Patricia's Blog

Table for 4?

Updates - Green Beans still has no lids and up until now I really did not see the negative consequences of that shortage. But today, I went there for an iced tea and with the gale force winds that were blowing camels by me on the way home, I had to pick a lot of desert out of my drink once I was ready to enjoy. A lid would have kept the desert out of my iced tea.
As you all know today was the end of the sock investigation. I had it marked on my calendar and eagerly walked over to the laundry to see how they explained the loss of not only one but two of my little socks. Once I asked what the conclusion was, they promptly handed me my report and rolled in it were two socks. Excuse me? Wait a minute, you found someone else’s lost sock and paired it with mine...right?.....nope. As I unrolled the paper and looked, they matched and were mine. AMAZING!! I felt a little embarrassed for having zero confidence in the process but apparently somewhere off in the desert they have a lost sock box just like I do at home and someone took the time to go in there and rescue my little sock.
Last mission we had a really interesting day. We had a long stop right before we headed back to base. We had an item with us that could only be removed from the airplane by someone with very special skills. The loadmasters were aware of this and told us to be sure that there was help waiting for us at this location. The loadmasters called ahead, we called ahead and of course with all that planning, nobody met the airplane.
While the loadmasters called the number of the person who was supposed to help, Jake and I decided to go over and check out this Russian airplane that was on the ramp. It had a really cool gunner seat in the rear and looked like it would be very interesting. Right as we approached the wing of the 4 engine jet, we saw a puff of black smoke and the sound of a roaring engine. Both Jake and I knew that we were not going to get any tour so we set out sights on a German Tri-Star that was parked on other side of the ramp. Well, apparently German-American relations are not doing well because they saw us coming and pulled up the stairway and closed the door. WELL! That took the wind out of our sails.
I said to Jake, “Lets go meet the ops people.” There is this frequency that we call when we come and go and it is clearly not Americans on the radio. We found the building and looked at the phone. Lots of options: Flight Plans ext 2222, weather ext2456, catering ext5676, other ext3009.....Ahhh “other” that is it! So I call and a woman with a very thick eastern european accent picks up the phone. I tell her we want to meet the ops people. She says, “Excuse Me?” “We want to meet the ops people” “Standby”. The next thing we hear is a series of doors opening and we are met by this woman. She takes us down several flights of stairs and through secure doors and leads us into their operations. Wow. It has a board where they physically put markers of the planes on the ramp and there are about 20 people working on various aspects of the ramp operations. The person in charge, Dave, introduces himself and says he as always wanted to meet us. We (our squadron) frequent his base a lot and we are not very patient with them he says. He is right. We are so busy going in and out of here that my patience (and I am sure other pilots as well) for the language barrier is minimal. He explains to us that they are swapping out with the new people and it will take them a while to get a handle on the jargon and could we please ask everyone to be patient. Jake and I said, “No problem” and he gave us a quick tour of their operation. Once I sensed we had stayed long enough for their liking, I pulled out a Hollywood Guard Coin and thanked him for the hospitality. You could tell that he wished he had had something to give us....but it was fine. He gave us the patience we will need in the future when dealing with the new people. He invited us in instead of pulling up the stairs and closing the door.
Once Jake and I had finished our job as ambassadors for America, we headed off to find Thai food. Ironically, neither of us was hungry or particularly cares for Thai food but there was something about the seeking that drew us in.
As we walked in the door, we were greeted by a hostess, “Table for four?” Two people had walked in behind us so she assumed.....wait a minute...did I walk out of the war and into a restaurant? Yup. It is these strange things that always keep your mind guessing about what is reality and what is perception. We ordered some food to go and just watched all the diners sit and eat and laugh and drink as if it were America right outside that door. Technically, I think it is. The restaurant entrance is pictured above.
Jake got his take out for the Life Supporters (the people that maintain all of our life support equipment) and we headed back to the plane. Once we got to the plane, there sat the loadmasters with our precious cargo. It had been 90 minutes and no one had come to unload our airplane. Come to find out it was one guy, Chuck, who does this sort of work. He is the only person on the base qualified to do this work and he is not answering his phone. After another half hour of several parties all over the desert trying to get a hold of Chuck, we finally called it a day. We took our precious cargo back from which it came and the Thai food to our life supporters. If it had not been for the ambassador aspect that Jake and I created on this mission, it would have been a total loss. I guess the quality of the outcome has a lot to do with what you make of the opportunities at hand.
Until next time.
P

The ease of destruction

“It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you”
--Mark Twain


Destruction is so much easier than creation. It took seconds for a 110 story building to fall in Manhattan that took 7 years to build. I still look up in New York and wonder where in space my seat was when I had dinner at Windows on the World so many years ago. The enemy here took seconds to destroy 3000 years of history by bombing two Buddhist statues that could never be restored…so lazy and so simple to destroy.
There is a part of me that feels like that is why we are here. Deployed to this desert. To prevent further destruction and create something new for these people. A new way of thinking, a new future to look forward to, a new life. When freedom and liberty are created, they threaten people that do not have the ability to create because they will simply be left behind.


