Monday, December 31, 2007
Baghdad Is One Big Party Tonight
I landed not too long ago after flying in a Blackhawk for nearly an hour back and forth across Baghdad tonight. I've flown across Baghdad at night many times before, but this time was different. The city was alive.
Most of the city had electricity, every main street and boulevard was jam-packed with cars, stretching as far as I could see. Fireworks were shooting up from every major intersection, and I could see outdoor markets and restaurants brightly lit up and filled with people. It's like a black cloud has been lifted off the residents of Baghdad, and they're finally able to do what they want to.
Sure, flying low over the city in a helicopter while people are shootings fireworks and weapons into the air isn't the greatest place to be, but the beauty and energy coming up from the streets far outweighed my fears. I feel lucky to have been a part of it all.
After I landed I made my way back to my office to catch up on some last minute email before dinner ended, and this Drudge headline caught my attention.
"For hopeful Iraqis, New Year's parties at last"
For once, Reuters got it right.
I'm leaving for home soon. My tour is only 6 months long, and I'm days away from ending my best job, my greatest achievement, as an Air Force Officer. I watched as the multiple rocket and mortar attacks nearly disappeared as October and November rolled along. I listened as Iraqi friends and coworkers commented every week on how much better things were getting.
One night in Amman Jordan last September I sat at an Iraqi owned outdoor restaurant and drank tea with 3 Iraqi Air Force Officers. The 2-Star General, one of the most intelligent IqAF Officers I've met and someone I have the honor of calling a good friend, described to me how wonderful and calm Baghdad used to be. He pointed at the city life in Amman, and to the people relaxing and enjoying themselves, and said that Baghdad used to be this way. Two weeks ago this same friend described to me how he had dinner at a nice outdoor restaurant the night before. He said that many restaurants were opening up throughout Baghdad. When I asked him if it was like the place we ate at in Amman, he said it was just like it.
I've watched the Iraqi Air Force grow from less than 90 sorties a week to over 300 since July. I celebrated along side of them as they received new aircraft, and I watched in awe at the videos and photographs my coworkers captured of IqAF Enlisted and Officer graduation ceremonies. Since my arrival, our organization started the IqAF pilot training school in October, set up tech schools, Enlisted Basic Training, helped them set up better methods of purchasing and maintaining their aircraft and helicopters, flew combat missions with them, along side of them, and then watched from the Air Operations Center as they flew those missions on their own with great success. The good stories of capturing oil pipeline thieves, supporting large civic events with coverage from the air, flying around dignitaries, guiding Iraqi Soldiers to the locations where they spotted IEDs being placed. The Iraqi Air Force has come a long way since July.
So have I.
The CENTAF Commander, Lieutenant General North, stopped by last week to chat with us. After walking around and talking to people in our office individually, he hosted an Airman's call to speak to everyone. Of all the things he said during that Airman's Call, one item stood out the most. He warned us that when we get back home we're going to be bored, and maybe disappointed. Not with our families or friends, but with our jobs. He's 100% right. How can anyone top this in a career? We're building an Air Force from the bottom up, and we're doing one hell of a job so far.
Today my Commander, Brigadier General Robert Allardice, shared with us something he wrote to his family. I want to share it with you because it puts everything we've done into perspective.
"The best way to summarize what we've accomplished this year came to me yesterday during a ceremony at a place we call ****.
In the morning I flew to the Iraqi Military Academy for the semi-annual graduation. The school produces second lieutenants in a one year course. I have about eight Air Force folks at this school teaching future Iraqi Air Force Officers. This school has been very violent for most of the year. In fact, I presented one of my Officers working at this school with a Purple Heart for wounds he received during a fire fight on the base a few months ago.
