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During the Gulf War fatigue was at least as great a threat to us as enemy action. Maybe more so.

The single B-52 lost during the conflict was due to a very tired crew mismanaging some systems problems and turning them into worse problems. The chain of errors cascaded until they splashed the aircraft in the Indian Ocean just short of Diego Garcia. Only three of them got out.

The high tempo of operations and long missions made fatigue a constant problem.

I shouldn't complain. A soldier lives in the war. An airman just commutes to it. We slept in clean sheets in air conditioned rooms. We ate decent food prepared by Navy cooks.

Four guys to a room. At least it's a room.
Diego Garcia was over 2000 miles from Iraq. They had nothing that could touch us. I never so much as unpacked my chem gear.

Other than the short time we were actually flying over Iraq there wasn't really any more danger than a normal training mission.

Seen one palm tree you've seem 'em all.
Still beats a tent in the desert.
We flew roughly every other day. That doesn't sound so bad, except that your duty day could easily last 24 hours. We would typically be airborne for 12-14 hours depending on how far up into Iraq we were going. The longest mission I ever did lasted 16 1/2 hours.

We would show for our mission roughly 5 hours before takeoff. There were numerous briefings to attend concerning the mission, intelligence, weather, formation procedures etc. All of our gear and of course the aircraft itself needed to be inspected before flight.

So depending on when we got up, we'd be at least 6 hours into our day by the time we even got airborne.

As I've said before, just being in a B-52 is fatiguing. It's a cramped, noisy environment. The pressurization and climate controls don't work nearly as well as in an airliner. Ejection seats have very firm cushions by design because otherwise it would break your back in an ejection. The backrest is a parachute. Not the most comfortable place to sit for 16 hours.

Looks comfy don't it? No wonder I have back trouble.
Then there's the mission itself. Depending on where the target was, it might take as long as 8 hours just to get there. We'd air refuel twice on the way in and once on the way out. The second refueling was behind a KC-10. Since those were pretty easy to refuel from my copilot could normally handle that one.

Somewhere in the middle of all that we'd have the actual combat part to deal with. Even if it was a "milk run" you'd still be pretty keyed up the whole time you were in-country. We'd partially depressurize the plane (in case we took a hit) so we'd be sucking oxygen the whole time we were in bad-guy territory.

Then we'd have to refuel again to make it back to the island.

That third refueling was painful. Picture three tankers constantly jockeying to stay in formation while three bombers refuel off them. The KC-135s were having autopilot problems around this time, so the tanker pilots would be hand flying. Refueling off a hand-flown tanker is always just a little tougher than one with an autopilot. We'd be taking on 100,000 pounds of fuel so I'd be hanging on that boom for 20-25 minutes. It was mentally and physically exhausting.

After that last refueling it was still 4-5 hours over the Indian Ocean to get back to the island. We'd usually be fighting to stay awake by this point. I'd bring my portable tape player with me and stick the ear-buds up under my headset. I was fond of U2, REM and Concrete Blonde. Especially Concrete Blonde. Dark music for a dark time.

Once my entire crew fell asleep - myself included. I woke up and nobody was talking on the intercom. I looked over and my copilot was snoozing away. I looked out the windscreen and realized that during that time we'd overtaken the lead aircraft and were now out in front! Nobody in the formation said anything. They were probably asleep too.

Once we got back to the island we still had to put it on the ground.

I haven't talked about landing one yet so this is as good a time as any. I never thought it was a difficult plane to fly but it was difficult to fly well. It had a lot of weird design quirks that were ironed out in later Boeing products.

Home sweet home.
All we had for roll control were spoilers. These served double duty as air-brakes. In addition to not turning the plane very well, these would cause the nose to pitch up when they deployed. Thus simply making a turn required a push-turn-pull motion on the yoke and then another push-turn-pull to roll the plane back level.

Meanwhile there was several thousand pounds of fuel sloshing around in the wings. When all that fuel went "downhill" in the low wing it would try to over-bank you.

There was one aspect of landing the B-52 that was easier than other heavies. Crosswinds were no trouble at all because we could pivot the main gear. The plane would stay pointed into the wind while the wheels pointed down the runway. It looks really strange but it works. You could actually find yourself looking out the side window while landing in a stiff crosswind.

