smarter than we humans give Him credit for, including preachers! The Universe is a very complicated place, Steven Hawking does not have all the answers.

I believe God has a sense of humor. I don't believe that the platypus is an example of that sense of humor. Having to take a leak every five minutes after drinking a certain quantity of beer (ale, stout, lager, pilsner, whatever) may be an example of His sense of humor. (That's after you "break the seal" - of course.)

I believe that it's called the Bill of Rights for a reason. It enumerates the things government is not allowed to mess with. Any government!

I believe governments are a necessary evil. Politicians are not.

I believe that our system of government here in the United States is not the best one. It's just better than all of the others on the planet.

Sometimes there is a storm brewing.
I believe that soccer is an amazing and fascinating sport, it's just not the type of sport Americans generally find interesting. A final score of nil - nil doesn't necessarily mean that it was a bad and boring match. Just that two coaches played not to lose. Americans play to win.

Or perhaps that's something we used to do. I don't believe that.

I believe that the news media has gone from being a necessary service to a source of entertainment. If you don't like it, don't watch it. If no one watches, they will eventually change or wither and die.

No, I don't believe that will happen any time soon. People types 2 and 3 (above) won't let it.

I believe that the happiest times I have ever experienced involved my kids and my grandkids. I still tear up when I think of witnessing the births of my daughters. I didn't get to watch The Naviguesser's birth. That occurred in Korea, they had very old school notions of the birthing process. Yup, waiting room with pacing dads. And one mother-in-law, my mother-in-law. But yeah, I tear up when I remember seeing my son for the first time.

I believe that hearing my grandchildren laugh is the sweetest sound on Earth.

I believe that cat's and dog's were put here on Earth with us to teach us, be companions to us and yes, sometimes work for us. At this point some folks are no doubt asking, "What kind of work does a cat do?" Ask a farmer why they have barn cats. Ask someone who used to have mice in the house, then got a cat. Voilà, no mice.

I believe that some people have an irrational dislike of cats. I have trouble fully trusting those types of people.

I believe that dogs are amazing. They are loyal, loving and smart.

I believe that cats display those same attributes, it's just that a cat will judge you. A dog won't.

I believe that the purr of a cat is one of the most soothing sounds on Earth.

Sometimes it will just blow over.
I believe that I am a "cat person" - but I can't tell you what that means. It's not that I don't know, it's just that I don't want to tell you right now. (It's a cat thing, you wouldn't understand.)

Squirrel!

I believe that flying in a high performance aircraft, doing high performance things is the most fun a person can have. With their clothes on.

I believe that having a sense of humor and a sense of playfulness marks us as an intelligent species.

I believe that if you don't enjoy doing something, find something else to do. As far as paid employment goes, I enjoy eating and having a warm, dry place to sleep at night, so I'll tolerate a job I don't particularly like. It's been a long time since I had a job I truly didn't like.

I believe that love is the most powerful force in the Universe. If you don't have it or at least remember what it feels like, than you are not complete. There is a hole in you. And it hurts.

I believe that to lose someone you love is perhaps the most painful thing you can ever experience. When you are young you don't really understand it. All you know is that it is confusing. As you get older, you understand more and you begin to feel just how painful that is. No matter what they tell you, that pain will not go away in this life. It will subside to a dull ache. Then it will flair and that pain will come close to overwhelming you. Fight it, stand fast, remember the good times that were and the good times which will come again. Perhaps not in this plane, perhaps the next.

I believe that there are people I have known, people that I've loved, that certain things, be it a piece of music or a scent on a breeze, will remind me of. Then it will feel as if I lost them yesterday.

Some of them passed well into old age, after long and fulfilling lives. Some died far too young.


I believe that platitudes are best left to soap operas and romance novels, they have no place in real life.

I believe that the statement "There is no try, only do" is Hollywood horseshit. Tell it to the men and women of the Army Corps of Engineers. Their motto? "Essayon" - Let us try. Sometimes all you can do is try. Failure is sometimes an option. Remember, the enemy gets a vote too.

I believe in the Father...

the Son...

and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ich bin kein Clausewitz aber...

Carl von Clausewitz, Prussian General, Military Theorist
I was just a lowly (sic) Master Sergeant in the Air Force, I was not some great theoretical strategist. But I did know a thing or two.

