26 February 2007

Hi-jinks and adventures ashore-Foreign style Part Duex

So the second day of liberty in the wonderful city of Cannes comes along. This time though the launches start moving around at 10am. So myself and a two good buddies all decide to go grab some brunch in town and walk around take in the sites. We had heard that there is a tour boat which for about 15 francs one could take and go visit the island that Alexander Dumas wrote his classic story "The Count of Monte Cristo" about. Then somewhere else in town was the hotel that Mr. Dumas stayed while writing a couple more of his books. We discussed trying to get all of this in as we rode the liberty launch into town.
It was still pretty early in the morning by the time we put feet down on the solid ground again. We stopped over at the little food tent that the mess cooks had set up, grab a bottle of water between the two of us and grab some fresh fruit. Walked out the security compound and headed into town. Because it was a typical summer day in the south of France we decided to find an open air restaurant to grab a bite to eat at.
Walking along the main street at the water front, we just taking it all in. I happen across a simple convenience store and stopped in real quick to grab a pack of chewing gum and grab see if I could grab the a newspaper that was written in English. I had known that in a variety of places the "Times of London" and the "New York Times" were sold overseas. I got lucky and had actually found a copy of both the "New York Times" and the "Times of London" at this convenience store along with a pack of gum. After walking out of there we found the little restaurant to grab brunch at. It was primarily outside and gave a pretty good view of the harbor and the beaches.
We sat down and ordered up some grub, both of my friends are devouring the sports page from the NYT because they are baseball nuts. I was sitting there reading the sports page from the "Times of London" when I came across a section talking about the starting grid for the Monaco Grand Prix. After skimming the grid and then reading a couple of article about the race for that weekend, I realized that I wanted to go. Over lunch I finally conned both of my buddies into wanting to go. I used the classic, "Since we are already this close...." and "May not get another chance on the government dime...." debates. After about 2 hours of talking, I finally won them over.
So after seeing a few of the sights we wanted to in town, we walked around and found a European version of Ticketmaster and tried to get tickets for the race, only to find out that they had sold out weeks ago. Then all of us did the collective thought at the same second and shouted "MWR! They got to have bought some tickets". So we went back to fleet landing and just happen to run across the Fun Boss. The Fun Boss is a civilian who is brought on board a ship to help organize tours, trips, and other fun things to keep sailors entertained while out to sea. So we cornered the Fun Boss and asked what if they had scored or could score us some tickets to the race. The Fun Boss answered up that nope, there was to be no tickets for USS Oldboat to send anyone to the race. All of us were pretty well bummed out.
We started to walk away from Fleet Landing, looking for someplace to go and drown our sorrows. As we walked along the harbor front again, we noticed that a number of the shops that were opened were starting to bring everything inside. A couple comments about that and wondering why, when my friend Jason looked at his watched.
"Well guys it is only 1730. Lets go and find some nice restaurant that is squid free or close to squid free.", he said.
All of us agreed. So we staggered back down around the harbor front and at a turn we walked up an alleyway. Found just a few streets back a nice little restaurant that again had a nice view of the harbor, a nice jazz band playing, and outdoor seating. We sat around talking about how bummed we were about not going to race and what we were all going to do the next day. All of us were lucky in that we didn't draw duty until the final day in port.
The more we talked about how cool it would of been to seen a race, the more we got annoyed. That was until a gentleman a couple tables across from us got up and walked over. He came over and said that he couldn't help but overheard our conversation. He then mentioned that he was a member of the garage crew for BMW.
He invited us to join him and a couple other members of his crew at a few tables over from ours. We had already eaten and were just enjoying some beers, so we picked up and sat in. Greetings and intros all the way around, he introduced himself as Steve. He was an ex-pat American, was in the US Army as a tanker stationed with a unit in Germany. He got out after Desert Storm and pinged around in the European racing circuits. Finally got picked up by BMW just as they were starting their Formula 1 racing career. He did the basic garage things to a car or to tweak an engine or body before it goes on a practice run or the night before the big race. He then mentioned that he could get us pit passes if we wanted them. All he wanted was a Zippo and a command ballcap from USS Oldboat. It seemed that his father was on Oldboat when she was younger and he just wanted some memorabilia. We said deal and agreed on where to meet him over at Monaco, he then said nuts to that and told us to give him a call and he would send a company car to pick us up.
The next with our gear in tow, we made the phone call and had a chance to be behind pit row watching the Monaco Grand Prix. It was awesome and the only thing that I wish I had remember to have done was brought my camera to have gotten some photos. After the race all 3 of us went off with Steve and his crew to a nice restaurant in a casino and enjoy dinner on the companies dime. Even though all of the teams cars did not finish the race, it was still cool to be there and watch the race.

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24 February 2007

COPS! Filmed on location on board USS Oldboat

So it always seems to come that in the life of an enlisted sailor they will be assigned to temporary duty away their primary job. This is also known as being TAD'd. So it came to be that while I was stationed on board USS Oldboat, was tasked to take up duty with the Master-At-Arms on board. I had just been promoted to a 3rd class and the CPO that I worked for told me that it would of been a great chance to learn how to me a leader was by going to the security shack.
So I show up to the security shack and proceed to get indoctrinated into the ways of being the police force on a modern US aircraft carrier. I start with learning and having to quote verbatim the US Military Lawyers version of reasonable cause and use of deadly force. I can still quote them now every so often, when I hear the right combinations of words. Anyhow, one of the funnier moments in all of this week long training we got about what we can do and can't do as a security team member. We were finally being issued the official uniform, which was (drum-roll please).....Battle Dress Utilities as they are expressed in official terminology. The woodland cammies that everyone that fights ashore wearing. Mind you I am on a large ship that is painted primarily in shades of black, grey, and white. So here I am dressed in a uniform that is composed of green, black, brown. I am not completely smart and the US Navy through testing considers me smart, but a uniform that was designed to help you blend into the woodland areas of Central Europe, South America, just about any place that has a rich green forest. Not a frigging ship out at sea. The whole thing reminded me of those t-shirts that one can buy at places like Spencer's Gifts or Target that is a camouflaged and says "You can't see me".
So after getting that uniform which would help me to blend into the ship. We are then told to start patrol the ship and do the "protect and serve" bit. Twelve hour shifts while in port and we would work 3 days on with 2 off and then alternate the other way 2 days on with 3 off. The even better part about this scheduling was that about once a month if you worked nights then you would shift to days. So with our scheduling set, the rest of the training could proceed. See those assigned to the security shack can't carry arms unless we have attended something like 40 hours worth of training on the weapons we are going to use. Some of this training is via sleeping aids called US Navy training films. If some of you fine readers haven't seen these then imagine some of those dry film strips or educational films from High school or middle school. The ones that don't really tell you much more then what you had learned from the instructors lectures. After surviving the training, we are taken to the range to show "weapons familiarization" and to get a "familiarization firing" in. Basically one needs to show that they can shoot the weapon with out hurting themselves or others and then that they are able to put at least some of the bullets on a paper target a couple of yards away. After all of that is done one is given their weapons card, or as we called it the 007 card.
After all of that training which amounted to about a month, I am finally walking around the ship with 9mm gun strapped to my hip with no ammunition loaded in it, a baton on the other and scattered around the rest of my utility belt a pair of handcuffs and 45 rounds of 9mm ammunition. To give you a time reference, I joined the security shack about 3 months before the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Before the Cole, the powers to be felt that Sailors couldn't be trusted with loaded firearms they were too afraid of people shooting themselves in the foot or shooting others. On top of that a couple of well known incidents at the time in the Hampton Roads area was a couple pier sentries were robbed of their weapons by unknown assailants just prior to my arrival. The sentries couldn't use their weapons in self-defense due to the rules of deadly force drawn up by some JAG lawyer on 2nd Fleet's staff. Would of had them making phone calls to request the use of their weapons, file forms in triplicate, and other typical lawyerese.
I digress, so I am supposed to walk around with a partner and make sure that our section of the ships stays safe and secure. Some of the sections were easier to walk. Such as the after 60 frames of the ship and all the decks from the 2nd deck up to the 0-3 level. Basically amounted to walking around a football field 3 times and then checking in with the dispatcher. The worst one was the center of the ship. We were supposed to check medical and their controlled meds cabinets (where all the good drugs were) and then all the way up to the bridge on the oh god level. Making this loop would be very similar to climbing up and down a 9 or 10 story building constantly for my shift. I will tell you this, I lost a bunch of weight when assigned this section but it was tiring after a while.
On top of the patrols we were assigned to stand watches on the brows of the ship with a 12-gauge shotgun (again unloaded) and defend these easy access points from hostile forces. These were typical 4 hour watches of just standing there trying to stay warm and decided if you really want to be a party of the Navy anymore.

