Friday, July 30, 2010

Scattering to the harm of others...

"He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." Matthew 12:30

WARNING! This story is not pretty and does not have a happy outcome.
It is a tale of scattering
that takes you to the end result
which was very sad for me.

I told the story of the journey that took me to a point of decision where I was born again here. Before I was born again I led a rather wild life where promiscuity and drunkenness were the two major sins I willingly engaged in as often as possible. I also did much scattering giving hearty approval to those that did the same, and even helped some others engage in unrighteousness.

American culture is covered with movies and stories that make light of wrongdoing palliating the potential consequences of unrighteous actions and painting the actions as fun and something to be sought.

Men like looking at women, I do. We are wired that way. God made women into some of the nicest eye candy a man can know. Men also like seducing women when they don't know better. I did. If a woman walks by a construction site she is usually met with "cat calls". Many of the men on the site give hearty approval to their buddies when they score on a date. It can be a game among them of who can score the most. Many may want to find that ultimate soulmate, but as they say, "when you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." Then life may throw curve balls at us. Things may not be as happy on the home front as they could or should be, and opportunity can come a man's way that may cause him to stray if he doesn't know better or have strong moral resolve. Even those that should have known better and should have had strong moral resolve have fallen. We call them hypocrites. It can all be complicated, and they who have disappointed us and not lived up to our expectations can become an excuse to not seek and choose the One that can make a real difference in our lives.

I worked with a flight nurse in the early nineties that was Barbie Doll pretty and is still an attractive woman. Her brother recently told me she has been married 6 or 7 times. He told me they all either cheated on her or beat on her. How sad...

I don't know all the details of her life, but I do know she would have preferred it had not been this way. My spiritual mentor when I was born again told me that I could never expect a relationship to workout unless I got things right with God first. My life's experience have proven the truth of his words to me. I value and love my wife tremendously, but not as much as I value and love my personal relationship with Jesus. He is the giver of all good gifts, and my wife is a very precious gift Jesus has allowed me to know.

One of the best analogies I've heard relating to sex is the comparison of sex to a fire. Fire in a fireplace or a wood stove with a glass door is beautiful, comforting, warm, and serves a useful purpose. Likewise sex in the marriage bed, untainted by the things that can spoil or ruin it, does all the same and more. Take that same fire out of the fireplace or wood stove and put it on the living room couch, and it can become extremely destructive. Likewise, sex out of the marriage bed can also be extremely destructive.

Anyhow... When I was a military instructor pilot at Fort Rucker, Alabama in the late seventies before I was born again I hooked up with an enlisted WAC that worked in a control tower at one of the stage fields I flew at with one of my Army buddies. Visiting my buddy in the tower, I met this WAC. This Army buddy had a real pleasant personality and was a good guy. He was married, but we mutually enjoyed the eye candy that passed us when we were together which is common for many men. I can't remember what brought the WAC and I together for a tryst, but I do remember that she started showing up at my BOQ on a regular basis. I enjoyed playing the field hoping to eventually encounter that ultimate soulmate, and I didn't consider this WAC her. So many times when I had an illicit affair, my heart would flip soon after the initial score and I was soon ready to pursue new conquests. Every now and then one would come along that I liked spending more time with, but something or other would happen to mess it up. I was ready to get this WAC off my back so I could be free to play the field more. My Army buddy was an easy and available mark.

I talked to the WAC about him. He was the tower supervisor she worked in and her superior. She felt he was off limits though he did hold an appeal to her. I knew my buddy liked women even though he was married. I didn't know his wife at that time. I encouraged the WAC to make a move on him telling her she might be surprised. She was fairly aggressive which I knew since she'd show up at my place so many times uninvited. Well she did make a move on my buddy at my encouragement, and he did take advantage of the opportunity that plopped in his lap.

Sometime after that I then ended up being born again and eventually getting out of the Army in 1979. In 1982 I went to work for the government contractor that supplied civilian instructor pilots for the Army. I became an instrument instructor pilot. My old Army buddy had retired from the Army and became a primary instructor pilot for the same company. We reestablished contact. When I got married in November of 83 my wife and I visited my old buddy and even met his wife. His wife loved him. I shared my testimony and how I had changed. Before leaving this job we visited my buddy with my toddler daughter, Joanna. My buddy's daughter who was twelve at that time gave Joanna a toy cow that mooed. I attempted to share Jesus and gather rather than scatter to make up for some of my past scattering.

It is not always easy for people to come to Jesus for one reason or another, and my buddy was comfortable in his lifestyle. I eventually left that job and lost contact with my buddy again.

In the early nineties I worked with a male flight nurse that knew my old Army buddy someway or another. This flight nurse quit my company and went to work for another company in Springfield, Missouri. I think Springfield was his home town. Anyhow I stopped in to visit him once at his new place of work and he told me that my old Army buddy was fixing to take a trip to Springfield for a vacation. Springfield was evidently his hometown too. I gave the nurse my home phone number and told him to tell my old Army buddy to give me a call when he showed up.

I never got that phone call. Several weeks later I was back in Springfield and stopped in to see the nurse I had worked with. I asked him about my old Army buddy. He said, "Before (my buddy's name) made it up here on vacation, his girl friend caught him cheating and shot him in the head killing him dead."

My old Army buddy was still married to a wife that loved him in spite of his faults. He had a daughter that loved him dearly. It wasn't his wife that shot him, but a girl friend because he was cheating with another girl. I don't know for sure, but the girlfriend could quite possibly have been the WAC I caused to hook up with my friend. Though my friend liked looking at the eye candy back when we were in the Army together I don't know that he had ever cheated on his wife before I set the aggressive WAC on him. My shame is incredible. If I could only take back what I had done, I would. This is an extreme case of scattering going wrong, but all scattering has harmful effects. Some of the harmful effects we may never come to know about as we go on with our lives, but for certain our scattering can easily be a link in the chain that causes harm. Even though it may have seemed fun at the time, God wanted me to personally know the harm I helped cause. I now hate scattering with the utmost hatred regardless of the fun and entertainment it may have provided once in my life. Unfortunately I can't take this back. I would trade places with my buddy if it were possible. I deserve to be where he is, not him. All I can do now is my best to never scatter again. I now choose to gather as the opportunities present themselves.

"He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters."
Matthew 12:30

If you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus, please consider inviting Him into your heart to be the Lord of your life. It is a choice I have never regretted and only wish I had made it sooner.

If you do have a personal relationship with Jesus that needs strengthening, ask Him to cause the growth that strengthens. If He can do it for me, He can and will do it for you.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Army Helicopter Pilot Training Film

I was one in one of the first classes to have all of their training done at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

When I enlisted in the Army going to Vietnam was a real possibility. When I graduated from Army Flight School they were no longer sending pilots to Vietnam. I'm only a Vietnam Era veteran, not a Vietnam Vet. I have mixed feelings about not getting to go over there. 99% of the pilots I know that served in Vietnam are great guys. They have a brotherhood unique to their experience. Vietnam opened up the need for helicopter pilots like nothing else could. As tragic as war is, if Vietnam had never taken place, I probably would have never gotten the opportunity to become a helicopter pilot. This second video: "Angels of Vietnam" sure makes me miss it. All good things eventually come to an end. Enjoy em while you got em!

This was an easy Tall Tale... not much writing, but the films brought back a lot of memories.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Partial Seizures to Foggy Headed Days

I still have plenty of tall tales I want to tell. My head doesn't always cooperate. I have the want to, but not the can do.

Please accept my apologies for when I'm not able to provide fresh material in a timely manner.

My 15 second partial seizures were 10 times better than these foggy headed days. I had no idea what they were when they first started visiting me. The common way they presented was simply as a strong feeling of angst with a sense of doom and gloom for what is coming on the world. I could still think, make decisions, and function. In my estimation; I wasn't at 100%, but I was never far from it and they only lasted for a mere 15 seconds. Then some of them started to include visual distortions. Those were entertaining, but I knew I needed to seek medical help and find out what was going on.

"Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." James 4:17

It is not always easy doing the right thing, especially when you know doing it can hurt you or those you love. But then, failing to do the right thing can also harm you and those you love. Such is life...


Monday, July 19, 2010

How do you like your pork chops?

Before I got married I had a decent job in "LA" (Lower Alabama). I was living in a little two bedroom "Kelly" trailer which was barely a step up from a school bus converted into a motorhome, but I was content. It's the female part of the species that ended up domesticating us men anyhow. If it wasn't for women, we'd be content with a sleeping bag out in the weeds. I must admit that we are prone to get a little spoiled though after tasting the goods and conveniences the ladies like.

The picture on the right shows myself, my wife, and an almost new born Simeon Langham in front of our little "Kelly" trailer. Simeon is the oldest child of Dwayne and Penny who are close friends, and have stayed with us more than once during our married life. The door is still open Dwayne, if you ever need a place to stay or just want to come by for a visit.

