"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ahhhh, the sun's bright

So, here I sit after a long day on days (which, strangely enough, have been what all my days on days have been thus far), too tired to hit the 'forward' button on iTunes and skip the Hilary Duff music video that my computer's currently playing (it's on random, I swear). Time dulls all pain indeed; in my desire to get back on days and get some flight hours, I'd forgotten just how much the day schedule can beat you down.

I should have known things were off to a bad start when I spent my swing day - which normal people use to avoid the squadron at all costs and stay up just long enough to make their first full sunrise and sunset the next day less painful - stuck in the ready room babysitting a computer experiment and filling in for peoples' duty shifts because I couldn't leave the room due to said experiment. I was up 24 hours straight on my swing day and by the end couldn't form a coherent sentence. Next day I came in to fly a regular ass-and-trash hauling mission. Day after that I was made the section leader for our tri-weekly TRAP (tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel) standby duty. We get this every few days from higher, and it means that for 12 hours, you're the 911 force for any aircraft that goes down or is shot down. You're supposed to be ready to launch with an hour's notice. This mission hasn't been launched in about 3 years and counting, so frequently it gets tasked with hauling folks around too. But some days, you just sit around, waiting for the word to go and never going. So of course, on my second full day shift, and on only the second flight where I'd been assigned as the section leader, higher decides to 'exercise the system' and run a drill to see how well the TRAP really works. This is a nasty surprise on a mission that no one in recent memory has flown. But hey, we're Marines and we press bravely ahead. We took off, picked up the grunts who on a real mission would secure the zone and grab any downed aircrew, and went to pick up our 'survivor' who'd been told to hang out at the end of one of our runways. We grabbed him and flew him safely back home (other side of the airfield). So, assholes and elbows as it was, we fulfilled our part of the mission (higher didn't fare so well, giving us virtually no information on the scenario and what information they passed - like radio frequences to talk to our escorts, air traffic control, etc - didn't pan out; we had an F-18 overhead and a mission commander we were supposed to report to and never heard a peep from them on the freqs we got). We could use a little more practice; but then, that's why we have these pop quizzes. Now I'm the resident expert on TRAP by merit of stumbling my way through one drill.

Yesterday I think I flew another cargo mission. The days have blurred together so much already I already can't remember. And today was, just, wow. 0530 TRAP brief (me leading again), with four hours of real flying tacked on, taking us north and west across the AO. Waved to the Syrians as we went about our business; they generally don't wave back. Amazingly, they still don't like us. Huh. Anyway, after four hours we come back to the barn, and spend the next five hours doing maintenance procedures on aircraft until the sun finally went down and legally we were forced to stop. All told, a nice little 14-hour day. Do it all again tomorrow.

I'm not complaining; evidentally I wasn't completely drained of energy since I'm sitting here doing this. I did get a very pleasant surprise a couple of days ago, when not one but THREE care packages showed up for me. One was a collection of treats, INCLUDING some Dunkin Donuts coffee, from the AJGs-MKOs-Bostonian to be. 'Twas very well received; Dunkie's is the coffee of choice in the Operations department. Another, from the always-above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty Mrs. Kathy Nelson and her circle of southern belles, had some of the flaming buffalo chicken nuggets that have become a crucial part of my flight gear for those six-hour missions. And the last, but certainly not least, had pictures of Aaron looking very pleased with being Aaron, and two new episodes of Battlestar Galactica. I don't know what else a man could ask for (except, perhaps, some clue from BSG's creators as to what the hell is going on and how they plan to resolve this in four episodes). That was a good day.

OK, now I'm reaching the 'unable to form a coherent sentence' phase. Time to bail before my forehead starts typing. I'm out.

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