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Posts tagged Air Force

Self-Confidence and Worldly Wisdom

Winter                                          Waxing Moon of the Cold Month

Grandma and Grandpa made a boo-boo.  We showed up about an hour late for cooking s upper last night.  Kate made a roast chicken, roasted root vegetables and snow peas while I made a pot of my chicken soup.  Dinner was late, but there were plenty of left-overs.

Jen’s had a tough week with 21 third graders out on Monday due to snow.  It was a test day.  Wednesday was a test day, too.  The school district scheduled a code red lockdown, an intruder alert where all the doors get locked.  Thursday was a test day.  A fire drill.   These are the high stakes tests that document student performance from year to year.  Plus she’s had the in-laws.  Never easy, even though we get along quite well.

Joseph arrived around 7:15.  He looks great.  He developed a personal training program for the last ten days of his deployment.   I didn’t get the count on the dips and pull-ups, but over this time period he did 160 push-ups a day.  That’s along with the dips and pull-ups and whatever else.  Geez.

He has gained in self-confidence and worldly wisdom as well as physical strength.  Emily, a woman he has dated off and on for several years, has begun to take on more significance.  They plan to meet up in Hawai’i at the end of February for 8 days to see where they want their relationship to go.   He says, “I know now I’m not the only one to have a serious relationship break-up and I know that even this one is not my only option.”  Thank God.

Having said that Emily, a fish and wildlife person, loves the outdoors, skis and is, “a quiet person, like me.”  Most important?  He says the relationship is easy.  That’s a big clue to me of a good fit.  We’ll see.

Jon and Jen asked Joseph to become godparent for Ruth and Gabe.  Quite a vote of confidence in him, a single military man.  Even with his deployments they said they trusted him more than anyone else.  Good for them and him.

I took Joseph over to Superior, Colorado this morning where he will spend the day and night with his mom and step-brother, Jesse, Jesse’s wife and their new baby.  Then he’ll be back here for the Wildwest Show.

Tomorrow is our next to last day here.  We leave Sunday to return north, home to the land of constant cold and snow.  It’s sunny and in the high 40’s here right now.

A Man of Many Parts

Lughnasa                                       Waxing Back to School Moon

Joseph has collections of photographs clustered throughout his house.  They reveal multi-dimensionality.  One grouping has Joseph with Ruth and Gabe, his nephew and niece.  Another shows him in Guatemala where he went to help with plastic surgery missions when Kate went.  One of them shows him with mask, hat and gown working side by side with the surgeons.  A collection of several photographs near his office have the Colosseum, the Louvre and other highlights of his post-high school trip through 670joseph_0256Europe.  Over his couch hang skiing pictures, most of them from Breckenridge where he lived before joining the Air Force.  Over his computer he has one of Julian, a step-father, and Jesse, a step-brother, his mom, Raeone and me with him at his commissioning ceremony and two of me with a two year old or so Joseph on my shoulders.  The Northshore and shots of New York City are on the wall in his bedroom along with Bridget, a whippet and Herschel, a german short hair who lived with Jon and Jen.

Barnie, a springer spaniel whom he loved, has pride of place on his desktop while over his sink are two photographs, one of Celt, our first Irish Wolfhound and Scott, who died too  young.

The most touching set to me, however, has Joseph in his flight suit beside the F15 in which he flew, a large medallion with the United State Air Force on it, and a picture of my dad, in bomber jacket and gloves, standing before the liaison plane he flew during WW II.

In his office, too, he has his officer’s commission in a frame and the two B.S. degrees he earned while at the UofM, one in Physics and the other in Astrophysics.

Joseph has made his own choices, often hard ones, and done the work.  He chose against med school early on, deciding that physics and astronomy suited him better.  These are difficult areas of study, but he put in a lot of work to put them under his belt.  He decided for the Air Force then encountered obstacle after obstacle topped off by a humiliating OTS experience to get where he is now, a First Lt and Air Weapons Officer flying in the JSTAR program and about to be deployed to Qatar.

