This is going to be brief because I should definitely be studying instead of doing this but since I haven’t been productive all day, I figure, why not keep the streak alive?
So this week we spent two nights in Florida on Eglin AFB. The basic gist of the trip was get some exposure to parts of the Air Force we won’t get to see on a regular basis or maybe ever. So the first thing we did was get to play around in an F-15. Of course they only let us play in ones that are no longer used (A Model) because as we would spend the rest of our time in Florida proving, JAGs cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon. So the plane I’m sitting in can’t even taxi around anymore but if you squint you can pretend I’m actually flying it.
Also, all you Top Gun fans out there, I learned something very interesting. As it turns out there is no way what happened to Goose could actually happen in one of these planes. If you want me to explain why, I’d be happy to though I won’t do so now because there are just too many people I could bore with those details.
After fake flying an F-15, we moved on to playing with the AF’s MWDs (military working dogs). I know it sounds like they pull carts but they’re actually the bomb and drug sniffing dogs. A few of my colleagues got to put on the padded suits and get tackled and bitten by the dogs. It was pretty cool…for us to watch. Here’s a pic of my fellow JMLS grad Michael O’Brien getting mauled by probably the meanest dog I’ve ever seen in my life.
I realize it doesn’t look that bad but trust me it was. He was tossed into the fence before he got drug to where he is in this picture. This is them trying to get the dog off of him. This particular dog, one of the times he was attacking he got so excited he passed out cold. His adrenaline was pumping so hard (aka he was so freaking excited to bite someone) he knocked himself out. Just goes to show once again that in the AF, we don’t do anything half assed.
OK, speaking of the AF being awesome, the next thing we did was take a tour of the largest climatology lab in the world. It’s on Eglin AFB and can accommodate the AF’s largest plane, the C-5, with 5 feet of clearance. When we were there it was negative 25 degrees. They gave us parkas and let us go into the lab. I suppose this is exactly the type of weather I should be getting used to since North Dakota will be my home come next winter. This lab can also create sand storms, blizzards, rain, wind, and about any type of weather you can imagine. They use it to test planes and pretty much everything else the AF uses in all sorts of different climates. They also rent it out to commercial companies to use to test their products. However, if anyone is thinking this might be a good place for a foam party, a. you’re right but b. it’s booked for the next 4 years.
Then we went to beach to eat our box lunches. Here, this group of airmen asks, “What is this and how do we fly planes on it?”
After the beach, we spent some quality time with Security Forces (AF cops). These are the guys who do everything from watching the gates at AFBs to guarding caravans in Iraq (very dangerous). They’re also the ones who arrest the people we prosecute as JAGs. So we got some training on their Use of Force guidelines (when to shoot someone) and toured a bunch of their facilities. This is one of the times we showed we should never be given guns. We did some simulations where we had to choose when to shoot and when not to…we tended to favor the prior. We also learned that when you do decide to fire, shooting the person 20 times may be considered excessive force. At this point I do need to clarify that I never shot anyone…probably only because we ran out of time before my turn. In any event I probably would have shot off my own foot before shooting a civilian.
That night we went out it Destin. There we found a bar made of money that served something called an Irish Wake…well, it was green and had alcohol in it. That’s all you need to know.
Oh, and also, if you have enough of them you will feel sorry for a stuffed bear and be willing to kiss a moose.
The next morning we started by meeting the SJA (Staff Judge Advocate) of the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hulburt Field (another AFB right next to Eglin). Then we went out to see the Combat Controller training facility. Combat Control in the Af is like the Army Rangers or Navy Seals. They’re special ops for the AF which basically means they do the most top secret, dangerous stuff. I learned that it’s congressionally mandated that women can’t be a part of the Combat Control. Bummer, I was thinking of ditching this lawyer gig to learn how to hold my breath underwater for 2 hours and jump out of a plane with no parachute (I may be exaggerating but I’m pretty sure they do stuff kinda like that).
Next we went to the Air Park at Hurlburt Field which is basically a parking lot for a bunch of cool planes. A historian walked us through and told us what the planes where and what they had been used for. It was all very interesting though I have to admit, I have no retention for that type of information. I am proud to admit I can tell the difference between a helicopter and an airplane though. See, helicopter:
Seriously, though, I am slowly learning the different planes. This one above here is actually an AC-130 and it’s huge. I’ve also learned that the AF doesn’t really do helicopters. That’s more of an army thing. I’m not kidding. We admit it.
So after the Air Park we headed to the Life Support/Survival Equipment place. There we got to try on super expensive helmets and play with night vision goggles. Now in this one if you really squint you can imagine I’m in a plane…
This one is a helicopter pilot helmet which Tom, in his infinite wisdom, says doesn’t fit me right. I guess it’s a pretty big relief then that I’m not actually getting to fly a helicopter anytime in the near future.
Next we did the most logical thing for lunch, a giant Chinese buffet. Perfect. I’m pretty sure this was a test actually. They had us eat as much as we could and then they had us try to stay awake for an hour long briefing on Re-integration. Re-integration is actually very interesting. It’s the process that people who have been POW’s or hostages go through to help them deal with getting back to work and dealing with people who aren’t trying to kill you. As interesting as the topic was, if it was a test to see if we could stay awake, I failed. So did the majority of my class.
Luckily the last three activities of our trip were a little more interactive. First we got to learn what plants are the best to use for tinder and how to start a fire without matches or a lighter. Also, we learned the cat tails are the most useful plant…ever. Next we did a little bit of hand to hand combat training. This was about a 20 minute lesson so there wasn’t much detail or technique that we learned but I do dare any of you to try to take me prisoner.
The last thing we did was learn a little about parachuting. Now this isn’t something JAGs, even AF JAGs, will probably ever do. None-the-less, I now know the proper contact points when landing with your parachute. I will tell you this, one of them is not your butt. Here, let me demonstrate:
The first time I did it, I really messed it up and the instructor actually said to me, “That was ridiculous. I can’t even look at you.” I think this is another situation where it’s a relief I won’t be jumping out of a plane anytime soon.
After we learned how to land, we learned what to do if we don’t land on the ground but up in a tree. AF parachutes come standard with a little pully system that you use to slowly lower yourself down from a tree. They really like to discourage you from landing on your butt in any situation. They took a couple volunteers to hang from a fake tree and then lower themselves down. For some reason this seemed like a really good idea to me so I volunteered and here I am, getting ready to get stuck in a fake tree:
And then actually stuck in the fake tree:
And then trying to get down:
Don’t worry guys. I got down. Eventually.
That’s all I have for you all for a while. Next week is our first exam and then on Friday we play ultimate frisbee for the Commandant’s Cup…that should go well…