From Babbitt to Baghdad (Part 34)

It was a beautiful September day in the “Inland Empire” of California. I had just boarded the base shuttle after a nice Alaska airlines flight from Seatac to Ontario and was on my way to March AFB once again.  The March AFB recreational center supported the base shuttle.  The 30-mile trip would be filled with chatter about the weather or current events. All I had to do was call ahead of time, and they would send an Air Force van to pick me up. They would take me to the squadron building where I would check in, say several hellos throughout the building and acquire my 1967 Zenith blue VW bug that was parked in back. Once I had made the rounds at the unit, I would head over to billeting and get a room.

The reservations desk for March Billeting was housed in an old building with a beautiful Spanish theme. It has a courtyard that is made of stone. The roof is made of red Spanish tile, as are many of the original buildings at March AFB. Copious plants and foliage are all over the place. The wonderful smells are a combination of California native plants, wet groomed grass and cool stone under Spanish roof lines. The folks at the reservation desk were always kind and engaged me in welcoming and witty banter.  I always looked forward to their kindness and can do attitude. They welcomed me to March billeting like they were welcoming me to their home. In return, I was always respectful and showed appreciation and thankfulness for their sincere efforts. By the time I would get my keys to a room, I felt like I belonged and was part of a greater good. The interaction signaled that I was again at March among friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. I was within the arena where I could ply my trade and my passion. Before heading back out the door to my billeting room, I would purchase a few items at their little snack room while verbally jostling with the employee. It is pleasant when the people one deals with are not energy sucking negative morons.

After dragging bags to my room, I would jump in the 1967 Zenith blue  VW bug and head to Moreno Valley for something to eat.  Moreno Valley was dotted with countless Mexican restaurants. Excellent mom and pop shops with the best ethnic foods that southern California had to offer. Because of the stiff food industry competition in the area, one got way more than they paid for. Most of the time, a plate full of food would be two days worth. Over the course of the year that I had been attached to the 730th, I knew where the best Mexican restaurants were. One place on Moreno boulevard made huge Carne Asada burritos. These burritos were not stuffed with rice, but tasty beef and all the real fixings. I would have them cut it in half because it was too big to eat in one setting.  I would also order a huge 32 ounce Orchata and ask for easy ice. If I wasn’t eating at this particular place, there was a Mexican chicken eatery a few blocks over. Their specialty was broiled and baked whole chickens. Complete with beans, rice, tortillas, and their special recipe of pico de gallo.  The large tasty tortillas would house the robust fare and I would savor every morsel. If one wanted pizza, there was still a Shakey’s pizza place for their signature thin crust. If one wanted Italian, Joes was the place to go. Of course PF Changs was a place where we would go to drink beer. Even though the 452nd airdrop program at March totally sucked, there was always room for hot wings and Hefeweizen.

The last resort was the base snack bar. If one did not feel like driving into Moreno Valley, one just ate the grease-drenched items from the snack bar. Chicken and Jojo’s soaked in hot sauce was the standard.

My wife and I never had cable TV for our entire lives. March Billeting had cable and CNN. For the most part, CNN was the channel of choice for aviators in the military. Most of the time, we learned about current events from CNN. The crew could be at any corner in the world and CNN would be available.  Most of the time, aircrew received their intel from CNN. If it was on CNN chances are that it would affect Air Force assets and taskings down the line. If CNN reported a flood or a humanitarian disaster, a C-141 tasking would eventually be sent to the squadron mission planners.  Otherwise, we were the last to know and the first to go.

The rooms at March Billeting were always cleaned and well maintained. One could look forward to fresh sheets and a fluffed pillow. The air conditioning and heating were more than adequate and quite comfortable during extreme seasons of the year.  At my room at March billeting, I would fade off to sleep after flipping through the cable channels. I always slept well at DOD billeting.

