Friday, January 26, 2007


Today, I'm pissed off....Why? I'm going to address an issue that is always inflammatory. Freedom of Speech and Religion are always hotbed contention points, but this issue definitely needs to be dealt with. I'm a big believer in the rights of individuals, especially those rights given to us within the Constitution. Now, for me, this is not a "black or white" discussion; admittedly with alot of gray area. Some folks just don't know when enough is enough.

A Perfect example is the Westboro Baptist Church is Topeka, Kansas. I'm sure most of you know exactly who they are; you may not associate the name with the group though. The 60 or so members of this "church" are mostly family members borne from one hatemonger. They are the group that goes to servivemembers' funerals and protest loudly and obnoxiously. They hold signs up with quotes like, "God hates dead Soldiers" and "You are dead because God hates you" and even, "Soldiers are Fags and God hates Fags". Unbelievable! I won't even dignify them by posting a link to their site. They have managed to somehow wrap the world's troubles into one ugly little package. They call it "God's will"; I call it "Stupid, insensitive, absurd shit-spewing". Some of you are much more knowledgeable on religious issues than I will ever be, but I truly don't believe these folks represent God's word. In fact they don't represent much of anything, except a self-centered notion that they are the chosen ones. The angry Sailor in me says, "We should kick everyone of their asses and burn their facility to the ground". The reasonable American in me says, "They are excercising their freedoms and to just ignore them". A very difficult pill to swallow. Of course I don't advocate any physical confrontations or malicious actions on these folks...but it is a difficult, heart-tearing issue. In my readings of the Bible, the Qu'ran and the Torah...I've found at least one "verse", in each, that is representative of "Turning the other cheek". This is probably the best course of action regarding these folks...I just hope once my "cheek is turned"; they don't decide to punch me in it.

There is one group, The Patriot Guard Riders that has elected to "combat" the Westboro Baptist Church. Their means are completely non-violent and are truly patriotic. They PGR are a motorcycle club, with members in all the states. When a fallen hero's funeral takes place they will roll into town, escort the procession and stand "guard" against the WBC all the while with presenting American flags. They create a physical barrier and an emotional barrier against the venom of the WBC. They are truly a unique group...a honorable group. In my view, they represent what America is; A country of "open-arms", sensitive to the hardships that servicemembers endure and while not necessarily agreeing with the politics of war, they are still supportive of the individuals involved. They will only be present at the funeral if requested by the family, electing to remain unintrusive. The Patriot Guard Riders are heroes in my book. I hope if my family is put into a horrible situation, the PGR will be there to support them.

Now, before I get a bunch of "hate comments", remember this IS MY blog and not representative of any view except my own. Not the military's, not the government's. Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one and they all stink. I told you guys I was pissed-off today.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

CRY HAVOC and let SLIP the DOGS of WAR

An interesting quote by good ole Bill Shakespeare. I wonder if it still has its original meaning today? Over a few discussions with people, here and there, I get the feeling that folks who have never been in the military don't always really understand the life of Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine. In some regards I wonder if people IN the military understand the life, as well. If we look at today's military compared to yesterday's...the average service member today is better educated, more worldly and far better treated. Is that a good or bad thing???...that is a one hell of a quandary. Unfortunately the sometimes overt sentiment I receive from "civilians" is one of disdain at "our" performance during the recent conflicts/wars. I'm shocked that they think that I (a LCDR/O-4) somehow have any "pull" in the policy making or war process development. I have to explain to them that, " I don't make policy decisions and neither do my immediate supervisors" and we as "operators" merely put those policies into action. Now from an "operator" belief is that we are kicking ass and taking names.

My father spent nearly 32 years in the military, serving in Vietnam and pretty much every conflict from Vietnam through Desert Storm. He was a straight-shooter kinda guy. A very smart...and a very tactful man. He knew how to tell someone to F**K off and make them feel good about it. After growing up in a share-cropping family in the northern midwest, he looked for an escape to a better life. The military offered that for him. For many folks, a constant paycheck and useful skills training is a huge lure to the service. For he and I, I think we found more. A brotherhood and community where you are challenged everyday. When I say "challenged" I'm referring to the "seeking self improvement" aspect. But sometimes you have to ask yourself: Was that generation better than we are? I applaud our young service members for entering the service during tough times. Knowingly dedicating a part of your life to the service of our country during wartime is commitment that most folks will not and can never understand the rationale of. The military has morphed substantially since the first time I raised my hand to give the oath...but I have the utmost faith in our people. The 70 or so people in my group deploying to Iraq are an amazing bunch. They are a group that are as diverse as any community, military or civilian. I will be serving with folks who are deploying to a war zone for their second and third times. WOW. I'm serving with people who will never be promoted to the next rank...but are still motivated and still love the job they are doing. I'm serving with folks who have been promoted so quickly that one wonders whether they have the experience to do justice to the positions they hold. Conversing with them for about 5 minutes will put your mind at ease...and you realize they were promoted so fast for a reason. As an "old guy" in the military you sometimes wonder about the "young guys" motivation. I will say it is alive and strong. In fact they adapt and overcome much more readily than us old guys. The military should have a 'bring a civilian to work day"...I think that would answer alot of questions and put reservations aside.