We only had one flap setting - 100%. Landing flaps were the same as takeoff. Because of this we'd fly the traffic pattern with the spoilers (air brakes) extended part way. This has the additional benefit of giving us better roll response.

Landing.
All approaches were hand flown. The autopilot once upon a time had the ability to fly a coupled approach but they had long since stopped maintaining that feature.

Fortunately the plane was very stable on approach. Not much seemed to move it. Set 25,000 pounds per hour on the total-fuel-flow gauge, trim the plane up and it would pretty much stay where you put it.

The actual landing was different. There wasn't enough elevator to flare the plane so you'd have to run a good 4 seconds of elevator trim in the flare. That's considered bad form in every other plane I've ever flown.

Finally, because of the way the main gear was set up you absolutely must land on speed. It simply will not land faster than the computed landing speed. Touch down a couple knots too fast and it will hit on just the nose trucks and bounce, sometimes rather spectacularly.

Once on the ground we'd deploy a drag-chute roughly the size of a house. Drag chutes aren't the most reliable things. They had a habit of not working the day you really needed help stopping. In a crosswind the chute might cause you to "weather-vane" into the wind so you had to be ready to cut it loose.

Drag chute deployed.
Whew! Finally on the ground. We're not done quite yet. We'd still have another 2-3 hours of debriefings. We were pretty much zombies at this point, but we'd sit down with Maintenance and talk mumble incoherently about anything that might have gone wrong with the plane.

Then we'd talk to Intel about what we saw and what might have been shot at us.

"What color were the tracers?"
"Green."
"Green????!!!"
"I had NVGs on. Everything was green."
"Oh."

Finally, we're done. Time to head to the chow hall for whatever meal they happen to be serving and then jump in bed. The nature of the scheduling process had us switching our show times from days to nights to days. It was impossible to get into a real routine, which added to the fatigue factor.

Eat, sleep, fly, repeat.

Originally posted to Major Kong on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:40 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My Best Friend And Girlfriend (10+ / 0-)

    went to the first Gulf war. It changed them in ways I really can't put to words. I like to think I am pretty strong. A military brat (not served myself). But I just didn't get it.

    Your Diary is just awesome. I don't think most folks have any clue what you outlined. My uncle is in Qatar as we speak. Flies F-18s.

    As he jokes, as deployment goes he has it kind of easy.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:50:55 AM PST

  •  Did you take the pictures from the cockpit (10+ / 0-)

    or did you find them?

    Thanks for sharing your stories: I am really enjoying them.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:56:13 AM PST

  •  As A Pilot You Might Get A Kick Out Of This (9+ / 0-)

    My grandfather was a HUMP pilot. While that is true it is not actually accurate. He was a flight surgeon. A medical doctor. Learned to fly on the side cause well, not a lot of folks made it back on those planes and everybody had to be hands on.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:58:03 AM PST

  •  Your storytelling is amazing, (9+ / 0-)

    I'm on the edge of my seat, here, reading about experiences I have absolutely nothing to compare with.
       Except the music, I was not long out of high school then, and  listened to a lot of alternative music- Concrete Blonde has a lot of nostalgia for me, as well.

  •  These Diaries (15+ / 0-)

    suck me in, chew me up, then spit me out.

    Not only did you do something rather special, you have a gift of storytelling.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:59:36 AM PST

  •  THANK YOU For This Post (5+ / 0-)

    *

    People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think. -George Carlin

    by downtownLALife on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 02:15:29 PM PST

  •  Good stuff Kong (8+ / 0-)

    Love the stories.  So hours of boredom punctuated by instants of true terror?  

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 02:20:44 PM PST

  •  Those G rudders look so stubby to me. (6+ / 0-)


    "D" model pictured.  Apparently they cut it to reduce weight.

    There are very few subjects which do not interest or fascinate me.

    by NYFM on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 03:37:56 PM PST

  •  Thanks for the memories (4+ / 0-)

    Did a Navy tour on Diego years back...

    Do something...marinedefenders.com

    by profewalt on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 04:15:21 PM PST

  •  My husband told me I had to read your diaries, (4+ / 0-)

    that I would love them.  Every once in awhile he's spot-on.  You are a fabulous diarist.  Thank you, and keep 'em coming!

