Sunday, May 10, 2009

Graduated!'s been a while and I figured I should get at least a tie-up type post on here. A lot has happened since January, obviously. I actually failed my Navigation checkride since I tried to do a Single Engine approach while in the weather. Then I hooked the EP for dual fuel filter bypass where he expected me to circle down over the field and I set up a 'normal' 5 mile straightin. So it wasn't my greatest day in the world, but I passed my 88 ride without trouble. The flight itself was simple, easy, and kind of unnecessary in my opinion. Then, on the ground eval she gave me a silly EP that I tried to bring to a logical conclusion, but it wasn't the conclusion that she wanted to hear so she kept changing the rules on me to try to lead me to the conclusion that she wanted from me...I was not playing ball, but eventually I used the conclusion she liked and got it over with. Of course THEN, since that was so hard she gave me another EP too which of course I didn't have trouble with. Then her General Knowledge questions were pretty ridiculous, though I knew most of them. Anyways, the whole ground eval portion was rather obnoxious and had a distinct 'drink the koolade' mentality to it; but I got through it and moved on.

Mission fam was actually a lot of fun. We had 4 formation flights which I flew on a Saturday and Sunday doing 'super form' out of GTR. I flew with the flight commander for all of those and they were pretty easy but very enjoyable. He was a good teacher. Then we moved on to the basics of airdrop and refueling before assignment night.

Of course, assignment night was awesome and I got my 4th overall choice of RC-135s in Omaha. My first 3 choices were 2 KC-10s and then a C-21; and I really didn't expect to get any of those, so it was my first 'real' choice; so I was EXCITED to get it! I think Nebraska is going to be a great place; I'm excited to see what the Lord has in plan. I'll be out there for 5 or 6 years on average for the assignment, so Cornhusker state is to be my home for a good while. I'm really praying for a good church to serve in and know the Lord has a place prepared. One of the churches out there supports Mom and Dad so I'll go there first and see if that's the place for me. I have about 3 or 4 churches that have also caught my eye based especially on their websites, so there's no shortage of churches it seems, thankfully.

Anyways, I passed my Refueling checkride a week later with a nice 2E so I was happy for that. Then, of course, graduation rolled around. It was great, Cindy flew into GTR the day before for graduation on Friday. I was so happy she could make it. The graduation went really well, and here's a paste from an email I wrote about it so I don't have to write it again:

Cindy got in really late on Thursday because of a bad storm in Atlanta. Then Friday morning started with a formal breakfast at the Club followed by a welcome from the base commander and an introduction to Columbus AFB. Then, it was straight over to the graduation. My cousins and their 2 kids were able to make it, and they didn't go to the breakfast but were there for the graduation.

The graduation ceremony was about 30 minutes long and real formal and professional, I'm sure it looked pretty cool. At the end after pinning on our wings there was a really patriotic video presention accompanied by Lee Greenwood's 'Proud to be an American' and near the end of it we all stood up and lined up in front of the ampitheater with our backs to the crowd. A huge American flag then rolled down out of the ceiling and we all turned at the same time as they officially 'presented' the graduating class of 09-08. So it was a really good graduation that I'm sure the friends and family all really enjoyed. I even had 4 people from my church here who were able to make it, so I really appreciated that. Then after all that we had the breaking of the wings ceremony where we broke our first set of wings for good luck and then the two pieces are never to be reunited again until our death. Then we turned in the wings that we were wearing since they were just a 'fake' pair that went on a magnet hidden in our service dress coat to speed along the ceremony. THEN we officially had someone of our choice pin on our first set of 'real' wings. Of course Cindy did that for me and we got some good pictures with the flag in the background and all. Then I took 1 of the halves of the broken wings to the art shop on base and they put it in a prepared shadow box that looked really nice and then I gave that to Cindy. So she'll forever be the keeper of half of my first real set of wings.

We then had a sim block for 30 minutes and all 3 of them got to try their hands at flying the mighty T-1 and I got to act as 'instructor pilot' just teaching them how to fly it! I think they really liked seeing that, but Cindy told me should would NEVER want to go through all of that as a living! Then we went out to eat and chatted for about 2 hours before our cousins had to leave and get the girls back home. That night we had the REALLY formal graduation dinner where we had to wear our mess dress which is basically a military tux. We had a good time sitting with my room mate's family at our table with Cindy and I, but it was a LONG dinner with more awards presentations and all even at the end of it. That was pretty much it after that. Cindy and I just hung around the house Saturday and watched a few movies, and she got a little nap in, then I took her to the airport Sunday afternoon. I was really glad she got to go to church with me and meet everyone at Lighthouse too.