The morning routine was always the same. It would begin with loading up the single cup coffee maker with the single serving billeting coffee pack.  These same coffee packs are in every DOD billeting location on the planet. I would then add two packs of generic creamer and a half pack of sugar. After savoring it for minutes on end, it became  “shit, shower, and shave time.”  If I had time, I would make another single cup of coffee and click on the TV. I would then click through the channels like I was an attention deficit disorder ridden chimp in a flight suit.

On this particular day,  the boob tube showed a plane hitting a building. It did not register given that my click through rate was quantified in tenths of a second. I simply thought it was a movie or something. I continued to click through the 40 plus channels of gibberish only to see a different angle of an aircraft hitting a building. I  thought that I was just on the channel of the movie again. After a few more clicks, it became all too clear that something was up, so I turned up the volume on CNN and listened to reporters detailing how a  passenger aircraft had collided with one of the Twin Towers.  When the reality had set in, I thought it was simply an accident. The accident theory was quickly scrapped when another airplane hit the second tower. In between visions of an airliner hitting the twin Towers, I was treated to human beings jumping from windows to avoid being burned alive. It was only a few moments more before the second tower collapsed at 7:28 AM PST. About that time, I called my unit and headed to the squadron. When I arrived at the unit, the mission planning folks were already getting taskings from AFRES.

At first, the resource manager overlooked me for one of the missions in favor of another fellow until the assistant resource manager put his foot down. It seems that even during times of national tragedy, bureaucracies love to play favorites. Even though glory is fleeting, they like to choose who gets the glory. I had been flying over 300 hundred hours a year for the 730th and was an asset.  I may have been a pain in the ass, but I was a dedicated pain in the ass that contributed. Not letting me go on a 911 support mission after committing to a 10-day block of time in another state, would have been an insult and a slap in the face. As it was, the assistant resource manager said that Brodhead was going on the mission.

By noon, the professionals in mission planning had us lined up for a mission to New Jersey. Our crew would be put on Bravo alert and a mission fragged for McGuire AFB. Once all the pre-mission procedures were accomplished, we were hauled to the flight line in a blue Air Force box van.

The C-141C crew would sit on the tarmac at March AFB for 9 hours waiting for FEMA assets to show.  The ramp was hot because of the California sun. Many of the crew simply laid down under the shade of the aircraft and tried to sleep during the Bravo alert.  Others propped themselves up against a main landing gear tire. Others chatted with aircraft maintenance.  In just a couple of hours, the aircraft had been pre-flighted, fueled, and was cocked for flight. The forms were clean.  Everything was ready to go. Most of us were not able to make it to lunch. Some did not have breakfast either. By 5 PM, the crew was starving.

The Aircraft commander would talk the maintenance folks into going into town and bringing back some fast food and drinks.  We would feast on greasy Carls Junior delicacies as a crew.

The March AFB  Air Force Reserves and civilian workforce aircraft technicians were the best that the Air Force had to offer.   They had extreme corporate depth and experience and maintained the Wing of 16 C-141C models with impeccable care.  As a Unit equipped Wing, the Air Force Reservists of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing were highly skilled and saw the big picture when compared to the relatively inexperienced  Active Duty counterparts at other bases.  When one wanted an airplane fixed quickly, one wanted an old head Reservist,  Air Guardsman, or civilian to do the job. The experience level allowed them to cut through the BS and cut to the chase when repairing aircraft. All I needed from them was “we got it handled!”

Of course, the Active Duty could fix planes well, it just took way longer and many more man hours. When the Air Force reduces manning they always entice the older Active Duty folks to leave. With the exodus of experienced Active Duty comes incompetence and the man hours to maintain a Wing goes up. The real cost of getting rid of experienced Active Duty technicians rears its ugly head out in the system.  As a Flight Engineer, part of my job was to interface with maintenance, access the fix phase path and how it would affect mission continuance. Most of the time, all it took was a few questions and a little input. Then the younger maintenance troops were off and running. The moral of the story is to encourage experienced mechanics and technicians to stay in the Air Force, Air Force Reserves, and Air Guard, otherwise, readiness, safety, training levels and man hours are adversely affected. March AFB did not have this problem. They knew the C-141C, how to fix it when it was broke, and how to keep it airworthy. When the aircrew showed up at a March bird, we would find the aircraft clean, airworthy with perfect forms. When there was an issue, the maintenance folks were positive proactive and task oriented. They epitomized how things should be done.