This blog is my personal journal, this blog is my life here as I see it. I have personally invited many of you to participate and I thank the many of you that visit and enjoy. Some of you have not been personally invited but you are welcome to read too. This blog is not intended to be a war memoir or a way to express the seriousness and gravity of the missions we fly. It is not intended to share with you the danger of this base or the attacks that we have endured. Most of that information is classified. This blog is my personal stress relief. I sit at my desk and recount the many odd or interesting things that have happened during my day that are either unique to the desert or unique to me.


For those of you that are not enjoying this blog, stop reading it. Sit down with your thoughts and ideas and create something of your own. That is truly the “American” way.


Operation Enduring Freedom….that is the name on the top of my orders. We are here in this country bringing freedom, defending freedom and the right to live free so that people around the world can have a voice. It is why I left my family, joined the military, fly each and every mission. This is the way I choose to express my personal freedom. I would suggest that we all create something and enjoy our right to freedom instead of being like our lazy enemy who is only set on destruction.


We fly over the result of that way of thinking every mission. Lots and lots of nothing in this barren desert.


Until next time.
P

On the boardwalk...

Updates....still no lids. I asked the guy at the Green Beans and he says he has no idea when they will arrive. Monday should be the sock investigation results....Lee, I appreciate your concern. I am sure that both of the socks miss their friends.

Above is a picture of my crew. The kneeling folks are members of the security teams that fly with us. They flew a lot of flags for September 11, 2011 and are sending the picture with it. I guess they are sending one to Neil Armstrong. So he may have my picture up on his wall someday.
The last mission we flew, we had a pretty easy day. We managed to get ourselves a little ahead of frag and decided to shut down at one of our stops. I had heard rumors about this base and its offerings but here in the desert as I have told you before, many rumors are illusions and end up just being good stories. Well this one was truly amazing. With one of the security team as our tour guide, we walked right off the ramp and onto the base. About 5 minutes later we were entering a place they literally called the “Boardwalk” and I could see why. It was a square, 300 feet on a side, that was wooded just like a boardwalk and covered with a beautiful overhang. On every side are restaurants, coffee shops, trinket shops, electronic shops..etc. It felt like Christmas. I could hardly believe my eyes. In the center was an ice rink and a huge performance stage. I wondered if they rent ice skates? That is certainly not something I would think to bring to war in the winter. They even had an ice cream shop. We walked the entire square just to take in all that there was to offer. There were Gyros at a Kabob place that loved NY and the Yankees. Even here in the desert, they love the Yankees. There was a Nathans Hot Dogs (another NY staple), a TGI Fridays, KFC, a pizza place and a donut shop. I had to buy a dozen donuts just because I could. “What kind would you like maam?” “Surprise me!!”
Too many decisions for lunch. I opted for a Nathans turkey wrap and over to the smoothie shop for a glass of fresh pear juice. You are probably thinking what I was thinking. I peered in the window like who back there is juicing pears? I guess it turns out that they just peel the fruit, put it in a blender with some ice and voila....fresh juice. It was amazing. As I walked away, I was already considering ordering a magic bullet on Amazon just so I could create these concoctions in my little hooch. So with my hands full of donuts, turkey wrap and fresh pear juice, we all walked back to the airplane.
“Meadows are green far away”.....Andrew says that, and we all know it is true. We all looked back at the boardwalk and wished that we had that on our base but what would we have to trade? I can be at the gym, laundry, food or the BX in less than 5 minutes. We are at a higher elevation here so it is cooler. Hmmm......I think I will stick with the devil I know and just go visit the devil I don’t. As I walked away with my bounty, I started thinking about the song “On the Boardwalk” and humming it in my head and thinking back to Atlantic City. Their boardwalk had nothing on our boardwalk and I think in this moment, I appreciated and enjoyed this one so much more.
Here on some pics of our adventure. All taken on my new fabulous camera:-)
Until next time,
P

