Class In-processing Physical: 18 Nov 03
So you’d think after numerous physicals in ROTC, and a humongous prodding in the posterior prior to commissioning that they would be done trying to make sure whether or not a Lieutenant was physically perfect enough to go through pilot training. Well, think again. The week of my class start date I had to go through the fun stuff once again. It was one of the last things left to do on my ridiculously long in processing checklist which I received when I got to Sheppard AFB in June. I heard from my buddy Jeff that he saw my name on the list for Tuesday morning, and that I could go in there in “civies” and get my physical done. Civilian clothes huh, I say. So that’s totally sweet, I won’t have to be stripping in and out of “the bag” so they can stick me with needles all day, I’m cool with that.
I park my car way out in the boonies of the hospital parking lot, and stroll into Aerospace medicine at about five till seven. Everyone else strolls in soon after, and what do you know, I’m the only cool guy in sweatpants and my Texas sweatshirt. HOOK EM’ HORNS!!! No problem, I know deep inside the other fellas were wishing they had considered my level of comfort. 0715 rolls around and a nice little airmen comes out and calls for Lt. Morgan. Awesome, I’m going first and will get out of here turbo quick. So I roll to the back with her, and she says, hmmm, we don’t have a file on you. Well that’s just excellent, what in the world do you mean you don’t have a file on me? Thank goodness I planned ahead and brought every important Air Force medical piece of paper in my possession. I ended up spending another hour in the waiting room while they made a new file on me.
This physical was basically a shorter version of the commissioning physical with a few subtle additions. They tested my vision again, which by the way worsened to a less than perfect 20/12. I know it was all the staring at the freaking numbers in EPA every day that did it too. There was the color vision test, and lastly the depth perception test where the little circles stand out and poke you in the eye. I was then given a list of other very fun offices to visit. I spent the next couple of hours negotiating my way through the labyrinth also known as the inner halls of the hospital. My first stop was at the lab where I was delightfully surprised that I didn’t have to have a spotter while I made my golden donation into the little plastic cup. There’s just something strange about having some dude stare at the family jewels while you’re taking a leak. One DNA test and 4 vials of blood later I was on my way to public health for a hearing test. It wasn’t so bad, that is if you’re not claustrophobic, don’t get nervous, and like bad smells. Fortunately enough for me the first two don’t apply, and I make enough bad smells of my own that I didn’t mind it all that much. Hearing was good to go, and I was off to Tri Care and Dental. After they were done fishing around in my mouth and taking X-rays, I headed back to Aerospace medicine. Sweetness, its 1045 and I’m almost done. Think again, the flight docs were all in some meeting and I was asked to come back at 1415. Once I got into the doc’s office he was a great guy. Told me all about what to expect physically and mentally from the rigors of pilot training and about how the docs are there for us and only us. They are the flyboy’s very own personal doctors. Pretty sweet. We chatted it up for a while, and then the doc says, “Alrighty LT, I’m just going to check your ears and feel your balls and then you can get out of here. I can’t let you leave without having one of those terribly uncomfortable experiences. Drop your drawers.” So I bared the goods, coughed twice, and went home.
On my way out they gave me a totally sweet party favor called Cipro. It’s the anti-biotic they use to treat those folks who get Anthrax. They had to make sure I wouldn’t have some adverse reaction to the good stuff.
Day 1: 20 Nov 03
IT HAS BEGUN!!! Woohoo, and it’s about freaking time too. I’m so pumped right now it’s ridiculous. I’ve been waiting so long for this day, and the fact that it is finally here and a few of my newest and closest buddies will be there with me is just totally sweet. I woke up at 0530, showered, and jumped into my service dress, which was looking damn sharp by the way, and ate about three bowls of cereal. Honey Nut Cheerios, small bowl, skim milk, good stuff. Around 0630 I jumped in the Vette and headed to base with my pen, pencil, and notebook in hand. DJ, Jeff, and I all met out in the boonies of the parking lot and gave each other manly chest bumps and high fives because we were all so totally pumped to finally be getting it on! We took a totally sweet first day picture and then headed for the classroom where we were all meeting. On the way in we had the distinct pleasure of being the first to meet the four Leuten aus Deutchland. (The Dudes from Germany.) They are way cool. We met Ralf and Ruediger, who ended up being in my flight, and Bjorn and Mathias, who are in B-flight. Great guys, very squared away, and extremely friendly. I tried chatting it up in German a little bit with some of them, but they just talk so turbo fast that I gave up and said it was English from now on.
Once we got inside it was basically introductions and death by briefings. We filled out multiple forms and did boatloads of paperwork which I for one, despise. But hey, that junk has to be done, and there’s nothing I can really do about it now. So we did the step by step thing on forms, got some briefings about stuff, and then we split into flights. Half of the dudes in my flight are married, and most of the guys from the Zoo all live on base. However, half of us who have been here since the beginning of time like me were fortunate enough to live off base. So we basically split it on base and off base. It worked out pretty excellently because everyone who has been here for a while knows each other, and all of the Zoomies know each other. So it was all good.
So it turned out that the boys and I were all going to be in F-flight. The Firebirds boys, and we were going to be led by one very humorous Italian MTO (Military Training Officer) named LT Emanuele Chiadroni. (Pronounced “Kia-droney”, get it right!) He is quite possibly the coolest Italian guy I’ve ever met. Not that I’ve ever met any other Italian dudes, but this one is way cool. He’s got a great little Italian “letsa goa toa pizza party ah” accent to his English that just leaves me cracking up. I’m sure I won’t like it so much later on when he’s yelling at me with it though. The in-flight competition started off seconds after we made the flights when Lt Chiadroni got up on stage and said, “F-flight isa the coolest, and B-flight SUCKS!” I looked to Jeff and said this crap is going to be hella fun!
Here is a rundown of some of the things we were briefed on throughout the day. Flight records came in for some in-processing, and Aerospace Physiology briefed us on everything we would be working on in the next few weeks. Whoa, hold the phone, who’s that blonde woman in the flight suit that looks so familiar? Oh yeah, it’s Lt. Richardson, formerly my PT CTA at field training who used to yell at me and make me do pushups all freaking day long. It turns out she is now one of Sheppard AFB’s Aerospace Physiology officers and will be teaching us all of that stuff next week. All of the boys from the Zoo were completely taken aback by her, and one of them asked the MTO’s if she was seeing anyone. You can always leave it to them to pull smooth maneuvers like that.
Let’s see, we had the O-club brief, the Chaplain brief, the flight docs brief, the disaster prep give me a break it’s only a tornado brief, the welcome briefs from both the squadron commander and the wing commander, the IG brief, the academics brief, the security forces brief, and finally the US SNR brief. The SNR is the senior national representative and their positions only exist here at ENJJPT because they represent all of the students from each individual country. Ours, however, is also the man who gets us our assignments and gets us the planes we want. Very important man, in the student’s eyes anyway. We all had our pictures taken in service dress and ate a little Burger King for lunch too. We were released for the day 1500.
Interesting bit of knowledge that I took away from today: Always watch your women around the Italian guys!
Day 2: 21 Nov 03
Jason is getting his helmet poured, mask fitted, and is even more pumped now: News at 11. How totally sweet is that? I went into Life Support at 0840 because they staggered us throughout the morning so we wouldn’t be waiting long. By the time I got there Jeff and DJ had already finished theirs. They take the g-suit and helmet that they issued you earlier and put it on a shelf, and don’t even use it. I guess it was really important for those things to be taking up space in my closet while I was casual. Anyway, I was called up by one of the life support techies, and my large head required a large helmet. She fitted it to my head, put the microphones in their slots and all of that good stuff, and made an insert on the inside that made the bad boy fit like a glove. A glove for my head that is. It’s kind of funny because they ask you all these questions when the helmet is on your head and you can’t hear jack crap. So I would just nod and smile and hope my impressive lip reading skills were up to par. After that another dude measured my face in a few different places and slapped a totally sweet oxygen mask on my face. We spent about five minutes resizing it and making sure there weren’t any air leaks and so on. He would mess with me and tell me to take a deep breath, and then plug up my oxygen hose. I went from there to the testing machine which actually pressurizes your mask and stuff to make sure everything is flowing correctly and that you’ll be able to breathe in the jet. Imagine having this thing strapped on your face, you’re plugged into this machine, and if you barely even open your mouth it shoots oxygen down your throat and you have no way to stop it except by breathing out. Except when you want to breathe out, it raises the pressure on you and you can’t. The suffocation machine was no fun. But the coolness factor of getting my helmet and mask with “MORGAN” on it made it all good.
After that I was off until 1300, so I went to the ENJJPT weight room and worked out. DJ, Thom, Jeff, and I all met at Uncle Ki’s Chinese buffet for lunch and then went in for the dreaded publications check. For those of you who don’t know, “pubs” are all of our study materials which when stacked up, form a tower of paper about two feet high. No lie. To think that all of that will be in my head in a year is nuts. So we’re all sitting in there ready to rock and roll with these things, which we’ve been told will take four hours to get in order and changed. This redheaded Major, call sign Redkneck, comes strolling in right from a flight. You can still see the indentions on his face from his mask. He’s like, alright dudes, I hate this junk, let’s get it done. It’s Friday, I don’t want to be here, you don’t want to be here, and beers await us when we’re done. So that’s cool. We spent maybe an hour going through the stuff, organizing it, and making a few handwritten changes. Then he said he was bugging out, and we were done for the day. It’s 1400 and we’re all like HELL YEAH! But, we decided to be good little students and hung around for another couple of hours making maps of the area, printing out pubs we didn’t have, and getting some fly time in the simulators.
From there most of us went straight to the O-club for beer, free food, and CRUD. Later that night the entire class, and many other classes, went to Toby’s and proceeded to drink most of the alcohol they had in the place. Those were good times and I didn’t get home until the next morning.
Day 3: 24 Nov 03
Well, today was definitely a humbling day considering most of what we talked about had to do with preventing our untimely death in the event of a terrible emergency. Even one of the acronyms we learned for some stuff today was, D.E.A.T.H. Pretty nuts, but other than that, it was a pretty good day.
Today was the start of our day in Aerospace Physiology. They basically teach us everything we need to know about human factors, and what to do should we have to bail out and survive in harsh foreign environments. We arrived for introductions/sign-ins at 0730 and were released around 1630.
The first block was all about passing gas, crapping your pants, and looking like a retarded monkey in the gas chamber when your brain becomes oxygen deficient at altitude. So that subject was right up our alley. We were all over hypoxia like white on rice, and then dove right into hyperventilation, trapped gas disorders, decompression sickness, and inner-ear topics. Now, you may think that all of us surely became subject to stagnant hypoxia (the pooling of blood in your arse or other extremities) due to the reduction of our cardiac output from sitting in our seats all morning. However, if you thought that, you would be incorrect. Some Air Force regulation ensures that we get ten minute breaks after every lesson, which comes out to be just about every hour or so. We get to get up and allow the pooled blood in our butt-cheeks drain out by getting coffee, snacks, and water from the break room. All this was done in our flight jackets too considering the classroom was only kept a few degrees warmer than outside, or so it seemed. Hey, we look totally sweet in them anyway, so it’s all good.
A few vision briefs and very impressive night vision demonstrations later, and we knew all about how our brain prefers to trick us about most everything we see. We even have a blind spot that our brain “fills in” with information from the other eye-ball. No kidding, I do not lie. After our noise and vibration briefing all of the guys with engineering degrees started talking about their senior engineering projects to discover just exactly who had the biggest and the coolest cranium. Jeff’s was by far the sweetest, and I would use his automatic golf-ball on a tee like a batting cage idea any day. My senior project was passing college, so I didn’t chime in.
For lunch I had by far the best Wichita Falls hoagie on a toasted bun that I’ve ever had. A group of us went to the Deli Planet and tore it a new one. After lunch is where we got into the cool, yet humbling part of the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon learning how to EGRESS from the aircraft, and how to parachute and land without dieing. Since dieing isn’t very high on my FUN list, I paid pretty close attention. We’re actually supposed to be parasailing tomorrow, weather permitting. We were released around 1630, Wichita Falls time.
