Me and Abilicious

Me and Abilicious

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Week from the Greatest Amusement Park Ride Ever

It's a Monday and surprisingly my day has been done since before 11am. We had a test this morning and my last simulator before the flight line will most likely be tomorrow. We only have one more subject, weather, and a test for it on Friday until our Dollar ride a week from today. The last 7 weeks actually feels like 7 seven weeks. It hasn't flown by or seemed to drag on either. I guess that means there's been a good balance of stuff to do and time not doing stuff. And we are no longer the freshman class with 13-01 already more than two weeks into their syllabus. Which is beneficial because I finally feel superior (however slightly) to at least someone. I finally know some things someone else doesn't.

Knowing the flight-line starts a week from today is a little nerve wrecking. We've spent most of our time learning how to stay alive in emergencies and uncontrolled flight and very little time learning the finer points of how to fly. Flying with an emergency, though, is in some ways easier than flying normally. If everything's good you have to adhere to all flight standards, altitudes, flight paths, controller directions, radio etiquette, maps, everything. But once you declare an emergency you're allowed to do whatever you want. Even rob a bank. For instance if I say on the radio, "Cujo 25, 5 miles, request straight-in" the controller can say, "negative straight-in" which means I have to go ALL the way around again unless I say, "Cujo 21 declaring an emergency, fire in flight." Sure, that means my plane's on fire but now I can do a straight-in. Saves time and money. The biggest draw to an in-flight emergency in this plane is the potential to eject.

Some would ask, "why?" As much as they say the captain goes down with the ship, I hope this makes it obvious. Makes this lame. They say you can only eject twice before you're physiologically disqualified from ever flying an ejection capable airplane again. Might as well go one-and-done. Besides, you break one airplane, they just give you another.

Living on base has it's perks, especially for early morning shows, but it also has it's drawbacks. One is engine tests late at night, "they keep crankin it on and crankin it off!" The number 1 drawback is when reveille is played at 7am and retreat at 5pm over the PA loudspeakers. If you're on base in the car when either is played you have to stop the vehicle until it's over. If you're walking you have to stop, come to attention and salute. It's really just an inconvenience but after the first two times you find yourself planning out your whole day to avoid the outdoors from 6:58am-7:02am and 4:58pm-5:02pm. Some people even set alarms. You know you're in trouble if you're halfway between the parking lot and a building when you see some people who were previously walking start sprinting into the nearest shelter. You look around and realize you are the only soul outside for as far as the eye can see. No cars, no people, no dogs, nothing; just crickets. Then you hear the ominous crackle over the loudspeaker and you know your day is ruined. Instead of music someone might as well come on and say, "GOTCHA, SUCKA!" And you know you're being watched. If a group is inside the computer lab and someone starts packing their bags to walk outside at 4:59 pm the gentlemanly thing to do would be to caution the individual from exiting the building within the next 5 minutes. But usually everyone watches the him walk outside then rushes to the windows to watch him get caught. And we all laugh. A good day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Belcher Bench

We are in the middle of the first section of academics, Physiology. This section covers the human body and how it reacts in a flight environment. We've gone over subjects like altitude threats, pressurization, vision, G-forces and spatial disorientation. Some of the stuff we go over we get to demo. Friday we had a night vision demo. It mainly consisted of sitting in a dark room and telling the instructor (who you couldn't see), "No, I have no idea what the image on the screen is," because it looked like this:
.
Or just guessing, "airplane," because that was usually it. Great fun and made everyone sleepy.

Today was much more interactive but had a much less calming affect. Today the instructor demonstrated spatial disorientation (basically motion sickness) by putting us through the barany chair demo.


This is not the actual chair we sat in but it looks just like it. We each took turns sitting in the chair and getting spun. The instructor had different people demonstrate different forms of spatial disorientation, usually by having us put our head somewhere other than erect. I got spun around for a good 20 seconds with my head erect and then was told to put my right ear on my right shoulder. A nanosecond after it felt like I was being thrown out of the chair and that my stomach was no longer anywhere near my body. The same sensation came when my head tilted left, up or down. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Worst thing ever. After the instructor stopped the chair I realized I was sweating almost profusely, felt too much like throwing up and didn't fully recover until two hours later when I was able to lie down in my room for 15 minutes. If one was on the verge of deciding whether to go fighters or cargo this demo would most def solidify the heavies. Everyone else who did that same demo had the same reaction as well and swore a lot so I don't have to feel like a weenie about this. It was reaaallly funny to watch other people do it until it was your turn. After that looking at the chair made your stomach upset.

