15 October 2005

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 15 Oct 90

60 day time lapse photo of UV exposure effects. Actually, mug shot of Dutch, EggFu and Diamond

15 OCT 90

160171, 5T2, 1.1, 260, Barnett

Flew out to Division HQ and slept all day. We were medevac/VIP standby. The had a few cots handy, so we borrowed them and looked like little sundials, chasing the shade around the helicopter. Slept, ate chow, slept, read 5 pages in a book, swatted flies, slept, flew to JNA. Boy were we baked, I drank plenty of water.
Got a letter from my pen pal. I am impressed that the kids are interested, esp enough to write back. And anyone who likes airplanes and baseball is fine by me. Maybe some letters will help them put all of this into context. I told her mailing camels was “forbidden” and sending goats would be “baaaad” also. Too tired to shower.
Oh, supposedly 3rd MAW says no one can fly below 500 feet now. Guess an A-6 clipped a radio tower, flying 800 feet lower at night than they were supposed to be, without an updated hazard map. As always, penalize everyone. I never try to go ABOVE 300 feet. Staying low is about the only defense we have. The MAG is checking, as we’ve seen nothing in writing yet. Should be for fixed wing only? I hope so.
Getting up at 0500 to rinse engines. Fun fun.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 14 Oct 90

Me: "Buzz, I like your Paula Abdul poster..."
Buzz: "Thanks. Get rid of that mustache. And you're off the flight schedule."

14 OCT 90

Being Sunday and all, I thought I'd relax as much as possible. Spent most of the morning reading an aviation humor book. It was good, but made me want to be home, going to airshows. I don't know whether Nemo's story will ever make it (He was a pilot who had a seaplane "mishap" near Whidbey, resulting in a short swim in the lake and generation of the callsign "Nemo".) Plus he's trying to change his callsign from Nemo to Salvo anyway. Yesterday, he inadvertently fired off some flares by bumping a switch to the salvo position. Could have been a mechanical problem, a glitch. Anyway, no one was injured but new call signs may abound.
About 1130 some guy from Group comes through and asks if we have a spare helmet that we can give LtGen Boomer. I figured Spot would want to give one up. I'm glad the guy came to see me first. Before we left, we had drawn 7 new helmets from SSD as spares, so we do have extras. I also know how hard it is for a crew chief to try to get the General a good headset every time. Anyway, had the guys start gathering up the goodies (helmet bag, skull cap, gloves, dark visor) and Buzz comes "buzzing" up. Wait, Spot came by first. He suggested FE make a name tag and take along some NVGs and the new aviation gas mask to show him how it attached to the helmet. The about 10 minutes later Buzz comes zipping by an tells me that "you're going to fit the General's helmet". I told him I'd go with along one of my Marines. Then he told me to shave my mustache. Yes, I had a one week old cheesy mustache growing. It must have really been a problem for him because he'd already commented on it twice during the week. I was flattered that anyone could tell I was even trying to grow one. Actually, it wsn't so much as if anything was growing, I just hadn't shaved my upper lip for a week. Buzz really has a body hair fixation, he had more than a few comments about my about a really short haircut a got a few weeks back. Well, the mustache would have disappeared without him saying anything, my theory being I didn't want my only memory of Saudi Arabia being the Commander of all Marine Forces telling me to "shave that thing off." I only grew it to annoy the field grade, and evidently it served it's purpose.
We drove to the port facility, where MEF HQ is, stood around for a while, and went in to let the Gen check out his stuff. Gen Boomer was very nice, but seemed preocupied. Gee, I can't imagine why. He said he really appreciated it, that he hated "not being able to talk and hear in the back, and bugging the crew chiefs". The aide is probably mad because now he has more things to tote around. The Gen didn't ask the standard "where ya from?....Never heard of it..."questions, which to me meant he was busy. He seemed mildly interested in the NVGs, not so much the gas mask. It was cool to met him, and someday maybe I'll see a news clip of him with a flight helmet and say "hey...".
30 minute ride back from HQ in the back of a pickup, I am fried. Buzz had a huge bag of pistachios, so the trip wasn't too bad. Got mail. One of the guys' wife is a reporter, is getting a visa and soliciting the CamPen PAO to make a 48 hour trip to Saudi.
Listening to my music tape, it's playing the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy..." We should play it before every maintenance meeting. Maybe I'll sneak over to the mosque and play it over the loudspeaker. Anyone can obviously go in at any time and pray to Allah over the loudspeaker. 3, 4, 5 a.m, doesn't seem to matter. The first few times I heard it at King Fahd, it was kind of eerie. My plan is to have someone sneak in with a boom box and play some Tone Loc or M C Hammer. Wonder if this would bother the locals?
The Marine Corps suspended our Low Light Level training indefinitely. They just started it 3 weeks ago. Guess the timing isn't right? Army identified a problem with helmet retention straps, there's a fix coming out. I'll try not to crash in the meantime. I figure if you hit something that hard, you're not going to be worried about your helmet. The MAG is going to use this as ammo to push for the lighter, quieter, safer helo helmet. I called North Island to get the repair info for the old helmets.
I think being here is a big plot to reduce the forces, everyone's gonna be so mad when we're done that they won't reenlist.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 13 Oct 90

13 OCT 90

Spent all morning typing Logistics Support Requests, 2 rosters, a letter to the LASER pointer company and some other things. I was on the computer for about 4-5 hours. Entering project info, serialized inventories, wish I had more computer sense. Don't know how high speed I need to be at this point. Feels good to have a backup for correspondence for my own records. Copiers hard to come by over here. I’d like ot send feedback on the GPS receivers. They work great when the satellites are up, but our gray visor works as a polarizing filter with the LCD readout; you can’t see the display. Oh well, they can fix that easy enough. Cashed a check for 60 dollars so I could pay my Officer dues? They say the money wil be used to buy some film, cruise book items, party fund, etc...Oh well, we did get a VCR. Life goes on.
According to rumor control I’ll be home by November. I’m still predicting Valentine’s Day. Nothing is happening fast. Goofed around for an hour, treated myself to chicken at 1430, talked to Injun, S-4, did some more work, trying to round up some wayward FE gear.
Spike is leaving?! Yes?! Kind of surprised me. Who are we gonna pick on now? Seriously, I wish him the best of luck for his wife’s sake. I don’t know if this was his scheduled departure or not Maybe he’s going home to fight the promotion board some more. Probably shouldn’t have been sent here in the first place. It’ll be interesting got see if Ops changes when he’s gone. All of the Lts will miss him...
Well, no great ideas for me today. Need t go to Dhahran to see if our missing gear is just sitting down there somewhere. NVGs may have been turned in at CamPen by guys who checked out at the last minute. Jim amd I shot the shit for a while, nothing of substance. Ate chow, spread rumors. Grabbed gear, back to tent at 1830, pinged on the field grade.. We have a good group of guys, Capts and Lts, there’s just a wide gap between them and the field grade. Spot is nuts. Just think how impressed everyone will be when they realize that we did all these neat things with Spot as our CO. We certainly checked off all the boxes we could this year, Eagle Claw, 2 CAXs.
Chow sucks. It’ll be hard to get the Christmas spirit over here, probably prohibited.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 12 Oct 90

12 OCT 90

A lovely little sand dune, in the middle of nowhere. Eastern BFSA. Looking for the book Dunk’s Almanac, Marine Corps vignettes. Got up, went to work. Worked. Wrote letters. Looked at Huey. Wrote more letters. Wrote MORE letters. Ate. Cleaned hooch. Listened to tapes. 2 Beers article on the Cobra driveshaft failure was published in Approach, document of subsequent airmanship and heroics. We’re using heat sensitive tape to monitor them for now, and it has caught a few problems, so good things have evolved from this. Today was busy but boring. Attitude above average, Chow wasn’t bad. Spaghetti, but the cooked the noodles? back to hooch at 1800, dusted off cot, listened to music, bitched about Majors and LtCols, read Newsweek, looking for mail. Shower and try to get a few more hours sleep.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 11 Oct 90

11 OCT 90

Slept good, it’s cooling off considerably. Forgot laundry. Wrinkled cammies. Must find hot rocks.
Had classes all day. No flying/turning. Better than CamPen. I guess the day off for E’s last week was a one time thing. Spent the morning typing NATOPS change recommendations. Turned them in to NATOPS, they’ll send off to conference, or urgent change if warranted. Spent rest of afternoon in classes, formation, eating, monitoring projects. Irish said if we don’t turn in our awards recommendations, he’s “gona mark us all the way to the left” in the Handling Enlisted fit rep block. his is something I don’t mind being reminded about, so I spent a lot of time writing Letters of Appreciation for Samuel, Chames and Megaughey, and a NAM for Sgt Lee. I’ll eventually write up Sgt Legg for a NAM, because of all of his work on the new AR-5 gas masks. He’s doing really well, very conscientious and studious. The LOAs may get upgraded to CG Certificates of Commendation, they worked hard but maybe not as smart as this award rates.
Called CamPen, inventory sheets were sent out a few days ago. Still missing 2 sets of NVGs as of 2 days ago. I had 76 sets here, but 2 belong to to our augment MAWTS-1 guys. They never told us they were leaving them in FE. So now I’m 2 sets short. Sgt Lee told me the first day we were here one of our gas masks was brought in by a squid, who said he saw it fall off the back of a truck! It was in the back of a 5 ton for 60 miles. Guess I’ll know more when I get the custody cards, or when we get back to CamPen.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 10 Oct 90

10 OCT 90

159204, 5T2, 2.3, 260/140, Peewee

Today was spent flying a British General around. He kept asking for cereal? Finally I said “General, I don’t have any Cheerios….” Yuk yuk!! He will be in charge of all the Brits. Best frag we’ve had so far, they wanted to do what the frag sheet said, got changes to us early, all our radios were crystal clear, freqs were right, etc…Plew with Peewee, I’m over 80 hours now. I think we were the first Marines to fly BritCent over here.
Tried to relax a bit. Worked on getting clearing barrels put outside the terminal and updating the mishap plan to incude an “Overdue Aircraft” checklist. We had no procedure for that, it started because someone called to tell us an aircraft was down. Well, what if it hadn’t come back when it was supposed to be back? Hmmm. So that’s done now. Also suggested we have an Emergency Reclamation Checklist broken down by S-shops, Maintenance, then even further as necessary, so we aren’t scrambling looking for chemlights, shovels, security, crane, comm gear, chow, water, dragon wagon etc… when something happens. So that is happening. S-4 actually sent a letter to MWSS saying listing what equipment they’ll need to borrow should we park a bird somewhere that we don’t want to leave it. I fed the experience I had from recovering 2 Beer’s Cobra in Yuma to Nemo, and he’s making them happen.
I’m remaining cognizant of my ballistic intolerance. Small MCX is open, AAFES catalogs are all snapped up, lingerie pages are dog eared. We are a hopeless bunch.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 09 Oct 90

9 OCT 90

Bugged my guys all day. They ordered some new straps for the helmets. Got taksed by Group to give them a vest, float gear and body armor for….swim qual? Boy was I steamed. Lot’s of swimming going on over here.
267 had a mishap, deployed with the 13th MEU. 2 Hueys flew away with 8 Marines and never returned. They were off of the Okinawa (LPH), operating in the Arabian Sea, just outside the Straits of Hormuz. The ship lost radio and radar contact with them about 30 minutes before sunrise. They had NVGs, but it is not known whether they were using them or not. The goggles start to wash out as the sun starts to come up. Weather was clear, I’ve heard wreckage has been spotted but no survivors. I consider being lost at sea one of the worst ways to perish, primarily because of the questions that remain unanswered for the families. I hate to think of all the lives that go on hold, as they try to make sense of this tragedy.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 08 Oct 90

Flight Equipment's "Hog Board" (pictures of round-eyed American women) is growing, creating a steady stream of visitors to our shop...which is starting to get old.