Play that Funky Music

Well, I find myself lacking motivation to go to the gym and with access to Sheila’s computer so I figure I better blog. I have started making notes as I wander through each day so that I can remember to blog about them later. I think people wonder what I am note taking for and they look worried when they see me writing. Everyone here is afraid of getting in some sort of trouble.
The picture up top is a C-130J that we were parked next to. It is Royal Air Force. I have also seen Aussie J models and Canadian J models. I fly a very popular airplane :-).
Yesterday, I was really busy about town. For the second time, I ventured out to the BX to get tacks (second time for tacks) and a camera (first time for the camera). When Sheils and I went the last time, I told her the one thing I wanted to get was tacks. I came home with no tacks. So this time I was going to get them for sure. I decided to stop at the Koele dining facility to grab some lunch on the way. I have told you how much better is it than the dragon? Well today, I had to wait in line to get in. Eating at the upscale joint has now become like Disneyland? Geeze. It was definitely worth it though and the best part is that it is so big that you can go in one door near our camp and then if you go out the other side you are practically to the BX! Its the small things here that put a smile on your face. Anyhoo, I bought a camera, a gift for Carlyn (not a camera), an envelope to mail the gift and left the BX. I went to Green Beans and of course got a latte and headed for the post office. Now our post office it hot, small and has long lines but boy are the people friendly. Everyone who works there seems so happy. I cannot believe what a joy the long trip to the PO was. The PO workers in Redondo Beach could take a lesson from these PO workers about attitude and service. Then I got back to my hooch...NO TACKS!! Uggghhh......
There is a rumor going around about two piece flight suits. Now mind you that this rumor has been going on since I have been in the Air Force. The Army has had them for years. Bill Willson (our commander) told me he wanted to go to supply and get them for the loadmasters.....I said, “and........” “and what?” “all the women”. See, men designed the current flight suits. They are one piece, have no room for hips but an expandable waist if I get a beer belly. If you dare try to complain you will get a resounding....”maybe the fact it isn’t designed for you should tell you something”. All in good fun....I think. Also, if I want to use the rest room (and over here many times your only option is an Andy Gump labeled “Ladies Room”), I am like a Chinese acrobat trying to keep the entire top half from touching the floor, while holding my weapon, getting in position and hovering to complete the task. Trust me, I have been doing this for 16 years and it has never gotten easier. Oh and here is the kicker, the men don’t have the same problem...the zipper zips up from the bottom.....how nice for them. If the two piece flight suit ever appears it will be the year I retire I am sure.
Finally, I have to comment on the music that I have been hearing in the Dragon the last two days. Lets see....Shake Your Booty, Play that Funky Music oh and my fav today at lunch....Celebrate (Kool and the Gang) followed by Thriller. Maybe they are trying to drum up business but it just seems odd to have this dance music playing while you are pushing around what you thought you wanted to eat and now don’t. At least they are trying I guess.
Time to go shake my booty onto a treadmill.....until next time.
P