Now that you all have a good idea of all that goes on to just become a security member. Let the show begin.
We have to deal with restricted personnel and most of these are people that run away from the Navy to deal with problems at home with then ran away from in the first place. See a cycle here? So we had a guy come back to us after being in an unauthorized absence (U/A) for about 90 days. After he came back on board we had to read him his rights and to get a breathalyzer on him and a urine sample. That way we can prove that when he gave his statement about being U/A he was stone cold sober. This joker didn't want to give either a breathalyzer nor give give a urine sample. So we told him to sit down and as soon as he was ready to abided by our rules we would let him go. Not even a minute after doing so, I turned by back to get something else ready when this guy bolted. Now we have a security alert, we don't know where he went nor what he might want to do. Make the announcements across the ships general announcing system. Closed the brows and actually closed the pier as well. No one could leave no one could come back on board. About 10 minutes later we find him in the ships smoke pit. A struggle which lead to the use of a baton on him to submit to being handcuffs and one of our guys getting a bruise. Back down in the security shack, again laid out that this loser could go on his happy way as long as he just gave us a breathalyzer and a urine sample, then sign some forms. A process that would take the most of his life about 10minutes. Again this joker decides to run with our handcuffs still on him. This time he decides to jump off the side of the ship and try and swim to the pier, only problem was that he jumped from where the aircraft elevator comes to the hanger deck. On USS Oldboat with the elevators up on the flight deck level there are stations up to keep people from falling over the side. Then a little further out there are some hooks which are to hook into the elevator and provide a strong point for the elevator to stay stable. Unfortunately for this U/A guy he jumped and got his hand cuffs caught on the fall with one of these hooks. This in turn pulled both his arms out of his sockets, very painful. Some one else walking along the hangar deck saw him jump and was about to call the man overboard when he heard the screaming. A short rescue session later and this guy was in custody, yet again this time handcuffed to the litter we used to carry him down to Medical. Where a corpsman popped both shoulders back in and then proceeded to draw both blood and with a warrant approved by the ship's JAG some urine to be tested. Long story short this guy was remanded to the Norfolk Naval Brig for the remainder of his career and to receive a bad conduct discharge. All of this was awarded at a special court martial.

Fast forward a few months and it is now post USS Cole and everyone is trying to figure out how in the world to protect the fleet while in port from terrorist attacks. So USS Oldboat is going to deploy soon, so some smart khaki in 2nd Fleet decides to use her to re-write the rulebook. For about 2 weeks straight we are going through security exercises left and right. Everything from riots on the pier, attempts to plant explosives on the ship, to IED attacks against the pier or friendly dining facilities (in Norfolk there is a McDonald's right across from the pier and they blew it up one night), to attempted kidnapping of senior officers. All sorts of fun and excitement. Last day of the exercise and the training team throws it all at us, and EOD team is going to plant explosives on the side of the ship while a suicide bomber will try and board the ship and blow up the hangar bay all the same while a small boat attack may occur. I was assigned as the brow sentry that morning, what wasn't told to me was that the brow sentries couldn't play. So in the early morning dawn I see some joker in civvies walk up to our pier sentries and pull a red man gun out and proceed to execute them and then make a full run down the pier. At the time I was calling away a security alert, another sentry on the side of the ship saw a diver and called away divers in the water. That started, the brows closed, everyone was supposed to freeze in place. I told the OOD to close the armored water tight hatch on my brow on both sides and then hide amongst the structure as I loaded my Mossburg model 500 shotgun. As this guy came up I took the butt of my shotgun and thrust it hard and fast into his stomach which caused him to stop, gasp for breath. I then stood over him kicked the gun away and cycled the pump. Standing over this man with a shotgun about an 6 inches from his face I pulled my best Dirty Harry and asked "Do you want open or closed casket?". He surrendered, I called away for a security team to come by and pick him up. A few hours later after I got off watch and was told to report to ready room 10 for a special debrief from the security training team. I show up, pissed off to hell because this is cutting into my sleep time and as I open the door there is the security division officer, the XO of the boat, and this guy that I butt stroked. Except this time he is in a pair of blues with Lieutenant Commander stripes on his shoulder boards. Oh god, I think Southern is going to jail for assaulting an officer. This LCDR is all hyped up and wants my head, going on about how I was supposed to know not to play. This guy was just all sorts of pissed off and still hunched over from the beat down. The XO who was a Captain told him to calm down and let me speak. So I told him that at quarters at the beginning of my shift 2000 the previous night all that was explained was that there was going to be one final security drill with only divers or a small boat attack coming at us. Not some mad man trying to come on the ship with a gun and or bombs strapped to him. I acted as I was supposed to which was put down the threat in justification with the deadly force ladder. Since he had not pointed the gun at me I couldn't just shoot him, so I dropped him and arrested. At this point my division officer spoke up and said that we were told by your people, as she pointed at this LCDR, was the drills were over and a debrief was supposed to go on today. My people acted with in accordance of ships, 2nd Fleet, Norfolk, and Navy policy. You were the one to screw up. The XO then asked me if I knew what was going on today. I just mentioned how I was supposed to stand this watch at the end of my shift and we had been told the exercises were over the day before. I then mentioned how it seemed silly at least to me to verbally challenge the guy when I had seen he had a gun, when it was better to close the hatch and then try to subdue him while he was attempting to gain access. From there I was dismissed and stumbled back to my rack for some well needed sleep. I was then woken up about half through my sleep by a Chief as told to report to the security shack. I threw on a pair of coveralls and went down to the shack. There was this same LCDR, my division officer, and the division CPO. I then got an apology from this LCDR during the earlier debrief and I was told I acted with in policy.

A month after cruise started I rotated out of the security shack and went back to my real job of fixing airplanes. I learned a few things while down there. I did what I was supposed to do, but I didn't enjoy being in the security shack for a minute.

