Voices of Angels

An absolutely beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace by BYU’s A Capella group. Enjoy.

Wednesday Open Thread 

As seen on Drudge a couple of days ago.

From The Trailer Park - Sully [BUMPED]

EP’s NOTE: I know I’m supposed to keep my mouth shut about the Warner screenings I’m fortunate enough to attend, but after a co-worker snidely joked the police in the movie weren’t shown as the bad guys for once, instead of punching him, I feel the need to shout from the rooftops (or 5th floor as it is) the moments in the movie watching the NYPD (and its SCUBA cops), FDNY, and Coast Guard mobilize into action were exactly what I needed after the cold cynicism and Bush-bashing in War Dogs.

Kudos to Clint Eastwood for making Sully such an engaging movie from subject matter we all know (or possibly think we know), as well as Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney and the rest of the cast for bringing their characters to life! Barely over 90 minutes, and worth every second!

The story of “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who became an American hero in 2009 after he glided his malfunctioning plane onto the Hudson River, saving everyone on board.

Directed by Clint Eastwood. Stars Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, and Aaron Eckhart.

This Afternoon’s Broadcast is brought to you by…

Seals and Crofts.


Every now and again I think about the things that I once did, and become rather depressed at how the powers that be pissed all our sacrifices away. If you ever wondered what a day in Iraq for an Attack Helicopter pilot was like take a gander at this…

COP Cavalier, 23 August, 2007
“Holy Shite!”

It was a typical hot summer afternoon when our Attack Weapons Team (AWT), callsign Crazyhorse 18&19 took off from Camp Taji to begin our assigned mission. We were conducting Counter Mortar, Rocket Recon and Interdiction (CM2RI) just to the west of Taji along one of the Main Supply Route (MSR) where there had been some incidents of Anti Iraqi Forces (AIF) activity recently, looking for signs of digging, where the road had been melted or other shenanigans. I was in CZ19 with the newly promoted CPT Griggs as my Co-Pilot Gunner (CPG). CZ18 was being flown by CW4 Bill Ham and CPG, CPT Mike Hutson. We had barely established ourselves on station, when I heard Bill on team internal say, “Holy shite!” Looking back to the east I could see exactly what he was talking about, a dark boiling mushroom cloud from an explosion of some kind was rising rapidly into the afternoon sky. We would soon find out that this was the result of a Vehicle Borne Improved Explosive Device (VBIED) detonation at Combat Outpost (COP) Cavalier.
Without saying another word, Bill turned and accelerated, flying directly toward the site of the explosion. While lead attempted to make contact with the ground unit (2-8 CAV) that had control of this area and whose soldiers were at COP Cavalier, I had CPT Griggs contact the Battle Captain at Attack Mike and tell them the situation.

It was a short distance to the site of the explosion and as we got closer we could easily see that the explosion had occurred just outside of COP Cavalier. We were in the process of setting up an orbit, to establish security, when there was a second detonation. I felt it as much as saw it. I could literally feel the heat from the blast through the canopy and we watched an orange fireball, truck parts and other debris fly through the air well exceeding the altitude of our aircraft, as another VBID detonated at the northern security point to the small combat outpost. It was 1943 HRS local.

It was immediately obvious to all of us that they were going to try and overrun the COP.

There was a flurry of radio calls on the 2-8 CAV frequency as people attempted to assess the situation at the COP. I asked CPT Griggs to call Attack Mike and tell them to get in touch with 2nd Batt and tell them they were going to have MEDEVAC business, shortly and that we’d call back with specific information when we got it. As we assumed a protective orbit around the COP I spotted the blackened smoking wreckage of what used to be an Iraqi Army BMP at the north gate.

Within minutes of the explosion, as we circle around, I see rounds exploding just outside the perimeter of the COP. I call this to the flight over internal and initially I misidentify the rounds as incoming. Almost immediately we figured out it was in fact out-going. The rounds were actually from an M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle; he was directing his 25mm cannon fire down a path that led from a village toward the COP.

