It is always a challenge to gather gear for my trip north to work with COs. Have had deer seasons in the 70s and in the teens. No snow, and 25 inches overnight. You have to prep for everything! Photos capture the start of the process. Over.
It is always a challenge to gather gear for my trip north to work with COs. Have had deer seasons in the 70s and in the teens. No snow, and 25 inches overnight. You have to prep for everything! Photos capture the start of the process. Over.
CO Paul Higashi and Sgt. Jeff Rabbers, stopped by minutes ago with dead deer recovered from neighbor’s back yard. They stopped by to check my bow and arrows (CO humor). The animal died within the past 24 hours (the eyes tell us this) and probable age is 5-7 years — can guess from graying muzzle and leg hairs, but a tooth will give precise age. Probably shot and survived until last night. Neighbors have seen it limping around since Weds. The COs recovered the broad-head and the case is open, though most likely a poor shot, and one that “got away.” The shot needed to be back a few inches. This looks like it hit the shoulder and the razor point if quite bent. The madness/silliness begins. The COs were headed from here to Richland on a complaint.
We’ll be about 20 or so miles from the mouth of the Pesheke River next year. Last time we fished it I caught a pike on 3 wt. rod and dragged the fish ashore to release it. Fish was 20-22 inches, small. Also drove by this scene today and couldn’t not stop and get a picture. Latest example of “in practice, the theory is different.” Which is often the case with theories. Random pix for UR plez. Over.
We’ll be about 20 or so miles from the mouth of the Pesheke River next year. Last time we fished it I caught a pike on 3 wt. rod and dragged the fish ashore to release it. Fish was 20-22 inches, small.
Also drove by this scene today and couldn’t not stop and get a picture. Latest example of “in practice, the theory is different.” Which is often the case with theories.
ASSISTING SANILAC COUNTY SHERIFF
Please help us identify these men. They were caught on a trail camera just outside of Sandusky after they stole binoculars, a shooting stick, and another trail camera. Please contact Central Dispatch at (810)648-2000 or the Detective Bureau at (810)648-8361. Thank you
Upper Iron County, CO Wicklund put a trail cam on a spot with a posted gate. Camera recorded: 5 trespassers, (one of whom mooned the camera); 2 ORV violations; 3 bears; a bobcat; 2 flying squirrels; 11 deer; 4 raccoons; and the featured wolf. Of which there are two photos.
Also, the firearm opener is a week from today, and this is an exciting time of year for hunters and conservation officers alike; lots of COs mark their careers by the number of firearm deer seasons they’ll have, or the number remaining until they retire.. This is the time in most places when the most hunters are afield and the most things are happening. Off the top of my head, here’s the range of what I might anticipate seeing in my 13th deer seas…on with the DNR; I’ve underlined those I’ve seen in the past. Terminology may not be entirely correct, but gist should be clear, and I’m sure I’ve overlooked some obvious ones:
1- Borrowed license/ loaned license/ no license/ failure to attach kill tag/possession of untagged deer; 2- Deer taken before the firearms season but claimed for firearms;
3- Illegal baiting/ over-baiting;
4- Shooting over bait pile with light. (Usually happens in or near a camp);
5- Underage children hunting alone (not in company/supervision of an adult);
6- Does shot in wrong area or shot where no doe permits are issued;
7- Illegal wolf kill/ Undeclared wolf kill/wolf shot outside allowable wolf hunt zones;
8- Hunting before/after legal shooting hours/ road hunting/ shooting from a vehicle;
9- Uncased firearm in vehicle/ loaded firearm in vehicle;
10- Recreational trespass/ criminal trespass;
11- Hunter harassment;
12- Larceny/possession of stolen goods;
13- Assault (all degrees), accidental shootings (hunting accidents –lethal and nonlethal)/suicides/ homicides;
14- Hunting/driving while intoxicated (booze or various drugs)/ reckless/careless driving;
15- Warrants for arrest for other violations. Warrants may specify arrest and detain anywhere in state, or within x miles of where warrant has been issued;
16- Possession of stolen goods, including trucks/cars/weapons;
17- Out-of-season trout;
18- Lost hunters/persons/children;
19- Timber theft (theft of state property);
20- Illegal ORV operation/ no helmets;
21- Failure to register ORV/boat, other vehicles;
22- Felons in illegal possession of firearms;
23- Hunters/ others carrying concealed weapons without authorization;
24- Public roads closed with logs, other improvised barriers to keep other hunters out of public areas;
25- Permanent blinds on public property;
26- Contact with individuals for which an officer safety caution has been issued;
27- Vehicle and foot chases;
28- First on scene of vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, homicide, rape, domestic disturbances;
29- Investigate building/camp fires (arson and accidental);
30- Unregistered, unpaid camping in state campground;
31- Camping in unauthorized area or exceeding time limit;
32- Littering (disposal of various carcasses, camp materials, etc);
33- Bringing dead deer into Michigan from CWD states (mainly Wisconsin);
34- Failure to produce identification for officers, or producing false ID;
35- Felony flee and elude;
36- Felony assault of a peace officer;
37- Assist medical emergency;
38- Emergency notification of individuals in remote areas/camps.