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23 February 2007

Chemical warfare and the Insurgents in Iraq

Lost somewhere in the middle of the media's mainstream orgy about this Anna Nichole Smith person and the fight between democratic presidential runners fight was a little story about the insurgents were detonating chemical weapons that would release chlorine gas. From reading the various news blurbs that I skim at News Google and even my own local newspapers mention that this is the third attack this month alone like this. However, none of the US media (TV, radio, newspapers) have noticed this attack beyond a simple 30sec sound bite (nor the previous ones) they also aren't talking about the escalations that this is in the fight for control of Iraq. Even if the insurgents are just attaching explosives to canisters of chlorine gas, there is a possibility that the insurgents could escalate and begin either importing other chemicals such as Mustard, Phosgene, blood poisons, and finally nerve agents.

Though chemical warfare is not new to humans, we have been doing it since the time of tribes. Mainly through the digging of arrows and spears in natural poisons. However it wasn't until the First World War that better killing through science starting to makes its appearance on the battlefield. It was the Germans that used chlorine gas in the the Second Battle of Ypres when they used about 186 tons of Chlorine gas along 4 miles of the front line in an attempt to open battle and push towards Paris. However, the Germans themselves weren't fully capable of exploiting the opening because they were not prepared themselves for the use of this weapon. By the time the First World War ended by 1918, just over 85,000 of the one million dead (or about less then 3%) were killed by some sort of the chemical weapons developed during the war. Post world war 1 chemical weapons were used by the British in Iraq to put down rebellions near Baghdad along with using some gases to protect its troops in Russia in 1919, French used mustard gas in Morocco in the 1920's, the Italians used mustard gas in Libya in 20's and then 1930's during its war on Ethiopia. In World War 2 it was the Germans that discovered nerve agents completely accidentally. They had discovered the nerve agents Tabun and Sarin. Though World War 2 didn't see the widespread use of chemical warfare there were still selected uses. The Japanese were reported to have used an agent called Lewisite in its war against with the Chinese, the Germans used the chemical poison Zyklon B to kill all the people they put in the concentration camps. Though the Allies had strong stockpiles of chemical weapons manufactured during the inter-war period they had taken the oath to not use them first unless the Axis powers used them. Following the end of World War 2, both the US and the Soviets built even larger amounts of chemical weapons. It wasn't until the last 30 years that the US and Soviets have tried to reduce their chemical weapon inventories. Yet, there are plenty of other people that have built up arsenals and used them on their enemies. Such countries as Iraq and Iran during their 8 year war. A couple terrorist organizations have used chemical weapons on their own such as the Aum Shinrikyo attacks on the Tokyo subways in 1995 and then UN forces had found video tapes in Afghanistan in 2002 of what looked like Al Qaeda tests on dogs of a possible nerve agents.

I am not one to go around like chicken little screaming that the sky is falling, but this is something to pay attention too. If the insurgents begin to escalate to using chemical weapons, then how would the US respond? Should the US escalate and begin to use chemical weapons? I don't think we would, yet I don't think that American people would tolerate seeing their soldiers being injured or died because of a chemical weapon. Unfortunately no one in the US media is paying attention. Instead they care about some stupid, vapid, blond, bimbo with huge tits, a Broward County Judge being silly, and who is the father of this bimbo's daughter.

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21 February 2007

Problems at Walter Reed Hospitial

So since this previous week when the Washington Post did a series of stories about the out patient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center problems. This has now caused all sorts of heart-ache and indignation from the politicos across the river at the Capitol, the US Army in the 5-sided wind tunnel is playing CYA, and in general the nation has been let down about the care and treatment of these wounded veteran.
I do feel angry about this situation and do think it is a complete travesty of what should be a good and promised program to help returned injured soldiers either back to their units or back to the world. The idea that the leadership above us enlisted folks cares about us and the medical community is here to help us is one of the biggest things that is pushed by those that are recruiters.
The only thing that makes me more angry is how the authors of this series didn't really do this story (which is behind a subscription service) in any way to care about the injured soldiers. Rather this series seemed to be completely about how the current administration has dropped the ball in some way shape or other. This is the first time in many years that the US military has held to deal with both physical and mental injures resulting from combat. Also I would almost bet the farm to say that conditions at Walter Reed had been and issue for many years before President Bush showed up, probably even before Bush Sr. showed up as well. There is more to this issue then meets the eye. According to current news reports the Army is finding the money and kick starting the people to get the grounds fixed up and repaired properly.
This is a shame, but I think what is even more of a shame is how members of the mainstream media are using this as an issue with the current President and not actually using their abilities to care about the soldiers.

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Hi-jinks and adventures ashore-Foreign style

So it came to be that USS Oldboat was on her peaceful summer cruise in the Mediterranean. We had done our support of the NATO mission in Yugoslavia by flying a couple recon assets over Bosnia and Kosovo taking pictures for something or another. Also drawing the tax-free pay for the month since we hung around for a couple of days from April to June. So it came to be that after two weeks the Admiral in charge of our battle group decided we had saved enough money. So we pulled into a beautiful French city called Cannes. It is famous for some sort of film festival, I don't know. What I do know is the place is dripping in money, beautiful women, and history. How bad is it dripping in money, while I was there we saw a Yacht pull in drop the back end and a little Mini drove off the Yacht and around town.
Anyhow, we pulled in on a Friday around noon. It wasn't until something like 3 in the afternoon that we could start to go ashore. Liberty call usually starts with the highest ranking people first and then filters its way on down. So at 3:01pm (1501 for you non-military types) the ships general announcing system started the cattle call with "Liberty Call, Liberty Call for all Officers and Chiefs". At which point everyone but the duty section quit working and hustled off to our berthing compartments to throw on their best mack-daddy outfits.
One of the interesting things that sailors have to put up with is the liberty attire in a port. What it is varies from port to port and even day to day sometimes. At the time Sixth Fleet required that everyone go ashore wearing the minimum of nice pants and a collared shirt. A pair of clean blue jeans and a polo shirt works perfectly. Usually the make verboten for us the wear is things that show American pride or would insult the locals. So people trying to get off wearing NY Yankee caps, Bulls jerseys, or even cowboy boots were turned back to change into something else.
After navigating all that one ends up waiting in line to catch the liberty launch. This is usually a tour boat or some sort of passenger ferry that is hired to run from the after end of the carrier to what is termed "Fleet Landing". The good launches are smart enough to have some folks hawking food and soda, the really smart operators will have booze or beer on board. So one could grab the local version of the Cheetos, a Coke bottle in the local language or a local beer and enjoy the 15 to 20 minutes of joy bounding away from the ship with local cash in the your pocket and trying to decided what to do first.
I got ashore with a friend of mine named Tony (buddies are required in foreign ports) and one of the first things we headed off to do was fine a local restaurant with genuine and authentic French food. We found some little restaurant right by the bay and silhouetted the ship and the setting sun. It was great and looked really beautiful. As we sat their talking about what to go and see next, a bunch of very beautiful girls sat down at the table next from us. Both of Tony and myself had about half a bottle of red wine between us after eating some local food. We were getting giggles and eyes from the girls as we started to talk about whether to just sit here with another bottle of wine and enjoy the house band or go and find other excitement. What finally broke the ice was, one of the girls in an almost perfect "Daisy Duke" southern accent ask us "Y'll Americans?"
Tony and I looked each other in the eye and had a quick conversation with just some facial movements, which basically lead to us staying and having these three beautiful girls join us. We found out talking to them that they were college students from some college in upstate New York and they were doing the study aboard for the summer. The plan was to visit some major cities involved in Western History or something like that. Since both me and Tony were history buff we got on beautifully with these girls. The most they knew about us was that we were from Virginia and we fixed airplanes and in town for the weekend. All of which was perfectly true, we just didn't say that we were sailors, lived in Norfolk, and were going to leave Tuesday morning on the next high tide. We did fix planes since we worked with the aircraft parts. They didn't ask anymore and we really didn't steer the conversation anymore into our backgrounds.