Day 4: 25 Nov 03
Basically, the winds in Wichita Falls suck. It warmed up a little bit today, but the winds were so freaking strong that if they had put us up in a parasail we would have come down somewhere in another state. Ridiculousness. We took care of just about everything else today though. A nice little health, fitness, and nutrition briefing started us off for the day, and then led into a brief on acceleration and the different types of G-forces we will be experiencing in the fighter jets. We covered all of the physiological aspects, as well as what you can do to fight off G’s. Some of these included anti-G suits and anti-G straining maneuvers. We were “lucky” enough to get up in front of our flights one person at a time and practice our AGSM’s. (Anti-G straining maneuvers) It’s pretty funny because you’re up there in the chair on stage basically looking like you’re trying to pinch a loaf, all while making funny little breathing sounds like you’re trying to suck little bits of air out and back in through the world’s smallest straw.
Try this now while you’re sitting in your chair. Pick an aircraft, any aircraft, and put your hands on the stick. Take in a deep breath, somewhere around 80% of your lung capacity. Sit with your feet shoulder length apart and then curl your toes to clench your calves, strain your thighs like you’re squeezing a beech ball, tense your abs like you’re taking a punch from Jackie Chan, and flex your arms. Next you’ll need to, as one IP says, “not be the prison Bitch” and clench your butt cheeks together and squeeze HARD! Now you’re ready for the hard part, the cyclic breathing. Breathe out and then back in nearly instantaneously like you’re doing it through a straw so that it closes your glottis. (The structure separating the trachea from the esophagus.) This adds additional pressure to the chest area and helps pump more blood back to your brain while under G-strain. While doing all of this have a friend or family member push you around to make sure you’re squeezing hard enough, and then invite 13 other folks over to laugh at you.
Once we all mastered looking ridiculous and showering everyone with spittle, we moved on into spacial disorientation. This was actually a very impressive block and extremely important because it is by far one of the leading killers of pilots. To make a long story short, there are tons of canals and fluids in your ears that pretty much try to kill you when you fly. The human body was made for the surface, and not for the sky, so going nuts up in the air in a jet pisses off the Vestibular system and the semicircular canals. This leads to such things as the leans, the graveyard spin/spiral, (which actually was what killed JFK junior) the Coriolis illusion, the giant-hand phenomenon, and somatogravic illusions. The entire flight was introduced to the infamous “spinney chair” and had to experience each and every one of these effects. It’s almost ridiculous how much the fluids in the inner-ear can mess up your day. For my ride in the chair I chose the frontal Coriolis Effect. A couple of other guys chose to do it to the rear, but that’s just not my thing. This phenomenon is actually experienced by every pilot when they come to a stop after a skin rippling go in the centrifuge. I was strapped into the chair, and laid with my head down and to the side, eyes closed. Once everyone in the room sounded like I was moving around them, instead of them moving around me, I was told to sit straight up with my eyes closed, and throw my arms up like a ref does at a football game when THE KICK IS GOOD! So I get the good word, and sit straight up. Much to my displeasure it felt like I was being flung face first out of the chair at a violent speed when in reality I was still sitting there in the chair. If felt like I was riding my totally sweet little BMX through an intersection, hit the hood of a car and flew across the street. Of course one of the dudes took a pretty killer movie of all of this so that we can all look back and laugh about how I was nearly bucked from a spinning chair.
After lunch we went outside and spent the entire afternoon tearing it up and “ground pounding.” We stripped off all jewelry and patches, threw our name patch on our left shoulder, and learned all about descent and landing techniques. Using two-foot and four-foot elevated platforms we executed countless beautiful parachute landing falls. (PLFs) You basically hit on the balls of your feet, roll the knees out, and then rotate to hit your quads, buttocks, and then the fleshy part of the back. After that we got to strap into harness and demonstrate proper recovery and release from the parachute during a simulated drag situation. Basically, we had to lie on our face and back and get dragged around by four other guys for a few seconds, and then grab the hardware and flip the thumbs to get released. Then we were slung up in the gallows where we were swung around to simulate being under the canopy, and then were dropped to practice our landings from a higher elevation. We were sure to know the checklists they asked us because hanging there having our nuts crushed by these harnesses sucks in the worst way.
We debriefed and were released at 1530 to pick up our helmet and mask for tomorrow. The plan is that we’ll parasail cold and early in the morning. We’ll see.
Day 5: 26 Nov 03
Today was pretty darn sweet, considering the Air Force paid us money to go parasailing. We showed up cold and early, and the SEAR instructor came in to give us one last briefing on how not to break ourselves when we land. We knocked out a few more sold PLF’s outside off the platforms, checked the wind, and it was GO TIME. A few guys from the Zoo were already jump qualified, so they stayed inside and did some Egress training from the ejection seats while the rest of us non-jumpers went out to the field. The wind was blowing in at a cool 10 knots, and they had four stations setup out in the field for us. We jumped in alphabetical order, and while the first dudes were going, the rest of us jacked around and sipped hot apple cider from Styrofoam cups which were definitely not environmentally safe.
If you’re like me and you like doing extreme and wild things, then you would like the Air Force version of parasailing. There’s no pansy boat to float off of and soft water to land in. Oh no. We do it hardcore in the Air Force. Once you get locked into your harness and chute, they tie you to a truck, and after a series of radio calls and confirmations, the truck hauls ass off across the grass and you start running behind it. About six steps in your start to lift off the ground, but they tell you to keep running in the air until they clear you to stop. You have a totally sweet snowboarding helmet on with a mike from which you can only receive messages.
The first pull is just a short one up to about 100 feet, and then the truck slows down and you practice your landing fall from not too high up. The first one is pretty darn sweet, but you’re only up for a few seconds, you spread your legs to signal to the chief that you’re hearing him, and then you’re on your way down. The ground comes up pretty darn fast, but much slower than I was anticipating. Apparently the CJ-9 chutes that we use are turbo sweet compared to some of the other monkey chutes you could get in other places. So I’ve done my first pull, and buckled in for the next ride, and the wind starts to pick up a bit. No sweat, the wind can suck it as far as I was concerned because I was getting my parasailing done before I went home for Turkey weekend. We whip out the little “wind meter” and it reads out a fat twelve knots. Cake. So I tell the chief I can hear him, and this Lt. Chick that is doing my pull says, “RUN!” So I run, and this crosswind from hell blows and I get tugged up into the air all sideways and crap. I’m laughing because it was fun as hell, and before I know it I’m about 300 something feet in the air. I was easily higher than any building in Wichita Falls. I spread the legs, and sit there to enjoy the ride. Now, I say enjoy because I did enjoy it, but not everyone else did. All my friend Jeff could think bout was how only these two little straps were keeping him from falling to a splattering death, and he thought about that the entire ride. So it wasn’t so fun for him. Other people didn’t like the intense swinging that you do back and forth under the canopy because of the wind. I thought it was all pretty sweet.
So around the time they think they can’t get you up much higher, you get a call over the radio and you’ve been released from the back of the F-150 crew cab. Now you’re just floating down, just you and the chute, and it’s way cool. You’re told to reach up on your rear risers and the chief gives you turn directions to put you into the wind. Great ride down, until about 20 ft. off the ground the wind picks up and practically blows me sideways for my landing. It helped me on my roll, but threw me so hard that I drill my head into the ground pretty hard. No pain no gain they say, it’s all in a days work. We were released after a brief debrief, and rolled out for Turkey Holiday. Later on in the day I started to get wicked sore in some strange places.
Thanksgiving break was totally awesome and I was full for quite a few days afterwards, but that really doesn’t matter here. It’ll matter later this week when I have to do the FACT test though, that’s for sure. Well, show time was at 0800, and right when everyone showed up, we were slapped with our Aerospace physiology exam. It wasn’t really that hard, but you do definitely need to study for it because you won’t remember everything on there just from the briefings. Way too much information. A nice study job on the way home from Houston made it really hard to not do well on that test.
We went through our exams and covered answers that people missed, and then it was time for us all to jump in the chamber and start farting. B flight got to go first, so the rest of us spent about an hour getting our second shot at the ejection seats and Tweet egress simulator. B flight came out with one or two good stories, but little did they know they would have nothing on the hilariousness that was going to go down in our chamber ride. We all got in there, strapped up and ready to rock and roll, and we pressurized and did our first ascent up to 6K and back down just to make sure there wasn’t anyone with sinus clogs and stuff like that. One guy said his head felt like someone was shoving an ice pick right up his nose, so we went back down and he stepped out to see the flight doc. So we pressurized and headed up to flight level 350, and then down to 250. While all this was going on we played a totally cool little knowledge game in which my side of the chamber won. So, we got to sit back and watch the other side take off their masks and get all kinds of hypoxic first.
Now, it totally depends on the person and their body weight and so on to see just how quickly they become hypoxic. You also have to deal with the “machismo” factor of the cool guys who want to beat everyone else and last longer off oxygen because for some reason they think that makes them totally sweet and the coolest. Even though the whole point is to realize you are hypoxic early and get back on oxygen so you don’t crash your freaking jet. So four of the guys all get blue in the face, and start talking retarded and saying goofy things. They get slow, forget what they’re doing, and then realize it and “gang-load” the regulator and get back on oxygen. But there’s always THAT guy, and that one for us just happened to be a Zoomy that all of the other zoomies knicknamed, “Cheese.” So Mr. Cheese is getting quite happy and giddy. He’s full of smiles, and is getting quite ornery since every time the instructor asked him what was wrong with him he said absolutely nothing even though he was all blue in the lips and developing a slight twitch in the left shoulder. So they have him hold his hands out and do left turns, right turns, dives, and so on, and he does them quite well. The instructor continues to talk to him and motion to the rest of us this classic case of hypoxia and denial. The guy starts talking really loud, and whips out a sheet of paper to write a very sneaky message to the rest of us in the chamber. Much to our amusement it said, “I LOVE USAFA!” (The United States Air Force Academy) Wow, he really WAS oxygen deficient. Soon after that his body began to twitch uncontrollably and he realized it was time for some “fresh air.” When it was my turn, I filled out my sheet and told everyone I was by far the best looking dude in the chamber, and then began to see stars everywhere and get light headed. So I gang loaded like a champ and it all went away after a few hearty breaths. However, my buddy next to me stayed off far too long, and he was twitching and stuttering so bad that the other flight and the rest of the Aerospace Physiology section were watching us through the windows. His body was going through super spasms and all he could do was look down and watch his arms twitch. I was tapping him on the shoulder, pointing to the regulators, and he just wasn’t catching on. Finally, and after what seemed like years, he gang loaded after saying, “#5 thinks it’s time for him to gang load.”
The FACT test was actually more difficult that most would think. It sucks so badly because you have to do the reps SO slowly. They are six count reps which go something like this. Up on one, two, and then down for three, four, five, and six. That’s not bad for the first few, but your muscles just aren’t used to lifting that slowly, and it becomes totally tiring. And for the fatties of us that weigh in around 200 bones, it was pretty heavy. On some of my exercises I was pushing more than some of the guys in my flight weigh. You do curls, bench, lat pull downs, leg press, leg curl, pushups, situps, and then the leg press again. It’s actually a great workout, and there’s a possibility for you to get 225 total points. I got 222, and everyone in our class pushed out an outstanding.
I’m starting to get busy as hell, so I’m doing this journal bad boy by weeks now. The next two days were spent in survival instruction and briefings by the ENJJPT psychologist. We learned how to survive in the wild backlands of North Texas, and that Mammals and Birds were indeed a food source should we go down in the jungles surrounding Lawton Oklahoma. We got to launch all kinds of sweet flairs and smoke bombs, so that was totally awesome. There’s nothing better than a group of student fighter pilots playing with fireworks out in a field of dry grass. I’ll let you use your imagination for that one. On Thursday we took our final exam, which was very difficult to do poorly on, and then Aerospace Physiology threw a BBQ for us where we all ate like Vikings and watched Pirates of the Caribbean in the conference room. One of the guy’s fiancés sent him two tasty cakes and we all sang happy birthday to him, then pushed him aside and ate his cakes.