So far the in-class demonstrations have not impressed me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to Business

Headed home!! The days were long and the weeks flew by. It's impossible to believe I came with zero hours of experience and left without having to repeat a single sortie! Christ was obviously sufficient in my great deficiencies! And it feels great to be done but then I realize that wasn't even the beginning. It was simply the screening process to see if I could even make it to he beginning. Tryouts.

Some things in the next phase will be similar but the greatest difference will be time spent in visual contact with the sun. I now feel like I've always under-appreciated windows. I love windows.

One similar component we will also receive at UPT is the standup emergency procedure. It's the air force's own public humiliation version of the grade school spelling bee. You're stood up in front of the entire flight and given an in-air emergency situation. You must-in great detail (going as far as what your fingers will be doing)-explain how you will bring the airplane from the emergency safely to the ground. If you are in your seat watching this take place the whole thing is very simplistic. But the moment you stand up all cognitive abilities are lost and all you really hope is that the IP realizes your ignorance sooner than later and calls someone else up to take control and relieve you from your stupidity. "It's a cup...with dirt in it. Just give me an F and move on."

I do think IFS has prepared me well for the next phase and I feel like I'm now on a more level playing field with some of the other guys who have prior flight time. As of yesterday I am the proud owner of 17.9 flight hours, 0.4 of which are solo and 0.1 is counted as night flying (the ONLY perk of getting up at 3:25am (please note that while it was a perk it in no way came remotely close to making up for getting up at that unholy hour)).



A year ago I read this from Isaiah, "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." This is what the Lord has done for me. This verse has become real to me. I did not know how to get here but I did know it would be hard. And I don't know how to get where I'm going but I know it will also be difficult. But now, after these past few weeks, I know this is what the Lord has for me because I can see clearly how He brought me here. So I can run with confidence into it. Not confidence that I will succeed but confidence that this is what the Lord wants me to do and these are the people the Lord wants me to be with. What great comfort! 


My only fear is that I will forget this when training becomes tough and my focus will drift from God's direction to striving for success. That sounds exhausting just thinking about it. I don't want this to be a year of exhaustion, something I merely endure to see what's next. The people that will be in my class are already complaining about the long hours we'll have and all the stuff we'll have to memorize but I want to be able to enjoy it. Pray for joy for me. Because, honestly, when they make me get up to attend a 4am formal brief (that's night not morning (I'm confident 4am formal briefs come straight from the devil)) it will take a heavenly intervention to keep me from misery.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Finally, getting up in the morning

Last week I had to get up everyday at 3am to be at formal brief. I'm of the persuasion that anything before 5am is not morning but the dead of night. So I'm ecstatic the this week I get to wake up in the morning with actual sunshine and not only lamplight (thought I can't even see the sunshine until I get to our briefing room because there's no windows any where else (but still it's the thought that other normal people are up too)).

The downside to getting up "late" (6am is still a far cry from "late" and it's a shame I consider this sleeping-in now) is that your flight gets the later flights in the day. The later in the day the worse the weather. Winds pick up and there's a greater chance of rain. Today I flew out to an auxiliary airfield to do some pattern work (touch-and-go landings) and on my first approach when I was about 6 feet above the runway I encountered some wind shear (drastic change in wind direction or speed or both) and immediately dropped straight down to the runway. 6 feet may not seem like much in a 747 but in the Mighty Katana (sarcasm) it hurts and is enough to make you lose bowel control it's so scary (fortunately though the latter did not occur).