8 OCT 90

159204, 2K2, 1.0, FCF, Mooch
Returned from Manifa this morning. Boy am I beat. Sat around all day waiting to rinse 201’a engines. We have to rinse the engines daily now, to cut down on salt accumulation. The aircraft commander has to motor the engines for the maintenance crew. It really takes long time for the engines to cool down, to break down the rinse fittings, gather the wash cart, power cart etc. I finished at 1930…hmmm. Bet I get to sign more often now, so I can stay late every night. Guess my hot dates will have to wait.
21 was about an 8 on my flying scale. I won’t sign off a 5. Spent some time putting Mooch’s FCP training forms in the computer. Spent some more time shooting the breeze with our maintenance Marines. Oh, Flt Equip will probably be voted Shop of the Year because 1) Sgt Legg’s friend sent him photos from the McCabe’s Hot Legs, Bikini and T-Shirt contest. He also got a letter from a FSU sorority girl, with a group photo. She wrote that if guys would circle a girl’s face and send their name, she would ask them to write. She also asked that we guess the names of certain girls, and the correct guesser would get a letter. Cute, huh? I read the letter, she’s an airhead. Studies Communications but never watches news, reads paper or listens to the radio? Clueless as to why we are here….then again, so am I at this point. And 2) Passes out Aunt Mary’s cookie crumbs. So there was a crowd in our shop all day, it was fun for about an hour.
Chow was beef gristle stew, wallpaper paste on lumpy potatoes. Sucked. 3rd worst meal so far. I’m realy dehydrated, got a great headache, have to lug my bag of stuff around everywhere (towel, CPOG, gas mask, NBC kit). Called it a day.

GUnfighter Diary Desert Shield 07 Oct 90

Irish says "Clark, why don't you take the rest of the week off!!"
7 OCT 90

159204, 2K2, 1.0, FCF, Mooch

Rode to Manifa/Gunfighter Osis, now officially known as LZ Foss, in the back of a pickup with Mooch and crew chief. Saw several convoys of civilians heading south, and a few camels. It was our job to retrieve the second Huey that had been there for 18 days. Spent all day in the sun, tested for about 2.5 hours to get the bird up. They had replaced the swashplate and also the blades. It took 7 adjustments to get the rotor track and balance acceptable, vs 2 the day before on 210. Plus the a/c had no rotor brake, which means it takes about 5 minutes to shut down for every runup. Anyway, got finished at sundown, ran out of crew day to fly back to base. Spent night at FAARP, brought some gear this time to sleep with and clean up. Slept terrible, got up, worked with Mooch for .5 on FCP training, then got escorted to JNA by 2 Cobras. So I’m 2 for 2 on Huey blade swaps. Injun is trying to fix another bird, its blades may be too mismatched (low hour, high hour) to get it rigged. Tomorrow will tell. I’ll probably get to fly it. So now we have 3 up Hueys, should have 2 more in a few days. Irish told me “good jo” when I called him last night to tell him 201 was up.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 06 Oct90

6 OCT 90

Flew Bu No 160179, 2K2, 1.1, .7, 140, Test hop with Mooch

2 Hueys have been sitting at Manifa for 17 days, and we finally have the blades to fix them. Mooch and I got up this a.m., waited about 2 hours for the paperwork to be finished on 210. Preflighted and cranked her up. Surprisingly, this was the quickest vibrex I’ve ever done. Only had to make 2 adjustments to track, no adjustments to balance. The a/c flew really smooth at 120 knots, best I’ve felt in along time. Maybe we should tape all the blades? Actually we will. Flew 1.1 track and balance, the .6 returning to base.
We’re not usually authorized to fly anywhere single ship, in case there’s a problem, but Buzz had said “whe you get the a/c up, climb high, call tower and tell them you’re inbound”. So we did, tower didn’t answer and we asked another air control agency to relay. Flew back to base IFR (I Follow Roads). Got back to JNA, shut down, Spot walked by and asked “So I guess this means 210 is back?” and wanted to know how we got back. We told him single ship and he asked “Who authorized that?” Surprise, Buzz popped in and said that he did. Amazing, nothing else was said. Irish looked relieved, because he had told me to come back also. SO here’s an instance where Spot listened before spooling.
Probably do the same thing tomorrow. Could’ve done the other Huey today but the crane wasn’t available to put the hub and blades on. Guess it’s another first for me, First Scocth Tape/3M Huey Pilot in S.A. I was surprised that Irish asked me if I wanted to go tackle 201 yesterday, of course, anything to get some distance from the flagpole.

Uno: “Dad, the phone’s ringing. We’ll watch your plate for you…Trust us…”

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 05 Oct 90

5 OCT 90

Had classes on bugs and snakes. Sent to Manifa (Gunfighter Oasis) late to fix a Huey. The repaired blades had been trucked up there, had some tape applied to the leading edges to protect them. I was skeptical at first, but the tape is very thick and sticks really well if the blade is prepped properly. It’l eventually chip and wear, we’ll just remove it and put new tape on.
My job was go get the bird tracked and balanced, then fly it back to JNA. Didn’t have any notice, Mooch and I scrambled up there with our flight gear and Red Cross kits. Finally got there at 1430. Turns out the Huey I came to get had a stripped bolt on the swashplate , so they had to undo all their work, remove 210’s hub and blades, put 201’s hub on 210, and break down 210’s hub and blades to be returned to JNA on a truck.
So basically we stood around and waited for the bird to come up, which it didn’t. Mooch and I grabbed some chow and secured racks for the evening.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 04 Oct 90

4 OCT 90

Once again, it’s training day in Gunfighterville. Had some cool classes on RPVs, NBC, Intel. Had an AOM. Irish stood up, said a few things, then ended up giving Flt Equip a compliment, That they had been “busting their ass to get all the equipment covers made.” I thought it meant something and told my Marines that it did. After the meeting, he got all the Maint Os together and reminded us we need to start awards write ups. Said FE was doing good Spot has also been in a few times to tell the guys that they’re doing great. He pokes me and smiles, it’s kind of cute. Amazing how things have changed since I adjusted my attitude. Our ops tempo is also slowing down. The MAG only wants us to fly 30 hours per airframe per month, unless there’s a combat necessity. Hopefully, they’ll reduce our frag load so the we can train a bit. We’ve fired no ordnance over here yet, I’m sure our proficiency is staying really high. Worked some more on the project list. Not much headway. A fine fruit cocktail dinner and off to the tent.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 02 Oct 90

2 OCT 90

Today was a good day. Got up, went in to the maintenance meeting with Injun, went to breakfast with Mooch and Sgt Legg. Had a few grits, some juice, milk and french toast. Meals are usually the bitch session, luckily over the last week most people’s senses of humor are returning. My shop finished the turret covers for the Cobras; 2 projects down, ? to go. They made them out of old tent canvas that guess who had to “procure”? They look very nice, almost tactical. 367 has some that are bright yellow. The Ordnance Officer was glad to have them, but Grif, whose guys have to install them, was not too happy. Eventually they’ll have 4 covers per aircraft to keep track of. SO we’re gonna make covers for the covers, once we get a list of the lists and a form to order the forms that list the lists of covers that cover the covers and so on.
Two days ago we received 150 square yards of terry cloth material, which we ordered when Spot was ranting about getting “anything” that we could in the cockpits to knock the sun down a little. It came 3 days after we got our silver bubble wrap junk, which flight line is really enjoying taking in and out. It is working though to cool the cockpits down a little and keep some sand out. So yesterday, Maint Control comes by and says “Give us all the terrycloth, we need it to clean blades.” I said for them to do whatever the AMO wanted done with it, but still want my guys to have some to make cockpit curtains with, for when the bubble wrap is destroyed or gets lost.
Anyway, 2 days ago Sgt Lee tells me “I ordered 300 square yards of artificial leather for gun covers, and found out later the stuff comes in regular yards, so we may get 3-4 times what I wanted, depending on how wide it is.” We ordered tan and brown “artificial leather”, a rubberized cloth, to make, you guessed it, COVERS. Specifically the turret covers that we just finished making out of canvas. So about 1000, the parts expediter walks up and says “there’s a forklift on the way with your leather.” I looked at Sgt Lee and we busted up laughing. The forklift pulls up with about 700 ponds of the stuff, 6 4 foot rolls about as big around as telephone poles. And here’s the best part. Spot walks by and says “What did you order all of this for?” “Duh, gee george, I don’t know, COVERS, maybe?” I told him I was sure we could think of something to do with it. Cover bags, cranial bags, bag bags, we are now “Bags-R-Us.” And we still have an outstanding order for desert cammy material, 4 rolls of day desert cammy, and 2 rolls of night desert cammy. We also received 600 yards of strap and buckles to modify the exterior canopy covers, which we promptly used to make holddown straps for the Cobra inlet screen covers and exhaust covers. Spot now wants bungee cord to hook them all together because the wind blows them off. “So solly, me checkee suppry, no bungee for you GI.” So now we’ll sew straps to the covers and maybe dummy cord them to each aircraft. Shouldn’t cause too many problems to just fly with them left on. Irish is now bugging Grif about how come aircraft 230 doesn’t have a LORAN cover and 235 doesn’t have a turret cover and there’s no sunscreen in 237, etc...Grif is loving every minute of it, I’m sure.
Wrote a helo shade company in Dallas. Holding my breath. Next project is aircrew survivability, helmets, crashworthy seats, flight suits, body armor, vests, NVG lighting. Probably never see anything to fruition, but maybe can get the ball rolling. At least I’m not bored, and it will be good to deal more with people outside the squadron. Worked on awards for a while, had KFC for lunch, ate dinner, got a haircut. Came to tent. Bitched about Spot and Nasty. Got mail
Dog dreams:
Uno: What’s that?
Austin: It’s a camel.
Uno: Are you sure?
Austin: Maybe it’s cow on steroids?
Uno: Go back to sleep.
Austin: O.K.
Uno: What an idiot.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 01 Oct 90

