04. February 2006 · Comments Off on When we all come home · Categories: Air Force, Memoir, Military

Tonight while watching the current Military Channel program about submarines, when the program got to the part where the patrol ended, the scenes brought back a lot of memories.

In 22 years in the AF, I served six overseas tours, for a total of just over seven and a half years out of the US. Only one of those tours was accompanied, two years in the Philippines, at Clark AB. That means that the rest, five and a half years, was very lonely, separated from family. Then, at the end of each tour was the sheer joy and excitement of coming home!

Let me see if I can stir some distant memories in the hearts of my comrades who experienced like joys and sadnesses. My first set of orders out of Keesler was to the 6314th CAMRON, Osan AB, Korea. In fact, when my Army son-in-law finished his AIT many years later, his first overseas tour was Korea. Why does the US government love to torment us so? Well, it does seem that way. I remember that Korea in those days, only 8 years or so from the so-called end of hostilities, was a 13-month isolated assignment. I don’t know what it is today, but in those days the country was pretty badly torn up, and one did not go off base out of uniform. At least that is what the rule was. I don’t know how many people followed it, but…..well. Since I arrived in December and left in January, I had the dubious honor of being a 62-64 man. At a glance, it looked like 2 years, but it was, after all, only 13 months. And I darn near missed my flight home from Kimpo, as the day that I was scheduled to leave, there was an MPC change, which locked all the bases down, everyone restricted to base while the military payment certificates, which was what we used for money, were exchanged for new ones. This was to limit the black market, and it was always done as a surprise so, if you left your money off base, it was gone!

However, I managed to cadge a pickup truck from the motor pool, a friend to drive it back, and we managed to talk our way off base from the SP’s on the gate. I was desperate, I did not want to get stuck there and have to get new orders!! We managed to get to Kimpo, I got on my flight, and in a couple of days, I was putting my feet under Mama’s dinner table again. I wasn’t married then, Jen and I were engaged, and it was pure heaven to get my arms around her again! I was then assigned to Tyndall AFB, FL, and we were married in November of 1964.

We had just enough time to get married, have a baby, and then I was slapped with orders again. This time, to the PI. After 8 months of wrangling, Jen and L’il Joe were getting off a Pan Am 707 in Manila. We spent a few days with some missionary friends of mine before the trip up to Clark, Clark was an interesting tour, I was in an Air Rescue unit flying Grumman HU-16’s. They were durn near older than I was, and the radar system got off the Mayflower! We did a lot of sightseeing, had a lot of friends, and other than the ever-present violence, it was a pretty fun tour. I remember that my younger brother was at the time stationed in Vietnam, and he managed to get sent to Clark for a 2-month field training school, during which time he stayed with us. This kid, who had been in Vietnam, was scared to death of the Philippines. When he would go out the main gate after school, he would hit a run, and not stop until he got to our gate. We lived only a couple of blocks outside the gate, and we found this amusing. During this tour, I spent a couple of 30-day TDY’s to DaNang, we had a FOB there, and everybody had to do his part. That was one thing I didn’t like, leaving my wife and baby son in the PI, but we had close friends who took care of her. Then, when the tour was over, we were sent to Pease AFB, NH, a very lovely place, and one of our most enjoyable tours. Man, I’m getting old! Pease, and most of the other bases where I served, are now closed. Ugh!

The next call of duty was to Taiwan, where I spent 15 months at CCK, Ching Chuan Kang AB. Pease had gotten me into SAC, and once they got their mitts on you, you were stuck there! CCK, located about 75 miles south of Taipei, at Taichung, was a very safe, pleasant tour. We had KC-135’s there, used to fuel B-52’s from Guam flying to you-know-where. We lost one aircraft and crew while I was there. They were flying back from their mission when the plane just blew up over the Pacific. That was a sad day.

Then the happy day came in May 1970, when I flew home from Taipei, with orders to Wurtsmith AFB, MI. Another now-closed base. Man, the joy and excitement of meeting my wife and kids – my daughter had been born at Kittery Navy Yard in Portsmouth, NH, and my family had stayed in NH while I was in Taiwan, just hoping I would get sent back there. No, in the wisdom of the AF, they sent me to Michigan and another guy went from CCK to Pease. Don’t ask me why. SAC knew it all.

More in the next post of my tours in Thailand and in the UK, and Turkey. And of the sweet homecoming from those tours. Wow, it was so nice, and almost surreal, to be home again! It had gotten so bad, so lonely, that I almost began to believe that I’d never get home to my loving family again!

That’s all for this time. Hope I brought back some great memories of now-distant homecomings for you!

Since we are, by definition, a “milblog,” I for one would like to see more stories like the “Redball” story that Radar graced us with last week. I am now old and decrepit, but there was a time when I was 23, and I lived that very story so closely that I could have written it. The Bomb-Nav shop was right down the hall from Comm-Nav, and we rode the same launch truck on the flight line. It could get interesting.

When we were stationed in Taiwan, we often got typhoon-evac’ed, and most of the time they sent us to Guam. Now, there ain’t a dang thing to do there, and the place is so small it’s claustrophobic. Joe Dubus, my roommate, and I met a nice guy who was stationed there in the base MARS station, and he took us for a tour of the island one day. Driving around the whole damn island took only 3 and a half hours!

One day while typhoon evaced, Joe and I were on night shift and were supposed to be sleeping. But the un-airconditioned transient barracks got hot in the day time so we had gone to the beach to cool off. Both of us got sunburned to a fare thee well, and when the Maint Officer decided that he needed a few more people to cover the launch of a huge gaggle of aircraft, they found us and hijacked our “time off”, driving us straight to the shop where we picked up our tool bags, and took us to the flight line, where we met up with the #2 launch truck. Out on the launch truck we just took our shirts off. Well, that was OK until we got a call that a KC 135’s TACAN would not lock on. We zoomed down the ramp to the plane, and both of us, smelling like a brewery, went flying, shirtless and looking like lobsters, up the ladder to the cockpit. We looked at the TACAN needle swinging merrily round and round, and Joe (not me) looked out in front of the plane and spotted the problem. He turned around and motioned to the flightline chief standing behind us, and said “Tell them to move that truck.” There was a truck parked right in front of the plane, blocking the signal from getting to the set, which didn’t work real well on the ground anyway. Now Joe didn’t exactly look or smell like a highly trained professional, so he had to repeat his corrective action request to the line chief, “I said move the truck. It’s making the TACAN not work.” His best official assessment of the problem. I turned around to verify the truth of his assessment, and now the chief had two red-as-a-beet avionics techs, both of whom smelled like a barracks party at 2 AM, giving him professional advice. OK, he turned around and shouted down the hatchway, for somebody to move the truck. They did, and bingo, the TACAN, which shows distance and direction to the station, locked on as pretty as you please. Problem fixed, the two highly trained professionals hauled tail down the ladder and the bird taxiied out and the mission was saved, no abort for this team of great US Air Force avionics technicians!