  •  really enjoy these diaries (5+ / 0-)

    Hope you keep them coming.  Here's a stupid question, but 16 hours in that chair...what about bathroom breaks?  

    As a child growing up in a missionary family, I have flown more hours than I can keep track of.  And not just on commercial airliners but frequently on little Piper Supercubs, Cessna 185s and other prop jobs landing on primitive grass airstrips on the sides of mountains.  Being a passenger in those planes, one has ample opportunity to observe the pilot and how he interacts with the elements directly.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for them.

    •  mali: there are (7+ / 0-)

      "thunder buckets" on BUFFS -- the very ultimate low-tech porta-jon.

      I vividly remember in my first year on Barksdale a young Major taking considerable umbrage with the umpteenth time another member of his flight crew ordered fried chicken, beans and mustard potato salad for a meal which was going to wind up in the thunderbucket during their next training mission ...  SAC used to run a "flight kitchen" and as part of the alert-support crew while working the range, I got to drive the 'cookie wagon' that delivered box lunches to a variety of destinations around the flightline/alert pad. Could always tell the aircrew boxes -- "high nutrient low residue diet" ... never worked up the nerve to peek inside.

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

      by BlackSheep1 on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:28:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The facilities were rather spartan (6+ / 0-)

      on a G-model.

      The urinal was a metal can with a lid. It was downstairs behind the Navigators, tucked under an equipment rack. To use it required being endowed like a porn star or doing a version of the limbo dance.

      To do the other one, well, I never did. If you absolutely had to there was a toilet set with a plastic bag under it. Everyone on the crew would hate you and you'd have to figure out what to do with that plastic bag afterwords.

      I'm told of one crew that stashed it back in the bomb bay. When the bomb doors were opened it got caught in the air currents made a terrible mess back there. They had to hose it out after they landed.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:38:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  sort of off topic but I was wondering the same (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mali muso, subtropolis

      thing (bathrooms?) about Downton Abbey...

      •  During the time (WWI era)... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nuclear winter solstice

        A very wealthy family like this would have had indoor flush toilets. They might or might not have had one for the servants.

        They probably would not have had hot running water, though. Bath water would have been schlepped upstairs by the servants, but at least they weren't hauling chamber pots.

        -Jay-
        
  •  I remember those days.. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, Simplify, NYFM, glorificus, subtropolis

    We flew 16 hour missions (12 hours on watch, 2 hours to/from area).

    It worked out we would wake up at midnight one night, go to the airport, pre-brief, etc. then take off about 6 am. We would get home about midnight. Then wake up at noon to do it all over again.

    Repeat.

    From January until March.

    Never sleeping the same time each day.

    Noon/midnight/noon/midnight. MREs for food.

    We came home and were zombies for about a month. Our attention span was about 5 seconds.

    •  What aircraft (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify, glorificus

      were you on?

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:32:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have to say it doesn't sound like we were (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        subtropolis

        sending the most alert, ready-for-action personnel after all the sleep deprivation.

        I really enjoy these pieces, though, please keep writing.

        **Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behavior does** h/t Clytemnestra/Victoria Jackson

        by glorificus on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 07:32:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's not much better in the air freight business (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          subtropolis, glorificus

          If I may pimp one of my own diaries here:

          Haulin' The Freight

          New rest requirements were recently put in place for passenger operations. They specifically exempted cargo operations.

          So if I accidentally land on top of a 747 loaded with passengers, at least their pilots will have been rested.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 10:08:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Looks comfy don't it? (4+ / 0-)

    Recently spent 20 hours flying to Singapore first class; my back ached and made it slow to stand/straighten for about a week.  Granted I'm a bit older than you, but I can't imagine how you survived that seat.

    These diaries are wonderful for so many reasons.  Thanks for sharing them.

  •  Just watched A Gathering of Eagles (5+ / 0-)

    SAC flying must have been something else if the movie is even close to accurate - but as I saw in comments in one of your earlier diaries, that one was filmed around the Cuban Missile Crisis era. I can see where there would have been a bit of tension...

