14 October 2005

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 29 Aug 90


251 sports a new paint job. After initially going complete tan on the birds, they decided to just paint over the dark green and black. Came out prety nice. Our Huey still need some paint. JNA tower in the background.

160171, 5T2, Armed Reconnaissance, 4.6, .9 night, 260, Peewee

Back from another day of VIP hauling, er, I mean Tactical Visual Reconnaissance. While earlier complaining about the lack of Intel over here, it has finally occurred to me that we are providing the best intel that there is to be got. Which both horrifies and amuses me at the same time. Still a lot to be said for the old Mark 1 eyeball, these folks want to see the lay of the land. The folks we’re flying are Force Commanders. One of our studious ops guys put up a 1:50,000 scale map with a TERF (Terrain Flight) training route drawn on it. Normally there’s thing on these maps, like contours for hills , water features, roads, buildings, vegetation, etc...The only thing on this map was thousands of little sand colored dots, no contour lines, but a route with 4 checkpoints. We’re going to try it out on our next flight, if we can get someone to be our high bird.
Keep watching for us, we hauled a CBS news crew yesterday. And if you see footage of 2 Cobras and a Huey together, that’s us. Yesterday the General said, “hey pilot, turn around and look at the camera so you can be on TV”, so I did. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell it was me with my visor down. I figure about 5 percent of the footage shot over here makes the news. 369 is definitely in the news, I don’t know if any other Marine helos are flying news crews yet, so we’re hogging all the press, along with the Army. I say it’s time for someone else to fly these guys. The Generals are going to remember us for a long time, as we were the first here and have been giving them all the rides. There is some perverse satisfaction of being the first Marine helo unit here, plus the farthest forward, the tip of the spear. Or the speed bump, as I call us. In boot camp the guys who had to run ahead of the platoon to block traffic were called speed bumps also. We’re the “old salts”, having been here all of two weeks now. Basically it feels good that our capabilities were realized and our training is paying off. Let’s hope we don’t have to use much more of it.
The flying is boring, which means it requires extra vigilance. We are getting used to skimming over the dunes. The Twenty Nine Palms Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) training and deployments to Yuma are real benefits to us. I pity the East coast guys and Army guys that didn’t have these areas in their backyard to train. We try not to scare the sheep too much as we buzz by, flying primarily 300 feet and below. Every day we update new hazards that we see, wires, towers, etc, that aren’t on our maps. The GPS receivers work great ! The satellite nav system is limited due to coverage, but works fantastically when the “space vehicles” are up. My shop is still busting it’s butt to keep everyone’s gear maintained, esp the Cobra’s air conditioner. Imagine being in a car with the windows rolled up in this heat. Poof, you’re a Cobra pilot.
Okay, now I’m bored. I want my own tent so I can hide from the world. Right now I’m 30 feet from the main terminal door, which had 24 hour traffic from every grunt and air unit in the area. I don’t have any problem sleeping, I just don’t like being so easy for the Spot, Nasty and Irish to find/watch. Soon enough it will change, and I’ll miss them and the cool air. My pile of stuff is expanding, now I have to pack and unpack every time I want some socks or skivvies. The General now has some more stuff, his own helmet to wear, compliments of the Gunfighters. The cranials were too small, bugged his head, so we surprised him with a helo helmet. It’s actually a shop spare that we have him wear so he doesn’t bitch the whole flight. I don’t blame him, he’s in there as long as we are and can’t hear. Wait ‘til some other squadron flies him, he’s gonna ask, “where’s my helmet?” Think we ought to tell them? Nah!
Still averaging 3-4 hours per day flying, don’t know how this “steely eyed, roguishly handsome, global warrior of the sea” thing is going over with the locals. There is desert golf course between JNA and the port, which we have added to the standard TACVIP aerial tour. Supposedly the golfers have little mats they carry with them to hit the ball off of, haven’t seen anyone out there yet to verify it. Could be part of some master deception or misinformation plan that I’m not clued in on yet. So far I have 28 hours this month, putting me over 400 for the year. Almost all of our aircraft are tan and gray now, Injun’s boys have done a great job. This has turned out much better than the experiment I witnessed in 1981, when the Corps painted several aircraft in desert cammie for a EWCAS exercise at Nellis AFB, but used water based paint. Looked great til it rained the second day. Got some great before and after shots.
Not the lone rangers anymore, everyone is showing up and pretty soon it will have been no big deal to be over here. Maybe this will replace our Okinawa deployment in September? Hey, we can wish can’t we? I’m ready to go home now, culturally saturated, and thought of cots and pogey bait take up much of my brain power. Tell White Castle to send us some burgers, or a Captain Nemos steak sub from Irving, just down the road from Texas Stadium. They’re the best, unlike the Cowboys this year. Thanks, Jimmy, at least I don’t have to worry about missing the Super Bowl.

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