Besides the direct danger of this specific location, the mood of the place seemed to reflect the mood of all the Iraqi people during my first six months: despondent, dark, tired, sad. In May, people weren't really thinking about the future, they were trying to survive day to day. Where I lived and worked, we often got attacked 3-6 times a day, 5-7 days a week... in June, Iraq appeared to be in trouble. Six months ago, in July, the school held their last graduation. I saw pictures of it yesterday, and almost nobody came even though the Prime Minister was the guest speaker. Yesterday, 30 December, was different.
Yesterday, the guest speaker was "only" a four star general, but the place was packed. the Cadets stood proud, they marched straight, the band planed loud, the crowd... yes, it was a very large crowd, cheered and threw candy. They cheered Iraqi celebratory chants and clapped and danced. When the ceremony finished, the crowd stormed the floor, much like when I graduated from the Air Force Academy. Families stormed the floor, mothers and fathers hugged their child who'd become a man, tears streaming down their cheeks. Yesterday, I saw a proud people!
You have no idea how proud I felt. We are making a difference!"
A Father and Uncle proudly promote their new Iraqi Lieutenant
I was unable to attend that graduation ceremony because of another commitment, but I will hold onto those pictures and videos forever. The fathers beaming with pride, the mothers with tears of joy, and the smiles on the faces of the new Lieutenants as their parents and family slide their new ranks on their shoulders mean a lot to us all.
Today I was on the outskirts of Baghdad on an Iraqi Air Base working with one of our teams that is helping the Iraqi Air Force train helicopter pilots, as well as fly and maintain their helicopter fleets. This place has changed. The buildings are cleaner, painted, and organized. The generators spread around the base are getting fueled on time, so power was constant. I watched a team of Iraqis working on the engine and transmission on a Huey helicopter, something that takes a lot of training and expertise. US and Russian built helicopters with student pilots were flying around the pattern, and maintainers were working on the flight line. It looked like a real air base, and I couldn't hide the pride that I felt.
I also can't hide how tough it's going to be leaving the Iraqi Air Force behind. These people risk their lives doing what we take for granted, and they do it with a level of dedication and pride I could only dream of seeing back home. Don't get me wrong, they have decades to go before they'll achieve their past glory of being one of the most powerful and respected Air Powers in the world, but En Sha'ala (God Willing), that power will always be used for the good of the people rather than the whims of a madman.
The Iraqi Air Force, like the Iraqi People, have a very long road ahead of them, but they are moving forward and growing stronger every day. I'm just lucky to have been allowed to play a small part of the history of this ancient and proud culture.
This quote from the article I mentioned earlier sums up the growing stability and hope here in Iraq.
Some shops decorated their front windows with cotton wool, writing: "Welcome 2008" or "Happy New Year". Others had Santa Claus decorations and Christmas trees.
In a flower shop Iyad Issa, 42, was buying a New Year's Eve bouquet for his wife.
"Since we see things are getting better, I am trying to make my family happy. I decided to bring my wife flowers for New Year's Eve to bring happiness and renewal," he said while browsing among the blossoms.
In another street, Abu Wisam, 42, was buying party hats from a street vendor: "I wish the best to all Iraqis," he said.
A group of women in a nearby boutique were out shopping together for outfits to see in the New Year.
"Tonight I am invited to a wedding party. Then I will go with my husband to our friend's house to celebrate," said Azhar, 35, who was looking for a new dress suit.
"I wish peace to prevail, and nothing else."
I couldn't agree more.
Happy New Year!
Update: Flag Gazer found an actual photo of last night's festivities in Baghdad. I was right, they were getting wild out here.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Busy As Usual....
I couldn't do my job without them.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The US is Saving the Planet?
But I thought we were destroying the Universe. At least that's what Algore was saying about us at the UN Climate Bash down in Bali a few weeks ago. According to him, his own country was the biggest impediment to stopping global warming.
Once again, those pesky things we call 'facts' always seem to get in the way of Algore's global pyramid scheme to save humanity.
I link for you 'Kyoto Schmyoto,' and it's worth ever minute of your time.'