I am deploying to Iraq in a job that I am not necessarily trained to do. But being surrounded by the quality of people with me, makes the issue seem small. If I don't watch my back, one of these "young guys" is going to pass me up like I'm standing still. America be proud of these folks and support them through the good and the bad....because you have a direct hand in making the leaders of tomorrow.

My Dad was killed in a car wreck nearly 9 years ago. He never saw his only son fly a jet in protection of our country...but he had an American flag sticker on his car and always wore a patriotic ball cap. He loved this country and the service, even when it was not reciprocated. Guys like my Dad and his generation had alot to teach my generation. I only hope my generation can do the same for our "younguns".

The picture above is SgtMaj Kasal (center/wounded), awarded the Navy Cross for actions in Fallujah, Iraq while a member of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I'm attending some predeployment training right now in Maryland. I won't get into the specifics of the training but so far it has proven very useful. Being a cynic, initially I was skeptical...but so far the information is excellent and the staff are super-professional. Our group is an interesting study in demographics. There are a few aviators, alot of surface warfare officers and a smattering of other related jobs from the enlisted side. The training itself is very interesting but I'm finding the interaction within my group even more so. It's pretty cool to talk to various folks within the group and find out what their jobs entail, where they are stationed, so on so forth. The most discussed issue is the "unknown". No one is really sure what we'll be doing in Iraq on a daily basis or where in Iraq we'll be located. I guess there is an air of apprehension mostly. Since we are all in this together, the apprehension isn't too least not from my point of view.

Another interesting topic of discussion in our group is whether folks want to be attached to an Army unit or a Marine unit. Some folks are very pressing about wanting to be with one or the other. Others just don't really care. Having not worked much with the Army in my career; my preference is to be with the Marines (the former Marine in me speaking). For me it's a known entity. I'm well versed in how Marines operate and function. With that being said, right now the Marines operate in the "wild, wild west" of Iraq. Their operating area is the Anbar province, which encompasses most of western Iraq, a predominantly Sunni Muslim area. That area has quite a strong insurgent presence. Not that any other part of Iraq is any better. So I'm not sure which is the best choice or the lesser of two evils....Operate with the Marines, who I'm familiar with, in a hot bed insurgent area OR Operate with the Army, who I'm completely unfamiliar with, in a "not so bad" insurgent area. Who knows....just be careful what you wish for.

In either case, it's hard to remember that I'm just a small cog in a giant machine. Personal preference doesn't usually make a difference in Navy operational decisions and I venture to guess this issue is no different. I do know that what I'll be doing in Iraq will make a difference in the safety and combat readiness of the troops there. That is job satisfaction at its finest. The next few weeks will answer alot of questions.
By the way, that's George Patton and Chesty Puller in the pictures above.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Today I received a comment from a gentleman named "Tony". Those of you that can access the comments, please read. The skinny on his comment; Tony's son is a Naval Aviator deployed to Iraq in the same capacity that I will be. Tony let me know that all the feelings that I have about this deployment are far-reaching, including his son, INITIALLY. His son is now at a point that the job he is performing has had far reaching effects about his satisfaction with his deployment. He (Tony's Son) feels a huge sense of job satisfaction. The fact that the job we are tasked with is making a huge difference in Iraq and within the military is the genesis for this satisfaction and it is beginning to put my mind at ease. From a different perspective, the fact that Tony took the time to comment, as well as, what his message was is a huge morale boost to me. One person's support of us, can change a waning morale immediately. In short; Thank you, are making as significant a difference as any serviceman or woman in theater with the support you give.

Though I am far from being an overly pious man, I want to post a prayer. This prayer was given at a large military function by a Naval Aviator named "BUG" Roach. Bug's service spanned from the 1960s to the 1990s. Bug died during an ejection attempt from a wounded A-4, while he was flying as an adversary. Bug was far from being a traditional Naval Officer and Aviator. In fact he would have probably been ostracized in today's Navy. His biography can be found at the Tailhook Association's website. Anyway, read the below prayer and think about what he's saying.

