Well, I found a good organization to join up with: Vets for Freedom
Like many of the talented folks running this organization, I was over there and listening to the news and came home angry at the news. Nobody heard the good stuff, nobody dicussed sucess, and when the murder rate dropped during the first part of the surge all we heard from our media was 'already a failure'. Nothing gets a vet more wound up than lies about the war he's fighting being spewed from the TV screen on one end of the room while he's watching the battle unfold on the big screen in the middle of the room with the map of his AO on it.
I was a TACP. We went to Basic Training at Lackland Air Force base like every other Airman in the USAF, and then that ends our resemblence to the "Big Blue". From there we went to school at Hurlburt Field in Florida, and got kicked around, PT'ed, and they attempted to prepare us to out army the Army. They do a good job, they just can't prepare you deal with the Army, nothing can except jumping right into it... But thats just part of the initiation... Then if you are lucky, you go to SV-80 Survival School at Fairchild AFB in WA and see the "Big Blue" one last time before you head off the Army. I've been to Ft. Riley KS, Camp Casey ROK, and finally Ft. Wainwright AK... Now, on to the important stuff:
I spent my first tour in Iraq moving around constantly. One day I was in a Sryker following the commander of the 172nd SBCT around Mosul, the next day I was in our brigade tactical operations center (TOC) talking to the F-14's from the USS Theodore Roosevlet (on the last combats mission of the F-14 Tomcats!)
Overall it was a pretty good deployment. I expected it, my wife expected it too. We had just gotten married in May 2005, and I rolled out the door for the deployment in September. In July of that year, we learned we were going to have a baby! What a whirlwind that was! Married, going to be a dad, off to war we go! I got back in February 2006. Because of my promotion in the desert, I had to go to the USAF Airman Leadership School when I got back, because I 'sewed on' out in the desert, I had to go when I got back they said. I had a three day weekend with my wife, one of the days taken by in-processing... Then it was off to class.
That was bad. You don't go from the battlefield into ALS without taking comp time (14 days off to adjust to life again). I protested and went and complained to everybody in the chain of command. One can only take so much of people preaching "Service before self, you need to learn to sacrifice your time for the benefit of the US Air Force and expect 12 or more hour days" after fighting in Iraq for six months before seeing red... Nobody in that chain of command on Eielson AFB had a damn clue what was going on. I complained to my unit, they could do nothing. I complained to the ALS chain, from my class instructors to the ALS NCOIC, they 'couldn't do anything'... Then I had a chat with my chaplain. I was pissed. I was sad. I'd just come back from combat and all I wanted was my family. He talked to the commander of the school. I got a call from one of the instructors, suddenly they remembered that I had six months from the date I sewed on my SSgt. stripe to attend, and that I could be moved to the next class... Hmm... Funny how that works. Crazy how those paper pushers forget what the papers they push say on them. Needless to say, I got my comptime, and not more than a few days later my wife and I had our first child. That would have resulted in my being dropped from that particular class anyway, one of the other airman in my first ALS class was in the second course with me because his wife had they're first baby and he missed too many days of that course!
In July 2006 I found myself "volun-told" to attend my career fields 7-level Craftsmans course in Hurlburt Field Florida. This sucked. Another month away from home... But it had its benefits:
Lookie what I found! One of the Tomcats we worked with in Mosul! Its amazing how small the military community is sometimes. My best friend from high school was going to flight school at the Naval Air Base there and we hung out for a weekend. It was good to talk about old times with good friends! My little brother also paid me a visit, he was in Mississippi at the time and so he drove down and stayed for a bit. He's got some great pictures somewhere from Hurlburt Field...
This was also the trip when I learned I'd be deploying a second time. Un-expected, and with not a lot of time to prepare and no experience with the unit I was supporting. I'd at least trained with the 172nd SBCT since I arrived in Alaska back in July 2004. In July 2006 I had less than a year left in the Air Force, and 6 months of that was going to be spent deployed with a unit I'd never worked with! Why? Well, the 172nd whom I had supported got extended, and our airmen with them. We split army rotations in half, and end half our unit at a time (because the Air Force told us to!). Our squadron also became a headquarters and was to start a detachment down at Fort Richardson to support 4th BDE 25 INF (ABN), problem was the USAF Personnel Center couldn't fill our manpower fast enough and so I got detached to the detachment down there to support 4-25... Fun.
We deployed in NOV06. I flew in on a helicopter, and I got off on FOB Kalsu. I worked the TOC night shift (which thank God Iraq is exacly 12 hours opposite Alaska timezone wise, so it was normal days). I didn't do much beyond radio watch and the usual TOC duties that aren't really significant. In fact, we have a term for people who do the job like I did the second time around, FOBBIT. Yup, I ended my exciting career as a FOBBIT. But at least I got my fun the first time around. I did manage to do some good though:
I figure God wanted me over there a second time for something. Fr. Lawrence and I won't ever agree on things like politics or the war in Iraq, however, he's a great priest who helped me and a lot other soldiers through some very tough times. He did his job more than twice over, both as a chaplain and as Priest. He also helped me overcome some of my raw hatred toward my enemies among other important spiritual battles.
That deployment was from November 2006 to May 2007. I got out of the US Air Force on 01JUL07. All during my outprocessing folks on Eielson Air Force Base were freaking out that I didn't come sooner. "Where were you three months ago! This is long over-due! You need an appointment three weeks in advance! etc.. etc.. etc...". Yeah, go figure. Regular Air Force just don't really get it. But what can you expect from folks who have one deployment to Al-Udeid AB in Qatar that lasts only 4 months, or maybe a trip to K-2 Kyrgistan (spelling?) for six months every 3 years. By the way, Al-Udeid has a pool and Baskin Robbins Icecream... And they still whine about getting 'deployed'... Well, married folks I understand, being away from family even going to Hawaii sucks.
I'm out now, I really was glad to get out. But sometimes I do miss the military life. There's a lot of redeeming qualities to it, but now that I have my family, its not enough to have re-enlisted. After all, being a TACP and working with the Army like I did, I'm marked for life and would never be able to cross train into the "Blue" Air Force without having some force pulling me back to TACP unless I went and cross trained into another 'critically manned' career field that deploys just as much or works crazier hours like the Office of Special Investigations....
Since I've been out, I've worked as a part time clerk at a gun store and got my business license and have sold one painting (to Fr. Lawerance again, different one than pictured). I've also joined the Alaska State Defense Force where I'm learning to be a Constable for the State of Alaska and trying to keep some of the skills I've learned in the military alive and well. We live in a dangerous world, I plan on being actively involved in defending my community, this time locally. I do miss the active duty military, but I don't miss the deployments!
However based on what I saw, I can't stand what I see on the news as news. I'm mad as hell that the truth is buried and that a man who has no clue about Iraq is now going to be our President. I was over in Iraq watching the Surge begin its magic and I watched the reports (not the news, the S-2 feeds! The RAW data) flow in. Murder rates DROPPED and Obama and Hillary were screaming "Failure". BULL SHIT! Thats what gets me MAD AS HELL and thats why I've joined Vets for Freedom and will continue to be outspoken in support of what we have done in Iraq.
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