"One would think that countries that committed to the Kyoto treaty are doing a better job of curtailing carbon emissions. One would also think that the United States, the only country that does not even intend to ratify, keeps on emitting carbon dioxide at growth levels much higher than those who signed.
And one would be wrong.
The Kyoto treaty was agreed upon in late 1997 and countries started signing and ratifying it in 1998. A list of countries and their carbon dioxide emissions due to consumption of fossil fuels is available from the U.S. government. If we look at that data and compare 2004 (latest year for which data is available) to 1997 (last year before the Kyoto treaty was signed), we find the following.
Emissions worldwide increased 18.0%.
Emissions from countries that signed the treaty increased 21.1%.
Emissions from non-signers increased 10.0%.
Emissions from the U.S. increased 6.6%.
In fact, emissions from the U.S. grew slower than those of over 75% of the countries that signed Kyoto."
Of course, these are just facts. The believers (those who compare Global Warming skeptics with Holocaust deniers) certainly won't let facts get in the way of their feelings on the subject.
Also, as a Conservative-type of guy I'm required (according to non-conservative types) to hate the environment. Since I'm supposed to prefer profits that come at the expense of pollution, waste, filth, and all that good stuff, I am not satisfied with the direction this country is headed. If we keep going down this road the US is going to be the cleanest, most non-polluting country on earth. This is unacceptable.
Stop the Madness!
Monday, December 24, 2007
Merry Christmas from the Good Guys!
CAFTT and the Iraqi Air Force In the News Again
USA Today published a brief review from our Commanding General and the Iraqi Air Force CG. The article has a lot of good numbers, but is not as positive in tone as it should be. It sounds more negative than positive.
The oddest quote is:
"Iraqi residents and politicians are disappointed by the lack of jets, Barzanji says. He says the public believes "Americans always give their friends airplanes. It looks like we are not friends to the United States." He says he hears the same from Iraqi government officials."
Of course, our boss countered with this great line:
"The first order of business is to defeat insurgents. Allardice says he has resisted Iraq's demands for a supersonic air force. "You could go buy jets, but you would just be parking them," Allardice says. It takes years to build the training and maintenance base to support jet fighter and attack planes."
LtGen Barzanji (AKA General Kamal for those of us who work with him daily) helped set up the IqAF plan to start flying jets no sooner than 2012 because they can barely feed and clothe their own Airmen, let alone fund the infrastructure necessary for Fighters. Not sure why he said this, but it's not surprising.
Either way, we're still kicking ass out here. The IqAF had a 1000% increase in sorties between Jan 2007 and Dec 2007. Not too shabby for a new and growing Air Force that just found its wings a year ago.
In my post "It's 'The Grapes of Wrath' all over again?" I received a comment regarding the homeless in Ontario. It wasn't a bad comment, but it did ask an important question I'd like to answer.
First, I wrote:
"If someone needs help in this country there are places to get help. Period. If you are living in a tent in Ontario with your kids, you need to retrace your footsteps on how you got into that mess, figure out what went wrong, seek help from the City, County, or even the Governator (He has programs there to help terminate poverty), and get a roof over your kids heads ASAP.
People can fall on hard times, but there is NO excuse for keeping your kids in that mess. This is the United States of America, where our poor live like the upper-middle class throughout most of the world. Poor people around the world would give anything to be a poor person in the United States."
Have you been there? For whatever reason a person becomes homeless they're still people. People in need. I am convinced that they are there because they are cognitively unable to succeed or navigate in our society or it's because of a series of unfortunate situations that puts them there. Their reason for landing at tent city isn't what makes me want to help them. I go because I see people who need assistance. I am thankful that the city of Ontario has allowed them this area of land to exist without having to sleep under bridges or on sidewalks. I can go there and offer blankets, tents, gloves, socks...whatever I can think of to keep them from suffering.
