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.

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!

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