He’s a no nonsense man, analytical, loyal to his friends and his career and a wonderful son.  As with most parents, I find all this a bit dazzling considering the 4.5 pound baby670joseph_0264 boy I received on a cold December night at 12:15 am, just off the plane from India.  Somehow he has gone from birth to that trans-continental flight to flying for the United States Air Force.


Lughnasa                                   Waxing Back to School Moon

Joseph and I ate lunch at the When Pigs Fly Barbecue across from Robbins Air Force Base.  Robbins, Joseph tells me, is the largest employer in the state of Georgia.  Robbins has two wings, where a normal AFB has only one.  One is a mobility wing and the other, Joseph’s, is the 116th.  It used to be a bomber wing and now includes air battle management under the JSTARS program, a joint effort with the US Army.

When Pigs Fly has the oil cloth table covers, homemade booths and slightly dilapidated air I’ve found in every good local Barbecue joint in the south.

Joseph has had a hectic few weeks getting ready for his first deployment which starts somewhere between 9/20-9/24.  He’ll be gone for three months plus a little, getting back to the States sometime in January.  Two months of flying missions over Afghanistan, then a month working on staff, a 12-hour a day, 7 day a week assignment.

When I asked him if he was lonely–he lives alone, he said no, I work with people all day, the same people and I see them on deployment, temporary duty assignments, so it’s nice to have time alone, with no people to speak to.  I get that.

We also visited the aviation museum just off base.  It’s huge.  We saw a setup like the one in his plane, the same equipment.  The equipment has a long used quality and he says the real thing doesn’t look a lot different.  His is an exacting task, reading squiggles on a screen, communicating with fast moving jets and ground troop controllers, all executed in a setting that would have looked fancy in 1965.

Pre-deployment includes things you might not consider.  Who will mow the lawn?  A man from ADT security came today and installed a security system to protect Joe’s stuff when he’s gone protecting our stuff.  He wants a dog, but with deployment as much as 5 months out of the year it looks less and less practical.

This is a world far different from mine yet the quotidian, as it always does, remains the same.

Oh, I ordered a queen today from ohbees.com.  She’ll ship on Monday and come with little paint stop so I won’t kill her.  I hope.

Top of His Class

Summer                                      Waxing Grandchildren Moon

Joe graduated top of his class for the third time today:  top scope at Tyndall in basic Air Battle Management and Distinguished Graduate for his Robbin’s AFB (current assignment) JSTAR’s work as well as a program for new lts.  A colonel said, “We’ve never had anybody finish with 100% before.”  Another told him, “That’s a bullet (on the resume) that will help you make Lt Col.”  Joe’s not sure he wants to progress past Major, but he is glad to have these achievement because, “They’ll look good on my astronaut application to NASA.”  He’s in his second class for a masters degree in Space Studies; having a masters is a requirement for promotion to Major.  He reported with disappointment that his TDY, temporary duty deployment, originally slated for an AFB near Las Vegas, has been moved to Tucson, Arizona, “A place that’s hotter than Georgia.”  Oh, well.

Woke up today with Latin on my mind.  I got down to work on translating my Cicero and received an e-mail from Margaret Levin about that article I promised to write.  The deadline?  Today.  Oh, yeah.  Grandkids.  Spaced it.  So, I worked my way through Cicero’s rebuke to Catillin, “Why stay?  Take your conspirators and leave now or we will quickly throw you out.”  and other words to that effect.  I had an hour before my tutorial so I grabbed the file for the article about the Sierra Club’s 2010 legislative session for the Do It Green magazine.  Hammered out 500 + words, the rough number they wanted, sat out until after the nap, revised it and sent it off just barely ahead of the deadline.

My Cicero and my translation of the ancient sentences, that is, sentences actually written by Latin author went well.  My english to latin work not so much.  Greg says composing in Latin is the best way to learn the grammar and the most difficult task in Latin.  It is for me.  I gotta go slower and allow more time for it.  No Ovid this week.

