21 October 2015

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm Retrograde Mar 91

We got the birds cleaned up for embark, made sure they had no invasive snails or whatever attached to them. Pretty sure the oil killed everything. Had a squadron cookout, steak! We were sitting around dividing folks up to ride home on C-5s and commercial birds, and found out the L-1011 we were assigned for the first flight out had 2 extra seats. The XO asked if anyone not going on the first wave had a birthday or anniversary this week, so I said "March 4th." So I got moved from the last C-5 to the first bird, a Delta air Lines L-1011. Gadget has an anniversary so he's on the list also.

Bye camels!

We loaded up that evening, I have never seen a prettier airplane, a nice red, white and blue Delta bird lit up on the ramp like a Christmas ornament. The flight crew was lined up by the airstairs and we headed to the plane. The officers til the end to board, and to my surprise when we got on board the plane had been loaded from the aft end forward and we got Business class seats. I was right by the galley, woo hoo. Nice cheer when we lifted off and they fed us a lot heading to Germany. The flight attendants were stripping us clean of whatever mementos they could, wings, rank insignia, nametags, covers, even wanted our flight jackets. But we got steak for dinner, steak and eggs for breakfast, sodas but no beer.

Landed in Germany for a crew change and they had a beer tent there so most of the folks got off. We had to leave 2 gear guards on the plane so I volunteered to stay. Got to pick through the chow before it was offloaded and meet the new crew. They were super nice as well and we were invited to the cockpit once we got to cruise over the Atlantic that evening. I went up and thought it would be real dark, guys concentrating on flying and navigating, but instead all the lights were turned up and everyone was chatting. I made the rookie mistake of asking where we were and they were ready for me. The First Officer looked out the window into the pitch black and said to the Captain "Bob, where are we?" Bob says "I don't know. Fred, where are we?" to the Flight Engineer. The Flight Engineer says "Over the Atlantic" and they all started laughing. I made sure to get their names so I could drop my application with them one day.

Next we landed in Cincinnati. Everyone got out here so we could clear customs and we heard our old Gunfighter buddy Flash was there to greet us. He smuggled in a few bottles of champagne and we passed them around. I said "I've never been to Ohio" and he said "You still haven't." Then we headed down to reboard the aircraft and got stuck in behind a glass wall in the terminal boarding area. That was fun because every time a cute girl walked by the guys would cheer. Then when any woman walked by the guys cheered. And then there was a big cheer and I thought "She must be really cute!" Looked up and saw a guy pushing a cart with a beer keg on it and he was laughing.

Freedom bird.

Landed in El Toro and bussed down to Camp Pendleton. Great to be home, pups missed me.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 08 Mar 91

08 Mar 91

159204, 5T2, 0.9, 260 Dinger

Flew one last frag today. Rumor says we head home in a few days.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 07 Mar 91

07 Mar 91

160171, 2K2, 0.6, FCF, Sanders

Did some testing today, getting the birds ready for embark! Looks like I'll be flying home with the last group of birds on a C-5.

One of Russ' buddies flew by with an Apache, we tried to steal it and fly it home but Mooch and I couldn't figure out how to push start it.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 04 Mar 91

04 Mar 91

160176, 5T2, 1.1, 260, Space

Flew back to Jubail. Weather wasn't too bad, smoke and haze to the North, but pretty clear where we are. Got our gear back to the tent, read mail watched maintenance start scrubbing the aircraft and started packing. Definitely a memorable birthday. Chow was good, chicken parts stew. It's funny watching maintenance scrub the birds and we are just going to take them back out and get them slimy again. Guess they'll knock off the big chunks. One Huey came back filthy black from the oil smoke droplets, you couldn't touch any part of it without getting oil on you. It was clean, then we flew it again on photo recon. Spent the rest of the day throwing away bs from my bags. A little more gear gets tossed each time, I'll need new skivvies when I get home.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 03 Mar 91

03 Mar 91

160176, 5T2, 3.8, 260, Space

Got snagged to fly the CinC photo team and 2ndMAr Div photo recon. Went out to their battle areas, landed at Road to Basra chokepoint and Kuwait Intl Airport. This place is a mess. Marine was killed today when he stepped on a cluster bomblet. We walked around the Basra mess for a bit then retreated to the helos. There were all kinds of destroyed vehicles there, whatever the Iraquis thought they could drive out of Saudi. Many abandoned ZSUs.