1 OCT 90

Another day, another....who knows. We’ve been getting letters from elementary schools all over with some precious quotes. “The Marines, a fun place to be” with a drawing of a guy standing below saying “why did I ever get this job?” 4th graders?! “Chicken a la keen looked like barf but tasted good.” Here’s the classic. It's lengthy, a typed letter from a Vietnamese boy. “Dear Marine, my name is Dung Vuong. Iwas born in Vietnam....” A classic. And an interesting perspective. I’m sure Sgt Legg wrote him a suitable reply.
Slept in til 0830 this morning. Came to work, wasted 6-8 hours, called Pendleton to check on my gear. Air Force General got canned. Nasty got promoted to LtCol and said “I’m still doing the same job, only now I can be an even bigger asshole.” Peewee said “Impossible” loud enough for almost everyone to hear, and we all had a good chuckle. But then he gives his Major’s oak leaves to Spike and says “I want you to have these, because I know, just like everyone else here, that you’ll be wearing these someday.” I thought they were going to start swapping spit right there.
Started getting Imminent Danger Pay, but since they’re not back dating it to 16 Aug, it’s obvious we weren’t in imminent danger until all the REMFs got here and started running the show. Also, went over 4 years flying. Now that everyone’s stopped sending underwear, they’ve cancelled the laundry and bottled water contracts. Funny how it coincided with Big Al’s morale visit. Hmmm? Well, new fiscal year and all. MWSS is setting up some washers and dryers we think, and we can get water at the terminal. It worries me that the nicer they try to make it here, the longer I see us staying. I’d sooner sleep on the floor and get the hell out of here faster. The Saudis won’t tolerate us for too long, just long enough to get advanced weapons to use on the Israelis.

Gunfighter DIary Desert Shield 30 Sep 90

30 SEP 90

160171, 5T2, 1.2, 601, Bean

Flew my NATOPS check with Bean. Did ok considering I haven’t flown for 12 days. Left my crew chief standing in the desert because I forgot to ask if they were “all set” in the back. It’s a good trick to play on a guy getting a check ride, learned a lesson. I expected them to tell me if they were getting out while we’re in an LZ. Anyway, we goofed around for an hour and that was it. Next it was to the rack for some MORP, kind of tired from sitting around doing NOTHING!.. No movie worth watching tonight. Had something resembling a steak and cheese sub from the Pizza Sheikh, not too bad all things considered. So of course the chow hall has a decent meal also, steak-kind-of. I went for atmosphere only.
Marine band is supposed to be coming over. Haven’t seen them yet, maybe they’re wearing our desert cammies.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 29 Sep 90

29 SEP 90

Another day in the litter box. Boring day but a chance to catch up on some rest. Got up, made the 0615 maintenance meeting, went and ate breakfast, then came to tent and slept til 1030. I seem to be over my stomach flu, but I’m still a little tired for whatever reason. Haven’t flown in 11 days, that’s unusual.. Not many Huey guys have been flying. Bean has more hours than me now, bastard!. They’re concentrating on getting the new guys 25 hours of goggle time so they can carry passengers and training NVG Phase III instructors, so we can fly during low light conditions. So of course, I’m in the middle of the group, not flying anything. I’ve enjoyed the break, but it’s getting old fast.
Went to the squadron, tried to look busy for 4 hours, tried to figure out where all my goggles were, then ate dinner and watched a movie with Injun, Iron Eagle II. I would have been upset if I had wasted electricity to watch this at home, it was really lame. No, I mean really lame...
Guess where I was 11 years ago? Standing on those yellow footprints at MCRD San Diego. I wish I were there again now, at least those guys have self respect and adult leadership. Who would’ve thought I’d be here today? Not me, certainly. It’s been a challenge at times.
More favorite past times at Desert Shield. Herd scorpions, collect dung beetles, fight over newspaper lingerie ads.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 28 Sep 90

28 SEP 90

Let’s see, who did I bother today. Sat around most of the day and wrote Aunt Mary, Aunt Martha, Susan, Kati and my parents. No fair, I had to write to lots of folks. The price I pay for getting mail. Got kicked out of flight equipment so they could film some more. The video was shot in my shop, at my desk (on loan from the Saudis).
Wrote some info on laser safety to post by the checkout counter, it’s fun using big laser words. We had classes all morning and one of the MAWTS guys came to me to get laser info. Hmmmm. Our glasses will protect against the low-tech threat, so unless Iraq has something we don’t know about, we’re good. Cool words like Neodymium Yitrium Aluminized Garnet. We’re developing lasers that use liquid dyes and are “agile”, meaning you can dial in any wavelength (color) that you want. Cool, until you try to protect against it. I’ll probably brief everyone again on our lasers and their usage, plus we’ll have a nice class on everyone’s favorite, the gas mask. We’ve received nothing but compliments so far on how good a job my guys have done on the masks from the MALS guys that check them. Plus they’re happy that we had the inflatable gear looked at before we came over (Sgt Lee’s idea). I’m proud of the fact that we’ve asked no one for help yet and have had all kinds of people coming to us for assistance, including the AV-8 guys, East coast HMLAs, Saudi Navy and yes, even the mighty 82nd Airborne helo drivers. They’ve been the most appreciative, we’ve rebuilt entire helmets for them, patched flight suits, plus numerous other things. GPS receivers are on loan to the AV-8s, HMLA-269 and the FACs at 1/5. Made some 50 pound weight bags for the Saudis, and who knows what else they’ve been making.
Missed evening chow because Irish wanted a significant events list for a unit history/awards/etc...? Just turned in the same list that we had to turn in to ops 2 weeks ago.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 27 Sep 90

27 SEP 90

Got up early, went to work at 0615, then went to chow with Injun, brownie points because Irish showed up. Asked Buzz if he was serious about me being grounded. He said “you don’t expect to fly when you have more hours than anyone else do you?“, I’m thinking “yes” but say “must have been a hard decision seeing as we only have one up Huey. I guess my NATOPS check will expire, too.“ He said we’ll waive that. Told Irish “things would be different if we had some bogus VIP missions to fly” and surprise, he agreed. We had an AOM, pilot training, some good stuff. Spot’s comments were supportive, said “don’t push anything we’re uncomfortable with.”, not much else. Irish got us together for a decent pep talk, since he’s been gone to the FAARP for 10 days. He said to let him take the heat from the CO, then he can come and jump in our shit vs. Spot. Also to keep our guys motivated, even if we have to lie to them and tell them “we like it here.“ He was funny. “I personally hate it here. The place sucks, the chow sucks, mail sucks, I can’t see my wife, no fun, no beer, etc....but we have a mission to do.“ I agree, 100 percent. Much better than the “all you guys pull your head out of your asses speech.“
More filming in the flight equipment office for the wive’s video. Terrible chow again. Now I’m sweating away in tent #4. Trying out new “boxwood” desk, and so far it’s still too hot. It must be about 85 degrees with 85 percent humidity right now. Guilt free letter writing in the tent may have to wait til it cools off. Little blue pills seem to be curing the diarrhea, though, by turning it into gas. A real treat.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 26 Sep 90

S-3 hard at...work.

26 SEP 90

Went to sickbay to get some antibiotics and anti-diarrhea medicine. It was foggy this morning.
Here’s what I did the rest of the day. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.........ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. It was hot in the tent, but I zonked out. Finally got up at 1630, came back to work and had KFC for dinner. Then I spent the rest of the evening getting interrupted while I tried to write.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 25 Sep 90

2Beers stylin in new desert cammies.

25 SEP 90

What I did today. Hmmm, can’t remember. Wait, “today’ was yesterday, I’m a day behind. Yes, that’s right, it’s 2300 26 SEP and I’m trying to remember what went on yesterday. Got up, went by the chow hall, grabbed a milk and an apple. I’ve had the runs for a day now. I don’t know if it’s called the runs because it runs out or because you have to run to the bathroom.
Oh, that’s right, the Commandant came by today, so we straightened up most of the morning, I checked all of my little projects, and polished my boots. Had a pizza for lunch from the snack stand. It didn’t suck, but I won’t be rushing over to buy one tomorrow. Talked to Injun for a bit, then CMC arrived. He tooled around for an hour or so, I guess. He looked at our Huey, with the FLIR pod modification. We’re trying to get more FLIRs for “night fightin.” He walked by later and said “how ya doin” to a group of us, then choppered away. We still have one Huey to fly, so Buzz was brave enough to come by and tell me I was grounded because I had too many flight hours. I laughed and shook my head. Went to dinner, had bread, butter, pepsi, apple juice, salt (flavored with soup) and one bite of tuna. More than enough. Then I went and watched a movie at the “Desert Drive-In,” The Abyss. It was quite relaxing. Sat on a cot, it was relatively cool, and for a brief moment I forgot I was in Saudi....problem was, I thought I was at 29 Palms instead.
We are making another video. We do a section on our Top Ten Favorite Pastimes and have a uniform fashion show. Went to see the Doc, now I’m med down for dysentery. Fun. Got a desert cammie floppy hat in the mail, my ears are thankful. No desert cammies yet, though. Big Al said he would take care of it though. Actually they are heavier and warmer than the old cammies, it’s going to take a few washings to break them in. 2 Beers isn’t too thrilled with them. He was in a few days ago and my guys patched some boots for him. He’s doing fine and not getting tasked with all the BS that he would as a FAC back in the States. He also enjoys being one of a few Captains in the Battalion and being treated like a God.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 24 Sep 90