After the nap, I went to Anoka Feed and Seed to order 5 cubic yards of shredded tree bark.  Big fun.  On Monday morning the high school kid, Ray, and I will mulch the orchard and the vegetable garden.  Monday looks like an ok day, forecast right now for 76.  Bees either tomorrow morning or Sunday, which looks cooler.

Now, I’m off to the treadmill and more episodes of True Blood.

One Who Serves

Beltane                                      Waning Planting Moon

Here’s where Joseph and Kate and I meet up on the question of work:  it needs to be a vocation, work with a purpose and value integral to our selves, work that harnesses our gifts in service of a greater good.  The military fits that definition.  It’s not something you do for the money, or the glory, or the power.  You do andruthit because you feel you need to do it, especially when you join after graduating from college with two B.S. degrees and have to go through OTS and your early socialization as a non-prior, that is, someone who did not enlist or did not attend the Air Force Academy.

This is why I respect his choice to serve in the military.  He saw the planes fly into the Twin Towers and said to himself that he wanted to do something to protect his country, his family.  He knew, too, that the Air Force might provide a route into space, something else that calls to him, so it was the Air Force.

With characteristic perseverance he ended up in the Air Force after overcoming significant obstacles.  The first was a long delay in the acceptance of his application for entrance in to the officer corps.  The boards that make these determinations only meet twice a year and his application got shunted over at least once.  When he had his first physical he had eye trouble, he needed a waver for near-sightedness.  At least I think that’s when that came up.  Somewhere along the line it did.

The kicker came when his application was to go to the board for final approval in March of 2006.  He skied the moguls, something he’s done countless times, not even at high speed.  He broke his femur.  The hardest bone in the body.  When the ski patrol came, he helped them set the bone.  They said they’d never seen someone with such a high pain threshold.  You can tell he’s not from my genetic stock.

Friday              March 3rd, 2006  4:52PM

Call from Frisco Emergency.   Joseph.  “Don’t panic.”  OK.  Talk to Joe.  Broke his femur above the knee.  He’s in surgery now, getting a rod installed.  Kate says it’s less of a surgical procedure than my Achilles.  Don’t know if I believe it.

Saturday         March 4th, 2006   10:04PM  36  wc34

After calls to Joe, Raeone, and back to Joe decided I needed to get out there tomorrow.  So, I’ll preach on the effect of postmodern thought on faith, then hit the friendly skies of bankrupt NWA.  They really, really know how to fly.

Joseph seems in good spirits and has weighed options, plans to run in July.  As one door closes, another opens, he said.  Maybe he is, as Elaine Wynne thought, an old soul.

This is a kid who learned to ski when he was 8 and had skied with energy and passion from then on.  In fact, he reintroduced the sport of downhill ski racing to St. Paul Central and went on to race for the University of Minnesota.  In all that time not a broken bone.

When the board learned of his accident, they set his application aside again.  Once he healed up, he went for a physical and was told he couldn’t fly with metal in his leg.  He has a titanium rod in his femur.  He kept pressing them, asked for and received a waver on his leg only to have his eyes come up again.  He could not be a pilot or a navigator.  His two top choices.  That’s how he ended up in Air Battle Management, the only other rated officer in the Air Force.

He went through hell as a non-prior at OTS at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama.  That was the nadir of the process.  After Maxwell, he’s been first in his class ever since, expresses affection for his work and feels finally like he’s getting on with his life.joeslivingroom670

Last fall he bought a house in Macon, Georgia where he will be for at least four years.  His life, for now, is the Air Force.

When This Bell Tolls I Stand Inside It

Beltane                               Full Planting Moon

A long nap reminded me that the cold has not yet run its course.  Feel wiped out.  Again.  Sigh.

Not too much longer, though.  He said, hopefully.

The day has turned partly cloudy, not the bright holiday weekend start-up we had in the morning.  Memorial Day looks like a great bee care day, sunny and not too hot with reasonable dew points.   Buddy Mark Odegard has offered to create labels for our honey containers.  He liked Artemis Honey and said he thought The Honeycake Honey was sweet.  Maybe over the top?  He’s going to work with it though, see what comes to mind.