I had a brother in the Lord (Brother #1) show up and stay with me for awhile at the little Kelly trailer pre-marriage. Over all we had some pretty good times. He taught me a recipe that he liked involving pork chops where he would marinate the pork chops in italian salad dressing before cooking them. We tried it and I liked it, so I added his recipe to the list of things I'd cook.

While I enjoyed Brother #1's visit and company, he had a pretty good deal going on I thought. I had a good job, so I allowed him to stay rent free while I bought groceries and paid bills. I'd have to go to work for a little bit everyday, while Brother #1 had free run of the place. He enjoyed both humming and singing Psalm 133

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever.

Overall life was pretty good. We had some good fellowship and did some neat things. However...

I get home from work one day and I'm sitting at the dinning table looking at a sink stacked high with dirty dishes. The thought then occurs to me that I had been washing waaaaaaaaaaaay more than my fair share of dishes lately. While I'm sitting there looking at the stack of dirty dishes with some displeasure, the Lord gives me a vision and takes me on a journey to the pearly gates.

As I approach the pearly gates I notice Saint Peter the proverbial greeter. When Saint Peter noticed me, his countenance turned super happy and he said, "Wow Dave! You made it! It is so good to see you. Come on up in here. We have a great place for you to stay..." As he extended his arm with a wave to point out a beautiful mansion. Saint Peter continued saying, "This is your Brother #1's" mansion, and you have free run of the whole place. The only thing that will be required of you is to simply take care of all the dishes."

Wow! Just take care of all the dishes... I wasn't too happy about that at the moment considering I'd been the only one taking care of all of the dishes and everything else so it seemed. Taking care of everything except for his personal laundry. Now that would have been some serious foot washing. How pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity... Actually things had seemed pretty happy and pleasant until this moment. Given how I was feeling at the moment, I looked at Saint Peter and said, "That seems worse than going to hell."

Saint Peter's countenance dropped from happy to extremely sad as he said, "Well David if that is how you feel, then maybe that's where you need to go."

I thought about it for a little bit, then I resolved myself to do the dishes. I ran a sink and put my hand to the task. My peace had returned. I got about halfway through the stack of dishes when I felt the Lord's gentle voice say, "Okay David, you can talk to Brother #1 about this problem now."

I finished the dishes and when the opportunity arrived I broached the subject of the dishes with Brother #1. He seemed to receive it well, but a day or two later he told me he was ready to move on. And so, he was soon gone.

After Brother #1 left Brother #2 showed up. When the topic of kitchen duties came up, Brother #2 said, "I do all the cooking, you do all the cleaning. Sounds fair to me."

Now this is another small tall tale about how it came about, but when I cook I clean as I go. When I sit down for a meal I already have a sink run and knock out my dishes immediately after eating. I start with a clean kitchen and finish with a clean kitchen as long as no one else has started a stack of dirty dishes. So, I told Brother #2 that his cooking and me cleaning system wouldn't work for me because I clean as I go as I cook and there is no super large mess to clean up. Isn't it amazing how some cooks seem to get every item in the kitchen dirty as they create their wonder? Anyhow, we worked it out and things seemed to work well.

While Brother #2 was there I fixed the pork chop recipe Brother #1 had taught me. Brother #2 appeared to like the meal. A week or so later we found our selves in the grocery store ready to stock up on a fresh supply of necessities. The subject came up as to what we should get and I asked Brother #2 if he liked pork chops. Brother #2 said, "Let me count the ways I like pork chops!" There seemed to be a bunch of them, so I made up my mind that we'd get some. And..., as I walked by the salad dressings I reached my hand out to grab a bottle of italian for the marinating part of the recipe I knew and thought he liked.

OUCH! When Brother #2 saw what I was reaching for it was like I stuck my hand into a hot fire. Well, the truth was now known about how he really felt about that recipe Brother #1 had taught me. Brother #2 had simply tried to be polite and not show his true feeling about how he felt about the meal until he was faced with having to suffer through it again. We didn't get any pork chops. We settled for something else, and I was glad to know that from now on I wouldn't be fixing something I thought he liked while he silently suffered through it.

Shortly after my wife and I got married she told me a story about a precious old couple that are good friends with her parents; Emily and Sterling Lacy. Emily thought Sterling liked collard greens, so she fixed them for him. He always ate them. After thirty years of marriage Emily fixed collard greens and Sterling said, "You know, after all these years of eating collard greens I think I finally learned to like them."

Emily said, "You what!" Neither one of them really liked collard greens in the beginning. He ate them cause he thought she liked them. She cooked them and ate them because she thought he liked them. Both being polite silently suffered through them for years.

After my wife told me that story stacked on top of the italian dressing marinated pork chop story, I made up my mind that I wasn't going to go through thirty years of eating something I didn't like. So, I established a three menu system in our home.

The only thing my wife could cook when we first married was lasagna. She did a mighty fine job too. I told her, "Baby, this is pretty good. You can put it on the guest menu and also fix it for me anytime you want too."

A little while later she experimented with something knew. It wasn't near as good as the lasagna, but it was tolerable, so I told her, "Baby, I wouldn't put this on the guest menu, but it is okay for me, so you can cook it anytime you want to for just us for sustenance."

Then the day came when she cooked something that to me was like the italian dressing marinated pork chops were to Brother #2. I said, "Baby, please don't do this one again." My sweetheart always received that bit of news with displeasure. The nerve of me to dislike something she put so much time and effort into, but I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to politely suffer through something I didn't like.

Over the years my sweetheart has become a pretty good cook. We still have only the three things on the menu: quest quality items, sustenance only items, and please don't do it again items. The last time I recall her fixing a please don't do it again item, it was a meatloaf. I don't know what she had done to this particular meatloaf, but it was bad. After a taste, I looked at her and said, "Baby, please don't do this again." After all the time and loving effort she had put into that meatloaf, she was p.o'd at my displeasure. She turned her nose up, huffed over to the table, picked the meatloaf up and huffed over to the corner of the room where she placed it on the floor for the dog. The dog then walked over and took a whiff, then promptly walked away quite obviously not willing to touch that stuff either.

My wife thought, "Hmm, maybe Dave knows what he is talking about."

Well, it's not hard to know what you like and don't like, but our precious princesses need to know that they are still appreciated for all their hard effort. So, do you show that appreciation by silently suffering through what you dislike? Not this kid! There has got to be a better way.

So, how do you like your pork chops? If I'm going to take the time to fix you something I certainly don't want to waste my time by fixing something you dislike. So, please let me know what you think of the meal. It won't hurt my feelings if you dislike something. After all we all have different tastes with things we like and dislike. Sometimes they coincide, and sometimes they don't. And, it is nice to know that if I'm trying to do something special just for you that it truly is special. So don't be shy or unnecessarily polite. Life's too short to fake it when you can make it right.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Harry ~ Pilot Extraordinaire

Harry Stevenson spent 4 years in Korea. He watched me come and go. Harry grew up in Philadelphia and ended up doing the high school to flight school thing like I did, just a few years earlier than me. Early enough to make it to Vietnam. He ended up in Vietnam at a young age and found himself as Cobra Gunship Lead at only 18. My friend Chuck Hutchinson who tucked me under his wing at Travis AFB on my way to Korea, served with Harry in Vietnam with the 23rd Infantry. They told some amazing stories. Tall Tales by anyone's standards, yet true. Harry accumulated a few Tall Tales in Korea too. I am privileged to have known Stevenson as both a mentor and a friend.

View Larger Map
We had a live fire exercise in the Buffer Zone where the Koreans originally wanted us to use Freedom Bridge as a target. The Americans talked them out of that and convinced them to let us use a hill on the Imjin River's edge right by the bridge instead.

The hill had a brand new concrete bunker being constructed inside of it. The Cobra pilots wanted a harder target than just the hill, so they picked out a bunker window to aim at to see if they could shoot rockets inside.

A few days after the live fire exercise I took the the 1st Platoon leader, Captain Ballou on a BZ training flight. Harry asked if he could ride along in the back with his camera. When we flew near the bridge, Harry suggested we land so he could checkout the bunker they had used for a target. After we shutdown and approached the bunker a Korean military jeep approached us with a Korean full bird colonel onboard. Captain Ballou introduced Harry to the Colonel as the man who shot up his bunker.

The Korean Colonel looked at Harry with a strong scrutinizing gaze and said, "I think you understand your weapon systems very well, but I think you misunderstand your target." The Colonel wasn't very happy about his brand new bunker being all shot up. Evidently Harry and the boys in the Cobra Platoon managed to fire quite a few live rockets through the window and into the bunker.

There was another live fire exercise on the east coast of Korea where they floated a raft far out in the Sea of Japan for a target. The 117th our sister unit arrived on the scene first and fired several rockets at the raft without any hits before the 128th arrived. When the 128th arrived, Harry was the first to take a shot at the raft. One shot, one kill; Harry demolished the target with his first rocket. Chuck Hutchinson came over the radio right after Harry destroyed the raft and said, "We should have know the competition would be over once Stevenson arrived!".