It's a legitimate comment, but I disagree with someone starting with the question, "Have you been there?" It implies that if you haven't been homeless, you can't discuss homelessness in America. Whether or not that was what the author implied, it's still implied. Using this logic, if you want to protest a War you must have experience fighting a war. If you don't know what War is really like, how can you say anything about it. Even better, how can historians exist if they weren't alive thousands of years ago to experience daily life of the Egyptians or Mayans? Just because someone hasn't been there does not mean you should discount their opinions.
Yet, I was asked whether or not 'I've been there.' Without going into too many details, I spent most of my early childhood on the verge of homelessness, occasionally sleeping in our car on rare occasions. I've stood in line at food shelters and at churches to receive free meals with my Mom and brother. I've sorted through bins at the local clothing pantry in search of donated pants and shirts that fit. I spent a few summers at the Salvation Army summer camp up in the Santa Cruz mountains near Ben Lomand. I was lucky/unlucky enough to live in low-income housing for nearly a decade in Santa Cruz. Lucky because it was a roof over our head, but unlucky because it assisted in allowing my Mother to continue doing what she did to keep us in that position in the first place.
Not trying to say anything bad about my Mom. The past is the past, and I still love her to this day, but she chose that life for us. She would quite jobs in order to keep our income level low enough to receive assistance or remain in low-income housing. I made more money while working in high school then she did during that time, so I footed a lot of the household bills and occasionally rent. My point in bringing this up is that she chose to be there. She chose to use public assistance to subsidize her way of life instead of using it to improve the lives of her children, and she wasn't alone. We were surrounded by people doing the same thing. I can remember of only one family who moved up and out to improve their lives.
There are too many sources of assistance in California that will help families with children in times of need. Nobody should be on the streets with a child in that State. No Child deserves to be placed in that situation. It all comes down to choice. Even if a parent didn't choose to be there, they're choosing to stay there by not seeking help.
Choices. All of my life I was told by my neighbors, some teachers, the housing authority, and my Mom that I had no choices in life. I was destined to follow in my Mom's path and make our 'temporary' low-income apartment a generational home for my future family. It took some good friends and the strong family of a great friend to show me that I did in fact have choices in life. In most cases I made the right choices and moved out and away from that lifestyle. I choose to not allow my children to ever experience that way of life.
If something unexpected and terrible ever happens and I find myself in the same situation, I will do everything I can to get out of it and to show my children that if you work hard enough you can always move forward and give yourself choices.
I also help people who need help, but I'm more selective of who I help because of where I came from. I will always help a child in need, no matter where they're from or how they got there. I refuse to help those who clearly keep themselves in that situation. I reward those I see working hard to make a difference in their lives and in their town/city/country. I turn my back on those who stick out their hand and expect to be taken care of.
You can see that very same situation play out here in Baghdad. I break my back for the Iraqis that I work with who strive to help themselves, their families, and their country. I only lift a finger to help the ones who don't deserve my help only when I'm ordered to do so. Yet, I jump at the chance to help if I know there is a child involved.
I also stand by the fact that the poor in the United States are the envy of the poor throughout the rest of the world. A poor man in Bangladesh or Uganda would give anything to be poor in the United States. That's a fact, not an opinion. I wish those choosing to live on the streets in Ontario California could see this place, and see these people. I wish the spoiled 'Sweet 16' kids on MTV could spend a week working at an orphanage or school here in Baghdad.
I guess I wish for a lot of things.
The original post discussed agenda-filled Journalism and stories that are accusatory instead of helpful. I'd love to read a story about the down and out people in Ontario and what the local community can do to help them. I loathe stories that exaggerate reality, place blame on those who are not at fault, and offer useless solutions that have been proven worthless every time they've been enacted.
The Journalist should have been the solution to the situation instead of contributing to the problem.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
It's "The Grapes of Wrath" all over again?
I was taking a few minutes to check out the news and I came across a Yahoo News headline that read,
Being from California I was interested, so I clicked further and read the article titled "Tent city in suburbs is cost of home crisis," by Dana Ford.