On 9/11/2001, This aircraft was safe and ready to fly. Not only that, the maintenance crew was simply a joy to work with. I never passed up an opportunity to give kudos to the maintenance folks. Because of their efforts, MAC hauled utter millions and millions of patriot troops and retirees all over the world safely. When I jumped on board a 452nd MAW airplane I knew that it was perfect to fly.

The cutting edge navigation system remained on with waypoints loaded. The cockpit windows were open so as to catch the California breeze. The only thing required now was to turn on the glass displays and run checklist items. All one heard outside was the hum of a -28 diesel Hobart power unit. The 9 hours on Bravo alert sitting on the ramp at March would go quickly.

Soon, several search dog teams would show up at the aircraft. A few moments later, the assistant director of FEMA would show and the  Loadmaster would direct him towards his seat in the cargo compartment. Meanwhile, the cockpit crew strapped in and started  “the before starting engines checklist.” The sound of the noisy number 3 hydraulic system coming on alerted the ground crew that the aircraft and crew were ready to rock and roll. A moment later the mind-numbing noise of the APU would make its presence known. Next, the chocks and pins would be removed and the ground power unit hauled away.

The Pratt and Whitney TF33-P7 engines would be started one after another. Once the generators were tied to the aircraft’s electrical system, the APU would be shut down.  The next checklist item was to direct engine pressurization to the aircraft environmental system. The rush of much desired cooling air would invade the cargo compartment.  A cargo compartment that had been heating soaking in the hot sun for hours and hours. The rush of cold air would refresh the hardworking Loadmasters in sweat soaked flight suits. When the throttles were advanced, the resultant air conditioning would be cheered silently downstairs in “the tube of pain.”

The brakes would be released and the C-141C started taxiing to the 15,000 foot long SAC built runway. Once lined up on the active runway, the throttles would be advanced and the aircraft would start its takeoff roll. As the engineer on this sortie, I would direct max air to the back of the plane during takeoff and climb out. The cockpit crew would have to settle for the onrush of cold gasper air.

The C-141C broke ground and went wheels up at 11 PM on 9/11/2001 give or take 5 minutes.  The pilot would state, ” positive rate, gear up!”  He then would tell the flight engineer, ” Eng open the forms at 11 pm!

“Will do sir, I would reply!” We would open the aircraft forms and log the beginning of the sortie at 11 PM on 9/11. 2001.

After flying runway heading to approximately 4000 feet, the March tower would then tell us to contact Departure Control on another victor frequency.  Once we were on Departure Control VHF frequency, we would be given permission to fly directly to McGuire AFB.  Normally, the departure from March AFB was a very intricate affair. Normally, because of Los Angeles air traffic, Air Traffic Control would provide a dozen different headings and altitudes before giving permission to fly direct or via filed flight plan. This day, at 4000 feet runway heading, we were cleared direct to New Jersey. After all, there were no airplanes in the sky except a few military jets.

We would be one of the only military aircraft in the skies over America. In fact, for the next 5 hours, we would not hear a single radio call from another aircraft. Over Denver Center, I would break FAA radio protocol and talk with the controller about Jake Plummer and the Broncos. My home as a child was one mile from Denver Center. I passed 17th and Hover thousands of time on my way to school or into town to drag the main street. Today we were passing it 7 miles up at 420 knots true airspeed. I thought, “How bouts dem Broncos” would cheer them up a little and I believe it did.