Once we got finished it was too late to return to Tanajib so we spent the night at Lonesome Dove, which turned out to be okay because we blew an engine oil seal there and needed to be repaired. Luckily it didn't happen midway to Tanajob or we would have been waiting out in the middle of the desert. The Reserves at LD had the seal and oil, so we got fixed in about 30 minutes.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 02 Mar 91

02 Mar 91

160176, 5T2, 4.4, 260, Space

Fragged to support I MEF again. Flew out and found out we weren't needed, but they found something for us to do. We flew photo recon missions to shoot images of oil fires, Kuwait city, traffic jam area, etc... Got back to MEF at sunset and spent the night due to crew day and weather.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 01 Mar 91

01 Mar 91

Weather cruddy, no one outbound. Cease fire. Spent the day watching aircraft return. Sounds like it settled down a bit over the last day. Got my gear, which I hadn't seen in a week and moved back in to the tent. Ate a decent meal.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 28 Feb 91

28 Feb 91

160176, 2R3, 0.8, 260, EggFu
160176, 2R3, 1.3, 260, EggFu

Took off heading to Lonesome Dove. The weather sucked, total crap between fog and smoke from the burning oil wells in Kuwait. We got 50 miles out and had to land because of the low vis. Tried flying on NVGs a bit in the middle of the day, not much better because there was absolutely nothing to orient off of. Waited an hour and tried again. Tried a third time and decided to climb up through the goop to the haze on top. Not much better but reduced our chances of smacking the ground. On the way we were told that the weather at Lonesome dove was zero/zero (clouds on the deck, zero vis). so we returned to Tanajib. Flew on instruments all the way back. Once we landed, MAG was alert enough to inform us that there was a weather hold, and "don't go anywhere." Thanks for the timely update. Spent the night in F.E. again, News on the radio hints at a cease fire, and we are told the other birds are coming back tomorrow AM.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 27 Feb 91

27 Feb 91

160176, 2K2, 2.7, FCF, Jones
160176, 1A1/1A2, 2.3, 110/120 EggFu

Tested 205 all day. Rigged engines, track and balance main rotor. Then had to fly it 5 hours, a penalty due to overtorque, then have maintenance checks it over again before we could run off. 5 hours, plus 3 hours ground turning, working towards a 14 hour day on the flight line, and we ran out of day to fly out. Weather was still crap, so we spent the night in Tanjib.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 26 Feb 91

26 Feb 91

Headed to the flight line, CO had told me the night before to stay and get 205 tested if it was ready. It had been overtorqued the week before then cannibalized for 210. So Peewee left me there. 205 needed everything tested, engines, main rotor, tail rotor. Spent all day with it, then an engine component failed. Slept in Flight Equipment because the Vipers (169) had rolled into town and taken over our tents.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 25 Feb 91

25 Feb 91

160179, 2R5, 2.5, 260, Peewee

Slept good. Waited for the crane and surprise, at 0845 a tank retiever showed up. It worked great to lift our bird by the Jesus nut. They picked it up, the Bell tech rep took a peek at the skid saddles to make sure they weren't cracked and one hour later we were sitting on new skids. We flew out to the Forward Area Arming and Refuel Point (FAARP) Lonesome Dove to check in and then headed back to base for some Cobra and Huey parts. Once we got back to Tanajib the weather had kept going to crap and they cancelled our return flight.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 24 Feb 91

24 Feb 91

We spent the day at 1st MarDiv Command Post waiting for a crane to show up and lift our bird. The maintenance crew showed up at 1130 with new crosstubes and skids. By late afternoon, no crane. I went to G-4 and asked if they could get us one. They said sure and arranged for one to show up in the morning. Meanwhile, Division had a lot of GPS receivers (Trimble Trimpacs) and I showed some a group of guys how to initialize them and use them. They were grateful, as they didn't have time to figure them out and the ground movement was underway. Spent another night at the Division CP.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 23 Feb 91

23 Feb 91

160179, 2K2, 1.0, FCF, Peewee
160179, 2R1, 2.3, 261, Peewee

Got busy at 0500, getting ready to be the combat test pilot and go see where the bad guys were. Fixing and flying helicopters. I've tested every Huey we have over the past 5 days for one thing or another. Came in early to finish 210, it needed to fly today. Packed our gear the night before IOT spend the night in the field after 210 was tested. Weather sucked again, but not too bad for helos. Fly slow with 1-2 miles vis, what else do we need. It took 3 hours to get 1 hour of test time, because we had to be sequenced back into the pattern each time we landed. Finished the test, loaded our gear and waited for our section leader Shiner to buzz back through and latch onto us. We finally launched out at 1500 and made the circuit to drop off parts and people. Our main frag was to be the 1st MarDiv's Command and Control bird outon the west side of the Kuwaiti border. Refueled along the way, got to Division at sunset and they tasked us with a PsyOps mission. The plan was to launch and to fly a few miles of the berm and play messages over a loudspeaker system, maybe some rock music. An Army guy showed up and the loudspeakers were loaded into our bird. Since I've flown Hueys the only thing we've connected to loudspeaker power plug was our vibrex test set. A week or so ago, loudspeaker showed up. Where do they store those?