The Desert Hawaii

Hello all...
I have a much needed day off today as yesterday was a killer. We were already scheduled to fly a 12 hour day and then we had an extra destination thrown in at the last minute.
So today, I am going to take in my laundry, run at the Rock (gym), make a Green Beans run and buy a camera (mine decided to stop working yesterday) at the BX. You know what is funny about the BX...it is pretty small and only has the bare essentials but as Sheila pointed out to me....it has an entire aisle dedicated to tobacco products. I can’t get some tums or something for my upset stomach but if you chew, snuff, smoke, spit...this is your store. In most stores in the US, the tobacco products are up behind the register..kind of hidden away because they are evil killers and causers of cancer. Well not here. I guess the bottom line is cancer caused by tobacco products is not the biggest killer here in the desert.
On the way to the BX is a Bazaar. I was very curious what would be in the bazaar since it is run by the foreign nationals. Well, the first thing you see when you walk in the door is a ceiling lined with fur coats. Every kind of coat you can imagine and in the most gaudy of prints and colors and to top it off...hats to match. In this 90 degree heat, I can imagine you can bargain for a good price. I’ll pass at any price. We couldn’t wait to see what was beyond...it was basically the land of the knock off. You could get a Gucci Bag or a season of Mad Men all for the bargain price of $20. It really was like a street that decided to do a yard sale as there was just so much random stuff, all of it different and most of it junk.
Ahhh..the giant voice just informed me that there will be a controlled detonation in 5 minutes. Half the time they make that announcement after the detonation. Either way it is good to know that the enemy is not attacking right now.
Back to the blog. Ok yesterday was really an amazing day. We had a lot of flying scheduled and when we got to our first destination, they informed us that we were going to an unscheduled stop. I had flown over this place before but I had never been on the ground. Early in 2001, a rogue group destroyed two Buddhist statues that were carved into the rock here and all that remains today are two big holes. This unscheduled stop was very austere but is known as the vacation destination for this country. The Hawaii of the desert you could say. It is a lush valley (at 9000 feet AGL...twice as high as Denver) surrounded by 16,000 ft mountains.
Well, as we flew into this dirt strip, it looked like a road in the middle of a village. There was nothing that looked like a C-130 should land there. Except at the last minute, we saw some markings that led us to believe we were in the right place. Once we landed, we looked around. There was building going on everywhere and although the buildings were all brown, the people were so colorful. I think that clothing must be their way to express themselves because their surroundings are so drab and monochromatic (pictured here) The women and children were wearing bright pink headscarves and colorful clothes respectively.
Once we got to the end of the “runway” (I use that term very loosely here) and turned around you could really get an idea of what was going on. It was almost surreal. A herd of goats was being shepherded just to the right of the airplane. Houses were being built of all shapes and sizes and all that similar desert brown (Sherwin Williams could make a killing here). As we taxied to try to find someone who wanted to meet us who looked official, the fence line gradually became lined with people of all ages. Right as I was commenting about how much I would not want to vacation here, there was a huge sign welcoming all that arrived here in.......paradise?? Hmmmm...compared to the rest of the country, they may be right. We were passing all these pick up trucks that were waving at us...everyone was so happy we were there but no one seemed “official”. Finally, I had to pull over (to think of it makes me laugh..I was forced to ask for directions) and deploy one of the loadmasters to find out if anyone had any idea where we were supposed to go. I had a feeling that a plane this large had not been in here in a while, based on the reaction of the local populous. Sure enough the driver knew that we were supposed to go to the end. Once we got over the hump in the runway and could see the end and there was what I was looking for. The official welcome to the Hawaii of the desert...a man with a bright pink cape!! This guy was marshaling us in to the end of the runway, like a matador in a bullfight. He must have swung that thing 20 times to let me know where he wanted me to turn and exactly where he wanted me to stop. Toward the end, I think he was just doing it because he liked to make that cape swing around.
Well, we parked and right as we did a Kodiak called on the Common Traffic Air Frequency (CTAF) that he was landing. There is no air traffic control tower. We let him know that we were basically “on the runway” and he seemed nonplussed. “No worries”....we watched him land facing us and figured he was bringing in some vacationers.....maybe. The next on the hit parade were two helicopters. They were not talking on the frequency and they just hovered in the center of the runway...I still think there is still some grit on my teeth from that bath of dirt we got. They lifted off again and headed off to the east. As we were parked, I managed to get one picture before my camera decided to give up the ghost and it is above.
Once we were done, it was time to take off again. So we headed down the runway to take off. By now there were crowds at the fence and it seemed at least half were kids. They were waving like they had never seen anything like us....maybe they hadn’t.....but Jake and I waved back the whole way down the runway. I looked at Jake and said I felt like I was in the Rose Parade....he said it really made him miss his kids. I hope that they all think Americans are friendly because we must have waved for a good mile before we turned around to take off. Jake was making all the radio calls on the CTAF too because without a tower it is up to the pilots to keep each other informed about where they are in regards to the airfield. The takeoff was also stressful because we had exactly enough runway to takeoff or stop but the decision had to be made at a specific speed. Rarely in a pilot’s career are you faced with a no kidding runway that just meets specs but here we were. Jake and I went over our procedures and we were ready to go. The loadmasters helped us back up the C-130 right to the fence and made sure there were no kids there, because we were going to use every inch of surface we had and our engines were going to blow a lot of dust and gravel on take off. Time to go. As we rolled down the runway, the C-130 was picking up speed perfectly and as we arrived at the hump in the runway, what did we see on the other side? Two helicopters!! They had come back and landed in the spot where we parked without telling anyone. I guess when they hovered earlier they were trying to tell us, “Hey, you are in our parking spot!”. Right as we noticed their presence, we hit the speed to lift off and the C-130 flew right into the thin air without a hitch. As we lifted off, I tried to take in the surroundings before we left “Hawaii” and I noticed a castle off to my left. The whole area was really beautiful in its own way and I tried to soak in what remained of the experience. Once we got to altitude, Jake and I both commented on the fact that if we had had to stop, we would have been in a very bad situation with those helicopters at the end of the runway. Now, I think we would have ultimately won the “C-130 vs helicopter” battle, but I don’t think the results would have been good for either side. Our plane came through for us again on that take off and the rest of the day as we finished safe and sound.
When I came back to ops to debrief the helicopters at the end of the runway, I found out that the castle that I saw on take off actually belonged to Genghis Khan. How cool!!! I have to admit, there is a lot of great history in this part of the world.
The crew left ops yesterday with smiles on our faces. We really had had a once in a lifetime opportunity and at my age, not too many of those come around. I thank Andrew and Carlyn for allowing me to experience these amazing things as they will always be with me.
Until next time,
P