Anyways, now I've been waiting for my orders to get out so I can schedule the movers to pick my stuff up. Less than 2 weeks and I'll be going to Josh's wedding and then turning right around and going on Survival the day after I get back. I'll be doing the resistance top-off and then 'special' resistance for us 'special' RC-135 pilots. After that I'll be back mid-June for about 2 days before leaving for good to Omaha. So I'm kinda stressing about getting these orders so I can get my stuff shipped next week! Problem is the Sergeant finds it's easier for her to do all the orders as one package so I think we're all being held up as it only took about 3 or 4 days in Seymour to get my orders. Anyways, I may have to stir up some trouble tomorrow if they're still not out, it's been almost 2 weeks. I'm going to be so happy to get off this base...I'll miss Lighthouse Baptist for sure, but I won't really miss the town. Sorry Columbus!

Well, there's an update finally! Hoping to get one in at least once a week now, I think that should be attainable at least. We'll see.

DQ-signing off

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Wow, what a crazy week that was...I did make it out to Montgomery over the weekend, and had a great time. I actually didn't leave until Monday too, as opposed to my usual custom of leaving Sunday afternoon. I just felt like I didn't need to rush back last weekend, I guess. Saturday morning Luke and Uncle Gary and I went to Circuit City looking for good deals on their 'going under' sales. We weren't the only ones waiting outside the doors for them open up. It was like a pack of vultures hovering over a slowly dying buffalo, each looking to get a piece of the 'prize'. Actually though, I didn't even buy anything, and Luke only only picked up a USB memory stick for a friend that was a good price and Uncle Gary got a good deal on an external hard drive he was looking for. Then we went downtown to a gunshow at the convention center. It was a good sized show so Luke and I spent about 2 hours walking the floor looking at everything. I found a shoulder harness holster that I've been looking for, and got a good deal on it; at least a lot cheaper than I've been able to find online.

That afternoon we hooked my computer I'd brought into an extra monitor at Luke's place and we tried to play command and conque generals. However, we had different versions and they didn't have internet for us to update to the same one. So then we tried to get Starcraft running but that's always had a strange setup requirement. I remember Dad getting it to work for Kenny and I a good 10 years ago but have no idea how he did it. Anyways, we finally got another copy of C&C from a friend of Luke's and played that for a while. We also the played the farming game (which was actually not bad and pretty entertaining) which Michelle won by a longshot and a game of Munchkins over the weekend as well. It was really good to see everyone again, and I actually got a chance to spend some time chatting with the elder Maxwells Monday morning as well which I usually don't get since I'm generally running out the door in the mornings and returning late at night when we're done with a game or movie or whatever at the Smith's.

Monday night I spent studying agian for my checkride. This time I still briefed again but didn't have to do another boldface or get my pubs and all checked again. Bassically the only thing I didn't have to do over again was my walkaround during the preflight. The whole thing actually went pretty well, though there was one big scare. The winds were coming out of the North, but in order to get the instrument approach I needed for the profile I would have to shoot it to a 180 runway which meant about a 10-15 knot tailwind which is out of limits to land. So I didn't think it would be a big deal, I just had to shoot the approach, I didn't have to get a touch and go around it. But when I briefed it up like that he said "what?" And so I started thinking, oh no, is this illegal? I thought I could do that! So I explained it to him again, and he kind of shook his head and said "what?" again. So I handed him the weather printout, explained the required approach, and that I didn't believe I had to do a touch and go, just shoot the approach. Finally he understood what I was getting at and was like, "oh, yeah, that's totally fine." So here I was the whole time thinking I may have just failed the checkride for improper mission planning!

So, anyways, I ended up getting a 4G on the ride. Again, the lower the number the better, and the number is the count of downgrades on the ride. I got 2 downgrades in the pattern which were understandable, but the other 2 I really didn't agree with. And let me just say, that happens on every checkride. Everything we do is just someone else criticizing our flying. That's there jobs as IPs. I could fly the same way by myself and think it was a pretty good ride, not perfect, certainly, but considerig my experience in the plane, not bad at all! But anyways, one of the others was for leaving the power in on the 700' leveloff at takeoff before climbing past the departure end of the runway which is purely just a matter of technique and so technically shouldn't be a downgrade. But of course, how can you argue with the check IP? The answer is that you can't. The other downgrade was for the EP. He said I should have referenced 2 other items in the Dash-1. He knew I had them memorized since I talked through them anyways, but as a good practice it is best to address the procedures in writing if they exist. So, eh, don't really think that should have been a downgrade since I did everything right anyways, but that's his perogative. So anyways, not a bad days work!