Would have been an awesome mission, but when we were taking off as Dash 2 we browned out in the LZ. Flying on NVGs, first part of the takeoff was normal but I noticed a few things blowing around off the left side of the aircraft. Felt sorry for the grunts in the area at first, but then instead of moving forward we were sliding backwards. Not good Our nose was high and I was worried about digging in the tail rotor. Peewee leveled the aircraft then thud, we hit the ground. I knew we landed hard and thought "That sucked, let's try that again." About that time the Crew Chief said "Sir, there's something wrong with the skid." I opened my door and thought "Hmm, why is the skid turned funny and why are we sitting so low?" Didn't think we hit that hard, felt harder landings on the boat but maybe the skids slid on the metal deck vs grabbing in the sand. Anyway the crosstubes had rolled back and the skid shoes broke. Aircraft was perfectly level. Most important, everyone inside and outside the aircraft is OK. Peewee did a good job of keeping us level. WE had two passengers and they didn't even realize that there was a problem. Crew Chief said "OK, we're shutting down and then you'll have to get out." They wanted to know why.

After we got shut down we moved the PsyOps package to Shiner's bird and he took off for a while to fly them around. We called back to base to have them send out new skids and worked on finding something to lift the bird. It looks like the only other casualty is the landing light. Man I wanted to fly that mission, I think I missed my chance to hear them playing Flight of the Valkyrie.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 22 Feb 91

22 Feb 91

160179, 2K2, 0.4, FCF, Peewee

More combat test pilot duties. 210 was ready to go with 205's cannibalized parts. I found some oild lines hooked up backwards on preflight, that's why we have extra eyes. She had the engine pack out to change a gearbox. We worked on the bird all day, chasing oil leaks, rigging the engine, troubleshooting chip detectors, doing in flight power checks and track and balance of the main rotor. The weather sucked so it took a lot longer to get in and out of the pattern than normal, as we had to work around instrument arrivals.

With the "Ground War" due to start on the 24th, there is a driving factor behind our maintenance push. I took a hard look at all the birds, because who knows where they will be when their next major inspection comes due. I know the birds I sign off are solid.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 21 Feb 91

21 Feb 91

160171, 2K2, 1.1, FCF, Dinger

214 released from its 100 hour phase inspection, and was ready for a Full Card Functional Check Flight (FCF). It flew well, a solid aircraft. It is the CO's bird, but they all get treated the same. A starter relay crapped itself on landing, though, and fried the starter. That was easy enough to fix.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 20 Feb 91

20 Feb 91

160438, 2R5, 0.3, 260, Peewee
160176, 2J2, 0.3, 260, Peewee

Spent the morning doing a ground power assurance check on 213. It had compressor stalls 2 bays before and a Functional Check Pilot (me) had to sign it off after they fixed it. Later in the day we got a call that 205 had overtorqued so Peewee and I hopped in 213, buzzed up the road and gave it to 205's pilots. We brought maintenance guys with us to inspect 205, and once it was determined that it was airworthy we flew it home and put it in the garage. Further inspection revealed corrosion on the engine compressor blades, so we'll swap an engine and move along. It was our weakest aircraft, aka a "pig" so maybe she'll fly better with the new engine.

So maintenance bandits went to work on 205 and stole parts off of 210 to make it an up aircraft.

Bureau Number = Modex
159204 201
160171 214
160176 205
160438 213
160624 Mishap bird

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 19 Feb 91

19 Feb 91

159204, 2K2, 0.7, FCF, Campbell

No mail today. Today I tested 201, which had problems the day before with passing power checks. When I preflighted I noticed that the torque gauges read high and low in a static condition. I asked the Avionics guys about that, my theory being that maybe the engines were fine and the gauges were skewed. If you pull too much torque to get to the desired reading, then the Ng gas generator gauge would read high. Plus, the Ng gauge was reading high as well in a static condition. So the two combined readings had indicated high for the previous Functional Check Pilots and the bird had failed the power checks. Avionics adjusted one gauge and replaced another and voila, power checks are good! Made me feel good to know the birds are ready to go, I get kind of attached to them. There is a a sense of accomplishment completing a functional checkflight and certifying that the aircraft is safe for flight. 201 also had a hub and blade assembly swapped, so we did a track and balance on that as well.

I have less than a year left on my contract. Will I be a civilian in one year? Lot's of things left to happen between now and then.*

Soviets trying to negotiate a peace proposal? Better hurry up.

* Author's note 2015: I stayed til retirement at 20 years :)

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 18 Feb 91

18 Feb 91

No flying. No mail. But at least I'm not in the desert........oh wait......

Thinking about Injun, I grin. My biggest grin so far. When we were in Korea, on liberty in Pohang, we had each 2 dollars worth of won left and had a competition to see who could buy what. We both bought miniature 90 degree flashlights. He paid 2 dollars and I paid $1.98. I always gave him shit about getting ripped off, being a boot, that is until mine fell apart at CAX last October (89). When he moved into our tent on 31 Jan he was giving me shit back while I was looking for my newest flashlight. "Hey Lewdog, why don't you use that cheap light you bought in Korea?...Oh, that's right, it's in a million pieces in your dresser drawer at home!...Guess you get what you pay for." I countered by asserting that I would retire a rich man, at an early age, based on all of the interest that extra 2 cents was earning me. He wasn't swayed.

