22 November 2005

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 22 Nov 90

22 NOV 90

Celebrated Thanksgiving by coming in to work late. Flew late last night, so I took a meritorious morning off. Got to the terminal at 1030. Wrote some letters, basically sat around all day waiting for noon chow. It certainly was worth the wait. We had turkey breast and ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn and all kinds of salads, nuts, carrots, pickles, fruit etc... plus Pepsi and OJ. The meat was great. The mess tent was decorated with centerpieces, tablecloths and napkins so it felt like Thanksgiving, without the beer and football. For desert there was pumpkin pie with whipped cream or pecan, cherry apple and ice cream, candy bars and pudding. This one meal almost made up for all the crap we've been eating since we got here. They worked very hard to get all of this together and it did lift some spirits.
After chow, back to the terminal to read some mail. Got some cookies from Aunt Mary, passed them out and they went fast. Went back to tent at 1730 and looked through some aviation catalogs.
Some of our tent mates got to go eat dinner with President and Mrs Bush, along with about 1500 other Marines. They were several miles away from us, so we didn't see them. Maybe when they come back next year? Road Kill got to go with a few other guys and they gave the standard "nothing special..." report. Wow, I guess they won't mind if I go next time. Too bad they didn't bring Millie and Ranger. Did see some of the HMX helos, they look funny over here, all shiny green. They'll be dumping sand out of them for years to come.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 21 Nov 90

21 NOV 90

160624, 5T2, 4.7, 260, Peewee

Flew MGen Pearson, BGen Myatt and BGen Brabham around in the morning. Then, as Luck would have it, a Cobra broke down in Bahrain and we were sent to recover it. We spent 3-4 hours there while they fiddled with it, but ended up leaving it there overnight. Flew to JNA at night.
Quote from a Marine in the paper "There's all kinds of dead animals lying around over here, probably people too, cuz I haven't seen a graveyard yet". True, but he probably hasn't been near a city yet either. All we have seen is Bedouins roaming the desert with trucks and tents. Usually have some kind of tanker truck for water and feed. They take their tents, camels and goats and cruise the desert. Largest herd I've seen is 300-400 goats, a little black blob an the desert floor. They scatter a little as we fly over them. Haven't seen a fence anywhere except around the airfield. Or a Taco Bell. From the air Dhahran was lit up, like a real city. Even so, it didn't appear that big. It will be interesting to see what's in Kuwait, if we ever get that far.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 19 Nov 90

19 NOV 90

159204, 5T2, 5.1, 260, Diamond

Briefed at 0800, went on Standby, flew backup for Gen Boomer's aircraft for 2 hours. Saw Gen Schwarzkopf. Came back in time to configure aircraft for night flight to film Cobra shoot. Flew 3.1 hours, practiced some night desert landings, then flew form on the Cobras for 2 hours. Conditions were never right for them to shoot, so we eventually made it back to the field at 2030. Debriefed, walked to tent, got a shower and hit the rack.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 18 Nov 90

18 NOV 90

Scheduled to test, but Peewee flew Mooch to finish his FCP syllabus He's finished now, so we'll have 5 FCPs for 6 Hueys. Maybe Jughead will be next. Actually, Spot is an FCP too. Let's see, Peewee is the only one who won't be due for orders when we get back. May have to grab one of the new guys. There's no doubt in my mind that I have my Overseas Control Date now, of course, so do a lot of other people. Right now we have 5 Hueys up, pretty good considering parts availability. The maintenance guys are doing an incredible job, especially when you consider how much extra work they have to do when they swap parts around. Injun tested a bird the other day that had over 50 maintenance actions that required either a ground turn or functional check flight. It's not ideal to move so many parts around, but we can't afford to let one bird sit as a parts bin. We do our best to make sure an aircraft doesn't sit over 30 days. I just flew one that sat for 55 days, and it's the best bird we have, so go figure. And these are Hueys. Imagine the Cobra nightmare. The guys are working their butts off, Walt probably has the toughest job here.
Got some Christmas decorations in the mail, so I could decorate my tent. Red and gold garland around my desk, icicles and a stocking. Looks pretty festive. It cheers the place up a bit and marks the passage of time. Figure we'll have to be rotated in about a year or guys will just start wandering off into the desert. Got an inflatable Frosty the Snowman too. We'll find a place for him in the terminal.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 17 Nov 90