Okay that being said we picked up the tab for the girls dinner and talked them into hanging around to listen to the house band at this restaurant. It really wasn't that bad of a band. They did instrumentals of just about everything from some early 50's rock up to some 80's new wave. As the dinner crowd broke off around 945pm the waiters started to clear the tables inside off and move a few away from the bandstand. Dancing! Oh joy, one of my least favorite adventures. I am just horrible. I can sort of two-step, but anything more or less I look like I am having a seizure. I did my best at dancing. I held my own. As midnight struck at the local church bells the girls want to go someplace else, we looked at our watches and realized that our carriage was going to turn back into a pumpkin at 0200 in the morning. So we had about an hour to really have some fun, the lead girl Mandy came out and said "Well we are staying right around the corner and...." Both Tony and my didn't hear anything else, our single man programming kicked in. So we escorted these girls back to their hotel, well actually we all staggered and bounced like some pinballs up the street.

We came up to this little hotel set back from the main drag, it was really looked interesting. The fun though didn't even get a chance to start, because as we staggered through the front door and the girls chaperon hit and octave and volume that I believe is reserved for emergency sirens.
Almost exact words were, "What are you girls doing with these boys! Have they touched you! Are you Drunk! OH MY GOD!" almost in the same breath. As I tried to calm this chaperon, Tony meanwhile was trying to plan a good time to go do touristy things with these girls the next day.
I explained how the girls were lost and run out of francs so we offered to pay for their dinner. Took them to dancing and walk around the little harbor. We then escorted them back home. I also told this chaperon that the same truth that we told the girls. That we were in town for the weekend and it was great to meet Americans. That calmed her down, found out that the girls were in deep kimchi for being out with out either her or one of the other 3 chaperons. Though that me and Tony were nice gentleman for escorting these girls home and she paid us a 1000 franc note (about 75 dollars) for the trouble.
We walked back to Fleet Landing and talked about how weird it was for sailors to be the gigolos and being paid for spending time with girls in a foreign port and not the typical way around.

More to come in future intallments after this commerical break. Southern and friend end up being guests of a racing team over in Monaco. Southern and friends spend a whole day on a beach in the French Riveria. Stay tuned.

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20 February 2007

Who is this Anna Nichole Smith

I guess some one famous died recently, some blond woman named Anna Nichole Smith. I have never hear of her before, but I guess she must of been important because for two weeks straight it has been nothing but stories about her death and her two suitors fighting over who will get the body and the money. For some reason I just don't care, even if she had found a way to cure blindness, AIDS, and delivered peace to the world when she was alive.

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17 February 2007

A Rememberance

I remember every one have Shuttle toys when I was a kid. Watching TV as they the talking heads discussed where we were going to in the future. Living as I did near Langley Research Center and they did things with the shuttle flight research when it was back in our atmosphere. I was also a big fan as a kid of "Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century". Astronauts were cool. Anyhow, seeing how NASA's space division just seems to be making mistakes lead me to do some research. It seems as though the worst week for an "oops, my bad" for NASA in the public relations is the last week of January and the first week of February. These are the 3 biggest NASA missions that didn't make it either up to Space or back down.

Apollo/Saturn 204 -
Lost: January 27th, 1967.
Location: On Lanch Complex 3 at Cape Kennedy, Fl.

Command Pilot:
Born: 3 April 1926 in Mitchell Indiana.
Combat pilot he flew F-86's in Korea. Graduate of USAF Test Pilot School. Went to Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio to study Aeronautical Engineering. One of the original Mercury 7. Second American Astronaut when he Piloted "Liberty Bell 7" capsule in sub-orbital flight. Was the first Gemini command pilot and second Astronaut to do two missions in NASA.

Senior Pilot:
Lieutenant Colonel Edward Higgins White II, USAF
Born:November 14th, 1930 in San Antonio, Texas
Received a Bachelors in Aeronautical Engineering from United States Military Academy in 1952.
Flew F-86's and F-100's in Germany and US. Received a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from U of Michigan in 1959.
Attended USAF Test Pilot School Edwards AFB, CA in 1959First American to space walk in 1965 with Gemini 4.

Lieutenant Commander Roger Bruce Chaffee,USN
Born:February 15, 1935 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Graduated in 1957 from Purdue University with a degree in aeronautical engineering on a NROTC scholarship.
Completed Officer training in Pensacola, Fl. and commissioned as an Ensign in August 1957.
Awarded Naval Aviator Wings in 1958.
Qualified as the youngest pilot to fly the A3D-2P Skywarrior while assigned to Heavy Photographic Squadron 62 (VAP-62).
Flew with VAP-62 during the Cuban Missile Crisis taking many photos of Cuban and Soviet build areas.
Completed a masters in Reliability Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1963.
Selected by NASA to join the Apollo program in 1963.
Selected in 1966 to be the on the first Apollo flight.

Space Transportation System-51-L
United States Space Shuttle Challenger
Lost: January 28th 1986
Location: approximately 48000 ft above Cape Canaveral, FL

Then a live feed from a major US network filming the launch from launch to debris touchdown in the water.

Shuttle Commander:
Lieutenant Colonel Francis Richard "Dick" Scobee,USAF
Born:May 19, 1939 in Cle Elum, Washington
Enlisted in USAF in 1957. Served as an Aircraft Engine Mechanic at Kelly AFB, Tx.
  • Completed a Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona in 1965. Attended classes while off-duty.
  • Applied for conversion and then awarded an Officers commission in 1965.
  • Awarded pilots wings in 1966.
  • Flew combat a combat tour in Vietnam.
  • Completed USAF Test Pilot school in 1972.
  • Logged hours over 6500 flight hours testing various aircraft such as the C-5, F-111, and X-24 Lifting body.
  • Selected for NASA's Astronaut program in 1978.
  • First space flight was with STS-41-C onboard US Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984

Shuttle Pilot:
Captain Michael J. Smith, USN
Born: April 30, 1945 in Beaufort, N.C.
Graduated United States Naval Academy 1967.

  • Flew A-6 Intruders over Vietnam in 1972 and 1973 cruise with VA-52, the "Knight Riders."
    Graduated US Navy Test Pilot School 1974.
  • Work at NAS Patuxent River, Md as a Test Pilot. Instructor Tour at Naval Test Pilot School 1976-77.
  • Served as Maintenance Officer and Operations Officer with vA-75,the "Sunday Punchers", onboard the USS Saratoga 1979 to 1980.
  • Selected as Astronaut Candidate in May 1980.
  • Completed training 1981.
  • First Space flight January 28th 1986 with STS-51-L onboard US Space Shuttle Challenger.