Harry became a General's pilot toward the end of my two years in country. He was a pilot for both General Grange and General Livsey while in Korea. I went through Army Flight School with General Grange's son who was a captain at that time. WOCs (Warrant Officer Candidates) and commissioned officers did not socially mix during school, but I remember General Grange's son well from our escape and evasion exercise and mock POW camp at the completion of flight training. He impressed me as a very STRACT soldier and a good leader.

One day Harry gave General Grange a Cobra ride over Camp Red Cloud. During the flight, Harry rolled in on the camp several times in mock gun runs. This flying exhibition pissed the Military Police off and one was dispatched to write the miscreant pilot a ticket once they landed. Well, Harry landed on the Camp Red Cloud helipad to let the General out. Once the Cobra was shutdown a MP walked smartly toward the Cobra with a sense of purpose. As the MP got close, General Grange finally climbed out. Recognizing the General stopped the MP in his tracks where he rendered a crisp salute followed by a sharp about face and a retreat back to his vehicle.

Very early one morning the South Koreans caught a team of North Korean infiltrators on a photo taking expedition trying to make their way back to North Korea in the area north of Chuncheon Korea. I was told I would have gotten to lead the flight that was launched to assist in the North Korean infiltrators' capture, but I had spent the night in the Ville and was unavailable, so my 1st Platoon counterpart, Dan Britt, was chosen to lead the flight into the Buffer Zone north of Chuncheon near where the Bukhan river crosses into the DMZ. Dan was in flight operations busy working on preparing a Buffer Zone flight plan to file and get a Buffer Zone access number for entry into the Buffer Zone when Harry walked through the door. Harry picked up the flight plan Dan was working on and said, "What's this?" As Harry tore the flight plan in half and tossed it into the garbage and said, "This is for real boys, lets go!"

In reality, Harry was a general's pilot at this time and probably had means to acquire an access number for BZ entry without going through the normal protocols that Dan and I didn't know about. But, that is just conjecture and speculation on my part. I never asked him and don't know for sure. If Harry didn't have a special means to acquire access, he is the one individual who could pull something like that off.

I showed up later in the morning at the start of a normal day and was told about all the excitement I had missed. I was also given a service mission to carry a couple of American officers into the area to investigate the situation more. They had me land on the riverbank of the Bukhan River right where it flowed under the southern DMZ fence. They told me to shutdown and wait for them while they got into a waiting boat and traveled into the DMZ.

There I was shut down only twenty feet from the southern DMZ fence as many of my buddies were having a for real shoot 'em out with the infiltrators just to the south of me. They all noticed the helicopter shutdown next to the DMZ fence and were wondering who the dummy was that was stupid enough to shutdown there where they were a prime highjacking target should any of the infiltrators get to the helicopter. Well, the dummy was me; sitting there fat, dumb, and happy as I waited. I also logged my flight as combat time because I was told that to log combat time all you needed was a mission flown against the enemy within the range of their counter measures. I thought this flight filled the bill. The operations officer, Captain Dell, told me later that he would have let me keep that as combat time if I had logged it correctly, but since he had to change it; he made it just a simple service mission. I looked at the book more closely on how to properly log combat time, but I never had another opportunity.

Harry on the other hand, made a BZ flight near the DMZ when the second infiltration tunnel was discovered. He had to delay his departure for about an hour while the North Koreans lobbed mortars at them. Harry had plenty of for real combat time. I don't know if he logged this flight as some more or not. Once during one of our alerts they issued us our .38 caliber revolvers without ammunition. Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of bullets and said, "I never carry a useless weapon."

As Harry's four years in Korea came to an end he was spending time on the phone with the Army Aviation assignments branch attempting to get a school out of Korea. Harry wanted fixedwing transition school. As a general rule cobra pilots never get a fixed wing transition. Once a cobra pilot, always a cobra pilot; so the saying goes. After several phone calls the assignments officer at Branch got pretty rude with Harry and sternly told him, "NO Mr. Stevenson. You are not getting any schools out of Korea and you are going straight to Fort Hood, and that's final." Harry replied, "Oh yeah!" and just hung up on the man. Harry's DEROS orders arrived shortly after that conversation instructing him to report to Fort Hood. Harry just threw the orders in the garbage and kept showing up for work at the Eight Army Commander's General's office. Harry's date to report at Fort Hood came and went. A couple of days after he didn't show up the phone rang in the the General's office with the appropriate officials wanting to know Mr. Stevenson's whereabouts. Needless to say, a small beehive was stirred up. In short order though, the Eight Army Commander got on the phone and Harry got a verbal extension followed by orders to the school of his choice. A few years later, I didn't even know the Army owned any jet aircraft until I heard Harry was flying them. These were used for V.I.P. flights.

When Harry finally made it back to the states he paid me a visit at Fort Rucker and invited me to take a trip with him to Fort Benning, Georgia where General Livsey was now the Commanding General of the Infantry Center and Commandant of the United States Army Infantry School. Harry wanted to pay the General a visit. When Harry and I arrived at Fort Benning the General's helicopter had just landed. Harry had me drop him off and go park while he tried to catchup with the General. Harry was wearing a denim jacket and jeans. He caught up with the general and his party just as they stepped into an elevator. Harry slipped in as the doors closed. The general had his head down thinking, talking, and slapping his swagger stick against the palm of his hand while facing the opposing door. The general didn't notice Harry slip into the elevator, but he did soon notice the silence of the two full bird colonels accompanying him. The two colonels did notice Harry and were busy giving him the evil eye as if to say, "Who the heck do you think you are slipping in here with us?" General Livsey soon looked up and around to see why his colonels were not responding to him. When General Livsey noticed Harry he exclaimed, "Harry! You ole son of a gun. What are you doing here?"

Harry told him he had just come up to visit.

When they got off the elevator the general invited Harry down to his office for coffee. One of the colonels tried to interject asking the general what he wanted to do about what they were discussing. General Livsey just said, "Later colonel, we'll just take care of that later." Neither colonel looked too happy about this unknown interloper interfering with their time with the general. General Livsey and I are both privy to something the two colonels didn't know, and that is that any time one manages to spend with Harry Stevenson is quality time worth putting most other things on the back burner where they can wait till one's time with Harry is done. A quote attributed to William Wallace from the movie Braveheart sums up best the feeling felt when spending time in Harry's presence, : "Every man dies, not every man really lives." Harry is a man that knows how to experience life and really live it to the full.

After parking my truck, I made my way to the general's office where I got to enjoy a cup of coffee and their conversation.

This extraordinary tale from Vietnam gives one a glimpse of the possible excitement one may get to experience when hanging out close to Harry:
On a cobra flight in Vietnam his copilot took him into the tops of triple canopy jungle where they disappeared from sight. Harry's wingman said, "Well it looks like Stevenson's gone!" Wrong... Harry took over the controls and flew back out of the tree tops and then back to their base. He showed me pictures of the helicopter. The main rotorblades had holes in them large enough to pass a basketball through them. While attending a Bell Helicopter ground school years later, I told that story without mentioning Harry's name. The bell tech rep, Larry Stone, said, "Harry Stevenson." Yep! Harry is one of those people that inspires respect, and he has led the life of a legend. I personally know Harry is the real deal, and it has been my pleasure to have known him.

My great regret is that I have not done a better job in sharing Christmas cards through the years and keeping up with good friends. Harry, if you get to read this you should consider emailing me a copy of one of those pictures so I can post it here.

Here is a video portraying the Cobra's mission in Vietnam:


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Snake in the Bed

Growing up in South Louisiana I ended up having a pet snake every summer after my dad introduced me to them. Sometimes I might have kept my pet snake for only five minutes after catching it before letting it go, but I had at least one each summer.
One day I was driving my mom's station-wagon to the HiHo to get some BBQ for lunch when a speckled king snake started to cross the road. I slammed on the brakes, threw the car in park, and quickly exited to capture the snake. I didn't have time to get a stick to help me, so I just snatched the snake by its midsection and tossed him through the open door onto the floor on the passenger's side. Once the snake hit the floor board, it threw up its lunch; a copperhead. The snake then crawled up under the seat where I left it until I had time to fish it out later.

I spent two years in Korea right after completing Army Flight School shortly after completing high school. Sometime during my second summer in Korea I started realizing that it had been a long time since I'd seen a snake. I was missing them. So, to resolve my longing for a pet snake, I headed downtown to the local Korean pet store. When I found the store I asked the Korean proprietor, "Ajossi, an nyong ha sye yo? Bam Issoyo? (Hello Mister, how are you? Do you have a snake?)

The Korean Ajossi said, "Anieyo! Bam opsoyo!" (No! I don't have a snake!)

Me, "Dun issoyo. Tungsinnun kajawa bam, Nanun kajawa dun. (I have money. You give me a snake and I'll give you money.)

