Sunday, April 29, 2007


The U.S.S. George Washington...a place that I spent well over a year of my life. Having made 2 full deployments and 1 1/2 workups on her, I am very familar with this ship. All Navy Aviators have memories of the ships they have served on. We all have a certain kinship and to some extent, hatred for our beloved "homes at sea". I leaned over to my coworker today...another F/A-18 pilot...and said, "I'd give anything to be at sea right now." As expected, he responded, "Yeah, me too." Any Naval Aviator will tell you that unless you have served at sea, you don't have a right to pass judgement or speak irreverently about "being at sea". For some, being at sea illicits two permanent feelings. Either you absolutely hate it or you truly love it. Now, for most, there is a combination of feelings that are parasitic to your everyday life. If it can be explained by love and hate simultaneously...then that is the feeling.

I still remember the sounds of the ship. Like a living being...she creaked and groaned and moaned. She exuded loud metallic clangs and soft resonant vibrations. I can still remember the smells and sounds of the flight deck during launches and recoveries. Hot blasts of exhaust punctuated by cool constant sea borne wind in your face. Steam from the catapults rising above the bow and waist like small surface clouds. The loud roars of aircraft in "tension" straining to be released from the ship's grasp.

The most peaceful times were before flight ops began daily. With the midmorning sun hitting your face and the smell of sea was almost therapeutic after the previous night's landing that scared you so bad...your legs shook for an hour after the fact. Looking over the deck's edge at the rush of blue ocean passing brought many a Sailor serenity from the realization that he was miles away from a family that he missed and loved.

Being here in Iraq has given me a new found appreciation for my life in the Navy. The geography, sights and sounds here are in no way therapeutic, nor are they serene. I venture to guess that many a wife or girlfriend has felt in some way that there is another woman in their Sailor's life. That "woman" is the sea and the ship. I guess this is just one of the painful facts of Navy life that wives and girlfriends have to endure.

Fortunately for my wife and family...I miss the sea, but I miss them much, much more. In this life I've been separated from them far too much. After my time here in Iraq...the sea will call to me again...and I will "shut the door" on that chapter of my life. My wife knows that I will be a landlubber for my few years remaining in the Navy. I will always have a little bit of "sea water" in my veins but I will be where I belong and where I truly am home with my beautiful wife and my perfect children.

R, K and G...I love you and miss you terribly.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I sit here at 1 a.m. thinking about a great American and friend. LCDR Kevin "Kojak" Davis, a pilot with the Navy Flight Demonstration Team (Blue Angels) was killed two days ago when his plane crashed in Beaufort, S.C. I have known Kojak for about 7 years or so. He and I went through F-14 training in the same squadron. He was a member of VF-11 "Red Rippers" during the time I was a member of VF-103 "Jolly Rogers". We again crossed paths in California while he was undergoing transition training to the F/A-18 Hornet. I saw him again last summer while I was in Pensacola, FL. By this time Kojak was already a member of the Blue Angels. Though he, rightfully so, had been elevated to the status of a public figure...he was still the same ole Kojak I always knew. He always had a smile on his face...always greeted me with a big handshake. We would talk about our history with fondness.

Kojak was a perfect fit in Naval Aviation and especially with the Blue Angels. He was a genuine and sincere guy and a gifted aviator. In our line of work it is inevitable that aircraft mishaps will happen...but you can never be "used" to them. I'm still in shock...unbelieving...and I am terribly sorry for Kojak's family, friends and fellow aviators.

Kojak, for a guy like me who always has something to say...I'm at a loss for words.

We will miss you, brother.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Things are running about normal here; SUCKY. But, it is odd what you come to accept as normal. I'm figuring out that there are no "absolutes" with the Army. If you are told one thing by better talk to someone else, just to verify. But with all the headaches the Army is giving me, one bright shining star has emerged. The good ole U.S. Marine Corps! OOOHHHRAAHHH.

A few days ago, I was handed a project that I'm surprised the Army even had their hands in. This project specifically dealt with something only a tactical pilot or aircrew would have knowledge of...and specifically someone who has dropped bombs before. So, I took a look at it...and decided I could solve the problem and have an answer to any questions in a matter of mere hours. So, I set off to find a computer program that is specifically used in "bomb delivery" planning. Well, guess what...apparently in Baghdad it doesn't exist. Frustrated, I called everyone and every unit that I could think of that might have access to this program. No Luck. Then it dawned on me...hey there is a Marine Corps F/A-18 squadron out west. Sure enough two calls later and I was talking with pilots in that squadron. The best part about it was that one of the guys I spoke with was a student of mine when I was an instructor pilot. BINGO!!

After being passed off to the squadron expert on this matter, it took one email and a 5 minute phone call and PRESTO!!! About 2 hours later, I had all the data that I was looking for. What is especially significant is that this Marine pilot took the time out of his already busy day to take on the challenge of this project. What a great group of guys...totally professional...and extremely helpful. Goes to show; no matter what the conditions or where you are located...Navy/Marine Aviators will always help a brother in need. So, I have to say, "VMFA (AW)-121 Green Knights...kudos and Semper Fi!". I'm positive, had I needed an Army entity to help me with this project...I would still be working on "who to call". Hell, I still can't get them to provide me with pens and paper.

Time keeps ticking along here. I'm surprised how long I've already been here. Luckily, I have a hard date that I am leaving. Unfortunately for the Army, they were just extended from 12 months here to 15 months here....OUCH!! I really do feel for the individual real problem is with the Army way of doing things. Those guys are really taking a beating in this war and it is a shame. This war is riding on the backs of folks that just can't buy a break. It will be interesting to see how the Army's retention rate handles this whole thing. My guess...down the tubes. But we will see.

