Wednesday, January 17, 2018

One Step Forward, Two Steps (not forward)

This post is a recollection of a couple of stories from an IP I flew with once upon a time.

I was told he had gotten a C-47 out of UPT.  It was an aircraft whose speed ideally suited his thought processes.  It always seemed to me he was just a touch behind the aircraft at the blazing speeds found in a C-130.

Taxiing at NAS Cubi Point

One day we made a wrong turn down a taxiway that had no outlet.  We went about a hundred or so yards down it before tower called and asked us where we thought we were going.  We had a co-pilot in the left seat on his very first AC upgrade ride and Milton (not his real name), in the right seat providing the instruction. 

The taxiway was not wide enough to turn around so we would have to back up about 100 or so yards until we could turn and get onto the right taxiway.  This is ordinarily not too big a deal as long as it’s not too hot and the engines don’t overheat.  We would lower the ramp, and the pilots would follow the directions of the loadmaster who was scanning behind us.  There was one cardinal rule “DON’T TOUCH THE BRAKES.”  Speed was controlled by using the engines and the prop pitch. 

We started to back up with the loadmaster doing a great job of telling us how far we had to go, and when to begin slowing down.  Unfortunately, Milton was busy telling the co-pilot all the things he should be doing, like listening to the LM, that he wasn’t paying attention to the spiel about “straight back, 50-yards, begin slowing down, slow down, we need to slow down, we need to STOP.”  It was that last word that finally broke through and got his attention.  At that time both pilots stepped on the brakes.

I was standing behind the IP (in the right seat), and as we came to a stop the nose of the aircraft rose up until the ramp hit the ground and stopped further travel.  All the sudden I was in the air and the roof of the cockpit smashed me on the head as we came crashing back down.

We limped into parking, noted there might be a small problem with the nose gear and headed off to the club for lunch.  I think it took a couple of days to fix that problem of a compressed nose gear and how it attached to the rest of the airplane.

Air Intercepts over Korea

Our electronic warfare officers had a semi-annual requirement to train against air-to-air threats.  Usually, this was a simple sortie where a couple of F-4s from Kadena would come out and intercept us. Occasionally, we could get some good training at Cope Thunder or head up to Korea to play with them.  There were, I recall, three levels of threat maneuvering we could do, depending on the adversary and what we had briefed.  Level 1 was pretty benign, level 2 more aggressive, and level 3 allowed us to maneuver pretty aggressively (aggressively being a relative term in a C-130).

  Any who, we were sent up to Korea to be a target for some unidentified fighters.  It was a crappy day on the surface but beautifully clear above 10,000 feet, so that was where we went.  A big black and green aircraft about 4,000 feet above a solid white cloud deck.  We were cleared for level three maneuvers allowing 45-60-degree banking, a couple of thousand feet in altitude change, and use of our chaff and flares.

We droned around for a short while, when all the sudden our EWO called a threat break to the right.  We rolled smoothly into 10-degrees of right bank while Milton explained to the co-pilot how important situational awareness was.  The EWO called a break to the left and we rolled smoothly into a 10-degree left bank.  I think this was about that time the pitch on the EWO’s break calls went up just like the RWR gear.

I was looking out the right windows for the threat when I saw an F-15 come screaming down at us.  I heard “Fox 1, Fox 2, Fox 3, off target.”  Then his wingman called out “Fox 1, Fox 2, Fox 3.”

The AC’s comment was along the lines of “That went well, if we hurry we can still make lunch at the Osan O-club.”  I don’t think the EWO was especially happy.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Reflections on Civil Rights (1/15/2018)