The COP is taking fire from the little village named Hor Al Bash on the other side of the road to the west side of the outpost. They request that we direct our fires to suppress the incoming rounds. Annihilator 6 (the ground commander) reports that they are taking heavy fire from the west and southwest of the COP. The enemy is well concealed, as we circle desperately trying to find the source of the fires. In the meantime, we request permission to place fires in an empty field just outside the village in an attempt to suppress by intimidation. Our request was granted and we placed 40 rounds of 30mm in a field to try and get the bad guy’s attention. During the entire process we continued the futile effort to actually spot the AIF firing at the COP. Evidently they went to ground, their plan foiled as the firing at the COP eventually ceased or at least became sporadic.

At 2003 we get a report from Annihilator that there are 10 individuals requiring medical evacuation (4 Urgent, 4 Surgical Urgent and 2 Priority) we relay this information back to Attack Mike and request that they relay the info to the MEDEVAC guys (callsign: BANDAGE) down the hall in the TOC.

About 10 minutes later we get a call from Attack Mike telling us they have information about a possible enemy air ambush in the vicinity of the COP, I pass that info off to flight lead, wondering what good that did us. The reality was, unless you can give me specifics, that warning didn’t do much good. Besides, I always assumed somebody was out there trying to shoot us down. A few minutes later we called Attack Mike and let them know we were switching to the MEDEVAC freq for the duration of that particular operation.
Soon after that Annihilator lets us know where the LZ for the MEDEVAC will be and we set up security and got ready to give Bandage a Cherry/Ice call. I ask CPT Griggs the rhetorical question, “Where the hell is the MEDEVAC?” mainly to vent my frustration because he has no more of a clue about the answer than I do. This COP was maybe 5 minutes flying time from the ramp of Camp Taji to wheels down, here. We called them almost as soon as the bomb(s) went off and now it’s nearly 30 minutes later, where are they? I come to find out later, that they can’t launch on my word, alone. The request has to go up through the MEDEVAC request chain and then back down to the unit. There will be no jumping of the chain. If I had known that, it wouldn’t have made things any better. Time drug on and it seemed like this was taking forever.
So we circle, wait and look for the ambush we’ve been warned about. We change patterns and try to avoid circling in one area too long. Occasionally, we push out to the west (the most likely avenue of approach for someone wishing to do us harm) looking for any incoming traffic. I listen to Taji Tower on the VHF and eventually hear Bandage call to taxi. At about 2030, the last UH-60 lifted off from the LZ, with the wounded enroute to the CASH. It had only taken 45 minutes from the time we called the first explosion into our TOC, but it seemed like it had taken a lot longer. This was the second time I had been in a flight that called for MEDEVAC within sight of the ramp at Taji and had it take, what I felt was an inordinate amount of time to get the job done. I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a better way.
While the MEDEVAC operation was occurring, several ground convoys converged on the COP, to reinforce Annihilator and to posture for follow-on operations. We continued to provide security in the vicinity of the COP until we did a battle handover with CZ 16/17 at 2051 LCL, so we could hit the FARP and get some gas at Taji.

We get to the FARP, quickly and once we’re down and have an engine pulled back, I’m able to loosen the seat belts, get some circulation going back in my butt and take a drink of Gatorade from the bottle I had brought with me in the cockpit. While we sit on the refuel pad I watch the last orange go from the sky to the west. It’s full on dark, now. While I’m waiting for the aircraft to get its gas, out of boredom, I bring up an image file on the aircraft’s Tactical Situation Display (TSD) of a Playboy Playmate just to have one thing of beauty in this nasty place. After a few minutes contemplating the visage of Miss August 2004, Pilar Lastra, the depressing thought crossed my mind that I didn’t have a relationship with anyone, much less know anyone who looked like her and probably wouldn’t, at least as long as I kept doing this business of deploying for a year to fifteen months, re-deploy only to train up to go again infinitum. I didn’t need those particular thoughts floating around in my head, right then, so I decided to put Pilar back in her image folder and look at all the pretty colors on the aircraft fuel page instead.

The fueling is going really slow tonight. In fact, I think I could have sucked fuel into the aircraft with a straw faster than it was flowing through the hose from the fuel truck. In the meantime, I start re-optimizing my FILR to get the best picture I can. I manage, in 5 minutes of playing with the contrast and gain knobs, not the screw the picture up any more than it already is. Finally, the tanks are full and I give the POL guy the cut sign. I tell the pad chief thanks as he unplugs his headset from the wing and we wait for them to get clear before we pull in the required power to ensure that everything is functioning correctly in a process called a “bubble burn.” We hurried to get up to REDCON 1 because, personally, I don’t want to be the guy holding up the flight. As we finished the before takeoff checks, I turned on my landing light and called lead over internal saying “One nine is RED 1” signaling that we were ready to go. A few seconds later Bill replies with “Calling tower.”