24 SEP 90

Got up at 0600, went back to sleep. Repeated same until 1230. I was blah today, stomach not great, no Hueys to test fly, I’m not on the schedule, no meetings, no major fires to stomp out that couldn’t burn til the afternoon. Finally got up and helped Pat and Russ tie our tent to frame. Worked on my corner a bit, ate chocolate chip cookies, fritos, brushed boots, gathered boxes to make a book shelf, and tried to plan my storage cubicle. I’ll need more lumber/time/plans. Here’s how the tent is set up. We have all the sides, end flaps propped up to let breeze through and provide shade. The sides are connected to the next tent’s flaps, so it’s like a dog run/porch area. We have wood and pallets on both ends to form an actual porch. No lights yet. Tent mates are Dinger, Meynier, Maas, Road Kill, Dirt, Ducky, Blubaugh, McGee, Larson, Diamond, Super Davee.
It’s great. I get the morning sun, cooler, and winds are generally from the North/NW, so everyone else’s rack gets dusted before mine. Plus a road goes by the other end (more dust). My corner includes lots of nails to hang things on, some shelves made from busted pallets, and a small desk made from an MRE box. The gear stored under the cot is parachute bags, one with uniforms, one with MREs, maps, NBC gear, and an ALICE pack with 782 gear and flak jacket. Luckily the cot has a mosquito net, too. Lots of guys are using MRE cartons to store their stuff . My “boxwood” furniture will replace parachute bags, but only if I can design them to be dust resistant. My little world could use a small camping light, because there will only be two light bulbs in the tent, if we get wired up soon. It will be fun to tear all of this down.
Sgt Lee showed me a nice poem his mom had written. Her local paper published it. We liked it and want to put it in our cruise book. Need some film. We know we need lots of photos and involvement from every rank. The boat cruise book mainly had officer pictures because they were the ones who took pix and weren’t in the bars. Could use a bar right now. Get some shop photos, nicknames, quotes from famous Gunfighter’s like Spot’s “you can’t go down swingin with the bat jammed up your ass”, and “You can’t go on liberty if you’re dead”. Make the bios funny vs sterile. Wonder if we can do it?
Digress. No clue as to what an ottoman is, a German guy from Jamaica? Philosophers are idiots on acid. They made me dream up an imaginary squirrel friend while studying them in college.
Told Spot I was interested in going to HMX-1 and he asked “why would you want to go there, they don’t do anything tactical?” Well, can’t get them to send me to WTI, and Bean said he would’ve replied “hey, we’ve been in Saudi for five weeks and all we’ve done is TACVIP.” At least FE was “Shop of the Week” in our Squadron newsletter.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 23 Sep 90

23 SEP 90

Got up this morning, shaved, brushed teeth, cruised in to work and grabbed my bag of goodies (running shoes, shorts, tank top, towel, book) to go “fill sandbags”. Today we took 369 and 367 Marines, I was the only officer to go with 36 enlisted. After agreeing on where it was that we were actually going, accounting for everyone and splitting into 3 groups, we loaded onto 5 tom trucks for the 25 minute ride to the camp. The drive was through open desert and deserted highways, uneventful, saw about five cars. Glad I was up front versus sitting in the truck bed, where the nice hot air was blowing at about 50 miles per hour. Arrived at the camp and talked to the manager, then turned everyone loose on the phones, pool, basketball court, store, snack bar, pool tables, bowling lane, barber shop, laundry etc... We made a phone list from junior guy up to me and started calling. The receptionist dialed the numbers, told the guys to pick up one of three phones, and connect the call. Then you tell whoever you’re calling the number, to call you back and hang up. Go to the desk, pay three dollars for the one minute call and wait for return call. The switchboard would connect you and you had 10 minutes. We let everyone police themselves on how long they talked, told them to make one quick call so everyone could get through, then hop back in line if they wanted to make another call. Basically it would be three hours before it was my turn. First I went down and talked to Mr Wilson, the man who runs the camp. He was a very interesting man. He retired in 1978 after 25 years in the British Army as a Sergeant Major. Mainly in tanks, spending 17 years in and around Saudi Arabia. He did most of the talking, but basically he said that he wished someone had done this for him when he was a troop. He is opening the camp up for as many as 40 per day, plus he gets a lot of stragglers, and charges nothing, other than the cost of food. I was eager to hear his opinions on our military and political situation. Seeing as this will be a tank war with lots of air and arty support. I asked his opinions on what he would do if he were in charge. He said roll into Kuwait and kick Iraqs butt out, maybe put a bulge in Iraq’s border, see if anyone has shot Hussein by then, and see what happens. SH has already been more daring than Hitler, and every day we wait he is bleeding Kuwait dry by stealing their resources and hardware, driving citizens out and leaving an empty shell for Iraquis to fill up. If he moves northwest through Jordan and bumps off Israel, he’ll be the hero of the Arab world. Wouldn’t that be special?
I asked if he thought Hussein would move into S.A., and he said only as far south as the oil rich Saffiniya area. He thought we should defend against him by channelizing him into a valley or onto a road, cut his logistics train and shoot him up. Interestingly enough he pointed out the same areas along the coast where we plan to do this. We talked about tank vs helo, form both aspects. He thinks SH Armies are worthless, but says yes, we will lose people. He was adamant about not concerning ourselves about “hostages” taken from oil camps. He said everyone comes over here for the money and knows the risks, and that it is not fair for us to risk more lives worrying about them.
He also told where the best places to go for liberty, basically south, along the Persian Gulf shoreline, even down into UAE. Says there’s a Hilton down there with an ice rink! Ha, wouldn’t that be a great picture? He showed me a picture of his house in Portugal and in England. His wife was home in England when this kicked off and she was worried about him, so he told her to stop watching the news and come over. So, she’s here now.
The camp has small houses, one to two bedroom, a small community. Mainly Asian workers to clean and refurbish oil production equipment, with an Arab staff. You can walk across the camp in about 10 minutes. The main office has several little used rooms with phones, about the size of a double wide. After I talked to him for a while, he went home for “tea”. Went down to see what they had in the store. I got a Very Berry Strawberry ice cream at the Baskin Robbins, a coke and a bag of Fritos. Walked back and sat in Mr Wilson’s outer office, ate ice cream and Fritos, drank Coke, while he visited with our Sgt Major. He brought an Arab News and I read about S.A.’s 58th National Day. King Abdul Aziz unified them in 1932, from a bunch of marauding Bedouins into one country. They’ve done a lot in a short time, lots of growing pains, lots more to do. They’ve cancelled all celebrations as a show of solidarity for Kuwait. The paper gave a good, short history lesson. Probably learned more from reading it than all of my history classes and intel briefs.
Tried calling home again, no luck, ate camel burger and fries, drank a Pepsi, bought brush, fly swatter, M&Ms, scotch tape. Went back to office, read Newsweek, talked to Group Sgt Maj, and tried phone call again. Finally got through on call. Passed word on what our everyday routine was.
Got some things right in my mind about coming to grips with situations that I can’t change, and realizing that I have to go back to simple life of doing what I think is right, and be willing to accept the consequences. That way I get in trouble for my own screw ups, not someone else’s. The trick is, I have to let my Marines make their own mistakes, not mine, and be willing to take the heat for them. I had a long talk with Sgt Lee about lots of things. Basically I don’t want deficient leadership to hold them back, I want to be a friend, but sometimes I have to be the boss. Since Flight Equipment has so many projects, it’s hard for me to keep from butting in all the time. Lots of “engineering” going on here. These guys have worked “so hard for so long with so little, they will now attempt the impossible with nothing.” I want them to keep their drive and initiative, so I cut them back to 8 hours a day. I refuse to punish them any longer for the Marine Corps’ “idiocracies” in manpower management, especially when Marines from MALS who have nothing to work on yet are sitting in their tents all day and do nothing when they could be helping out. We rate 9 guys for a squadron of 12 Hueys and 12 Cobras, now we have 18 more advanced aircraft with only 3 guys who are school trained, and 2 more who are OV-10 ejection seat mechanics and were trained on the job. My Sgt, filling a SNCO billet, is a seat mech. So, needless to say, I am in awe of the work these guys do. The Sgt handles everything, including message traffic, logistics, fiscal accounts, and explosive safety maintenance and monitoring. I wanted him to know how much I appreciate their efforts and told them only to expect “mo betta” things in the future. We talked about our families, he has a little girl. It was fun talking about families, leadership hurdles, new challenges. I told him we’ve got a good crew and I’ll do my best to screen them from the br-ass.
Had the best Marine Corps spaghetti I’ve ever had, but no mail, so it’s a break even day. Mail is probably enjoying liberty in England somewhere. Got my hair trimmed, it’s growing back. I’m never cutting it short again. Buzz gave me crap about it, it did look funny, like Curious George or something. It’s growing out and staying out this time, and I just hope someone says something.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 22 Sep 90

22 SEP 90

No mail today, this will be short, plus I’m tired. Bus never showed up to take us to the Brit camp so we’ll try again tomorrow. As much as I hated to do it, I volunteered to not go if there were other officers who haven’t called home yet. Only the enlisted, Staff NCOs and Maintenance Officers have gone so far. XO said to go, so I’ll go.
Coming up on 11 years in the Marine Corps 29 September. It really is too bad I can’t drive down to MCRD on Saturday and watch a busload of recruits come in. I wonder if they have loosened up on the D.Is because of S.A.? Maybe I’ll find out next year when I’m in 303. I wonder if they’ll venture any guesses on transfers for when we return. I’d feel better knowing “yes” I’m going to 303 as soon as we get back. I know there’s too many variables. I’m sure the guys in 303 are dying to replace us.
Kati and mom sent packages. Kati sent dried fruit, a letter and two books (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? and one about Merlin). Mom sent good stuff, bean dip and Fritos, essential to the war effort, mints, newspaper clippings, crackers, etc...and a card. I really appreciate everyone’s effort, but how do I tell them I don’t eat fried fruit, oops, I mean dried. I’ll give it out to those who like it or try to develop a liking for it. It would be good for me. So I’ll try it. Came full circle on that one. Hey, my nose has stopped running, and I haven’t been real sick like a lot of other people, knock on wood. Tomorrow should be better.
Missed the bus this morning, actually it missed us. Wrote Chuck to ask him to look for my inventory and custody receipts, when he goes back to work. Went and helped build our tent frame. It’s nice plywood floor on 2 by 4s and a roof. Then we just put the liner and tent over the top of the frame. We found a few liners, which are white on the top with netting on the side. They help keep the tent cooler and keep bugs out. We’ll have to tear them down if we can’t find enough for everyone in the squadron. Wait, there’s a PFC in Dharhan who doesn’t have his own cot, so give him yours. Sorry, but I’m tired of giving all of our stuff away. Sweated my butt off, tore a hole in my cammies, ate rice and peaches for dinner, now it’s letter time. I’ll patch the cammies and try to scrounge some desert ones. Hey, maybe someone can ask the CG why I can’t have any? When he says because I’m a pilot, ask him why I’m wearing a dark green flight suit in the desert? Better yet, call George and Congress. Tell them thanks for the Imminent Danger Pay, but what I’d really like are some theater-specific- desert-mutant-ninja-warrior clothing ensembles.
Well, time to go deliver mail to my tent away from home. Phone calls tomorrow? We got 1 Huey up and running, waiting for more blades and/or a repair team. Refigured my hours, I only have 455.1 this year. Finished my NATOPS open book test and rewrote the closed book , so I’m sure I scored 100 percent on that.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 21 Sep 90