My Korean wasn't fluent by any means, but somehow I seemed to manage with the little bit I knew. Adult Koreans were very patient and kind helping me with my Korean. They seemed truly appreciative that I took an interest in their language. One day I was walking down a sidewalk with three little Korean kids approached me from behind. I turned and said something to them in Korean. All three covered their mouths, pointed and laughed at the silly American trying to speak Korean. I imagine my strong southern accent helped to amuse them. When I spoke Korean my fellow pilots referred to it as "Cajun-Korean".

The old ajossi nodded his head, "okay", so I wrote my name and phone number on a piece of paper. A couple of weeks later he called me and said he had my snake. I went and picked my snake up and paid him. I really don't know what kind of snake it was, but it looked very similar to the cornsnake in the YouTube video above. It was about the same size as the snake in the video also.
Campbell and Robert
Back in my BOQ (Bachelor Officer's Quarters) room I kept the snake in the bottom of my metal wall locker. This BOQ was a long building with a hallway running down the north side and numerous rooms on the south south. These were double occupancy rooms and I shared my room with another pilot from South Louisiana, Don Campbell.

This is a picture of Campbell and I letting our hair down some in our room as we are getting ready to head out to the Ville for a little after hours recreation. I'm in the foreground emptying the bottle as Don is jamming out to some song in the back ground. Quadraphonic sound systems were big back in those days. Another pilot, Bernie Reth, had a tape of the Reno Air Races. Bernie and another pilot borrowed speakers from other pilots and set up about a dozen of them wired in 4 channel sequence and spaced out down the long hall way. Then bright and early one morning the cranked up the Reno Air Races. It sounded like the planes were doing low level passes through the BOQ building entering one door and exiting the other. Vietnam vets quickly climbed out of bed onto the floor and low-crawled to nearby windows peeking out to see if they could tell what was going on. Korean contract guards were seen staring up in the sky trying to spot the non-existant aircraft. You never knew what kind of prank might take place in Korea.

Anyhow, I returned to our room late one night with a fair degree of inebriation. Don had already retired for the night. When I entered the room a cold blast of air hit me. Campbell had the air conditioner cranked up high. The first thing I thought of when the blast of cold air hit me was my snake in the bottom of the metal wall locker. I though, "Dang, Campbell's gonna kill my snake running the air that cold." I stripped for bed, but before climbing under the covers I opened my metal wall locker up and took my snake out. I then crawled under the covers and released the snake on top of my bed thinking he could now seek out his own source of heat as I fell sound asleep.

The next morning I was in the light stages of sleep just before awakening when I felt a thump on the foot of my bed followed by a string of expletives. I awoke and sat up to see what was going on. Campbell was sitting up in his bed just a cuss' n, "ROWBEAR if you ever put that snake on me again, I'm going to kill you and it too!"

Don wasn't too happy. Evidently the snake crawled out of my bed and into Campbell's bed exploring and seeking out its own source of heat. Campbell was asleep on his back when he felt a slight weight on his chest. He opened his eyes and found himself eyeball to eyeball with my snake as the snakes's tongue kept coming out sampling the air toward Don's face.

Anyhow, Don just snatched the snake and chunked it my way as quick as he could, and the snake landed on the foot of my bed. I had a good laugh. The snake was fine and Campbell was fine. I told Don how he would have killed it with the air cranked up so cold. He said he didn't care.

Several years later Campbell came to visit me after I had gotten married and was living in Newton, Alabama. After all these years Campbell still believed I had put that snake on him. I once again explained to him how I came into the room and found it freezing and concerned for my snake's life I released him from the wall locker to seek out its own heat. I told Don the snake was just seeking out his own kind and found him when it made its way into Don's bed.

Campbell was W01 when he arrived in Korea. He wasn't fresh out of flight school though like most WOJGs arriving in Korea. Don had spent a year at Fort Hood in Texas. I don't recall all the details about how he slipped out of the States so quick, but Don was both a good friend and a good pilot. We were downtown in the Ville one night eating yakimandu and drinking Peach Oscar champagne. Campbell stepped out of the joint a couple of minutes before I did. The exit door emptied into a side alley. When I stepped into the alley, I saw standing by a wall surrounded by half a dozen Korean soldiers. Don was giving all the Koreans a cussing and calling them out. I had no idea what wound Don up, but I quickly discerned that he wasn't in a very good position. After my quick appraisal of the situation, I grabbed Don by his collar and threw him up against the wall and sternly told him, "Straighten up boy! What's wrong with you?" Don's countenance changed from anger to compliance. I looked at the Korean soldiers who showed no signs of anger, just curiosity at this crazy American and a wondering of what Campbell thought he would do, and I said, "ChoSumNeDa. MeHanMeDa." (It's good. I'm sorry.) The Koreans nodded and went about their business and Don and I left unharmed.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Captain Turner ~ a trying time

Captain Turner resting on his army cot during a field problem
2nd Platoon Leader Captain Turner

Korea was a one year hardship tour. I extended for an extra year, so I got to see a lot of people come and go. I had three platoon leaders during my two years spent in Korea: 1Lt Johnson(a temporary interim position for him until a suitable captain arrived to take his place), Cpt. Seiler, and Cpt. Turner.

When Captain Turner showed up on the scene I had long been turned into our platoon's young "superstar" flight leader and BZ checkpilot. I had been functioning in that role successfully for sometime. Since I was his platoon's "superstar" Captain Turner wanted to fly with me and scheduled himself to do so the majority of times he flew during his first three months required in country before a pilot regardless of previous experience and ability could become a PIC (Pilot in Command).

Many of the old guard (the guys that had groomed, mentored, and trained me to the level where I became a "superstar") were now long gone. I had gone from high school, to flight school, to Korea. Many of the old guard when I first arrived were Vietnam Vets, and now in hindsight I clearly see where they had a good, mature, and necessary characteristic I didn't possess; the desire and ability to groom the new guys to takeover the baton and carry on so a unit can continue to function as old guys disappeared from the scene. I think I would have eventually gotten it had I recognized the need and realized it was a role I should have played. I did play it to a certain extent by training new BZ pilots, but when it came to leading flights, I was simply in performance mode where it was all about me and not training someone to take my place. I didn't see it as my job to train new flight leaders. I was still quite young in my aviation career and trying to self-appoint myself to the position that I now see these older guys clearly did for me could have easily been seen as hubris on my part. Also, not every "old guard" pilot I flew with acted in the capacity of passing on the baton, but there were a select few who were very talented in this capacity.

Our unit was a well oiled Air Assault Team. For every training lift we had a pre-brief and a post-brief. The pre-brief laid out what our mission was and how we planned to accomplish it. During the post-brief we discussed how things went and whether or not there were things we needed to improve upon and how we should go about it.

Captain Turner was a Vietnam Veteran, a former instructor pilot, and he also had 3,000 hours of total flight time when he arrived in Korea while I only had 200 hours of total time upon arrival in country. Because of the three month rule, he could not be a PIC in Korea until he had spent the designated amount of time getting exposed to the nuances and peculiarities associated with flying in Korea as well as developing familiarity with the area so that pilots could be safe and not cause an international incident by accidentally overflying the DMZ or something.

The first time I flew with Captain Turner, he was my co-pilot on an air mobil training lift. We flew to the PZ and loaded our troops. I was familiar with the route on this lift, so I chose to fly the first sortie and let Captain Turner observe. The rapport in the cockpit seemed good. Captain Turner was easy going and first impressions were favorable. When it was time to takeoff, I gently increased pitch to effect a smooth takeoff with a slow acceleration to cruise airspeed keeping the flight together just as I had been taught. When the aircraft got to about fifteen feet off the ground, Captain Turner snatched the controls from me. He came over the cockpit intercom and said, "I don't ever want to see you takeoff like that again! They're expecting you to be at cruise airspeed as soon as you leave the ground!"

Oh boy!... Time to tighten my bull rope and hope I can hang on for the ride. How was I going to deal with this? Captain Turner was my "NEW" platoon leader, he was older and more experienced than me, he had more flight time than me, though he didn't have any IP orders in Korea he had been an Army Instructor Pilot, but I was the PIC! (PILOT IN COMMAND by God!)

A simple change of command has destroyed careers that were on track for great things. I have a friend that is ex-Navy who had planned on having a 20 year career but was sunk by a simple change of command that went from one he functioned well with to one he couldn't get along with. My friend was not able to adapt and things went downhill for him pretty fast after this change of command. It is the new command's prerogative to run things as they please regardless of how smoothly and well things worked prior to their arrival.

Also, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, there is a pecking order that exists throughout the animal kingdom of which humans are a part. We are more complex creatures in the food chain and our means of establishing a pecking order often follows more intricate methods other than who is the biggest, meanest, and the baddest SOB in the valley. The military teaches tact as a very valuable and useful trait to have.

In the interest of tact and considering the long laundry list of Captain Turner's bona fides and the fact that I was really just a young kid pretty fresh out of flight school, I chose to yield to his desired take-off technique and now adapted it as my own. This was one argument I didn't want to take part in. Many of the old guard that had perfected the technique before Captain Turner arrived on the scene were now long gone. An honest appraisal of my bona fides told me I didn't have what it took to win this argument without help. I knew the post-brief was going to be interesting.

