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Showing posts from May, 2017

Memorial Day for an Old Soldier

World War I veteran. I'm not THAT old!
This year I am completely out of the Army after all the ambiguous years in which I was over the usual age limit. Now I have been out for a full year and my uniform is just for ceremonies, like honoring the dead.

Since my 18 years of service occurred over a 44-year period, I know a lot of soldiers who have died. I grew up in a neighborhood in which most of the men were World War II veterans, including my father.  I enlisted during the Vietnam War so I served with Korean War veterans who senior sergeants and officers in the 1970s Army.

Many of the senior sergeants and officers I served with after the Vietnam War and during the Cold War in the 70s and 80s have passed away. Most died after retirement. The 70s Army was not as obsessed with safety as the current Army, but that means I can recall a three soldiers I knew who died in training exercises in Europe.

From my Iraq War service, the soldiers I know personally who have died have taken their …

Riding in China: Sprinting Away from a Snake

In July 1999 I made my first trip to China. It was a direct trip to Beijing and back. Between April 1998 and July 2001 I went overseas every month for a job I had as communications manager for a global maker of white pigment named Millennium Chemicals, Inc.

I had a day to myself at the end of the week, so I got a cab ride to a place 30 miles from the Great Wall and rode the rest of the way through the hills north of Beijing on Trek steel road bike.  As I approached the Great Wall, I was on a shaded road that had leaves lying on it--a road not used very often.  Even though there was no traffic, I rode on the right side of the road about a foot from the undergrowth along the tree-lined pavement.

Suddenly, I heard a metallic BANG! and my front wheel jerked left--not enough to flip me, but scary.  I looked down and saw a snake struck my wheel. I saw its body was whipping in the moment I glanced down. Then I looked up and sprinted to the middle of the road. I hammered the pedals for anot…

Field Guide to Flying Death: A Gun Wrapped with an Airplane

A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog" in flight.

The slowest and most nearly perfect aircraft flown by the U.S. Air Force is the A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog" ground support fighter plane.  This amazing aircraft entered active service during my first Army enlistment in the 1970s and remains in service now--the most beloved of USAF planes by ground troops taking enemy fire.

Most fighter aircraft are designed first to fight other aircraft in air-to-air combat, but they also can support ground troops.  Anyone who has used a carving knife to serve butter, or a butter knife to carve a roast knows that specialized tools work the best.

The Warthog was designed for ground support. Nothing else. It's huge turbofan engines allow it to take off with more than 10 tons of rockets and missiles plus 1,200 rounds of cannon ammo for its legendary gun, but the Warthog has a top speed under 400mph and cruises not a lot faster than a World War II bomber.

The GAU-8/A 30mm Gatling Gun 
Th…

Field Guide to Flying Death: Rockets and Missiles on the Apache Helicopter

Apache Longbow Helicopter 38 rockets and eight Hellfire Missiles under its stub wings.
Death flies in many forms. Two weapons very often confused are rockets and missiles. In the broadest terms, missiles follow a guidance system to their target. Rockets are pointed at the target, fired and follow a ballistic path, gravity and wind resistance, to the target.
A missile is a guided rocket: a rocket is an unguided missile.
The difference is similar to the difference between smart bombs and dumb bombs.When released from an aircraft, smart bombs fall to their target but correct their course. Dumb bombs fall and hit wherever their ballistic path takes them.
A good example o the difference between rockets and missiles is the basic load of the Apache attack helicopter. In all of its various models, the Apache carries both rockets and missiles.The standard load is 38 rockets, 19 per pod on each side of the aircraft, and eight Hellfire missiles.
Four Hellfire Missiles and a fully-loaded rocket pod.…

Field Guide to Flying Death: Artillery

M198 Howitzer, 155mm. The 90-pound projectile jumps from the gun  at nearly a half-mile per second. It can hit a target 18 miles away in less than a minute.
With so many wars either ramping up or about to begin, I decided to write about all the many, many projectiles that I have fired, I have seen fired, or have been fired at me.  My first post will be about artillery, then I will talk about bombs, bullets, ballistic missiles and guided missiles. I will also talk about how the various forms of flying death start their flights, whether from a gun, an airplane, a submarine or a ship.

Artillery comes in many shapes and sizes, but the M198 is typical. It fires a 90-pound shell anywhere from direct-fire right in front of the gun to nearly 20 miles away. A good crew can fire two rounds per minute for hours or up to four rounds in a minute for a short period. The most common round is HE, High Explosive: 90 pounds of detonator, explosive and a case designed to break into sharp fragments.  The …

Riding at Breakneck Speed, Literally, Almost Ended my Re-enlistment

As in this crash, no one was hurt but me in my big crash.
On May 9, 2007, at about 5 p.m., I started down Turkey Hill on River Road in Lancaster County with eleven other riders.I hit 51 mph near the middle of the ¾-mile hill, then I hit another rider. It was more than a half-hour later that I reached the bottom of the hill, being carried on a stretcher heading for a MEDEVAC helicopter.
In seconds, my chances of re-enlisting in the Army at 54 years old went from good to gruesome.Although I can remember nothing from five minutes before the accident until almost five months after, I could read a medical report when I was discharged form the hospital more than a week later.I had broken нине bones, the worst was a smashed C7 vertebra that the neurosurgeon on call scraped out and replaced with a cadaver bone and a titanium plate.
In addition to the smashed C7, I cracked C2, broke four ribs, my right collarbone and shoulder blade and my nose.The worst obvious injury was my forehead peeled up…

Ten Years Ago: Closer to Re-Enlistment, One More Step

On May 1, 2007, all the paperwork was approved for my re-enlistment, except one more approval. Jessica Wright, The Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard, had to sign a waiver for me to re-enlist.

By the official calculation, I had eleven years and two months of prior service. On the following day, May 2, 2007, I would turn 54.  With the enlistment age up to 42 and eleven years of prior service, I still needed Wright to waive the one additional year because I would be 54 before the paperwork could be signed.

So Kevin Askew, my recruiter said I should just take it easy and wait. These waivers could three months.

And thankfully that is just about how long it took.  I got the waiver July 27. I did not actually re-enlist until August 15.  When Kevin called and told me I had the waiver in July, I told him I was going on a business trip to Europe August 3 and would take the oath when I got back.

But we both knew the real reason I was waiting until mid-August was that I woul…