21 SEP 90

Got two packages, one from Kati and one from mom. Tomorrow we’re going to “fill sandbags” and I’ll answer some letters. We have a local oil camp (British?) that was deserted when the Iraquis invaded and they will let us come use their facilities (pool, snack bar, small px, phones, etc...) in return for us saving their butts. We’ll try not to mess it up, and of course we are trying to keep it a 369 secret (Ha!). The wives will figure it out from the increased phone calls.
Running low on M&Ms and letter writing gear., they seem to have come in handy. It’s only a matter of time before the chocolate chips are gone, along with the sweettarts and Junior mints. I have a serious problem; I’m afraid to throw away any underwear, because as soon as I do the laundry will lose everything. I usually only put in a few things at a time, I know how the laundry can be from my shipboard days. I’m also hoarding MRE’s, I have about a dozen, and when we get our new “house”, I’ll draw my lunch every day and stack it somewhere, munch on the good parts and toss the rest. Maybe if I stack up enough I can build a bunker.
Newspapers arriving by snail mail are too old when they get here, and don‘t get read. We get the Arab News and Stars and Stripes. I do need a real shaving mirror, about 2-3 inches in diameter with a hook. This will add to the rustic flavor of the morning shave. We shave using a wooden trough, about waist high, that has water dripping from a PVC pipe overhead, and it has nails to hang a mirror. The nail of course is placed strategically at forehead level to poke your eye out when you lean forward to rinse your toothbrush.
I know the shorts, walkman and tapes will come in handy when relaxing each evening in my “condo made of wood-o”. Did we mention that we call King Abdul Aziz airport Paula Abdul Aziz? But don’t tell anyone, could be dangerous to the war effort. Had a great nights sleep on my air mattress, with a pillow. I’m all set now, may never want to go home. Where am I going to pack all of this crap? Not like Okinawa where you just give it to the next guy. Guess whenever I know we’re leaving I’ll mail cool stuff home and leave the rest. Going to build a cubby hole to store my stuff.
Got a video the families, it was great. The folks back home did a good job coordinating it and everyone had enough time to comment. Didn’t get dizzy watching it. We’ve shown it 6 times so far. Everyone laughed at the doggies high five trick. I thought they were extremely smart, cute and well groomed, unlike everyone’s kids. Right. All the families looked great, the messages were greatly appreciated.
Spent more time working on Sgt Lees’ award recommendation and watching the videotape. We have a few Huey blades inbound so there’s hope for my NATOPS check and 500 hours. I’m going “sandbaggin” tomorrow, though. We have our prototype turret covers and inlet screen covers made, now we just have to punch out 18 more. Then on to greater things. Good shrimp creole and rice for dinner. We had chicken and mashed potatoes last night, the best meal we’ve had so far, it was good! I usually walk by the chow tent in the morning and grab a milk and a piece of fruit for breakfast. Things are going good for now, who knows for tomorrow?

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 20 Sep 90

20 SEP 90

Today I got up at 0545, came to work and caught the tail end of the maintenance meeting. Actually before the meeting I shaved and brushed teeth, etc with my handy Red Cross bag. Felt good after a lovely walk from tent city. It’s about half a mile from my tent, so I’ll get some PT. After the meeting, Jim, Tom, Travis and I (hey, there’s a good Texas name, Jim Tom Travis), went to breakfast at “Chez Tent”. I selected potatoes, creamed beef, bacon, french toast, milk, juice and a camel fly topping. The flies get worse everyday. After some spirited conversation, we retired back to the work spaces to motivate our young lads. Today was a no fly training day, we had classes on Command and Control, intelligence update, and Huey radio package. Between classes I hung around with Jim, worked on awards recommendation for Sgt Lee and put out a few brush fires. My boys are hot and heavy on making covers for the Cobra gun, engine inlet screens, and Huey guns. It ends up being our job because we had the foresight to bring a sewing machine, even though the contingency pack up didn’t call for one.
Spent the whole day with a runny nose. Good thing I’m hydrated. Saudi supply was kind enough to cough up some Mylar coated bubble wrap so we can make sun shades for the helos. They’re very reluctant to sell us anything, they already gave us a brand new airfield. We need 2 more rolls and one project will be done. We already made 2 other sets of covers. Now the joke is our blades are screwed up due to the heat, and we’ll make covers for them too, and like it! Speaking of blades, things look pretty grim for the old Huey flight hour program right now, blades are delaminating, gee, who knows why. We’re working several angles to repair and replace as necessary. We could possibly get all new blades of a better composite material, but the higher ups would have to approve this one. So, for now we’re enjoying a few days off. And I’m supposed to get my NATOPS check by the end of the month? Better volunteer to go back to CONUS and look for some parts.
Got a box today, had to go sign for it at the Post Office in tent city, it evidently came in 3 days ago. 2 days ago people were bitching because they were receiving packages minus Walkmans and anything else of value that was declared on the outside. So of course the P.O. gives me an open box with a half ass tape job and I’m like “ah shit, dude!” But lo and behold, all the stuff was inside, including walkman. We got a tape from home, which we’ll see if we ever get a VCR and TV, like all the other tail end Charlie squadrons. “Bring only the essentials”. So we’ll have to beg off someone else tomorrow when they’re not watching James Bond. Tomorrow we have even more time off.
Its’ about a half mile walk to the tents. They are slowly moving us toward wood floors and tent frames. We should be moving across the street in 2-3 days. They’re building the frames to keep the tents from blowing away and provide floors. Actually kind of nice. And Then! And then! We’ll get lights and electricity, which may let me do a little letter writing. Right now I come to work at 0600, work/sit/fly all day, then sit in terminal, 2 feet from OpsO, 15 feet from maintenance control, 10 feet from the CO’s office, or freezing in my shop while the night crew works til 2200. Hard to write in tents with no lights, or at the shop with an audience. No one goes to the tents except to sleep. Once we move into the new tents, maybe a field expedient writing desk is in order. Also need to organize my stuff, make some MRE carton furniture, the important stuff. It will be my cot away from home.
Today Spot told us we shouldn’t take it personally when he yells at us. We should just log it as another example of leadership...by volume? Just another bump in the road. I wonder how many guys can keep their multiple personalities separate.
I think a stomach bug is going around. So far, so good. Sinuses are running like a faucet though. Doc gave me some Sudafed. Skin hasn’t peeled off yet. All in all, not too bad, all things considered.
Manifa FAARP is working out great, sleeping 5-7 days at a time there to get used to the concept of operating from there. Plus it saves 1-2 hours of transit time each day, allows a small maintenance det to remain in place, and it relieves congestion at the main airfield parking ramp. It’s great to get away and be even closer to the Iraqis for a few days. It’s fun sleeping there, now they have chow trucked in each day. We can operate there without the hassles of a big base, and it makes dealing with the grunts a lot easier. It’s isolated, very quiet and restful, no generators, C-5s, 46s, etc...Usually 8 Cobra crews and 2 Huey crews go at once. No one messes with our stuff. So, we do our own thing, we have chow, water, showers, cots, tents and we get mail. What more do we need? More bullets and M&Ms!
My new attitude is “hey, here’s a job, lets’ do it our way, and take the time to do it right and safely the first time.” I task my Marines to use their head and act versus react. They have done fantastic and I think I have the best shop here, in spite of me.
Floor and lights in a few days, we'll be looking like a refugee camp in no time. The good news is that the wives don’t have to worry about their husbands finding another woman over here, the bad news is I’m going steady with Injun now. So far I’ve seen lots of buddies from the boat, our sister squadron 367 of course, and college buds. Of course, my friend Bill, the consummate warrior, will probably sit this one out in Command and Staff at Quantico.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 18 Sep 90

18 SEP 90

160179, 5T2, 2.5, 270, Peewee

Had a wonderful meal at the chow hall, tuna, yum. Got mail late last night. Trying to get a handle on all the special projects, that require a bunch of material that we don’t have. Maybe I’ll get sent back to the States to look for it. Definitely need some pink flamingos for the tent.
Now the Hueys are down, 3 of 5, for blade erosion. It’s real hard to get new blades, so we may have some time on our hands. Actually, 367 will pick up the slack, the Marine Corps will decide they can live without us and we’ll go home. Got to go start that rumor.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 17 Sep 90

17 SEP 90

Ate breakfast, took a nap, ate lunch, read book, ate dinner, wrote letter, read Newsweek, drank Pepsi. Some guys are actually getting out to use the phone. The CO and XO set up sneaking guys out to get a burger, go swimming and call home at an empty oil worker camp nearby. Maybe I’ll be able to go soon, but not worried about it until everyone else has had an opportunity to go, seeing as I’ve already been able to call home. Should be able to get out in 10-14 days. Totally boring day. Wind blew hard, it was dusty. Spam for breakfast, mmmmm. Got a pair of goggles today, and also some cool sunglasses with laser protection. They look like cheap Oakleys, but I’m sure Uncle Sam paid a lot for them. Even have s strap to hang them around your neck. Still have some cash, trying to find an Arab watch with the funny numerals on it. Someone splurges each day and buys a round of Pepsis, costs about 3 dollars. The last 3 days at chow, we’ve had cold Pepsis and Cokes with our meal, 1 per man. Almost felt human. I won’t feel human again until I’m back in the land of the big PX and there’s a Taco Bell nearby. I hope someone reminds the brass real soon that we’re an expeditionary force. Hopefully the Army is real interested in getting over here soon and doing there job. We’re ready to do the “roll on” part of the “roll off, roll on” MPS concept. Newsweek complimented the Marines, saying we were much more prepared than the Army during these initial stages. Maybe because we’re more used to doing the impossible with nothing. The Army has to get going soon, though, or we’ll have no one to steal from. Egypt and France are sending more people, we’re ready now!