I’ll bet that many of our readers would like to hear more personal stories from those of us who have been there, done that. I know I personally would love to read those great war stories, ones very different from the ones that Radar and I have experienced, so come on, let ‘er rip!

19. January 2006 · Comments Off on Where Are We Headed? · Categories: Domestic, Home Front, Politics, Rant, Stupidity

Things are not right in the great country that we grew up in: Right on the heels of a Vermont case where a man was convicted of child rape and received only 60 days in jail, comes a case in Massachussetts where a man was convicted, and plead guilty of raping a 15 year-old boy, receiving no jail time at all, only probation. Details of the latest case are sketchy, however, in the earlier Vermont case, a former high school math and science teacher was convicted in January 2004 of child rape by Judge Delvecchio of the Vermont District Court.

The significance of these cases points out the desperate condition of the court system in this country and the quite valid reason for the President to appoint as many conservative judges (who apply, not make, law) as possible during his term in office. Before I start getting piles of howling protest comments from the moonbat left screaming about imperial US power and civil rights, let’s take a deep breath and demand that the government use some common sense. This kind of madness from our courts must stop or we are doomed as a nation. Or is it too late?

15. January 2006 · Comments Off on Off To War???? · Categories: General

The Discovery Times Channel has an agenda, and it’s about as transparent as glass. They are against the Administration, the President, and even the American People. Some of their programs make me want to throw up, and others make me want to put a boot through the TV, as if that would help. But the worst series they have ever filmed, by far, is this sad story of the sorriest National Guard unit on record. If this is the best Arkansas has to offer, maybe we should just let them secede from the Union and bid them good luck. I have seen throughout my military career a number of NG and RES units, both AF and Army, and this series does a terrible disservice to all of them.

Somebody must have forgotten to tell these guys that, upon their activation, they are active duty and it is their responsibility to be indistinguishable from the Regular troops. Serving as a paramedic for some 10 years at Ft. Stewart, which has a large NG training area, I’ve had a number of occasions to interact with them. Some were about as dumb as these AR guys, but most took their training seriously. One of the worst calls I remember going on, was when a drunk driver – on post, no less – ran over and killed one of those guys who was innocently walking to his barracks. Every month when I go over to Stewart for Rx refills, I have to think about all the sad calls I went on there. But I have observed the tenant unit closely, and have made some judgements about them.

If the DTMS network wants to do a profile of a military unit in Iraq, they should do a program on the 3rd ID, from Fort Stewart. These guys are top notch soldiers, and they’re getting the job done without all the whining, crying, and carrying-on of this Arkansas unit. If all Matt Hertlein, Tommy Erp, and Joe Betts can do is piss and moan about being activated, they are poor examples of US military members. We should all be rising up in anger over this terrible mischaracterization of our military, as it reflects poorly on all of us who have served honorably and proudly in defense of our nation.

I for one, am mad as hell about this, and if I knew who to complain to, I would. I did not want to go to Vietnam, or to Taiwan, or to the Philippines, or Korea, but when I got my orders I went, and I did the best durn job I could, because I had signed on the dotted line and no one forced me. This in the day when there was a draft. I’ll never forget my first enlistment. I took the oath from my Dad’s Squadron Commander, Maj. William Woolsey, at Castle AFB’s Comm/Nav shop – which was the career field that I wound up in for the first 12 years. They put a picture of it in the base newspaper – why, I never knew – just to make a big deal out of it. That left me totally unprepared for my arrival the next day at Lackland AFB! My recollections of Basic sorta leave me chuckling. It was interesting to say the least, but I have to admit that I learned a few things there. BTW, does anyone remember what a 341 is? I’ll leave that one for the comments section……

OK, I got my gripe out in the air. I just hope no one watches the “Off To War” series and gets the idea that it represents ANY other unit in the US military. Those folks are unique, and they are the LEAST representative of our fine military men and women of anything that I know. I will be happy to see that program go off into the sunset, with their tails between their legs as they deserve.

13. January 2006 · Comments Off on Some days are wonderful · Categories: Air Force, Military, Wild Blue Yonder

I got the shock of my life this morning. An email from an old friend who was stationed with me at CCK AB in Taiwan. I have no idea how he found me, but it was a joy, and a pleasure to catch him up on the last 25 years. We worked together in the base MARS station. If you ever were overseas and talked by phone patch to home, you know what I mean. I was able to talk to my wife about every week due to my position. It made the tour much shorter! Some days are just jewels!

01. January 2006 · Comments Off on FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION · Categories: General, General Nonsense, My Head Hurts, sarcasm, The Funny

Ever get one of those words in your head that just won’t go away? Or a tune that keeps on running through your head, and you can’t banish it no matter how hard you try? This long word did it for me. After seeing the GEICO Insurance commercial with the word in it for several thousand times, I just had to know what it meant. Yep. It’s a real word, for sure. A noun, the meaning is that it is a nothing word. Each element of the word has a meaning of nothing, or intense triviality. This leads to the word meaning something of really low importance, or low/no use. That gives floccinaucinihilipilification a humorous overall meaning in the context of the commercial and the product they are trying to sell. I really got a good laugh out of it when I looked it up in an online dictionary.

So there! Getting the new year off to a rousing, “my head hurts” post, we who are about to go back to bed salute you!


17. December 2005 · Comments Off on Merry Christmas! · Categories: Eat, Drink and be Merry, Good God

In the past 18 months or so since coming to this blog, I’ve learned a lot from the many friends I’ve made here on The Daily Brief, and on occasion, even the one or two jerks who visit regularly or not, have given me pause….Hmmm, OK.

Anyway, let me wish everyone a very merry Christmas, or happy Hannukah, as applies, and my very best wishes for your new year as it approaches with the speed of a runaway train! We have had a very good year at our house, and we very much appreciate the great interaction we have enjoyed with each of you.