Left to right: 1Lt. Johnson, W01 Tom Adams, and CW3 Brad Kopp, .

CW3 Brad Kopp was our unit's Instrument Examiner. Brad arrived in country about the time I made PIC and had shared a lot of the history of the unit running smoothly with me, however his expertise was mostly in the instrument flying department and not in the tactical lift department, so I didn't consider Brad as part of the old guard that had mentored me into what I had become. Brad was no dummy though. After the flight landed back at Camp La Guardia, Brad approached me on the flight line and asked with a little concern, "Dog gone Davy! What were you doing? I was pulling max torque and you were flying away from me!" I just looked at him and shrugged my shoulders and said nothing.

It was an interesting post-brief. Captain Turner made his points. He possessed a fairly dominate personality. There was no old guard left around with a bone to pick in this fight to back him down. Crazy Harry was still around, but he was a Cobra Pilot escorting the slicks during lifts, so this was none of his concern. Harry might have been a full time General's pilot by this time also. I spent 2 years in Korea so I saw a lot of men come and go. Harry spent 4 years in Korea, so he watched me come and go. The resolution in the post-brief was that lead would pull the guts out of the aircraft coming off the ground accelerating as fast as possible to sixty knots that would then be held until the trail aircraft announced over the radio that the flight was joined. Flight lead would not accelerate to full cruise airspeed until the trail aircraft made that call. This was a previously unnecessary call that broke radio silence and in a real situation could alert the enemy that something was up. Oh well... Often in life the way it ought to be and the way it is rarely coincide. Even with this minor flaw, my two years in Korea was closer to the way it ought to be than any other place I ever worked.

For the most part Captain Turner and I worked together okay. He wasn't my favorite person to fly with though. He'd question my decisions and I'd have to provide reasonable answers since he was my platoon leader. He also had his own vision of how he wanted to do things, but was constrained by the three month rule before officially getting to be the Pilot in Command.

One day things did come to a head that would prove to be a game changer. On this particular day the aircraft Captain Turner and I were assigned had a minor discrepancy; our VHF radio had no sidetone. Sidetone is a feature in the radio that allows the other pilot onboard to hear inside the aircraft what is being transmitted outside the aircraft. We reached a point of decision on this airlift where flight lead had to transmit instructions to the rest of the flight. Captain Turner and I simultaneously keyed our mikes to instruct the flight. He told them to do one thing, while I told them to do something else. That wasn't good and needless to say caused some unnecessary confusion. Not to mention more fodder for the post-brief... Oh well.

That incident also caused me to make a decision. Even though I was "officially" the Pilot in Command onboard our aircraft and responsible for all decisions, I made up my mind that anytime I flew with Captain Turner from now on I would be the best "copilot" I possibly could be and leave all the PIC duties to him. He'd call the shots and I'd try to prevent or clean up any messes his decisions might have caused. It worked! He was really ready to assume PIC duties, and I was in a position to prevent an international incident if the need arose. As far as the little stuff? A hundred years from now no one would even remember, shucks it would probably all be forgotten way sooner than that.

If I had more aviation maturity, I probably would have put him on the spot and made him call the shots anyhow way before the incident that caused me to assume a "de facto" copilot role. I had previously been in performance mode though where it was all about me. I can see that now. This decision of mine came close to the end of Captain Turner's three month rule where he would become an "official" PIC in country. I was glad when that day came. Captain Turner then began flying with other men in his platoon. He still liked the lead position, and I got to relax in the trail position snickering at little navigational mistakes the lead aircraft made. But, I now recognize the immaturity of my attitude back then. If I would have been more mature, I would have been all about working on passing the baton and doing my best to adequately prepare Captain Turner for the day when he would indeed be an official in country PIC. Live and learn. Sorry Captain Turner, you were a very good platoon leader all in all.

In typical "one more Dave" fashion, here is a side note on "Brand New PICs": It was interesting to see two brand new PICs assigned the same aircraft and mission. Especially new PICs of equal rank. There was usually a little pecking order competition over who would be the actual PIC and who would be the copilot for the mission. A brand new PIC typically wanted to exercise his privileges. While I had a mental block flying with Captain Turner and allowing him to function as a PIC even though he was really just my copilot, I had no problem with which role I played when flying with another new PIC. when placed in that situation I would always ask the other pilot, "Do you want to be PIC or copilot today?" and I'd take the position he didn't want. The possible difference was that with another new PIC who wanted that role as PIC, he also got the responsibility to answer for anything that went wrong. With Captain Turner I retained the responsibility to answer for what went wrong regardless of why it went wrong. Also with Captain Turner, if I played him as PIC while he was my copilot because of the difference between his bona fides, my bona fides, and his dominate personality, I was in a poor position to take over should the need arise and also in a poor position to give him any chastisement he might have needed. It was a trying time. Still, no doubt, a good experience.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Communication and Navigation

Has anyone else ever heard said, “Communication is often our weakest link”? Communication is important for all of us. Means of communication runs the gamut from simple and effective to loud, outrageous, and possibly obnoxious and unpleasant. Communication is not complete until we receive a response from the one spoken to indicating that they comprehended what they were told.

In aviation, proper and complete communication is very important in the interest of safety and mission enhancement contributing to successful mission accomplishment. A simple miscommunication in an aircraft can end in catastrophe. Poor or inappropriate communication in a marriage can lead to divorce. Army aviation has a saying, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”. (BTW, I'm content in any one of the three positions as long as I am where I belong.) The Army goes to great measures to teach good communication in the cockpit. Here is a story told in an Army Aviation safety meeting I attended:
A Bad Day Joe was the co-pilot for a Mohawk mission. Normally Joe was an easy going cheerful guy, but on the morning of the ill-fated mission it was obvious that Joe had awakened on the wrong side of the bed. Joe’s PIC (Pilot in Command) detected his melancholy mood and elected to keep all communication to only that which was necessary to get the job done. They filed their flight plan and preflighted their aircraft only speaking when professionally necessary. Then they went through the run-up procedures and taxied out to the runway for takeoff. All this was done with no pleasant and extraneous communication that normally takes place between people in most situations except for those that require the bare minimum necessary like a critical surgery or some other complex dangerous process. Once cleared for takeoff with the throttles pushed forward and the aircraft quickly approaching takeoff airspeed, the PIC finally decided to make a social extraneous comment to Joe. The PIC said, “Come on Joe! Cheer up!” Joe said, “Roger gear up.” As he hit the switch that retracted the landing gear and the aircraft still not at takeoff speed bellied in on the runway.
Ouch! Point made...

One of the very first things I learned in a helicopter was that I did not have to look at my instructor pilot when he spoke to me or I spoke to him. There were plenty of other things that needed watching and took priority over a social convention expected in polite society.

I also experienced an instructor pilot that was a screamer as my first instrument instructor. This poor means of communication came close to almost costing me my opportunity to become a helicopter pilot. It did cause me to get setback and graduate a class behind the one I started with. But, I think this experience helped me to become a better instructor pilot when it was my turn to decide if I wanted to be a screamer or a smooth easy communicator in the cockpit. Here is a link to a sampling of some of the critiques I received from some of my students in my instructor pilot days: IQD~No Slack!

I chose to make the cockpit environment as pleasurable and comfortable as possible for my students while still allowing them the best possible chance to learn. I did have one memorable student that passed through my cockpit and ended up not making it for a peculiar reason. I would patiently explain things to this student over, and over. He was definitely slow on picking up the information that he should have been getting. After several days of this I finally sat him down and asked him a few questions.

Me to student, “Able, did you ever have an instructor pilot scream at you?”

Student to me, “Yes sir.”

I wasn’t that surprised by his answer. I knew there were a few screamers out there. I had personally experienced one. His answer to my next question did surprise me though.

Me to student, “Well, how did you like that?”

Student to me, “I liked it.”

Whoa! He liked it? That puzzled me. A screamer in the cockpit definitely creates an unpleasant ambiance and, in my opinion, a setting not very conducive to learning. I had to explore this more. Me to student, “Why did you like it?”

Student to me, “Because that way I knew when I was doing something wrong.”

After that little conversation I started “SCREAMING” at Able whenever he did something wrong. I saw a little improvement, but he was already pretty far behind and having to scream in the cockpit is not the ideal atmosphere you want to promote or have exist as normal in an aircraft cockpit. There may be a rare appropriate time with a “weak” copilot if an operational necessity dictates the need for safety, but you don’t want it to be the norm.

Able got passed on to another instructor pilot. I shared with his new instructor my conversation and experiment that for Able, screaming at him when he did wrong did seem to help. But, the other instructor looked at me a little incredulously and understandable so because of the content in the paragraph just above this one.