Memorial Day has a strange resonance for me.  Mom and Dad were both vets, Dad serving in the Army Air Corps and Mom in the Women’s Army Corps attached to a Signals Unit (intelligence).  The army paid for their grave markers and they were both open and proud about their service.  As a result I grew up with a lot of WWII culture:  Inky dinky parlez-vous, counter intelligence (Dad), army blankets, cots, snafu, curled Kodak snapshots of my mother on Capris, in Algiers, Dad standing rakishly beside a small plane, the collar of his pilot’s jacket turned up, things from another time, from black and white movies.

(I am stuck between the tone of this Memorial Day Poster and the photograph below.)

Deeper though than the slang and the photographs ran a river of patriotism, of faith in the government and its power, a liberal faith, one confident that government knew more and hence better than we did, could be  counted on when the going got rough.  This confidence showed up at the Decoration Day parades in Alexandria, Indiana, the asphalt crumpling beneath tank treads and its smell blending with gunpowder.  Men marched proudly with the colors in uniforms that no longer fit.  The school band played rousing patriotic music and the baton twirlers threw their batons high in the air and caught them.  Most of the time.

At the cemetery there were flowers and flags and long speeches to which I could not listen as a child, not because they were offensive, but because they were adult and serious and not about my world at all.  I did like the parade and the music.

Now, Joseph has come near to completing his training as Air Battle Manager, a Air Weapons officer.  On June 18th he will have held his 2nd Lt commission for two years and will receive an automatic promotion to 1st Lt.  Either on or around that day he will receive his wings and become a flight-rated officer.  I’ll be there on the 18th and I’m proud of him.

This makes me the generation that skipped the military.  Not only skipped it, but actively fought against the Vietnam War.  Opposed it with hours and hours and hours of activist work spanning many years, over 8.  My opposition to the war created an estrangement between my Army Air Corps vet Dad that never healed.  Mom died in 1964 so the war never became an issue between us though I fantasize that she would have handled it better than Dad.

So on Memorial Day my memories are of other’s service, others closely connected to me, as close, in some ways, as human connections can be:  Mother, Father, Son.  I am the outlier, not anti-military but suspicious from the beginning of any war, not of the military’s role, but of the political decisions and calculations that go into it, of the long term futility of war, of the heartache and suffering, the death and dislocation that follows as War steps across a country.

And there is a strange resonance, as if others hear the bell tolling and I stand inside it, aware only of its clang and the heat and the possibility of being hit by the clapper.

This Way To Nirvana

Beltane                                     Waxing Planting Moon

Couldn’t end the day on an embalming note, especially a day that included a post about a columbarium, too.

So, hey, how about those Twins?

Joseph called and he will get his wings on June 18th, exactly two years from his commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant at Maxwell AFB.  That means he’ll get his wings and become a 1st Lieutenant on the same day.  A neat deal.

I will be there.  Getting your wings does not have a parents come on down hoopla like the commissioning ceremony did, but within the Air Force culture, it’s a big deal.  The wings mean you are in a rated position, eligible for flight pay.  In an organization devoted to flying, that’s important.

Forgot to mention yesterday that Kate went along to the Hindu Mandir.  She has known Dr. Sane for a long time and it was fun for her to see him.  Also, I didn’t mention the exotic flavor to the temple visit–us.  In the temple area, filled with incense, the sounds of bells and prayers being chanted in Sanskrit we were the only light skinned folks in the place, a whisper of Europe and the USA in a fully inflected Indian environment.

My sister, Mary, wrote a comment about the Nirvana Columbarium.  She says it’s on her way to work in western Singapore.  Each day, she wrote, she passes a sign that says, “This way to Nirvana.”

Young Men, Flying Machines

Beltane           New Moon

Panama City, Fl.   Joseph’s apartment on the Gulf of Mexico

Since last night I’ve met five  of Joseph’s classmates, almost  half of his flight (class).  Jamie, a fellow old timer (30 years old) and former enlisted, entertained.  Joseph took his chili and Jamie provided the ribs.  Justin (Philadelphia) and Neal are younger.  Tonight I met Justin (Montana) and Dan.

