Friday, November 11, 2011


I remember getting deployed for Somalia.  I got a tetanus shot in one arm and a yellow fever booster shot in the other.  I filled out a last will and testament and signed a letter of attorney for my wife.  There was a curtain at the end of the line.  It was about chest high and medics were back there.

"Drop your pants.  Left or right?"

"Excuse me?"

"You are on your way to Africa and you need the gamma globulin vaccine.  Left or right."

This particular vaccine is kept on ice and goes in like a gel.

"Doesn't matter.  Be gentle.  It's my first time."

He laughs.  It hurts.  I don't think he was very gentle. 

We left on a plane and we fly for over 10 hours.  More than half of us only sat on one cheek.

I remember working 30 straight days before getting a day off.  I was in Cairo Egypt.  This was the staging area for C-141s going to Somalia.  One of the locals exchanged pens with me for Christmas.  He got a much better pen.  It was probably his plan.  He was Muslim.

I remember starting at one end of the line, guiding planes into parking spots.  Once the line was full we would start refueling them.  The crews would board after we refueled and wait until the last one was finished.  Then we would launch all of them.  If there was time we would catch some sleep and then repeat the whole thing over again.  Three or four of us would handle about 7 planes at a time.

I remember the Major walking into our tent.  He looked around and pointed to our LT.

"Lieutenant!  Get some more cots in here.  There aren't enough for everyone to get a nap during down time."

"Yes sir!"

LT was cool.

I remember getting two Army Privates to help, me and another crew chief, charge up the hydraulic pumps.  This is a two man job that requires pumping a handle around 400 strokes.  The handle gets progressively harder to pump as it charges so we paired up and took turns.  After this was done I started the auxiliary power unit (a small jet engine located in the left wheel well) so the two soldiers would have heat and light while on guard duty.  I worked the overnight shift and it would drop down to near freezing.

I remember having to unclog a stopped toilet on one of the planes. No plunger. Only a rubber glove that reached to the shoulder.  I pulled a roll of toilet paper out.

I remember exchanging MRE recipes with a group of Marines.  They had more to offer than I did.  They ate a lot more of them than I did.

I remember chocking a C-141 and climbing up to take care of the paper work.

"Hey chief! Come give us a hand."

I look to the back and see a military casket covered with an American flag.  I assist another crew chief, two load masters and two cargo handlers.  We transfer the soldier to a waiting vehicle.

I do not remember the faces or names of any of the others.  I only remember the dead soldier.  I do not even remember his name.

I remember two crew chiefs and two load masters saluting the cargo vehicle as it left.  We were standing side by side on the ramp of the C-141.

I remember the vehicle disappearing into the fog as tears rolled down my face.

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