Friday was our first day in Systems. Which has also been referred to as “slackademics.” We met the instructor, talked for about an hour, then spent the next three or so hours being taught by computers that are seriously a little older than I am. I believe there is more computing power in my cell phone. Anyways, they get the job done, and you spend the whole afternoon on them. After that we went bowling as a class and Jeff totally dominated everyone in there. Next year he will be entering the Pro-bowling circuit as a side job. We drank beer there and it was a good time. Then we went to assignment night which was totally sweet. The assignment class was the one exactly a year ahead of us, so their drops mimics our drop. The class was “No Bull”, and their patch is a parody of the Red Bull slogan. So there was tons of free red bull, pizza, and four kegs of icy cold beer. Tons of people, tons of beer, tons of fun, and tons of drunks. The drop was ridiculous. 2 Strike Eagles, 5 F-15 C’s, 6 Vipers, and 2 Bones. That’s just unheard of and everyone was amazed. This was apparently a very high speed class, and we’re just going to have to tear it up like they did. Since my class is the “baby class,” we spent the time afterwards cleaning up the hanger that the party was in and taking care of people. It was cool though, because we just drank from the kegs as we cleaned. They said it was a great cleaning job. I guess it could have been, I don’t really remember.
Allllllrighty then. This week wasn’t too shabby considering we finished up the systems academics block and then had our first two days in the flight room. Monday through Wednesday were pretty much the same, just on different days of the week. The entire class showed up dark and early for instruction on all of the aircraft systems that we will come to know and love in the Tweet. The electrical, hydraulic, and engine systems, OH MY! We would get instruction, then book it over to the ancient and outdated overly large calculators and get “computer” instruction. Then we would head back in for more instruction with a real person, then back to the computers. I actually really enjoyed the class lecture because at the end of the fiscal year the wing had a few million to spend, so they bought gimungus flat screen TV’s for every flight and class room. I have vowed to some day hook up an X-box to the one in our flight room and have a HALO tournament. Yes, I am a nerd.
On Thursday morning we had the dreaded systems test. Quite frankly, it wasn’t so dreadful. In fact, if you just study the stuff for a few hours and draw the schematics out for yourself, it’s no sweat. I made a fat 100 on it, as did twelve other fellas in the class. Our class average was 98%. Afterwards we took the poor shmucks that missed a few questions out back and flogged them with soap socks. (Not really) That very same day began what has become known as the turbo space time continuum. After our systems test we had 1.5 hours off to go home, and then arrive in our flight room for the first P-mission and introductions. Well as soon as we get in there, our Belgian Air Force deputy flight commander starts yelling at us about how we already screwed the pooch and that he is going to squash us like bug in his Arnold Schwartzenegger accent. He was really just trying to be mean, but the guy doesn’t really have a whole lot of mean in him. So we had introductions and P-missions, which are really just videos and briefings given by the IP’s. We spent the rest of the day doing this and were released in the late afternoon. We had to come in at 0800 the next morning instead of 1200 because of our previously mentioned pooch screwing.
On Friday we were introduced to the Flight commander, and were basically shown how the flight runs and how things would be done. We had our first introductions into the “formal briefs” which are basically short outlook weather and conditions briefings by the SP’s, and then a 30-45 minute GK (general knowledge) grilling. This is also the terrible time where we’ll have Stand-Ups and all of those fun things. So we did all that stuff, and were not released until 2000. Yep, our first twelve hour day, formal release HAS BEGUN!!! They keep you for twelve hours, but then flip out if you’re in the building for twelve hours and one minute. Crew rest is very important here. What it really means is go home, relax for five minutes, take a dump, actually you only really have time to relax WHILE you’re taking that dump, eat something, and then study for a few hours and sleep.
At 2000 the whole flight went over to the O-Club and ate free munchies and drank brewskies while playing what were quite possibly the most violent games of crud known to man. It was more like a gladiatorial sport. We had blood, violence, pissed off drunken dudes, and were only missing the lions, tigers, and bears. Oh, and of course the Romans and the Coliseum. I’m still bruised and sore, but hey, you should see the other guys! By the time Friday night rolled around, it seriously felt like we had taken that systems test at least a week ago. But nope, it was only the day before. We were just trapped in the time warp known as “formal release.”
Well, the first hard week is over, but according to my IP it was just the easiest week of my career. I call bullshit, but I suppose he’s right. So get this, the few days prior to getting into the flight room we hear horror stories of this IP in F-flight that is a total hard ass and just ruins everyone’s day. He’s a huge guy of Hawaiian decent that played football at the academy, and his call-sign is “Sumo.” It suits him quite well. In the flight room our names are up on the schedule board and my buddy Cale’s name is next to Sumo’s, so I start teasing him about how much that’s going to suck a fatty. Ten minutes later we get IP assignments, and low and behold, “SUMO” is my instructor pilot. So that’s totally sweet. He’s also our C-lo, which is basically the guy who grills us on knowledge and stand ups, and is a real asshole. After knowing him a few days, I actually like him. Sure he’s a hard ass and gives you a real kick in the nuts, but he’s hardcore, motivated, sarcastic, funny, and a real personality. He’ll make me a stronger pilot, and I’m cool with them beans. On a side note, after our first day of knowledge with Sumo, we now owe the IP’s Krispy Kreme, OJ, and two cases of beer.
The formal briefs are pretty nerve racking, especially if you balls to the walls don’t know jack when they ask you. The whole flight comes to attention and the class leader reports in to the flight commander, then we turn and greet our IP’s with salutes. So that’s cool, and we sit through a morning brief done by one of the students on today’s WX conditions and things of that nature. Then the C-Lo (“Sumo”) gets up there, and shit hits the fan. It’s either your time to shine, or your time to look like the dumb guy. He goes around the room, one by one, and asks knowledge questions, right down the line. If you don’t say the answer word for word, then you remain standing. If you get the question correct, then you can sit back down. If you pause, he yells YOU SUCK, NEXT! If you say UH, he says, YOU’RE DEAD AND I HATE YOU MORGAN! Not really, but standing up really does suck a big one. We did ok on Monday, and only two of us missed a question. We spent the rest of the day on P-missions, which are videos from the 70’s with pilots with afro’s showing us how to taxi and junk like that. One of the movies even had a little disco music to it. It was actually kind of disturbing. We got our flight room and bar all set up, and the bar is totally sweet. We actually have an entire fridge dedicated to being a kegerator. There is a tap built into the side and it spews forth ice cold brewski. There’s neon signs everywhere, and beer girls, and nostalgic fighter pilot stuff. Also, a tradition in F-flight is the jalapeño popcorn machine, which we hit up on the first day. Basically you fry up the jalapeños in the burner first so their juice comes out, then you put in the kernels and the butter and go to town. It makes this ridiculously spicy popcorn that I just couldn’t stop putting into my mouth. It’s retarded good. We were released at 1350 and spent the next 2.5 hours on the ancient computers doing flying fundamentals.
Tuesday was totally sweet, why you ask? Because I had my friggin’ dollar ride!!! WOOHOO! Yeah baby, hot damn it was awesome. The IP I flew with was Lt. Col “Beast” Beason. A man with over 1000 hours in the A-10 Hog and lots of time in the F-15 Strike Eagle. Totally kickass. He’s very laid back and cool, and says such things as, in the plane, “I’m the man, you can act like you’re the man, but you’re not, I’m the man.” “If you don’t go inverted at least once a flight, you’re doing something wrong and you’re a pussy.” “Can you believe we’re getting paid to do this? Get your chute on while I go take a piss.” It’s good stuff. We briefed up about 1.5 hours prior to take off time, and then stepped (Stepping: term used to describe the time when pilots grab their shit and head out the door, basically when they get on their chute, grab their helmet, get the weather and pubs, and head out to the jet) around 30 minutes prior to take off time. I fealt like a fumbling fool out there. I had stuff falling all over the place, checklists falling all over, gloves stuck in pockets, pins sticking out of places, and it took me about ten minutes to get strapped in. The crew chiefs always get a good kick out of us newbies being out there and tripping over everything. So we’re finally in and I’m going through my checks, this was of course after putting my visor down and checking out how totally cool I looked in the rear view mirror. I go to crank up engine one, and she’s just not up for the game. We ended up having to get a gigantic heating machine on the jets before they would spool up. Hey, I could understand, it was a tid bit nipply out, and the jet was built in 1952. She was an old girl, but she put out well once we got her warmed up. The ride was my first, and last relaxing ride, and we flew the Round Robin and got an intro to the area. We of course did some quality barrel rolls and squeezed out a few G’s before we headed back in. It was a great day, if you don’t count the ass chewing we got for knowledge that morning around 0600. But the flying actually made it all sweet again and I remembered why I’m here. My grade-sheet said welcome to Air Force Aviation from Lt. Col “Beast” Beason. How cool is that? I made copies of it and will keep it forever.
Wednesday’s stand up was pretty cool. I smoked my answers, but overall we still pretty much sucked. They really stress us knowing basically everything all at once. If you’ve ever heard the term “drinking from the firehose,” well that’s so true it’s ridiculous. Yesterday and today I’ve had some really crappy things going on in my personal life too which hasn’t made it so easy to stay on top of things. I feel so far behind that I just want to kick someone in the junk. But then I flew again, and realized you’re supposed to feel behind and overwhelmed, that’s just how it is. They do it on purpose to make you into an animal. So I’m ok with that. I flew my second sortie with “Beast” today and didn’t do so bad. Taxiing that Tweet is a blast. It sits so low to the ground and you cruise around at about 40 knots and it feels like a go-kart race out there on the taxi ways. On my run up I wasn’t on the brakes enough and the mother started creeping forward on the runway, I had to stand on the mofo’s to keep her from rolling out. Then we blasted off and went out to the area for practice with turns and slow flight, and power on stalls, and the works. Yes, second ride, and we’re stalling the jet. Third ride I suppose I’m supposed to be able to do Cuban 8’s and land in a 20 knot crosswind. Formal release still sucks and I’m still drowning in the books.
Thursday, today, I wasn’t scheduled to fly, so I spent a lot of time in the flight room going through stuff and studying like a mad fool. I got to know my IP a little bit better, and he gave me and his other student a talking to. He basically said we’re not leaving here anything less than the best, and that he’s going to kick our balls and beat our asses, but that it’ll be good for us, and he’ll turn us into fighter pilots. Alright, alright, I’m game. He said quite a few times that if our buddies miss five answers, and we miss just one, he’s going to bust our balls like crazy. Excellent. One cool thing about today was that academics were cancelled for SNR day. (Senior National Representative) There is one SNR from each country in NATO, and they are the spokespersons for the foreign students. Well, one day of each month we go to a briefing by one of the SNR’s. So during the 12 months that we’re here, we’ll hear from 12 different countries all about their culture, and their militaries, and things like that. Today we had Norway, which was way cooler than most people think. They’re not just Vikings in the snow like most people think, they’re actually pretty cool, and the weather there isn’t as bad as they want us to believe. They fly F-16’s over there and we saw a movie covering their Tiger Squadron, which had fast jets, and hot chicks, and cool rock n’ roll music. So that made my day. Then I went and ate spicy popcorn.
“Sumo” did a P-mission with us and started ragging on all other jets except F-16’s, well, basically because he’s a Viper driver. To sum it all up, he gave us this equation which was actually after a good five minutes of laughing our asses off at his previous jokes about other jets. It was hilarious because all of the guys in the flight that want F-15’s were getting all offended and mad and stuff, good times. So here it is.
You take: # of engines X # of pilots X # of tails, and if it doesn’t = 1, YOU’RE A FAG!!! And he took off his name patch and underneath there was a smaller “no fags” patch underneath that had the word fag in the no smoking sign. He also has a patch on his flight jacket that has a monkey being held by the tail with one hand, and being spanked with another, all inside a no smoking red circle with a line through it, essentially meaning, no spanking the monkey. I’m scheduled to fly tomorrow, but will be taking off for the holidays where I will basically study my ass off and ask Santa for a 28 hour day.