Lord, we are the nation! We celebrate our birthday on July 4th, 1776, with the Declaration of Independence as our birth certificate. The bloodlines of the world run in our veins because we offer freedom and liberty to all whom are oppressed. We are many things and many people. We are the nation.
We sprawl from the Atlantic to the Pacific, to Alaska and Hawaii. three million square miles throbbing with industry and with life. We are the forest, field, mountain and desert. We are the wheat fields of Kansas, the granite hills of Vermont, and the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. We are the Brooklyn Bridge, we are the grain elevators in the farm belt, we are the Golden Gate. We are the nation.
We are 213 million living souls, and yet we are the ghosts of millions who have lived and died for us. We are Nathan Hale and Paul Revere. We are Washington, Jefferson and Patrick Henry. We are Lee, Grant, Abe Lincoln and George Bush. We are the famous and the unknown. We are presidents, we are paupers. We are the nation.
We stood at Lexington and fired the shot heard around the world. We remember the Alamo, the Maine, Pearl Harbor, Inchon and the Persian Gulf. When freedom calls, we answer. We left our heroic dead at Belleau Wood, on the rock of Corregidor, on the bleak slopes of Korea, in the steaming jungles of Vietnam and under the rubble of Beirut. We are the nation.
We are schools and colleges, churches and synagogues. We are a ballot dropped in a box, the harmonious voice of a choir in a cathedral, the crack of a bat and the roar of a crowd in a stadium. We are craftsmen, teachers, businessmen, and judges. We are laborers and nurses. We are parents and we are children. We are soldiers, sailors and airmen. We are peaceful villages, small towns and cities that never sleep. Yes, we are the nation, and these are the things that we are.
We were conceived in freedom, and dear God, if you are willing, in freedom we will spend the rest of our days. May we always be thankful for the blessings you have bestowed upon us. May we be humble to the less fortunate and assist those in need. May we never forget the continuing cost of freedom. May we always remember that if we are to remain the land of the free, we must continue always to be the home of the brave. May our wishbone never be found where our backbone should be. May we possess always, the integrity, the courage and the strength to keep ourselves unshackled, to remain always a citadel of freedom and a beacon of hope to the world.

We are the nation.....this is our wish...this is our hope and this is our prayer...Amen

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I've managed to make it to the next stop in my journey. I'm in Maryland right now, somewhere south of Washington D.C. I have to say, I really like D.C. as a town. Alot of cultural melding and diversity makes the place very unique. From one person to the next, you don't receive alot of one-sided discourse or conversation. Which is good. Probably one of the few locations in the U.S. that you can get the right side and left side together to live in somewhat of a harmonious state. From a Navy standpoint, the above view is be completely reversed. I can sum it up in one statement; "In the Navy, the further from D.C. you get geographically, the better off you are."

Shifting gears; of course all the thought I put into what to pack for a year in Iraq has now proved useless. My initial thought process was to pack very light. I packed very little in the way of civilian clothes, which included leaving a jacket at home. I figured it would be cold, but a sweater would suffice. Well, it started snowing this morning...and I'm a dumb-ass. Sure wish I had that jacket now. It wouldn't be useful in Iraq during the summer...but I failed to think about the immediate repercussions. So when I told my wife about this situation, she reconfirmed that "I'm a dumb-ass." Man, she really does know me.

I had an epiphany recently about how to stress out a type A person. Besides the fact that most type A people already teeter on the verge lunacy, most of us think he can always handle a bad situation. This is especially true of Naval Aviators. We live in a world of split-second decision making. So the the way to send a Naval Aviator over the edge is to take any control of a situation completely out of their hands. So far that's what I'm experiencing with this deployment. I'm starting to feel like an amoeba. You know those one-celled organisms that stretch and ooze in various directions....but never burst or break. Anyhow, that's my analogy and I'm sticking to it.

Let's see if I can figure out how not to freeze to death this week, as well as not lose my mind. Simple solution; Go buy a coat. Hard headed answer; Hell no.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I thought I'd better explain some ground rules early on. First, I will not post any info in my blogs that are considered sensitive to military operations and the war effort. That would just be prejudicial to good judgement...not that my judgement is very good. Further, that sort of information could get my fellow servicemen and women harmed or killed. That would just be treasonous. The picture above is what I think of folks who "sell their fellow Americans down the river". The picture was taken in a "high-class" establishment while in port in Italy....I think....It was a port call.
I will, however, attempt to post info that is from the "BARBIE" whether that info is educational, entertaining or down-right ludicrous; well who the hell knows. In any case, it has to be better than watching the nightly news. But only slightly better than watching the HISTORY CHANNEL.