The Land of Rocks

Ok....I am going to apologize in advance if this one is boring but I am having some writers block and feeling like if I don’t get some words out today, I will not be blogging for three from now.
Updates....the three day laundry is not in fact three days, it was four. I think some clever people want to make you think they they have found the secret to getting underwear back faster but for the one day it is not worth the walk...and I have plenty of underwear. Next, the lid crisis is still in effect. As a matter of fact, the following day at the Dragon Diner (I have included pictures so that you can see why I call it that. Every chow hall has a theme. Sheila and I went to the sports themed one the other night...I will get some picts and post them later...sorry I digress...back to the dragon) there was not only a lid shortage but there were no cups. People were drinking sodas out of bowls. Odd.....just when you think it cannot get worse. Well the cup shortage is over but lids are still no where to be found.
The laundry claim day is the 26th. I agree with Aunt Lee that the socks are a goner but I will keep you posted on the outcome of the sock investigation.
Now for new stuff. I came to a realization in the month that I have been here. When they designed Camp Cunningham, they must have had a lot of rocks that they did not know what do to with. On a side note, I went into the tower which has a memorial plaque to Airman Cunningham (pictured here). He was awarded the Air Force Cross for saving 10 peoples lives while sacrificing his own. Click here if you want to read about the history of Camp Cunningham. It is a short read but a great life story. Anyway, back to the land of rocks. As you can see from the picture at the top of the blog, the entire surface of the ground is rocks. I am not sure why they want you walking at night, with no lights, in flip flops, groggy because you are half asleep, to the bathroom on this rocky surface but I am pretty sure that I am getting a core workout 24/7 because everyday is lived atop rocks. I think it is a miracle that the med clinic isn’t full of folks with sprained ankles. Even the gym is called the Rock...really?...like we needed reminding.
Anyhoo, for the last two days I have been sitting SOF (supervisor of flying) in the tower. It is that dreaded job that you have to do one maybe two tours of here in the desert. This is a job that only has the potential to get you in trouble with some very high up people. Lots of downside. So I just sit quietly and do my job. I know that doesn’t sound like me but I am more afraid of screwing up SOF than I am of anything else here. I am the total gray man...I blend when it is time to be SOF. The only benefit that I see to the job is the beautiful sunset (pictured here) and the humor of hearing the tower controllers make fun of the pilots and how they fly into the base. I have to admit that we are an inconsistent bunch. Everyone has their own idea of what the biggest threat is and how to avoid it...and they fly accordingly. I guess it is good because if the tower has no idea what you are going to do, I am sure the enemy doesn’t either!
One of the funniest things I saw last night was an airplane that the tower controller told he was number one for the field and another plane that he was supposed to follow him. Well the first airplane was going exceptionally slow so the tower controller put the second plane up front...sounds logical right?? Oh well us pilots and our egos....now the slow airplane speeds up as fast as he can go forcing the tower controller to make him number one again. Then when he lands, he rolls all the way to the end, forcing the number two plane to go around. It amazed me, even in the combat zone, some guys just can’t handle the thought of being number two and is going to punish anyone who does that to him. Now the fact that he rolled to the end is the pilots prerogative and maybe there was training going on in the airplane that we did not know about.....but the sequence of events was awfully suspicious and led to a good twenty minutes of lively conversation in the tower between the controllers. The controllers are civilians and some have been here for years. It was amazing to me at shift change some of the set ups these guys have. The one controller, who was the fill in guys for breaks, goes downstairs and comes back up with a hibachi grill and a couple bacon wrapped filet Omaha Steaks. He also had a magic bullet for blending up some fresh salsa to go with the tositios he brought. Time is the greatest helper of invention in an environment like this and it was good for me to see the airfield through the eyes of the controllers.
I fly early tomorrow morning and will try to blog again soon.
Thanks for all your comments...it is fun to see who is following and I am glad that you enjoy the commentary.
Until next time,
P

