Sunday, November 01, 2015

USAF, Retired!

By Michael

I have wondered what retirement would be like.  I have wondered what it would be like to not have to be in the office at 0730.  I have wondered what it would be like to not have to show up at 0600 for a "Fun Run" that really was not much fun.  I have wondered what it would be like to not have suspenses (deadlines), CBT's (computer-based training), or exercises (large-scale training events). I have wondered what it would be like to not be facing deployments to places I would never choose to go to in the first place (with the exceptions of Hungary and Korea - I would go back in a heartbeat).

Deployment Skype
 I have wondered what it would be like to not be on-call at all hours of the night.  I have wondered what it would be like to pick out my own clothes every day of the week.  I have wondered what it would be like to not have to go to mandatory PT, mandatory staff meetings, or mandatory briefings.  I have wondered what it would be like to not have to deal with the myriad of morale-enhancing meetings, events, programs and/or issues some desperate do-gooder thought would be "helpful."  That day is here, and I am not sure what I think about it right now.  I think about the phrase from Pinocchio's song: "there are no strings on me."  I think about the freedom to do and go without needing to take leave time nor to ask permission.  Part of me jumps with joy, but another part is in mourning.  This has been my life for 20 years and my life's pursuit for significantly longer.  How can I just walk away?
 
I thoroughly enjoyed leading airmen and others to Christ.  I thoroughly enjoyed preaching the Word of God and leading congregations into the presence of God through prayer and worship.  I thoroughly enjoyed helping people work through their various issues - particularly directing them to the "Problem-Solver."  I thoroughly enjoyed actually wearing the uniform.  I thoroughly enjoyed the esprit de corps of the military.  Some of my fondest memories and favorite stories are from dining-ins and dining-outs - especially the "combat" variety (I will explain in another post).  I have said goodbye more times than I can count, but I have met up with dear friends in very odd places - deployments and TDY's are great for this.  I have seen great people respond to great tragedy with amazing dedication and sacrifice.  I have seen boldness, wisdom and professionalism in the lives of amazing leaders who fearlessly stepped up and stepped out in the face of challenges that could easily paralyze one with confusion and trepidation.  I have been to places almost from around the globe. (On one deployment I was only 3,ooo miles away from home, but I could not go 3,000 miles to home, oh no; I had to travel some 18,000 miles the other way.)  But here I am adding a new appendage to my name - USAF, Retired.

C 130 ride into Kabul, Afghanistan
 
I have seen the ravages of war and the cruelties of one person toward another with the innocent, the weak and the vulnerable caught in the middle.


With SSgt B while giving out humanitarian aid in Afghanistan
 I have seen amazing beauty - glaciers and Northern Lights in Alaska, Spring cherry blossoms in Japan, and brilliant sunrises and sunsets all over the world to name but a few.  I have witnessed world events in the making - things most saw as "Breaking News" on Fox News or CNN. 


Cleaning up a beach after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan
I have rubbed shoulders with every branch of the military - to include the Coast Guard - in very diverse places.  I have been to Persian Gulf oil platforms, European medieval castles, Hawaiian beaches, Hiroshima A-bomb memorials, and remote Alaskan radar sites.  I have climbed Mt Fuji, rafted the Matanuska river, and walked along the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. 
At the top of Mt Fuji with Jared and Nolan

 I have flown over Alaskan wilderness in a small twin-engine aircraft, across the mountains of Austria in the thunderous C-130 and rode on a most-memorable midnight ride in a sleek, new C-17 into Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. (It was 0200-ish and pitch-black.  As we approached, the flight crew put the aircraft into a dozen or so very steep turns and dives - some of the dives seemed nearly vertical.  The aircraft's reverse thrusters were screaming outside, the women over on the other side of the aircraft were screaming on the inside, and people were getting sick when it came to an abrupt end with a squeaky-smooth landing.)  I have visited Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers in missile launch control capsules, flightlines, M-1A1 tanks, guard houses, bomb dumps, patrol boats and, of course, briefing rooms.  I have served in deployed locations with military members of 50+ nations.  I have ridden on giant Navy LCAC's and lowly Kuwaiti camels.

Alternative Transportation in Kuwait

I have been honored to have presided at memorial services for all branches of the service (my most memorable ones were for Canadian troops while deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan) and the occasional wedding. I have baptized people in lakes in Northern Japan, swimming pools in San Antonio, TX and improvised baptisteries in Kabul, Afghanistan.




Baptizing Arielle and Nolan in Lake Ogawara, Japan


 
I remember TDY's, in-residence schools, and deployment reintegration retreats with friends and colleagues - professionals every one.  I have watched F-15's and F-16's light up the night sky with afterburners burning bright.  I watched an SR-71 do touch and go's and then disappear into the afternoon sky with an unbelievable roar leaving in its wake a diminutive F-18 ostensibly there to fly chase on this magnificent aircraft.  I have listened to the stories of gray-headed men as they remember the awesome power of this Mach 3+ airplane whilst it was in its heyday (some say it was buried alive - I would agree).  I have ridden along on a KC-135 aerial refueling mission and AWACS airborne radar aircraft during a multinational air-to-air exercise. 
 I have met people, seen things and done things  I would never have believed  I would have the honor and privilege, and I must admit  it has been quite a ride.  I find it hard to believe  the ride is over, but I think I am ready to do something different - I think...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a great post! You've had quite the adventure: )
Bee D

Beth Bowers said...

Well said Michael. Now on to new adventures. We it great cert a I ty, Don and I can attest, "God is not finished with you yet!" Thank you dear friend for your service.

Laura said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.