One of the crew chiefs told me a funny story about Injun. Injun and his crew were at MEF HQ the night the air war started and they ended up in Gen Boomer's bunker because arty and mortar shells were falling in the local area. Everyone was on edge, hungry for updates. Jim was trying to tune a small radio to get BBC or AFRTS news. Cpl Hulse was asking him "You got anything sir? What are they saying?" Jim raised his eyebrows, quieted everyone and reported".....They're saying....Buckwheat...is dead. Yes, it's confirmed, Buckwheat is dead. They're interviewing his third grade teacher." Remember SNL News Special Reports? Cpl Hulse said it was hilarious and really relaxed everyone, they all started joking after that.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 17 Feb 91

17 Feb 91

159204, 6T2/2R5, 5.0, 260, Dinger

Flew a lot today with Peewee.Flew some parts and people around and flew an intel guy up close to the border to see if we could figure out what the squadron shot at yesterday. They had TOWS and Hellfire and got strobed by some search radar, some vehicle hiding in some trees. So they shot it. We went up there today...armed with a long range camera....to see if we could get a photo of anything. Stayed low, got a few shots, headed back to base.

Went to the Exchange. Scooby Snack Fiesta tonight.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 16 Feb 91

16 Feb 91

Today sucked. In to work at 0615, found out I'm supposed to fly tonight until 2130, so back to the tent I went. A real fun mission was planned, follow the CO around on NVGs...Well, to make a long story short, I sat around all day wondering how much fun it really would be. Luckily, when we came in at 1830 the CO decided to go out single ship. So yea, we skipped the zero illum night formation flying, or at a minimum hazy Low Light Level goggle flying. Turned down another one of those missions a few days ago, they asked if we could fly a few guys out to a battleship after sunset a few days ago. Based on the low vis conditions, over water and not wanting to drag a wingman with us in those conditions we told them no. They said OK, why don't we fly them out in the AM when it is clear and a million? Good idea, and a Frog took them out the next morning. We try to go everywhere as a section in case someone has a mechanical and has to land out in East BFE, but some of the haze and rain we have had recently is really challenging that principle at night. We don't do Instrument Form flying. ANd based on recent events the CG 3d MAW put out a message saying that there's nothing so important that it can't wait until morning, except for maybe a Medevac. Guess the recent mishaps got some folks thinking. That follows a message right after we first got here where an A-6 hit a tower, a Cobra crashed and our squadron skipped a Huey off of a sand dune. The directive then was no night flights under 300 or 500 feet (can't remember). Not the answer then. Not the answer now either for a blanket statement, but I see what the intent of the message is. Sometimes the vis is good, sometimes it's not. The conditions are fluid, and the answer lies in knowing where your comfort level is and experience level, and not exceeding them for a non combat frag. Skippers are the only one who can decide operational necessity and launch a crew.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 15 Feb 91

15 Feb 91

159204, 2R5, 4.8, 260, Space

Flew with Space today, lead a section with Jughead and Perry in Dash 2. Our mission was to fly an Aramco rep out over the Gulf to look at the oil slick. It's still a mess in some places, but for some reason I don't give a shit about the Persian Gulf. We flew about 50 miles offshore, saw lots of oil platforms and even a few Iranian platforms in the distance. We stayed away from those. After we finished we flew a Navy Safety Center rep out to the mishap site, then to HMA-775's mishap site. They had a J model Cobra crash on 2 Feb in conditions similar to ours, night, hazy, horizon rapidly disappearing. Both pilots were killed when they hit the terrain at a low angle. It was not "combat related."

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 14 Feb 91

14 Feb 1991

159204, 2K2, 0.4, FCF, Jones

Flew a maintenance Functional Check Flight (FCF) with Jones. Phone calls home.

20 October 2015

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 13 Feb 91

13 Feb 91

160176, 2R5, 2.1,260, Peewee

Flew Gen Schwarzkopf and LtGen Boomer today. That's a lot of stars. Probably will be the highlight of my VIP career. It was fun everything went smoothly. Best part was that I don't think anyone in the squadron realized that we would be doing this as part of our 2 day standby mission, otherwise we would might have been booted. Maybe we can ask LtGen Boomer to standby for 2-4 weeks.

Anyway, we flew out to see Marines in the field. They talked to us a bit, no earth shattering revelations or changes to battle plans as a result of our input. Of course they were in awe of Super Huey. We dropped them off for lunch and 2nd?MarDiv and went to refuel. When we picked them mid afternoon it had warmed up and we creeped out of the zone with a full load of fuel and whatever bricks they had for lunch. DUring our refueling stop our crew chief told us that every time we took a turn, Schwarzkopf's security guy would check his watch, hit a timer and look at his compass. Interesting we thought, let's make a bunch of little turns on the way back to the drop him off and see if his head explodes trying to do all the math. It didn't, so we didn't have to wash out the bird afterward.

The Gulf is a mess from the oil spills.