We Need a Lid-dle Help Here

Thanks for all the blog comments everyone. It is fun to read what you think and I will keep going.
September 11, 2011 came and went like any other day here in the desert. There were a lot of remembrance events here around the camp but I was flying that day so I was unable to attend any of them. Our flying workday that day was really long as we had to swap airplanes half way through our day. That may not seem like a big deal but you would be amazed the amount of “stuff” that we have to take on each mission. In addition to the stuff you need to fly, you have to carry all of your issued personal survival gear. I also carry an overnight bag with a “dress to egress” component to it. Now, right there you may ask..what does that mean? We had a crew a while back that had to emergency land at an airfield that was at a very high altitude. Now since that airfield was not on their planned itinerary, they did not bring clothing to wear in that type of climate, so when they egressed they airplane they all shivered on the tarmac as they were unprepared to leave the comfort of the airplane. Think of it like remembering to bring your sunglasses when you leave the house at 4am….you are very happy later when the sun is out and you can put them on. Jake, my co-pilot, is the keeper of all the classified stuff (and there is a lot of that). So he has to schlep that stuff too. IJust take my word that it is just an ordeal to swap airplanes.
The next day though, Sheila and I headed out for a day of beauty. We walked over and got a Green Beans (the ice machine is now fixed) but now they were out of something new. Lids. Lids? You would not think that is a big deal but I swear it seems that we always have our hands full over here. We are wearing a uniform and carrying a weapon and before you know it your hands are full. While Sheila headed off to the spa….yes it is called the beauty spa, I got Green Beans round #2. As I am carrying the ice teas, with no lids, it just seems that the contents do not want to stay in their plastic confinements. By the time I get to the spa, I am speckled with ice tea drops. We both finish our manicures (we thought about the pedicures but do you really put a freshly polished foot into a combat boot?? We just couldn’t come to grips with that on this visit. Maybe next time) and we head back to camp.
I flew yesterday and it was a great mission. We hauled over 100k of stuff all over the place. That may not seem like a lot of stuff but our loadmasters are pushing each and every pound on and off the airplanes and that is a LOT of work. We had a stop back at the base (what we call a halftime) and Jake and I needed to pick up the security personnel for our next destination. While we were inside, we decided to grab a bite at the sandwich shop (not really a “shop” per say but a place where you can grab food in between meals). I opted for chicken noodle soup. It was great but you are not allowed to eat in the sandwich shop…everything is to go. This was great except….no lid for the soup. What?? Another lid shortage? Instead they had bowls. Hmmm….not exactly a good fit…a bowl on a bowl. Well, I put the bowl on my bowl and headed to the squadron. By the time I sat down to eat my soup, I was speckled in chicken noodle soup. This flight suit is turning into a menu. I told Jake, I never thought how much I would miss lids. Well, we finished out our flight and landed safely at the end the day. Now we have five days on the ground working duty crew. Quite honestly I feel safer in the air and it is less boring.
One more little tidbit I would like to share. Our laundry here at Camp Cunningham is a 5-6 day turn around. Well, this is the east side of Disney Drive (the name of the one street that runs through our base). Now, on the west side of Disney is another laundry with a 3 day turn around. Now, I have not been worried about the turnaround time because I always over pack for these deployments. I must have 20 pairs of socks and underwear. But I guess there are those who come to war with 5 pairs of underwear and have been sweating the laundry return times. I find it hard to believe that laundry turned in on one side of the street takes 2-3 days longer than laundry turned in on literally the other side of the street. But we will see. I turned in a bag to the 5 day on the 9th and the 3 day on the 12th. If the experiment plays out, they should both return on the same day. Tomorrow. Oh and while we are talking about laundry....you have the option to itemize or go bulk. As a lady, you always have to itemize or your underwear may go missing. Creepy….but true. Not the white granny ones but the cute ones that you bought for too much money at the boutique on Manhattan Beach Blvd. But when you itemize you have to pull everything out and show it to them…including your lacy skivvies. I guess either way they get a peekie at your undies. But they are laundry professionals and they see it every day right? Hmmm…at least if I itemize they only get a peek and not a souvenir. So I was going through my laundry when it came back and they lost a sock. A little ankle sock. They told me to go back to my hooch and look for it. Wait where should I look? Last time I saw the little guy, he was with his friend in the laundry bag you just handed me. They reluctantly handed me a claim form which I filled out in triplicate and then they proceeded to take the matching sock to use as a sample to find his friend. So wait…now I am down two socks? Well, here is the formal missing sock procedure. I have to go back in 15 days when the sock investigation will be completed to see if they can solve the mystery of the missing sock. Haven’t we been trying to solve this mystery in dryers all over America for decades? I think the answer is that they hide. The little socks hide in pant legs and shirt sleeves and they laugh at us looking and looking and discussing their clever escape from the dryer. Well, they are going to have to figure out the mystery for themselves here in the desert. I have a feeling in two weeks I am going to go back and they are going to look at me like, “What investigation?” “What sock?” And I will be out two socks. I will keep you posted.
In the meantime, as you put a lid on your liquid item….any liquid item to keep from being speckled, remember us here in the desert…with no lids. If you want to know what to send…don’t send candy…send us some lids!!
Happy Birthday Linda!!
Here are some picts of the beauty spa, Green Beans and Disney Drive. You will be shocked at how much it really looks like Disneyland!!
Until next time….
P