Even though the winds were horrid and I had some terrible landings I passed this ride (evidence of the grace of God) which means I'll get to solo tomorrow. It's cause to be excited but mostly it's a little freaky for someone with zero experience. Every time until now there's always been an extra human on board to divert the plane from it's seemingly imminent informal greeting with the ground when I really screw things up. So if you think about me tomorrow around 8-10am mountain time pray for the Holy Spirit to physically intervene in my life because I still need that extra pair of hands!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hasn't Even Been a Week

The weekend is not any less filled than a weekday. I got up at 8 Saturday and - with the exception of meals and a couple of other short breaks - studied the whole day. Academics are rigorous. Two days ago we were given a 114 page document we have to more or less memorize within a couple of days. It's hard to say if I (as a zero hour guy) could be more prepared besides having flight time. I memorized all the emergency procedures before I came and I don't think anyone else has done that but I wouldn't say I'm ahead of anyone. It'll be one less thing I have to focus on in an ocean of numbers, checklists, principles, maps and schedules I'm required to know.

Meal times are the most enjoyable parts of the day. No one counts the total number of academic classes we have left, instead it's how many classes til lunch. Eating breakfast b4 5am, a stomach gets hungry when lunch finally comes at 12.

Some of the classes are monotonous and hard to follow but others are interesting and fun to listen to. One instructor in particular is very animated in both gestures and voice. The way he talks reminds me of the scientist puppet from the muppets. His voice cracks a lot but he keeps on going waving his arms, throwing a large styrofoam airplane at us, and making sarcastic remarks about flying and dying that leave us unsure of whether to laugh or quit.

And a German instructor with a thick accent taught our Communications class.

Our first written test (there's two) is on Tuesday. We have to pass it (85%) to be cleared to fly later that day. So there's a temptation to solely study for the test btwn now and then, but right after the test we're taken on our first flight (the "dollar ride") for which we are supposed to know the procedures, radio calls and basic flight maneuvers. There's a balance but right now it feels like balancing a huge weight while walking on a thin rope or treading water with weights tied to my feet. But first things first; breakfast is tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

IFS TD-0

Finally at a place where I'll get to do something! Got here this afternoon with a bunch of other Lts. In the airport and on the bus here the main point of conversation was Field Training. That happened two years ago for most (three for me) and people still talk about it like last summer. It's a horrible syndrome with afrotc cadets. I think it's because it's the only experience we know we all have in common. So every time two or more cadets gather field training will be discussed, and it's never anything new. I refuse to participate.

We were given our schedule for the first 6 class days:

Lots of class time starting early in the morning (and tomorrow we have a physical fitness test at 6 (AFTER breakfast (dumb))), but I'm excited to be doing something. Everyone is given a laptop when they get here. I think it's going to be used in lieu of textbooks, which I'm fine with. Classrooms, auditoriums, lounges, the dining hall, bedrooms, shopette, barber shop, workout facilities and gym really are in one building though, so it will be entirely possible to go a few days without seeing the sun. The bedrooms are nice. I have my own (lots of people have to share a room (hotel room) with someone they don't even know) so I won't have to retreat to a bathroom to have quiet time. There's a minifridge and microwave and TV (not as big as mine but it does have 52 channels (and 52 more channels than I have)). Also we were given ID badges so we look official.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Canoes

This week is going by unusually slow and I've been busy. In the weeks since I've been here I usually get all my stuff done in the morning. But this week I've done stuff in the afternoons as well so when I look back at all I've done I think that it must at least be Friday. But, it's only Wednesday.

Monday I had an actual job again. Three other guys and I had to go through each room in the unoccupied dorm building that's being renovated. In every room we had to change light bulbs, put up curtains and blinds, a few other rando things. There were about 60 rooms and it took us a little over 2.5 hours. I felt like I was actually earning money. After going through those dorms (which are old and haven't been lived in for a few months) I am extra thankful to be in the new building. Not only did those rooms look smaller but they were filthy (which was in part because they've been renovated somewhat but not cleaned (cleaning ladies come through next week)). The bathrooms were the worst. Dirt and mold in lots of places and things living in the toilet. I don't care how much those rooms get cleaned I would never live in them. And, coincidentally, all the Air Force Academy grads get here in a few weeks and those are the only dorms available. Ignorance is bliss, though, I guess. I'm def not trading.