After reading the eye-catching headline and then seeing the actual title of the article, I assumed I was going to read an story about how the high foreclosure rates are forcing people in the streets. Let me sum up what I found instead.
According to the author:
1) A tent city sprung up in Ontario California in July with 20 people. (Sad)
2) That tent city now houses 200 people, including children. (Horrible)
3) The 'unraveling' is a 21st Century version of "The Grapes of Wrath" (We're doomed)
Stop! Did she just write "Grapes of Wrath?" Are we in a Depression????!!!!! Holy crap, I never knew my nation had plummeted into another Great Depression while I was out here in Baghdad. I keep hearing that our economy is on the verge of hell, but never have I seen it compared to Steinbech's "The Grapes of Wrath."
According to Ms. Dana Ford we're in "Great Depression II!" and people are living in tent cities all because of this Mortgage Crisis deal.
Now let's continue reading. I'll keep summing it up again for you. Where were we again? Ahh, the magical number four.
4) "As more families... head to foreclosure here and across the nation, the social costs of collapse are adding up in the form of higher rates of homelessness, crime and even disease."
Holy Mother of God! First we're in the "Great Depression II!," and because of this collapse we're seeing higher homeless rates, crime, and even disease? Why, we must be in the "Dark Ages II!"
Before you run for the hills or build a mote around your house, let me keep summing this article. Where were we again? Ahh, the always dependable number five.
5) "While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure, all agree that tent city is a symptom of the wider economic downturn. And it's just a matter of time before foreclosed families end up at tent city, local housing experts say."
5) "While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure,.....
What choo talk'n 'bout Willis?
5) "While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure,.....
First I was brought into the story because of the yahoo headline,
And then I'm pummeled into morbid depression because I find out our nation is in the grips of not just a "Great Depression II!", but a disease-infested "Dark Ages II!" Yet, just when I'm about to jump off of the closest bridge here in Baghdad, I find that none of the tent city residents claim to be victims of the Mortgage Crisis.
Hold on a second. We've got to blame someone for this "mess". Who do we always blame?
6) "Earlier this month, U.S. President George W. Bush rolled out a plan to slow foreclosures by freezing the interest rates on some loans. But for many in these parts, the intervention is too little and too late."
Ahh, that's right. Let's blame the Devil in D.C. He's caused everything from Global Warming to forcing the Peace-loving leader of Iran to send weapons to Iraq to murder soldiers and innocent civilians, so we might as well throw in blame for "The Dark Ages II!"
One last mention of the article before I go to the bathroom and gouge my eyeballs out with the nail clippers on my Swiss Army Knife. Articles such as these always need to address the Savior of All Great Catastrophes, Ailments, and Stubbed Toes. Where were we again? How could I forget... number siete.
7) "We feel helpless," said Sawa. "Obviously, it's a local problem because it's in our backyard, but the solution is not local."
The solution is not local you say? You must be referring to the Almighty himself, Uncle Sam! Why, Uncle Sam can fix anything! He's the solution to every one's problems. He's the Mr. Fix-It of "All Great Catastrophes, Ailments, and Stubbed Toes" Let's turn to Uncle Sam (after we impeach the Great Satan of course) and ask for forgiveness of our 'Mortgage Trespasses.' If Uncle Sam is willing, he'll snap his finger and force Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Fast Food, Big Auto, and Mr. VP Cheney-McHaliburton to pay off every American's mortgage. After all, what good are those evil rich corporations? They've done nothing for us, and anything they can do Uncle Sam can do better.
Right? Isnt' that what we're always told?
Okay, I'm done. I fold. I'm not even sure where I'm taking this rant anymore. All I know is this so-called journalism, propaganda from the Reformed Marxist Church of Berkley, this made up Bull#@!@ (the stuff Al Gore powers his private jet with) is getting on my nerves.