A Couple Days Off and a Couple Flights

Ohhh….five days since I have blogged. I have so much to say. Well, all the milk was gone in a day. I went back to partake of one more bowl of cereal and no milk…..time for someone else to go .
Ok let’s see....The first day after I blogged, the Dragon diner was closed because the ambassador was coming to town. It was funny because in the days leading up to the arrival of the ambassador I noticed improvements to the dragon; colorful bunting, styrofoam balls hanging from the ceiling.....well it all made sense when they closed it down to us for the party...and I thought they were sprucing it up for the troops. So that day we had to go elsewhere to eat. Believe it or not, there is a BBQ diner on the south side of town. So off we went to find BBQ in the desert. It was probably a one mile walk but well worth it….the pork ribs were excellent and they had root beer!!! I love root beer…I drank two cans just to be gluttonous. The next night, a group of us decided to go to the aviation diner (named because of its proximity to the flightline). There are little camps all over this base and each one has its own personality and food. This place does “nights”; Italian night, Mongolian BBQ night etc. Well, it was Italian night and we ate ourselves to the top with pesto tortellini, meat lasagna, meatballs, yum. They had root beer too. No root beer at the Dragon...so I had to have two again.
Then came my flight…easy breezy….very short day and to easy destinations. So when I got back I was still full of energy. Little did I know that even after a good day of flying, you can have a bad day in the desert. I got home to my hooch and it must have been 10,000 degrees inside. I guess the contractor was working on the electrical panel and it was running behind schedule. So Sheila and I decided to hoof it to Green Beans Coffee for something iced…anything iced. So we walk the journey to the coffee house, sweating like we had just walked a mile in 100 deg heat….wait a minute…we did just walk…hmmmm. Anyhoo, of course Green Beans was out of ice. OUT OF ICE??!! We could have died….Hot drinks were plentiful…no thanks, not today. We looked at each other, not at all ready to trek home to more heat…where can we go for respite?…..then we saw it….like an oasis in the desert….the jewelry shop run by the local nationals. So for the next few hours Sheila and I (in flight suits mind you…you are required to wear a duty uniform outside Camp Cunningham) tried on all that they had to offer….earrings, rings, bracelets….ohhhh, we haggled and bought our way to comfort in all the air conditioned shops and bargained our way to true happiness. The last store finally kicked us out a half hour after closing. I am here to tell you that you can buy happiness in the desert and at a discount. When we got back the AC was on and our hooch was cool…all was well.
Last night I flew an entire circle around the country. The picture above is me climbing out over the mountains. We are at 20,500 feet and you can see the mountains are just a couple thousand feet below us. We had people on the flight deck that protect us on the ground and she asked if she could take this picture. It really is beautiful and we all commented that this country would do well to open some ski resorts. There is snow on the north side of many of these mountains even in September!!. Anyhoo, we went to our first destination and then off to the second. When I shut down at the second, over walks Miss Sheila…..fancy meeting her in the far reaches of the desert. So we did what two American girls should do when they meet…we went and had coffee. We were at the same airport that had the coffee in the terminal the other night when we flew with the flight doc. The Germans run the terminal and since I was not in a huge rush today (requirement to stay on frag), I shot a couple pictures of us in the German terminal. Click here to see.
I have also posted more pictures of Tbilisi (thank you mom for the SD card reader)...click here to see those.
I fly again tomorrow September 11, 2011. I am so happy to be flying. It is an appropriate day to up in the air doing what I love for a country that I love.
Thanks to everyone who has sent emails and cards. I am putting them all up in my hooch and I love them all….It is so awesome to get mail here as there is not much else going on besides work.
Love you all,
Patricia


The Milk Run

Above is a picture of the one tree on our base. There are not a lot of trees here so this one is pretty special.