Gen Schwarzkopf visiting Marines at NAF Jubail. Not sure if this is the time we flew him or a different time. I was intrigued by his body guards, civilian clothes but they were Delta Force. They popped out the back of his jet as soon as it got to the tarmac and jogged in beside it. Now I'm remembering our crew chief briefing him and giving him a cranial, so the memory light flickers that e picked him up at the airfield for our mission.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 12 Feb 91

12 Feb 91

160176, 2R5, 2.9, 260, Dinger

We're still on standby for LtGen Boomer. O enjoy flying with him. He is pleasant and doesn't want all the hype people can associate with flying VIPs. Today we rounded up some of his Commanders for a meeting. We carried Gen Rowe for a bit today as well. While they were meeting, we flew a rehearsal for tomorrow's mission, we will be flying Gen Schwarzkopf. Pretty cool. Then back to standby. "What did you do in the war Dad?" "What did I do, well I stood by."

I am still not granting interviews.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 11 Feb 91

11 Feb 91

160176, 2RS, 0.3, 260, Dinger

Flew tactical visual recon today, 2 ship. 8 minutes to reposition from Jubail and then on standby for LtGen Boomer at MEF HQ.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 10 Feb 91

10 Feb 91

Did absolutely nothing today except write letters. It's still cool outside and breezy. CHow has been good recently. Showers are still hot. We're tired of news hysteria. Lots of interviews are popping up. Ryan quoted in the NY Times? Heaven help us.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 09 Feb 91

09 Feb 91

160438, 2RS, 260, Bean

Flew 6.3 today with Bean and boy are my arms sore. Trying to not get a cold, thinking maybe I should be home on the couch. Too chilly here for my liking, but we have lights and cold weather gear now.

We are getting good reading material now, eyeball liberty is optimized. This picture has been edited to cut out a calendar of very patriotic American women.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 08 Feb 91

08 Feb 91

Listened to the radio. Goofing off. Mooch likes to hang out in the new FE spaces, cool.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 07 Feb 91

07 Feb 91

Spent the day puttin down a wood floor and liner in the canvas casa. Built a small shelf. My desk didn't make the move, some Saudi Prince probably owns it now.

I like our new location better, and I got a new flight suit. Peewee got a new jacket, needs it now that it got cold. He was waiting for his in the mail for 4+ weeks. Finally I told him to come and by and we'll get you one and as soon as you do, your box will show up. Sure enough, he drew a jacket in the morning and the box came this afternoon. Now I'm calling him "Boot" because he is wearing and shiny new flight jacket and new flight suit.

Clark handling customer complaints.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 06 Feb 91

06 Feb 91

Held a memorial service today for Injun, Super Dave, Al and Kurt. I'm dealing with it by storing it away somewhere. Spent most of the day goofing off with Peewee. CO read a poem that he found in Injun's belongings, kind of eerie.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Jim was the best person I have ever known. I can't ever remember a cross word from him or seeing him in a bad mood. He shared his frustrations in life wit me, but they never seemed to wear on him like they could other people. He remained concerned with Liz and the twins, they were very important to him. Alex, he always made sure she was taken care of. And he always talked highly of Nora. We had some funny letter count wars going...."Hey, did you get any mail today? Any pictures? No? Oh really, she sent me some!" And Jim got good letters.

It will be a while before I have another close friend like that, and makes me want to tell the others to be careful out there, like they're not doing that already. Injun, always one step ahead of us, gone off and left us here to deal with this crap. But he'll be happy knowing I'll get more flight time now and he'll get to go with me every time.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 05 Feb 91

05 Feb 91

At some point we moved our base camp while we out supporting the MEF. Closer to the border at Tanajib now, A nice isolated spot that is further away from other targets. Luckily I missed most of the moving fun and my Marines did all the work, as usual. They probably were glad to not have me helping them :) Now we are busy setting up Flight Equipment in a small trailer. I like it better because we are working most everything out of the embark boxes, easier access and we can pack up and move again...like to home...faster.

Clark almost blends in

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 03 Feb 91

03-04 Feb 91

160179, 2RS, 3.9, 260, Peewee

At 1830 I lost Injun, my closest friend and 3 other fellow Marines (Super Dave, Haddad and Benz) in a helicopter mishap. We were flying a mission to deliver some map overlays to Division HQ and they were our wingmen. It had been a slow day and we launched just after sunset on what seemed to be a routine mission. We fueled, took off and transitioned into night formation flying. Dash 2 started having some problems maintaining a good position on us and they broke off to the left. A few seconds later we saw a flash. We had heard no transmissions from them since takeoff, not unusual, and tried to raise them on the radio to no avail. We headed over to where we saw them crash and landed to look for survivors, but there wsa no chance that they survived. We took off again briefly to call the appropriate agencies and they relayed the information back to base. We had no idea what happened but it really didn't matter. We spent the night at the site and a ground security team showed up around 2330. The CO and mishap investigation team showed up about 0400 with the Chaplain.

We flew hairier missions with these guys and they've never had problems before. So what happened? We'll never know.

