Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is Anyone Still Checking This Blog?...

Well, it certainly has been a while since I have posted. I am currently residing in the beautiful desert oasis of southern Afghanistan. I have been out here for about 2 and a half months. The heat was pretty bad when I first arrived (115-120 on average in the daytime) but it has since cooled off and I expect it to get very cold here soon. I've already put my request in to the wife to send me my flight jacket along with some other items. Not too many luxuries out here. I sleep on the top of a bunk-bed style cot in a tent with about 20 other guys that all work different shifts. I haven't ever seen the inside of the tent with the lights on since there is always someone sleeping in there. The internet here is slower than dial-up. But, I can't complain. There are much worse conditions out here for those that are actually in harms way on a daily basis. The Camp I am at is a luxury resort in comparison the others here.
With all the negatives that go into being out here (separated from family, limited privacy, work hours, etc.), there are the positive aspects. The food is actually pretty good, there is a laundry service here, and I can call home frequently. I am not employed out here in my normal capacity, doing what I am trained and specialized to do, but I am learning a great deal of how the "Big Picture" works. I showed up knowing very little about helicopters and specifically how they are employed. But as I am planning and working with nothing but helicopters in my current duties, I have been forced to learn. However, it would be nice to be flying the friendly skies, slinging hot lead and dropping laser guided death on unsuspecting enemy forces as they scheme and plot to kill my brothers and sisters. We can all dream, can't we?
Take care and continue to pray for us, especially those that are risking their lives on a daily basis out here trying to bring peace, governance and freedom to those that have little to none, ever.
Craig, from Afghanistan, out.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Holy Cow! A NEW Post. . .

Well, I know I've been delinquent on posting on this blog. However, it is hard to put out anything new or interesting if your wife beats you to all the important and worth while posts.

Anyhow, to catch you all up on what is going on with me. I will be starting a new adventure soon. I was planning on going back to Japan for another deployment with a flying squadron. However, I have been picked to serve in Afghanistan instead. I will be leaving in a couple weeks and will be spending a the rest of 2009 living in a tent and sleeping in a bag on a cot. Once again I will be missing the Holiday's with my family. I will be out there during my birthday too. This isn't anything new since I usually spent my birthday growing up in camping in the Sierra Nevada's.

So, stay tuned. I will be posting quite a bit more and sharing pictures and experiences with you all from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the pictures will be taken from the ground this time. I won't be doing any combat flying missions this time around.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Made it to Hawaii

We've made it to Hawaii. We left Wake Island on the morning of 17 Sept and landed at MCB Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay on the evening 16 Sept. That International Date Line will get you every time. It definitely got the person who made our hotel reservations because they were not expecting us for another day. But they had the rooms available so it didn't matter all that much. We travel to MCAS Miramar in San Diego, CA tomorrow morning. This is the longest leg of the trip. It will take us about 6 hours to fly towards San Fransisco (closest piece of land from Hawaii) then head south to San Diego. We have to head towards San Fran since if we hit the half way point and have an issue with our jet and can no longer take fuel from the tanker then we can just make it to a suitable runway.

Here are some pictures from Wake Island. I got to do a little deep sea fishing the day we arrived. We caught a yellow tail tuna and an ono. We ate the tuna mostly raw (sushi style) and the ono as bbq steaks. They were both awesome! Nothing like fresh tuna.

Rolling out on final for Wake Island.

The was on the top of the Marine Corps memorial honoring the Marines who served on Wake Island during WWII.

Photo of me launching out of Wake Island on our way to Hawaii.

A picture of two of our aircraft over Wake Island after we circled around the island to join with the tankers that have just taken off.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Paintball - Marine Corps Style

The squadron entered into a paintball tournament this weekend. It had been planned for the past 4 weeks. When the call came out for those that wanted to go at it you know who was one of the first to answer that call. The Hawks had four teams. The tournament was supposed to be base wide. Key word was supposed to.

What ended up happening was 8 Officers from the Hawks against 6 Marines I would classify as "paintball regulars." So, it was three hours of paintball action with just the two teams. The two extra players on our side made the engagement somewhat fair. Eventually we gave up one of ours to make the teams even. The battle finally ended with 4 of us Hawks remaining after the teams began to erode away. The last engagements were 2 v 2 and then finally a 1 v 1 v1 v 1 (aka all out brawl).

It was a blast, literally! I think I lost about 15 pounds in sweat and have about 15 purple-ish welts from the hard fought battles. I've not done too much paintball but it did remind me of all the times I played laser tag when I was younger. However, this time it was a little more painful when I got shot. Fortunately, I shot others more than they shot me.

Back in the Kuni

I made it back to Iwakuni about a week ago. The flights are slowing down and the focus of effort is getting ready to fly home. The jets are getting prepared for our Trans-Pacific flights' the aircrew are gearing up for the long, seemingly endless inflight refueling missions, and everyone is packing their gear.