39- Assist law enforcement personnel from other agencies (county sheriffs, city police, Michigan State Police, border patrol. USFS law, Fish & Wildlife, etc.) ;
40- Assist, work with cross-border game wardens (Wisconsin);
41- Various hunter orange issues and violations;
41- Reckless discharge of firearms.;
42- Interact with the mass media and the public, answer questions, etc.
All of this off the top of my head! There’s much, much more an officer could add, but this gives you a sense of the flavor and tenor of a deer season for a game warden.
These would, for reasons only the cockamamie computer knows (or doesn’t) would not load yesterday. So we try again. For artists interested in shapes and hues, there is nothing like a long slow walk in the woods on a crispy fall day..
Getting reacquainted with life BTB. Walking the mutt in the Pileated Forest Every day. Beautiful and peaceful and filled with turkeys. Photos follow. Over.
We are BTB (below the bridge) in our “winter quarters.” The usual culture shock, natch: so damn many people, so many vehicles and most drivers competing for Most Reckless/ Thoughtless/Clueless Award. It is the same experience , ever year. It is not a pleasant feeling to drive in traffic after six months where you pretty regularly drive 35 miles and se a single vehicle. But tizwhadiz and we press on. Dog seems glad to he home. We have to drive him 7-8 miles to the Pileated Forest for his extended freedom runs. Will be off to work with DNR officers in the not-too-distant future and prolly won’t post until after I return late in the month. Photos of recent days follow. Rained all the way from Deer Park to Portage. Spent night en route at Gates Lodge east of Grayling on the Holy Water. Go to visit with Joe Guild, Sam Surrey, and Josh Greenberg, then a quick visit with CO Mark Papineau in Clare on the way Sud. Pictures follow in no particular order. Over.
Editor’s note: I like this photo just because it displays the Thud’s distinctive silhouette so well. Note that the KC-135 still has the original J-57 engines with the signature black smoke stains on the flaps from those interminable takeoff rolls with water injection howling and all the crew pushing. One day at Hill AFB, a KC-135 from the SAC satellite alert force took off to rotate back home to Beale. He rolled all the way south down the 13,500′ runway, rotated within the last 1000′, managed to avoid the ILS localizer antenna but took down the perimeter fence 1500′ beyond, as well as a stop sign on the civilian street outside. Fortunately the ground sloped away toward the town of Layton & the Great Salt Lake and he was able to get it going. I’d love to know what the drivers had to say to each other afterwards…
After the advance copy of this issue was sent to our Tech Advisors, Jim Webster provided this remarkably similar later view he took of Marty Noel’s loaded-for-bear Weasel “G” somewhere over Laos carrying a Standard Arm and 2 Shrikes. The wingtip vortex streamers indicate we’re talking heavy iron here… The tanker has gotten a lot dirtier and more scabrous over the years.