Jim was a great guy. I am honored to call him my friend and plan not to dwell on his loss, but rather the enrichment that I gained in my life by knowing him. He was doing something that he felt was his duty, and honor bound to do. He was my best friend and one of the best people I ever knew. I guess God got tired of sharing him with us. I'll always miss him, but will have the happier memories. He brought happiness to many lives and I suppose we are lucky to know him as long as we did.

Semper Fi Injun.

Super Dave far right.

Cpl Benz.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 02 Feb 91

02 Feb 91

159204, 5T2, 1.4 260, Injun

Flew with Injun today, supporting Gen Boomer and Staff.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 31 Jan 91

31 Jan 91

159204, 5T2, 1.0 260, Peewee

Phone calls home. Out flying to support the Fleet.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 29 Jan 91

29 Jan 91

160438, 2R6, 1.9, 260, Peewee

More letters in and out. Keeps the day moving.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 28 Jan 91

28 Jan 91

159204, 5T2, 5.0, 260 Peewee

Finished our standby stint, flew a little, nothing earth shattering. Wish the media would stop making things up. The thing that scares me most when flying most days is that I'm going to fall asleep from boredom. I hope it stays that way. RIght now I'm on the periphery of the action universe and that's where I prefer to stay.

Anyway, buzzed around today, not even worth writing about Or maybe we launched today on a top secret nuclear device delivery on SH's favorite camel soup kitchen. Boy, won't he be pissed. The hairy part was getting fuel in Kuwait City. You wouldn't believe the lines. And Morgan Fairchild was my copilot.

Got home too late to make it to the Brown Stuff Over Rice Cat-fe, so it was double cheeseburger with fries night. And peanut M&Ms, what a treat! Can't wait til tomorrow, maybe on standby again. And every other day of "Desert Storm." Are we a war yet?

Time for a shower, and then Bag, Sleeping, Cold Weather (Intermediate) requal.

Clark and Peewee looking for targets of opportunity.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 27 Jan 91

27 Jan 91

Absolutely nothing of interest today. I've been getting mail. Started reading Minnesota Book of Days and it is hilarious! It's a good book, talks about Bigfoot sightings , petitions to have people actually use their front doors, etc... I'll try to read more tonight.

We seem to be doing a lot of standby, no need to wear the birds out, still feels like we are in a holiday pattern. Luckily we have each other to keep things lively. Right now the first 3 weeks we were here seem more dangerous, when the forces were still building up. Now we have a few more folks here.

Well chow sucked. Peewee and Poodle have settled down for cribbage. Injun is reading and I'm looking longingly at my sleeping bag.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 26 Jan 91

26 Jan 91

160438, 6T9, 4.1, 361, Peewee

Long day yesterday, did some flying last night. Found an article on SatNav and it was pretty good. I like using the GPS. Someone could blow up or jam our ground nav stations, and I'd rather not rely solely on Mr Map to nav over the desert. Got a copy of the Boston Globe from a 21 Jan and there is an article talking about how our air element will be moving forward to within 40 miles of the border, but the interviewee forgot to give them the time, place and LatLong :/ All I know is that we will leave the phone tent behind, probably best.

Last night Peewee and I went out to provide Pathfinder support to a Frog medevac crew because we had a GPS. They were standing by along with some CObras in support of an arty raid that was planned along the elbow. The flying, let's see, how can I say that it was absolutely the most scared I have been while flying, and that includes boat night flying. We flew out to join up with the Frogs, but unfortunately it at night, somewhere out in the inky black desert. When we got to where they were supposed to be, it was very dark, very rainy with lightning and ground fog scattered around. So there we were, going to a spot in the desert that we'd never been to, trying to shift between NVG flying, instrument flying and looking for any visual references. Another issue was that there was supposed to be a tower near the LZ and we didn't want to run into that. The guys on the ground heard us go by a few times, so they turned on a beacon on one of their birds so we could find them. I spotted it, looking out the left side on NVGs and directed PeeWee into a turn to come around and land by them. He was entirely in instruments and we were high because of the supposed tower. We weren't expecting the bad weather, instead we had planned for a good moon and dusk landing. So we weren't rigged to fly NVGs just after sunset. And since it wasn't fun enough, the windscreen started fogging up. Our GPS was givving us good guidance, but every time we turned back towards the LZ the guys on the ground would turn off their beacon. They were concerned about running down their battery and we were afraid we were going to spot them at the last minute and land on top of them.

Scary things you should never say when things are starting to fall apart..."I have the controls." I took controls so Peewee could put his goggles down, turn off the cockpit lights to reduce glare and get a hold of the guys on the ground to ask them to leave one light on. About 15 seconds after I took controls I got vertigo, then severe vertigo. I could have sworn I was straight and level, but the instruments told a different story. Not a good feeling. Our out was to climb up, abort the mission and head back to the well lit, radar controlled airfield, but we had lots of gas so we reset and kept working our way back to the LZ trying to avoid being total IMC while not smacking into a tower or aircraft on the ground. SO I told Peewee I had vertigo and he made sure I didn't fly upside down. It took about 30 seconds for my gyro to recage but I got set up to fly a straight in instrument approach profile towards a light on the ground, and finally we saw the ground coming through about 100 feet. We continued in on a slow, flat approach and landed. Fast forward to the next morning, we discovered that there was NO tower. And it was clear and sunny.