See ya on the other side of the Holidays!

Joe & Jenny

11. December 2005 · Comments Off on Back OK · Categories: General

We got back OK from our trip at 0430 last Tuesday. The wedding was spectacular, as was the Fri-Sat snowstorm. Brr, Colorado was Cold!, but we enjoyed being “home” for a few days. I will post more and pix later, just wanted to let our friends know we’re OK…..

How cool, here we sit in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, waiting for our flight to Denver. Tickets all bought, reservations all made, now I’m live blogging on the wi-fi here. I hope my daughter got more sleep last night thanI did. r-u-f-f! It was something like 10 PM by the time we finished packing and left. Then there was a 2-hr drive to get in position for the ride to the airport this morning.

OK, soon time to go. Then we’ll be in Denver and environs. Tomorrow is practice for the wedding, and on Friday it’s the real thing. Then as Joe and Sheri take their honeymoon, we go do our visiting thing, stopping by my old unit, etc.

Take care friends, we’ll be back here next week!

24. November 2005 · Comments Off on YAHOO, YAHOO, YAHOO!! · Categories: Eat, Drink and be Merry, Good God, Memoir, That's Entertainment!

Happy dayze is a-comin! Yahoooo! Sweet li’l daughter is a-gittin’ married next Friday! And we are a-leavin’ for Colorado first thing Wednesday morning! After Nurse Jenny finishes work on Tuesday, we’re headed out for Hotlanta, where we will be jumping up and….wait a minute…. easing ourselves onto a great big bird for the short 3 1/2 hour ride to Denver, and we get to spend a glorious week in our favorite of all states! We’ll be renting a car in Denver and driving the rest of the way to Florence, just south of Colorado Springs, where Sheryl lives. I guess we have to make a quick stop at Monument and see our old house, and maybe visit with my old pals at the fire house, where I once was the only paramedic. A couple of miles south of there is the AF Academy, and we plan to meet our son and his family at the gift shop at Focus on the Family’s huge campus.

(A great place to visit, I was involved in some of the initial construction phases there, and it was my privilege to furnish the radios used in the dedication day festivities back in 1993.)

Sheri had one of those disasters that sometimes happens from her first marriage, but she has three of the most wonderful daughters from that time around. This time she gets another Joe…..Too many Joes in this family! Her Joe is Joe Caruso, one of those great Italian guys, and we believe she has the grand prize winner this time! Joe is a really super guy, and he’s gonna be a teriffic son-in-law, for sure. They’ve been dating for about two years now, so they should be pretty much getting used to having each other around by now. All I can say is that Joe had better mind his manners, because she’s a small package of high-explosive dynamite. I oughta know – I raised her! Whooff!

The hard part is that I gotta walk her down the aisle and give her away: And I happen to be one of those old softies with emotions on my sleeves! Somebody’s gonna have to help the doddering old man back to his seat!

We’ll be taking tons of pictures, as this will be the first time in many years that – wait a minute! This will be the first time EVER that we’ve had both our children and ALL of our grandchildren together at the same time! Wow! Last time we were together, two of the granddaughters were with Sheri’s ex, he had absconded with them, starting an eight year battle that she finally won just weeks ago. But what a happy family reunion this will be, us, five grandkids, and our two wonderful children, both with the best spouses anywhere! Who could ever ask for anything more?

Friends at the Brief, join us in wishing them all the best in the world!

18. November 2005 · Comments Off on Watch ‘Em Squirm! · Categories: Ain't That America?, GWOT, Iraq, Military, War

After Rep. Jack Murtha’s (D-PA) explosive comment yesterday that we cut and run, exiting Iraq immediately and surrendering a la Francaise, the US House is this afternoon in the midst of really heated argument. The reason, is that Republicans, wishing to get on the public record just exactly how these folks feel about this, have scheduled a vote for this evening on the question: “Do we terminate the war immediately and recall our troops from Iraq without delay, or do we press on to victory?”

This is one day that I have found real enjoyment in watching C-Span. Republicans are pressing their case, and Democrats are squirming and squealing like the greased pig at the picnic. Of course, aside from Charlie Rangel and a few others who simply don’t care what the American public thinks, no one in his or her right mind wants the American public to know that they want us to surrender the war on terror. No way are these leftist cowards going to vote publicly to just give up and surrender to the islamofascists. This is going to be fun to watch as the evening comes on. I predict a rout in favor of continuing on to total victory.

UPDATE: At nearly midnight, voting in the House is imminent. I have heard many speeches, some bloviating, some with their chests poked out, promoting themselves. But there have been some who have spoken who should be listened to. For instance, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), who was a POW in Vietnam for seven years. When we left him in the Hanoi prison and left our comrades in Vietnam, he was horrified to think that his country had forgotten him and left him and the other POW’s to their fate, abandoned. What a sad chapter in our national history. I hope sincerely that we do not repeat this mistake again. Others who spoke and clearly do not support our troops nearly made me weep for their errors of judgement.

The vote is in progress now, clearly defeated, with something like 3 votes in favor of cutting and running. Those who so voted should be turned out of the house by their constituents, as they do not deserve the office they hold.

There certainly are some things that need to be changed in this war. First, the Pentagon needs to recognize that we need about 40% more troops in the region, a move that would certainly, I believe, shorten our need to be there. Second, we do need the Administration to be more forthcoming in what our plan for victory is. Someone needs to get the MSM to be more balanced in their reporting of what is going on over there, and I would throw out the suggestion that a very loud and strong boycott of the left-leaning, defeatist and one-sided media organizations may be effective. These are only a couple of suggestions intended to get the reader into the thinking mode, Perhaps some of our readers have more suggestions, better ones than I propose, and my intent here is to get you involved and to tell us what you think. Simply commenting to shoot this post in the foot is not productive, and personal attacks on anyone have no place here. Come on, folks. What do you think?

With no time left remaining on the vote, the totals right now are:
In favor of surrender, 3. In favor of staying to victory, 403. Members who did not vote numbered 22. No question where this is going, only three have put their career on the line by voting to cut and run, while the rest of the US House are telling us that they want to stay and finish the mission. Whether or not this is their real, heartfelt choice, we will see in the future what happens. Let’s see how the MSM spins this, and let’s add our voices to the House, in favor of victory.