My captain and I had a bet on how the Gulf War would open when we decided to cross the line of departure and kick some butt. I won the bet.

I'm no genius but I'm not exactly wet behind the ears either.

Von Clausewitz is kind of famous amongst the cognoscenti for saying "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means," ("Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln"). The current crowd in DC (on Capitol Hill, the White House and across the river at the Five-Sided Puzzle Palace) are all about the politics.

As regards military strategy, I think a group of really smart first-graders might give the current crowd a run for their money.

Again we're launching Tomahawk missiles into "sand land" - by the way we plan to stop building those in 2015 from what I hear (see McGrath). Use 'em fast they'll be all gone soon! (Then what do we do, throw rocks at them?) Do the bad guys stand still so we can get a good position on them? Or are we going after truck parks and such?

Yes, we also have aircraft dropping bombs on ISIS. How do you know who's with ISIS and who's not? Or do we just bomb everyone wearing black? (I think I've heard that music before.)


What happens when one of our birds goes in? If you support this business would you want your son or daughter in one of those jets inbound? I don't.

What's the goal? What's the frigging objective? Kill a bunch of AK-toters, declare "victory" and go home? (Worked really well in Libya didn't it?)

In other idiocy, my old service is looking (again) to dump the A-10? The Air Force Chief of Staff thinks the B-1 can do that job now and the F-35 pick it up later. That's a guy wearing the four stars of an Air Force general. A fighter pilot! He actually has flown the A-10. (See JQP.)

To hear him talk, you'd think we were re-fighting WWII. Quick someone tell Al Qaeda and the Taliban to buy uniforms and tanks. Oh wait, they'll have all that crap once we pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Free of charge, courtesy of us, the taxpayers! Then General Welch can play 8th Air Force and bomb Remagen, actually that would be it's sand-land equivalent. Wherever that is.

Check out the Greenie Board as well. Not only are we providing the bad guys with tanks apparently, but we're going to leave behind something like 1200 MRAPs! (MRAP = Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, think armored truck. Expensive armored truck.)

Yeah, why should the Taliban have to walk to war? Let 'em drive, courtesy of Detroit. (Hhmm, where do they build MRAPs?)

Of course, the maintenance and upkeep of those vehicles is probably a bit much for a bunch of tribal types. But with the money they make from opium, they can probably hire all the mechanics they need. Doesn't Pakistan have trouble employing all of its citizens?

The argument for leaving the MRAPs in Afghanistan is that it would cost 50 grand (each) to ship them home, 10 grand (each) to destroy them in place.

You could buy an MRAP for something north of one million bucks. Oh wait, you already did.


Holy crap! To you and me, that's some serious change. But I guess to Uncle Sugar it's chump change.

Did anyone think about this nonsense when they shipped the stuff over there?

I think not.

Here's an idea, give each member of Congress (House and Senate) an M-4, 200 rounds of ammo and the keys to an MRAP. Let those sorry sumbitches drive them home. But wait, that's not nearly enough personnel to drive 1200 vehicles home. I know, we'll send all the GOFOs* with the Congress critters and give them the same deal: M-4, 200 rounds and a set of keys. (Gee, I don't think military vehicles actually have keys, do they? Ah well, it's a metaphor, yeah that's what it is, a metaphor.)

One more thing. We have 3000 of our folks, our sons and daughters, going to Africa to help fight that Ebola epidemic. Are you scared now? What if it was your son or daughter? (What caliber weapon do you use to "fight" Ebola? - Personally I'm thinking napalm would work. But gee, someone might get hurt. Better let our own folks go in harm's way so everyone will like us. Right? Bueller? Bueller...)

Yeah, some days I read too much and get all worked up. But my word, does anyone in charge have clue one about anything?

Term limits is my mantra, "one and done" should be our cry. We can haggle over the length of a term, but this would sure remove that "campaign finance reform" problem. (On the down side, it would put the Political Action Committees out of business. Oh wait, that's a good thing, right?)

Beats "same clowns different circus" year after year after...

Sigh, I think I'll go lie down for a bit.

DAMMIT!

/end rant






*GOFO = general officer, flag officer, the men and women who wear stars on their shoulders. Generals and admirals, oh my.