  • Mission Specialist One:
    Dr. Judith Arlene Resnik, PhD
    Born:April 5, 1949 in Akron, Ohio.
    Graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1970.

  • Worked for RCA with radar circuitry design.
  • Completed Doctorate in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland in 1977.
  • Worked for Xerox Corporation after completing PhD.
  • Selected for Astronaut Program in 1978.
  • Completed Astronaut Training in 1979.
  • Flew as Mission Specialist with STS-41-D onboard US Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984.

    • Mission Specialist Two:
      Lieutenant Colonel Ellison Shoji Onizuka, USAF
      Born: June 24, 1946 in Kona, Hawaii
      Graduated with a BS and Masters in Aerospace Engineering from University of Colorado-Boulder in 1969, while on a AFROTC Scholarship. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in USAF in 1970.

    • Assigned as Systems Engineer at McClellan AFB, CA in 1971.
    • Graduated USAF Test Pilot School in 1975 as an aircraft engineer.
    • Assigned as a Test Flight Engineer at Edwards AFB in 1975.
    • Selected for Astronaut program in 1978.
    • Completed training in 1979.
    • First space flight was with STS-51-C onboard US Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.
      • Mission Specialist Three:
        Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair, PhD
        Born:October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina

        Graduated with a BS in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971
        Graduated with a PhD in quantum electronics and laser technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977
        Selected for Astronaut Program in 1978
        Completed training in 1979
        First space flight was with STS-41-B onboard US Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984.

        Payload Specialist One:
        Captain Gregory Bruce Jarvis , USAF
        Born: August 24, 1944 in Detroit Michigan.

        • Graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from University of Buffalo (SUNY) in 1967.
        • Received a Masters at Northeastern University in 1969.
        • Joined the USAF in 1969.
        • Discharged during post-Vietnam draw down in 1973 as a Captain
        • Worked with Hughes Aircraft Corporation in 1974.
        • Accepted to the Astronaut program in 1984 and completed training in 1985.

        • First space flight was with STS-51-L on board US Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

        Payload Specialist Two:
        Sharon Christa Corrigan McAuliffe
        Born:September 2, 1948 in Boston Ma.

        • Graduated from Farmingham State College(located Farmingham, Ma) in 1970 with a BA in degree in Secondary Education.
        • Taught in the Washington D.C. school district American History, Social Studies, law, and economics in 1971.
        • While husband attended Georgetown University Law Center.
        • Moved to Concord, NH in 1978 when husband was selected to be assistant state Attorney General.
        • Took teaching position at Concord High School in 1982 in the History/Social Studies department.
        • Was selected for the "Teacher in Space" program in 1985.
        • Completed training in 1986.
        • First space was was with STS-51-L onboard US Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

        Space Transportation System-107

        United States Space Shuttle Columbia

        Lost: February 1, 2003

        Location: approximately 40 miles above the central Texas plains.

        Video from NASA-TV inside Mission Control during STS-107 re-entry

        A hodge podge of STS-107 re-entry video from the ground overlaid with mission control voices.

        Mission Commander:
        Colonel Richard Douglas Husband , USAF
        Born: July 12, 1957 in Amarillo TX
        Graduated with a BS in mechanical engineering from Texas Technical University in 1980.
        Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1980 after applying for officer commission program.
        Received pilot training at Vance AFB, OK in 1981.
        Trained as an F-4 pilot at Homestead AFB, FL in 1982.
        Flew F-4E fighter squadron based out of Moody AFB, Ga in 1985.
        Graduated USAF Test Pilot School 1987.
        Graduated from California State University, Fresno with a Masters in electrical engineer in 1990.
        Did a NATO exchange tour with the RAF in 1992. Assigned to Boscombe Down with the RAF's Aircraft and Armament Evaluation Establishment. Selected for Astronaut program in 1994.
        Completed training in 1995.
        First space flight was with STS-96 on board US Space Shuttle Discovery where piloted Discovery to first docking with the International Space Station.

        Commander William Cameron "Willie" McCool, USN.
        Born:September 23, 1961 in San Diego, CA.
        Graduated with a BS in Applied Science from the United States Naval Academy in 1983.
        Commissioned as an Ensign in 1983.
        Graduated from the University of Maryland with a Masters in Computer Science in 1985.
        Applied for Pilot training in 1985.
        Awarded Naval Aviator wings 1986.
        Reported for EA-6B platform training in 1986 with VAQ-129, the "Vikings".
        Completed training assigned to VAQ-133, the "Wizards" assigned to CVW-13 on board the USS Coral Sea (CV-43).
        Qualified as a Landing Signals Officer for the squadron and the air wing at this time.
        Graduated from Naval Postgraduate school and Naval Test Pilot school joint program with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1992.
        Worked as the TA-4J and EA-6B test pilot at Flight Systems Department onboard Strike Aircraft Test Directorate at NAS Patuxent River.
        Started a department head tour with VAQ-132, the "Scorpions", in 1994. Squadron was assigned to CVW-17 onboard the USS Enterprise, CVN-65.
        Accepted to Astronaut training in 1995. Completed training in 1996.
        First space flight was with STS-107 onboard US Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

        Mission Specialist One:

        Captain David McDowell Brown, USN, MD.
        Born: April 16, 1956 in Arlington, VA.
        Graduated with a BS in biology form College of William and Mary in 1978.
        Graduated with a Medical Doctorate degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1982.
        Joined the United States Navy after completing intern with Medical University of South Carolina in 1982.
        Completed Flight Surgeon training in 1984.
        Assigned to Naval Branch Hospital Adak in Adak, Alaska in 1985.
        Assigned to CVW-15 onboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in 1987.
        Accepted for Naval Aviator training in 1988.
        First flight surgeon in a ten year period.
        Awarded Naval Aviator wings upon graduation from NAS Beeville in 1990,was number one in his class.
        Received training and carrier qualified with the A-6E Intruder in 1991.
        Reported to Naval Strike Warfare Center Fallon in 1991.
        Deployed with VA-115, the "Eagles", onboard the USS Independence (CV-62) in 1992.
        Assigned to Naval Test Pilot school in 1995 as the flight surgeon.
        Accepted to Astronaut training in 1996.
        Received an amateur radio license, call sign KC5ZTC in 1997.
        Completed training in 1998. First space flight was with STS-107 onboard US Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

        • Mission Specialist two:
          Dr. Kalpana Chawla, PhD
          Born:July 1, 1961 in Karnal, Haryana, India
          Graduated with a Bachelors in Science in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College in 1982.
        • Graduated with a Masters in aeronautical engineering from University of Texas in Arlington in 1984.
        • Earned a Masters in mechanical engineering from University of Texas in Arlington in 1986.
        • Graduated with a PhD in aerospace engineering from University of Colorado of Boulder in 1988.Worked for NASA Ames Research Center, CA in 1988.
        • Became a naturalized US citizen in 1990.
        • Accepted for Astronaut training in 1993 and completed training in 1995.
        • First space flight was with STS-87 onboard US Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997.
        • Received an amateur radio license in 1998, call sign KD5ESI.

