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!

Death of a Brother

A Marine Brother-In-Arms was killed in Afghanistan recently. The following article is his obituary in the Beaufort Gazette. He was a member of our sister squadron, VMFA (AW)-224, the "Bengals." Take care, Garrett. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Beaufort-born Marine dies in Afghanistan

Beaufort-born Marine Capt. Garrett Tucker Lawton died Aug. 4 from wounds he suffered as a result of an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan while conducting combat operations as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He was killed in Heart Province, which is on Afghanistan's western border with Iran.

Lawton, 31, served as an F-18 weapons and sensors officer and an air officer based out of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

He joined the Corps on July 3, 1996 and was promoted to captain July 1, 2004.

Lawton's military career included two Purple Hearts -- one for the incident that ultimately led to his death and another that he received in May for other injuries he received in an improvised explosive device attack.

Lawton's grandmother Beatrice Sampson, of Beaufort, said she has a picture of her grandson as an 8-year-old wearing a full Marine uniform.

"I mean, he is a Marine," she said. "He was doing what he wanted to do. He loved his country."
Despite being busy with his military career, Lawton always made time for his family, Sampson said.

"He always took time out for us. He was such a loving, kind person," she said.

Lawton, born Dec. 3, 1976, lived in Beaufort until he was about 4 years old.

Survivors include his wife, Trisha; two sons, Ryan, 6, and Caden, 4; his father, David Lawton; his mother and stepfather, Cathy and Cal Peters; his sister, Kenna Hubai; and his maternal grandparents, Robert and Beatrice Sampson.

Services for Lawton will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Chapel.

Published Mon, Aug 11, 2008 12:00 AM
Beaufort Gazette

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pictures from Abroad

Here is a pic of the aircrew that flew into Korat Air Base, Thailand. The Thia's greeted us with a lia and a beer. Gotta like that!

These two monkeys are pictured in their natural habitat. I got these for the girls at one of the National Parks while I was delayed in Thailand. They made a crazy monkey noise when you squeeze them. The girls loved them when I sent them home.

Here is an elephant that came strolling up the road while we were headed out to dinner. For a couple of bucks you could feed it sugar cane, pet it, and take a couple of pictures of your buddies getting molested!

This is Kimberly's birthday present and Anniversary present (which are about a week apart). These are the famous black sapphires from Thailand set in white gold. It was a must buy if you ever get to Bangkok.

This is a picture of Singapore as we were flying in from Thailand. The approach corridor goes right by the down town port area. It was a pretty good view of the Nation State.

Here is the hotel that we stayed at in Malaysia. It was right on the ocean! I left there with one hell of a sunburn/tan and a hang over. Malaysia would be a good place to vacation.

Here is a friend I made at work in Malaysia.

This picture was taken after our first mission fighting against the Malaysian MiG-29's. We are on the tanker with one of our adversary's waiting in the background for his turn on the KC-130J.

Here is a shot of both of the Fulcrum's tanking.

Here is a picture of me and one of my former GySgt's. He is actually in the Series photo that is on this blog standing next to me as well. It was good to catch up with him.

On the last day we were there, we got together with the Malaysians for a photo op. We got to climb on and in their plane. Here, Joe and I have a little fun.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I've Been Every Where, Man!

Just like Johnny Cash, I've been everywhere. Or so it feels like it. Well, my last post was from Thailand. I was "stuck" there for an extra month waiting for two jets to be fixed. It is tough to fix jets when you are a thousand miles from home where all the extra parts are. It was fun to get to see Thailand and to learn some of the language and culture.

From there we flew the two jets down to Singapore with the help of a KC-130 to refuel us part of the way. Singapore was beautiful. I stayed there for two weeks and once again got to see and experience yet another culture. Singapore was beautiful and they intend to keep it that way. On one of the customs forms I had to fill out once we arrived it had the usual: "Do you have any prohibited items such as illegal drugs, firearms, explosives or . . . chewing gum?!! Apparently chewing gum is illegal (so is spitting) and can earn you a hefty fine and/or caning. Ouch!! I got to fight the Singapore's F-16's and F-5's while we were there. Very strict flying around there since Singapore is so small and the relationship with the Malaysians to the north aren't that good.

I left Singapore before the Exercise was over and caught a C-130 up to Malaysia to start flying in another Exercise flying with the Malaysian MiG-29's. It was awesome seeing the aircraft which we read about and train to fight. The only other time I have seen a MiG up close was in Iraq. Unfortunately all the MiGs there litter the airfield on Al Asad and are but shells of there former finely tuned selves.