    Lots of good shots of the aircraft - they have a few B-52s in the movie with Hound Dog missiles under the wings. And you've talked about what a take off run looks like - the scene where they have four take off at 15 second intervals is a pretty good demonstration of the way the those engines put out so much smoke and noise. Rock Hudson and Rod Taylor are parked off to the side and even so they keep getting blown around. Even more fun to watch each plane veer off on a slightly different heading as soon as they've lifted off, to get out of the worst of the wake turbulence.

    They have one refueling scene early on. (That's the one where a leak ends up filling the plane with fueling sloshing around their feet.) You can see the spoiler popping up and down on the right wing as they close in on the tanker. Rock Hudson seems to be working the yoke constantly through that scene. He may not have been actually flying the plane in those scenes, but somebody was paying attention to what it was supposed to look like.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 06:24:36 PM PST

    •  My radar console (4+ / 0-)

      There is a scene in the movie where a flight controller tells the pilot to turn to a new direction.

      The console he is looking at was the console I used to test the software for Intercept Direction and Keyboard Input.
      The console was part of the Weapons "Blue Room" at the SAGE Command Center at Beale AFB.  It was made available to the movie production company.

      Even though you can't see me, I am standing right behind the camera.  This was sometime in 1961 or 1962.

      Took them 5 hours to set up and 30 minutes to break it down.

      The other memorable event in that room was when I heard the Weapons Director declare "DEFCON 2, this is not an exercise."  It was the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

      "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve; if impeached, I will not leave" -Anon

      by Graebeard on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 08:46:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A little too much authenticity for comfort (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        subtropolis, old wobbly

        Most people today have no idea that we used to have bomber crews ready to scramble at a moment's notice to respond to a Soviet attack - or that this was considered normal.

        That we still have missiles in silos and subs ready to go still gives one pause. We seem to have deterred a nuclear exchange up till now - but warfare by other means goes on.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 09:38:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  there used to be B-52s in the air at all times (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          xaxnar, old wobbly

          Yes, with a brace of nukes on board.

          The Perils of Chrome Dome

          The B-52s on Chrome Dome missions flew two typical profiles. One stretched south across the Atlantic to a refueling over the Mediterranean Sea. The other was a northern route tracing a big box around Canada with a crucial late air refueling near Alaska.

          By early 1961, more than 6,000 airborne alert missions had flown under a variety of code names. The missions were no secret. Power announced them publicly in January 1961 and pledged that some of SAC’s fleet would be airborne at all times. Hence bombers on airborne alert became a staple of deterrence at the peak of the Cold War. At times, 12 armed bombers were aloft at any given moment.

          I've asked this before but i'll try again, seeing as these diaries attract a lot of people with experience going way back. During the Missile Crisis, each Chrome Dome mission was flown by a pair of aircraft. I'd like to know if this was unusual; that is, were CD missions normally just a single aircraft?

          All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

          by subtropolis on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 10:54:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think it was normally a single aircraft (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            xaxnar, old wobbly, subtropolis

            One aircraft would remain on station until its replacement showed up.

            When I was growing up, I knew a United pilot who had flown some of these missions.

            Airborne alert was cancelled after we lost a couple nukes off the coast of Spain in 1968.

            If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

            by Major Kong on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 11:14:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  As always....great job! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glorificus

    You make hell readable!

  •  Green tracers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    subtropolis

    The Warsaw Pact countries all used green tracer rounds, while NATO used/uses red tracers.  Definitely possible that Iraqi AA guns were firing green.

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 06:56:48 AM PST

  •  It's never wise to talk against the community sen- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    subtropolis, wonmug

    timent, especially and increasingly in kosland.

    But this Vietnam vet, who flew around in the backs of helicopters 'n stuff, just has to ask: Were these trips necessary?

    I just finished a book by Barbara Tuchman, title "The March of Folly." The same structural and personal flaws that led up to "our" getting stuck by both hands, both feet and a forehead to the Tarbaby in Vietnam are so clearly present in the runup to the Iraq things and the Longest War in Notagainistan. Our rulers end up directing all these incursions and invasions and wars for plain stupid reasons that have nothing to do, in the end, with any rational interests either of their own class or of the nation that provides the wealth that lets them play their stupid games.