Every controller at every air traffic control center sounded the same. Instead of employing their differing tempos and verbal styles that demonstrated their level of experience,  and expertise, we were passed from one controller to the next without the controller bling or flare. Instead, we were treated to sober verbiage void of regalia. Communication that showed the pride and professionalism of the Air Traffic Controller were replaced by temperance and seriousness.  An atmosphere of violation was felt by the entire Air Traffic Control community. Everyone was sullen and downtrodden from the attacks on the Twin Towers that morning. Other than being transferred from center to center, all we heard on the radio was the crack, whirr, buzz, and fizz of the VHF radio.  We did not hear, ” United climb to flight level three five zero. We did not hear,  “Cactus descend and maintain three three zero!” We did not hear Delta do this or Alaska do that. We heard nothing. For 2800 hundred miles, we heard no other aircraft making a radio call.  I took in the solemn and reflective moments in time,  while the aircraft rocked and porpoised slowly from autopilot inputs. It was dark and clear in a million. The stars and our C-141C model Starlifter were the only things in the skies across America on 9/12/2001.  To stay vigilant, I directed the cool gasper air onto my face and drank the strong and stale MAC coffee.

Along the way, the crew pondered and talked about the Twin Towers attack. My thoughts at the time were that the Palestinians did the deed. I had no idea that the Saudi Arabians had perpetrated the attack. Either way, Geroge W. Bush would later exploit the symbol of 911 and attack Iraq. The skull and Bones history major who never showed up to fly at his Vietnam avoidance Air Gaurd unit had no idea what he was doing. He did not understand the consequences of war or the plight of refugees when countries are attacked. The history major did not understand history. He would talk the world into attacking an innocent sovereign nation so the neocon could make money. In the Air Force, we called it “shopping for wars!”

The Gulf of Tonkin lie would be used to escalate Vietnam. 911 would be used to start two wars 10,000 miles away.  911 would be used to squash our 4th Amendment rights and create a massive surveillance state as well.

After a few discussions about the Palestineans and the Israeli issues related to the Golan heights, Gaza, or the West Bank, a  robust redhead pilot would turn to me and state. ” This is war, Brodhead!” He was a prior enlisted fireman that became an officer. He spoke his mind. His lack of a conditioned officer communication filter was refreshing.

I had been in Mecca during Southern Watch Missions. I had stayed at the Khobar Towers in Saudi two weeks before they had been blown up. I remembered how Air Force pilot Martha McSally had sued the Air Force over the Burka policy in Saudi. A policy where female fighter pilots had to wear a Burka in public while off base in Saudi. The McSally affair and Khobar Towers attack would lead the Twin Towers attack. After all, Saudis hate women rights and did not like infidels in Mecca. The first female combat fighter pilot stirred the pot.

Many of us were perplexed that terrorists with no aviation training save a few simulator training events at cruise could fly a jet into a Tower. How on earth does a person with no pilot training break through ground effect at 600 miles an hour and fly a dozen feet off the ground into the Pentagon?  The Pentagon attack required a pilot that could force a speeding jet through ground effect. At 600 miles an hour, the aircraft would float on the compressed ground effect layer like a flat rock skipping across a pond. The nose of the aircraft would have to be forced into the ground effect layer and then avoid hitting the ground as well.  This suggests that the 911 perpetrators were highly trained. They were possibly trained on Saudi Arabian simulators by very experienced pilots.

The Bush neocons avoided looking into the Saudi Arabian connection and turned their sights on regime change and nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush did not see the blood of patriots. Bush saw dollar signs.

Thomas Jefferson would have simply bombed the hell out of the Taliban and left them to fend for themselves.

George W. Bush and the neocons would send millions of pieces of equipment to the region. The average cost per kill would be in the millions and billions. George W Bush would exploit 911 and launch America into the worst foreign policy in the history of the country. Of course, Barack Obama would then adopt all things Bush as they related to absconding the 4th Amendment and the abuse of the War Powers Act. In lieu of adjusting the “Bush Status of Forces agreement,” Obama would abandon Iraq and perpetuate the wholesale destabilization of the Middle East. As a result, the combined incompetence of Bush and Obama have created a massive humanitarian crisis and have accelerated the Islamification of Europe. The biggest insult was that Obama wasted almost a decade of blood and treasure spent in Iraq to prove a 2007 campaign message. In 2007, Obama stated that Iraq was in a civil war and the surge would not work. He made certain that Iraq was indeed engaged in a civil war, and let that civil war consume both Syria and Iraq.Not only that, he bought into the destabilization of Egypt and regime change in Libya. For utter decades, the “Cold war construct” kept radical Islam in check. Bush and Obama took it upon themselves to screw that up.

