Posted 01-30-2005 at 06:38:01
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The snow outside my window reminds me once more of the time my unit was sent to Alaska to participate in winter war games. Iím no longer good at remembering dates but as best I recall is was mid January when we left Fort Sill, Oklahoma where we were airlifted and sent to Elmendorf Air Force Base just north of Anchorage. Our mode of transportation were the C-124 Cargo planes, more commonly referred to as Old Shaky. And, if youíve ever flown in one you darn well know why. For, during takeoff, as it lumbered down the runway, the vibration was so great when the wheels left the ground, as a passenger, I fully expected the massive wings to start flapping. But, once we were airborne and had leveled off at the prescribed altitude, the big bird settled down into a rumbling ear-splitting drone.
And, all went well until we were somewhere over the Aleutian Island, Probably, Kodiak, when we lost one of the four engines. There was a bit of turbulence for a while and the pilot informed us to put on our Mae West Life Preservers. He explained about the engine and further informed us of his intent to kill another on the other wing in order to balance out the plane. He went on to say that the plane was capable of flying and safely landing with just two of its four propellers. However, he didnít say anything about how far weíd get with only one. Because, after he shut down the second engine, the strain was too much for the one next to it and for a moment, we lost about another 2800 horsepower. And, that dear friend was when the real shaking took place. Fortunately, we had an experienced, clear thinking pilot because as soon as no. 3 stopped, he restarted no. 2 . And, once again we were back to somewhat normal flight with only slightly increased shaking.
Now about that time, I didnít know how much more my heart could take but I felt secure in the knowledge that if things went wrong there wasnít a thing I could do. So, having prayed during the scariest part, I knew that whether I lived or died, was in the hands of the Lord. So, I sat back in my little slung from the side of the fuselage nylon and metal oversized jock strap of a seat and closed my eyes. Sometime later, a buddy nudged my arm and said, wake up---weíre about ready to land. A few minutes later we had landed absent of further mishap.
Afterward, I took a lot of friendly ribbing because someone said I was so scared, I passed out and wouldnít wake up until we were safely on the ground.
At the airport, there were buses to take us to Fort Richardson Army base which is situated adjoining Elmendorf. To give you an idea of the cold, our First Sgt. received frost bite along his temples and across his nose from the metal frames of his eyeglasses in the short distance from the plane to the buses. After short drive and we arrived at the complex where we would stay until we headed out into the field. Which, would not be until we had completed classes in Cold Weather Indoctrination. Manly, this covered survival skills and use of equipment such as cross country skis and snow shoes. All in all, it was good training but because of the extreme cold, and fear of lung damage, we were given physical training inside a gym. Which wasnít bad until we were instructed to put on gas masks for our double time jog around the court. The pt instructor said it was to assimilate outside conditions.
Anchorage and Fort Richardson was nice and in many ways, just like any other area on the country, only colder. And, It was not uncommon to see moose along the streets inside the Compound. In fact, I went walking one evening and as I rounded a turn in the road, I came face to face with a rangy old moose with a tremendously large rack. And, I must say, up close and personal, they are not all that magnificent.
But, one thing that stands out in my mind to this day is; on our first night there the mess hall served up some hamburgers with beans and French Fries. Well sir, the meat wasnít bad. In fact, it was right tasty. But, it wasnít like any beef Iíve ever tasted, before or since. Therefore, I concluded that when they thinned the moose population, the meat was sent directly to the mess hall.
Thereís a lot more to tell about my time there but Itíll have to wait until next time. Right now, Iím seriously considering a little snow removal before somebody comes along and accidentally on purpose falls into a lawsuit............gfp