This is my second deployment to the Western Pacific theater. However, this trip home will be different. Now that I am one of the more senior guys I will be flying every leg of the trip home. As an added bonus, we will not be flying to Guam as we usually do. This time we get to fly instead to Wake Island. There isn't much there, but as with most of the islands in the Pacific, it has historical significance. We usually fly over Wake and I have pictures of it from 25,000 feet up but have never stopped there. Not only is it exciting to see this new place, and to walk with the ghosts of the heroes of the past, it will also shorten the overall time it will take to get to Hawaii and thus allowing the blood to return to my rear end faster. The leg to and from Guam takes us out of the way and Wake is more of a direct route.

The squadron that will replace us on station is arriving shortly. They will assume our mission and we will stand relieve. Then, a little over a week, we will suit up and begin the voyage home. This is always the best part of deployments; heading home knowing that we have completed our mission and will soon be reunited with our families. Plus, getting to spend a couple days in Hawaii on the way back is not too bad either.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trip to Hallowed Ground

Our squadron did a month long detachment to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. The Marines have many spots around the Western Pacific that are historic due to the many battles fought throughout WWII; Okinawa being one of them. However, whenever someone speaks of the Marines, what image comes to mind? I would submit to you that a picture of the flag raising at Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima comes to mind. The battle was the bloodiest battle for the Marines throughout the entire war. Almost 1/3 of the Marines killed in WWII died fighting for this tiny island. Over the month long battle that lasted from Feb 19 to March 26, 1945, 27 Medals of Honor were bestowed on 23 Marines and 4 Navy Corpsmen; 30% of the total Medals of Honor awarded during WWII.

Iwo Jima just happens to be approximately 600 miles east of Okinawa. Back in 2004, I was fortunate to be able to fly out there in an F/A-18 and tour the island with 7 other officers. All it cost was a bottle of Jack Daniels for the local Japanese as a bribe to get them to drive us to a few locations around the island. And, as I found out this time around it was well worth it.

This visit was entirely more strenuous. The squadron set up a trip to the island for the entire squadron. We all flew out on 3 C-130's from one of the local Marine squadrons. The plan was to take a 6 F/A-18s, refuel them with the C-130s and conduct an attack on the island. The trip out was to take 2 1/2 hours but ended up taking almost 5. The hornets were not able to take off on time due to airfield issues and never ended up joining the C-130s in flight. So we circled the island waiting.

Subsequently, the tour of the island was cut short almost 3 hours. This meant that the hike, yes, I said hike, would not make it's way up to the top of Mt. Suribachi. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Most of the Marines were upset since most of them have never been to the island and wanted to see the top of the hill, the sight of the historic flag raising. However, to do this all on foot in one day was tough. The turnaround point ended up being the beach where the amphibious assault took place. At least the Marines were able to collect some of the black volcanic sand from the beach.

At the end of it all, we were drenched with sweat (soaked from head to toe, literally), blistered feet and sunburned from the hot August sun. Below are some pictures of the trip.

The historic (2nd) flag raising.

A quick photo opportunity in the midst of battle.

A couple of Majors take a nap and read a book on the long flight out.

The English pronunciation of the island was changed to it's previous name of Iwo To, which means the same thing as Iwo Jima. It was updated on the side of the tower. I have a photo that has this tower with Iwo Jima on the side.

Picture of Marines on the beach during the battle in 1945 with Mt. Suribachi in the background.

A picture of a couple of knuckle-head Marines on the beach in 2008 with Mt. Suribachi in the background.

Another picture of the beach during the battle.

A photo of our squadron coin. The front side is our current squadron logo. The reverse is the WWII logo of our squadron that was born and cut it's teeth supporting Marines during WWII.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Goodbye, Ali Cat! We will ALL miss you. . .

On Aug 5, 2008, Alison Frances Kline was ushered up to the Lord after battling so hard against cancer. She was 27. Ali and Tom have in recent years become a close part of my family and will be deeply missed by all of us.

If you have been reading Kimberly's blog, you will know just how much she and Tom meant to us. Ali and Kimberly were like sisters. I have been reluctant to post anything on my blog for many reasons. However, with the passing of a friend in Afghanistan and a week to ponder many aspects of my own life I have decided to post.

We were very fortunate to come into contact with the Kline family. We met them soon after we moved to SC. They moved into the house across the street in the military housing complex not too long after we moved in. And the rest is history. There are so many memories that we will cherish; the "Tom-fires", the art projects, the holiday festivities. Most of all I am thankful for the way in which they shaped the lives of my little girls and support they have given to my wife while I was deployed. This being my third. They were like family to us and will be sorely missed. I just hope that even though Ali is gone that Tom will stay in contact and be a part of our lives. He is truly gifted in many ways (see Tom's blog in my list of fellow blogers and you will understand why). Our hearts are severely broken for his loss.

Goodbye, Ali Cat! We love you and miss you. But know this, you will live on in the lives that you have touched. I can see the affect of your inspiration, kindness, generosity, and creativity in the eyes of your adopted little girls, Madison and Mackenzie, and in my wife Kimberly. And for this I will always be eternally grateful!

Ali and Kenzie at Thanksgiving, watching a little TV after dinner before we head out side for a "Tom-Fire."

Ali and Madi doing a little jewelry shopping before Tom and Ali move to Indiana.

A crazy picture of Tom, Ali and Me at the last Chili Cook-Off (Oct 2007). Tom allowed me to cut in for a couple of dances with Ali that night. We all had a blast!