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 16 Sep 90

16 SEP 90

Woke up, still here. Just me, my pistol and my gas mask. Today was another boring day. Got up at 0630 after going to “cot” at 0200, just wasn’t tired. It’s 2130 now so hopefully I’ll do better tonight. Sat around all morning working on my open book NATOPS exam, going to take the closed book in a day or two and try to get annual check ride by the end of September. Went to tent, took a 2 hour nap, came back, no one missed me, sat around some more. Rumor control says no mail for 2-3 days as Post Office is being moved. Guess I don’t need anymore, but envelopes would be good. I can’t believe that the government is giving us free postage, who would want to leave now. Now if they’d only reinstate our BAS. I bet when the congress folks come over here they don’t get their pay docked because they flew on government airplanes, ate at government mess halls, lodged in government facilities and wore desert cammies. We still don’t have any, while other units are drawing their 3rd set. I guess we will get them for the trip home. Wait, some extra larges came in today. Slow news day, this is the most exciting thing going on around here.
Some guys were taken somewhere today to make phone calls, they’re going to rotate us through as the opportunities present themselves. They also had burgers and ice cream. Still holding at 70.4 Saudi hours, 489 for the fiscal year. I want to break 500 this year, it’s gonna be close. Hard to believe I flew more in a non-deployed year than vice versa. Golly, if we stay here 90 days , we’ll get a Sea Service Deployment ribbon, plus I’ll have my overseas control date. We should leave here with some kind of Unit Commendation and Expeditionary Medal as it goes now. Plus I’m sure they’ll invent a new Desert Service ribbon just for me.
Still in tents on dirt. The Seabees are moving our way, putting in wood floors and tent frames, though. It will be a welcome change. And it seems to be cooling a bit. We had some Harrier guys in today and they were looking at our flight time list. They were astounded to see people flying 70 hours in 30 days. You just don’t get anywhere fast in the Huey.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 15 Sep 90

15 SEP 90

160179, 5T2, 3.3, 270, Peewee
160624, 2K2, .4, FCF

Today we flew 3.3 hours, had some more safety classes, and I also tested. I now have 70.4 hours since showing up here, 1275 total and 490 for this fiscal year. I think around 300 is average, I’ve almost doubled my hours in just one year. Our logbooks have been lost somewhere in SA, but they turned up today, thank goodness, intact. As far as hours go, I think we’ll level out at 35-40 per month. So I’ll have enough hours to go directly to HMX if we get screwed and stay here a year. 303 is still first choice, but maybe leaving the fleet as early as possible wouldn’t be a bad move either, esp. if I rate the bonus at that point. Fixed wing pukes still have all the phones. Wonder if the Iraqis know we’re here yet? We still have no phones. It’s total horseshit that our Marines can’t be afforded the opportunity to make a five minute call home to the loved on of their choice. The guys in Bahrain have unlimited access to phones. Letters are ok, but we have some guys who aren’t getting too many of those. Maybe no one’s thought of it yet. We can’t fly the whole squadron down there, but we ought to be able to cut a few guys loose each day on a “parts run”. Oh well, we’ll see.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 14 Sep 90

14 SEP 90

Finally have a no fly day. Friday was our safety stand down, we talked about the very basics, area safety (ground and air), checklists, etc...The amount of time spent was about right for me, 3-4 hours, and no one harped on boring subjects. Not much else going on, no mail came. Sat around in the shop and stayed out of the way, talked to my guys about the great job they’ve done while everything was spooling up and getting settled in over here. Try not to overstress it but think about it every day. Don’t care if someone doesn’t salute me, but I will help someone out who is going to fast or hasn’t put their brain bucket on. We can’t afford to lose anyone. The 53 crash on Thursday was the straw that broke the camel’s back, they tried to take off from the pits with only one of their three engines rolled up. Wasn’t a very long flight. Let’s see, since we’ve been here, the Army has crashed a helo at night, on NVGs, a Cobra from the East Coast crashed on goggles, browned out in a hover, one of our Cobra guys flew around the pattern with an engine intake pillow still in, wondering why his EGT was so high, one of our Hueys went “skiing” while on goggles, a shitter sawed a foot off all 7 of his blades, lopped off the tail rotor of another 53, fragging his crew chief and punching a hole in a Saudi Super Puma’s fuel tank. Luckily, it was the squadron CO, he’s almost an Iraqui ace now. Meanwhile I feel like I’ve flown more conservatively here than I do at CamPen or 29 Palms. The Army balls up their helos on NVGs so much so they even have a quick reaction force recovery package to go get them when they do. Kind of their cost of doing business, doing the best they can given their mission and equipment. The guys that crashed the other night had very little moon and plenty of haze. We have tried to work into it since being over here, flying with high illum and working up to the hard stuff. This concept of flying in low level illum on NVGs is new, but much preferred to flying unaided. We probably have more low level illumination NVG flying than the other Marine units around here, probably double what the transport guys have. It hasn’t been too long since we were flying around with cutaway PVS-5s, strapped to our helmets with surgical tubing and counterbalanced with a lead shot bag. I’ve doubled my NVG hours this year.
The two 53 incidents were total “boneheads”, which happens too frequently, and both in broad daylight. One guy forgot to roll up two of his three engines before he took off, so the worlds’ most powerful helicopter just became an overpowered Huey. “Gee, sure feels kind of mushy today...”. I feel fortunate flying Slugs for several reasons. First, I get to fly a lot, thereby increasing proficiency, feel for the aircraft, and situational awareness. Second, when we fly, we routinely operate close to our maximum operating weight vs. a transport guy who booms around empty a lot of the time, carrying only a fraction of their combat load. They don’t get to fly as much, even less exploring at the edge of the envelope. Third, the Huey is the easiest and cheapest Navy/Marine Corps helo to maintain, and it’s combat/civilian proven. And last are the missions, we usually get to fly them all. “Jack of all trades, Master of none” is the quote I will attribute to Hammer, an HT-8 flight instructor who clued me, Injun and Mooch in on the bennies of flying the airborne jeep.
We have a good squadron, great maintenance department and super pilots. There’s no one here I worry about flying with, because I know I will learn something on every flight. Yes, even Spot. He is good at compartmentalizing, and is by far the squadron’s best pilot, so if you don’t take the opportunity to learn what you can from him, you’re stupid. He leaves his work at his desk when he goes flying. He is demanding, better not be out of position, but it is a positive challenge. The Hueys have a tradition of doing the “mostest with the leastest’, , which keeps us from doing bonehead stuff some of the time. The guys who went skiing over the dunes came about as close as you can come to buying the farm. The crew later said they knew that they were below 100 feet and still couldn’t see the ground. The first indication was when their position lights started casting a glow on the sand. We were out at the same time and had decided to go admin, climb to 1000 feet because the visibility was too low with the haze. You either have to stay real low or go high. When we‘re shooting an approach and the vis is low, I’m in the “boat mode”, calling altitude and airspeed trends to the guy flying until we can pick up some visual cues. Flat sand doesn’t offer much help. There were lots of dark nights off the boat, no moon and lots of water vapor to cut the visibility down. The haze here works in a similar fashion.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 13 Sep 90

13 Sep 90

Spent some time talking to Al today, came in the shop to get out of the heat. Real nice young man from Texas, a Huey crew chief. Just got married and worried about his wife, likes to get mail, as we all do. Spent some time talking with Walt, he’s our Maintenance and Material Control Officer, a Mustang and real solid guy. Talked about how the men folk are always having to show and teach women how to do things, like ski or drive a stick shift. Decided a cross country trip should be a required pre-marital encounter. And camping and bowling. We guys are great, what would women do without us.
Slept in ‘til 0830, screw the maintenance meeting. Came in, had a Pepsi for breakfast, got some teriyaki jerky and sweet tarts, tried to spend a low stress day just being normal to the guys who work for me. They are still on track, busting their ass. As much as Spot is on me about certain projects, such as gun covers, tie downs and sun shades, he always enjoys going in the shop and talking to the guys, basically his acknowledgement that they’re doing their share. Don’t know if that’s just my feeling, and never will. It’s just part of my job to be their shit screen. If he really is as annoyed at us as he sometimes acts, then we must really be frustrating him. It’s finally becoming amusing to me. He’s under a lot of pressure and operating on a timetable that we’re not clued in to at this time. I’ll do the best I can and earn the big bucks to make as many good decisions as I can, doing what I consider to be common sense with the assets we have. Maybe I’ll get fired and they’ll send me home?
Trying to find material to use for all of our projects, very frustrating, keep hoping it will materialize out of no where. Hard to imagine everyone else has their own priorities that don’t mesh with ours. Every day, Spot is like Bart Simpson, “where’s my spy camera?” He is our daily amusement, except for today, when he was mainly gone.
Spent the afternoon writing FE lessons learned input and chronology of projects completed and in work. It was good to review all the work that the shop has done. Second, the lessons learned project is a chance to drop some well placed dimes. Most of our problems are due to fiscal constraints, but some were results of micromanagement and lack of long term thinking. Long term for a Marine Expeditionary Force of our size is 30 days, so some people say we weren’t supposed to be here this long. What do we do if we start running out of flight equipment or suffer combat losses of gear? We have absolutely no spares. The desert is tearing up our gear fast, but as of D+30 the embarkation of these items has not been realized. The paper was Item-Discussion-Recommendation format. Coined a term today, “ballistically tolerant”, i.e. bullet-proof. “Threat specific mission essential equipment” and “Theater specific war reserve material for contingency operations” was a fancy way of saying why don’t we have desert and cold weather flight suits, or for that matter woodland cammie flight suits like they run around in at MCCDC? Let off some steam, but that’s about it. They asked for input at 1300, had to be in by 1700, thought I was in college again. Turned in 8 pages, some folks turned in a post-it note. These documents are supposed to keep us and other units from making the same mistakes and drive us toward the future. Let’s hope at least one person reads this one. I have no doubt someday that some Marine will be reading this someday and be saying, “ shit, they had this same problem all the way back in Desert Shield”. Got some kudos from the maintenance admin guys, so at least someone likes what I do.
Now we’ve heard another 53 is down, no injuries hopefully, on the heels of one taxiing into another parked 53 yesterday and injuring the crew chief. So we’re looking at a safety stand down. Probably could use one, maintenance guys could use a break. Tired to start my bird the other day with the blade tied down. Self critiquing. Just 4 guys embarrassing themselves in front of one another. Cheap way to tell everyone to slow down a little, especially to look out for madmen in jeeps trying to mow you down as you walk back to tent city. I’m trying to be safe and won’t fly with someone who isn’t. Peewee is a great pilot to be crewed with, and we’ve always got 2 hard charging crew chiefs.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 12 Sep 90

12 SEP 90

160179, 5T2, 6.3, 270/331, Stoney

Still in a tent with no floor, but the mail is great and the chow aint too bad.. And the mail should be more regular now that we have desert cammie clad US postal workers sorting it and routing it to us from down south. That is, when they are not entertaining desert cammie clad US congressmen. Saw 2 Beers today, gave him and his guys some cold Pepsis. He’s been using the GPS, really helps out with his FAC work. He’s been trying to call home, but the phones are out of order. Guess we’ve been here too long, the sheep don’t run when we fly over them now.
Well we really cut back on those flight hours, I flew 6.3 hours today, Injun 7.5. Like I had a lot of other things to do. So now I have 66.7, making me the grand old man of Marine Aviation in Saudi. At least for a day, anyway. Flew by some camels, they have really big hairballs. Still getting plenty of rest. We just flew some more grunts around and worked with the Harriers a bit. Mooch and crew chiefs got their Air Medals today, from CG of 3rd MAW. He talked to everyone briefly, said keep up the good work, we’re leading the pack, the “old timers” now. No mention of how long we may stay. I just want to do my job and get out of here. Had an old roommate come by from El Toro (82) VMFA-323 Death Rattlers days and say, “hey I know you”. He’s the one who crawled home from the club on New Year’s Eve and barfed all over himself. Also had the snake that scared the crap out of the Sgt Maj during our room inspection.
Well, really tired now. Gonna go shower and hit the rack. No flying tomorrow, what am I going to do?