I'm so tired of agenda infested news. Yes, it's sad that folks are homeless in Ontario California, but people have been homeless in Ontario as far back as I can remember. They're making it sound like this is some new phenomenon caused by George W. Bush and Big (Place Corporation Logo Here). It's getting old.
If someone needs help in this country there are places to get help. Period. If you are living in a tent in Ontario with your kids, you need to retrace your footsteps on how you got into that mess, figure out what went wrong, seek help from the City, County, or even the Governator (He has programs there to help terminate poverty), and get a roof over your kids heads ASAP.
People can fall on hard times, but there is NO excuse for keeping your kids in that mess. This is the United States of America, where our poor live like the upper-middle class throughout most of the world. Poor people around the world would give anything to be a poor person in the United States.
These types of articles are getting more prevalent because the 2008 election is less than a year away. The organizations who wipe their crap up with political agendas and smear their agendas across the news are forcing you to smell their agendas 24/7. After a while you can't seem to get that agenda smell out of your head, and it keeps making you more and more ill until you just lose it and vote for whatever party promises to remove that smell. In the end you feel like you've been played as the nation begins smelling more and more like those agendas you thought were gone.
Remember the 1992 election? The Dems were running on a platform of fear. They went around convincing the nation that we were in 'The worst economy since Herbert Hoover.'
Can you smell the agenda now?
Friday, December 21, 2007
Remember Those Blue Air Force Tiger Stripes?
You know, the ones that made us look like we were in a Smurf Special Ops unit.
Thankfully only the uniform testers were embarassed wearing this around base. We ended up going with the grey tiger stripes.
It looks like someone was inspired by our failed attempt and went with a blue-tinted uniform after all.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Only an Air Force Officer...
Didn't you see Heartbreak Ridge? You never now when you'll have to phone home to call in an air strike.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
We've lost a friend in the US Air Force
A close friend went down today, crashing into a heap of flames and twisted metal. This friend protected thousands of Coalition forces on the ground. It located countless IEDs before they could kill US and Iraqi forces and civilians. It sought after and located insurgents, leading to countless arrests and lives saved. When troops in the AOR slept at night, it stood guard and kept a protective eye open, never whining or complaining about the cold and dark nights.
A close friend was lost today, and many more will follow. Will they be missed? Will anyone remember their service or sacrifice?
Probably not, but this only means that our friend's mission was a success. Loved ones returned to the U.S., civilians returned home to their loved ones, and Iraq was left a little more secure then before because this friend did its job. Few will ever know they had a close friend watching over them. Fewer will ever know this friend is gone.
Thankfully we have more friends watching over us.
Keep up the good work Air Force.
Woo Hoo, I Won I Won I Won!
I won the Weekend Caption/Photoshop Contest over at Cowboy Blob's Saloon and Shoot'n Gallery blog.
I'm Rich! HA HA!!!!
What? No prize? No cash money? No fortune and fame?
Oh well. At least I got a link on Cowboy Blob's site. It's a cool place.
Monday, December 17, 2007
The Stars are Out Tonight.....
God Bless Miss USA!
The Iraqi Air Force in the News!
(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
The Associated Press took notice of the Iraqi Air Force flying over the Basra handover ceremony this weekend, and I couldn't be more proud. The Mi-17 in the photo is one of my babies I've been slaving over since deploying here in July.
The Iraqi Air Force performed brilliantly this weekend, accomplishing yet another milestone on the road to becoming a strong and independent Air Force for the people of Iraq.
H/T DJ Elliot over at The Long War Journal, which is unquestionably the best source for news and information on the Global War on Terror.
(AP Caption)"Iraqi soldiers wave their national flag from a military helicopter during a handover ceremony in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Sunday Dec. 16, 2007. British forces formally handed over responsibility Sunday for the last region in Iraq under their control, marking the start of what Britain hopes will be a transition to a mission aimed at aiding the economy and providing jobs in an oil-rich region beset by militia infighting."