George  Walker Bush was a history major. Apparently, he was either too drunk or coked up at Yale to understand history. He learned nothing from WWI, WWII, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia, or Rwanda for example. Americans expect our leaders to be intelligent. What we got with George Walker Bush was a dumb ass that cared little about the plite of refugee families or killing people.

By the time we reached New Jersey, we all had been up for close to 20 hours. To clear my mind and refresh my being, I would take copious breaths of 100% oxygen and direct gasper cooling air to my face. Between drinking the crappy MAC coffee and inundating my face with a cold washcloth, I performed the 5.5-hour flight without nodding off at all. I mean it was a matter of national security that I watch an oil pressure gauge for hours on end.

When the sun rose in the East, the light would envelop the cockpit and send a rush of vitamin D to my senses.

When the sun broke the eastern horizon, the crew looked on at the smoke of the collapsed Twin Towers from 35,000 feet and 100 miles. The smoke trail had to be 75 miles long as it wafted southward. We were crossing the Deleware river at the time. The smoke became a landmark of sorts and brought George Washington’s retreat into perspective. I would find out later that my great plus grandfather Captain Daniel Brodhead as second in command of the Nichols Expedition would disembark British Man-O-Wars and take New Amsterdam in 1664. In addition, another great uncle would defend Washington’s retreat across the East river after the defeat at the Battle of Long island.  All of these events were within blocks of the Twin Towers.

The collective effect of the sun and the view of the smoke trail would be a sobering experience. It brought clarity to the moment. After being up all night, the inherent adrenaline rush enabled me to run normal checklist items safely and competently until we landed and headed for crew rest. The Midnight Air Command had the mighty C-141 had done the job once again.

The FEMA assets, dogs, and dog handlers would be picked up by waiting vans. These patriots would head for ground zero and be subject to every manner of toxins, gasses, and carcinogens. They would not be the same ever again. As first responders, they would be putting their health and lives on the lines to save others. In return, when health issues would arise, the Federal government would have to be forced to support them. We saw this before. We saw it in Vietnam with Agent Orange, the first gulf war and chemical weapons, and now the Twin Towers tragedy.

The crews would head to billeting. We would be three to a room. To mitigate my loud snoring, I would get the portable bed and stick the head of it into the closet.

In hindsight, Bill Clinton’s foreign policy was a thing of beauty compared to Geroge Walker Bush and Barack Hussein Obama. Bill Clinton got a  righteous blowjob in the Whitehouse by a beautiful big titted  22 year old intern and led during solid economic times. George Walker Bush sodomized our Bill of Rights, fucked the Middle East, and left the economy in ruin. Bill Clinton lied about shooting a wonderful load. the only casualties were dried sperm on a blue dress.  George Walker Bush would lie about surveillance and WMD. He would then leave hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis in his wake. Bill Clinton ran his own foreign policy. George Walker Bush let Dick Cheney and his special interest neocon donor list run his foreign policy. “Mission accomplished ” was not about deposing Saddam Hussein, it was about making money for the Bush neocon asshole donor list.

George Walker Bush and Barack Hussein Obama led the worst foreign policy in the history of the United States of America. Not only that, they spent $15 trillion in deficit spending. Barck Hussein Obama would go further by orchestrating the government takeover of health care which tripled health care policies for tax paying citizens. Then in order to validate the absconding of our 4th Amendment Rights and the massive computer surveillance complex, he imports utter tens of thousands of ISIS sleeper cell terrorists into this country. The collective incompetence is treasonous.

George Herbert Walker Bush was a solid president in the mold of Reagan. He used power sparingly and honored mandates.

George Walker Bush abused power, engaged in perpetual war, and created a massive surveillance state that is counter to the Bill of Rights. Instead of “read my lips.” the economy shit the bed.

 

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