27. October 2005 · Comments Off on HARRIET BEATS FEET BACKWARDS · Categories: Ain't That America?, Cry Wolf, Home Front, Politics

This morning the news channels are buzzing from right to left with the news that Harriet Miers has withdrawn her name from nomination to the Supreme Court. This is probably no surprise to the President, as the furor over her nomination has been boiling since day one of her nomination. In fact, I don’t think it is a surprise to anyone, on the right or on the left.

We will now see a completely new fight in the Senate as regards any nominee that President Bush sends up. The real drawback to Ms. Miers’ nomination was not that she is a conservative, or that she was not qualified, although that smoke screen was released early in the process. Most of the left’s criticism was that she was too conservative, but the howls of foul came from the conservatives on the hill. While both sides of the aisle were crying over her lack of conservative or liberal views, both sides were mostly concerned over her lack of a paper trail, or record of her views.

Here we go again. The President will have to make another choice, and there is the rub. The conservatives are hoping his next nominee will be to the right with a clear record as such, and the liberals will be praying (!) for a centrist or even a liberal candidate. (Don’t hold your breath Teddy!) I’m not a stealth anything, most people know that I’m a conservative. I believe that the constitution should be interpreted, not modified by the supreme court. If the left loses the white house and both houses of Congress, they should not live under the false assumption that they deserve any power in the courts.

Roe v. Wade. That seems to be the main litmus test of any court nominee, regardless of the level of judiciary. But anyone who thinks that one judge could singlehandedly overturn the ruling is living in wonderland. It just ain’t gonna happen that way. I personally am against abortion, it is murder of the baby no matter how you look at it. It was a wrong move to begin with, but it has become so ingrained in our society that it is going to take a long time and a lot of education to get that one ruling deleted.

OK, let the games begin!

25. October 2005 · Comments Off on Protected: Rosa Parks, World changer, and her influence on all of us! · Categories: Ain't That America?, Good God, History, Memoir

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25. October 2005 · Comments Off on Er, I’m back…. · Categories: General

Probably nobody missed my , uh, comments, but I just got home from a few days at Savannah Memorial Medical Center’s CCU. Yep, last Sat, chest pains, ambulance ride, and four days hooked up to a cardiac monitor. DX: The thumping gizzard still beats…. Had a nice CT scan of the heart, they say it’s working fine….Oh, well. Anyway, keep me in your prayers.

Joe the Herky Bird Fixer

23. September 2005 · Comments Off on Rita may come, I have to stay – this time · Categories: General

Well, here comes another hurricane, due to hit the coast in about an hour. But this time, we won’t be going to the rescue. The van is fixed, but I can’t get it out of the shop until payday, which is next Friday. This time I’ll still be helping, but from home. The HF radio is set up, the antenna is up, and we will be processing help, health & welfare messages, and whatever arises, on 40 meters (7.2 MHz) and 80 meters (3.8-3.9 MHz) .

Here’s what the van looked like when loaded for the trip last time:

Van loaded and ready to go, before transmission died.

Though things are getting back to normal, progress is slow, but we can be found on the radio and working the emergency. We have to note also, that the military is on full standby this time, ready to go into the storm area as soon as the winds die down. Kartrina taught us some lessons, and some of those are brutal. Congress, though, has to take some action to make it legal for the President to use his authority to command troops to work in the US in this kind of emergency…..

20. September 2005 · Comments Off on MILITARY HISTORY · Categories: Air Force, Air Navy, History, Military, The Funny

Complete the following:

“A _______ for SAC Is a __________ for freedom.”

“You call, We _____” is one of the mottoes of ________ units.

The U-6A, formerly designated the ________ is a __________ type aircraft,

powered by a ___________ engine, and was manufactured by the

__________ Aircraft Company.

The B-52 was first flown in _______, and is affectionately (until you skin your

knuckles working on one) known as a __________. )Please, the “nice” version!

What was the most common method of calling home from bases in the far east

during the Vietnam conflict war?

Try these, and I’ll see if I can come up with a few more goodies. Kevin, you

probably know all the answers!

17. September 2005 · Comments Off on A foot-stompin’ good time! · Categories: Domestic, Local, That's Entertainment!

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, here in South Georgia?? Yep! The lovely Nurse Jenny and I got the great opportunity to go to a concert by the “old as us” band at Georgia Southern University last night. It was great, right down to “Mr Bojangles”! We had a great time!

They opened the second set with “Mr. Bojangles, and closed out with “Will The Circle Be Unbroken“, the title of an album that won them a Grammy, and has three volumes now. Wow, just teriffic! After two standing ovations, they came back for the encore. No one wanted it to end. What was really amusing was that most of the audience were our age, not the college students. That, along with the wheel chairs and the walkers in the audience, really cracked me up!

16. September 2005 · Comments Off on Pix Up! · Categories: General

The pictures from the Katrina trip are up at Patriot Flyer.

16. September 2005 · Comments Off on KATRINA WAS DEVASTATING, BUT THE GULF COAST WILL RISE AGAIN · Categories: Ain't That America?, Good God, Home Front

Earlier this week, I returned from doing what I could to help in the wake of hurricane Katrina, finding disaster at home, but we’re on the road to normal again, as are the victims of this destructive storm. The President spoke last night of the courage of those who survived Katrina, and I got a chance to witness that up close and personal. Here’s what we did and how and when….

After the first roadblock, losing the transmission in my van, I got underway again, in my wife’s Dodge Durango. I have no idea why she wanted to buy a 4wd, but I’m glad she did. However, it doesn’t hold nearly as much as my Lumina! BTW, the van is now in the shop, the transmission is out, and a new used one should be installed by Monday. I opted for the used one instead of a rebuilt not only due to cost, but as the van has 155,000 miles on it, I probably will replace it sometime next year. We just pray that a used transmission will hold up better than the one that just gave up the ghost! You see, the original one failed at 100,000, and this one only lasted 55,000 miles. OK, it was some 3 years ago that it was put in. It probably would have lasted for a good long time without such a heavy load, but I had it loaded to the gills, so it was hauling about the max weight, which I believe is why it failed…..

I have already blogged here about leaving home and stopping for the night at our son’s home in Alabama. That post has the links to the earlier posts about the trip. Visit those links, and that brings you up to date with the whole history of this adventure.