Thursday, December 13, 2007
First Venezuela, Then Bolivia, Nicaragua....
....and now Argentina. The Domino Effect keeps on keep'n on.
All have fallen to Socialism. Not the Socialism of universal healthcare and welfare. I'm talking about the Socialism embraced by Castro, Che, and Chavez. Just as Europe pushed hard core socialists out in the 1990s, South America is welcoming them with open arms. Chavez is truly trying to unite South America under socialism, inevitably falling under his control.
I had no idea Argentina was falling, but after reading this article it's clear that Chavez had his hands all over this recent Presidential election.
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina said on Thursday the U.S. government pulled a "dirty trick" by accusing Venezuela of trying to smuggle $800,000 into Argentina to fund the former first lady's successful campaign for president.
U.S. authorities arrested three Venezuelans and an Uruguayan they accused of trying to cover up a scandal set off in August when a Venezuelan-American businessman tried to enter Argentina with a suitcase full of undeclared cash.
Argentine customs agents seized the money and let Guido Antonini Wilson, a U.S. and Venezuelan citizen, go, but an FBI affidavit said Venezuelan agents met him after he returned home to Florida to pressure him to conceal Caracas's role.
Argentine Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez said the U.S. probe was aimed at "smearing" President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, an ally of Venezuela's leftist leader Hugo Chavez.
So, Argentina's own customs officials sieze the cash in Argentina, and the US arrests those Venezuelan agents as they return to the US because they never declared who they were working for, yet it's all a conspiracy by the US to 'smear' President Fernandez de Kirchner, an ally of Chavez.
Any ally of Chavez is an enemy of the United States.
Some one must do something about South America. We're so distracted with the Middle East, and the world is so concerned about Global Warming, nobody is paying attention to Chavez's grab for power in South America.
The Toilet Bomb - A New Idea For The Iraqi Air Force?
This was emailed to me today. Looks very promising for the Iraqis.
Given that the loss rate approached, and sometime exceeded, one aircraft a day, all will understand that there was a degree of reticence to launch with less than a full load -- if I must dance with the elephant at least let's make it worth while.
The USS Midway VA-25's Toilet Bomb.
In October 1965, CDR Clarence J. Stoddard, Executive Officer of VA-25 "Fist of the Fleet", flying an A-1H Skyraider, NE/572 "Paper Tiger II" from Carrier Air Wing Two aboard USS Midway carried a special bomb to the North Vietnamese in commemoration of the 6-millionth pound of ordnance dropped. This bomb was unique because of the type... it was a toilet!
The following is an account of this event, courtesy of Clint Johnson, Captain, USNR Ret. Captain Johnson was one of the two VA-25 A-1 Skyraider pilots credited with shooting down a MiG-17 on June 20, 1965.? Clint Johnson was also a classmate and Company-mate of mine at the Naval Academy.
572 was flown by CDR C. W. "Bill" Stoddard. His wingman in 577?was LCDR Robin Bacon, who had a wing station mounted movie camera (the only one remaining in the fleet from WWII).
The flight was a Dixie Station strike (off South Vietnam) going to the Delta. When they arrived in the target area and CDR Stoddard was reading the ordnance list to the FAC, he ended with "and one code name Sani-flush".
The FAC couldn't believe it and joined up to see it. It was dropped in a dive with LCDR Bacon flying tight wing position to film the drop. When it came off, it turned hole to the wind and almost struck his airplane.
It made a great ready room movie. The FAC said that it whistled all the way down.? The toilet was a damaged toilet, which was going to be thrown overboard.
One of our plane captains had rescued it and the ordnance crew made a rack, tailfins and nose fuse for it. The squadron flight deck checkers maintained a position to block the view of the Captain and Air Boss while the aircraft was taxiing onto the catapult. Just as it was being shot off we got a 1MC message from the bridge, "What the hell was on 572's right wing?"