“Taji Tower, Crazyhorse one eight flight of two at the FARP request departure Tango Delta”

“Crazyhorse, Charlie and Delta are closed”

“Roger tower, we are players.” Apparently in the 10 minutes we were in the FARP they forgot we were just out there.

“Crazyhorse one eight FARP is not observable from the tower, winds three six zero at six, takeoff is at pilot’s own risk, call established Delta.”

“Tower, one eight is on the go.”

Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, Bill’s aircraft began to lift off the ground and accelerate toward the Hesco barrier wall about 100 feet away. The first time in that FARP, it was kind of unnerving to blast off and head straight toward a wall in a heavy helicopter trusting that the laws of aerodynamics would kick in and you would be able to climb over it…but it always seemed to work out. As Bill cleared the wall I lifted off. We were still eating some of his rotor wash and until we got into clean air the aircraft didn’t really want to climb too much. As Bill turned west to head back to the COP I extended a bit to the north and, upon reaching cleaner air, turned west and climbed to get above lead in our standard formation. We climbed out, heading for the fence. Being on the north side of lead, I was looking for the Taji JLENS observation balloon, which was in the northeast corner of the camp. We’re clear of the balloon and as we approach the perimeter to Camp Taji I start cleaning up the aircraft for combat: Landing light off, anti-collision lights off, CMWS and weapons armed and CPT Griggs starts the videotape. “One nine, fence check complete, we’re saddled” I call as we cross the wire. Since we were so close to the COP CPT Griggs completed the battle handover while we were on the ground in the FARP and as soon as 16 and 17 saw us take off they started moving away to the south, allowing us to re-take the fight, while they headed back to Taji, looking forward to landing and calling it a day.

Since we are now back on station I have responsibility for the flight following calls with tower. “Tower, Crazyhorse one eight, one nine established Delta at one and one point five. I’ll call you next three zero or departure.” Meanwhile CPT Griggs calls Attack Mike and tells them that we are off the FARP and back on station with Annihilator. Up in the lead, they call the ground unit to get any updates and let them know we are back on station, updating our “playtime” and weapons status.

Shortly after arriving back on station Stallion 3A (The 2-8 CAV Assistant Operations Officer) tells us that they are preparing a plan for a hasty air assault operation. Using signals intelligence, they have located the position of the individuals behind the VBIED attack and they intend to take them down tonight. Additionally, he tells us that they have also intercepted conversations about trying to shoot down a helicopter. This is nice to know data, to be sure, but once again no other information that we can use to prevent or avoid the attack. More than anything else it causes me to wonder what they expect us to do with that information. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m always looking for signs that someone is preparing to shoot me down. It’s now around 2100 HRS.

Around 2200 we were given a Warning Order for the Air Assault and given the coordinates for the LZ. The ground unit call sign would be ROCK 6. The LZ was located a few kilometers north of COP Cavalier, near a small cluster of buildings, where the target was located and H Hour was to be around 2300 HRS.

For the next hour we moved between the COP location and the area around the planned LZ. We were able to gain observation and, hopefully, avoid making anyone, there, aware that something was about to occur. We generally tried to remain downwind from the target and avoided hard maneuvering which causes the rotor blades to make a growling noise, that can be heard at a greater distance than the noise generated by straight and level flight. Darkness is our friend and we take full advantage of it, using our FLIR to observe and report any activity on or near the planned landing zone and target. As the time of the Cherry/Ice call approaches, we climb up and stack, allowing the UH-60s to go underneath us as we observe the target area. At 2315 with not a living thing moving on the ground, we make the call “ICE” and the Hawks deposit the troops on the LZ and depart back to Taji. We remain on station, making contact with ROCK 6 as they maneuver to the target.

Everything goes smoothly as ROCK 6 hits the objective. We are now in an orbit around the target looking for “squirters”. By the time we did a BHO with CZ 20/21 at 2355, ROCK6 was still working the objective, so we never found out if they got a “jackpot”. Once the BHO was complete I called the TOC and let them know we were inbound to Taji, mission complete. Of course it couldn’t be that easy. They had one more thing for us to do.