Then I spent the rest of that day learning from Bryan and JD what I needed to know to fly the Nav ride I was scheduled for the next morning. To make things worse I was flying with Rob who couldn't help because he was in a sim until late and would not be able to get in early the next morning due to crew rest issues. So basically all the planning fell to me who just finished a checkride and had no idea what was required for a nav ride. Thankfully those guys were a huge helped and I stayed there learning and getting stuff ready until I ran into my 12-hour day cutoff and had to leave. We flew Wednesday and went out to Texarkana and had lunch at a great BBQ place there for only $3 each. Then I hit Littlerock for my approaches on the way back. That was another 12-hour day. Thursday I flew again with Ben this time. Since I was working all day Wednesday he did most of the planning for us and even had a full backup plan in case the first didn't work. So we started our briefing with the LtCol guest help IP who was flying it with us and then discovered not 5 minutes into the brief that the one airport we were relying on in both plans was no longer eligable for us to do approaches on as there was no more joint-use agreement. Of course, in our in-flight guides that place was listed as OK, but online it was not. So we had to replan everything that had taken 2 or 3 hours to plan and come up with the changes in 30 minutes. It all worked out in the end, but it was hectic!

So then I called the New Orleans airport that we were going to stop at and asked about food arrangements and which facility they were because the airport diagram showed 3 such facilities. She sounded kind of confused and said that they were the only FBO building there...Well then I asked about food arrangements and they emailed me a menu I took with us in the plane so that we could just call them up on the radios when we were 20 minutes out and they'd have the food waiting for us. So then we landed and walked into the FBO and they were like, hey, welcome, what can we do for you? And they actied like they weren't expecting us. When we asked if our food had arrived the lady behind the counter gave us a really confused look and asked, what food?? Great! Long story short, the FBO in Chenault, LA was the exact same company, and I'd called them instead that morning and also ordered food from them instead as well! How embarassing! So I had to call them up, apologize and explain that we 'had' to land at another airport and ask that they cancel our food order. They said it was totally fine, but I'm sure someone got some free Poboy sandwiches out of the deal! Luckily they had a car at the FBO in New Orleans for us to use and I drove us down the stree to a BK for a quick lunch. I guess usually they like to go get a sitdown meal but due to the morning's planning fiasco time was short. It was kind of nice, though, the car they gave was lincoln towncar, that's what I want for my next car! Now I just need some generous filthy-rich person to buy it for me... :)

So after a week of solid 12-hour days (and that just from the time I entered the squadron to walking out at night, does not include prep and study at home!) Friday morning I finally got to sleep in. I only had a sim and it didn't start until 1430. What a relief. So we got out at 1800 or so and then I came back home. Stew and I were thinking of going to watch the new Underworld: Rise of the Lycans since we both liked the rest of the series, but we were kind of wiped out and passed. Then Rob came over and he and Stew both had Walmart gift cards burning holes in their pockets. So off to Walmart we went. Then we were hungry and dropped by the drivethrough at Wendys. As were driving home and by the theatre I saw it was 2120 and the next showing of Underworld was in 20 minutes. So on a complete whim (fueled mostly by boredom and not having plans for entertainment back at the house anyways we pulled a u-turn and ended up watching the movie anyways!!

Then, after we got home, I decided I needed a nice hot bath. Now, guys, I know what you're thinking: "A hot bath, that's girly!" Well, call it what you want, but I enjoy relaxing after a long week, and that's how I did it! I filled up the tub with piping hot water, got myself an icecold drink I set on the rim, lit a good-smelling candle, and broke open a REALLY good book I got from Luke and Michelle last weekend by Ted Dekker called Black. The other 2 books in the series are Red and White. I must say, this book has hooked me like no other book has in a while, he a brilliant writer. He's a Christian author, and he actually grew up in Indonesia as well! His main character the book grew up in the Philippines so there's a lot of cool stuff in there that I relate to that's pretty cool! But it's not about that at all, it's about a guy in two different realities, and the second reality is a great allegory to this world. It's definitely written by a Christian and reminds a lot of C.S. Lewis' work but written on an 'older person' level than even Lewis' books. I was up until 4 AM this morning because I just couldn't put it down! So today I bought the 3-book in one hardcover edition on Amazon so I can hopefully jump into the next 2 books as soon as I finish this one. I highly HIGHLY recommend this book anyone interested in a great read with some solid Christian values and allegorys to God's love and hand in our lives. All that being said, I must reiterate that there is nothing girly about a nice hot bath, don't overlook that point! ;)

Anyways, today I've just been running errands and of course made some waffles for lunch. Probably should tie this up as this update is huge and has taken a good bit of time to write. I saw Bro Jonny in the commisary today as he's back in for a week or so and got to talk to him for a couple of minutes. He's going to try and fly with me some time this week too, hopefully.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Checkride: pass or fail?