From Malaysia we flew the jets up to Okinawa, Japan. We will be here flying against our own Air Forces F-15s. We will also be getting to drop live ordinance on a couple of Islands that are uninhabited and are used for air-to-ground bombing. This is something that we aren't able to do in Iwakuni. Kadena is pretty nice and is fairly big. You have to give it to the Air Force when it comes to providing nice facilities for it's members.

Once we got here I was able to fly up to Iwakuni and change out some of my clothes and pick up some things. I hadn't been back to my place in Iwakuni since I left for Thailand in April (over 3 months). The rest of the squadron has been back a couple times but since 3 of us were left in Thailand waiting for the jets to be fixed we weren't able to. I am glad I did because the apples I left on top of my fridge were growing beards. We will spend a total of one month here in Okinawa and then fly up to Iwakuni to spend the last month there before we begin the long flight home back to Beaufort. It will take week to fly all the way since we will lay over at every stop for a day of rest before we fly the next leg. It is harder to fly east since we lose an hour every time we fly through a time zone. This time we will be flying our route through Wake Island, Hawaii, San Diego, and then on in to Beaufort.

I will post some pictures of the 3+ month adventure here soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In Thailand . . . Still

Well, I'm still in Thailand. There are two aircraft that were broke down and couldn't leave with the rest of the squadron. The aircrew for the two jets and a hand full of Marines were left behind to fix the jets and fly them back to Japan when they were able to make the journey are all that remains behind. It was certainly nice to have some down time in Thailand, initially, but now we are all ready to get the hell out of here. Thailand isn't bad but it is like Groundhogs Day. Not a whole lot to do besides hang out at the hotel, eat, or visit the local bars. It has gotten very old, very quickly. Not to mention it is a drain on the pocket book.

We have been here so long that we probably will not be headed back to Japan. The rest of the squadron is packing up to launch jets to Singapore and Malaysia. We will most likely have to fly straight from here to Singapore and wait for the rest of the squadron to meet us. That is probably the easiest thing to do but this stay is killing my flight hour program. I am inches away from my 1000 hour mark in the F/A-18. Oh well, it could be worse. :)

I'll post some pictures of our adventures here when I get some decent bandwidth to upload them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pictures of My Little Girls

Kimberly took some sweet pictures of our girls and posted them on her blog. I can't help but post some of them on mine. Kimberly and I are so blessed to have such wonderful little girls! Hope you enjoy them half as much as I do.

Thailand Update

Well, I've been here two weeks tomorrow and have gotten to do a lot of flying and also was able to see the some new places. 18 of us took a trip to Bangkok last weekend and all I can say is that it was an experience. We stayed in a very nice hotel. The room was awesome and moderately priced but it was expensive to eat or drink there. They had a bar on the 38th floor that we decided to check out and for a Jack and Coke it was 300 baht ($10). Needless to say, I nursed that thing for about an hour. But we did get the see the sights. We all went to a jewelry store that is a must do I was told. I ended up picking up some nice things for Kimberly's birthday. My beer fund took a major hit. I'm kidding.

Anyway, not too much longer. Off to Iwakuni in another week. I can't wait to see all my fruit and milk that I left in the fridge. However, I would like to cook some of my own meals. The food here is great but there is only so much rice and fried food I can handle. Sounds crazy coming from me, huh, Kimberly! It will be nice having my own place and not have to share a shower and a bathroom with 3 other people. It is kind of fun having roommates. We all huddle around the kitchen table (the "internet cafe") and are either playing online poker or talking to our wives via Skype. And if you have never heard of Skype it is an online communication sight that you can talk to anyone with video for free . Or you can call a land line in the US for pretty cheap.

I will post some more pictures when I download them off my camera. Unfortunately I left it in my helmet bag at work. I am always taking pictures in the jet. Take care.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trip to Hiroshima

I took a trip to Hiroshima with a group of buddies the other day. The main event was a trip to see the Hiroshima Carp baseball team. I have never seen a Japanese baseball game before and it was a little bit different. The baseball was the same but the way the fans conduct themselves is quite different. All the ballgames I've been to in the States consist of everyone drinking beer, eating hot dogs, yelling at the other team and cheering when their team does something good. In Japan, they still drink beer (there are ladies that walk around with kegs on their back and poor beer for you on the spot), the hot dogs are not the hot dogs traditionally thought of (and are not the main food attraction), they don't taunt the other team (they will actually sit quietly while the other teams fans chant something in Japanese to root their team on, and they have cheerleaders in the stands leading chants and songs. These cheerleaders aren't like the ones we have in the States either. These cheerleaders are have whistles, bang plastic bats and clappers and lead entire sections of people in crazy chants. At the 7th inning stretch they entire crowd lets balloons go which go everywhere. It was a blast!