I don’t know how they came by this information, but we were told by Attack Mike to go check out a possible Infrared (IR) strobe light located in Zone 110, west of Taji. “Sweet” I thought to myself. They keep warning us about intercepted transmissions and people wanting to shoot us down and now they want us to go check out a reported “IR strobe” in an area of known enemy activity…this just didn’t seem right. I thought about asking the TOC if they were sure about this, but elected not to.

The location of the “suspected IR strobe” was near what we called “The Grand Canal.” So off we went in pursuit of the phantom IR Strobe people. We flew south and picked up the MSR that ran east/west on the north side of the canal and flew out towards the grid coordinate. Sure enough, when we arrived near the area and looked through NVGs there was, in fact, an IR strobe going. We kept our distance and looked at that grid and the area around it with our FILR. There were no dismounts or movement of any kind in the area. It could have easily been dropped by a solider on a patrol; it also could have been a lure to get us into an ambush. We knew there weren’t any friendlies in the area currently so after not seeing any other activity in the area we decided to call it a day. We started back toward Taji and gave them the negative spot report in a manner as to discourage them having us do anything else.

“Attack Mike, Crazyhorse 19 confirms there is an IR Strobe at the grid, negative activity at that site, we are RTB (Return to Base) at this time.”

Thankfully, they didn’t ask us to do anything else. I think they may have realized that we were just about at the flight time limit for a combination day/night system mission (without getting an extension from the commander) so they left us alone. You always kind of held your breath when you announced to the TOC over the radio that you were RTB, because far too often they found just one more thing for you to do.

We touched down back at Taji and rolled into parking without any trouble. I already had the APU running as we pulled into our revetment, so as soon as we set the brakes I pulled the power levers to idle. We went through the shutdown checks and after a two-minute cool-down, killed the engines. Seconds later I shut down the APU and a quiet settles in over the flight line. 5.8 hours after we left we are back in the same spot.

The crew chief is there, waiting on us to get out of his aircraft. I hand down my helmet, pubs bag and rifle and he sets them next to my helmet bag that he’s pulled out of the survival kit bay. I thank him as I climb out and he hands me the cover for the infrared jammer, which I put in its rightful spot, to protect the mechanism from possible flying debris.

Doing the post flight inspection, I open the engine cowling and give the #2 engine a close look using my Surefire flashlight/hand-warmer/battery destroyer. The engine is still popping and crackling as it cooled down after the flight. Everything looks OK with the engine, itself. Nothing is leaking and the fluid levels are where they are supposed to be. Looking over the rest of the aircraft, I’m pleased to see that there aren’t any holes that aren’t supposed to be there. After CPT Griggs and I finish the post flight, we put our flight gear in the shed and head back to the company CP, to fill out the aircraft logbook. On the walk back we linked up with Bill and CPT Hutson and compared notes. We inform CPT Hutson that he has drawn the imaginary short straw, so he gets to fill out the debrief paperwork over at the TOC. After making sure CPT Griggs has all my info to fill out the logbook, I left with CPT Hutson for the TOC, as I still had to do the Airspace Control Order and ARTY Restricted Operating Zone sheets for tomorrow.

When we get to the TOC, we turn in the PCMICAs and give our videotapes over to the S2. They know about the VBIED and are anxious to download the video for a briefing or some product the S3 or Commander has dreamed up.

Somebody had thoughtfully gone to the DFAC and gotten us some sandwiches, which are sitting on the briefing table next to the computer. I grab one and realize just how hungry I am, as this tastes like the greatest sandwich in the history of the world…even though in the back of my mind I know it doesn’t even approach the quality of a day old sandwich from Jimmy Johns. After all it IS the thought that counts, that and I’m starving. The folks that worked in the TOC always took care of us, in that regard, and we never really thanked them enough for doing things like that.

As CPT Hutson got to work on the debrief paperwork, I excused myself to go to the back and work on my daily TACOPS tasks. Hopefully, tonight there wouldn’t be any classified info compromises like maps flying out of cockpits that would add to my workload.