Able didn’t make it. And, he probably didn’t really need to make it. Many good instructors, me included, like to take a weak student and bring them up to speed. I was once a weak student in a particular area and feel very fortunate to have made it. I also feel like I turned into a well rounded strong pilot with a lot of the credit going to the men that I had mentoring and instructing me along with the things I experienced. But, an instructor has a very important responsibility to insure a student doesn’t make it through when it becomes obvious the student has no business being given Pilot in Command responsibility of operating an aircraft. It is a tough call and usually we push making the call if it goes against the student as far as we reasonably can. Because of that, sometimes weak pilots slip through that probably shouldn’t have. I had the pleasure (or displeasure) of flying with one in Korea once.

I was in the Second Platoon. I had been well groomed and turned into a BZ (Buffer Zone) pilot, then a BZ check pilot, and a flight leader by the men who mentored me. Normally Second Platoon pilots flew with other second platoon pilots and first platoon pilots flew with other first platoon pilots. Cobra platoon pilots who were also Huey pilots flew with all of us depending on the mission.

We had an airmobile training exercise where I was chosen as flight lead for the second platoon. For some reason I was assigned a weak first platoon copilot to fly with me.

The joke in Army Aviation is that when flying with a weak copilot the PIC assigns the copilot to sit on his hands and monitor the standby load meter. By sitting on his hands, the copilot can’t mess with anything he shouldn’t. Monitoring the standby load meter is extremely innocuous. The load meter won’t do anything but rest dead on its peg, unless the main generator fails; then the standby load meter will perk up and show a load. A main generator failure is extremely rare. I never made any of my copilots do that. It is basically a means of telling your copilot he is worthless without saying those words. Not too good for one’s self esteem, but probably apropos for some guys depending on their personality and degree of incompetence they possessed.

I only flew with Ruby this one time. If I had the opportunity to fly with him more I may have gotten to the point where I might have subjected him to the above abuse of sitting on his hands and monitoring the standby load meter, or I may have chosen to possibly try to mentor him into being a stronger pilot if I thought he might have it in him. It's no fun wasting your time on a fruitless cause. It could be very difficult leading a flight on an Air Mobile lift with a weak copilot. Because navigation is the more important aspect of flying, it doesn’t matter how skilled and competent a pilot is at manipulating the controls, if the pilot cannot navigate he is worthless. I had good navigational skills which may be one of the reasons I was chosen to be a flight lead.

In a typical dual pilot situation one pilot flies the aircraft while the other pilot navigates. The pilots switch off sharing stick time. Unless my copilot was a proven competent navigator, I only gave them the map when I had good boundaries such as an easily recognizable river, highway, ridgeline, or valley that could indicate the copilot was getting lost, or I was very familiar with the area and didn’t need a map to know the same. As flight lead, I always navigated an unfamiliar route on the first sortie while allowing my copilot to fly the route. Once I was familiar with the route I took a turn flying, and from there we usually swapped off trying to share stick time equally depending on how many sorties we made.

I was unfamiliar with this route of flight for this day's airlift, so I allowed Ruby to fly the aircraft while I navigated the first time around the route. This is tactical navigation flown at low level using topographic maps for navigation that show way more detail than the typical aeronautical chart. Unless you personally experience it, it is hard to describe the satisfaction you get when you talk your pilot into an LZ (Landing Zone) that you have never seen before and the first time you see it is as the aircraft is decelerating to land on short final.

Our LZ this day was a ridgeline with pinnacle pads. We were a flight of five. As we rounded the valley where I could see the ridge with the landing areas marked I pointed out a knob of a hill on the ridge where our pad was supposed to be located. I told Ruby, “Shoot your approach to the right of that knob.”

He could see the knob, but he couldn’t see a landing pad. Ruby said, “I don’t see a landing pad.”

I said, “I don’t care, shoot your approach to the knob.”

Ruby said, “But, I don’t see any landing pad.”

I said, “So what, just shoot your approach to the knob!” He should have started to decelerate and begin his approach when I first told him to shoot his approach to the knob.

Ruby said, “But, I don’t see any landing pad!”

He hadn’t even began to slow the aircraft down. I had let him go to where this landing could not be salvaged. We were too fast and had gotten too close to the landing area to safely make an approach. In hind site, I had identified the correct landing area, my navigational duties were done, when Ruby first balked at my instructions of where to make his approach to land, I should have set my map down, taken over the flight controls, and made the approach myself. Live and learn. If I wanted to be cutting and caustic at his failure to follow my instructions I would have said, “I have the controls. Sit on your hands and monitor the standby load meter WOJG!” (WOJG = Warrant Officer Junior Grade) Fortunately this was just a training situation, and I was the one that ended up getting some good training out of it.

I took over the controls once it was too late to salvage the approach and led the flight on a go-around for a second attempt. If this would have been a for real combat situation I would have put the whole flight at risk causing this go-around. Even though Ruby played a part, the responsibility was mine. I could have salvaged a bad communication situation simply by taking over the controls sooner and made the approach myself.

This is interesting, because I find often in life when I am confronted with a situation for the very first time I often do not handle it as I think I should have in retrospect. But, usually it is just training for a very similar situation that will happen in the future and because of my initial failure, I am now ready to perform appropriately and properly whenever the situation presents itself again in the future. Gotta love the lessons we learn in life. Sweet Jesus!

We made our go around with me now on the controls. I flew my aircraft back to the point where I had told Ruby to start his approach. I began our approach to the right of the knob where I had initially told Ruby to do so. There was absolutely no sight of any landing pad through out the whole approach until we came to a high hover beside the knob, then just hidden behind the knob a landing pad came into view. I hovered over and set her down. Then I looked at Ruby with possibly a little contempt in my eye and a grin.

I had to take a little flak in the debrief which I deserved, but at least I had learned a good lesson. I was also glad I never had to fly with that first platoon self-loading-baggage anymore. (self-loading-baggage is a derogatory term often used by pilots in EMS to refer to medical crewmembers who present themselves as high and mighty and knowledgeable in all things applying to aviation. These are the self-appointed experts who don't realize the vast quantity of things they really don't know.)

A good copilot listens to his/her PIC and obeys without question. There is an appropriate time for questions when a good copilot has the proper discernment to know when to ask. Ruby’s first question may have been appropriate and needed to be tolerated. Many times it is better for someone to say something that is not necessary, than to not say something that is necessary. If he was made of the right stuff, he would have never balked the second time by repeating his spoken complaint. Worse case, he would have shot the approach I told him too, and when we got to the point where I spotted the landing pad and there was truly no pad then one of two situations would have occurred: 1). I navigated him to the wrong place, "my bad", and we executed a go-around from that point in an attempt to correct my erroneous navigation. Still painless and safe except for the flak I would have justly deserved at the debrief. Also, highly dangerous in a for real combat scenario. 2). I navigated us to the proper spot and the people who did the AMR (AirMobil Recon) blew it and didn’t brief us properly. In a for real combat situation you don’t get the luxury of an AMR, and may have to improvise. We did a lift once on a route that had not been used in years. The 2nd situation could have also been this scenario where the AMR guys didn’t blow it if an AMR was done. The pads were overgrown with trees a good twelve to twenty feet high. We belly’d in to the tree tops and hovered as the ROK (Republic of Korea) Marines jumped out into the tree tops. Second time around, we had freshly cleared landing pads! Hurrah! I don’t remember the details on this lift, whether or not an AMR was done, whether or not we were briefed on the condition of the landing pads. It was good training though regardless just to see how the pilots and the ROK marines handled it.

Another lift I led took place in the far reaches of TAC Zone C. It was a long flight. I was in tactical mode and led the flight low level to the PZ (Pickup Zone), flawlessly navigated the route to the LZ. My copilot on this day did a good job, and was an asset instead of self-loading-baggage needing babysitting. I took my turn flying on some of the sorties after navigating the first circuit, and we completed the lift without a hitch. I stayed on the controls leading the flight back to our home base. I also was still in tactical low level mode. After about five minutes the copilot said, “Don’t you think it is about time we gain some altitude?” Altitude is your friend in a non-hostile environment. It gives you more time to react and handle an inflight emergency should one occur. I considered his question. The lift was really over and he had made a good point. I said, “You’re right. As I pulled pitch and took us up to a comfortable 1,000 feet AGL (Above Ground Level).

Shift gears a little bit: I tell my wife that we are a good team, and I believe we are! We are not a well oiled team like combat ready Army trained helicopter pilots, but we are a good team. Husbands and wives have roles to play. I’m comfortable sitting in the PIC’s seat or the copilot’s seat. I’ve flown both. It also is a role to play. I value my wife’s input. The trick is discerning apples 1 (like the one Adam chose to eat) from good advice. Every time I’ve accepted an apple as Adam did, there has been trouble, but my wife’s good advice has also saved us from unimaginable hardship. e.g. I believed in ProximityCast so much that I would have mortgaged our home to get the funds to pay someone to build it. I desperately needed a means to provide for my family after losing my ability to fly. I thought ProximityCast had the potential to become that means. She did not like the idea of mortgaging the house and putting it at risk. The worst case could have proved quite unpalatable: ProximityCast could prove to be a flop without gaining any traction so important in the startup world and our home would have been the price causing us to be homeless. Husbands can serve up apples too resulting in nothing but trouble with the consequences that follow. I’d be comfortable living in an old school bus again, but with a severely handicapped child to care for that could prove very difficult for my wife to deal with. We are setup comfortably and well for all my son’s needs right where we are at. So, I buckled down and learned the technology I needed to build ProximityCast myself and bootstrapped it. ProximityCast has proven to be a flop and has not gained the slightest bit of traction like I really believed it would have. God! I’m glad I listened to my wife. That piece of advice was no apple and saved our bacon for now anyhow.