Anyway, spent the rest of the evening on standby in the LZ, slept in the left seat of the Bell Hotel. I've done this before many times. Didn't think to bring a sleeping bag because we weren't aware of the front blowing through, and I froze. Put on extra socks, wrapped my feet in my pack cover, had on a flight jacket and desert parka, and wrapped a towel around my head. Plus had my flight gloves and covered up with my poncho. It was still cool. Finally got some sleep, woke up at sunrise, loaded up the frozen crew and said "Let's go!" Once we got airborne the heater felt great.

I like spending the night in the field, preferably as Medevac because we have stretchers. Next time I'm taking my sleeping bag, mosquito net poles and poncho liner so I can make a tent.

The poncho will keep the night moisture off, and sand can be pushed around to make nice contours.

When we got back I went to the tent and took a 5 hour catch up nap, thew was wide awake until 2230.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 25 Jan 91

25 Jan 91

Slept in. Standing in line for a burger. Not much going on, did paperwork yesterday, forgot that exciting detail. Now I am at work, getting ready to brief. Should be on standby again. Not much goin on of interest, but the mosque loudspeaker has been relatively quiet the last few days. Got 5 letters, also Christmas cards, film and some magazines.

Post office says all we can mail home is letters right now, so I guess I have to stop sending home the MRE fruitcakes and little Tabasco bottles.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 24 Jan 91

24 Jan 91

Absolutely nothing to report, bye! Ha, lazy day for me, a trend is starting, doing fine along with everyone else. The burger stand is back open, wooop, had a burger for lunch, "pork loaf" for dinner, with rice and gravy. Not sure how they snuck that in here. Looked like pork chops, but it was chopped, formed, etc...very interesting.

Weather is on and off here, sprinkled last night, clear today. Spent time letter writing, debunking rumors, wishing I was home chasing the dogs around. Hoping we're not going to Oki as soon as we get done here.

Running out of even boring details to share.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 23 Jan 91

23 Jan 91

Standby tonight.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 22 Jan 91

22 Jan 91

Slow day again, got lost of crew rest. Spouse network all aflurry, understandably so. Some folks choose to call home and get them whipped up, and then there's the sensational media.

Got 3 letters, one from a 4th grader in Irving. She says she read a note about me in class. So now I'm curious. Maybe CNN has been following me around and reporting "Marine pilots are running dangerously low of Dr Pepper and lines at the phone tent are horrendously long." Guess I'll write her back, she says she's "the littlest girl in class" and hopes that I don't hurt myself.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 21 Jan 91

21 Jan 91

Our old squadron mate/former Cobra pilot Cliff Acree has popped up as a POW after being shot down with Guy Hunter in their OV-10 over northern Kuwait. Better news than other options. Kind of sobering to see their pictures on the news of someone you know, wondering if the bruised faces were from the ejection or compliments of the Iraqui forces. I think we know the answer. CNN broadcast some film of the POWS, speaking with their captors present, the spouses were "somewhat relieved" to learn about the fate of their husbands. (FMI: Boston Globe 3 Aug 1991 p. 3)

Good mail day, 5 more letters, guess there was a clog somewhere or they thought it was more important to ship over ammo vs MAIL! Trying to calm down the family, all kinds of bs and pontification about who is doing what and where. The only people that know what we are doing is us and I wish everyone else would keep their mouths shut, and stop calling home to relate their latest adventure, because then the telephone game starts. I have been surprised to call home and get informed about all the high tech secret squirrel Rambo stuff I have been up to, meanwhile I'm well rested and gaining weight on burgers and soda pop.

I'm sure a nap awaits somewhere.

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Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 20 Jan 91

20 Jan 91 This is one place I'll probably never vacation. At least there wasn't ice or snow over the unholy holidays. Looking forward to visiting Texas and SoCal after this is over, unless I get redeployed right away to Oki or the boat. Caught up on letter writing, found time to nap as well, days are getting cut back a bit from 16 to 14 hours to 8. 3 weeks ti we rotate back home, they told us we'd be here 5 months. Hmmmm. At least the train has left the station, so we'll be home eventually vs just sitting. Just keep dodging camels and bullets, big and small.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 19 Jan 91

19 Jan 91

159204, 6T2, 2.4, 261, Peewee First red ink time

Spent most of the day on standby then flew this evening to drop off some mail and gear for Irish's division. You know, our standard mission, Cobra support. It was night, the moon wasn't up yet, so I played with the ML-2 laser pointer and night vision binos along the way. They work great. Got lots of mail, 2 cards, 2 letters, 2 postcards. Also got a letter from my Dad. He talked a little about being a WWII POW and never pursuing the POW medal that he rates. He's mainly glad that he survived and prefers to be honored for the naval battles in early 1942 that he was in with the Asiatic Fleet on the USS Pope DD-225. Answered letters most of the day, but the horrors, the burger and soda stand closed today and we had to eat Marine chow. We are hoping that this is temporary, and we still have a small MCX to get junk food. If I didn't record it earlier, we did find our Frostee the Snowman after the failed kidnapping and Tom's pink plastic flamingos are safe as well. Good thing we found Frostee, now I don't have to sell one of the Lhasas.

