Different perspectives…

This is from an online chat among some Navy aircrew friends…

We were a make up crew out on a way dark night to chase the Phil Sea Phantom….if you don’t know ask. It was dark…no moon…and we’re double cycle plus. No sub of course…the Phantom was sleeping elsewhere. so we motor back to the boat which was darken ship…and emcon….finally got the drop lites. It’s not bumpy but we had big..big pacific rollers…so the ship was doing a good bit of up and down…..and it’s about 0300 or so. We were single pilot…driver and a NFO in the right front. We’re in at 7500 pounds…..missed the first trap. Came around and did it again…missed again a bit more violently….did this 4 more times and I could tell the driver was pretty flustered, this is when I came to be a believer in dual pilot S-3. We now had both low fuel lights lite, the deck was locked so we had no chance for a tanker launch and were too short of gas to make the beach (Cubi darn it), so we briefed the what ifs..we had gas for one more pass then we were going to fly offset from the track and punch out….nobody wanted to ditch an S-3. Normal preps…tighten straps check gear etc….in we come and he traped a 4 wire….and the deck butt heads parked us right on the bow…..I hate being up there in the day time…night with a pitching deck was worse.

We were into that window that if you hadn’t dipped the tanks you just didn’t know how much gas was left…it wasn’t much though. Since I like the driver I thanked him a lot for not making me go swimming…and got put on the schedule with him the next day as we passed through the ready room.

Oh yeah, on this one we were so low on gas that you could feel the plane float as you went over the deck. But you know…nobody was all that worried…we’d get this pass in and then punch out controlled and close to the boat…the plane guard DD had a helo up so it was a no brainer….you just can’t keep making approaches until you flame out as you see the drop lites……bad juju…and that’s where we were on fuel…but he got it aboard on the 7th pass.

Anybody catch the irony above? Continued below the fold…

So, these guys are literally minutes from having to eject in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a dark night at 0300, in rolling seas. Just a ‘bit’ of pucker factor there, and they were more pissed about the parking spot than they were about punching out…

Here is a 10 minute video from the PBS special Carrier, that shows pitching deck operations from the USS Nimitz. Now Nimitz is bigger than Ranger was, so it would have been even more ‘exciting’… 

About 22 seconds in, you see two F-18s pointed forward at the far end of the deck, that’s about where the bow spots are.

Now imagine trying to climb out of an airplane in the dark, with the deck pitching, and trying to make your way 3-400 feet back to the island without tripping over anything, falling on your butt, or getting blown off the deck.

So where am I going with this? Just to say a Veteran’s perspective just ‘might’ be a tad different from those who never served over those ‘little’ crisis that pop up in life.

Some of us not only saw the elephant, they smelled it too… Blue water ops, Max PLE ops, North Atlantic/North Pacific ops were always ‘interesting’ when weather decided to play a hand, especially when your divert might be 2 hours away. Most of us lost friends over the years due to crashes, and sadly very few of those families ever had closure.

So the next time you think a veteran is one cold bastard, take a step back and think that maybe it’s just that his/her perspective is a little different…

h/t JD for the ‘sea story’


Different perspectives… — 25 Comments

  1. Wow. Nothing like some perspective to really get you thinking. I was never a member of the military or LEOs, so do not have the experience of every day events taking place as you describe. It is no wonder you consider friends made during those times so special. Because circumstances.

    I wonder how many people voluntarily enlist without having considered just what they are signing up for.

  2. I noticed during the Bush 41 Navy flyby’s that at least one flight of planes had their hooks in the down position when they passed over. Is that a normal procedure during a honorary flyby salute?

  3. Any landing you can snag the hook and then park the bird, counts; you’re on the correct deck. Back in the day, worked with a test director whose older son was an Intruder pilot. Both of them calm to the point of ‘you awake?’ The son told his dad that it was only carrier landings that made him uneasy.

    Gives the rest of us more appreciation for what our warriors face, especially when not combatting a human opponent. More reasons for the designers to keep it simple and clear, then simplify again after someone else steps it through. That last re-think is the one that saves lives.