Answer: neither! I got everything briefed up today after showing up 2 hours before brief time, and I thought all of that went really well. Then we stepped out to the jet (and it was freezing today!), and just as we were starting to preflight our plane a van rolled up and told us we were at the 'wrong' one and that they actually had another tail assigned to us. So we moved over to that one, did the inspection, engine start, taxi, and takeoff with no problems. I was feeling really good, my climbout on the arc was going great, and just as we were about to hit our level-off of 16000', the master caution started blinking and we had an bleed air duct fail. That means that the sensor has sensed over 350 degree temperatures in the wrong place and 600 degree air is going somewhere it's not supposed to. So we tried to trouble shoot and it wouldn't fix itself (this was all me flying the plane while the IP ran the Dash-1 and checklists for the problem). Since we couldn't get it out we just called center and got turned around for a visual approach to a full stop. Since it was so cold out today we weren't aloud to switch over to another jet either, so that was the end of that... Oh well, I guess these things happen, though it was certainly the last thing I expected: to not even complete the ride! So now when we get back on tuesday I'm scheduled for a 1030 takeoff with a 0800 brief with the same check IP. I would have liked to have had the weekend to study up on Navigation stuff for this next block, but so much for that idea.

One good thing is that I got out early so I'm going to make it into Montgomery in time for dinner now. Looking forward to the weekend! Then, the weekend of the 30th I'm scheduled for my cross-country; things are happening fast! Nice thing about this past week was that it went by so fast with a flying event every day. Looking forward to getting this checkride over with. Thank you to all for praying for me, and please continue to do so for Tuesday now. Pray for good weather!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Back in 09

After my long absence from the blog scene, I have returned! Things have been rather busy since my return to Columbus, but yet, haven't felt as busy as before. I think the fact that we're now off formal release has helped a lot because there is a lot less time spent sitting around doing nothing throughout the day. I still put in long days of course, but when I'm there, I'm working.

Christmas break was really great. I made it in to Richmond on Wednesday the 24th and was picked up by Cindy, Josh, and Robyn. That night after church I got the car from Coach that he let us borrow while we were back there. That was a real blessing having a vehicle and I really appreciated it! The next morning we met up with Grandma at the church parking lot and Cindy rode down with her while I drove the other car. That morning I had a scare with it because it wouldn't turn over. I thought it was the battery at first but it must have been the starter because eventually I just held the key over and it just cranked. Didn't have any problems at all after that, so not sure what that was all about. Onslow was a good time, it was great to see all the family again and be together during break. Cindy and I took care of the dinner one of the days we were there and made the chicken taco recipe from Mom I've made multiple times down here. I think everyone really liked it and we ended up with plenty of leftovers for Luke and I to raid over the next few days.

Cindy and I then drove back on Monday so I was able to make it to go shooting with the Aliff gang, Josh, and Bro. Jefff Lewis. Only my second time shooting my 1911 but I was able to get it sighted in a little better and got a good feel for where it shoots. It was also really nice having Erik and Angela around for a few overlapping days, I just never get to see them over most breaks so it really worked out well this time.

Then on new years we picked Kenny up from the airport just a little over an hour before midnight and were able to make it back to the Aliff's before the ball dropped over New York. I was really glad that he was able to make it out too, last I really got to see him was March when I left for UPT. We got to play settlers of Catan one night too, and then after Kenny got there we played a game of Axis and Allies, and Cindy even allowed herself to play with us! It was pretty hilarious game, I think me trying to teach that group such a detailed game is paramount to herding cats... but we had a good time.

I was supposed to come back here on Saturday but my flight kept getting delayed until I wasn't going to be able to make it to my connection on time and probably would have ended up stranded in Atlanta. So rather than risk that I just had them change my ticket to Sunday morning and came back then. So I got to spend another evening with everyone, but I wish I hadn't wasted about 7 hours of the day at the airport!

Last Monday was a safety day, and then Tuesday through Friday I got my 86-ride done, my first nav sim accomplished, and flew my first copilot ride as well. This week I had a second nav sim yesterday, and flew today as well. I'm scheduled to fly every day that's left this week and check on Friday, and I really hope that happens! I will be the last one in our class to check, and I am so ready to be done with transition! The nav block looks like it will be a lot more fun...