Thanks for checking in!

I started this blog to keep in touch with my family and friends during my time attending Commissioned Officer Training (COT) and the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course (JASOC) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Now I'm done with training and back in the "real" world, but I'll keep updating this blog with any interesting developments from my JAG career.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Joining the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

I owe this blog a lot of updates, so my apologies to those of you (if any) who have been waiting with bated breath to hear the latest. Here's a quick rundown: we finished our military justice section and are now on the traditional JAG School trip to Washington, DC. Today was our sightseeing day; we started out at the Air Force Memorial, then went to the Supreme Court and the Capitol. This afternoon we were sworn into the Court of Appeal for the Armed Forces. Below is a picture of me with two of my good buddies from the class (both of whom make me feel incredibly short). More updates soon, I promise!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

The Best Hello

I have to post these blurry pictures from Joaquin and Susan's arrival. They got here the day before my birthday at about 11pm. I was waiting for them at the airport, blackberry in hand, poised to catch Joaquin's reaction. Unfortunately, I should have had my phone set to video instead of camera, as you can see.

Things were going really well. He ran to me with this huge smile on his face. But then he stopped right in front of me, held out a shiny quarter clutched in his hand, and said "look, daddy, I found some money!". Not quite the greeting I was hoping for, but I'll take it.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Tuskegee Airmen and (gasp!) Toomer's Corner

The weekend after our Florida trip, I decided to head up to the Tuskegee Airmen memorial at Moton Field, a short 20-minute drive from Montgomery.  Moton Field is where the Tusekgee Airmen, the first African-American fighter pilots in U.S. history, trained before deploying to Europe, where they became famous for their success escorting Allied bombers. 

View of Moton Field from the sign in the picture above.

This is the real flight simulator they used back in WWII.  Compare this to the $7M AC-130 simulator that we all flew At Hurlburt Field!

This is the training plane that the Tuskegee Airmen flew.

This is a model of the P-51 Mustang with a red paint scheme on the tail -- known as a "Red Tail" -- that the Tuskegee Airmen flew in their missions over Europe.

I thought this old Gulf Oil sign was cool.

The Tuskegee Airmen were led by Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who I had learned about during COT.  General Davis was only a Captain when he was put in command of the Tuskegee Airmen.  He had graduated from West Point (there was no Air Force Academy back then), where he was given the silent treatment by his classmates the entire four years.  He never had a roommate, and nobody dared to be perceived as his friend.  At the time he graduated and was given his commission as a second lieutenant, he was one of only two black line officers in the Army; the other was his father, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.  There was so much incredible history at Moton Field.  I couldn't help but feel moved.

From Moton Field we went up the 85 about thirty minutes to Auburn.  I'm no Auburn fan (my uncle, Tom, is a big Alabama fan so he'd kill me if ever I decided to root for the Tigers), but Auburn is the closest big university to Montgomery, and we wanted to see the campus.  I also wanted to see the famous trees at Toomer's Corner, which Auburn fans traditionally cover in toilet paper after a win.  Some crazy Alabama fan poisoned the trees earlier this year, and I'd heard about that on ESPN.  I had to take this opportunity to see the famous trees for myself.

View of the famous trees from Toomer's Drugstore, across the intersection.

Yup, that tree is dying. 
I have to admit that I did have some of the famous lemonade at Toomer's Drugstore, and it was pretty much the best lemonade I've had in my life.  I also may have bought a Toomer's Drgustore t-shirt, but I made sure to stay away from everything directly associated with Auburn University, lest my uncle Tom disown me.

On our way out of town, I noticed this graffiti.  For those who don't know, "War Eagle" is Auburn University's catch phrase.  And Cam Newton is the Heisman-winning quarterback who led them to the national championship last year.  It struck me as odd that someone would graffiti the word "Cam" over the phrase "War Eagle."  That's like defacing the Staples Center by spray-painting "Kobe" on the wall.  But it also strikes me as odd that someone would risk jail time to poison some trees.  There's no explaining the depths of football mania in the SEC, I guess.

Friday, August 5, 2011

JASOC Week 2, Part 4: C-130s, Flight Simulators, Special Operations, and The Worst Mexican Food Ever

After our first day at Eglin we had dinner in Destin, an awesome little beach town about twenty minutes from Eglin AFB.  A group of us decided we wanted margaritas and Mexican food, so we ended up at a place called the Dancing Iguana.  It was right on the beach and we were treated to an air show and fireworks, which we had no idea about.  Unfortunately the margaritas were basically lime-green kool-aid with a spash of tequila and the food was just about the most inauthentic I've ever had.  Mark my words: never try to get Mexican food in the Florida panhandle.  You'll be disappointed.
Does that look like carnitas to you?
This mariachi, with his Salvador Dali moustache and his dizzying array of dance moves, was the best part about the Dancing Iguana.

The next day we went to Hurlburt Field, which houses the Air Force's Special Operations Command.  These are the real badasses:  Pararescuemen, Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), Combat Control Team (CCT), and Weathermen.  These are the elite Airmen who operate in small teams to provide close combat support to other Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps units.  The Pararescuemen (or PJs, and abbreviation of Pararescue Jumpers) are the Air Force equivalent of Navy Seals; they are the only members of the Department of Defense specifically organized, trained and equipped to conduct personnel recovery operations in hostile or denied areas as a primary mission.

Our day at Hurlburt started with a history lesson.  We walked through the base air park, which houses retired aircraft used in special operations missions.  (As far as I can tell, each Air Force Base has a form of air park, with cool old planes and memorials describing how the planes were used.) 

The C-130 plane, modified to be an AC-130 gunship, was first used for special operations in Vietnam and is still the standard plane for all special operations missions.

This plane was used during the Vietnam war in our operations in Laos and Cambodia.  The teeth were painted on there at the request of our Laotian allies as a symbolic defense against evil spirits.

After our tour we got another hands-on treat.  We went into a training center where C-130 crew members are trained and got to pretend we were pilots and gunners.  The best part was the hydraulic flight simulator.  You sit in a real C-130 cockpit and operate it just like a real plane while it reacts just like a normal plane would, but the whole thing is on hydraulics and the front windows display a virtual image.  We all took turns trying our hand at aviation.  I was in about ten plane crashes (including my own) before one guy in my group brought us safely down on a virtual runway.

This is the 105mm gun on an AC-130 - the biggest gun on the plane (the others are 40mm and 22mm, I think).

The rounds for the 105mm gun are each about 32 pounds.

This is how the AC-130 guns are fired.  It's really like playing a video game.

From there we hopped back into our bus for the 4-hour drive back to Maxwell AFB.  I'll write more soon!