17 NOV 90

160438, 5T2, 3.6, 362, Pickle

This morning got to sleep in because we were flying late. It was hard to sit around in tent but I managed. Went in to terminal at 1030, spent a few hours prepping for the brief. Our mission was to go out and use the FLIR to ensure no one was on a range that the Cobras were going to shoot on later. There was no moon, so we weren't authorized to use the NVGs. We went out during the day to locate target and make sure it hadn't blown down. Winds were high today and it was very dusty. Target was okay, and we landed to turn a goat herder away from the area. He spoke no English, so there I was, pointing up, saying "helicopter,...bang bang" and motioning which way for him to go. The goats had the right idea but he wasn't getting it. He was busy holding mama goat down so baby goat could get some chow.
Took off and followed Cobras around for an hour. That was LOTS of fun in the pitch black haze. Basically, set the low altitude warning on the radar altimeter to an altitude that you don't want to go below and chase 2 other sets of lights around. The closer you fly formation, the easier to see the other ships, but then you run the risk of hitting them. Finally, as part of the mission, the other Cobras fired some illumination rounds. Much easier to get around after that. We followed them tonight to get some practice for hauling a photographer around on Monday.
We had shot some instrument approaches a few days ago, so that helped. On nights like tonight, there is no horizon and no ground lights to give any visual reference. I think that it is the most demanding flying that we do, except for night boat landings when it's hazy and no moon. That's why I like the NVGs for nights like tonight. Better than no help at all. I haven't flown nights in a while, most of our frags have been during the day. We did one night approach also.
Got back late, shut down and debriefed. I guess the papers are building this up as a huge exercise? Well, it's nothing we haven't been doing since we got here, but you know how the media likes to blow things out of proportion. I'm sure SH is worried. Guess he said he would let 100 Americans go today, haven't heard yet whether that happened. We see fewer and fewer reporters, so I guess they aren't getting around as much or relying more on speculation. Or the chow is much better in the rear.
Got back to tent in time to hear Texas-TCU game on Armed Forces Radio, Even better, it was the Longhorn football announcers. It was about 2200, I listened to it with Russ until 4th quarter, then he went to sleep and let me borrow his radio. The game was real close until the 4th quarter. There I was, sitting on my cot, with all the lights off, listening to Longhorn football with the earphones. It was so dark that I couldn't see anything at all, kind of weird. I was going to be mad if they blew the game, as it was probably the only one that I would hear live. The Rice-Texas game was on a few weeks back, but I only heard a few minutes. Maybe Texas-A&M will be on, as it is at such a weird time.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 16 Nov 90

16 NOV 90

160438, 5T2, 5.7, 450, Bean

Got up at 0430, briefed at 0500 with Injun, Jughead and Bean to carry some pax out to the USS Wisconsin. Flew 140 miles to pick up the pax and get to the battleship. After initial confusion (ops normal at a boat) we landed to drop our guys off. First landing on a battleship, and never thought this is where it would happen. We couldn't shut down and stay because they were going to be shooting, which probably would have rattled the Huey into a little pile of spare parts. They coordinated putting us on the USS Guam and Nassau to wait for 3 hours. We went to the Nassua and I got the landing there too. It felt good to be talking "boat talk" again. Figure the ships thought they were going to get some landlubbers, they got me and Injun instead. I got to sign for the aircraft today too, with Bean as copilot. Made a real smooth landing in front of a turning 46, with about a 20 knot headwind. You could hear the surprise (and relief) in their voices over the radio when it became obvious we knew how to come aboard. We shut down and walked into flight deck control. Raised a few eyebrows when they saw us taking magazines out of our pistols. The guys in flight deck control looked at us funny for a few seconds, finally saw our patches and said "you're not CIA?" Guess they had no idea who we were, and we show up in a tan and grey Huey with no markings. Good rumor. We'll have to strip off the patches too next time.
Dropped off gear in locker room and went to find the wardroom. Got a quick bite. Wardroom was pretty full and someone yelled, "phone call for Capt Lewis, HMLA-369." So I went cruising over, pistol and all, to find out they wanted us to launch early. No one else was carrying pistols on the ship, so they must have been curious why we were there. I knew the ACE XO, he was the Senior Marine at HT-8. Talked to him real quick, then had to hop in and fly off. Bean landed next time on the Wisconsin, and we flew back to JNA. Not many guys get to land on a battleship. And now I've landed on 4 of 5 LHAs; Belleau Wood, Nassau, Tarawa. Peleliu. I need to find the Saipan somewhere. Maybe they'll bring the Wasp out here for me to land on, too.
Had a fun day, got back to camp, wrote some letters. And all of my laundry came back. Oh, guys on boats have been out 90 days, no phone calls!

Gunfighter Diary Desert Shield 15 Nov 90

15 NOV 90

160171, 5T2, 3.3, 260, Peewee

Flew a General out to an Army camp for a change of command. About 20 Army pilots came by to look at our Huey 1) because it was tan and 2) it has one more engine than their Hueys. They have the single engine models with less armament. I can't imagine anyone having less than us. No whiz bang GPS. Fewer instruments. Wow.
Flight was uneventful, got back in time for mail call.