That was Monday morning/early afternoon. Afterwards I went to pick up my check. Usually it will be direct deposit but they didn't get me in the system fast enough for this one to go through electronically. So the guy at Finance told me to go to "the cage" in the building across the street. It wasn't intense enough to be called "the cage". Apparently some other guys went as a group later and they said it felt a little like getting a check out of Fort Knox.

At 4pm that afternoon I had to show up with a bunch of other Lts and Airmen outside of HQ for "formal retreat". I guess they do it every once in a while for photo ops. We had to wear short sleeve blues (which we wear on Mondays anyway) and show up at 4. We were set and ready by 4:05. Unfortunately nothing happened until 4:30. So for 25 minutes we had the privilege of standing in direct sunlight while sweat tried its best to evaporate through our shirt and scratchy pants in 80% humidity (mostly the sweat just stayed there). Then the commander came, they lowered the flag, and we went home. Good job team.

That was Monday. Tuesday was a busy day of checking email, then it turned into Wednesday. So last night my friend from Wisconsin told me he and a couple of other guys wanted to go fishing. I've been wanting to fish so I said yes definitely. I was looking forward to sitting in a folding chair on the shore under some sweet sweet shade. Then later he mentioned that they were thinking about renting a boat. Well, there goes the shade. But I could make due. Then this morning I found out that all the boats were gone so it was kayaks and canoes. Now this is wear it started to sound like work. But I had already committed so, whatever. Still could have a nice time, leisurely floating on a lake. 4 hours, 9.5 miles LATER down a RIVER we finally made it to here:
 where we dropped one of the trucks off beforehand. No, that is not our tent but it did look like someone lived there. And fortunately we made it back just before it started doing this:
You can't tell but it was really raining hard. Thankfully, we found shade most of the time we were paddling (and I should really call it working because now I'm tired and I'm sure I'll be sore in the morning) and there was a breeze so we didn't roast to death. I didn't bring enough water and the only other supplies the other guys brought was beer, so they were happy. The first three hours was quite nice. A couple of guys caught fish (two fish) and we hit the occasional current. Had to paddle most of the time. The last hour I went into a dazed zone til we finished. Not the lazy fishing trip I was hoping for. I'll ask more questions next time like, "will I have to do any work?"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Had to go to the medical clinic today to get some shots. I was sitting in the waiting room waiting my turn with another Lt from UGA while another Lt from Wisconsin was getting his shots. Wisconsin came out and we started talking and after a bit he sat down. UGA asked him about the TB shot and Wisconsin just stared at him funny, made a "uuhhhh" noise and started to lean to the side. The stare became a glare and the lean became a fall. We quickly grabbed him before he hit the ground and called the nurse in to help. She stood him up and walked him back to the exam room so he could lay down.

So UGA and I are waiting for OUR shots and we ask the nurse if we switch career fields now will we still have to have the shot Wisconsin got. Turns out he has always passed out when giving blood. He was fine after a few minutes.

My shots went fine and now I have these band-aids.


Cushy Government Job

I started playing Escape From Monkey Island again because I couldn't think of anything else to do. Towards the beginning of the game you have to convince two pirates to join your crew but they're unwilling because last time they helped you they ended up stranded on a desert island. So this time you have to find a way to bribe them. Fortunately your wife is the Governor of the island and there are government contracts lying around your house. One of them is a regular government contract job. You show that to the two pirates and they are not impressed. So you go back to your house and find a "Cushy" government job contract form, offer that to the pirates and they join immediately. All that to say playing Monkey Island has made me realize I have a cushy government job.

I calculated how much I'm working and figured this month I'm getting paid about $40/hour PLUS benefits and a free military email account I can check on base everyday. Not too bad. It's slow but it really is nice. I wake up any time before 10am so I can sign in and that is literally all I have to do everyday. That and checking email. It could be much worse. One friend, Brad (who's in the same position I'm in), got tasked with urinalysis checker. We all dreamed of coming here and regaling our friends and family at home with awesome stories. Brad gets to call home and tell his friends he watches grown men pee into a cup. Best of all he had to go to training for the two week job.