  4. Never landed on a flattop, but was bridge watch on the DD plane guard. Helped fish a couple of pilots out of the greenies at midnight.

    Watching the oiler’s line handlers drop an ASROC on the deck during an UNREP will cause ye olde pucker, as well. Long list, lots of memories, lots of close calls and death-defying experiences. Those things colors the attitude. Due to said attitude, misunderstandings continue.

  5. As Rev Paul said, lots of memories, not enough room to share them here, and I wouldn’t hijack the blog anyway.

  6. Anon- Yep, foxhole or battle buddies are closer than family for this reason!

    Ed- There is that… sigh 2 cases of food poisoning both out of box lunches from the USAF.

    Gstone- That is normal ops. They are signaling they are ready to land

    PK- Yep, definitely an adrenaline rush!

    Ed- Thanks!

    Drang- That happens, not just over water…

    Rev- Yeah, THAT would pucker you up!!! WOW!

  7. What will freak a typical civilian out is finding out that the huge carrier is still subject to 3-axis motion on sometimes a large scale.

    Survivors of the Cruise Ship industry can regale one with lots of stories about passengers finding out even the biggest ships can get bouncy-bouncy at the right times. Which usually leaves the crew cleaning up too many messes.

    People on the edge tend to view life a tad bit differently than ‘normal’ civilians.

  8. When I watch a video like that I don’t regret deciding to walk to work. Fourteen days on a troop ship was more navy experience than I cared for.

    Hats off to those who do it.

  9. Grog- LOL, we’ve got ’em, regardless of service!

    Beans- Heh, Oh yeah! I’ve heard stories…

    WSF- You can have that walk to work stuff! 😀

  10. One good thing about the AF missile biz is they don’t usually move, and if they do, it ain’t very much. Still, I was doing a maintenance briefing once, realized I was swaying from side to side, thought “am I about to faint?”, looked to my left at blast valve on the wall, saw it moving, and yelled “STOP THAT” to my 2 crew members pushing on the wall one level down.

  11. I was never aircrew, but as a former VASTard, I had to take gear up & plane-check it sometimes, and yes, the flight deck is hazardous anytime, but more so at night. It doesn’t help when you’re carrying an 80-lb flight data computer or such item.
    Oh, well, as we said when I was in, “It’s not an adventure, it’s just a job.”

  12. All “peacetime”:
    Huey leaves with a full crew during a Westpac on a routine flight on a clear sunny afternoon, never comes back. No weather, no radio call.
    Looked for debris for two solid days. Nothing, not even a slick. Back to base course, haze grey and underway.

    Baby Brother, Army doggie, is walking through the tank park at 0-dark-thirty in FRG, when Herr Hans in civvies pops up out of a nearby APC, and makes a beeline for the fenceline.
    “Halt!” gets a sudden flurry of 9mm flying his way from Hans. He doesn’t remember much, but somehow, he ended up on the deck, slide on his M1911 locked to the rear, smoking brass around him, and Hans has a couple of new holes. He was sitting just like that when the QRF shows up, and the First Sgt. ever so gently pries the smoking .45 from his hand and says “We’ve got this, son.” Turns out Hans was Baaader-Meinhoff minor leaguer, and had wired a firebomb in the APC to wipe out the first guy to open the tailgate hatch. Baby Brother gets to guard the guy until he bleeds out waiting for the ambulance, MPs, CID, and polizei. Big Green won’t let him leave Germany early (because Army reasons) but they will let him carry a piece off-base for the rest of his tour, since he’s now a huge terrorist target for retaliation. (How white of them.) Only good news is that the grunts won’t let him pay for beer in town or the club for the next 18 months. Suffice it to say Mom is not amused about the shooting, so we don’t tell her the other details until he gets out of the .mil three years later.