Published by email for the enjoyment of all those associated in any significant way with the Republic F-105 Thunderchief a.k.a. Thud, Ultrahog, & Squashbomber; and the Lockheed/Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon a.k.a. Viper, Electric Jet, & Lawn Dart, hereafter know in this publication as “Thud” & “Viper” respectively.This includes, but is not limited to, Pilots, Bears, Maintainers, Armorers, Flight Surgeons, & Tech Reps. We solicit stories of your adventures, combat or otherwise, to keep alive the memories & legends of these outstanding fighter aircraft. Bits of trivia about them that might be of interest to fellow aviators are also welcome.
Dedicated to all those who have flown west to join up with that Great Rendezvous in the sky.
There are no dues to receive this letter, we only ask that you support this effort by contributing such stories of adventures/misadventures as you care to share.
Address your stories, suggestions, queries, or complaints to your editor, Norm Powell at email@example.com
Please submit your items for publication as a text email, not an attachment, in your choice of easily-read 12-point font. We will edit them only as necessary for clarity or to correct spelling/grammar. Slang & euphemisms (YGBSM) are accepted & welcome. If for any reason I deem your submission unsuitable for dissemination, I will contact the author privately to see if we can work it out.
The intent is to compile and publish your submissions at least monthly, or more often if the volume of material warrants. An advance copy of each issue will be reviewed by our Technical Advisors: pilots Jim Miholick, Bane Lyle, Greg “Blotto” Garrett, Jim Webster, and myself to correct any possible technical misinformation. Having said that, this is not a pure historical document, but a forum for our veteran members to tell their stories as they remember them. We recognize that memories are fallible and when combined with the infamous “Fog of War” may result in different accounts of the same event.
Here’s one final account of the intercepts of supersonic Thuds by English Electric Lightnings of the RAF in the early ’60s.
Lightning-Thud Intercept – John Heron
Thud was one of the few aircraft which could provide a genuine supersonic threat during exercises. I’ve checked my log book and on 15 Jan 1964 I was scrambled in a Lightning F2 to engage a single F-105D which was approaching the coast at Mach 1.4 about 100 miles east of Lincolnshire. As I closed he turned left on to a heading of about 140 at around 34,000 ft. I was concentrating on the radar and missile acquisition with my head in the radar sun visor, and not paying attention to speed. On a cold Winter’s day at the troposphere there was power to spare and inadvertently I reached Mach 2.0 as I passed the Thud, just off his right wing. Who was he I wonder?
Sixteen months later I was at Nellis appreciating the merits of that fine fighter bomber and some years later at least two of our students on the 4526th were exchange pilots with the RAF flying the Lightning. Happy memories!
Barracuda Two is down – Gordon Jenkins
Note: This is written as an addendum to the article “The Best Job I ever had (the rescue of Maj. R. E. Stone) giving the perspective of the Navy rescueman published in the previous edition of the MIG SWEEP.
I was among the second class of First Lieutenants to be checked out in the Thud at Nellis and shipped out directly to Thailand to bomb the North. Among my group were Bob Lodge, Jim Shively, Gary Smith (all USAFA grads) and Bob Abbott, Bob Weskamp, Ken Matthews, and Paul Sheehy.
Lodge was a very interesting fellow, himself shot down trying to get his third Mig on a second tour in F-4s. Bob Lodge had a photographic memory, most aptly demonstrated during our 100th mission, when I had a hung 750-pounder on the centerline MER. Bob joined up and advised me of the situation, then transmitted “250, 1g, no flaps” reciting the limitations from the manual as though he had the page in front of him. Without his astute input, I’d have toggled the rack at 400 knots – after all I am an LSU graduate. Shively and Abbott were shot down after 50 missions and spent 7 years as POWs in Hanoi. Bob Weskamp was shot down while inbound to a target near Hanoi and never bailed out. Matthews, Sheehy, Smith, Lodge and I were able to complete 100 missions over North Vietnam. Our group of 8 actually beat the odds, as upon our arrival at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in December, 1966, we were ushered into the lobby at Base Operations awaiting representatives from the three squadrons to ‘divvy up’ the eight Lieutenants. On the wall in Base Ops were two 4X8 pieces of plywood with titles “100 Missions” and “POW/MIA/KIA”. There were an equal number of small nametags on each board, showing us that this was a 50/50 proposition!