Christmas break was totally awesome and a much needed breather after the first week of craziness. It was, however, much too short for my liking. Another month or so would have been sufficient for me to catch up and learn everything that I attempted to drink from the fire hose during the first week of flying. I studied over most of the Xmas break, but when you get back it still seems like you know absolutely jack shiznit. Actually, at the end of this week, I still feel like I don’t know anything, and I know 100% more than I did the previous week. This week had it’s ups and downs. None of the students flew on Monday because all of the IP’s took our sorties so that they could get current again after the break. So we were shown a demo on EP Standups, and after that ended, we are expected to do them like animals from here on out. Most of the rest of Monday was spent studying, shooting the shit in the flight room, and making jalapeño popcorn. If you’ve never had fighter pilot jalapeño corn, you’re missing out. People come from all over the building to eat our corn, and they’ll go into the bar and start coughing from the smell of hotness. Then they’ll pay for it, eat it, cough again and then cry, but love every bite of it. I had a major say to me, “Son, you’re smoking up the whole god-damn building, but this is what fighter pilot popcorn should taste like, and I like it.”
We were on a late week this week, which gave us showtimes around 0800 or 0900 instead of 0500. The extra sleep was nice, if you can really call it extra sleep. Next week we will be on early week, and getting up long before the buttcrack of dawn. Tuesday was a lot like Monday, because my flight with SUMO was bumped so that a few more IP’s could get their currency back. Bastards. Oh well, getting out there to fly just makes the day so much more enjoyable, and takes away the pain of having to sit in the flight room and get quizzed and ragged on throughout the whole day. But hey, it’s all in good fun as long as you bring in your gigantic rubber boots to wade through all of the poop they lay down on you. I spent the next three days flying with BEAST, and the more I fly with him, the more I realize how much of a genuine badass the guy is. I finished the first Contact 2300 block, and moved on into the graded rides. No more freebies now. My first grades ride went into nose low and nose high power on stalls, steep turns, and area orientation. There’s still so much going on that the IP will be yelling at you to do stuff, and you get so task saturated that you just end up there staring at the controls hoping that they’ll move for you. “Please slow down to 200 knots, pllllease, please reduce power, come on, just a little bit, just for me?” You just end up being so far behind the jet that you’re sitting there trying to be like Luke Skywalker and use the jedi mind trick to correct for your horrendous altitude errors. But it never happens, and you get made fun of and get the jet taken away from you until you come back to reality.
Luckily on Thursday I was a little better and actually had a great ride. We went into Traffic Pattern stalls, slow flight, and stability demonstrations after shooting a butt-load of patterns out at Hacker. The stab-demo is so totally sweet that I nearly crapped my pants in glee. You take the jet and point it about 70 degrees nose high (basically straight up) and just wait for it to bleed off nearly all of its airspeed, then you just relax and the nose falls no kidding straight down to the ground. It’s like being at the top of a 13K foot high rollercoaster and going over that first drop. SUCH A RUSH and so much fun that I wish I could do it 100 times. You get that weightless feeling and then look up and the horizon is back at the top of the canopy and you’re just yelling YEE-HAWWW over the mic. Later that flight Beast showed me a few A-10 target acquiring and bombing runs. Hella sweet. Way too hard to describe how much fun. He showed me them to let me know what exactly I have to look forward to, and that made my freaking day.
I was the second person to get called up for an EP during stand up on the first day, and they used me as an example of what not to do. The class leaders went ahead of me, and did a few things wrong, and of course I thought he did them correctly. So they asked me if I wanted to take the jet where he left off, or go back and change some things. DUH, I said I’d take the jet where he left off, and they said that’s enough remain standing and step aside. Seven dudes later we finally got it right. So take it from me, when they ask you if you want to go back and change anything, it’s like the Clue Bird taking a big fat dump in your eye to go back and fix something.
Situational Awareness Biscuit of the Week: A story from SUMO.
“There’s this old bull and this young bull sitting up on top of this big old hill, and down below at the bottom of the hill there’s a whole bunch of cows. The young bull says to the old bull, “hey why don’t we run down that hill and f&$k one of them cows?” The old bull says, “How about we walk down that hill and f%#k em’ all?” Moral of the story, slow is faster. Take your time and do things right.
Well, there’s not a whole lot to say about this week considering we spent nearly ALL of it NOT flying. The weather has really blown goats lately and the Tweets have been grounded all week. Since we were stuck inside we were constantly subject to random beatings from the IP’s. When I say beatings, I don’t mean floggings with a bamboo rod, just verbal quiz mind raping from the instructors. If we didn’t have our head down in a book, or weren’t doing something, we were singled out to get an EP or sent off to do something that was usually not the least bit fun.
We had a knowledge “bowl” type thing they called the weakest link where if you got the question correct you were able to sit down. The last guy standing earned a point, and the first guy to five points had to bring dohnuts next week, and the second guy orange juice. Magically, I earned ZERO points…yes, yes I know it’s hard to believe, but I guess I just know how to play the game. We could phone a friend, and I would call one of my German buddies who are like walking books of knowledge.
We were unable to successfully complete ops limits/boldface exams exactly correct the entire week. We could even do them at home, and we always checked each one over with two different folks, but there was always something wrong. Someone would miss a letter, or a dash, or something. For future reference, there are 28 dash marks, and some 328 letters on the Boldface side.
I did get to go up on one ride, which was pretty cool. It was instrument weather, and I was able to see an instrument approach on the way back in after we were recalled for weather. On the way down we went through about six-thousand feet of clouds and all you could see was just pure white. It was nuts, and you really put a lot of trust in the controllers since you can see absolutely NOTHING! The ride was graded incomplete due to weather, so I basically got a freebie there. On Friday we had a monster party at our house. It doesn’t take long for pilots to float a keg.
This week was much better, but had its up and downs. I didn’t fly on Monday because I just wasn’t on the schedule. We were on “later” weeks, but that’s basically a bunch of horsecrap because it’s not like we actually go in there later. That just means we have to be there at 0730 for academics instead of 0600. We began intermediate instruments and have been working on fix to fix’s, and tracking inbound and outbound radials. We also touched on holding patterns a bit. Instruments is supposedly the hardest part of tweets because the instruments are older than dirt and just plain suck.
On Tuesday I had the worst flight of my life. Absolutely hideous, despicable, and disgusting. I learned a valuable lesson from it though. You have to take things you do wrong and just toss them aside. It has to be like water off a duck’s back, and you can’t continue to think about what you did wrong the entire ride because it makes you do every thing else after that incorrectly. I was so caught up in thinking about my departure and everything that I pulled a real smart and completely forgot that I had gear and flaps to raise. So we’re on the blast off and I’m thinking about what I’m going to say to departure, and SUMO takes the jet and slams the gear and flaps up just before I oversped them. I’m sitting there in shock wondering what the hell happened, and realized that I completely forgot to raise the gear. So that had me unsettled, and I just continued to screw the pooch for the remainder of the ride. It was like I wasn’t even in the jet, and I was definitely way behind it. A good saying, never go anywhere in a jet your mind hasn’t already been for five minutes.
On a better note, I have been smoking my rides since then. I flew with Beast and Sumo for the rest of the week, and finished up the contact block that I was in. We’re now doing power on stalls, traffic pattern stalls, recoveries, runaway trim, and tons of pattern work. I’m five rides from solo and I can’t even believe it. It’s going to be totally sweet. I’m hoping I can make my call sign “Xerox” so that every time I’m given instructions I can say, “Xerox Copies.” Not really. It will be Bully XX and everyone else in the pattern will probably leave in fear.
On Friday I coordinated and got most of the flight out to the Rustler’s hockey game and we had a blast. We shot the shit with the IP’s in an environment that was way better than the flight room. After seeing all of the other flights, I now know that I am in the best flight in the wing. The IP’s are just awesome folks and we have so many fun traditions and junk that it kicks ass. I got burned for $3 bucks on my grade book, so that kind of sucked. But anyways, we’ve learned that this thing is all about the attitude, and the IP’s see everything. We’re not inventing any mistakes, and they’ve all been through everything we’re doing, and they know the tricks. We’re starting to catch on. Sumo was talking to us, and said, “oh hey what’s this, oh it’s the next EPQ test, right here in my folder.” ***hint-hint*** Basically the clue bird was taking a giant dump in our eye and he was trying to get us to look at it when he left the room. They do this on purpose, and expect you to look at it, and then share all of the information with your bro’s. So I busted a move, whipped out my digital camera, took pictures of every single page, and sent it out to the class. Back to the hockey game. We lost, but it was super fun and we cruised over to Applebee’s afterwards for dinner and drinks. We had a lot of both of those, and that kind of sucked since we had to go in to work on Saturday. We’re behind on flying hours, so they’re making the wing fly for two Saturdays in a row. Yes, it blows, but hey, we’re getting paid to fly jets, so it’s cool.
So Saturday was kind of lacks, and the beer light was on. So when we were done flying, we drank beer and played darts while eating jalapeño popcorn. I wasn’t expecting to fly, but got bumped onto the schedule. It ended up being my best ride to date. For the first thirty minutes SUMO didn’t say a word and he was sitting over there wiping tears from his eyes. He even said, Jason buddy, you’re doing shit hot man! That’s when I pulled a smart one, let loose my flight suit straps, relaxed, and let it all hang out. Not smart. I started messing up my traffic pattern stalls, and forgot my speed brake on a single engine landing, and he said, “Jason, there you go ruining it for everyone. I’m never going to tell anyone they’re doing well again. I was even about to give you the hook em’ horns sign. (he’s an academy grad and aggie by heart) I was almost proud, but there you went and proved me wrong.” It was all pretty hilarious, and the things I messed up weren’t really that bad, but still, never relax. He said I can relax five years from now, but only for 30 minutes. Oh well, the ride was good, and the lady driving the bus in from the flight line had a basket of candy, so that was totally sweet.
I have a new theory. After this week I now thoroughly believe that meteorologists and weather-men in general don’t really know much about what in the world they are talking about. Now I know meteorology is a relatively new scientific field, but you know, I can cruise outside, see that it’s raining and foggy, and tell you that we’re not going to fly that day too. Ok, enough venting on the weather guys. I’m just harping on them because we only had two semi-good days of flying weather this week, and I went and crapped one of those away by self medicating. Lesson learned this week…the Air Force doesn’t like it if you take any medicine that was not given to you by a flight doc. In fact, they dislike it so much that they’ll ground you that day, and have multiple people yell at you and embarrass you and give you proposed call signs such as “Druggy” and “Addict.”
Monday was rainy and foggy, and quite honestly one of the coldest and nastiest days EVER. So we didn’t fly. Tuesday morning rolls around and I was feeling a few sickness symptoms coming on. So I get up out of bed and do as I did in college and pop a few Sudafed to relieve some sinus pressure and stop the ole’ runny nose. By the way, a runny nose in an oxygen mask is one of the nastiest things imaginable. You have this thing blowing cold oxygen into your nose while snot drips down your face and over your lips while you’re trying to make radio calls. When you land and take your mask off the whole inside is crusty and the good old green stuff is caked on your face. Now that might be good for Kindergarteners who like to eat boogers, but not too sweet for a pilot who is trying to be cool and manly. Back to business. So I’m briefing to go and fly, I take my pre-flight leak, and I start talking with Maj. Meyer about stuff and he asks me how my weekend was and how I was feeling. I said it wasn’t too shabby, and man I’m glad I took those two Sudafed because I was feeling like total crap this morning. You can imagine the rest of the story. He said, wait, what did you take? SHOW ME! So I showed him and he screamed, NOOOOO, and then rose up and gave me a mighty back hand across the face. Not really, but he did proceed to call me “Numb-Nuts” among other names and rally other instructors to his cause to make fun of me for my stupidity. After about fifteen minutes of this, they applauded me for my honesty and I had to go to the flight doc to get checked out. Later I had to brief the flight on how medication hurts your G-tolerance and you can basically black out and die.