        Payload Commander:
        Lieutenant Colonel Michael Phillip Anderson, USAF
        Born: December 25, 1959 in Plattsburgh, New York
        Graduated with a BS in physics/astronomy from the University of Washington in 1981.
        Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the USAF in 1981.
        Assigned to Randolph AFB, TX with the 2015th Communication Squadron in 1982.
        Awarded pilot wings in 1986.
        Assigned to 2nd Airborne Command and Control Squadron at Offutt AFB, NE. Flew EC-135's as part of the airborne command post for Strategic Air Command. These aircraft were code-named "Looking Glass"
        Assigned to 920th Aerial Refueling Squadron at Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan in 1991.
        Assigned to 380th Air Refueling Wing in Plattsburg AFB, NY.
        Accepted for Astronaut training in 1994.
        Completed training in 1995.
        First space flight was with STS-89 onboard US Space Shuttle Endeavour.

        Mission Specialist three:
        Commander Laurel Blair Salton Clark , USN, MD
        Born: March 10, 1961 in Ames, Iowa
        Graduated with a BS in zoology from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983.
        Received Medical Doctorate from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987.
        Commissioned as a Ensign in 1983
        Assigned to Diving Medicine Department with the Navy Experimental Diving Unit out of Naval Station Panama City, Fl while going for Doctorate.
        Assigned to Naval Medical Center, Maryland (Bethesda Naval Hospital) for postgraduate education in Pediatrics in 1987.
        Assigned to Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center Panama City, Fl in 1989.
        Assigned to Submarine Squadron 14 out of Holy Loch, Scotland, England as medical department head in 1992. Awarded Naval Submarine Medical Officer and Diving Medical Officer after completion of this tour.
        Attended Naval Aerospace Medical Institute at NAS Pensacola, FL for training as a flight surgeon for 6 months in 1993. Designated Naval Flight Surgeon upon completion of training.
        Assigned to VMA-211, "Wake Island Defenders", in 1994 as a Flight Surgeon.
        Assigned to Marine Air Group 13 in 1994 as the group flight surgeon
        Accepted for Astronaut training in 1996.
        Completed training in 1998.
        First space flight was with STS-107 onboard US Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

        Payload Specialist:
        Colonel Ilan Ramon , Israeli Air Force
        Born:June 20, 1954 in Ramat Gan, Israel
        Served in the Israeli Armed Forces during the 1973 Yom Kippur War
        Graduated from the Israeli Air Force Flight school in 1974.
        Assigned to A-4 Skyhawk basic training and operations from 1974-1976
        Assigned to Mirage III-C basic training and operations from 1976-1980
        Selected to attend Hill AFB, Utah for initial training in the F-16A Falcon in 1980.
        Assigned as Deputy Squadron commander of an Israeli F-16 Squadron in 1981. Where he flew F-16's as part of Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982.
        Graduated with a degree in electronics and computer engineer from Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv ,Isreal in 1987
        Assigned as a F-4 Deputy squadron commander in 1988
        Assigned as a F-16 Squadron commander in 1990.
        Assigned to Israeli Air Force command headquarters in 1992.
        Selected to be first Israeli Astronaut in 1997
        Reported for training in 1998 as payload specialist.
        Completed training in 2003.
        First space flight was with STS-107 onboard US Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

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        16 February 2007

        A Plane's History

        One of my favorite World War 2 planes that didn't make the cut in time is the Grumman F7F Tigercat. It was a twin engine fighter that was going to operate off the flight decks of the Midway class of carriers. It was going to be built to be the fast, meanest, most maneuverable fighter out there. Then on top of that it was also supposed to have a secondary ground attack role.

        The plane mounted 2 of Pratt&Whitney's R-2800 series "Double Wasp" engines and this made it one of the fast US Navy fighters at the time when it went on test flights in 1943. It flew at 400 mph with it throttles at the fire wall, which was about 71 mph faster then what the F6F Hellcat then mainstay of the US Navy Fighter squadrons were flying during World War 2.

        The initial variant the F7F-1 was starting to enter USMC inventories in late 1944. It mounted four 2omm cannons and four .50caliber machine guns. Along with the capability to carry up to either a 13in torpedo under the wings or a 1000lb bomb. This could probably viewed as the first designed as such strike fighter in US Navy inventory. However, the Marines did not complete the transitional training in time to join the war. One of the other problems that arose with the F7F-1 was that it failed its initial carrier testing. There were issues with the tail hook design and stability problems in a one engine landing parameter. These though didn't give the US Navy nor the US Marines that much worry. They realized the plane was plenty big enough to handle a radar mount and become a night fighter. So all the previously produced aircraft had an airborne radar system was installed in the nose at the loss of the four .50 cals. Since those guns were installed in the nose. The radar scope was mounted in the dashboard for use by the pilot.
        Starting with the 34th produced aircraft a spot over the wings was used to install a radar operator and some other changes were done in a hope to produce a carrier capable bird. Yet again this poor plane failed to pass the muster.

        The last two variants produced were the F7F-3N and F7F-4N. Which were duel seat night fighters. By the time these aircraft were adopted in 1947. This fast fighter-bomber was being replaced by Jet aircraft on the flight decks of US Navy aircraft carriers. The only combat these planes saw was in Korea were in the initial days of the conflict flying with VMF(N)-513 and VMF(N)-542 as either night time hecklers or as the B-29's switched from daylight bombing raids over Korea to night time bombing to protect them from the MiG-15's in China. The F7F-3N's flew as escort for the B-29's till it was realized the F7F couldn't compete real well with the MiG's.

        A few of these aircraft were used in the 60's and 70's as fire bombers before finally being retired in the late-70's. There are only 6 flying versions out there right now making the air show circuit or the air race circuit.

        Overall this was an aircraft that could of had serious potential and could have been on the flight deck of American carriers right near the end of the war if Grumman Aircraft company had taken the risk and shifted F6F production to another company like they did with a couple of their other planes. Then the F7F might of been above the invasion fleet of Okinawa with F6F's keeping the Japanese at bay. This is one like a few other aircraft that were lost to the end of World War 2 and the introduction of the Jet age. What might have been had it come a little earlier to the fleet and world is only left up to our imagination and a good debate over beers.

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        Car salesman or Jewelers?

        Time yet again kiddies for another of Southern Air Pirates sea stories. Hold on to your Pirate hats and remember to scream what you want for birthdays and Christmas to your parents during the commercial breaks.

        So it came to be on my first fleet cruise after seeing most of Southern Europe in the summer time and before the world turned up sided down. My ship USS Oldboat sailed through the Suez Canal (aka as the ditch) went around the horn of Africa and the Saudi Peninsula and found its self near the end of that summer in the Persian Gulf doing our best to enforce the Southern No fly zone. The ship we were supposed to relieve USS Olderboat didn't leave station because one of her airplanes was shot at while in international air space by an Iraqi Surface to Air missile battery. The talk start to come up about dropping some bombs and basically conducting a live fire exercises on a few of the Iraqi Army positions outside of the no-fly zones as a way to say the UN meant business. Long story short a few more aggressive patrols and the use of a few inert training bombs on the fixed sites and the bluster past. Port Visit time, time to hit the Sandbox in Jebel Ali.