Today marks the national recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federal holiday.  It seems only appropriate to spend a few minutes in reflection of his legacy.
Reverend King was both the face and moral courage of a movement towards the civil rights and hopeful equality for the negro in America. (I use that term because that was the racial description in use when Dr. King was alive).  We, as a nation, had fought a civil war over a state’s right to enslave its population, but in the 100-years that followed, bigotry, discrimination, and racial separation had still held the negro as something less than a full citizen. 
While the South was most infamous in their treatment, the discrimination of African-Americans was quietly and not so quietly going on all across the nation.  It might not have been quite as obvious as in the Southeast, but it was there in the types of jobs available, promotion opportunities, or places where African-Americans could live.  Up until President Truman, the African-Americans of this land could not fight alongside his white brothers-in-arms.  Integration in the military came at a begrudging pace as life-long prejudices still remained, hidden by the very men who were charged with implementing the President’s orders.
Dr. King, was the most vocal and visible voice of both the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as they confronted the discrimination and second-class treatment of the negro population.
I believe it is safe to say without Dr. King’s activism and leadership we would not have the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Without either, it is reasonable to assume we as a nation would have continued to repress the rights of African-Americans to the point where the election of an African-American President would be an impossibility.
The question I struggle most with is what has happened to us, and our nation following his assassination on that April night in Memphis?  Of course, this single thought leads to many other unanswerable questions.
I often wonder, would Dr. King agree with those who accuse half this nation of being racist because of our political disagreements? 
Would he agree with the tenants of Critical Race Theory that hold the white man and his institutions are incapable of equal treatment of blacks under the law, and will forever marginalize the black man? 
Would he accept the exploitation of race as a central defense of urban decay in major cities like Detroit, Baltimore, and Washington? 
What would he say about the loss of family and the increase in black on black violence that accounts for the staggering number of African-American deaths in urban America?
Using the tactics of civil disobedience developed by Mahatma Gandhi in his fight for Indian self-rule, Dr. King set the conditions for the civil protest that would ultimately gain the fundamental rights promised to all men by the U.S. Constitution for most of a disenfranchised minority. 
Today, almost 50 years after his assassination, the racial protests flourish in the NFL, are exploited by a BLM movement, and are cited in a number of other venues to make political statements.  For example, when Congressional Democrats are offended they will stay home from work to protest the President.  My question now is, are they just reactive as a political tool, or do they still become a proactive effort to improve the conditions of the average man and women?  Do they actually serve as a vehicle for constructive change, or have they become contra-productive?  Does anyone really think the NFL “take a knee” effort, where millionaire athletes attempt to mimic the courage of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympics carries the same risk?   Is it truly about racial equality, or is it about pushing for a particular agenda's political domination?
If Dr. King was still alive he would be 89 years old today.  Consider how far we’ve come, how far we’ve yet to go, and whether is it possible to have true equality when one side begins with a belief equality is impossible.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"Don't Drive Angry"

One of my favorite lines from the movie “Groundhog Day” is when Bill Murry, as Phil the weatherman, has stolen Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog and intends to commit suicide by driving off a cliff at the quarry.  Along the way he puts the groundhog behind the wheel and as they go barreling through the quarry Phil cautions Punxsutawney “don’t drive angry.”
We seem to be in our own inescapable version of that movie, where each day repeats itself.  Nothing changes, or if there are changes they are so minute we miss their significance. 
In the movie, Phil slowly makes the changes necessary to escape his day.  So too will we, but unlike Phil, I wonder if we will learn the lessons to make tomorrow better?
My advice this winter morning – don’t drive angry.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Time Control? We Don't Need No Stink'n Time Control.

--> I was just a 2Lt (or maybe a 1Lt) in a six-ship formation that was supposed to do a pay drop for elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy.   We had flown down from Rhein Main to pick up the troopers at Aviano AB.  Load time was noon, take off was 1330 and drop was supposed to be 1430. 
We had a one-hour route planned, but it really only took about 15 minutes to get to the DZ.  So, we had a number of cutouts where if we took off late we could still hit our TOT.

Loading went smoothly, and we were actually ready to go at 1300.  The lead had this bright idea we would take off early, get approval from ATC to shorten the route and hit the drop zone at 1345.  He checked with the Army and they were all for getting done early.  So off we go.

The only problem was nobody bothered to talk with the Italian controllers.  When we showed up on their screens early they were just a little miffed, and when lead told them the new plan they weren’t buying into this let’s get done early idea.  We flew the route to the IP, but when we got there they said, “Okay you hold now until your scheduled drop time.”

We had 45 minutes of holding at 2,500’ on a hot Italian afternoon.  I don’t think a single trooper on my aircraft managed to keep his lunch down.  We had about 50 guys really happy to leave the plane by the time we hit the green light.

Life was a lot simpler in West Texas where if you were below 3K’ and not in controlled airspace no one cared.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Memory From Mather

I am reaching back into my memories, but I would like to show how technology changed even the basic ways we, as navigators/weapon system operators, did our job.
I began Undergraduate Navigator Training in 1974 and was in one of the first classes to fly the T-43A. We were a transitional class, where our first nine(ish) flights were map reading/NAVAID flights in a T-29 to show some basic airmanship and teach you to keep track of where you have been so you can figure out how to get to where you want to be.
When I returned as an instructor in 1980 the mighty Convair “flying classroom” had replaced by the Cessna “Tweet” and a couple of videotape machines (called the navigation procedures lab or NPL).  As a nipple instructor, my principal job was to teach people to add sideways and think ahead of the airplane while working with such abstract and complex ideas like drift, magnetic variation, and measurement scales based on 6 rather than 10.
In the T-29, almost all of my flights were on the “overland-south” route where we would take off, climb to something like 10,000 feet and take our departure fix over a runway that had its name written on it.  Regrettably, I don’t remember the name, but since it was written in English the instructors assumed we could identify it.  Then head south to LA, hang a left out to some point in the desert and turn around and come home.  I don’t think we ever left California.
When we transitioned to the T-43 we climbed to FL 330 and were level before Reno.  Our departure fix was always a radar range and bearing off Pyramid Lake’s island.  From there we would head out on “overland-northeast” until we got to South Dakota where we would make the turn for home.
I somethings wonder how many students got their wings between that first radar fix from Pyramid Lake island, and the last when training moved to TX and FL?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Fall of the Republic

