On this day in 2015, I had my final flight as an Army Aviator. My friend CW4 Dan Hiestand was able to get a flight approved with me in a TH-67, the same kind of aircraft I first flew as an Army Aviator in training (nearly 19 years earlier to the day) on February 20, 1996.
It was great to have my final flight with Dan. We have known each other for many years; we had previously served together at Fort Rucker as Kiowa Warrior instructors (2004-2005), we flew and served together in Alaska and deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom with 6-17 Cavalry (2008-2009), and we served and flew together in Afghanistan as MD530 instructors (2013).
I was incredibly lucky that in my final months before retirement, I had been afforded the opportunity to have a final flight in each of the Army aircraft I flew during my career. The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, the UH-72 Lakota, the OH-58C Kiowa, and the TH-67 Creek. I suppose my final flight in the MD530 was in Afghanistan.
I looked in my logbook and could not find this exact tail number from my flight school days. But it is possible I flew it during my training, there are quite a few entries that are without tail number entries in my logbook from 1996.
March 9, 2015
Seven years ago today, I was on a training flight near the ancient city of Farah in Afghanistan. The citadel partially shown in the first picture is believed to be one of a series of fortresses constructed by Alexander the Great when he came to the area c. 330 B.C. The pink house just outside the wall on the southeast corner is a vacation home owned by John Mellencamp (not really). Houses in the area are rarely any color other than the color similar to the terrain, so this pink house really stood out. There is a Google Maps link to the Citadel of Farah below.
The second picture is just a nifty selfie I snapped while my student pilot in the left seat was flying. Some of the city can be seen in the reflection of my visor.
March 9, 2013
On this day in 2015, I had my final flight in an Army OH-58C with my friend CW4 Scott Hill.
Scott was able to take me up one last time in a 1969 model of what was my first Army helicopter, the Kiowa (the forerunner to the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior).
I had last flown an OH-58C at Fort Hood in 1997. I need to check my personal logbooks to see if I have ever flown this exact aircraft before.
I was able to fly with Scott a few more times in the next two years while were both instructors at the Bell Training Academy in Texas.
A huge thanks to Scott and those who supported the flight.
February 27, 2015
88 YEARS AGO TODAY: 22 February 1932
The modern Purple Heart medal was established by General Order #3, signed by General Douglas MacArthur. The date was chosen in observance the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. The award was inspired by the Badge of Military Merit, created by Washington in the waning days of the Revolution.
As was the Badge of Military Merit, the Purple Heart was also originally a merit-based award. Wounds received in action were one way a person could qualify for the award. However, since 1942, the medal is awarded to U.S. servicemembers who have been killed or wounded by enemy action.
To fallen soldiers let us sing
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord
No more bleeding, no more fight
No prayers pleading through the night
Just divine embrace, Eternal light
In the Mansions of the Lord
Where no mothers cry and no children weep
We will stand and guard though the angels sleep
All through the ages safely keep
The Mansions of the Lord
“Mansions of the Lord” is a hymn written by Randall Wallace and set to the music of Nick Glennie-Smith, written for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers”
Western Afghanistan was an interesting place to fly. Team instructor pilots would often go out for multi-ship cross-country flight training with our Afghan student pilots.
On this particular day, we departed Shindand Air Base (OASD) and went south through the mountain range and on to the US FOB near Farah for refuel, then returned to Shindand.
On the flight down, I asked my Afghan trainee to take a video clip of me flying.
Also on the way south, we orbited this old citadel. I haven’t been able to find any information on who made them, but there is a chain of them between Herat and Farah. In my opinion, they look 18th or 19th century-ish. Can you spot the MD530?
On the way back to Shindand Air Base from Farah, our team of 2 found a nice wide ridgeline at about 7000’MSL.
After a good flight, safely back at Shindand Air Base, our sightseeing, um, training flight complete, there was time for a selfie, then put our trusty steed away for the night and head over to chow.
January 17, 2013
Here is a link to the citadel in Google Maps:
I know the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season is a time of giving, especially on Giving Tuesday. A lot of people give to various charities towards the end of the year.
If you’re in the charitable mood, may I suggest one or all of the following organizations:
American Red Cross @RedCross
Wounded Warrior Project @wwp
United Service Organizations (USO) @the_USO
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) @VFWHQ
Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) @MOPH_HQ
I have been touched by each of these organizations since I was wounded in September 2013. I am so very thankful for the support they gave my family & me, and continue to give all our military men and women in need.
The Afghan Air Force invited us to a small celebration over at their headquarters building on the Shindand Air Base FOB. I think they were having a reception to congratulate the small class of fixed-wing flight school graduates. There was the usual array of snacks, cookies, and of course there was tea. The cooler in the corner with factory-sealed beverages appealed more to me until I saw the cans. This still makes me chuckle.
27 November, 2012
After a long day of training Afghans, I’d get back to my corner of the room at Thunder Lab, take my pistol off and get comfy to have a snack.
One has a kick, one has a punch.
November 20, 2012
On this date in 2013, I was upgraded to tan no-slip socks. I didn’t have to wear the yellow ones anymore — I was no longer considered a “fall risk” when shuffling about with my walker.
I’m not sure what caused that scuff on my right shin during my incident about 4 weeks prior. What isn’t shown in the picture is the scuff just above my right knee that the projectile left behind after it passed through my left thigh.
October 6, 2013