    Team Spirit: Radio operator and FO LT walking through a rice paddy, RTO has the tall antenna deployed.
    Hits a random power line strung over the paddy, blows himself to steaming chunks, stuns the LT 15′ away, guy comes back a mental basket case. 1 guy dead, 1 good officer mentally fried and cashiered.
    12 guys among the entire BLT in the dry paddy we’re camped in a couple miles south of the DMZ for 3 months get hemorrhagic fever, same thing that’s been killing people there for centuries, god knows how or why. 6 of them die, 6 of them live.

    CAX at 29 Palms, an entire Regiment gets stood outside for muster at 3AM, because some drunken sonofabitch REMF took a 5-ton truck for a midnight drunken joyride, and parked it on top of a GP tent loaded with sleeping guys. 20 injured, 1 deader than canned tuna.

    Some jackass brings back UXO in his seabag, in this case a live 72mm LAAW rocket.
    Drops it in the squadbay at Lejeune, kills himself and jacks up three other idiots standing around watching when it goes off. Darwin Award nomination.

    Briefing for Caribbean cruise, the ship’s CO observes on the 1MC that he expects normal operations to kill one or two people just because, and would appreciate it if we could break that pattern, but he doubts it.
    Random dude falls overboard during darken ship somewhere between Cuba and Central America. Lost at sea.

    That’s not counting the guys who had to be replaced in the grunt units after Lebanon, or the people riding several CH-53s which decided to stop flying over Swamp Lejeune during normal training.
    They brought one of the recovered M-198 howitzers back to the gun park afterwards. The crews, both air- and howitzer-, were smoking charcoal in the woods.
    The gun barrel was curved upwards at nearly 90° from true by the end of the barrel at the muzzle brake. Falling from a few hundred feet into 100′ tall pine forests is a bitch like that. Now we understand why the crew chiefs all ride face down looking out the hell-hole on the deck, with one hand on the pickle switch to drop the sling load in case the pilot says he’s losing the bird.

    Worst part of later helo ops for us was finding out the whole crew is reservists, until the other enl. crew lets us know that’s a good thing, because we’re getting guys after a full tour, with high time, rather than “active” guys still learning their jobs OJT.

    And BTW, three different heads of state and TIME Magazine are screaming we’re coming to Central America to invade, and coincidentally, we’re staffed across the board at 110% of TO&E, with over 35% native Spanish speakers – every kid from Puerto Rico, Mexico, or American barrios – assigned to us straight from boot camp, for the first time in…ever.
    But it’s just an exercise, don’t worry. You do have your will made out and your SGLI card filled out properly though, right?

    And then there was the gunny with half his face growing back who gets a NAVCOM at a regimental muster, because we were combat loaded going through field exercises at Ft. Bragg, when bumpy roads during a hurricane cause a 155mm WP projectile to smack and crack and start cooking off in the back of the truck. He gets everyone out of the back of the truck, while he single-handedly cuts the round loose from the bundle and carries the thing 150 yards into the woods so it won’t set off the 24 other rounds in the truck, while flaming WP is spattering onto his hand, face and shoulder. It’s six months later and he still has a wad of bandages all three places, but at least he still has all his fingers, and isn’t to the scaring kids in the PX stage yet. That’ll come when the bandages come off for good.

    And this was with no one shooting at us, nominally, and nothing like those who did a tour or three in sandy places in the last coupe of decades.

    My at-the-time fiancée told me I’d “changed” when I came back from Oki.

    Didn’t seem that way to me.
    In hindsight, maybe she had a point.

    • My fun one:
      My five-minutes “in the fleet” briefing, first morning in my unit, joined while they’d decamped to Ft. Bragg, with a steaming warm paper plate of green eggs and ham, sent out to be road guard for the battery firing position.
      Walking several hundred yards down the road in the thick morning fog, somewhere out in the piney woods of BF-Ft. Bragg, following the WT-1 comm wire to the end, with my field telephone, and an empty M-16A1. And about twenty feet from the end of the wire line, coming across bear tracks in the mud.
      Fresh bear tracks in the mud.
      LARGE fresh bear tracks in the mud.

      And me with a plate of food, and no rounds for the weapon.