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 11 Sep 90

11 SEP 90

160179, 2K2, 1.0, FCF

Flew a 1 hour test hop in the mighty Super Huey

14 October 2005

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 10 Sep 90

234 sports an new paint job, next to the Jubail tower. C-5 taxiing to leave in the background, missed my chance for a PX run.

10 SEP 90

160171, 2K2, .5, FCF

Exciting times. 2 more days and we draw Family Separation Allowance. What will we do with all that extra money. Too much excitement in the sand box. Got up at 0500 to test, finished flying by 0730, and sat around the rest of the day. Went back to tent at 0930 to unpack from FAARP. Spent an hour reconsolidating stuff, reading mail and recycling flight suits. Took a 2 hour nap, woke up in a pool of sweat, walked back to squadron. Had omelet with ham MRE for breakfast. Wrote a few letters, relatively peaceful day. CO/AMO are bartering for material for a myriad of flight equipment projects. Saw a message going out today requesting additional people for 2 shops, Ordnance and Flight Equipment, so obviously the head shed thinks we’re undermanned for our current tasking. I guess that’s good. Many people from other squadrons have commended my guys on how organized they are. The other Flight Equipment shops are getting mad because my guys are busy making stuff, their pilots see it and say “hey, we want one of those”. I’ve got a great bunch of guys working for me, they complain very little.
Had beef stew for lunch, looked around for some missing laser pointers, sat around, had some peanut butter, crackers, fruit, juice, nut cake for dinner, and I have M&Ms for later. Tragedy today, my salt and pepper container broke open in my pack, which wouldn’t have been so bad but my M&Ms popped open also. Waaaaaaah!!! My last bag. I tried to brush them off, but they were slimy and melting. Poor things never even had a chance....sniff. So I ratted through the MREs and found one with M&Ms, I figured the Marine Corps owed me that much.
Sat around in the air conditioning, waiting for mail, got my hair trimmed, letting it grow out, but still short and comfortable. Almost an inch long now. Talked to Injun and Freddy, as in Freddy Krueger. He’s from Kentucky and refreshing to talk to, doesn’t bitch a lot. I’m trying to move away from that myself, just for my own mental sanity. There are too many things to bitch about over here. Hey, if guys rate Arctic Service ribbons, how come there’s not Desert Service ribbons with little camels and palm trees on them. Gotta write a congressman I guess.
Spot got a letter form MGen Hopkins, thanking him for the sunglasses that we “gave” him. Hey, those are temp loans buddy. It says “Mike, thanks for the sunglasses, I needed them badly. Keep up the good work. HMLA-369 may be the point of the spear. Take no prisoners. John” So now you know who’s really running the show over here, 369 F.E., keeping the man happy with a helmet and sunglasses. Funny how those little things in life...The day after he visited us at Manifa some cold Pepsis popped up out of nowhere. Glad Spot’s giving sunglasses away.
We got little welfare bags from the Red Cross today, with soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, washcloth, deodorant, nail clippers, comb, shampoo, razor, shave cream and tissues. Highlight of the day. Actually mail, arriving at 2230, was the highlight of the day. 5 letters and 4 packages of pogey bait.
Spot said put Cobra guys in left seat of Huey to reduce Huey pilot hours for a while. Hueys have flown over twice as much per airframe as the Cobras. The way I figure, Peewee and I have flown more than any other Marine crew in Saudi Arabia, which I think is cool. He has 63 hours, I have 59. So now we won’t fly for a few days and be bored out of our skulls.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 09 Sep 90

One of our Ordnance Marines reads a good night story to 212, sporting her new paint job. 50 cal, no rockets.

9 SEP 90

159204, 5T2, 3.9, 271, with Peewee

Flew back to JNA today, out of the quiet, undisturbed hideaway to our chaotic international airport, and Spot and the Nasty (V.I.). Its’ and endearing term, probably much like the ones he has for us. Flew 3.9 hours today, got back mid afternoon, ground turned a bird, had a Pepsi, snacked on MRE parts, had a formation, listened to SgtMaj stories from Vietnam, finished some letters.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 08 Sep 90

8 SEP 90

160176, 5T2, .5, 260, Peewee
160176, 5T2, .6, 260/313, Peewee

Got hit by a freight train but showers felt great. Wind kicked up, so we felt kind of like sugar coated donuts in them morning. Washed my flight suit (swished around in a can of water), it had nice salty patches on it from sweating and was kind of crunchy. So of course it’s blazing today and I never sweated like I did today. Looks like I just stepped out of the shower. Guess I’m drinking enough water, anyway. We flew back to JNA to do an engine wash and wash the aircraft. Supposed to fly NVGs, but we got back to Manifa late because first aircraft broke. A bleed air valve malfunctioned and the number one engine compressor stalled, which makes a very loud thumping noise and gets everyone’s attention. We were on the ground, although airborne we wouldn’t have been in any great danger. Good timing, happened close to spare parts. So we got “home” late. It was too hazy, dusty, aka “particulate matter” to fly NVGs, so it worked out good for us. More MREs to eat, no field mess food for a week. Had 2 meals there so far. Pogey bait most welcome at this juncture.
A-6 hit a tower just east of here and Diamond/Super Dave skipped off the top of a sand dune. Heard an East Coast Cobra had a hard landing and rolled over (Rebel, later my H&HS CO). No one was killed. Taking things slower as we can stand to slow down a bit. Have to remember to be careful in the shower. Don’t sense anyone pushing it, boredom and repetition is our biggest enemy. Recognizing that is the key. Back to basics is also key; the time for shortcuts, if any were taken, is past. Spot has said on several occasions “if you’re not comfortable, rested, etc...don’t do it”. We’ve cancelled hops and training for all reasons, maintenance, pilots, grunts, because things weren’t falling into place. Cancelled an NVG hop a few days ago because everyone was tired.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 07 Sep 90

Cobras at the FAARP. We've added some matting to land on so they don't sink into the sand.

7 SEP 90

160176, 5T2, 2.5, 271, Peewee

Crappy mail day, only 5 letters. Haven't used my running shoes yet except to walk to the shower, which is why I brought them. It's quite a haul from the tents at the FAARP to the birds, considering you're wearing boots, flight suit, pistol, gas mask, and usually carrying water, helmet, etc... in the 100 plus degree heat. Need to do some back exercises, as the cot is not terribly comfortable. Back at the airfield I have a sleeping bag for a cushion, here only the mat. Sleep ok, just wake every few hours to go pee and flip over. The most annoying thing is the dumb flies, esp considering they probably just flew over from the shitter.
We've been trying to decide where we would be allowed to R&R, if the chance ever comes up. Hey, we're bored, killing flies is the highlight of our day, after flying that is. We've only been working 4 weeks straight though. Send a Marine to the field, he dreams of liberty...and girls...and booze...when he's not bitching. What is really bad is that there is no alcohol for these guys to drink. Maybe Germany?
It is very uncomfortable to write because of the conditions. I usually straddle a cot and build a gas mask desk. I have to put a towel down so sweat doesn't soak the paper. If it's not too hot, that's because it's too dark. Usually the stuff isn't that interesting or important. Somewhat safe, got food , water, a cot, not sure where that puts me in the hierarchy of needs. Too many people are overly dramatic about the situation, maybe it increases their self worth. Hard to explain without sounding bitter or harsh.
Hanging out mainly with Mooch, Injun and Peewee. Peewee and I are leading for flight hours, I have 55 hours in just over 3 weeks, but it doesn't seem that I've flown that much. Sleep, eat, fly. Injun is still my best friend, but I normally bitch to someone else. He's too upbeat for me to be down around him.
Rawheid, is out here now. Guess his plan to take the FAC tour with Tanks "because they don't deploy, suckers!" didn't work out too well for him. He's riding around in the desert in a Hummer now, behind the tank...

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 06 Sep 90

6 SEP 90

160176, 5T2, 1.6, 271, Peewee

Still at the Desert Oasis, should be here a few more days. Guess we’re the guinea pigs and we’ll stay until Spots’ happy. As long as he’s there and I’m here, I’m liking this plan. We have set up FAARPS on all our deployments, remoting the gas and bullets to spread out our assets. It’s pretty nice here compared to the busy terminal, pretty much sleep and fly. We’re close enough to the bay and the Gulf that we enjoyed some “Gulf” shrimp for dinner. We had been flying over some folks who were shrimping, and someone landed and talked them out of some shrimp. Their bird didn’t smell too good when they got back, but it cooked up real nice. It was good, both pieces...
So far it seems the only guys who can get to a phone are Huey pilots, and not even all of them have had a chance so far. Mail and snacks today, a very enlightening book from my sister on the “Scientific Principles and Design of the Strapless Evening Gown”. Another package with raisins, probably started out as grapes. Got a brimmed hat, desert cammie. Can’t imagine how happy that will make me. 110 degrees plua everyday with nothing to cover my ears. And it’s ventilated. Back to those little things in life. So now I can be “cool”. Oh, we haven’t gotten, nor does it look like we will receive anytime soon, any desert cammies. Of course all the Headquarters geeks, back in CamPen, working in their air conditioned buildings have them. I hope they’re happy. Bitch, bitch, bitch...
Chuck Mills went home with a hernia. Where do I sign up?