So my flight on Tuesday was cancelled due to my drug addiction. The doc cleared me and said I had the beginnings of a minor cold, but if it got worse I should come back to see him. So Wednesday morning my cold is about the same, but the doc said I was good to fly, so I flew. The ride was ok, but on the way down I had the hardest time clearing my ears, and was forced to drop my mask and valsalva like a mother. After I whipped the goop off my flight glove I threw my mask back on and landed. My sinus cavity was sore for the rest of the day, and my cold got worse that afternoon. So on Thursday I told my flight commander that I wasn’t good to fly and I went to the doc. He said, “Morgan, your nasal cavities are swollen and look pretty disgusting, and your ears are very reluctant to clear. How about I DNIF you (Duty Not Including Flying) for a few days and pump you full of meds?” I was game for that, and that’s what we did. He was even going to let me get out of my intermediate instruments exam that I had later that afternoon, but I said no, I’ll just go in there and cough all over it and get them back for making me take such a vile test in the first place. It turned out that I made a 100% on that exam, as did my roommate Jeffro, so we proceeded to do a victory dance while yelling obscenities at the test that we just spanked.
Thursday and Friday were once again bad weather days. Now I have stated before just how much bad weather days can actually suck because it exposes you to the wrath of the IP’s and leaves you with countless hours of little things you have to do around the flight room. On the other hand, you can also request the ever popular “lunch push” where everyone goes out together and, well, we eat lunch just like it sounds. On Thursday we were a bit hasty and ended up getting yelled at for asking to go. But on Friday the day was ours and we were able to go out and eat. But there’s always a Catch 22 to these things. Since we’re all going to be fighter pilots, we have to go out to eat by fighter pilot rules, of course. What are fighter pilot eating rules you ask? Well, you can go with either one of two options. The first option is that everyone pays the exact same, no matter WHAT you order or eat. Thus the way to go would be to order the Surf and Turf and as many lobsters as possible. But it sure sucks for the fellow that just had the cup of coffee. The other way is a bit more dangerous and requires some real juevos rancheros. Everyone takes their credit card, and sticks it in a bowl. The waitress chooses one card at random, and that poor sap foots the bill. This way tends to make the wives upset with the married guys in our flight. So we usually go with option one.
That weekend we defined the term “Work hard and Play Hard.” We had a bunch of folks over, and then went out, and then came back here to our humble abode and drank even more. Clean up duty the next morning is always a treat. I should say more like the next afternoon, because if someone is stirring in the house prior to lunch time they are wrong.
Let’s see, on Monday I went back to the doc and was cleared of my cold, which has yet to actually completely go away. It is like a lingering annoying sickness that I can’t beat because we really don’t get enough time to do that thing someone mentioned one time as sleep. Guess what Monday was? That’s right, a bad weather day. If the weather guys don’t fix this junk soon we’re going to be flying on Saturday again and then Jeff and I will probably end up hurting some one. Tuesday was my birthday, and the IP’s decided to give me a fake taco as a gift. A taco in pilot training is not a Mexican dish; it’s actually the nickname for the hand symbol they use to describe a “hook” or a “busted” ride. And upside down “U.” So I flew with my Italian IP, and I was so rusty from not flying in about ten days that I pretty much felt like I should land and look up that number to the Texas Truck driving school. At one point in the pattern, my IP actually said, “Jason, are you sleeping? Where are you?” So we get back in, and he tells me that I can’t go to my simulator ride later that day, and that he’ll be back in a few hours to debrief. Ummmm, alrighty then. So for most of the afternoon my name is up on the scheduling board on a dark red name tag that seemed to pulsate and scream, HEY EVERYONE LOOK HOW BAD MORGAN SUCKED TODAY! So that wasn’t a very cool birthday present. He gets back to debrief, we’re looking over the grade sheet, and he says, oh, wait a minute…and I’m sitting there like, oh deer what in the world now. It turns out he thought I had to have a better level of proficiency that I actually had to on that ride. So I didn’t really hook that ride, and it was all just a big mess up on their part. Great joke guys, yeah, real funny. The dudes did get together and get me a card with a hot chick on the front though, and that made my day. My good bro Jeff also bought me some killer Taco Bell for dinner, so that was totally sweet.
Wednesday and Thursday were once again defiled by the incorrect weather men. We didn’t fly and quite frankly didn’t even want to go outside it was so nasty. I think the weather man called for sunny skies and 10% rain that day. We did have a lunch push to a killer little Greek restaurant where we ate like kings and only paid eight bucks. On Friday I totally smoked my ride and I’m not sure my IP thought he was flying with the same person. I chair flew like a crazy man and was just on my game that day. Jeff is ready for solo, and has already bought the Grandaddy of whiskey he is going to give to his IP for soloing him out. Today is Monday 9 February and we were once again grounded by weather. Today was actually a giant waste of my life considering we sat in briefings that had absolutely nothing to do with us and I got a syllabus deviation for following scheduling instructions given to me by the schedulers. The flight commander actually was flinging curse words at me in her office. I was forced to take cover because the F-bombs were being dropped all over the room. Oh well, I let that stuff roll right off my back and started eating some jalapeño popcorn. If the weather is good tomorrow, Jeff will solo, and I will fly with the German Terminator. We’ll see how that goes.
Two major lessons learned from the week are one that weather sucks, and two that flying with angry German Colonels can be painful. More news on that at eleven. Monday of this week was ruined by one of the dreariest and dismal weather days we’ve seen yet. It literally rained or sprinkled for the entirety of the day. All day long, every second of the day, moisture fell from the sky, even as we walked slowly out to our cars in the dark. It kind of puts a damper on your mood when you get to work and it’s dark, and when you leave work it’s still dark outside. Sometimes I wonder if the sun came out that day or am I just stuck in this time space continuum where I get quizzed on general knowledge and find out just how little of it I actually posses.
Tuesday was way sweeter. I was scheduled to fly with the Terminator, but that changed as my flight was bumped of the list to be replaced by more important solo sorties. That’s cool, it’s alright, I’ll just take pictures of people and tackle them and throw them in the giant tank of freezing cold water. Tuesday we had FIVE people solo, how cool is that? It’s cooler than being cool, it’s ICE COLD! Just like the water. My bro Jeff tore up the pattern like a crazy man. He owned it, and sounded pretty cool on the radio while doing it. And to top it all off, he tried to sneak back into the flight room incognito. Now, for those of you who have seen Jeff, he’s not the largest of individuals, but he can be pretty sneaky when he wants to be. And since the rewards for getting back into the flight room is a case of beer from EVERYONE, he definitely wanted to be. So we’re sitting in the hall, chilling, waiting for him because oh yes, we know he’s coming. But there’s only one door, so we plugged it with as many fellas as we could, and the shadiest looking maintenance man comes walking down the hall. So shady in fact, that he’s walking down the hall staring at the ground. And oh look, he just so happens to be the same height and build as Jeff…hmmm, very interesting indeed. Brendhan sees right through it and starts plowing down the hall towards this most shady of maintenance men. Turns out Jeff “aquired” a maintenance jump suit and hat and came strolling through the building in the blue maintainer’s outfit. It was smooth, but no cigar. Ten seconds later he was tackled, and three minutes later he was breaking the ice of the dunk tank.
Wednesday was interesting. The weather was back and I was still schedule with the Terminator. He is the section commander by the way, and only debriefs in his office. While we were briefing for the flight, he managed to find twelve of what he calls “FIRE BURNS” in my gradebook. We stepped to fly, first jet had a faulty oil pressure indicator, but I was smoking on my ground ops and was actually waiting on him to start the jet up. BUT, we had to jump out of that one and get another jet. So there goes my flow. No flow, flow is gone. Get the next jet started up, about ready to pull out of the chalks, and we get a weather update, turns out it got worse as I was starting up the jet apparently, and there was no point in us going. So we get out and the sortie with the Terminator, was terminated. So what did I get out of that sortie you ask? Well, I got to start two jets and ended up owing three bucks in “FIRE BURNS.” Totally sweet.
The next day took the cake as one of the most painful flying experiences known to date. Since I wasn’t able to fly with the Terminator, they decided to put me with the Ops Commander. So that’s cool. Turns out he’s an angry yeller and likes to dish out Tacos. Not cool. I can sum up the flight in three words. WOW IT SUCKED. We flew out and I was a bit sloppy considering it had been TEN days since I had flown a contact sortie, but I wasn’t at all doing terrible like he made me feel. We get back to the pattern here at SPS and all hell breaks loose. I made a mistake on a turn in outside downwind and he FLIPS out. The yelling begins, and much to my surprise and horror, my left earplug just decides to come cruising out of my ear. The sound level in my helmet went from a cool comfortable level to an eruption of excruciating yells that made a rock concert seem like the quiet game in Kindergarten. So every time this guy got pissed and yelled, it was like he was standing next to me and yelling with a megaphone into my left eardrum. Now you didn’t hear this from me, but I got flustered and of course started sucking even more. It was a sad display and all I could think about was how much it was going to cost to purchase a Miracle Ear 2000 and how all of my grandchildren would have to scream to ask Grandpa what’s up. I sucked more, he yelled more, I went more deaf, we landed, I got a Taco and a nice red name tag, and that was that.
Friday was a whole new world since I was able to fly with BEAST again and not have to worry about being yelled into submission. The flight was not one of my more stellar performances, but it was leaps and bounds ahead of the previous attack upon my ears. Everything went well and I ended up passing the ride with a good rating. We got released pretty late, had a nice talk about gripes and complaints and how we were having too much fun, and then I left town for Austin. I do not advise driving in the dark through snow and sleet for five hours after a long day of work. And yes, I did say snow, I wasn’t pulling your leg.
Week 11 – 16-20 Feb 04’
The three day weekend was totally sweet and I could honestly use one of those every weekend. We had President’s Day off, so I was able to do some quality chair flying and prepare for my solo ride on Tuesday. The weather was clear and a million and on 17 February 2004 I flew a twin engine jet aircraft all by my darn self! Flying the jet by yourself can only be described as FREEDOM! There’s no one there to yell at you, or cut off your oxygen supply, it’s just you and the jet. You are now the aircraft commander, you’re the man up there, and it’s totally sweet. I briefed with Lt. Colonel Beason and we headed out. I smoked my ground ops, and we took off in a pattern delay here at Sheppard. I did four patterns which BEAST described as the best four patterns he has ever seen me fly. So that was cool and he told me to call fuel and make the next one a full stop so that he could get out. I landed up and we rolled back around to the hammerhead and he said that I made the decision for him to get out of the jet very easy. He strapped his side down, I turned off the engine on his side, and he jumped out to prepare me to roll out on my own. He put his chute and helmet down in the grass and then ran me through the pre-flight checks as if he was the crew chief. Number two was rolling again, we saluted each other, and he walked off to the RSU to watch me wreak havoc upon the pattern. For some reason I flew nine of the best patterns in my life. I heard the jet make some sounds I’ve never heard before, but it was all so awesome. The only problems were that it was kind of hazy out there, and that I forgot my speed break on my LAST landing, geeze. I even had the RSU give me two write ups for excellent touch downs. I was happy to say the least and then it was time for me to prepare my return to the flight room. I got onto the bus and talked the driver into driving me down to the far side of the building so I could sneak in through the maintenance area. As soon as I get inside some Major sees me and starts yelling, THERE HE IS, HE’S DOWN HERE, and on and on. I later learned that he went into his office and CALLED my flight room to warn them I was coming. Son of a…anyway, I dropped my chute and helmet and pubs in a random corner, and met my assigned instructor Maj. “SUMO” Meyer at the end of the hall. He’s gigantic, so I walked behind him as we made our way down towards the flight room. The plan was that he would walk in, take a few guys down, and I should come running three seconds later. I could see around the corner with the round mirrors on the ceiling that half of my flight was waiting in the doorway for me. So SUMO rolls around the corner, knocks a few heads, and I come running. Blaine sees me first and goes for the tackle; he’s just a tiny wittle guy, so I pick him up and keep moving. I get hit by one of the Germans, and keep rolling, I’m almost to the doorway dragging bodies, and big dawg Brendhan is there to plug the hole. He drills me and they’re all trying to pick me up, but I’m fighting like a mother. They eventually get my feet off the ground, but I grabbed a hold of the doorway and held on for dear life. I was beat, so they were “escorting” me through life support and I bolted again. I was caught around the corner. Oh well. I struggled all the way up until they stripped off my boots, gave me three swings, and tossed me into the cold water. If you want to see pics of the event return to my main page and click on “My webshot photos” and look for the solo album.