A quick note for SONARMAN...NO, I'm not Barbie because I date some guy named, Ken. It's a long story....maybe someday I'll tell it. But hey, we all know about you sub guys. 100 guys go out; 49 couples come back; plus two cage fighters.

For my "bros" about to take over Key West, take care down there. Be safe and watch out for the Mata Haris and Cougars in Sloppy's. You never know who's listening. I leave you tonight with one quote, "Ohhh Joel, he's such a nice Greek boy."

Friday, January 19, 2007

A FOUL DECK WAVEOFF while you're BINGO on the BALL.

For those of you who understand what the Title of today's blog represents; you'll understand my feelings today. For those of you who have no idea what the title represents....I'll explain. At any given time on an aircraft carrier, the flight deck has a status. That status can be a "clear deck" or a "foul deck". A "clear deck" refers to no obstructions or people in the flight deck area, therefore allowing a "safe" landing. A "foul deck" refers to the opposite. What can cause that situation? Many things, namely the guy who landed in front of you taking too long to get out of the landing area (LA) or someone accidentally stepping into the LA just prior to your landing. These situations usually initiate what is called a "Foul Deck Waveoff". During a waveoff, you go to full power and fly away causing another attempt to land. A VERY frustrating scenario most times. Now, "Bingo on the Ball" means you have just enough fuel to attempt one landing. If you land safely aboard....SWEET!! If something should cause you to not be able to land on that attempt; you have to divert to the nearest suitable airfield (with just enough fuel to make it there). That scenario will raise the stress level of even the most seasoned of Naval Aviators. So as you can see; a foul deck waveoff while you're bingo on the ball is a double kick in the n*&ts.

I'm one day away from leaving for my last interim stops, before heading to the sandbox. So the stress level is peaking and the frustration is high. The big issues are, "Did I take care of all the things I needed to do?" and "Is my family going to be okay?"....Very similar to, "Did I turn off the iron?" and "Did I just rip the ass out of my pants?". You guys understand.

So, I'll be headed to Ft Jackson, SC for a little "Arrrrmmmmyyyy Training, Sir!" From what I'm told, it's synonymous with Boot Camp for Dummies. Hence the photo above....I know, I know...that's a Marine Drill Instructor and I'm going to work with the Army. Being a former Marine and such makes old habits die hard. I figure in the picture above, the drill instructor is telling that recruit, "Wow, green really looks nice with your eyes" or some other very constructive compliment.

Over the next few weeks my posts may be lacking with all the travel involved. I'll keep the posts coming as much as possible and once I'm settled, expect more pics and info.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This is the TAO speaking...Brace for impact...HUNTERS DISESTABLISHING!!

The squadron that I am leaving to work in Iraq is VFA-201..The "HUNTERS". The Hunters are based at NAS Fort Worth JRB, TX. They are a Navy Reserve Squadron with a few active duty members (Me being one). The squadron's primary role is Adversary support for the fleet and fleet training. VFA-201 has had one hell of a history...from operating the F-4 Phantom, F-14 Tomcat and now, the F/A-18 Hornet. They are by far the best squadron in the Navy Reserve Force, if not the entire Navy. In fact in 2003, the squadron became the first reserve squadron to be mobilized and deploy since The Korean War. That is no small feat. They were instrumental in the initial attacks in Iraq at the start of the war. They quickly became the Airwing's "go-to-guys". The accolades from Washington on down were overflowing. Well, just last year, the squadron was informed that it was being disestablished....WTF!!! Go ahead, ask me why. The answer: I have no clue...I'm not sure anyone really does. The "higher ups" made a decision and we received our marching orders. The squadron will cease to exist on paper and inventory by this summer. Unbelievable really!

Well, the inevitable is at hand. How are we gonna react to this?? A giant Friggin party...that's how!! This spring the VFA-201 Hunters will host a Disestablishment Party/Ceremony/take over the Navy fling. That last part is just wishful thinking.

The point to all this is that I plan on posting as much information about the ceremonies as possible. This includes an invitation to all former Hunters for the festivities. Once the information comes in and the situation is finalized, I will post contact info, dates, times and event schedules. Hopefully I will have some links as well to other pertinent info, such as hotels, gun shops, liquor know all the necessities.

For those of you whom this disestablishment upsets can contact your local congressman or senator about this issue. Since I'm an active duty military member, I can't make statements like the previous I let my 14 year old daughter write that one. Yeah!!! Right!!! What are they gonna do....send me to Iraq?!?!