My most challenging mission was flown on July 2, 1967. This was my 96th mission and flown the day after my 37th one to the Hanoi area (Route Pack VI). This was my first flight as lead, having been approved for this status by Col Bob White of X-15 fame, who was the Wing Director of Operations. Bob Lodge and I were the first lieutenants placed on flight lead orders at Takhli, as the Wing Commander, Col Bob Scott, thought only senior officers could be trusted with this position.
On this date, I was Baracuda One, with Major Bob Stone as two. This was a mission to Route Pack II, with our fragged target being a river crossing on the “Black Route”, the designation of a 50 mile stretch of river leading from the Laotian Border to the Gulf of Tonkin. We had an uneventful refueling and, as I had learned from some really fine fighter pilots, flew the entire length of Black Route hoping to see some ‘movers’ so we could drop our six 750 pound bombs on a visual target of opportunity. Nothing was moving that day as we weaved back and forth at 8,000 feet eastbound over the river. We reached the coast and I determined that the best we could do that day was to hit the fragged river crossing which was about thirty miles inland.
We headed back west and approached the target from the northeast. I pulled up to 12,000 to dive bomb the river crossing, with Major Stone taking spacing outside my climbing turn. I released bombs at the standard 5,000 ft AGL in a 45 degree dive and 540 knots. Pulling up and turning left, I saw my bombs hit just on the south side of the river at the underwater crossing point and observed a new ‘cloud’ appear below me at about 6,000 feet. This was 37mm anti-aircraft fire that had been fused to explode at that altitude. Unfortunately for Bob Stone, he flew directly into the metal overcast and suffered major damage. His aircraft was shedding parts and burning. I transmitted “head west” because I didn’t think he could make it to the Gulf with that much damage — and heading west would take him into mountainous terrain from which a rescue would be possible. He leveled off at 8,000 ft heading west, going fast. I saw more and more of his aircraft falling away and told him to ‘bailout’, which he did. Unfortunately he was doing 500 knots and the windblast from an ejection at that airspeed can cause major whiplash to neck, arms, and legs. I watched as his chute landed in a tree covered hillside. The chute appeared to hang up in the topmost branches of a tree canopy that I estimated to be 100 feet above the ground. I tried to reach him on ‘guard’, but got no response. I immediately contacted Red Crown, the controlling agency for search and rescue, advising them that “Baracuda Two is down” and transmitted the Doppler lat/long position to aid in the rescue. They asked if I had a visual of his location and if I had radio contact with him. I lied. I said I had a visual and had spoken to him on the radio, so “send a chopper to get him out”. They said a rescue force was on the way.
I needed gas, so after doing a ‘fix’ on my doppler navigation system I headed for the nearest tanker. Folks were most helpful in arranging for my much needed poststrike refueling. I then returned to the area of Bob’s chute and contacted Red Crown to determine the rescue status. They replied that the chopper was inbound over the coast and taking heavy fire from the ground – and were about to abort the rescue. This would not do! I had already lost my wingman on the first mission I had been trusted to lead, and I wasn’t about to let them turn back. I got the chopper pilot to give me a ‘hold down’ so I could use my UHF radio direction-finding feature to locate him. I flew out to them, circled the chopper, now about 2,000 feet above the flats east of the mountains. I said “follow me” and lowered half flaps, slowed to 250 knots to stay within sight of the slow moving chopper, then S-turned southwest bound over the flats of North Vietnam just south of Vinh to lead him to the parachute hanging in the trees. I don’t know to this day why I didn’t get shot down during this highly risky maneuver at 2500 feet over a highly defended area of North Vietnam. I was just above traffic pattern altitude! Someone was watching out for me.
We made it to the hills and his chute and they said that he was not responding to the tree penetrator they had dropped near him. I said “send a PJ down to help him” and they did so. The chopper was hovering for some minutes just above the chute and they moved to a clearing where the PJ was able to descend and get Bob secured and lifted aboard. The chopper pilot advised that he was unconscious and had multiple broken bones. They returned to their ship in the Gulf of Tonkin and I returned to Takhli logging 3 hours and 20 minutes of combat.