Who knows what the future might bring. I know that with Jesus, come what may, it will be all good even if it seems like a tough pill to swallow.

Speaking of the proverbial apple, I believe that since Adam failed and accepted that original apple from his wife that put us into the fallen condition we humans find ourselves in, God wants men everywhere that have wives to learn to discern between apples and good advice. Forbidden fruit and appropriate fruit offered to us by our wives. If we can collectively learn to discern the difference and have the strength to do as we ought, refusing the forbidden fruit while accepting the good, I believe we can improve our human condition. It is not an easy lesson to learn though, and it is not always easy to discern the difference. But I know from what I have seen and experienced, that it is possible.

I could ramble on about communication and navigation between spouses, but least you grow weary I better call it quits for now. My wife has tagged me as “one more Dave”, so true to form I will share one more brief addition before I go today.

Getting to be a husband and a father has been one of my greatest privileges in this life. I believe Heavenly Father has a sense of humor though when He blesses us with children. Children have the ability to give a parent the most joy and the most heartache one can possibly experience in this life. When a child does something that fails to make you happy, I think Heavenly Father looks upon us, smiles and says, “Yeah, now you know what it feels like!” Life is a precious gift and a wonderful learning experience even with the tough lessons. Cherish it!

FullArmor Album Cover
Old Fashioned Man

wrote and sang by JoLynn Robert
One sweet lady! ThankYou Jesus!

May your ability to communicate and navigate through the trials of life improve if they need improvement. There is One whom I know who can help you along the journey if you ask Him and allow Him to provide the assistance we all can use.

Revelation 3:20
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Mark 4:23
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”


apples 1

- the proverbial fruit in the garden of Eden that Adam and his wife Eve ate is often referred to as an apple. No one knows exactly what it really was except that it was forbidden and they were warned of dire consequences should they choose to partake in it.

Adam and Eve actually had it easier than us. They were clearly shown what not to eat. We have to learn to discern.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Last Hurrah ~ Retired my Spurs

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall." 1 Peter 1:24

Watching a tree top fall to the ground from up in a tree is interesting, but what the video doesn't show that I enjoyed most was seeing clear air appear before you when the top fell free and then the top of the new stob you are tied to starts rocking back and forth a good foot or two especially on a tall pine tree.

I have never been a good business man. If all I had to do was put a tree on the ground I would have been happy with what I got paid, but after cleaning the mess up and hauling it off I usually wondered what I was doing. I got my spurs in 1983. They were considerably cheaper back then than they are now.

I enjoyed taking trees down for the challenge, the exercise, and the fun. I didn't find cleaning the mess up and hauling it off fun, so I pursued other means to make a living mostly involving my ability to fly. I hung on to my tree climbing equipment though so that I could help a neighbor, or a friend, or myself out when necessary.

When my son proposed to his wife lightning struck the tree in the picture in my front yard quite near the two of them.
Pine Tree Struck by Lightning

The tree continued to look healthy for a long time, but finally and then slowly pine needles started to turn brown on different limbs. The tree would have to be taken down. Good thing I hung on to my tree climbing spurs!

I started to take it down a few weeks ago, but my foggy head interfered and I put it off for a better day. Well, that day arrived on the 4th of July 2010. The morning temperature felt comfortable. My head, while not crispy clear, felt good. I felt inspired and up to it. I formulated a game plan that began with lots of hydration to be continued through the whole process.

First on my agenda was to service and crank my up-in-the-tree saw. If for some reason I couldn't crank this saw there would be no use in continuing. Being a Stihl it cranked without much effort even though it sat unused for several years.

Next I cranked my larger Stihl that I would use for clean up after getting everything on the ground. It is a newer saw than the little Stihl I bought in 1983, but although it has a larger bar they are both pretty close in weight. My daughter's boyfriend, TJ, does some tree trimming. He was surprised at the weight of my once top of the line ancient dinosaur. When he showed me his up-in-the-tree saw, I understood.

After I knew both of the saws could be easily cranked, I began pulling out my climbing gear. I considered simply putting on my climbing safety belt and spurs, going on up, topping the tree a couple of times, then climbing down. Quick and sweet. But, experience has taught me that it is much better to have something and not need it than to not have something and need it. So, I hauled out the whole nine yards and began to get set up. I was short one carabiner that I didn't miss until the point it would have been quite handy.

My climbing gear amounts to my Klein Tree Spurs, an Arbor-Plex climbing rope, a generic industrial safety belt (around the waste only) with a homemade lanyard, a rappelling harness (poor boy's tree saddle, I generally only use this to rappel out of the tree after it has been topped. It's easier than climbing down. ), a figure 8, with carabiner, and a small retrieval line for pulling things up into the tree that you decided you needed after the fact.

I worked for a civil engineer once who's favorite saying was, "Anyone can do good work with good tools, but it takes a skilled man to do good work with junk." Most of his equipment was junk. I prefer to have good tools and look skilled when I'm not, but due to budget constraints one may not always have that luxury. Forestry Suppliers, which is still a good source, was my only access to equipment back in the day. Now there is WesSpur Tree Equipment, and Sherrill Tree which simply specialize in tree climbing. They also have numerous books on the subject to assist the modern day tree climber. Back in my day, if you were lucky enough to know someone who worked for Asplundh, you might could get them to give you one of their company tree climbing manuals. I never did. All my techniques I came up with on my own. The most important thing up in a tree is a calm, clear, head with good situational awareness and discernment along with the physical capability to climb.

Sherrill Tree focuses a lot on equipment and books about climbing without spurs. If a tree climber is only going to prune a tree and not completely take it down, it is unethical to use spurs in a tree. Many will do it, but you shouldn't allow it unless you don't mind giving them repeat business in a couple of years after your tree dies from the spur wounds. They won't always die, but the possibility is real.

There are also recreational tree climbers now who do it for pure fun and pleasure. Using spurs is a definite no, no for recreational climbing. Sherrill Tree has books and info on recreational climbing plus the equipment you need if you are interested. When I was making hammocks I considered a commercial with a group of recreational climbers heading high into the treetops and a securing their hammocks for some relaxation time high above the crowd. People even campout in trees now.

When I first got my spurs in I took them to the woods where I could practice and get used to them without anyone watching. I started tree removal on the side while I was a contract instrument instructor pilot for the Army. The company I worked for employed over 400 pilots. Out on a tree job once I met a man that worked for my company that asked to borrow my tree spurs. I told him as long as he provided a chair where I could get comfortable to watch the show and a cooler with cold drinks so I could stay refreshed as the show went on, he could use them. His tree was a small Pine no more than thirty feet tall. He made it up and got his tree on the ground, but when he got back on the ground he approached me and said, "I've got a whole different opinion of tree trimmers now. It is one thing to be tired and another thing to be scared, but when you are both tired and scared at the same time it is a bugger bear!" It might not be a wise thing to loan your spurs to just anybody, but this guy was a helicopter pilot, so what the hey? Remember the fighter pilot's prayer? "God give me the eyes of an eagle, the heart of a lion, and the balls of a combat helicopter pilot."

Spured Up
Anyhow all my equipment was laid out and ready. I put my safety belt on along with the rappelling harness and then spur'd up.

I hooked my up-in-the-tree saw, climbing rope, and equipment retrieval rope to one of the "D" rings on my safety belt and threw my lanyard around the tree. Then I began to climb.

Shows Climbing and the Stob Rocking after the top drops

Tree Spur Wound
Many people wait way too long to get a tree climber in to handle a dead tree. After a certain point the tree loses structural integrity and it can become quite dangerous to attempt to climb and top a tree. When the top breaks free there is a good chance the rocking can cause the rotten part below the climber to break, then the party is over. It is usually up to the climber to judge the structural integrity of the tree. It is best to have your tree taken down sooner rather than later. I wanted to see how my tree would fair after the lightning strike so I let it go awhile. Its structural integrity is still sound although the dead wood is beginning to harden and is not as easily penetrable by the tree spurs.

Tree spurs can cut out of the tree also causing difficulties to the climber if he doesn't set them securely. The harder wood caused one of my spurs to cut out occasionally. Fortunately I always made sure the odd one out was secure before trying to set the other one. This made the climb tedious and more difficult than I recall. I continued to make my way up. I had a spot picked out from the ground where I wanted to make my cut. I would have a few limbs to cut out of the way before reaching that height. I used to use a double lanyard so I could leap frog limbs without cutting them, but I didn't know where my second lanyard was, so I was climbing with only one.