In the quiet of the morning, I am reading about the Roman Empire.  To understand the empire, you must start with the Republic that proceeded it. Pennsylvania State University has a good posting on the topic here. I was struck by the similarities with the demise of their Republic and our current state of affairs.

In talking about the power of the Roman Senate the article notes that by 30 BC most politicians had abandoned the Roman traditions and the Senate consequently lost its power.

“The fall of the senatorial power in Rome can be described by different specific events; for example, Tiberius Gracchus, elected tribune of the plebs in 133 BC, proposed a law known as Lex Sempronia Agraria, which in essence gave land to those who are poor and have fought in the army and had no land to return to. This is the first of many acts that started to define the different views and wants of the Optimates (the people of power, such as the senate) and the Populares (the roman people as a whole). Knowing that the senate would disagree with his proposal, he bypassed the senate and took his proposal directly to the Popular Assembly; this was considered a major insult to the senate. Tiberius Gracchus’s younger and more persistent brother, Gaius Gracchus, also broke many rules of tradition and was blatantly insulting towards the senate. Gracchus, however, focused much more on the enfranchisement of the Italian allies of Rome (this is seen as a move towards populares). C. Marius began to break tradition and law as well by taking men into his army who did not own any land previously. Marius and Sulla were the first two political figures in Rome who used considerable military force to get what they wanted, and this trend continued all through the fall of the Roman Republic and into the Roman Empire.”[1]

Beginning with President Obama and certainly accelerating with President Trump don’t we see the same thing happening?  Each, in his own way, has chosen to bypass the historical checks and balances of our government, while invoking the will of the people.  There are only two real differences I see in their approach. 

First, and foremost, President Obama has the adoration and support of a friendly press who would turn a blind eye to the dangers of his actions.  This was either purposeful because they believed in the political choices, or through neglect, as they chose not to investigate the true motives for those actions.  The same cannot be said for the current President. 

Starting from the day the American people made their choice the vast majority of the press has been openly hostile and heavy-handed in their reporting.  Unfortunately, their bias has been so obvious to all but the most anti-Trump opposition they have lost credibility in even the most legitimate of issues. 
The second is one of style, rather than substance.  President Obama, supported by a party that was in lockstep with him claimed his actions were to help the poor, to make a government bigger and stronger so the poor would not have to worry about healthcare, savings, or survival, and to bring equality to all.  He did this through vilification of capitalism and obvious preferences in religion and race.  None of these positions or ideas were original to him but were longstanding approaches of the intellectual urban and academic elite.

President Trump plays to a different audience.  President Trump’s strongest supporters are the people President Nixon referred to as “the silent majority.”  The middle class rural and suburban Americans the elites would dismiss in their quest for power.  The people Hillary Clinton labeled as “deplorable” because they do not share the same fluid values as those who rule and make up the upper echelons of government, industry, and wealth in America.

Of course, with the release of the new book “Fire and Fury” our current Caesar should be asking “et tu Bannon?”

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

For Those Who Believe Politicians are Visionary

There is a large segment of our country that place their faith in our politicians, believing them to be visionary leaders able to guide our country far better than others.  This is a flawed assumption.  This is a dangerous and flawed assumption.  This is a narrow, self-serving, dangerous and flawed assumption, for nothing could be further from the truth.
Over the past 10-years or so, anyone who has observed our various governments (local, county, state, and federal), at work should understand one thing.  Regardless of political affiliation, the politicians and their enabling staff are self-serving.  They push a personal agenda based on their perception of what will sell to those whose votes they need.  They truly have little moral commitment to any single set of ideals.  They react based on that same perception of what they need to do to secure the votes they need.
If you need to be convinced of this – look no further than the ABC 7 news report from NYC.  NYC to Install 1,500 Barriers to Prevent Ramming Attacks.  Since 9/11 we have had how many reports of terrorists using cars and trucks to kill people and the leadership of NYC never considered putting up barriers to prevent vehicles from driving down pedestrian or bike paths?
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