Bob Lodge was our awards and decorations officer and he attended the debriefing. I never knew he had written a citation for my second Silver Star until it was presented to me at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, Texas.
On July 8th I was again flight lead for my 100th mission with Bob Lodge on my wing. TSGT J. J. Smith, who was my crewchief during five assignments in the Thud, launched me in “Darlin Dianne“.
Bob and I changed positions after dropping our ordnance so I could be on the wing (as we had practiced on the previous mission) and we beat up the airfield with four passes – first in fingertip at 100 feet AGL and 550 knots, followed by a slow-speed pass with the probes extended (giving the guys the ‘finger’), then a high speed pass leading to a vertical pullup midfield where I split from Bob and we flew an opposing pass down either side of the runway at 500 knots, crossing directly in front of our squadron. I then rejoined Bob and we ended our airshow with a 200 foot, 400 knot initial followed by each pulling up and doing a 360 degree roll and turning left to downwind for landing. Col Scott met us after engine shutdown for photos and shook our hands. I understand that he changed the rules for flybys that same day.
I returned to Korat RTAFB as a Wild Weasel pilot for my second tour but only got eight more combat missions before they cancelled the war on me.
Flaming Beer Cans….Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 2003′ – Rob “Smokey” Ray
Our Mission was fragged as a standard (if there is such a thing) Search and destroy patrol with a 4 hour Vul (vulnerability) time, (6.5 hour mission). “Potsi” and I would launch as a 2 ship from BASE-X, fly through a narrow exit gate, refuel and enter Iraqi airspace. Our loadout was 2 GBU-12’s and one 2000# JDAM (GPS guided MK 84), 2 Aim 120 Amraam’s and 510 rounds of HEI 20MM plus an ECM pod and 2-370 gal wing tanks, chaff and flares. The mission would be 1/2 Day and night, NVG’s would be worn for most of the patrol time. Start taxi and takeoff from our bare base was fairly standard, taxiing through a FOD nightmare and middle eastern Min Comm procedures. The Runway at Base-X was pockmarked from repairs of attacks from Israeli jets many years before, and Lawrence of Arabia had camped nearby on one of his campaigns. The historic landscape had many warriors pass by over the past 2000 years, us included. As Potsi lines up next to me I can’t help but notice the brown tinge our normally grey jets had taken after living in this dusty land for 3 months. Every leak or grease spot now had caked earth attached. I suppose we carried a little bit of our host country around with us wherever we went. My left hand eases the large meat cleaver-like throttle handle forward and my GE F-110 comes to life. I move the handle past the forward stop and with a left outward motion slide into afterburner. Soon thereafter 60,000 pounds per hour of kerosene and noise transfers itself into 27000 lbs of thrust. Acceleration is brisk and even with the full load underneath me I am airborne by mid field and climbing quickly. Ten seconds later Potsi is right behind, dodging jet wash and watching the stucco buildings surrounding the base zip past. Wonder if anybody down there has a cellphone and is passing our launch times to their brothers downrange? Soon I turn us East and start getting our systems on and working. Without a Targeting pod, ECM pod, working RWR or NVG’s you might as well not even refuel, you’re going home. So, all of those items are checked prior to refueling and the eventual FENCE check. My Jet’s good to go and I echo the same to Potsi on VHF. We perform a “stare” (targeting pod lock on and lase) on the last corner of friendly ground before heading to the tanker. Our SADL (data link display) is happily showing little symbols where everybody is, including our tanker. With a click of my pinkie on the nosewheel steering button I see everybody’s fuel and weapon status who is airborne. The flight in front of us is fairly skosh (low fuel) so I give them a wide berth as we silently join on the KC-135R’s left wing. The last rays of daylight fade and I lower my goggles to peer at the tanker, “good to go, back to stow”. Soon the flight ahead has left and I smoothly slide into position, the Tanker’s boom extends as I wonder how many times this old 707 has refueled fighters? All the R’s are converted A’s, maybe it was doing this in Viet Nam…hard to say. I reach back and flick my intercom switch on, even though this is a single seat Jet. When the boom connects, I will be able to chat with the