Also on the trip was a stop at the Genbaku Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Park which is a memorial to the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima in WWII. It was my second trip to this memorial but the feelings where just the same. To see the pictures and the atrifacts at the museum are incredible. The magnatude of the destruction and thought that in a flash that hundreds of thousands of people were vaporized in an instant is just incredible. If anyone ever gets the chance to visit Japan, this is definately one spot you can not miss. Plus, you can see a ball game across the street.

Here are some pics:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Off to Thailand!

Well, I am packing up for a month detachment to Thailand. I am looking forward to going to another country I haven't been before. It should be a fun trip. There will be a lot of flying and training but should be a good time to see the sites and experience the culture. Unfortunately, I may not be able to keep up on this blog while I am there due to the limited internet access/broadband. However, I am sure I will have plenty to write about when I do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Journey Begins!

Well, my adventure started on 3/6/2008 when I left home and kissed my wife and girls goodbye at 0430. We flew half the day and eventually landed at Travis AFB. This so happens to be quite close to my hometown and I was warmly welcomed by my family (Mom, Dad, Brothers, Sister-in-Law, Nephew, Grandmother, and Uncle). We had a quiet dinner and I enjoyed being with my family again and catching up with everyone. The next day I stopped by my old high school and visited with some of my old teachers and coaches. My dad set up an interview with the local newspaper and received a little article in the paper. I would have liked to spend the day there visiting but was only there for 45 minutes before had to catch my next flight to Hawaii. We spent two nights there after a painful 8+ hour flight. The trip is so much longer because the F/A-18s have to stay fully fueled at all times in case for some reason one has to divert it will need all the gas it can carry. The process of getting all the aircraft cycled through getting mid-air refueled is quite impressive. The drawback is that we can't fly as fast as we would normally due to the limitations of the refueling equipment. The time spent in Hawaii was nice and the weather was great being that it was March. I was able to spend a little over two months in Hawaii last time we deployed to Japan. But, that is another chapter all together. From Hawaii we flew to Guam. Yet another painful journey. For those of you that have never been to Guam, it is quite beautiful. The people are friendly (lots of Japanese tourists). It is often called the Japanese Hawaii. The next step in the journey would take us to the Republic of Korea. We participated in a two-week exercise with the Navy and Air Force as well as the ROK Air Force. The nights were in the 30's and the days were around 60's. We all were quite eager to get to Iwakuni, to have our own living spaces, showers and a sense of normalcy. Living in tents in the freezing cold let us appreciate our ground brethren. Here are a few pictures of some of the stops we made along the way.

This picture was taken from my cell phone of Yosemite Valley from the cockpit of the KC-10 refueling aircraft on my way to Travis.

This is a picture of "my" jet. Notice the name painted on it!

Here is my attempt at taking a panoramic shot of the flight line on Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay.

These shots were taken from my hotel room in Guam on Tumon Bay.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Connectivity Problems

I would like to post more and more often but it seems as though my internet connectivity in my BOQ room isn't up to the challenge. I share a wireless connection with hundreds of my closest friends, plus, I have to have a signal booster installed in my room just so I can receive a descent signal. So, I am having to post from my work computer which I have loads of time to do. Not really. Anyway, sorry for the lack of info but I will try and keep this more up to date.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Now a Private Blog

I've now made this blog private for the time being. I don't want to have too much info out there for just anyone to see due to Operational Security. Some of the posts I make concerning where I am, where our unit is and what we are currently doing may be used in a negative manner against my unit and or me and my family. But, I do want to share with you all the things that we are doing and experiencing here in the Western Pacific Theater.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Settling In Japan

Hey all! I am now in Japan. I've been here a week now and am getting all settled in. It is good to be back in the air and doing what I've been trained to do. We are back from Korea where we participated in an annual exercise with the South Koreans as well as other branches of our armed forces. The exercise was training in preparation for a North Korean attack. We were living in tents and it was mighty cold at night. It is good to have a room now all to myself. The accommodations here in Japan are quite nice. I have pretty much a one bedroom apartment with a full kitchen. It is kind of weird not having anyone or any dogs running around. Anyway, I will be posting some pics and comments on all my adventures. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Back with the Wing

I'm back in the Air Wing. I checked in about two weeks ago but still haven't flown. I've haven't been flying in so long that I am required to go refresher training for the F/A-18. However, I may be able to get a waiver to do the refresher training here in Beaufort. We will be deploying soon and it would be nice to be able to stay here instead of adding extra time away from the family. I am sorry for the long span between posts. Things have certainly been busy around here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy new year to all. I've been busy and haven't updated the blog since Christmas. Thanks to all who have commented to my postings. I should direct you to Kimberly's blog because she keeps it up to date with all the family news and pictures more regularly. Take care.