R, K and G...I love and miss you guys more and more everyday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


My posts have been sparse lately...I suck. Early April has become a stressful time in my life over the last few years...and being in Iraq hasn't helped in the least. I won't get into the details about it all but I'll just say that my new work location and the people I work around have added to that stress level. Oh and it has rained for two days now...remember, muddy and dreary. I kinda feel like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. You know the scene where he is laying in bed staring up at the ceiling fan with the sound of helo rotor blades "whopping"...and loses it. YEAH..that's me recently. I haven't done any damage to my mirror...but I have listened to the Doors.

Having been a guy that has worked "operationally" for my entire military career (over 17 years) being in a pseudo-staff role absolutely painful. "Hey we have a meeting in 5 minutes with Colonel Smuckatelly!" "What the F&*$, didn't we just have a meeting an hour ago?!?!" What could we possibly talk about this time? Apparently in the Army, they like to have meetings all the time. Meetings to answer the General's questions, the Colonel's questions, the Lt Colonel's questions, but mostly so I can watch my Army counterparts fumble through powerpoint slides. I'm not saying that I'm the "best thing since sliced bread" but I do know how to brief information. That has been my job for quite a few years. Any tactical Navy Aviator is quite adept at "briefing" information. We do it before every flight and we do it after every flight. So watching a not-so-experienced Army guy fumble and bumble through information is just painful for everyone involved. Don't worry the 2-star General that we work for, let's them know it too. I think it is just a different mentality between us (two F/A-18 pilots) and the Army guys. They get very nervous and discombobulated while briefing the General. We figure, "hell, he puts his pants on the same way I do...and I just want to put out my pertinent info and get the hell out of this meeting." We are lucky, in the sense, that we get to leave the FOB and head out on various missions related to our specific work here...the Army guys don't. I'm amazed at how many staff folks the Army has compared to their number of "shooters" or infantry guys. I came up with my own plan to solve some manning problems. Fire half of your staff force, give them rifles and get them into the fight...that would quicken this war. But hey, I'm just a lowly Navy O-4...what could I possibly know? Serenity now...serenity now...serenity now. But the next Army O-4 that condescendingly tells me how to do my job...I'm going to go Chuck Norris on.

By the way, Chuck Norris once ate a 75 ounce steak in one hour, but he spent the first 45 minutes having sex with the waitress. Insert laughter here!!

For my bro in Arizona...I received the packages and THANK YOU!! Everything has been very useful. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

Well, I'm off to work. When I get there I'm going to put my headphones on and listen to some Rollins Band or some Korn...that should calm me down. Note the sarcasm. For those of you who have never listened to either one of those bands...don't...afterwards, you will want to beat something or someone senseless. I posted a picture of a lake here and the view across small bit of serenity in a hectic world.

R, K and G...I love and miss you! Send some medication...I need to be heavily medicated to deal with these folks.

Monday, April 2, 2007


I'm not sure if I've mention how well we eat here or not. KBR, a huge American conglomerate company provides our food service over here. They run alot of the contracts on day to day issues. Not only do they provide our food service but also, laundry, bussing and quite a few other services. They do a very good job at their service providing, I must say. The food they serve is excellent and always in too large of portions. The selection of food and treats in the chow halls is phenomenal. We have a main line, a short-order line and even a stir fry line. On top of it, we even have a dessert bar with about 10 different choices of cake, pie, pastries and ice cream. It is very, very evil in some regards. People always say, "You'll leave Iraq a member of the 300lb club. Either you will be bench pressing 300lbs or you will weigh 300lbs!"

The chow halls on the Army facilities, which is where I'm located, serve the food on plastic plates and we use plastic silverware. Not the most luxurious, but it gets the job done...and it cuts down on workers having to wash and clean dishes and silverware.

Recently some buddies and I figured out that the Air Force dining facility serves their food on REAL plates and have real "metal" silverware. WOW!!! What a treat! So recently we've started a weekly endeavor of hopping into "War Pig" and making the 15 minute trip to the Air Force chow hall. We like to call it, "eating out". The Air Force facility is essentially the same as the Army facilities...but in our minds...much nicer. One advantage, besides the silverware and plates is the fact you don't have to negotiate around tanks, armored vehicles and Stryker vehicles to get to the front door. It is also a cleaner facility. Not that ours is dirty...but the Air Force one is "spic and span". This is primarily due to the fact that they don't have hundreds of Soldiers who have just returned from patrols and missions coated in Iraq dirt and sand eating there. Not that sitting next to a young Soldier who is coated in dirt with "gun blast grease" coating his hands and face bothers me...sometimes over here, it's just nice to have a "fancy-pants" dinner. In fact it gives me some consolation to have that young Soldier sitting next to me. I know that he has survived another day doing the "dirty work" that alot of people make ill conceived decisions about. Ill conceived may not be the best description...maybe "unknowledgable" is the best word to use here. Unfortunately for that young man or woman in the chow hall...they don't have the luxury of making decisions for their work description/operations. But as it is in alot of work environments; the people doing the "real work" aren't the same ones dictating the "how-to" or the "how come". Life trudges on...I hope I see many more greasy, dirty Soldiers sitting next to me over the upcoming months...especially the SAME faces.

I posted a picture of yours truly in front of one of my work locations. I feel like I've come full-circle in my military career; from being a former enlisted Marine, a Navy pilot and now, wearing a combat uniform in Iraq. You'll notice that I'm wearing my "side arm" or pistol. Maybe it will stay holstered for awhile.
R, K and G, I love and miss you! Could really use some grilled salmon right now.