Leaving Birmingham, I took I-20/I-59 west and south, entering Mississippi a couple of hours later. I had picked up an additional radio that I had purchased from a fellow ham in Atlanta the day before, and the materials I needed to construct an antenna for it in Birmingham. I already had VHF radios, and the new one is a “low bands” rig, for frequencies from 1.8 MHZ to 50 MHz. I had earlier sold my low band radio, and regretted it the day I did! I like the new one a lot better, though, it’s a lot more advanced technology. For the fellow hams, it’s an Alinco DX-70-TH. Enough of the technical stuff.

Damage seemed to start like a switch being turned on as I entered Mississippi. We have a niece who lives in Laurel, and they took a couple of trees on – and in – the house they had just moved into. Thank God they had spent the night in a shelter, as one tree went through the roof over their bedroom, and another wound up with a huge limb in their baby’s crib. I talked to her on her cell phone as I was going through Laurel, she was out buying furniture, they have an apartment now while their house is being repaired…glad they’re OK. I dropped off the interstate at Hattiesburg, some 60 miles or so from Gulfport, and that’s where I got my assignment, to Gulfport. From Hattiesburg, which had significant damage with trees and power lines down everywhere, I took US 49 south. The road was mostly clear by this time, and I had a lot of company on the trip south. All kinds of vehicles, especially 18-wheelers with loads of relief supplies.

About 25 miles out of Gulfport, I managed to make contact with the Harrison County EOC (Emergency Operations Center – the hq for coordination of all relief efforts) and got directions to my operating location. We had taken over an elementary school in Gulfport, and it was the comm center coordinating with the Red Cross locations throughout the Mississippi coast region. Other radio operators were already there, and some seemed really glad for the relief.

They sent me over to Biloxi, to the largest RC distribution center, to get orientated, and I was in for a big surprise there. Special recognition is due the Alabama Baptist Convention for their massive Disaster Relief Team. They had several 18-wheelers with such things as a kitchen for cooking the food that was distributed daily to residents, and they were coordinating delivery of food by Salvation Army vans throughout Biloxi and Ocean Springs. Located at a very large Baptist church on Popps Ferry Road, they were together with the Red Cross, giving out everything from soap to soup, clothing, ice, water, just everything. And not only for the residents, the ABC was also providing everything for relief workers, from showers to food to ice and water. They even had a laundry trailer, where they were doing laundry for us. Incredible! I had never seen such a large effort by any one organization, and my hat is off to those great Baptists from Alabama. Especially to one guy, Rick, a ham op who gave me the tour and orientation. I don’t think he stopped the whole time he was there, every time I went over to Biloxi he was there, doing one thing or another. Wish I had gotten his last name, and I’m gonna try to get it from the ABC, he was just such a super guy, tears in his eyes as he brought me up to speed. Like everyone I met there, Rick really cared about what he was doing there….

Back in Gulfport, it was 24/7 on several radios. One was the separate freq for the Red Cross, another for VHF, a repeater that covered the area well, and the other a low-bands radio used for more distant comm. I finally got some sleep late the first night, moving stuff out of the back so I could lie on my air mattress bed. I was so tired I was gone by the time my head hit the pillow. Some of the guys slept in the building, but there was no power except generator power, and no A/C, so it was about 90 degrees inside. Others did like me, sleeping in their vehicles with the engine idling, running the AC. Worked fine, and didn’t use much gas.

I woke up about daylight, some 5 AM or so, and went inside to work radios for the day. A couple of hours into the shift, one of the Biloxi guys was calling for a technician to help put another repeater on the air. Since they knew I was a radio tech, the finger pointed to me, and I was off for the 10-mile trip to Biloxi via I-10. You couldn’t get there by Beach Boulevard or by Pass Road, two of the main roads. And Popps Ferry road was impassible just west of Biloxi, a bridge had washed completely out. It is unbelievable just how powerful was the storm surge, about 30 feet in the MS area, and so wide spread. Can you imagine how much force it takes to completely destroy a bridge weighing tons? The bridge across Lake Ponchartrain in LA, from Hammond to New Orleans, is just gone! It was only recently that they constructed a second bridge alongside the old one, making it a 4-lane road. For many years it was a 2-lane, 24 miles over water, and a lot of people, including the folks that Jen worked for, had to commute daily across the lake. I will say this: I wouldn’t have wanted to be there to watch those bridges being destroyed.

From Biloxi, the US-90 bridge to Ocean Springs to the east, is totally gone. Good Lord, the power of that water seems to have been many times more than just wind alone. Well, that’s backed up by the National Hurricane Center, who warns every time that the storm surge will get ya if you don’t get out of the way. (We saw the same results in 1989, hurricane Hugo, in SC. The small town we were sent to had been mostly flattened by storm surge. Shrimp boats were 1/2 mile inland!) Back to Katrina, it is, or was, really difficult to get through many of the streets in Biloxi, and I just went with the flow, deviating where I had to. At the Biloxi center, Rick gave me a map, showing how to get to the repeater site. It was only a few blocks away in one of the Cable Company’s buildings. We needed the second repeater to take some of the strain off the 13/73 machine, which was nearly constantly in transmit mode. They were afraid that it would quit, and we’d be left without a repeater to cover the area.

For the most part, we had to tune the duplexer, a device that keeps the transmitter signal isolated from the receiver, enabling one single antenna to be used for transmit and receive. Now, tuning those “cans” isn’t fun even with proper test equipment, which was very noticeably absent at first, but it was nearly impossible with nothing but my portable, handheld radio, to work with. Finally, one of the local techs showed up with the right equipment, and we got a 28/88 machine on the air, taking up slack from the other one. The numbers I put there are for the hams. They are part of the frequencies of the TX and RX, and that’s what we use to identify a repeater. For instance, 13/73 means that the repeater receives on 146.13 MHz (Input) , and transmits on 146.73 MHz (Output). Now you all know one more “ham” secret…..

While at the cable building, since they had power, I plugged in my cell phone charger to an outlet, as I had misplaced my vehicle charger and it was getting low. I also took advantage of enough room, to build my tree-mounted antenna for the HF, making what is called a “folded dipole” for 80, 40, and 20 meters. That’s a simple, old-fashionedlong wire antenna that can be configured in a number of ways, making multi-freq ops easier. Now we were ready for boondocks ops if needed.