On Wednesday I flew with yet another new instructor and was able to knock out my second instrument flight. I actually had the fewest number of instrument sorties in my flight and wasn’t opted to do a lot of links, so they had to fly me on instruments to open me up for certain simulator rides and such. The new IP was pretty darn cool, and he taught me how to do loops and aileron rolls early. They were FREAKING sweet and make flying even more fun. Thursday was beautiful outside, but so windy that people were having trouble walking much less flying and landing jets. Winds gusting to 35 kts doesn’t make for very good landings from newbie student pilots, so we didn’t’ fly. Friday on the other hand was quite nice and calm. I went up with BEAST again and flew contact sortie 2701 which was basically all maneuvers, acrobatics, and SPINS!!! The ride was a blast and we had a ton of fun even though I knocked our heads into the canopy as I missed the recovery cone on a spin and threw us into about two negative G’s. The sweetest roller-coaster ride in the world; there is no theme park on the planet that can match it. We ended up not leaving the flight room until nearly 8:30p.m. mostly because we were drinking beer and playing foosball against the IP’s, but needless to say we partied just as hard on Friday and Saturday as we worked that week. Our contact check-ride is less than ten rides away. Not too excited about that. More to come later.
Week 12 (23-27 Feb 04)
This week I learned that in-flight emergencies can be quiet the learning experience, and can unfortunately happen on beautiful days. Seriously bad timing on the emergency’s part if you ask me since we only get beautiful flying days here about once a week. Right now I bet you’re thinking there’s no way he’s going to talk more smack on the weather guys because it’s just not possible for them to have as many no fly days as they did the previous weeks. WELL, YOU’RE WRONG! The first three days of this week were pissed to the wind due to rain and winds and all of that good stuff. We managed to work a little harder and not goof around as much on these weather days since we were previously harassed and lectured for doing said goofiness. Dash ones were opened, and systems drawings were laid out on the boards, but we still managed to get ourselves into some trouble.
A bad little streak of coincidences has unfortunately labeled our flight as the bad boy slacker flight. Not cool. The IP’s call for a lunch push, and we’re all over that mess because some BBQ in the middle of a rainy study day is just totally sweet. So we all go to the Branding Iron and start putting cooked cow away like no body’s business. Unbeknownst to us our formal release time snuck by while we were polishing off some ribs and fried okra. Now of course there’s no excuse, but I have a question. If your boss took you to work, would you not assume, nay, know that the very act of him asking you to lunch clears you from other duties back at work during the lunch hour? Yes that’s what a normal person would think, but NO, you are far from correct, because apparently it is your fault for missing a release time and all of a sudden the German Terminator section commander is in your flight room telling everyone how much they suck and how they are making a bad name for themselves.
Thus began what will forever be known as (queue thunderous boom and scary music) THE LONGEST AND CRAPPIEST WEEK EVER!!! So Thursday rolls around, we do a safety briefing, and the morning seems to be running swell. I brief for my flight with Capt. Colina and its one hell of a beautiful day outside. I get out to the jet, do the pre-flight, and much to my amazement I have been lucky enough to get one of the high performance Tweet models with engine spool up times in the nine second range. (End dripping sarcasm) I take off and shoot the ranch stereo departure heading for Hacker to get in some patterns and burn some fuel before I head up to the high practice area for some spinning. It’s time to cancel IFR clearance and drop down into Hacker and all of a sudden my radio starts to go shady on me. There’s crackling, fuzzy business, and then nothing. So I make my cancel call, get no reply, hmmm, that’s strange. I continue to change my squawk and radio frequency to Hacker’s channel, I get nothing. Interesting indeed. One of my instructors is in the RSU at Hacker and is calling us, over and over, and we are replying, but he just continues to call like he never heard us. You know why? Because he never did hear us, from that point out we were completely NORDO. Comm out, no talking, flying in the blind. So we jump in our checklist, follow all the procedures, and check our personal leads and other channels. Nothing. Long story short I departed and flew arcs and radials VFR back to SPS where I rocked the wings all the way up initial. My IP was kind of an auto pilot for me telling me what was in the checklist the whole way back. It was cake, and rocking my wings on initial was pretty fun. In fact, I rocked them so much and for so long that the tower crew wants to change my IP’s call sign to “Rocker.” Muahahaha We landed uneventfully and had to do lots of paperwork. So there went my flight for that day. I spent the rest of the day doing recorder duty out in the RSU.
Friday was beautiful, but I chose to fly a mediocre sortie that morning anyway. Went up with Col Beason and went through all of the maneuvers. Spins were pretty sweet, even though I suck at them and nearly crap my pants at the beginning of each entry. It was a good ride, just not stellar. I neglected to chair fly the night before because I was studying for my advanced navigation exam that was on Friday afternoon. Passed that, and my ride was graded a good, so it’s ALL good. We had our second to last guy solo, and now we’re down to one more before we are completely solo’d out. Our first contact check ride is coming up much too quickly and will most likely be next week. My buddy Jeff will fly TWO solo area rides on Monday, so everyone, if you get a chance, don’t fly around Southern Oklahoma that day because Jeff will be all alone in a jet for most of the day up there. Oh, and on Friday evening we whooped a few IP’s asses at foosball. I’m out.
Week 13 (1-5 Mar 04)
My apologies for allowing this crazy journal to fall more than three weeks behind. The quality and depth of these next two entries may be sub-par since it has been three weeks since they occurred and a lot has happened since then. One thing I do remember from this week was that we only flew twice, and for some of us even less than that. The weather took another dump on us and left us in the flight room doing EP’s and studying. I know I was able to knock out an instrument ride and possibly one contact sortie, but that was about it. We did however get the privilege, nay, the pleasure of getting completely new checklists and an entirely new and updated Dash one. I’m being sarcastic here because that actually was a gigantic pain in the arse. We had to transfer all of our little notes and things from our old checklist into our new one, which took a killer amount of time, and on top of that, the checklist came in a brand new format that is harder to find things in. This change was clearly brought about by someone of extreme intelligence that is now being promoted to general somewhere for their amazing policy changing efforts with the new checklists. I say screw those guys.
Week 14 (8-12 Mar 04)
The weather shined on us and we were able to get in some of our first check-rides this week. My roommate Jeff checked and passed his ride with a few downgrades, no sweat. He also checked with the head of check section, so that was a “fun” experience for him. A few other fellas checked and there was a hook or two from our best guys for doing stupid things, which I would unfortunately experience during the following week. There will be more to come on that later. I finished up the 2800 block which was basically six rides of check ride preparation where you fly entire profiles full of patterns and maneuvers to get you ready to rock on your check. You also spin on each and every ride, which is such a blast as long as you can recover from it. It beats the hell out of any roller coaster in the world, and saying that is a big step since I nearly crapped my pants the first time I gave spins a shot. I flew with Lt Col Beason on every ride in this block and we had a blast running through the profiles and polishing up my maneuvers. On one of the sorties we spun at least 6 times and tore the airspace a new one. We started navigation academics this week and began planning out low-level maps and targets. Pretty sweet stuff, but it’s all fun and games until someone slaps a test and a check ride on you in the same week.
Week 15 & 16 (15-26 Mar 04)
Basically this week sucked HARD!!! We’re talking ULTRA hard here, way more than it should have. CRAPPIEST WEEK IN HISTORY…news at 11. I had a ride on Monday that went just fine and was a great last ride before my first check. Tuesday rolls around and I’m scheduled to fly with one of the German student destroyers. So that’s cool. No sweat. We’ve beaten the Germans twice before. The weather was beautiful, the winds were barely blowing, and everything was all good. I walk up to check section and ring the little bell, and a Captain tells me to come on in and wait on the couch. I wait just like he says. My check pilot comes out and calls me into his office/booth/cubicle/corner and I say good afternoon Sir, I’m LT Morgan and extend my hand to give a normal American how ya doin’. He looks at my hand, semi rolls his eyes, puts his hands at his sides, and tells me to have a seat. So I’m standing there, arm extended, and stuck in what seemed the longest hanging few seconds of my life. This dude refused to shake my hand and left me hanging there like a giant goofball to wallow in my embarrassment.
So the suck all started there. The brief went just fine, and so did the flight all the way up until I’m doing my first touch n’ go at Hacker and I’m thinking too far ahead into my next maneuver that I pull the smoothest one ever and decide that I don’t really need to raise the gear and flaps this time around. He takes the jet and I’m all shocked at what the hell is going on, and then it hits me like a ton of bricks and I knew right then that I had hooked the ride, and it had just begun. I pressed on and didn’t let the rest of it affect me, but that ride was a fat unsatisfactory taco that I wasn’t planning on taking home that day. I mean, no one really likes a freaking taco unless it’s from Taco Bell. I had an 87 ride to “clear” up my mistakes the next day and it went so well that I put my instructor to sleep. Long story short it took me another ride to clear it up and it got way out of hand and further than it ever should have. Lesson learned…there is absolutely no need to put any pressure on yourself at all during a check ride. None.
That week ended with mucho cerveza on Friday night and lots of studying on the weekend. And then more cerveza. Oh well, you gotta do what you gotta do. By now Mustache March is really getting to all of us. It’s to the point now where people just sit there and stare at the abomination on your face when you talk to them. It’s as if they are transfixed on the road kill stuck on your upper lip and aren’t really listening to what you’re saying. It’s half hilarious, and half embarrassing. But at this point, we’re all looking like fools and it’s twice as funny. Some have elected to go with the “Low Spaniard” cut, while others choose the “Texas Highway Patrolman” shave. I on the other hand wear a very respectable mustache known as the “Dirty Sanchez.” It can only be described as dark and dirty and all over the place. It has a mind of its own and you can not stop it, you can only hope to contain it. Actually it’s hideous and I hate it…but the ides of March are near, and the first day of April will be glorious! I plan to play an April fools joke on my girl and say that I like it now, and plan to keep it. But I know I will not even be able to fool myself on that one.
After that whole hooked ride business was all said and done, I got back into the instrument phase and MAN was that messy. I was rusty enough to spread tetanus to the world and other nearby planets. I hadn’t flown an instrument ride in weeks and had spent so much time prepping for the contact ride that Col Beason spent most of our ride laughing at how terrible I was. If I had to describe the ride in one word, I would say that it was DISGUSTING! Jeff and the boys headed out to Biloxi for the first Cross-countries and the rest of us stayed home and went to assignment night. I received some of the most hilarious phone calls from the cross country guys and plan to make a few of those myself next weekend.
Forget the weeks, but here's the dates: 29 March – 30 April 04
WOW it has been a while since I’ve been able to write in this thing, but the freaking instrument phase doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to mess around on the computer. Last I left off was just prior to going cross-country to Keesler, AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi. Well, all I can say about that weekend was that it was a whole lot of flying with some casinos and beverages in the mix. Lots of beverages. We took off on Friday afternoon, climbed up to 16K feet, which takes quite a while in the Tweety bird, but it was still pretty fun. We climbed out and flew to Shreveport, LA where we stopped for gas and had lunch during a 2.5 hour layover. We went to a small Cajun restaurant where these little old ladies cooked the most kick ass little crab-cake appetizers. We ate about 100 of those, not really, but quite a few. Then I had a gigantic burger with jalapeños on it, and SUMO paid for that in the jet on our next leg.
The leg into Biloxi was at night, and it was totally sweet flying down the white beach of the gulf over all the casinos while intercepting the ILS final. It was like a mini Tweet Vegas and was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. When it started getting completely dark, SUMO was turning on all the cockpit lighting, and asked me if I could see it very well. I said, no Sir, they’re still pretty freaking dim. He said, WHAT THE HECK, those are super bright why can’t you see them? A few seconds later he busted out laughing and after a good few minutes of laughing and mockery, he pointed out to me that my dark sun visor was still down. Now THAT was a cool feeling.