        Those of you that are in or were in the Navy and have cruised post-Desert Storm then you know the Sandbox. For those of you that haven't been there let me tell you what it is the absolute joy and jewel of the UAE. What the Sandbox is an attempt to provided a safe area away from the native population for a ship to release her crew to be fat, stupid, westerners (the time I was there a UK ship pulled in at the same time). Drinking, shopping, sports, a place to wash your clothes, and to re-sample American food.

        This is officially called The Oasis-Jebel Ali MWR. They offer on something akin to 3 football fields of fenced in compound: a AT&T calling center with a free 15min call anywhere in the world; a laundry center; a center with Internet computers, movies on a projection TV (and yes some are cruise videos), gameboxes to play video games to your hearts content; then around the fence line of the compound are trailers with stores in them hawking everything from the latest electronic gizmo to Persian rugs to stuff from Hard Rock Dubai; a car dealership where you can order an American car that can be delivered to your hometown or near your hometown as discounted rates; other trailers with food like Popeye's chicken, Fuddruckers, Uno's Pizza, Burger King, 31 Flavors, and even a Starbucks. About half a mile away is the taxi stand where you can hope in to a UAE taxi and then head into town.

        Heading into town is an adventure, I remember doing this with a buddy of mine name Steve. Our plan was to visit the Gold Suk in town and then head over to the mall and do some shopping there. We took the cab into town and found paid out something close to 35 dollars for this cabbie to take us from middle of boonievile into civilization. The ride was interesting because there was miles and miles of desert pock marked here and there with either a refinery or some outdoors storage facility for cars or cargo containers. We go into town and headed right for the Gold Suk.

        The Gold Suk is a place where all the gold dealers and jewelers in the city hawk their jewelry or plates. From what we had heard from old hands to the area is that you can get some killer deals on 18K or 24K gold that is pretty pure. The only thing that might not be up to stuff is the workmanship, but when you are paying about 100-150 dollars for a nice 24k gold chain well you can over look the manufacturing marks. Both of us at the time were dating some wonderful girls and we wanted to get them a nice chain, pendant, some piece of jewelery. I don't know, we had heard a rumor that girls love that stuff, we weren't completely sure. Anyhow we walk into this place and it hits us right off the bat. That this is going to be interesting. It was like watching those live Wall Street market shots on a cable news network. People are talking in raised voices and mainly arguing about prices.
        We had learned from the pre-brief that haggling with a seller, outside of a name brand store, was typical in the Mid-east. It was actually considered part of the tradition and showing bad manners to not argue about the price at least once during the transaction. So, Steve and I set it up that we would pull a good cop/bad cop routine with these jokers. The first thing we did was walk around and observe everything going on in this place. This was set up like a farmer's market in any typical town with little kiosks set up and all sorts of gold laying out on clothes and pillows. Also walking conspiciously around are the local police and federals. The local feds looked kind of scary walking around with a sub-machine gun strapped to their back and almost Dirty Harry look on their faces. Nearly all of them in their walk, demeanor, and posture seem to say "Go ahead Make my day!"
        After scouting out a couple of the kiosk that we like. Steve and I walked back to a corner and mashed heads together. We agreed to haggle on a price of no more then 100 for a simple chain and no more then 125 on any chain with some sort of pendant/locket on it. I had found at a kiosk some pretty large gold braid chains with hearts on them. So as Steve and I walked up to this guy it started.
        "Hey Joe you buy gold for girlfriend"
        "No, we are just looking"
        "Southern this chain would look nice on Shannon"
        "Steve I don't know..."
        "Yes, yes these are very good gold, pure 18k only 115 Dirhams"
        "Yea but the guy," and I swung my arm out one way down the row of kiosks, "down that way was selling a better looking chain with 24k for only 100 Dirhams"
        The conversion at the time was about 1.50 Dollars to a Dirham. So we were talking at something around 170 dollars to start with
        "No, No, they are lying cheating bastard sons of camels. I will give this chain and another locket on it for 100 Dirhams."
        "Southern that is a sweet deal. Look at a few of these chains."
        "Steve, I really don't know I mean what about that guy near the entrance. He had offered us both 2 chains with 3 pendants for 80 Dirhams."
        "Southern you are just trying to cheat Abdul here now."
        "Okay, okay I will give you 2 chains with two of my pendants that are inlaid with some Rubies for 90"
        " Steve lets go that still doesn't sound like a plan. We should look some more."
        As we walked away. The owner of this kiosk laughed hard and said. "Fine, fine my friends 2 chains, 2 pendants for no more then 60 dirhams"
        At which we both needled each other pretend to argue some more and I finally paid up. The end of the deal I got to nice chains with a heart pendant that had a small ruby inlaid in the center for about 65 dollars US. All of it showed some real shoddy workmanship. There where some hammering marks on everything and where the ruby fit showed that it would be loose.
        So we walked over to where Steve had found some stuff, did a role reversal and went through the same process. Long story short there he got a 3 plain chains for little over 50 dollars.
        At the end of cruise since we both went to a jeweler in Norfolk and asked him to remake them into something better. I paid an additional 40 dollars for him to remelt everything and re form it better and get the rubies to fit tighter. The jeweler we went to told us that the stuff we had was 24k gold that was about 85% pure and if made or import here in the states would have been about 200 dollars if he or a name brand jewelry store made them. So at the end even though we both save about 10 dollars it was still worth it. Because the girlfriend at the time loved the gift and my mother loved her Christmas present. So I guess women do love jewelry, you learn new things every day.
        So ends our sea story. Stay tuned next time, same Southern Channel for another exciting adventure of Southern Air Pirate and his band of wacky sailors.

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        14 February 2007

        Cruise movies

        I just happen to see the trailer for the movie "Reno 911" while getting ready for work this afternoon. Yes, dear readers your poor scribe has been moved to the midnight check. This is the first time that I saw it and probably won't be the last until the movie actually breaks. What is really bad that at work today I mentioned it and nearly all of us came to the conclusion that it was probably going to be on the top 5 movies to be shown constantly while we are going to be on cruise. This is a phenom unknown Hollywood, but know to nearly everyone in the military. That is the cruise/deployment movie. The basic rule as most of my friends and co-workers seem to notice is this about a cruise movie: It has to be stupid, have no or minimal plot, some form of gratuitous boob shot, and typically have some sort of screwball plan to wrap it all up in the end.

        The cruise video always seems to rear its ugly head the further out and away from civilization we get. It seems that the longer we spend out to see with out seeing land really bad movies or really cheesy movies always seem to pop-up more and more on the Ship's internal TV channel services. I don't know if someone just hates the crew and wants to suppress moral even more or in some sort of Jerry Lewis misguided attempt to raise moral put something completely dumb on hoping that we won't realize that we are surround by miles of water, 4999 other people, and gray.

        Just thinking about this had me go through nearly all of my cruise movie moments and think of them that were shown while I have been underway for everything such as a short time 1 month exercise det, to the long haul 6 monther. This list is in no way complete or comprehensive, but should give you a good overview of the Moral Suppression Team in action.

        Cruise movies:

        There are others I know, but I have successfully pushed them deep into the recess of my mind hoping never again being forced to glimpse them or try and remember their titles.