By the third day, Sep 7, someone noticed that he had some amount of cell signal. Sure enough, there was a fairly good signal on my phone, but it was impossible to get a channel. I guess, as the day went on, cell techs got more channels up and running, and by evening I was able to talk to Jen. That was really a pleasant surprise, as these days we don’t usually have TDY’s like this, and we miss each other! It was really nice for each of us to know the other was fine. Jen’s a big worrier (ducking!) and (LOOK OUT!) she was glad to know I wasn’t lying in a ditch bleeding to death. (That’s an inside joke. It’s what we used to tell the kids when they were teenage drivers and they didn’t let us know where they were when they were driving around)

Having cell phone signal back was great, and at first we thought it would ease the traffic load, but what we were doing didn’t lend itself to phone contact. When one of the shelters, or distribution centers, needed something routed to them, they called us, and we had to find the resource and direct it to them. There was lots of that, calls for more ice, calls for more MRE’s, and such. I went over a couple of times to Biloxi to pick up things like that and take them to the Gulfport area. Ice and water were really important to everyone. It was 90 degrees in the daytime, not much better at night until just before dawn, and really easy to get dehydrated. People working in debris removal or traffic control had it rough. I kept my cooler full of ice, sitting on the right front seat, water inside, and when I came to an intersection where traffic was being directed by a NG troop or a police officer, I got into the habit of passing him a bottle of water as I passed. Sometimes some of those guys had several empty bottles at their posts, so others were doing the same thing. Around Thursday of last week – I lost track of the days – power came back on at our base location. Then it went off. Then back on. OK, by that evening, we had AC working, and it began to be cooler in the building.

Destruction in the Gulfport – Biloxi area was pretty bad, but the speed with which recovery is going is really impressive. Power companies from all over the country are working to get power back on, and other people, such as law enforcement folks are there from nearly everywhere. I met a group of state troopers from Indiana at Hattiesburg, even before I got to Gulfport. They were on their way down. There were groups of Florida state troopers there. Sonar guy asked me in a comment if there were Naval Reservists there. In fact, there were. On Thursday, on a trip to the Biloxi center, I met up with a whole group of Naval reservists, unloading trucks and passing out supplies. They were really working hard, doing the grunt work. Someone else asked me about NG and ANG troops. They were all over. Many of the NG troops were directing traffic in both cities, and that was really needed, as both power being out and many of the traffic lights just completely missing. It was impressive to see that many troops working so diligently, helping others when they could have been home in comfort and doing their civilian jobs.

Getting gas was no problem, as my Durango had been given a placard designating it an official vehicle. A Chevron station across from the school where we were had been designated for official vehicles only, and their gas was only $2.39, while folks here in GA were paying more than a dollar more per gallon. We had to go in at night to fill up, and I tried to keep my tank full, just in case.

On Friday, the EOC sent me to check on a few other towns, small towns west of Gulfport, such as Picayune. I left, traveling on I-10, going west along to Bay St. Louis and Waveland. You may have seen pictures on Fox News of the destruction there, but it was near total. I did take a lot of pictures, which I will try to post on my web site, Patriot Flyer.

Along I-10, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there were cars just blown off the road lying upside down in the ditch, and even up in some of the trees. Trees, of course, were down everywhere, and animals of all kinds were lying, washed up and drowned, in the median and alongside the road. There were cats, dogs, even hogs and possums, raccoons, it was amazing. Something else brought to my attention, was, “Where are the birds?” There were no birds, no bugs, and I saw only one mosquito the whole time. I’m sure they’re breeding by now, and birds, probably totally blown away, will return. One other thing on that subject: We had a garbage dump at the Biloxi center, and nowhere to be found were the usual varmints, like possums, coons, squirrels, and other scavengers. There were none around! Also along I-10, there used to be these huge billboards, and every single one of them is gone. Every billboard, the frame is blown inward from the gulf, or completely knocked down. Got some good pictures of that.

At Stennis airport, I stopped in at Hancock County EOC, where I found the greatest concentration of NG and ANG troops. I took time to eat lunch there, an MRE, and sat and talked with a guy from I believe, Ohio. The Guard had also set up a medical facility, as the Hancock Med Center had been largely destroyed. They had one of those packaged MASH units, very impressive. I took the time to talk with a Lt. Col, doctor, outside the tent, and didn’t get his name or where he was from.

Stennis Airport is one of those ventures, a “boondoggle,” that was constructed, and named after the late Mississippi senator, John Stennis, in the early 70’s. It was supposed to be a reliever airport for New Orleans, something which never happened. Being some 35 miles away, it was just too far. In 1979, when we lived in NO, I took Jenny and flew over to Stennis, which was at the time just an 8,000 foot runway with nothing else around. I was trying to teach her to land the plane, in case something happened to me, so she could get us down safely. Lost cause. We flew over there in a Cessna 150, old, worn out, with wind whistling through holes in the thing, and she was just too nervous to learn. I think today she could keep it in the air until somebody could get up there to help her get down, but Stennis didn’t work out!

Stennis today has a few hangars, but they’ve all been damaged, and I saw a few planes lying in heaps. I forgot to mention the military airlift into Gulfport. While I was there, it was constant, with a C-17 or a C-130 Herky Bird landing every few minutes. I even saw a few KC-135’s, also one of my past aircraft, on approach. I mean, it was just a constant stream of military aircraft. Reserve and AD both, and that itself was impressive.

While I was at Stennis, I checked my cell phone, and was surprised that there was a good signal. With the return of cell phone service along the coast, the need for ham operators decreased pretty quickly, and time came that I decided to go back home, as my funds were dwindling pretty rapidly and there was no more to draw on, and no ATM’s working anyway. Over the weekend I began the long drive home, some 900 miles. Leaving Picayune, I drove back to Birmingham, intending to drive all the way home, but Jen called and insisted that I stop at L’Joe’s for the night. That was a good call, as I was pretty tired by the time I got there. The next morning, I finished the trip, and was home by Monday night.

It was not like my experience with other storms. Frederick, in 1979, did nearly as much damage to Mississippi and Alabama, but this monster was much bigger, and the damage will take a lot more to recover from. It will happen, though, and will probably take more than five years to replace all the large structures, like bridges, that were destroyed. Imagine the incredible force it takes to destroy something as heavy and strong as a concrete and steel highway bridge! I’m grateful for the experience of meeting the heroes of this storm, the people who live there, and the folks from everywhere who are doing so much for them. The Red Cross is really doing a fantastic job of helping, and their volunteers are great. Give to the Red Cross if you can, as it is really going to the right place, I can testify to that. Pray for those folks who have to start their lives over again, they need your prayers and I know they appreciate everything that is being done for them.