The whole weekend was a blast, but very tiring. We hit the casinos and I won 100 smackers at the BlackJack tables, so that was pretty sweet. Went to bed around 0500, woke up a few hours later to go to HOOTERS, and then back to the Casinos and the beach. Then we got to see a mindless movie of the Rock beating people up with 4X4’s while eating gigantic bags of popcorn. Good times, good times.
Since then it has been pretty crazy in our flight. Ups and downs is the only real way to describe the craziness in our flight. One day we’re getting yelled at for stuff, and the next day we’re a great team. We go 12 for 14 passes on instrument check rides in one week, but then we’re getting yelled at again on Friday for being terrible people and they’re threatening to put us on Military SMS. You just never know how it’s going to go down in F flight.
I passed my instrument check ride with 5 downgrades and missed making the fridge by ONE downgrade. I was pretty pissed on one hand, but relieved that it was over on the other. Instruments are incredibly important, but are sometimes so boring that everyone often times feels the urge to poke their eyes out. Jeff got 4 downgrades on his instrument check, and only 3 on his low level check and is now the sole owner of the fridge. His grade sheets are the only ones on there, and is the only one that can claim fridge bragging rights. He’s tearing it up and about to move into Formation, which will be totally sweet. Once we start that, we’ll have about 30 rides to go, and we’re DONE with Tweets. Ridiculous how fast time flies by. Low level is an absolute blast cruising over the ground at 210 kts and 500 feet above ground level. I know it sounds pretty slow compared to how fast we’ll be flying in jets later, but it’s a darn good time now. It’s all about time over target and be able to navigate from the clock, to the map, to the ground. It’s just so fun being so low and seeing stuff zoom by. It is a great feeling that you kind of have to experience for yourself to know what I’m talking about.
I’ll check for low level early next week, and then move on into the rest of advanced contact and formation. After that we’re on to Holloman, AFB to get our breakfast spun out of us in the centrifuge, then we dive right into the T-38 Talon. Going to be hella sweet! During one of my solo rides last week I was heading up into the area after doing touch n’ go’s at Hacker, and area monitor comes on and says that the SOF (supervisor of flying) wants all the solos to return to base. So I’m trucking back there and during that time the winds have gone out of limits and a weather recall has been announced for all T-37 aircraft. I’m sitting thinking, well that’s totally sweet, this should be interesting. At that time there were three other solos in the air from my flight. After a good 20 minutes of absolute craziness on the radios and radar vectoring and strange transmissions, all four of us ended up back at hacker doing full stops in 18 knots of crosswind. NICE! It was pretty cool landing alone at a semi-foreign field. We stopped and the fire crew was there waiting for us. We strapped the jets down, and then went into the fire station to play pool and lift weights while shooting the shit with the fire crew. Great bunch of dudes, and we ended up going into town to buy pizza while waiting for a ride from Sheppard. Four hours later and one crazy fast truck trip with an old guy that drives 90, we were home. That was quite a day.
We had another assignment night last night, Friday, 30 April 04. Ten kegs plus tons of people, really good smelling port-o-potties, a live band, another great drop, and some of the nastiest pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life equals a better than average assignment night. They had goat wrestling, but the goats never showed up. Pilots won by default. They also had a car smash with a sledge hammer. I’ll let you think about how that went with tons of drunken dudes. It was fun, but our assignment night will be legendary. You’ll see.
P.S. Downing, Goss, and I spent a totally sweet afternoon doing one of the most kickass lawn mowing jobs on Rocky’s lawn in history. (Great house by the way!) So Capt. Colina, if you’re reading this, your yard looks NICE! We’ll hit it up again before you come home from SOS.
Who knows the weeks, dates are : 03 May – 13 May 04
It’s Thursday night, and I’m in the journal writing, typing really, mood. So prepare yourself for a deeply intense account of what has gone on in my life in the past, ohhh, ten days or so. The time since my last entry has definitely been interesting to say the least. Good things and bad things have happened, but it has all turned out to be pretty good in the end. Just like the food in my fridge, the low level phase of training has come and gone and I won’t see anymore again for a couple of months. If it wasn’t for the fine dining establishments which I frequent such as Wendy’s and Taco Bell, I don’t know what I would do. But that’s a different story.
I had the best time flying low levels in the Tweet. The map making, which takes hours on end, was basically terrible, but it was all made up by just how much fun it is to fly a jet over a damn a 500 ft and pretend you’re dropping a whole lot of hurt on it. Now most of the damns in southern Oklahoma are at sewage plants and keep the poop from spilling all over the place, so I’m guessing it’s good we didn’t actually bomb them. On second thought, I despise the Oklahoma Sooners and thinking of them swimming around covered in their own poop is actually pretty hilarious. But enough poop talk.
My low level check-ride went pretty well. My check pilot was a really cool guy, and was actually a lot of fun to fly with considering most check pilots prefer to sit there in silence holding the fate of your flying dreams in their hands and make you feel as if you chose the wrong career and should be working at our previously mentioned sewage facility. But this guy was actually pretty cool. I had been to the RSU with him a few times prior and he constantly quizzed me and the other dudes over country songs which of course I had zero, zilch, NO CLUE who was singing them. He was very disappointed to learn that I hail from the great state of Texas and didn’t know my country tunes. I also told him that I hadn’t ridden in a rodeo in years, and that the last time I wore boots was probably back when he was going through pilot training. He didn’t talk to me again for at least another ten minutes.
Back to my check-ride which I begun to discuss earlier. I rolled for navigation route Alpha, and proceeded to try and get myself lost on the very first leg of the ride. I’m sure he knew that I was secretly freaking out behind my black visor, and I’m sure that he was secretly snickering and cracking up behind his. I had managed to work myself about three miles left of my planned course, and finally found these gigantic mines that were along my route, and threw the power to mill and got back on track. Later in the debrief he said that where I was flying was very strategic because it was down in a valley and would be the way that I would do it in the future for real, but it was nowhere close to my planned course. So I bought myself a downgrade for that, but told him that it was my intention to be all strategic like that and that of course I did it on purpose. Needless to say, he didn’t buy it. I ended up with 8 downgrades, but a pass is a pass. Jeff still owns the fridge and I’ve got till my next check-ride to try and get on there and give him some company.
That ride was on Thursday of last week, and we had the next day off due to spouse taxi day, so Thursday afternoon and evening was full of our usual activities which you of course know by now. Hours of foosball and the beverage of champions! Most of the fun guys went out on Thursday night, and I woke up the next morning and drove home to Houston. Friday night with everyone was great, but we received a phone call at the house in the middle of the night which would make the rest of the weekend a real bummer. It was the hospital saying that my Grandpa (affectionately known as PaPa) wasn’t doing so hot, and that we had better get there ASAP and say our goodbyes. I had just laid down to go to sleep about fifteen minutes before the phone rang, so I was up to hear my Mom answer it and listen to the tone of her voice drop as she registered what the nurse on the other end of the line was saying. My Mom and Dad left the house at about 0230 and said they would call me in a few hours to let me know what was going on.
PaPa had been sick for a very long time prior to this, and things like this had happened before, but never while I was in town. I made it to the hospital with my Mom about 0800 and saw him for the first time in a very long time. Right when I walked into the door of his room I saw my Dad and aunt sitting there with long faces, staring at the bed where I knew PaPa was laying right around the corner. A real sadness filled the air and culminated when I saw him lying there in his bed struggling to breathe. I hugged my grandma (also affectionately known as Nanny) who was crying at the time and she whispered into my ear that PaPa wasn’t doing so well and that she loved me. I told her that I loved her also and then stood back to take it all in. PaPa was lying there with an oxygen mask strapped to his face which bore an expression I can only describe as a silent scream of pain and discomfort. He was laboring to breathe as his lungs filled with liquid, his own body was drowning itself and there was nothing he could do about it. I stood there and began to tear up immediately, so I walked out of the room and back out into the lobby. My sister came in a few hours later and had about the same experience I did I think, or at least that what I gathered from her reaction. It wasn’t the way she remembered PaPa, and was definitely not the way she wanted to, and she came out of the room sobbing after only a few moments.
Hours later I had left the room and was outside sitting on a park bench when my sister came running out crying and told me that he was gone. I sat there for only a few seconds, but it felt as if I was there for hours as my mind comprehended exactly what she had just said to me. I stood straight up and walked over to her to give her a giant hug and comfort her as she was pretty shook up and crying pretty bad. We walked up and down the sidewalk in front of the building talking to each other about remembering all of the great memories we had of PaPa. I looked down at my watch; my PaPa passed away at 1730 on Saturday, 8 May of 2004.
It all didn’t really hit me until we walked back inside and I saw everyone hugging each other and crying. I got a hallow feeling in my chest and throat that almost felt like I was being choked, like it was hard to breathe. I walked into the room with my sister to see him, she left almost immediately and I just stood there and stared at him. That’s when it hit me for real and I just lost it. Nanny was there sobbing, clenching his hand, refusing to let him go, and my aunt was bending over kissing him goodbye. I looked up and saw my Dad cry for the first time in my life and I choked up even worse. I stood there and sobbed like a little girl and I didn’t even care. I had never in my life been so sad and completely unprepared for something, ever. Eventually everyone made their way out of the room and I was left alone there with him. Just when I thought I was calming down I would look at him and then remember all of the great memories of doing things with him as I was growing up and I would lose it all over again. I calmed myself down after a while, took his hand and said, “Love you Papa, see ya later!” Just like I would always do when we left his house in Livingston, Texas.
I returned to Wichita Falls on Sunday of that weekend and flew once on Monday and then again on Tuesday morning. Tuesday evening I caught a couple of jets back home to Houston to attend Papa’s funeral on Wednesday. That morning I got into my service dress and drove with my sister to the funeral home where the service was to be conducted. I was to be a pole bearer and was doing pretty good. I’m usually pretty bad about showing my emotions, I just don’t for some reason, and try to stay happy at all times and keep a good attitude. It was helping me to help my sister and other family members. Considering the circumstances, it was great getting to see a lot of family and friends that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. The ceremony was held in a very good looking little chapel and I sat up front next to my cousin Danny, William and the rest of the pole bearers who were all a part of Papa’s life in some way. The priest talked to us with the background filled with sobs and tears. The coffin was draped in an American flag and flowers were everywhere. We eventually carried him out and placed him onto the funeral wagon. An honor guard gave a 21 gun salute to Papa and so did I while they played taps one last time. It was a struggle to keep it all together as they folded the flag and gave it to Nanny along with some brass from the gun salute. We placed our boutonnieres on the coffin while others placed roses. Everyone eventually dispersed and made their way to my aunt’s house where we ate and visited with each other for the rest of the afternoon. I flew home that night and was back at work today.
I apologize to those of you reading this for its depressing nature, but it helps me to write about it and later on down the line I know I’ll want to be able to look back and remember everything just like it was. I know Papa is much more comfortable now, and in a much better place, so it’s all good.