        I will say this there are also a series of films that are nearly constantly shown while underway as well that although meet the requirements above some how rise above the pack and are half-way decent that others will fight to turn the TV over to that movie. Such as: Blazing Saddles, Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, Delta Force, Revenge of the Nerds.
        These are movies that help past the time and forget about how bad the food was, or that the doc had prescribed Vitamin M and Water for my broke leg, and the Dear John letter (or email) I got that day.

        Well I hope that this next cruise I will do that I am not forced to watch a few of the movies on my list. I know the truth though and can't wait to find something else to do on my down time.

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        12 February 2007

        I hate Valentines day.

        One is truly the loneliest number. Being alone truly sucks and trying to be in the dating scene is incredible hard. I am sure that plenty of people can relate. However, let me just add that do it in the military and while living in a military town. That just adds exponentially to the equation. As that most stupid and silly of holidays called Valentines comes upon us, I am only reminded of how much I hate dating. How much I am hating the idea that to be happy at my age I should be married with a house, dog, and 1.5 kids.
        I have tried to do the typical things to meet that someone special. Joined clubs and organizations that go along with my hobbies. Gone on a few blind dates set up by friends of mine. I have re-entered college life as well at my local community college. I have even gotten so desperate to try and expand my search of some one to pay some of my hard earn cash to a local dating service/match maker. All of these have been colossal failures, I have meet all sorts of interesting women. If I was a better writer, well they could make some interesting characters for a book. I have also meet my share of strange, weird, and downright scary women out there as well. Yes people, even men can meet weird and wacko women that thrown them for a loop.
        Just to give you some examples from my most recent adventures in the dating scene.

        Meeting someone new in the neighborhood- I live in an apartment complex. I came home to my building and found a moving van parked out front. After dodging a mattress and almost being flatten like some really bad cliche by a mover losing his grip on a piano as they pushed it up the stairs to the front door; I was able to get inside and walked up to my apartment door. Next to me was a very beautiful brunette. She had a face that was very round and looked very much like Mary Anne off Gilligan's Island. The biggest thing that I noticed though was she had a pair of very cute gray eyes that just seemed to twinkle when she spoke. After tripping over myself as per my typical shy self, we introduced ourselves. I then proceeded to head inside to my apartment and wash the dirt from work off of me. A few days later she comes to my apartment and asks if I want to catch a movie. Not having any plans I say sure. We went to dinner, shopping, or the movies for the next couple of months until I started to get ready for my deployment to Japan. I went as part of a maintenance det to California where my planes were going to get some missile shots in. This is where the little relationship started to go south. The entire time I was down in California, I had a message a day or a message an hour from her asking what I was doing and why I wasn't talking to her. Even if I had just hung up about 8hrs prior to talking to her, she would still call. My spidey-sense started to go off about how this was shaping up to be a bad scene. Long story short, came home and broke it off. I don't mess around when I am in a relationship, period. My parents taught me to be better, but I also don't like it that I need to report myself like a parolee to a Probation officer when I am in a relationship with someone. If a woman can't trust me then can I trust her?

        Blind Date- Let me put it this way if you have ever heard the song my Sam Cooke called "Another Saturday Night" and listen to him explain being setup by a friend. Well then you will know what I went through the one time I was setup by a friend at work.

        Dating Service/Match Maker- After deciding on a whim to fork over $100 to a local dating service to set up a profile and what I was looking for. They promised a match for life. I meet a couple of wonderful women initially, but the minute that I mentioned I was in the military well the letters or phone calls stopped. The only one that seem to go far was being set up with a nice woman that was a couple of years younger then me. She lived about an hour away from me. We seem to either send each other an email once a day or phone each other just before getting off from work. It was nice and I was actually happy for a while. We talked about various things from rough days at work to just bad movies on TV. I finally decided after about a week of this to make the final move and go on an actual date. Wait around at the little coffee shop we agreed on till I finally got up, paid my bill and walked out. A phone call later on told me that I was being played with by this girl. When I called, the phone was answered by a man who claimed to be the boyfriend of this girl. Got the verbal threat from him and then hung up. The only time it seemed to be working well I was just cannon fodder for the jelous boyfriend to prove how much he loved her. Ha! Been there, done that, got the physical scars. Not again.

        The only thing that I can say about going back to college and belonging to various clubs is that I am getting that much closer to getting my degree and I have found my rifle and pistol range scores have improved. Also I have gotten pretty good with my woodworking to make something beyond little toys.

        Either I am incredible unlucky in love or I have my standards too high. Anyhow, I am at a pretty good level of just absolute hate with all popular media around me right now because all I see on TV, hear on the radio, or read in the newspapers is how I should be in love and spending hard earned cash on diamonds, gold, flowers, and dinner for a significant other. What if you don't have a SO? I think there should be a holiday for the lonely, broken hearted, divorced, dumped and otherwise love-abused people out there. One where you celebrate being alone, the special dinner rates are for those that saddle themselves up against the bar counter all by themselves. You know one that celebrates us lonely people that start to hate those silly little love songs on the radio.

        In case you missed what I have been trying to say here it is in the abridged section:
        I HATE VALENTINES DAY and think that LOVE STINKS.

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        11 February 2007

        25th Anniversary of GI Joe

        As a kid I was a GI Joe fan. I don't know completely where it came from but I remember getting some of the figures way back in the when the "new" GI Joe premiered in 1982. From then on till I grew out of them in junior high school, I had a pretty good size collection of figures, vehicles, and play sets. I use to watch the cartoon on Saturday mornings and then before going to school on weekdays. I wasn't full into it like a few kids I knew, simply because we moved a couple of times and my folks usually tried to keep the shipping weight down. A ton of action figures can really put on the pounds, plus the books, puzzles, bedsheets, etc.
        I always wanted to be a member of GI Joe team when I was a kid. I mean who as a young boy and was given a few of the GI Joes didn't want to become a member. I think when I was thrown outside with the rest of my friends we use to go to the park and pretend to be our own members of the team fighting Cobra the terrorist. Gave us something to do on a weekend or after school. That or someone brought a few of thier joes/cobras over to anothers house for the battle royale for the week.
        It was fun and I didn't really give up playing with my GI Joe toys until I hit middle school. By then the cartoon was off the air, except for re-runs before school and the toys started to take on all sort of funky day-glo shades with all sorts of sounds and actual firing missiles. Still though it is amazing that the 3/4 inch tall GI Joe has been for sale on toy store shelves for 25yrs. I just wonder what the future will bring for the GI Joe team.

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        02 February 2007

        Go or No go?

        So I got an interesting phone call today from my parents today. It seems as though my high school class is organizing its 10yrs reunion. The problem it seems as though that plenty of poeple want to go to it. Yet, no one wants to do the hard stuff such as the planning, organizing, data collection, etc on getting everyone together. This is kind of disappointing to see that everyone in my high school class wants to party hard , but no one wants to be the host. The phone call that was being routed to me was if I wanted to be the guy in large and in charge. I have been arguing with myself about this for all day and am not completely sure if I want to do this. I am currently about 8hrs away from the town that I went to high school from so if I do this then I would have to give up portions of my weekend to talk to people and do the arranging. I want to see some of the people I went to school with, but I am not completely sure if I could handle running a workcenter, my personnal life, and then try to arrange a reunion for my high school class all the while being ready to redeploy. So the question I keep asking myself is "Go or no Go?"