201 ready for action

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 18 Jan 91

18 Jan 91 Things are sailing along smoothly here, I wasn't even on the schedule today. We're running standby crews in case the Iraqui forces in southern Kuwait decide to counter attack. So far all they've put out is sporadic, ineffective harassing fire. We're here to support the ground element and they haven't been engaged yet. This morning though, we were woken up by NBC alarms, turned on the radio and heard that Iraq launched Scud missiles into Israel. It was quite exciting listening to the radio and wondering hat would happen next. We wore our gas mask for a half hour or so but turns out someone overreacted. I am more worried about the errant missiles, I think I have about as good a chance of launching one and hitting the intended target as anyone shooting in desperation does. And it sounds like the Patriot missiles are working. So far it has been mostly calm here, but tonight was memorable. Some of our guys on standby at different locations had artillery rounds land within a couple of miles of them. The Iraquis set up quick, shoot and run, so the chances of them staying around long enough to adjust fire and hit something are slim. News report: "Marine Cobra gunships were called on to silence an artillery command/observation post and mortar position, according to the nose news." From what I hear some of our Cobras played Whack A Mole with some enemy artillery observers holed up in a multi story building, using TOW missiles. But for me another boring day, and that's okay.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 17 Jan 91

17 Jan 91 "The Mother of All Wars" started today. We'll see how it goes. Called home, so they were tipped off that I wasn't leading the charge. As alluded to earlier, the initial phases kicked off with smart weapons such as Tomahawks and laser guided munitions, no Hueys. The war started with me snoozing soundly on the desert cot. I did wake up about the time it started and went to take a leak. Peewee was awake when I came back in and I joked "It must be starting without us." Went back to sleep, slept great, went to work at 0600. Things looked relatively normal, but some birds were out. Our standby crews were launched, went out and got utilized and came back with no problems. They went up North to be closer to the border if needed. Spot went out with Mooch and some Co-Bros and trolled around a bit. Later Spot was telling us to not go poking in our noses where they don't belong. Our primary mission is to support the grunts and they aren't engaged yet. There were a few reactions along the border, but not much going on. Peewee and I got sent back to the tent to rest up for 1800-0600 standby crew. Listened to the radio and slept all day> Glad to hear that there were few casualties in the initial strikes. I'm glad it has started, that sounds stupid. But the stakes for the future are too high just to let SH sit there and strike other countries first. I'd be mad if we'd waited for to start wiping out folks with biological or chemical weapons, we've got too much technological advantage to let that happen. Oh well, it's happening. Our role is minimal so far. Ground units are still prepping for the offensive. Shitters and Frogs will haul troops and resupply, we'll haul the tactical VIPS, maybe be used for TRAP (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel) or Medevac. I'm glad the coalition took the initiative, easy for me to say, all I've seen so far is my tent. When we went in at 1800 we were cancelled, no hero missions today. Anyway the first day at "war" was totally uneventful. oh wait, dropped off some laundry, went by the exchange, got lots of naps, called home. Now it is time for the combat test pilot to brave the showers, toughest mission all day.

Gunfighter Diary Desert Storm 16 Jan 91

16 Jan 91 Author's note 20 Oct 2015: I have to warn you, don't expect any magnificent action reports from here on, possibly more boring on my end as I put my combat maintenance pilot skills to use. But I'll add more pictures of sand and keep you updated on what was for dinner, how much I napped during Marine Officer Rest Period (MORP), etc... Read on. Clark

159204, 5T2, 3.2, 260, Peewee

Called home. So far, nothing. The UN cutoff date came and went. I'm glad the Iraquis didn't attack us. We were basically on standby all day. Today I flew with Peewee, out to support a grunt training exercise. We got off late because of an aircraft problem, had to take the backup, but when we got there the grunts weren't even expecting us. We hung around and bugged them to let us fly them anyway. It was fun, I played with the GPS and worked hard on my other nav skills, been kind of lazy in that regard recently. We headed towards the wrong clump of grunts first, but based on the frag decided it was the smaller group that we were tasked to support. And that's where the GPS was pointing us. Wore my desert flight suit today. Several grunts looked at me strange because I was wearing an Army Aviator survival vest as well. Part of out test and evaluation of different Aviation Life Support Systems. We have approval to wear them now with our body armor system, Sgt Lee got 2 from the Army. The body armor is actually ballistic nylon. It's heavy but it's the best available. If I do my job right it won't be put to use. Trying to order some more caving ladders, each Huey should have one in case somebody ends up in the drink. Then their wingman can hover over them and they can clip onto the ladder for extraction. Rest of the day was boring.