And, thanks for reading this enormous post! God bless!

14. September 2005 · Comments Off on Welcome Home · Categories: Ain't That America?, Good God, Home Front

I’m back. In one piece, got home night before last, still too tired to write a decent post. I can say though, that we should each hug our loved ones more tightly than ever. And if you have a house to live in – you’re blessed. Later on this week I’ll try to write more comprehensively about what life is like from Biloxi to Waveland, MS, these days. (They stationed me at Gulfport for most of the time.) Folks, we have thousands of NG, ANG, and reserve troops to be extremely proud of. (Not to mention our great AD folks!) From an NG private that ate an MRE sitting next to me, to the doctor, Lt. Col, that I talked to outside the med tent at Stennis Airport. Much more later.

Now, I’m not complaining, at all. But, have you heard the cliche that everything goes wrong while you’re away? This is laughable. We have already talked about the dead van: sitting under the carport without a working transmission. Here’s the rest. I’m really thankful that I took enough cash for gas while I was gone. ATM’s didn’t work there, and anyway, when I got home my bank account was overdrawn. My bad, I screwed up a deposit before I left… Then, as I was walking into the house, Jen told me that the washing machine had quit. No kidding. Only had it 2 months – used. Of course. To top it off, my paycheck, which has never had a hickup, was not in the bank this morning. No, there’s more. Sewer workers putting in a new line across my back yard accidentally cut my phone line yesterday! I would ask, “what next,” but I’m scared to! Like I said though, I wouldn’t dare complain, not after the folks I’ve met this past week or so. No sir, I’m really blessed!

05. September 2005 · Comments Off on ON THE ROAD AGAIN! · Categories: Ain't That America?, Good God, Home Front

After a long, hot day, exhausted, tired of driving, I’m grateful for the nice hot shower and a cot to sleep on, where it’s air conditioned. This may well be the last I see of these wonderful comforts that so many of us, including myself, take for granted, for a few days.

This will probably be my last attempt at blogging for a couple of weeks or so, as after tonight I will be in the area where so much is needed and my efforts just seem so small. I just pray that whatever I may be able to do in the coming days, that it will make some people’s lives more bearable.

To recap, Lovely, wonderful Nurse Jenny’s precious sister, Janis the Great, who is married to Good Ole Mikey (Who grew up across the street from me with his brother and my best friend for life, Johnny), lent us their second car so I could take Sweet Nurse Jenny’s SUV and recover this trip. So far, so good!

I finished transferring things over from my poor, KO’d van last night (Sunday) about 10 PM, then hit the sheets, ever so mindful that I at least had sheets. God, please let me never again forget to be thankful! I don’t think my head had hit the pillow before I was out like a light. The alarm was set for 5 AM, but I think I drop-kicked the clock out the door, and got up about 7. I was on the road by 9, and made a stop in Atlanta to pick up one more radio – I think that gives me a total of about 6 – and then on to Birmingham. First-born – and only – son – lives here, and is senior pastor for Calvary Temple Assembly of God in the Hoover suburb. I’m staying with them tonight, and enjoying every minute with our two teenage grandsons…..

NEWS FLASH! LOVELY DAUGHTER IN COLORADO HAS ANNOUNCED HER UPCOMING WEDDING! TO A JOE! That means that now we will have three Joes in this family….) Now, where was I?….hee hee hee…..

Number One Son had steaks on the grill when I arrived, much appreciated, for sure. After supper, I finished setting up the radios for maximum benefit, and off to the shower. Tomorrow morning, it will be off to the war zone, and I will let everyone know how it goes, when I get back to BHam.

In the mean time, your prayers will be highly prized, and for those of you who helped make this trip possible, my gratitude knows no bounds. I just hope that the radio messages I pass will ease the heartaches of all with whom I meet. Those of you, my friends, who pray, ask only that I will do my best to help, and that many other ham radio operators will jump into the fray.


: My call sign is W 1 F K Y, /mobile W5. Look for me on 75 meters; 3965, 3835, and wherever the GCHEN (GULF COAST HURRICANE EMERGENCY NET) happens to be meeting. On 40 meters, 7265, I’m told, is the primary frequency. I don’t know about 20 or above. I will probably be operating physically somewhere between Fairhope, AL, and Slidell, LA. Prime contact will be MEMA, AEMA, LEMA, and FEMA.

Again, many, many thanks to those of you who helped, and God bless each of you!

04. September 2005 · Comments Off on HERE WE GO AGAIN! · Categories: A Href, Ain't That America?, Domestic, Good God, My Head Hurts

A lot sadder, maybe wiser, here we go again, off to bring help to people who need it most. I have transferred everything from my dead van to Nurse Jenny’s 4WD Dodge Durango, probably a more sensible vehicle anyway, for going to the gulf coast right now. For those who aren’t aware of the mission, reference my earlier posts here and here. (It has been a while since I worked with the html tags. Whew!) It has been quite a saga for the past few days, believe me!

Yesterday, when I got only 100 miles from home and the transmission in my van died, my heart was broken, and I was devastated. But, as we talked about it and cried, on the way home behind a rollback truck, we felt maybe the Lord has a hand in this, as we believe He does in all things – in one way or another. It is just possible that I may need the 4WD, something that had vaguely crossed my mind. Anyway, when I actually leave our driveway tomorrow morning, I believe I will be more careful and a lot more sober in my assessment of situations. (And Mary, maybe we can have lunch tomorrow, after all!)

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the effort, whether to our own small pittance of effort, or to the larger, mega-need ! Now, just so everyone knows, and I would much rather stay in the background without mentioning this; we need help to be able to do this. I am accountable to those who help me, and Jenny is going to keep records of all who help. We have a paypal account, in the name of our email address, come5311@bellsouth.net. Anyone who can and does contribute, will be acknowledged, and we will pass the same thing on to others after this need is over and we again become able to help other people financially.