Alllllrighty then, how about some fun stuff for the first time in about thirty paragraphs? What’s that you say? It’s about time I stopped writing about sad stuff? Fine then, I’ll tell you all about my last flight with my Italian MTO that has on previous rides with Jeff choked off his oxygen hose and used it to knock his head up against the dash board! It’s not really as bad as it sounds, really. We have helmets on so it doesn’t hurt that bad, and we can really hold our breath a lot longer than you think. Anyways, Lt. Chiadroni is pretty cool, and he clearly knows he’s cool because he walks out to the jet with his Oakley sunglasses on and slings his helmet back over his shoulder while doing his “it’s gonna be a long time before you guys are this cool” walk. We take off, and get out to the area where I proceed to run through the profile and knock out all of my maneuvers. Some of which were a tad bit rusty and he had to show me a much better way to do them. Some of them were actually so messed up that I can’t really quite describe what they were. My first lazy 8 was more of a lazy 4. Don’t ask me how I flew a four, but I did. Everything else was pretty sharp, and at the end he says, “Giva a mea about five minutesa in the area-a when you are done-a.” So I hand the aircraft over to him and he says, “Make-a sure-a you are ah all strapped in-a good and tighta.” So I do, and he drops the jet into a dive and gains a ton of airspeed, for the Tweet anyway, and then rolls us inverted and trims the aircraft so that a constant negative G load is imposed on it. Just like the prices at Wal-Mart, everything was dropping. I was hanging upside down in my seat at negative 2 G’s and all kinds of dirt and crap from under the seats was flying everywhere and pens were floating and it was just freaking FUN! By this time I was able to ignore the fact that the spare chute which I was using wasn’t fitted correctly and was crushing my juevos rancheros. From there and for the next ten minutes or so he blasted through 4 point turns and maneuvers that took the Tweet to its absolute limits. I just sat there practicing my anti-G straining maneuver and had a blast. We also did a 360 degree G-exercise at 6.5 G’s. Considering the Tweet’s positive G limit is 6.67, that ain’t too shabby. I saw some grey during that one, but hey, that’s equal to a 1300 lb dude sitting on my face, so that’s quite alright. On the way back to base we dodged some clouds, and flew some extra, extra low level that was just totally sweet. One of the most fun rides I’ve had to date, and I get to fly with him again tomorrow morning. That is if the weather holds up. We shall see.
14 May – 18 Jun 04 (T-38’s begin on 28 Jun)
I’ve made a few “Tweet Resolutions”, the first of those being that I’m definitely not going to go an entire month without writing in this thing because for some strange reason I end up forgetting a lot of the good stuff. Don’t worry too much though, because there’s always something crazy to write about. So let’s see, it seems that I last left off with us being at the very end of the advanced contact phase and just becoming newbies to the formation phase. My last few advanced contact rides were a lot of fun, especially now that we’re so comfortable in the Tweet. No longer do you care about the crusty old sounds the T-37 makes, no longer do you wonder if the old bird is going to fall apart when you’re at the top of a Cuban 8, no longer do you crap your pants on a hot day when you have the throttles in military and she only wants to climb at a couple hundred feet per minute. At this point in the game the jet has really become an extension of our hands (and feet every now and then even though most IP’s tell you that you’re retarded if you touch the rudder pedals) to the point where we try new things and can make the jet do nearly exactly what we want. It is actually a lot of fun now, and it’s too bad that it took over 100 flying hours of taking it in the rear before it got to that point.
So I had my advanced contact check-ride with another German. Now if you’re a regular of this little periodical I put out, you’re probably saying, “oh dear, he doesn’t do so hot when he flies with the Bavarian guys.” Well, it actually went pretty darn well and I actually screwed myself out of earning an outstanding by opening my big mouth. I flew with a Commander from the German Navy, which is currently phasing pilots out of their program, so it is pretty rare to see one of those fellas. Anyways, rather than being a mean, stern, and dead serious Deutschlander, this guy was actually pretty awesome. He briefed me about some things he wanted to see during the flight, and asked me if I was good to go. I of course said yes, because honestly, who says they’re not good to go? Nobody. So he says, “Ok, SWEET!” Now I don’t know how good y’all are at your German impersonations, but say that in your head in a very thick German accent and you’ll crack up. Even better, go watch a speech by Governor Schwarzenegger and then you’ll really crack up. So that lightened the mood a bit and I did my part of the brief and we headed out to the jet. We lay our forty pound chutes on the wing, and I notice our freakin’ jet has no gas or oxygen, and to top it off, we’re third in line for the gas truck. I do the walk around, and then we’re both standing there waiting for the fuel truck, stuck in one of the longest most awkward silences ever. You know what I mean, one of those where you’re both silently whistling to yourselves, looking around the sky, kicking imaginary rocks, wondering what the heck to say. So I think to myself, what do German dudes talk about? Conquering things? Bratwurst? Koo-Koo Clocks? Then it came to me…BEER!
“So Sir, you’re from Germany, what kinds of beer do you like?” He said cold, I said sweet, and we spend the next fifteen minutes chatting it up about brewskies and what jets he flew in the German Navy. Very cool guy, with a hilarious sense of humor. We finally took off, and I smoked the departure and the pattern work at Hacker with no problems, and we’re blasting up into the areas when all of this “I’m here to screw you” bad weather starts rolling in. I’m talking the crappy kind of clouds that like to blanket down at the bottom of the airspace so you can’t use ground references, and then start billowing up actually into the airspace so you have to dodge them while you’re trying to impress German people with your aerial acrobatics skills. I decided to BE DECISIVE and make a call to RAPCON requesting a different area that was free of clouds, and that is where I earned my two downgrades of the ride. He said that I didn’t need to do that and I could have easily completed my profile in the area they had already given us. Which I did. But oh well, a two downgrade check-ride is shit hot and completely fine with me. I NEARLY made the fridge that day, but of course Kirby our crazy popcorn German, which you’ll find out more about later, had already earned an outstanding the previous day.
The weekend following that ride I made a trip down to Austin to visit my buddies from college and learned a valuable lesson about leaving your room open in a house where student pilots party all the time. DON’T DO IT. Buy yourself a freaking door with a lock, post a doorman, get a bouncer, do something, but don’t ever leave it open. I get a ring on Saturday night from some friends informing me that there had just been a marathon in my bed, but it was ok cuz they made the bed back up for me. Awww, how very nice. They also told me that they thought my computer which I built in college was on fire because the house was full of smoke, so they unplugged everything and turned it off. Later I found out that the house was not full of smoke from my computer. Oh no, my computer was perfectly fine. What actually happened was that Kirby had himself a case of the mean munchies after a long night of drinking and bringing random girls home to my house, so he grabbed a bag of movie butter popcorn and threw it in the old microwave to satisfy the hunger. Now I know there is a bit of a language barrier between us, but I also know that a picture of a popcorn kernel is universal, and a piece of popcorn looks the same to me as it does to an Aussie in the Outback. It also looks the same on the front of the microwave, and everyone knows all you have to do to cook a bag of popcorn is push the little popcorn kernel picture, and then push start, and FIVE minutes later, yes five minutes later a bag of tasty corn is ready for the grubbing. But NO, somehow, SOMEHOW he managed to cook this bag of popcorn for…well would you be surprised if I told you he cooked it for 30 minutes? How about 45 minutes…50? No I think not, he cooked that bad boy for a mere HOUR, and only when the air in the house was black and the bag burst into flames did he remember he’d been cooking something. The flames lapped out of the microwave, the air was black, and people were having trouble breathing. I half expected to hear that Kurt Russell came busting through the front door with a fire axe like he did in Ron Howard’s Backdraft to save the day. But of course that didn’t happen, and what actually went down instead was that Kirby courageously, but not intelligently, dove into the kitchen, braved the flames, and tore the burning bag out of the microwave and threw it into the living room. Now I’m sure you’re probably saying to yourself, wait, the drunken German guy threw the burning bag of popcorn onto the carpet in the living room? Yes, I questioned that very statement myself, but that is what he did. Then the common sense clue-bird took a massive dump in his eye, and he kicked the buttery fireball onto the back porch. Its three weeks later now, and the black burnt remains are still chilling just outside the back door.
The formation phase was completely awesome, and in the words of my roommate Jeff, “I can’t believe that let us do this crap!” We really do fly ridiculously close; well that’s how it feels the first couple of rides anyway. As you get more comfortable with it you can actually inch your jet up so close that the IP get uncomfortable and starts mumbling about you being too close. Then you actually get cocky and when they mumble about you being too close you feel like telling them to loosen up and stop being such giant pussies. But that wouldn’t go over so well.
Every formation ride is basically the same thing over and over again. You fly the same standard profile every single sortie to the point where you dream about it. You really know that you’re doing something TOO much when you wake up in a cold sweat from a formation dream and are pissed at yourself for missing a radio call or some crap. It’s weird. Anyways, you blast off from a formation takeoff where your two jets are ten feet apart and your wingman is about ten feet back also on a 30 degree line from your plane. You do all these hard to describe hand signals and head banger head knods to get the jets rolling together at the same time. It looks like a bad Ozzy concert, except it’s on a runway, with jets, and no music. OH well. You both clean up your aircraft together, raising gear and flaps in unison so that you look all nice and pretty like the Thunderbirds, then you join up three feet apart and fly the departure together. After you obtain clearance, lead gives “two” (the wingman) 2-3 crossunders, which is a controlled maneuver to get number two from one wing position to the other. They basically reduce power, slide below and behind the lead aircraft, then under and up into position on the other side. It’s pretty sweet. Then lead usually kicks wing out into the route position which is 2-4 ship-widths away on the 3-9 o’clock line which allows both aircraft to clear and perform in-flight checks with some space in-between each other. Once established in the area you join back up to fingertip (3 feet apart) and then work through four leaves of wing work. This is done at approximately 90 degrees of bank with 100 knots of airspeed change. I’d show you in the cool pilot way what I mean with my hands, but that’s just not going to happen right now. After that, you bust out with some echelon turns, which are done at approximately 60 degrees of bank. Lead turns away from wing, belly up, and wing moves right up in there and follows him through the turn. The first time I did one of those I nearly crapped my pants in the worst way. The IP I flew with was disgusted with my “girlyness” and showed me just how to do it. I swear that if we didn’t have a canopy I could have reached up and touched the fuselage of the other jet. It was NUTS! But very sweet. So you do two of those, and then go into a pitchout which allows you to knock out a 4 G, G-awareness maneuver. After that wing joins back up on the opposite side, you knock out 4 leaves, two echelon turns, and then comes the fun stuff. I’m talking ridiculous fun, what every aspiring pilot wants to do; extended trail. It’s totally sweet and can only be described as dog fighting. Lead breaks off and two waits a few seconds then drops into position behind. You spend the next fun five minutes chasing lead through a series of lazy eights, barrel rolls, and over the top maneuvers. It’s so much fun it makes you forget just how much some of the other parts of pilot training suck.
Jeff, Dan, and our angry German all smoked their formation check-rides early and were done at least a week before everyone else in their class. You may refer to them as the “high-speed” guys, but a better three dudes couldn’t have finished first because they were awesome and helped the rest of us who were behind. They also got to do all of the closing the flight duties, except our angry German got to go back to the homeland for the break. If you’re wondering why we call him the Angry German, it’s cuz he’s always angry and pissed off at the world. He looks exactly like, rather he is the spitting image of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets, but rather than uphold political views and decency in the flight room like Sam does on the show, he smokes a lot and makes angry statements. He’s hilarious and a really great guy, one of those folks you’re glad to have around. My formation phase ended with my buddy and me hooking our formation check-ride for an “unsafe” formation takeoff. I call it horseshit, but others call it unsafe, oh well. People are entitled to their opinions I suppose. We absolutely smoked the rest of the ride, along with the ground evaluation afterwards. We even went balls to the walls and performed a maneuver called “fighting wing” which isn’t even in the T-37 flying standards, but is one of those things that is totally sweet and gets you out of jams. I flew my ride with the grand high master chief of check section, so as soon as the flight was over we ran inside and researched everything we knew about “fighting wing” because we knew inquiring minds would be grilling us on it. Fighting Wing is basically where lead breaks off and two has to do whatever is necessary to stay with him, thus allowing lead to reposition the formation in a better place. It’s used when you’re about to bust the area boundaries and such, which is exactly why we used it. I was wing at the time, so it was friggin’ fun to do, and I even caught the IP off guard. I guess he wasn’t expecting the random onset of 6 G’s in the middle of a formation ride. Not my problem. So long story short, and most of you were there for it, we had to re-take our ride on Red Carpet day. Thanks to all those folks who cheered for us when we got on the bus, that was very cool. A big thanks also for coming out and showing interest in a bunch of boys with big toys that we call a job here in Wichita Falls. We start T-38 academics this week, with our dollar rides next Thursday, 8 July 2004. So stay tuned for news on that crazy action. I’m out.