    Interesting diary, about what my father-in-law, who navigated Buffs over Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos, referred to as "driving the bus." As the diarist says, little risk of enemy action except for a brief period over the target, and long, boring, interminable rides to and from. Bomb damage reports over the long haul showed not only a huge waste of ordnance, but that dumping 500 and 1000 smart or dumb did not in the Vietnamese case even accomplish the promise that "airpower unleashed" would "destroy the enemy's infrastructure and will to fight."

    And as you say, poor crew condition and maintenance issues and just plain stupid at the wheel could kill you. Like that so-many-times watched film of one idiot officer at Fairchild AFB:  http://www.youtube.com/... On the other hand, of course, you would really wreak havoc on strips of terrain, sometimes even killing a lot of "gooks" or "hajjis" who may or may not have been Enemy Effectives, and cheering up the troops with those fireworks displays like Arc Lights.

    The thing about all those "missions" is that warfare, if it's started at all, ought to be about something other than wealth transfer and advancement and getting to do really cool stuff with very expensive toys. There ought to be a clear national interest or interests at stake, and for me, what I understand it was "all about," in the end, was showing "we" were "tough on Communism" by repeating the French idiocy in Vietnam, acting behind a cloud of falsehoods and impure motives just because of the Egos of creatures like J.F. Dulles and Kissinger and Cheney and Wolfowitz, and of course that perpetual reality that as Gen. Smedley Butler observed, "War is nothing but a racket." Boeing gets rich, General Atomic, General Electric, Halliburton and all the rest. The War Department can't even produce an auditable set of figures for what happened to all the money we taxpayers have shoveled into the Pentagram. And "our" latest Forever War, which is by definition never winnable or even finishable, just gets bigger and bigger, and the appetites of the bureaucracy in the Pentagram and the secret agencies for power and money are insatiable. And now Commie Vietnam is an Asian Tiger, and the shelves and racks of Walmart are stuffed with pretty good clothing "made in Vietnam." And "our" involvement just killed a whole lot of people, ours and theirs, without really changing the big outcomes.

    What a lot of people drawing paychecks for "doing war" feel is not exactly "heroic" or even "warrior-like." Being a guy who was "patriotic" enough to ENLIST in 1966, just as "the war" was losing (in the halls of power) any aspect of rationality or justification and becoming something that had a disgusting momentum of its own, I, personally, react badly when someone "thanks me for my service."

    But operating big war machines garners a kind of hero worship from so many of us Americans, who never ask the fundamental questions about why, really, clear of the smoke and fog of war (that comfortable excuse for endless corruption and foolishness), "we" are engaging in this inherently wasteful and dead-end enterprise. And for others, having taken part in the Game, there's the fellow-feeling, the comradery, of having lost buddies but having shared fear and c-rats or MREs and the learning that The Brass has its collective head up its ass, sending troops on fools' errands, changing doctrines and strategies like dirty underwear, leading from the rear, feathering their own comfortable nests, turning "contractor" to double-dip their pensions and post-tour connections.

    Glad the diarist survived his experiences, seemingly without the emotional taint that many are carrying. Sometimes, like other guys I know, I'm not so glad that I survived mine.

    Do we really believe, do we have any actual factual reason to believe, that all that spit and polish and chickenshit and Really Cool Increasingly Autonomous Battle Hardware that looks so much, over time, like the runup to the world of the "Terminator," is doing a damn thing to make our children any more secure, or keeping us and our "Sacred Way of life" alive?

    Will we ever get it, that the Powers That Be are not acting to make the world a safer place, by turning the whole planet into an "Interoperable Networked Battlespace" to be "managed" by "battlespace managers" working their nine "Areas of Responsibility" that they high-handedly have divided the whole planet into? Just rehtorically asking, of course -- the momentum and inertia of all that jazz is just too huge...

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 10:17:50 AM PST

    •  I don't recall my opinion being asked (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      subtropolis, jm214

      It went more along the lines of "Shut up and fly when we tell you to Captain".

      I was against the 2003 Iraq invasion before it ever happened.

      As for Desert Storm? One can make the argument that it wasn't really our problem to deal with. Regardless of who ended up in control of that oil - we were still going to buy it from them.

