Wednesday, January 9, 2013


In 2001 I walked with my peers in a sweltering May heat to the cadence of shutter clicks and golf applause.  Murmurings from extended family.  The wail of a proud infant.  After my 10 seconds of fame on stage, and clutching the paper validating four year's worth of questionable (but fun!) antics, I was given a brief break and then reported for duty to my commissioning ceremony.  The mood was light and jovial.  The commander was in fine form, and talked of the personality makeup of my class of about a dozen.  We had joined in 1997, fresh out of high school and with clouds in our eyes....even for those who would sneer and say "no of course I don't want a pilot slot."  Raising my hand, I said the magic words... 

2001 seems like a long time ago.  In reality, it's nothing more than 12 short years, a number that (sigh...haha) almost approximates a third of my life.  And yet what a segment it was.  The events that transpired in September of that year shook the world, and changed it.  Forever.  At first, we all blinked in the harsh light of reality, unaware that things had changed.  You see, it had changed too fast to recognize.  And like the shout of "Fire!" late at night, you could only react.  There wasn't time to think.  Like Maverick (If you don't know that's from Top Gun you need to do some immediate film reeducation!) always says "You don't have time to think.... if you think.  You're dead." 

And yet we had all thought, of what this new world meant to us.  To my friends and colleagues, it meant the day had come--it had just gotten real.  All the time spent in musty basement classrooms talking of honor and duty and watching ancient films so we could dissect "leadership styles," it had all boiled down to what you were going to do on approach into Baghdad International, call visual 15 Right.  Land west side of centerline, 5,000 feet down.  East side under construction, marked by glow sticks.  4,500 feet remaining. 

We knew that, comparatively, we had it easy.  We got to leave, as soon as the reason for being had exited the aircraft, the adrenaline from the tracers fading into black.  The missile strikes from the Quick Reaction Force THUMPing in the backdrop.  Taxi to position.  Mortars falling inside the wire.  Not quite ready for takeoff.  Ah shit, that one was ready. 

We fought back in that manner.... never saying no.  Turning from one three week trip to the next.  And the next.  Whining to each other, while always thinking that 12 months would be far, far worse.  Secretly enjoying the fact that we were called.  The nation needed us.  Those pallets had to get there, and we were the chosen few.  What's that--you need me to upgrade and do a 6 monther?  Absolutely.  We were happy to do it, eagerly giving of ourselves--the world had changed.  We were all Americans, America needed us.  It's what we do. 

In 2014 the last US forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan.  If it goes as planned (From someone much smarter than me: "Life is what happens while you're busy making plans") it would represent the second longest war in US history.  It would also be the end of an era.  The rugged terrain and harsh conditions, combined with extremely limited facilities meant that the majority of supplies arrived via airlift.  For the mobility forces, Afghanistan was a large bill constantly needing to be paid. 

This chapter of my life closes one section, and begins the next.  I am leaving Active service, and will begin with the Reserve component in a few weeks.  In many respects, nothing changes--I wear the same uniform, fly the same jet, and go to the same base.  However, the freedom and control over my schedule will change dramatically.  For the better.  To commemorate this passing, I wanted to do something special. I have always enjoyed history, and loved aviation, and hoped to honor the past. 

A good friend of mine in Sacramento, Maren Conrad (She. Is. Legit.) is a very successful artist, and has shown work all over the Northern California area.  I commissioned her to do a painting, depicting a C-17 maneuvering during a Tactical profile.  When you are beginning your approach into a contested area, and you inform Approach control of your request, they will pass you field information and tell you to "Proceed Tactical."  Namely: 1) Do not hit other planes, mountains or bullets.  2) Don't bother Approach Control unnecessarily.  Just make it happen.  3) See #1. 

Early stage...before coloring.  What I love about this picture is the raw beauty and power.  The emotional qualities are so impressive.  If C-17s flew into Mordor, Middle Earth this is what it'd look like. 

The finished product, before presenting to the squadron.  "Proceed Tactical" is acrylic on wood panel.
With my good friend, Will.  We deployed to SW Asia for several months together in 2011. 

With my commander, 21st Airlift Squadron. 
My hope is that, once the dusts of Afghanistan are settled, and we return to a more sustainable defense posture, the youngest pilot in the room can look upon this art... to feel the history shared and the legacy that continues.  "Proceed Tactical" will be on display at the 21st Airlift Squadron through 2022. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New Hipster's Urban Dictionary

Latest work...  calling it 'The Essential New Hipster's Urban Dictionary."



Antidope – Reversing the negative effects of a socially lacking person.  Such as an inebriated friend. 

Barackuda – A predatory species whose favorite meals are conservative in nature.

Conifer – A large manly tree.

Coniferous – Explaining your vegetarianism while retaining a chance of getting laid. 

Conviction – Set of fervent beliefs which may result in status as a convict.  Who has an eviction.

Express – That awkward interrogation in the frozen food section by a former girlfriend who demands details on your recent dating history. 

iPhun – Shenanigans made possible when your buddy leaves his iPhone unattended.

iPissed – When iPhun goes too far. 

Joggernot – A man emphasizing his strength conditioning over aerobic performance.  As muted silence follows, the mention of a coniferous lifestyle is ill-advised.

Mailstrom – Pulp cloud resulting from high winds and those bleeping Pennysaver! coupon books.

Malady – To express dissatisfaction with a female who has expressed you.  Often accompanied with a shake of head and dry clucking noise.

Mousetache – Entreating your rodent, Mr. Jeffers, to lie prone on your upper lip. 
(See also: conviction)

Plantinum – Doesn’t matter how cool it looks at the store, fake plants are death for libido. 

Sinthetic – Evil deeds done dirt cheap. 

Torture – Painful, exhausting process at the hands of a legal motion.  

VINdictive - Typical: damage resulting from thief who, upon breaking into your car and discovering a miserable loot of lint-covered pennies and mixed tapes, wrathfully damages the vehicle's interior.  

Whimsicull – A light-hearted action whose intended results are catastrophic, such as sprinkling coke into the apartment’s central air and offing the old lady in 9B. 
(See also: conviction)

Monday, April 9, 2012

C-17 Tactical Arrival...

Ever wonder what it'd be like to be in the cockpit of an Air Force jet?  Here's your chance to see it firsthand. 

This was a trip I took into Key West, Florida.  We landed at Key West Naval Air Station, and flew a visual approach called an overhead break.  This maneuver has you fly about 2000' feet above the field, over the final approach ground track, then make a hard turn (45-60 degrees of bank, left turn in the video) that is nearly continuous to final. 

As soon as the plane starts its initial turn, you typically will reduce power in order to slow to approach speed, and configure to an intermediary flap setting--for us that's Slats--Extended, Flaps--1/2, Landing Gear--Down.  Once turning final is when we configure the rest of the way, in this case to a Flaps--Full setting. 

Here's a graphic:'s the video:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Getting Bin Laden...

I've just returned from a mission, and though this article is a touch old, it is a fascinating read into everything (read: a decade's worth) that went into capturing Osama Bin Laden.  Don't be discouraged by the length, you'll tear through it.

What happened that night in Abbottabad.

Story here.