      “RING RING…XO pit? Sir, I have a small question…”

  13. There I was, 16 hours of “screwing my way through the air”, not including four hours pre- and post-flight, in an EC-130 Airborne Battlefield Command and Control platform (a.k.a. “Bookshelf”). Long days and nights watching the locals in Bosnia shoot at each other. They’d wait for us to go off-station to get gas from a tanker to start really shelling each other and our folks on the ground would get caught in the middle. When we called off the tanker and returned to orbit, they’d start playing nice.
    They knew that we could call in the thunder and have them pounded flat if we wanted. Didn’t happen during my watch, but could have.
    Then having to un-fsck the hotel keys. Sigh. I loved flying for the USAF. Any landing you could walk away from was a good one, never had to jump out of a perfectly-good airplane, nor returned one to the taxpayer.

  14. Sam- Snerk, my guess is that wall wasn’t supposed to move?

    TB- Exactly!

    Aesop- Yep, most of our P-3 losses were ‘peacetime’, for versions of that. And re your last, I would have been hauling ass back to get live ammo! Orders be damned!!!

    WN- Yep, they thought they could pull that shit when the F-18s went OFFSTA, but didn’t count on the P-3 carrying missiles. They learned the hard way P-3s are pretty good shots!

  15. Sigh. To have the opportunity to “correct their behavior”. I love the idea of a surprise delivery, must have been fun.
    “Bookshelf” was not completely “alone and unarmed” out there though. Lots of people were watching over our shoulder and only a “phone call” away. Fast movers.
    Except the French AWACS. They got a little cranky when we kept mispronouncing their callsign- “Cyrano”. Not on purpose, mind you, just that damn Yankee accent.

  16. Hey Old NFO;

    A couple of my Peacetime “War Stories”, first one was the first time I worked a “Border Trace” inside the 1K zone between West Germany and east Germany was when I saw the footlockers in the jeep filled with ammo, claymores, laaws rockets, grenades. That was sobering for a young soldier when he realizes that we are expected to be speedbumps for GSFG(Group Soviet Forces Germany). Then hearing the EGR Guards shooting at a suspected border crosser really got the attention.
    On a different note, at my second duty station in Germany, my friend Jeff Stover was riding his motorcycle and got ran off the road by a drunk German in a mercedes. The German ambulance took him to 5thG at Bad Canstadtt, the ambulance dropped him off and the NCO at the desk had him sit down and wait to be seen. He sat there for 30 minutes waiting to be seen, wasn’t even triaged or asked questions, as the staff had him cool his heels. he finally stood up and walked to the desk and got the attention of the SNCO who immediately started to chew his ass for disturbing him and Jeff just commented”I don’t feel good and passed out. Then they realized that something was wrong, they took him back and triaged him finally and realized that he had internal bleeding. Jeff died on the operating table. His family complained to their congressman after word got out how he was injured and his treatment. and a congressional inquiry was launched. We were livid, I told my friends, “If something happens to me, make sure I don’t go to Bad C, we will go to a German hospital”. All of us at the unit felt the same way. We donated money to Jeff’s German girlfriend so she could buy a ticket to attend the funeral.
    I have other stories as I am sure my Vet friends have. We look at thing a bit differently.

  17. I rember going through the booby-trap course and the instructor informing us that he was allowed a 2% causuaty rate in a class and that meant that four of us could die and he would not be sanctioned. Translation was: “This is dangerous and could kill you, so PAY ATTENTION!”
    When I was a wee child, in another century, my dad told me, “Never panic. Think your way out of tough spots.”
    Over the years that advice and training has saved my life and others a few times.
    But following your training and getting out of an immediate problem is altogether different than climbing into that B-17 for that twenty-fifth mission,
    running a convoy up Hiway 1, or dragging your seabag through the hatch of a nuclear sub, or…doing the everyday things that can get you killed while seeing the world courtesy of a rich uncle.

  18. In the Navy sometime you have to close the hatch.
    That doesn’t sound bad, until you explain that there might be people on the wrong side of the hatch when it closes.

    Not sure, but that might have happened on the Fitzgerald.