These are serious young men, committed to learning a complicated set of skills while also navigating a career track.  Air Battle Management has a key role in command and control for air forces, planning missions and managing the assets once they are in the air.

The testosterone level runs a bit high, as you might imagine.  They posture a bit as they talk about missions, check rides and fast jets.  It’s impossible, of course, for a father to view his son accurately in this situation because, like Heisenberg said of inspecting electrons, he affects the son as he observes.

My suspicion though is that Joseph is a bit, maybe a lot, more level and less career minded than those I met.  He has his head down, focuses on his work and lives his own life off base.

I had a couple of reasons for coming down here. The first and most important was to see Joseph, see his new home and base.  The second is to get a better more complete understanding of military life.  This is still foreign territory to me and I want to get it.  I’ll write some more about this tomorrow.

Boy Into a Man

16  bar steady  29.68  S2  windchill 13   Winter

Waxing Crescent of the Wolf Moon

The healing of Kate’s neck has been slow and painful.  She’s made progress, but not as much either of us would like.

We went into St. Paul tonight in the red car.  It’s suspension, sportscar stiff, jolted her neck and brought back the pain in her right arm.  Bad move.

In the red car to the Blue Door.  Joseph goes back to Panama City tomorrow and we wanted to have dinner with him.  The Blue Door owners cooked at Matt’s in Minneapolis and brought the juicy lucy with them, though they call it the blucy.

There must be a moment in each parent’s life, at least if they’re lucky, when they look up and see that the boy turned into a man, the girl into a woman.   Since OTS in June, I’ve had that opportunity.  At dinner tonight a man of bearing and stature talked with me across the table.  There is with this realization, though, a certain pang of grief.   The boy has disappeared into the body of the man.  That sweetness of childhood gone.

Grandchildren, in that sense, are like the moon, they shine back to the grandparents the reflected light of childhood and for that alone they are precious.

He trains now straight through to the end, sometime in September.  After this bout of training, there is a short gap, then live training in flight.  That takes 4-6 months, then he is, as he said tonight, “Mission ready.”

It is our world’s bad fortune that he will not want for work.

After that we came home and Kate went to bed, taking the weight off her neck.  She bears all this stuff well, but it’s sad to see her have to put up with so much pain.

10,300 Feet to Sea Level

78 bar steady 29.80  0mph ENE dew-point 66 (sticky) Summer, hot and sticky

Last Quarter of the Flower Moon

The red car is in the shop to replace a head gasket.  This is work on the major organ, the heads have to be ground to ensure the new gasket seats properly.  While the heads are off, the rest of the engine just sits there, a crucial element missing, the one that holds the gas/air mixture down while it explodes and then presses the exhaust gases back out.  The oil pan gasket, gets changed out, too, though it’s not major surgery.  This will take awhile.

Discovered yesterday that the irrigation clock has begun to have spasms.  When it says the zone is set for 45 minutes, the clock displays a run time of 10 minutes.  The slider that lets me adjust the watering for a dry season by increasing the run to, say, 150% of the norm, had defaulted to 10%.  To change it required delicate sliding back and forth until I could hit 100%.  This is has resulted in, to say the least, uneven irrigation.

Joseph has honed in on an apartment within view of the ocean.  He’s decided on it mostly because it represents a 10 minute commute to Tyndall.  Another plus though is the view.  He will go from 10,300+ at his last place in Breckenridge to nearly sea level at Panama City.  He relishes the contrast, as I would, too.

This move has a lot of firsts for him and that constitutes a stressor:  his first processing in to a new base, his first duty station as an Lt, his first housing search in the peculiar world of mobile military personnel, plus all the new expectations of an officer in the USAF, things he will take for granted not long from now, but which require extra attention until then.  This is the exact equivalent of a college instructor writing lectures just before giving them or a new doctor adapting to the change of seeing patients in a clinical setting.  Occupational entry level stress, it is difficult and cannot be avoided.

More work today outside, better get at it.

June 2017
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