boom operator like sitting at Starbucks. Through one eye I can see the boomer in his lair moving the probe to the right and out of my way, the other spies the director lights under the Tanker’s nose, beckoning me closer. Moving forward at a walking pace less than 15 feet below the KC-135;s belly I see the UHF antenna potruding from the 135’s enormous belly lined up with his nose wheel door and know I’m there, director lights or no. I stop my forward motion. The pregnant pause subsides when my Jet moves slightly and a clunk sound is heard and suddenly a giant hand seems to hold my airplane against my will. The fuel gauge increases, life is good. I say “howdy” to the boomer and the rest of the crew chimes in. The Tanker pilots comment that it’s already been a busy day, several SAM’s seen and AAA around Hadithah Dam, right where we are headed. Looks like a long night ahead. Minutes go by as I chit chat with the crew and ask them how their 8 hour day has gone. The fuel gauge finally reads full of JP8 as I simultaneously say “see ya” to the boomer, click the disconnect button and slide aft, down and over to the Tankers right wing while my left hand reaches down behind me to close the refueling door. The flight controls feel sprightly again as takeoff and landing gains are cancelled with the door closed. Eventually Potsi has refueled and I call for the FENCE check/Ops check/post AAR/go “active.” A switch to “active” translated means to switch to UHF frequency and go to active Have Quick (anti jam) UHF. Suddenly the airwaves are alive with a Brit accent from Bondo, our AWACS and several of our Bros getting tasked to support Special Operator teams in Kill Boxes. I turn my ECM pod to auto, switch my exterior lights to covert, arm my chaff flares and check my IFF in auto. I check us in and Bondo calmly gives us our tasking as if he was taking our order for a pint of Guinness back in the UK. “Honcho 21, proceed to 88 Alpha Romeo and contact Striker 14 on Grape Three” I respond with a simple “Honcho 21”. Western Iraq is the Wild West as far as de-confliction of aircraft and airspace goes, with literally hundreds of aircraft on separate frequencies droning around lights out. Rule number one is to stay in your assigned block and everybody is happy. Stray high or low and you might hit something, simple as that. It’s dark out here and only the narrow view in your NVG’s brings the dark world into and eerie green hue. Potsi’s covert tail strobe is happily blinking a double blink, mine set in “1” giving me a single flash and if there was a Honcho three or four, theirs would blink appropriately. Potsi’s colored covert wingtip lights flash away making him look like he is sitting still under the quarter moon. To make sure his lights are covert I lift my Goggs slightly and look at him with my naked eye, nothing but dark. Amazing thing that visible light spectrum!
We are heading Northeast across the vast wasteland of Southwestern Iraq towards Mesopotamia, the Euphrates river and a huge Dam holding back it’s waters, the Hadithah. I send us to a discreet Have Quick UHF and we switch to Grape Three on VHF secure. “Striker 14, Honcho 21 as fragged” A far away voice answers “Striker 14 copy, standby 9 line” After a few seconds I see out of the corner of my eye a message on my up front control and a digital text appears on my HUD. Striker’s 9-line CAS brief is here. My Targeting pod and INS/GPS has already received the coordinates and my Pod view is showing the target area. I dare not get caught up in the “green stuff” yet as my job is to first make sure we don’t get shot, hopefully and not kill friendlies. Striker 14, our JTAC is probably an Air Force enlisted specialist attached to Special Ops and working with the best of the best. The teams working with us in Western Iraq are a Dream team of special operators, hand picked to perform the mission at hand: Counter-TBM or more simply, SCUD Killing. Striker has apparently located a cache of munitions he wants us to take out, the weapon of choice tonight is the GBU-12. I set up my SMS for GBU-12 and glance at the 9-line brief. The target is less than 1 mile from Striker’s position, nothing new for Special Ops. There are enemy forces near the cache and AAA has been seen nearby. Our patrol altitude block of 15-19K above Earth is well within the range of most anti aircraft guns and nearly every type of SAM. I nudge the throttle slightly forward to achieve 400 KIAS and turn away from the target. I quickly calculate a 12 mile run in for the attack with Potsi as cover while I drop and self-lase. The familiar scenario repeated