      The irony of rushing troops fresh from the invasion of Panama to protect the right of small countries not to be invaded isn't lost on me.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 10:26:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Same option I had. And I just loved the whole (0+ / 0-)

        "Vietnamization" thing -- Everyone grabbing whatever they could and lining up their exit strategies. I hope you don't take any of the above as a personal criticism -- I'm the last to be throwing stones. I would never fault anyone for getting dragged along with the Great Narrative. It's taken me years to see how the machine really works and how easy it is to pull the wool over the eyes of people who are already pre-disposed to inter-tribal violence... I really like Tuchman's explications in "March of Folly," and "The Proud Tower," and "The Guns of August," of just how f___ed we humans really are by our institutions and inclinations, and how little hope there is of growing past this muscular pre-adolescence. .

        "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

        by jm214 on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:03:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No offense taken (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wonmug, jm214

          I'm a big fan of Barbara Tuchman myself.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:24:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I don't recall my opinion being asked (0+ / 0-)

        Of course not.  

        Among the problems I had with that war was the fact that our ambassador told Hussein in essence that he could have Kuwait, that we simply weren't concerned with what he did in his sphere.  She later denied saying it, but the records established otherwise.  Your point of irony is still further evidence of the ease of our "morality" and celerity of course changes.

        I'm most grateful for your recounting of these things and your many insights.

  •  "What color were the tracers?" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Kong

    "Green."
    "Green????!!!"
    "I had NVGs on. Everything was green."
    "Oh."

    Me too.  I have skipped some of them...too much Gulf War already in my mind these days, as my stupid rash has flared up worse this year than most.  But this one caught my eye, because of the fatigue.

    I flew tankers out of King Khalid International, (not all those other King Khalids), pretty much in Riyadh.  I flew all night, every night, and came back to try and sleep during the day, interrupted by 23 incoming Scuds, and the Patriots launched to intercept them, and the fool that tried to jam an atropine injector into my leg as I slept in the hallway during an Alarm Red, with my gas mask on.  

    " 'larm Reyed, 'larm Reyed, put yo' mask upon yo' heyed!"

    We took 117s to Baghdad, most nights.  Variety of other stuff...airborne Scud Alert with F-16s...trolling for SAMs with the Weasels...SAR support with every A-10 in theater, when one of their guys got shot down ...but mostly the 117s.  8 hours, planned, but they never took all that much gas, so we often hung around afterward to give some more away.  Long nights.

    We dropped them off, made our Run For the Border, hung out down by "the step" to give them their post-strike, and drag them home.  Usually, once south of the Border, my copilot would go find a cot in the back.  My Nav would lean over on his desk and sleep, since we were just going in circles.  If Mikey, my Boom, was feeling okay, I put him in the right seat, and I caught some sleep with one eye open to make sure he didn't turn us upside down. (He actually made some pretty good landings, other times...well qualified Boom).  Once, Mikey was so tired, he fell asleep in the pod, though.  The boom was trailed out, and an F-117 nosed into it, thinking he was ready.  Scratched a whole bunch of magic paint off his plane, and completely destroyed the ice shield on my boom.  He got some heat for that one.

    At any rate, we were perpetually tired.  We tried to rouse ourselves for one meal a day at the mess hall, standing in line like zombies.  Mmmmmm, steak today.  Kinda chewy.  Camel.  I started coughing, a few weeks into it, and couldn't stop.  Not enough to quit flying, it didn't seem, but enough to make me even more tired.  When I finally got home, they grounded me, two weeks of bedrest on antibiotics to get rid of viral pneumonia.

    Every time I came back from the sand after that, I had pneumonia...and this rash.

    When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

    by Bisbonian on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:12:16 PM PST

    •  I have skipped some of " them".... (0+ / 0-)

      Meaning your diaries.  All the ones I have read are great...its just that small doses are enough :). I've got Barbara Tuchman on my shelf here for decades, and I haven't been able finish that, either!

      I did Panama, too.  When the dictator we supported for years in Panama suddenly became a bad guy, we took him out.  same with Saddam. (and Diem).  The irony was really getting to me by the time I was refueling A-10s providing cover to Kurds in Iraq, and Turkish F-4s bombing Kurds on the other side of a line...and I was glad to get out.

      When people say "thank you for your service", I have to resist the urge to puke.

      When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

      by Bisbonian on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:35:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think I caught the same pneumonia (0+ / 0-)

      I ended up grounded for two weeks. I was so sick my crew refused to fly with me any more.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 01:07:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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