On the way to the back of the building, I ran into CW3 Dana Dreeke who was a UH-60 pilot and the 2nd Batt TACOPS Officer. In one of those weird coincidences that always seem to occur in the Army if you stay in long enough, Dana had been my crewchief when I flew UH-1H’s in the 6th Cavalry Brigade back in the 90’s. We talked for a few minutes and exchanged some non-professional opinions about the way things were being run around “this place”. It was sort of comforting to find out that your unit wasn’t the only one facing “challenges”.

Matt Silverman, from 4th Batt was still hanging around at his desk, which had now “magically” moved its way into what, at first, was my part of the room. One day, 4th Batt had decided to build an office in the back of the shared attack plans area for their mission video editing crew. This left no room for Matt, their TACOPS officer, so he moved into “my” area. If someone had let me know this was about to happen I might not have been so upset about it, but it just happened. One day I came into work and saw all of Matt’s stuff piled onto a desk in what was previously considered my space.

I said hello to Matt and engaged in some small talk, grabbed some cheese peanut butter crackers from my goody box, a Dr Pepper from the fridge and sat down behind the computer on my dusty desk and went to work on the flight planning products I was responsible to produce daily. By the time they were printed and posted to their correct places I got out of there around 0130 or so.

The walk back to my trailer wasn’t too bad, as I didn’t have any interaction with CSMs jumping up out of the shadows to challenge me about the kind of eyewear I may or may not have. The thought momentarily crossed my mind that if we hadn’t been extended in-country by The Surge that would have probably been one of my last flights in-country, as we would have been wrapping up our tour just about now. But, it ended up being just one more day done and a bunch more to go.

Tuesday Open Thread


Monday Night Mashup - Rogue One feat. Beastie Boys

Someone cut a new trailer for Star Wars: Rogue One (using footage of the previous trailers) and added a Beastie Boys song – you can probably guess which one – on the soundtrack. The results are pretty kickass, and make me want to see the movie even more.

Obama's Disaster

Ramirez sums up the Presidential priorities perfectly:


Stay classy, POTUS. Next January can’t get here fast enough.

Lone Star Olympics

Four of the many Texan athletes competing in this year’s summer Olympics.

There’s been some talk over the past few years about the idea of Texas seceding from the rest of the country and forming their own nation. I suspect such talk is mostly theoretical and not intended to be taken seriously, although eight years of Obama and the prospect of a Hillary presidency are making it seem like a better and better idea everyday. Nevertheless, the Houston Chronicle asks an interesting question: if Texas had competed in this summer’s Rio Olympics as its own independent country, how would it have ranked? Pretty damn good, actually:

[Texas] would rank eighth in the 2016 Olympics medal count with 42 total medals.

That means the Lone Star State by itself has more medals than all of Canada (22). Countries like Australia (29), Italy (28) and Spain (17) don’t want to get into any kind of medal-counting contest with Texas, either.

If you only focused on gold medals – the best of the best – then things look even better for Texas.

The 26 gold medals from athletes with Texas ties, without taking in consideration medals from other states, would rank third, only behind the United States (46) and Great Britain (27).

Of course, if we took away all the United States’ medals that were won by Texans, then Texas would pass the U.S. as well.

To summarize: if Texas was a country, it would rank eighth in the world in Olympic medals, and second in Gold medals. (Of course, the media would completely ignore that story, unless the athletes all put on hijabs and constantly talked about how much they hated their own country, but I digress.)

This is another reflection of Texas’ status as probably the most successful (and certainly the most underrated) state in the union. If you ask any liberal coastal elite, they’ll tell you that Texas, like the rest of Red State America, is a backward failure of a state that doesn’t spend enough money on education or culture (and will probably quote some ridiculously biased book like “The World is Flat” or “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” to make their point). When in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Texas is an unprecedented economic powerhouse that regularly accounts for a staggering 35-50% of the new jobs created in the U.S. every year. Add to that the high number of athletes, Hollywood celebrities, and politicians who hail from Texas, and it’s hard not to conclude that the state’s contributions to the national and international stages have been stunning, particularly given that we’re talking about just 1 state out of 50. (You might argue that Texas is a very large and populous state, but so is far-left California, and how has their economy and infrastructure been looking lately?) If liberals had any real intellectual curiosity, they would be more interested in figuring out what makes the state so successful and how the other 49 could emulate that, rather than smugly looking down their nose at it. Speaking as a lifelong west-coaster, we could use a lot more of what Texas has got over here.

This Afternoon’s Broadcast is brought to you by…

The Ataris.