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 05 Sep 90

5 SEP 90

160176, 5T2, 3.2, 260, Peewee

Gotta write fast because the sun’s going down and the light is going, plus showers go in another hour or so. Maybe I can write by moonlight. I do have a flashlight. It’s too hot to write during the day. About the only things worth doing are flying or trying to sleep. At least there’s a breeze when we fly.
Got up early for a 0645 launch, went out and played Tactical Air Coordinator Airborne (TAC(A)). It’s a good mission, you orchestrate all air, arty and supporting arms units in your area of operation and coordinate command and control with rear echelon units, i.e. you fly between the front lines and the rear, usually out of harm’s way. We’re exercising the control nets, hey, just like a CAX, a good learning experience for me.
Got a letter from my mom, she says there must be a higher purpose for me being here. I hope so. I also hope she’s not unduly worried about me. Once we get lights in our Home Sweet Tent, maybe I can write more. Only time to write is after hours when it’s too dark or still too hot.
I have a shower story, they’re a hoot. When we got back from flying, we took our “field showers”. They have two pipes that spray out warm (solar heated) water, designed primarily for chemical decontamination. The floor is a pallet. There are no sides or top, so by the light of a full moon, everyone is out there scrubbing away. Quite scenic. 30 Marines, standing under a pipe on a moonlit, deserted runway. 2 minutes to soap up, 1 minute to scrub, 2 minutes to rinse. Best option is to hop in with just running shorts and hose off. My non-flying garb is boots, socks, running shorts, green t-shirt, pistol and gas mask. Sometimes hat. I don’t seem to be getting sunburned, as I’m normally covered with a nomex flight suit. Anyway, the shower felt great.
The “head” out here is a different story, a big ditch covered by a piece of plywood with the required hole in it, and sandbag seats. Smells really great. And strategically placed just north of the fuel pits. I think it’s a checkpoint for incoming helos, “tally ho!” Must be another Kodak moment.
Spot stopped smoking, so we’re worried about him. Some people in maintenance are working 8 hour days now, but other shops are behind, like Flight Equipment, and working 12-14 hours to catch up, plus we’re short a guy for 2 weeks for the reactionary force. AMO sometimes comes across as thinking all his Maint Os should do is test and supervise, no time for personal business or tactical flying. Oh well, what can happen, I get a crummy fitrep and get sent to Saudi ? My job is to accomplish the mission, look out for my Marines and keep everyone safe. Guess where the priority is? If we can’t accomplish our mission, esp in combat, people die. Peacetime allows us to balance the three. The situation we’re in now leaves us with some tough decisions.
Oh well, on to bed. The bugs haven’t been a problem, as I brought my “skeeter beater”. Flies mainly. No sand fleas, parasites, etc... to be found yet, hope to keep it that way. They say what doesn’t kill you will make you harder. But one can only take so much of a good thing.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 04 Sep 90

4 SEP 90

160176, 5T2, 4.4, 1.6 nvg, 1.8 night, 260/313, Peewee

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 03 Sep 90

The "runway" at Manifa

3 SEP 90

160624, 5T2, Armed Reconnaissance, 3.0, .7 night, 270/360, Peewee

Today we flew around on the CO’s wing. Last night I actually slept well in the terminal. Woke up around 0630, got up at 0730. Caught up on some pilot stuff, got my laundry back from the contract cleaner in town, packed my smaller bag of “stuff”, and stood by to brief. We carried some grunts around for visual reconnaissance, and flew out to the FAARP at Manifa Bay. There are two strips of sand that have dome oil or asphalt poured on them, that someone has the nerve to call runways. My guess is that is an old target range or something. All of it is crumbling as we land on it. I was the first aircraft to refuel there, wow! Alert the media. Can I go home now? We ran out of gas physically and called it quits for the evening.
We have tents, water, chow, fuel, ordnance, a small maintenance crew, and a security unit. Oh, and cots! The fact that we have cots now, I donÂ’t think the bad guys are aware of it. If they knew IÂ’m sure this whole thing would be over. Basically all there is to do here is fly, eat, sleep. Not necessarily in that order. We will be here anywhere from 2-5 days, then rotate back to JNA. This will provide a forward deployed attack element to slow up any infiltrators (a speed bump) and relieve congestion at JNA. Also, keeps me from bugging the guys in my shop, although it may delay mail for a few days.
I saw and flew Mudge today. They just had their second kid, a boy, in April. He would rather be somewhere else, as you could probably figure. I donÂ’t know if she stayed in Yuma or went home.
Gotta set up my newest home. Brought a foam mat, poncho liner, mosquito net, writing and shaving gear, and some underwear. Party animal. Should be a great time. They purify the water here, the chlorine tastes great, and itÂ’s less filling. IÂ’m here with Super Dave, Diamond, Peewee and a bunch of Cobra geeks. WonÂ’t we have fun. Going to get some sleep now.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 02 Sep 90

2 SEP 90

160438, 5T2, Armed Reconnaissance, 5.0, 260, Peewee

Got a hair cut at “Chez Nuge”. He swears it will grow back. I asked him to cut the gray off and WOW!. It will work out fine for several reasons, the FAARP at Manifa Bay is a go and we will be spending several nights there, don’t know if they’ll have a shower any time soon. Also it will be much cooler, so I’m told. Got up at 0430, flew all day, have medevac standby tonight and can’t sleep in my own rack. Have to sleep in the noisy terminal. Fly tomorrow, move to FAARP, fly NVGs tomorrow night, plus we all got chewed out by Irish because “the entire maintenance department has its head up its ass”. Got mail. All things considered I’m not doing too bad. In fact I just thought of something that made me chuckle. MAYBE the 2 or 3 people that are running around telling the entire rest of the squadron how screwed up they are should run by a mirror next and take a look. MAYBE the other 200 plus people here in 369 have some collective, cognitive brain wave activity, just maybe. It’s the “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” syndrome, aka the Chain of Command and “shit roles downhill...fast!”
Okay, got that off my chest. I’m tired today, everyone else probably is too. Slept on the front sidewalk with a gas mask pillow....comfy. And if I’m too tired to fly NVGs tomorrow night, well too bad, so sad for the schedulers, that’s their screw up, not mine. No reason I can see to break crew day and crew rest. Trying to remain calm and not sweat the small stuff, there’s enough sweat grenades popping off as it is. Telling people to slow down when needed, so far we’ve been our own worst enemy.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 01 Sep 90

Flyin form in the desert is so much fun. Desert cammie paint job looks pretty good.

1 SEP 90

160176, 2Q5, 2.3, 140, Peewee

Never thought a cot would feel so good! Still carry pistol and gas mask everywhere. Speaking of which, showered in the new field shower, which is a group of plastic cubes with shower heads, fed from a large, large bladder of solar heated water. I knew that big orange ball in the sky would eventually come in handy for something. Showers are about 1/2 the size of a normal shower. Another tent is attached to the showers to dry in, so the WMs will miss seeing us naked should that bitch Pat Schroeder succeed in pushing them out to where we are. Guess we’re in real imminent danger now, huh?
Flew a pop up photo mission, then flew around some more. We may put a Forward Area Arming and Refueling Point (FAARP) out up north to reduce congestion at JNA. Of course I’d probably have to sleep there every week or so. Reminds me of the George Carlin routine, I’d have to take an even smaller pile of my “stuff” from my JNA pile of “stuff” and go camping. Here’s where I want to be, wherever Spot isn’t! It will break up the monotony. Need some new sunglasses bad, now that I have my cot I’m getting greedy. Maybe some film for my cheapo camera and envelopes. And someone to read all of this mail that I’m getting.
Field mess is up and running, more on that . Morning and evening dining extravaganzas, “happy meals”, aka “Mr Es” for lunch. Rumor control is we can get bigger boxes now, but don’t need much more to carry. See “Mobility of a Nation”. Read. Heed. Everyone has chunky thighs, or it looks that way when their cammie pockets are “filled with white gold”, i.e. toilet paper. It’s the small things in life.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 31 Aug 90

31 AUG 90

AH-1W, 160820, 2K2, .3, FCF, Larson

160171, 5T2, Armed Reconnaissance, 1.8, 1.8 nvg, 361 Peewee

Flew a test hop with Tommy in a Cobra. Hey, theses guys have ac?! Then Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) with Peewee. Been flying too many frags to do any training so far. It was not bad at all, we took it slow and worked our way down on altitude one step at a time. Did one landing, picked a nice sandy salt bed. Not dusty at all. Played with the laser pointers, they are cool! They are invisible to the naked eye, but show up as a bright beam on the goggles. They are completely eye safe beyond 8 feet, or as long as you poke it in your eye for 10 seconds. Some of my training as Laser Systems Safety Officer finally comes into play, whoopee. We’ll use them to mark targets, guide aircraft, point out obstacles, etc...plus they’ll reduce radio chatter. The LPL-30s will be hand held and the AIM-1s will be mounted on the Cobra turret and Huey crew served guns. They are so great that I wish I could find the 3 that are missing...another investigation? Oh well, I won’t be the only one, and what can they do to me, send me to Saudi?
We moved today to our tents, no floors, no bug nets on the side, no white liner to keep it cooler, because the terminal is maxed out for work space. I hear ya groundpounders, “oh, you had a tent. Luxury!” Flight equipment still has a room, we must be somebody. So still have Air conditioning in the work space. Lots of the shops are not so lucky. So far there’s about 100 helos here. Feel better. All kinds, all services, and probably more on the way. Kuwaiti Gazelles still adorn the front parking lot, still pointed south, no sign of the aircrew. So we’re an intimate little bunch. Tent mates are Diamond, Super Dave, PeeWee, BlueBalls, Larson, Maas, McGee, Ducky , Dirt, and Road Kill. No one sees this as being long term enough to replace the Oki Det. Should have electricity in 2 days. Using my poncho as carpet, plus some scrap wood. Looking forward to spreading out my stuff and not living out of a pack and kit bag, plus be in one place for a while. Oh, and I have my own cot to sleep in, don’t have to share it with anyone. Yeaaaa. With mosquito netting. The necessary rooms are set across the camp’s perimeter road, and consist of a pipe driven into the ground for going # 1, and a screened in wooden outhouse over 1/2 of a 55 gallon drum for other business. Kind of a quaint way to meet your new neighbors as they sashay by towards their hooches. Don’t worry, the docs get to do the fun stuff like keep tabs on sanitation and order the “shitter burns”. Where do you sign up to get that duty?

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 30 Aug 90

30 Aug 90

160176, 5T2, Armed Reconnaissance, 3.6, 270, Peewee

Thursday was boring, other than almost killing someone. Flew some idiot Colonel around all day, was part of the reason I’ve been in a foul mood since then. First the guy comes in in under the rotor arc without the crew chief’s permission, because he’s boresighted on how far up the General’s ass he can stick his nose. Then he gets mad at the crew chief because he can’t sit by the door in the crew chief‘s seat. “Why can’t I sit there, the General gets to sit on a jump seat?” First, the crew chief has a few other things to do, like make sure we don’t hit anything , watch the pax, and oh, yeah, man his weapon. Absolute worst, biggest asshole I’ve ever flown. When we came into JNA, we landed up close to the terminal and needed to shut down quick to avoid filling the place with sand and blowing everyone's gear around. The General understood the logical need to stay in the helo for a few more seconds, but not this goober. Closest I’ve ever seen someone come to having their head cut off by a rotor blade. We shut down, and as the rotor blade was slowing down, this geek starts to leave the helo. The crew chief caught one guy, and I yelled “stop” at the brilliant one. He ducked and turned around just as the blade drooped over his head, I swear that if he hadn’t, he would have been hit. Spot talked to them and we had no problems with them the rest of the day. His whole attitude was scary, though. Then to top it off, no mail.

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.