from habit, practiced to ad nausea back home in our MOA literally hundreds of times. “Honcho 21 laser arm, one is arm hot” Potsi simply answers “Two”. I center the locator line in the HUD, see that the “ARM” is showing and I have a single GBU-12 selected. I acclerate to 450 Knots Calibrated at 17K AGL with my ground speed approaching 600 Knots. I check to see if Potsi is with me. He;s right where he is supposed to be, checking my 6. The miles click away as I stare into the 6 inch square world of the FLIR in our Litening Targeting Pod. The target gets very clear as I get closer and in no time it seems a blinking circle in the HUD appears, I am in range to drop. My crosshairs are centered on the target, and Striker has already cleared me “hot” 12 miles back, a trusting soul for sure. I ease my right thumb off the laser designator on the stick and onto the release (pickle) button. With a press and hold on the button I feel a slight shake in the airframe and a release cue in the SMS shows a 500-pound laser guided bomb is headed for it’s destiny. The laser is locked on and I watch the seconds slowly tick down as I ease into a 30 degree left bank, careful not to gimbal the Targeting Pod mounted on the right side of the Fuselage. Then simultaneously as the seconds tick to zero, a bright flash appears in the Pod, target destroyed. Seemingly an instant later a very calm voice comes on the radio “Smokey, break left.” For all the seemingly millions of times I have practiced reacting to that unavoidable call for action, all the times I wondered what it would be like for real, there it was, when I least expected it. With a flick of my wrist I simultaneously pull the Jet into a harder descending left bank, apply full throttle, pop chaff and flares and look outside. What I see seems in slow motion and odd, large fiery balls or even what appears to be flaming aerial beer cans right outside my canopy sailing past my tail. I feel a slight ripple of turbulence as I fly through where the projectiles just were. Then, through my goggles I see a flash and what looks like Christmas tree Tensile flying outwards. So this is AAA…My brain jumps back into real time and I make a simple call “Defending AAA”. Potsi immediately and very calmly echos “copy defending, airburst behind you” After a full 180 degree turn back towards Syria I continue to accelerate away from the AAA site and switch to Air to Air radar clearing our flightpath North. I pop more chaff as Potsi makes the call “AAA ceased fire.” Striker chimes in “Honcho, you are taking fire” I think to myself, no sh—t Sherlock but silently thank him for his vigilance. “Webe” a flight of 2 A-10’s holding nearby chimes in “Tally AAA site, request suppression” Striker immediately responds, “Target in sight, cleared hot”. As I pass over the A10’s a thousand feet above and opposite direction I tell Potsi “Hook Left” and execute a 180 degree turn back toward the AAA site. We are 3 miles behind and slightly above the A-10’s providing mutual support for their “Gun Run.” One mile from the site I see fire spew forth from Webe 1’s nose as he delivers 30 MM cannon rounds downrange. The tracers arc upwards and then back to Earth, sparkling the ground as they impact the AAA site. My targeting pod records the event as bright flashes of light and explosions. As quickly as he has fired his big gun Webe and his wingman execute a 180 degree about face as secondary explosions erupt around the former AAA emplacement. I echo his tactic and call “hook left” once again. We cover Webe’s egress and I pass along, “Nice shootin Tex” to them on VHF. With two targets burning and fuel becoming scarce, I tell Striker “Honcho is Texaco, Webe, cleared in”. We then safe our switches and head South for more JP8, a quick breather and re-tasking. Potsi performs his best night battle damage check and I confirm there seems to be nothing leaking. The trip to the tanker takes almost 20 minutes with an amazing panorama of Iraq at night through my NVG’s. In the distance I can see Baghdad under fire, explosions going off in the distant North and lightning over Saudi Arabia, 200 miles away. Our little world at war…
We would later support 2 more CAS taskings that night and then drop our JDAM’s on a telecommunications facility as the Eastern horizon was glowing with the pending sunrise. Our targeting pods recorded the direct hits with pinpoint accuracy from our cruising height “well above” 20,000 feet. We continued our trip West and home passing through several friendly SAM gauntlets and tiptoe down the Syrian border once again…Denny’s (our chow tent) awaits.