I only use a safety belt, so I didn't have the comfort of a tree saddle. I had my rappelling harness, but I only use it for the journey down. It is a pretty poor substitute for a tree saddle, but great for a quick trip out of the tree rappelling.

Chain Saws
I got to the first limb that needed cutting. I had my wife retrieve a small pruning hand saw from our basement and attach it to my equipment retrieval line. I was getting tired. I didn't want to expend the energy to crank and handle the chainsaw.

My wife had never ever watched me do any tree jobs previously. She simply stayed away and prayed. She chose to watch this job. Too bad she didn't have a video camera for YouTube. Flying and trimming trees are two jobs I've always prayed a lot on. Never out loud, simply to myself. (Well, I did pray out loud once in an aircraft: Found here) No one ever knew I prayed unless I told them. My wife said a few prayers silently as she watched me.

After cutting the limb out of the way, I had her attach a water bottle so I could continue to hydrate. I then tried to rest. This wasn't like the old days. God I was tired. My legs were feeling like rubber. I pulled up the far end of my climbing rope and made a makeshift saddle so I could rest easier. After a little bit of rest and hydration I climbed above the cut limb. Now I had a small knob that afforded solid footing for one leg without needing good spur penetration. The top of my spurs were digging into my legs just below my knees. It wasn't very comfortable. I was going to show you a picture of the spur rash on my left left, but decided it wouldn't be very pleasant viewing.

My fatigue was becoming incapacitating. I got to where I could rest as best as possible and asked Jo if we had any Gatorade. She went and looked and found a bottle of Powerade. The electrolytes were very, very helpful, but not enough. I abandoned my plan to climb to the point where I wanted to make my first cut. I decided that if I could get comfortably situated to handle the saw that I would just take the top out where I planned the second cut.

Jo was praying silently that if the Lord had wanted me to cut that tree to give me the strength to do it. If He didn't, then to give me the wisdom to get down. So, she told me later.

I struggled to get setup. If I would have planned better it could have been easier, but I had a tangled mess to deal with. I could have used that second carabiner to get my rappelling harness set up as a saddle, if only I had taken the time to find it. If I had a good tree saddle on and in use I could have expended much less energy. I could have, I could have, I could have, but I didn't! Almost like, "Oh boy, ROWBEAR, what kind of trouble did you get yourself into now."

Cut that top, get back on the ground and leave the rest for later was my new plan. Chainsaws can be dangerous enough even when you are rested and on the ground, but off the ground in a tree and tied off you have to be extra careful. (YouTube caution, can be disturbing) I have been fatigued up in a tree before, but never to this extent. It is one thing to be tired and another thing to be scared, but when you are tired and scared at the same time it is a bugger bear. I wasn't scared, but I was concerned. I was beginning to realize that I had bitten off way more than I could chew. I'm only 55 and until relatively recently a pretty healthy and avid mountain biker. But it was becoming obvious to me that I was much too old to be acting this dang young.

If only I could get this top cut out and get down this would be my last hurrah regarding tree trimming, but I already knew regardless of the outcome that this would be my last time to climb a tree. My spurs would be retired once I got back on the ground.

I believe I could push it and make the cut, but in my fatigued condition I don't think I could guarantee a safe cut. I told my self several times that if I did attempt the cut to check and make sure that I didn't have anything tied above the cut. (see disturbing YouTube above) There are a ton of other things that could go wrong too. If you are fatigued, you are not in a good position to deal with the potential extras. I eventually reached a point where I believed attempting the cut would not have been the responsible and safe thing to do. Pride could have made me push it and press on, but it is written pride goes before a fall. As a poor boy, I would have preferred getting the job done myself. I realized this had become another tall tale if I would get the opportunity to write it. None of us are promised tomorrow and there are a lot more common ways to be taken out than tree trimming although tree trimming can increase the potential for someone who has no business doing it. Shucks, it gets a fair share of the regulars. I would have to successfully cross the finish line alive and well to write this tall tale. My previous experience in life has taught me that you are not across the finish line until you really are across it. Just because you can see it and you are close to it does not mean that you will make it across successfully. I find the times I most often fail to successfully cross a finish line is when I tell myself I got it made before I'm there. Anyone else been there done that? Anyhow I made the decision to swallow my pride and humble myself and I lowered my saw to the ground signifying that I had indeed tossed in the towel.

My precarious situation wasn't over though. I had to now get set up to rappel out of the tree. If I had a second carabiner, that would have been easier. My only carabiner was tied up with other uses that it had to be freed from. I had a tangled mess on my hands, but it was of my own creation. I could have and should have done a better job preparing. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. I needed to secure my climbing rope to the tree above me, hook my figure 8 into the rope and use the carabiner to hook the figure 8 into my rappelling harness. But, the end of my climbing rope was set up as a makeshift saddle in an attempt to give me some relief. None of this was happening or going to happen very quickly. If I had prepared and planned better I could have quickly switched to rappel mode and gone on down.

For the first time ever up in a tree I prayed out loud. I had gotten myself in a pretty good jam. I was only approximately 30 feet off the ground, but it was high enough for an old man to need to be careful. I knew I needed to relax, take my time, and work my problem, so that's what I did. Since Jo had never watched or helped me on any tree jobs I had to instruct her on how to attach things I needed to my retrieval line. She learned fast though and did a good job. She was also good about silently praying and waiting for what seemed to be an opportune time to ask me any questions she thought were necessary. I was certainly in no position to waste time on any unnecessary questions.

I began to wonder if I was going to have the strength to safely rappel without a belayer. Could I instruct Jo on how to do that and set her up to do it while I was in the tree? I asked her to give JimBo, our local city man also on the volunteer fire department, a call to see if he could belay me or knew someone who could. No answer. After all it was the 4th of July. I next had her call Nick, a young man and family friend and close friend to my son. Nick knows how to climb without spurs and also does trees. No answer. So, I told Jo to go get a thick jacket and a pair of welders gloves. I still had to get set up to rappel.

My rappelling harness was not as secure as it could be. I was too tired to properly adjust it though I attempted as best I could. I caught a vision of it slipping down around my knees with me possibly flipping upside-down and slipping. My glass definitely wasn't half full. I had Jo get a quick link and I used the quick link to hook the rappel loop to my safety belt buckle. That would have to do, and I felt it was sufficient to prevent the vision occurring.

Now I had to get the rope setup so I could hook the figure 8 up to it and hook the carabiner to my rappelling harness loop. The problem was that I would have to loosen and quit using the makeshift saddle I had rigged to help me rest. I believe and know my prayers helped. The idea came to me that I should just pull up the other end of the rope and rig it. Then after getting rigged and set up ready to rappel I could loosen the makeshift saddle. So, that's what I did. I slowly worked my problems, undid all my tangles, and instructed Jo on how to belay me. While still safetied off with my lanyard and safety belt I finally freed up the makeshift saddle and dropped that end of the rope. I then worked out with Jo the concept of braking and allowing me slack when I needed it.

All was set! I released my safety lanyard and found I had the strength to rappel without needing a belayer. But like previously mentioned, I'd much rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Another example of stacking the deck in your favor. I guess I could buy a nice tall extension ladder and a better tree saddle to stack the deck more in my favor for my second attempt with the money I'll end up paying Nick to take the tree down for me. But, if Nick can get around to it soon enough, I think my tree climbing spurs are retired for good. I am glad to have crossed that finish line (back on the ground safe and sound) with no desire step back into that race.

Lightning wound from strike that caused the tree to die

Marked Tree The upper line shows where I had initially intended to top the tree if I still had all the right stuff. The lower yellow line across this picture shows the height I had climbed to before I completely tuckered out. I would have gone ahead and topped the tree here if I could have gotten situated and rested enough to feel comfortable operating the saw up in the tree. Being inordinately tired is just another ingredient that could have contributed to catastrophe. I was ready to press on until the point when I realized it wasn't the smart thing to do.

Knowing what I know now, it wouldn't be smart for me to even attempt this job in the first place, but I didn't know that on the 4th of July 2010.

My father-in-law showed up shortly after I was safely back on the ground with my tree still in the air. He was going to ask me to take care of a tree for him. Now, he'll get Nick to do it. I told him I've been aging fast and if he wasn't careful I'd pass him up and leave him in the dust.

First my ability to fly was taken away, then my ability to do any serious computer programming was taken away through foggy headed days, now it is quite apparent my ability to do trees is gone. I've been slowing down on other things too. I can still write, play a game of chess, and read a good book though. Plus my wife is still glad to have me around, so life is not too bad. I consider myself blessed even though the old stuff is missed. But, I can definitely feel that I have entered that phase where the grass withers and the flower fades, and so will all of us in this life if we live long enough. Fortunately we don't wither and fade as fast as the grass and flowers in most cases. It is just another chapter in life. I hope I can walk through it well come what may, but it is proving to be interesting learning my new boundaries and trying to respect them.

Back on the ground. Tired! Dog Tired!