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The Ceilings of Baghdad
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Luckiest Dad In The World
Monday, December 10, 2007
Typical Day in Iraq
"Woke up this morning to the sound of thunder...." - Bob Seager
Actually, I woke up this morning to the sound of a very large explosion followed by several small explosions, all big enough to shake us out of bed. Waking up on the floor face down in full body armor is always a great way to start the day.
Instead of going back to sleep I dressed and left for work. My roommate and I missed our ride to the FOB, so we walked. Ignoring the giant mushroom cloud rising from across the river, it was a beautiful and cold morning.
Walking down the main drag we came across our friendly neighborhood Iraq Policemen trying to push-start their Police pick-up truck. They had drained the battery listening to the radio all night with the engine turned off. As if it were a normal occurrence, or something we did every day, we walked up behind the truck, joining the three Iraqi Policemen in pushing the truck down the sidewalk while the driver popped the clutch.
After a round of thank-yous from the cops we continued on down the road.
The walk gave me time to think about the weekend, and how f'ing insane building an Air Force is. We often complain about how frustrating it is working with some of the leadership in the Iraqi Military, yet the hardest battles we've fought have been with organizations back home that don't know what they're doing. A chain of mistakes by one office alone caused us an overage of $60,000,000 on a contract to buy helicopters. $60M!!!! How do you screw up that badly?
Even worse, we're the ones standing in front of the Iraqi Government telling them why we screwed up and how we're going to fix it. We end up looking like idiots to the Prime Minister or the Iraqi Air Force while the folks back home simply punch the clock at the end of the day and drive home, not caring about the chaos they repeatedly inflict upon us out here.
Chaos. Chaos for us, but we'll never whine about it. We can't. It's only money and time wasted. We're not driving convoys or flying Blackhawks around the AOR. No matter how bad things get for us, there's always someone who's got it much worse than we do.
But it was nice to walk to work today. Mushroom cloud and all.
Just a typical day for us in Iraq.
Called into the General's Office today.....
"Capt, you've been selected for Major."
**Of course I won't pin on for a while, but at least I made the cut.
Kellie Pickler here in the IZ
Kellie Pickler, the American Idol contestant who's done pretty well in Country music came out to sing for us. She's the first mainstream artist to come out here since I've been in country, so I have to give her a lot of credit for making the effort.
Even more important, she was really really good. She could have easily been a wanna-be Pop Tart who depended on her looks to sell records, but her singing was excellent, and the songs she wrote on her own were better then the ones written for her. Don't let her good looks and 'blond-ness' fool you, this girl is a great talent and a class act. Class act, and funny. She could easily be a comedian of the singing career doesn't pan out.
We all took tons of pictures and video. Most of my video is of her chatting with the crowd between songs. That's the stuff you don't get to see often, cursing and all. I'll try to post what I can.
If you haven't listened to her music, her record is a good start and worth the buy. The autographed photo I received is going to my daughter Kaitlyn.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Pearl Harbor Day - Never Forget
When : Always December 7th
Pearl Harbor Day, commemorates the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack began at dawn December 7, 1941. It crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and caused the U.S. to enter World War II.
During the attack at Pearl Harbor, over 2,400 American serviceman and 68 civilians were killed. Five of the eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were sunk or sinking, and virtually all ships were damaged.
On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, U.S. flags are to be flown at half staff.
On December 8, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in a speech to Congress it was "..a day that will live in infamy". The U.S. then declared war on Japan.
Resident Roosevelt's Speech:
"Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
Every now and then...
I get lucky.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Yes, I'm Still In The Middle East
Just enjoying the final day of my R&R down south.
Lots to tell, and lots of pictures to post, but first..... I'm going to need some R&R from this R&R. The traveling alone is almost not worth it. Imagine a cattle car, sheep, sleeping on floors, and standard lack of organization from the Army.
Yet, I can't complain about the time spent here. Nobody trying to kill us.
So no whining.
Now, back to Iraq.