And now I have a TV! I had no intention of getting one so soon but there was one on Woot.com the other day for a ridiculous price and I knew I wanted one before football season started. It came yesterday and I was so excited that I managed to reschedule the rest of my day just so I could set it up. I took it out of the box, cleared the space where I was going to put it, plugged it into the outlet, and realized that's all I had to plug it into. No dvd player, no hdmi cord, and no cable (I won't be here at all next month so I figured I wouldn't waste a month's cable bill). Granted, I knew this would be the case when I bought the TV it just really hit me when I set the TV up. Having nothing else to do (because I rescheduled my day (not because there's never anything else to do)) I still turned the TV on, switched to different inputs, set up the clock and then just watched the white fuzz for a while...but in 42" of HD fuzz!!! Then I checked my email.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The weather's fantastic here. Every time I open the door I'm reminded it's summer and that I probably should take a shower. Later in September and October when it starts to cool off I start my truck, let it run for a while then stick my face in front of the exhaust pipe just to remember what it felt like. It's not quite the same but it's close.

Been putting in some grueling two-hour workdays lately. It's a rough life. Yesterday I actually had a job. Twice weekly the UOQ (Unaccompanied Officer Quarters (mean way of saying single person's dorms)) lounge and laundry room is cleaned by students on casual (those waiting to go to IFS or start UPT) and this week I get to do it. Nothing harsh just sweeping, cleaning windows and bathrooms and taking out trash. We found a pile of poo (most likely human) on some outdoor steps and that was the most exciting thing that's happened all week. I did get internet today so now I can check email and facebook on my laptop as well as my iPhone. What a relief. I was quite nervous when I first got here because I didn't know the challenges that lay (lie, lied, layed, lode) ahead but I had no idea it'd be severe boredom. It's only magnified by the intensity of the heat. Sometimes I'll be sitting in my room and think, "Hey! I'm gonna go do something!" So I get up, open the door, get punched in the face (metaphorically), and sit back down. But you better believe I check my email thoroughly every day all day!

My IFS orders came in today (I had to go pick them up so I counted that as "work"). We're allocated just over $2000 for the whole time we're in Pueblo. That doesn't include our regular pay. But housing's free there, food's free most of the time and I can't think of any other necessities I'd need to purchase while there. I'm not complaining. I just have no idea how I'd even get close to spending $2000 in less than 30 days. I'll be fa sho getting a steak dinner or two.

Speaking of money, still no sign of a paycheck. All us newbies are hoping for the 15th of July but I don't really know what I'm so looking forward to. Get my paycheck then go buy a swamp. Nothing else to spend money on here.

Aright

(written on Thursday, July 7)

Started off in the computer lab today trying to finish up the rest of the computer based training (CBT). I spent three hours of watching power points telling me not to be stupid or traffick humans. Also, flash drives are bad. After lunch the plan was to knock out some of the medical checklist, at least until I realized they weren’t open on Thursdays. It seems like for a lot of transitioning Lts a lot of time is spent going places and not getting stuff done. One guy spent all morning today trying to get his CAC working so he could work on his CBT. By the end of the day all he had accomplished was unchecking an item on his checklist. Efficiency is secondary for in-processing.

Since I couldn’t move through more of my checklist this afternoon (all I have left is medical and dental) I spent the rest of the day in my room. Champ being bored out of my mind: check. That’s not completely true. I did go bike riding at noon on the perimeter road around base. It’s just over 10 miles, a good three miles of which is loose gravel. My bottom’s sore.

Thank heaven I have an iPhone with 3g internet access otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to browse the internet for TVs for 3 hours and check facebook and email 5000 times this afternoon. I’m sure we’ll eventually find a way to alleviate boredom but for now it actually feels like we’re living in actual Mississippi. We did go get some dinner at a Cajun restaurant in a large shack (large shack is seriously the best description). And by Cajun I mean red beans and rice. Other menu items include sandwiches.

Tomorrow morning at 6am I’m going to a men’s Bible study breakfast the pastor at the Pres. church told me about. They’re meeting at the chapel on base and it’ll be the first one so I won’t have to jump in the middle. I’m hoping I can meet somebody else who loves Jesus. The only drawback is that it starts in 6 hours.