Labor day came and went like any other day. Quite honestly, you have no need to know what day of the week it is here as every day is like the one before. Here is a little story about our flight the other night. We got to leave the country and saw some of the most beautiful jagged mountains and peaks I have ever seen. At night, they are lit under the moon for miles and look like waves on the ocean. Anyhoo...here is the story about our flight.

Ahhh.....the magic of milk. You know how you do not know what you have until it's gone? On every deployment there has been milk.....cows milk....that expires. One of my first meals at the dragon diner, I got a little box of milk....I am paranoid about sour milk so I checked the expiration...AUGUST 2012??!!??. It surely cannot be real milk. Well come to find out...it is powdered milk that is boiled in water and then sealed in this box...like a juice box. Yup, it tastes as bad as that sounds.

Well everyone told us on our flight, night before last, that we could get a case of real cows milk if we asked. So of course we were running about 2 hours behind schedule for various maintenance issues but when we landed in the "land of milk".....it did not disappoint. I don't think it would have mattered how late we were....the mission on our minds was milk. The lady gave us an entire case with a smile. No need to trade? Not that we brought anything anyway but no...it was almost like she knew that milk would make our night. The loadmasters carefully put it on the ramp that stays very cool in flight. Jake and I had brought cereal and spoons knowing that there would be a possibility of eating it properly. So once we were at altitude, I went back and opened a corner of the case and pulled out one beautiful half liter of thick white beauty. As I poured it over my cinnamon raisin crunch my tummy growled. I gave then other half to Jake who forwent the cereal pretense and just drank it down. Ten minutes of pure bliss. We brought the rest into the squadron fridge for everyone to enjoy. I am sure it is gone by now.

So as you open your milk cartons at home, think of us who envy your expiration that is within the month and enjoy every drop.

I guess you could call our mission last night an official milk run.

Until next time.

P

The Day after

Good Morning!! Well, I just woke up after an average nights sleep and decided I needed a new mattress. This mattress I had seemed very appealing because it had a pillow top. I have never seen a mattress in the desert with a pillow top but by morning I felt like I had to dig myself out of bed I had sunk so far into the mattress. Now, you may ask where do they sell mattresses in the desert? I have no idea but I will do what every other self respecting aircrew member does when they need something.... SCROUNGE! So there are three rooms in this hooch that are unoccupied and two in my previous hooch and two of the five have bunk beds; seven mattresses to choose from. So off I went to mattress shop. Some I could feel the springs, some had holes, some were like the one I already had…too soft. But then I found one that was just right. I schlepped it from my old hooch to my new one (Sheils is flying so I was solo on this one). Ahhh…..about 10 minutes and a quart of sweat later, I have a new mattress. The proof will be when I sleep tonight. I have posted a video of the travels with the mattress. Click here to watch.

Flying last night was great. We went to a field run by the Germans and while we were loading the flight doc (she flew with us yesterday) and I headed into the terminal to explore. Ahhh….huge urns of fresh coffee. It was just what we needed for the last leg back to base. We bought 5 cups and headed back to the airplane. After the load was onboard I asked Ron, the loadmaster if he wanted any cream or sugar…and he said, “too late…coffees gone!” Surprises like the coffee are a great pick me up when you are out and about. When we were landing at this field the tower controller asked us to flash our landing light because he could not see us. I really like the fact that we were that close to the field and invisible to him……warm fuzzy for sure.
So today, I have switched mattresses, turned in my laundry, blogged, will head to the gym to run and then off to ops to squeeze in some Spanish. I threatened everyone that I would be talking in Spanish but none of the government computers have speech enabled so I cannot talk to the Rosetta Stone. I am good at reading, comprehending and writing but not speaking….dang. I fly tonight to some new places…actually flying to a different country…Whoo Hoo!!! Until next time...
P

© Patricia Murray 2014