I spent nearly everything we had getting ready to go on the trip. When I had to pay a tow truck operator to haul the dead van back home, that did it completely. My neighbors have made small contributions, and anyone who feels that you can help, please leave something for us in the paypal account, and the depths of our gratitude will be boundless. As I said before, every single scrap will be accounted for. The accounting, BTW, is necessary on another level, as the Assemblies of God and the ARRL will be holding me strictly to the rules! And, face it, I was raised by my Mama to be honest, anyway…..

Thank you, thank you, thank you! God bless every single soul who helps.

Now, for the next step: We have enough room in our house to accomodate a family of 4 or 5. Would someone please step up and let’s start getting some temporary homes set up for these people who need to get out of those huge shelters and back into a more home-like setting? This is gonna take a lot of work, so maybe we need a committee. NEXT!!

03. September 2005 · Comments Off on when a plan doesn’t come together · Categories: General, Home Front, My Head Hurts

Well, the best laid plans…..I left today enroute to help with rescue and communications in the gulf coast. Sorry folks, I only made it 100 miles. As I approached Macon, GA, the transmission on my van gave up the ghost. I was loaded to the gills with stuff for the folks out there and my own survival items, so now I may have to find another way to get things out there. As for me going, that’s out. Last time I replaced a transmission it ran $1700, and I have already spent all I had on things to take out there. The van is gonna sit under my carport for a month or so while I try to find a way to get a new (or used) transmission.

You never know…..I’m just glad it didn’t wait until I was in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, to let go. It cost me almost $400 to get it transported back home by rollback truck, so that’s it for now. What devastates me is not being able to do the job I know so well how to do. I don’t care about the truck, I just wish I could have done my job.

More later…..Right now, I’m going to go crawl into a deep hole. I can’t help those people who have nothing, and that’s the absolute worst for me….

Pray for the people who lost it all, friends!

01. September 2005 · Comments Off on HERKYBIRDMAN TO THE RESCUE! · Categories: Home Front, Media Matters Not

Come Sunday, after lunch with our friend APROUDVETERAN, I will be leaving home and comfort for the devastated Gulf Coast. Every prayer you, my friends, can utter will be appreciated, as I do my best to provide communications from the area.

I have been a ham radio operator since I was 12, and besides flying, it is one of my favorite hobbies. (My call sign is W1FKY) I am now getting my radio equipment ready, and loading survival supplies, food, and water, into my van for the trip. This is not my first time. It started in 1961, with Hurricane Carla, while I was at Lackland AFB, TX. I rode out that storm at the base MARS station, passing messages, and ever after I was hooked. I did the same in 1962 at Keesler AFB, and in 1979, while living in New Orleans, went to Mississippi and Alabama to provide communications for Sheriff’s offices and emergency operations centers.

In 1989, when Hurricane Hugo hit the Carolinas, I took Nurse Jenny with me and we spent nearly a month camped out in a washed-out fire station, not only operating radios, but giving Emergency Medical Services in the small town of McClellanville, SC. That was one for the record books!

I expect to spend 2 weeks in the area, and will blog as much as possible, but I may not be able to get an internet connection until I get back out of the area. OK, guys, here we go!

18. August 2005 · Comments Off on Suck it up, Cindy! · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, General Nonsense, Home Front

Enough, already! If I never again hear the name of Cindy Sheehan, that will be too soon. I have no problems with anyone who is opposed to the war, in fact no one in their right mind would be in favor of war. War is messy, people get killed and hurt, and countries get laid waste. But, there are times when even the most hated thing becomes necessary, and this, I fear, is one of those times.

Ms. Sheehan has the right, as does anyone, to protest. But, we have heard her, and it’s time to move on. She has allowed herself to get wrapped up with some not-so-nice organizations, and that is a shame. At first, folks would have said, “OK, she’s in grief over the death of her son.” And, who wouldn’t be? But as things progressed, and we found out that the President had already met with her once, I began to question why he should grant her another meeting. He’s a busy man. Even on vacation, he has to work, his responsibilities don’t end, and she should have had enough sense to realize that her demands were not going to be met, especially by anyone like GW.

As I was writing this, FNC announced that she was leaving because her mother has had a stroke. I’m sorry about her mother, and I feel for Ms. Sheehan, who should have been with her family instead of tilting at windmills while her mom got sick. We can now just hope the other nutcases will leave Crawford and go home, let the President get some rest, and give the rest of us some peace. No doubt, the media will go hunting around for the next thing to talk about hour after hour, boring the crap out of us all.

So, what’s next?

02. August 2005 · Comments Off on News Incoming · Categories: General

Incoming news from FNC: A commercial jet has crashed on landing at Toronto Int’l Airport this afternoon. The plane slid off the runway during landing, and minutes after stopping, burst into flames. There were severe thunderstorms in the area, which may have contributed to the crash.

CTV reports that, thankfully, there were no fatalities in the crash.

31. July 2005 · Comments Off on Hey Y’all! · Categories: Ain't That America?, Good God, Working In A Salt Mine...

I’ve been a little absent from the blog for much of the last 2 weeks, and there are good reasons. We received a settlement from the social security admin, a real surprise, but so very welcome. As a result, I’ve been really busy. Paid off some $5,000 worth of bills, got rid of loans and credit card balances, and purchased a lot of things, some of them toys, that I’ve wanted for a long time. Changed from cable to satellite for TV (Directv, really great), got a satellite XM radio, and finally a new computer. The old one was in really bad shape. The new one, an “Emachines” model T4010, made by Gateway, has a Celeron proc, 2.93GHz, RAM 512MB, lots of extras, really nice. But changing over is really a lot of work and very time-consuming. I took the HD out of the old one, set it up as a D drive, and am slowly copying what I need from it to the new one. Since there are a lot of things I do not want, I’m not just doing a “copy*.*” so the way I’m doing it takes time.

The settlement I received was for my disability. I’ve been disabled since 1995, but the SS folks gave me 1998, don’t know why. Then they gave me back pay, but not all of it. OK, I’ll take what I can get, there’s not a lot of choice. It will be great, though, to have the extra monthly check. For so long, we’ve been struggling, having to borrow and scrape to make it from month to month, I just don’t know what it feels like to be worry-free. But it will be nice to find out. Oh, and we’re finally gonna go on a cruise, one thing Nurse Jenny has wanted to do since we got married. We’re just trying to figure out which one, there are so many to choose from!

Friends, rejoice with us in our good fortune, and thanks for being friends!