joi, 10 februarie 2011

Since we last spoke...

Been very busy. May is one of our Air Force AEF swap-out months and things have just been crazy with scheduling. Many in my unit are preparing to deploy to replace the people currently in the Middle East. However, until these new replacements get in-place the folks deployed can't come home. And back at home we get short-handed until this swap-out is complete. This leads to long hours and short tempers.

Over the past few weeks I was able to give my son his first Shaving 101 course. My, oh my, how fast they grow up. Seems like only a couple years ago that I had trouble driving on the street at Altus AFB after getting the news from the doctor and my wife was, indeed, pregnant. Now I'm discussing the wisdom of the Roger Clemons' contract with the Yankees and going over proper technique of Gillette's MACH 3 razor. Unbelievable.

Also had my annual flight physical. This is always fun. I'd rather see the Dental Clinic and have them root canal my entire top row. And having just turned the big 4-0, the time with the flight surgeon becomes even more enjoyable and personal. Then it was off to audio for the dreaded hearing test. Those faint beeps are like Sasquatch sightings...never quite sure if there's something there or not. Could be a quiet tone or just my heartbeat pounding through the flight suit. Always better hit the Jeopardy-style button anyways just to be sure. After about 5 minutes of the testing the door to the booth swung open to reveal the smiling med tech with the good news. I passed. Optometry is next week. Oh, the fun continues.

Recently read this book. Very good. It's about the true story of an American arrested in the late 1980s by Panama's then-dictator General Manuel Noriega. The U.S. citizen, Kurt Muse, is freed by American special forces (the D-boys) as Operation JUST CAUSE is about to start. Next on my reading list is "Pearl Harbor" by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen, followed by "The Reagan Diaries" by our 40th President.

The better-half and our daughter spent a little time with ABC's "Bachelor" Andy Baldwin and his fiancee Tessa. Both followed the show religiously and thought the couple looked like a good match. Time and deployments will tell.

I will continue to blog as time permits. However, I've decided to contribute in other ways to our country, aside from being a military member. As a volunteer. My participation in this endeavor will take me away from blogging to some extent.

I believe we're at a critical time in our country's history--perhaps the most important of our generation--as we determine how terrorism and the Jihadists should be dealt with during the years ahead.

A growing percentage of Americans do not believe in our mission in Iraq. They don't feel compelled to help the Iraqis mature as a new government, or assist them in stopping AQI and militia violence in that part of the world. Milblogs appear to do a fine job of explaining the ground truth to its readers--however, the majority of milblog visitors are populated by past and present military members, their families, and a smaller percentage of average Americans. More is needed to win this fight in Iraq and The Long War overall. We have no voice inside the Beltway. Foreign policy against terrorists is viewed by many through a straw. Many do not believe this war is winnable.

Milblogs do a great job describing the situation on the ground and showing us that this war is very winnable if we have the fortitude and determination to complete the job. Someone needs to unify our country and bring Americans back together as one nation under God. The doom and gloom reported 24/7 needs to be replaced by optimism and grace. Civility. We need to treat people respectfully again in society and politics, and not cast Hollywood misfits as our role models. We need to take back our country and do what's best for her and the American people. Washington politics need to re-focus on doing what's in the best interest of America, not just what gives the best soundbite or a party a favorable political position in the next election. We need a change. A bold change.


From Brian Williams' "The Airborne Landings":

Starting at around 11 PM on June 5th, approximately 13,000 American parachutists would descend upon the peninsula via hundreds of twin-engined C-47s. The C-47 was a DC-3 aircraft that held 18 parachutists (known as a "stick" to the men). At the low speed of 120 mph, the flight would take them over an hour. The parachutists were weighed down with nearly their body weight in equipment and weapons. They would be prepared as much as possible since they would be dropping behind enemy lines - cutoff from the invading force. Whatever weapons they would fight with would be carried on their backs or strapped to their harnesses. The exception to this would be the artillery battalion of twelve 75 mm howitzers which would accompany the division. Later, heavy mortars and heavier anti-tank could be brought in by glider. In any case, there was no guarantee that the parachutist would form up with his unit once soon after he left the plane - if at all.

The planes took off and flew at 500 feet for about half and hour to avoid detection by German radar. After a slight ascent to make landfall and avoid the AAA guns, the final approach would be at 700 feet. Meteorologists had called for a calm night and nearly the entire flight was without incident. But, as the flights approached the coast of France, they encountered a cloud bank that dispersed many of the planes...only a few minutes before the dropzone. Between the chaotic mess that followed the dispersal and the enemy flak, several planes were damaged or destroyed...along with numerous injured parachutists within. In addition, because of flak, many pilots increased their speed and varied their altitude dramatically. Despite these dangerous conditions, the green light was given for the crew to jump. Aircraft speeds had reached as high as 150 mph (normal jump speed was 90 mph) - which led to numerous injuries.

At 700 feet, the descent took less than one minute. By this time, German flak artillery and AAA were shooting at anything in the sky...including the parachutists themselves. Many were hit on their way down or drowned upon landing in the flooded plains of the Douve and Merderet rivers. Although the plains were mostly only 2 to 3 feet deep (in some places more), the weight of the men, in conjunction with the dragging of the parachute could easily prove fatal. In contrast, unopened chutes among the Americans were very uncommon with their static-line parachutes. In addition, the Americans carried a reserve chute just in case.