Today was a good day...I didn't have to use my AK

Thanks Ice Cube for the song lyric...I knew I could work it into a blog post somehow. Oh yeah, the picture to the right is of myself and a Croatian pilot just before I had the opportunity to fly a MIG-21 back in 2002 with the Croatian Air Force. Spent two weeks there...what a great memory.

I've had a few days at home in North Texas prior to my next interim stop. It has been great being at home with my family prior to leaving. The best part about today is that it is snowing here...obviously with not much accumulation. But significant enough to make snowballs. In fact as I type away, I'm looking out my window and watching my kids play. And to top it off my wife is shoveling snow from in front of our front door. It's true...she's much more motivated than I am.

So, as the day that I leave draws closer...I hold today close. These are the memories that carry servicemen and women through their long deployments. It's the everyday life at home, good and bad, with family and friends that makes a year away seem much shorter. The only thing I've noticed about our family's emotional change, is that as I get closer to leaving my wife and I become more withdrawn from one another. Seems like a natural psychological effect between prepare for absence. No matter what, we both know how much we will miss one another. The kids are a whole other story. After 17 years of doing this has only gotten harder to leave them. Much harder. I already miss everyone.

On a much lighter note. I have to give a huge "THANKS" to Dan over at THE DESERT PERISCOPE for being the first one to comment on my new blog. Since I pretty well stole the format from him...and he's my "sea-daddy" in Iraq....I'll give him some props. Everyone remember Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide. Well, Dan reminds me of him...just much whiter..and shorter. He's leaving Iraq soon, God Speed my friend, and looks like I may be part of the group that replaces he and his group. Changing of the guard so to speak. Once everyone has finished reading here, ensure you "complete all items before engine shutdown on the blog checklist".

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Futility at its finest!

So, I'll clear up a few things for everyone. Someone asked why my posts and profile are labeled "BARBIE". Sounds kinda gay for a Navy fighter guy huh? Well, "BARBIE" is my callsign. In the Navy, as well as other branches of the service, pilots are typically given a callsign. Realize I just said, "GIVEN" don't get to choose. One reason we use callsigns is during radio transmissions, we don't want to use real names on the radio. So that's the scoop on that.

Today, was an exercise in military bureaucracy for me. I'm in between interim training sites on my way to Iraq. Along the way, a saying continues over and over in my brain..."your new fangled ways confuse me, I am but a simple caveman pilot". So far at every stop along my training path the paperwork trail could choke a horse. The internet and computers have vastly improved the way we do business; but sometimes they do nothing more than create double the work. For example, "Sir, you need to fill out this DDFORM 1369 in triplicate, then you need to input into the computer in 4 different places". WOW!! How about I fill it out once, then make two copies with a copier; then YOU can input it on your computer. "UHHH, no sir, we can't do that, that's not the way we always do it". "Really, maybe you guys should update the way you do things". About that time I see two eyeballs rolling back in their head and start to smell something burning and a little bit of drool....So of course, I give up. I'm sure everything will be okay...what possibly can go wrong??

The Start of a New Life????

It all started about a month ago. I was sitting in my office, enjoying a quiet Friday afternoon and my C.O. asked me to come down to his office. He then informed me that I was being ordered to Iraq for one year in a non-flying billet as an augmentee to either an Army or Marine ground unit. Talk about a way to ruin a guy's weekend.
You would think that a guy with 17 years of military service, 7 years as an enlisted Marine, would think nothing of that sort of news. Nope, you're wrong. After digesting the info and the implications involved, I realized how significantly this will change my life.
How about a little history? After the war on terror began, some 5ish years ago, the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) began the Individual Augmentation (IA) program. The program was designed to place Navy personnel is operational/support wartime billets supporting the Navy and other services that are coming up short-handed due to operational commitments. Anyone, from Pilots, Submariners, Admin clerks, Cooks, etc. are being placed in jobs to support the war effort. The sticky thing is that in most cases the job you are assigned has nothing to do with the job the Navy has trained you for. Perfect example is Me.
I started my military career as an enlisted Marine; went to college nights and weekends; left the military for awhile and came back into the Navy through OCS. After finishing flight school, I flew the F-14 Tomcat, then had the opportunity to transition to the F/A-18 Hornet. So that brings us back to that Friday afternoon in my office.
So far my wife, who has put up with me for nearly 17 years, is being a great sport about the whole thing. In her words, "It doesn't even surprise me anymore". My children, a daughter and a son, just know that Dad has to leave for a long time. Unfortunately, this is a too common occurrence in their lives and in this career.
I started this blog for a way to keep my sanity over the next year. As I make my way through the following months of training and operations, I'll keep everyone updated as regularly as possible. Till next time.