Of course, trees, buildings, anti-glider poles and other obstacles lent to a large number of injuries. But, many were injured from the impact of the landing itself - which resulted in usually sprains and broken legs. But, by far, the potentially most dangerous situation arose from the unexpected turbulence and the resulting dispersal of the units.

The Landings
Units found themselves scattered all over the Cotentin Peninsula. In almost every case, several hours were spent just trying to find out where they were and to find others in the same Battalion or even Regiment. In some cases, contact with other friendly units were not made for days. Commanders who had landed in the drop were forced to gather any men they could find on their way to their objective - in the dark. Teams that had formed to blow up communications center or bridges found themselves without the necessary equipment because either it or the men carrying it were lost. About 60 percent of the equipment dropped was either lost by falling into swamps or into enemy-controlled areas.

Operation OVERLORD, the Allied codename for the invasion of Normandy, involved more than 150,000 men and 5,000 ships. Operation OVERLORD included American, British, Canadian, Polish, and French Armies. By nightfall on June 6th 1944, Hitler's stronghold on the coast of Normandy had been breached. The Allies sustained over 9,500 casualties compared with 4-10,000 Germans, but America and her allies began the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.

"We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free."

- President Ronald Reagan, June 6, 1984, at the D-Day Commemoration in Normandy, France

Wild Ride

Video of a Mooney airplane making its approach to a small airstrip at Whidbey Island, Washington. Two words. Go. Around.

Ever wonder what pilots say just before a crash? Yep, you guessed it...and this one is no exception.

It's all about the aimpoint.


D-Day Ceremony

U.S. Medal of Honor recipient and D-Day veteran Walter Ehlers tells about his experience on D-Day during the 63rd Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 2007. (Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)
Here's the story of Medal of Honor recipient and D-Day veteran Walter Ehlers and his brother, Roland:
The First Division landed at Omaha beach. Walter's craft hit a sand bar and the men had to jump into water over their head to make their way to the beach. A few hundred yards further down the beach Roland's Company was also landing. There was no time to worry for each other, each brother having responsibilities of their own to attend. Walter began to lead his squad off the beach. They were taking fire from enemy bunkers on the bluffs overlooking the beach, and Walter knew the only chance of survival was to keep his men together and attack the high ground. He led them by his example. After a 6-hour battle to reach the hills, they finally broke through the German defenses. Walt's courage and leadership that day saved his platoon and earned him the Bronze Star Medal. Then, as night fell, he went looking for Roland.
In the darkness and devastation of D-Day at Omaha, it was difficult to find anyone, but at last Walter found Roland's Platoon Sergeant. He asked about Roland, and was told only that his brother was "Missing In Action". Worried, Staff Sergeant Walter Ehlers returned to his squad and the fighting that still lay ahead...
By June 9th Walt Ehlers' squad was far ahead of most other Allied troops, and Sgt. Ehlers himself was at the head of his men. In an early morning attack his company was pinned down in an open field by fire from machine-gun nests and two mortar pits. Without orders Sgt. Ehlers jumped to his feet and headed towards the first machine-gun nest. Suddenly a patrol of 4 enemy confronted him. Quickly the Sergeant killed all four, then proceeded to advance on and single-handedly destroy the machine-gun nest and its crew of eight enemy. He called to his squad to move up and join him as he turned his attention towards the mortar pits that threatened to destroy the company. Before continuing the advance he gave an unusual order...."Fix bayonets". Later he recounted, "It had a psychological effect on the Germans. They looked horrified and started running." Ehlers knocked out that position, then his men started taking fire from yet another machine-gun nest. Again, at a point ahead of everyone else, Sergeant Ehlers advanced on and single-handledly knocked out that enemy position.
By the following day Sergeant Ehlers and his platoon were so far ahead of everyone else they were literally surrounded by Germans. The platoon was ordered to withdraw, and Sergeant Ehlers' squad assumed the responsibility of covering the withdrawal of the rest of the unit. Sergeant Ehlers and his BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) man stood back to back to draw enemy fire upon themselves and rain effective fire against the enemy to cover the safe withdrawal of the platoon. First the BAR man was shot and wounded, then a rifle round struck Sergeant Ehlers in the back. Ehlers turned quickly and saw the sniper that had wounded him and was able to kill the enemy soldier. Then, despite his own wound, he carried the stricken BAR man from the battlefield before returning to recover the badly needed BAR.

The medics began treating Sergeant Ehlers' wound and quickly learned that the bullet had hit him in the side, glanced off a rib, and exited from his pack. Inside that pack was a picture of Walter and Roland Ehlers' mother, and the bullet had torn away the edged of the folder it was in...
Over the coming weeks Sergeant Ehlers continued to do his job, leading his men. He was wounded three more times and sent to the hospital twice. Then he learned he was to receive the Medal of Honor. It was presented in the field in Paris on December 14, 1944 by Lieutenant General John C. H. Lee. Then the young hero was flown home for celebrations in Manhattan, Kansas and Christmas with his family. But it bothered him to think of his men spending Christmas in the field, facing the dangers of a desperate enemy. He requested and received permission to return, finishing the war with the men of his battalion. Said Mr. Ehlers at a patriotic event in Pueblo, Colorado in 1995:
"Liberty is worth fighting for, and sometimes worth dying for."