Week 5 started off great. Immediately after returning from our Andrews mission our Commander pulled us aside and informed us that he was reassigning our OIC to another crew. It is not that he was a bad leader, he just wasn’t a good one. Numerous poor decisions and a few other incidents eventually lead to his removal and not one of us was sorry to see him go. In turn we got back the Captain whom we flew with when we first got here and a newly assigned Lieutenant from Wyoming. As if we weren’t already feeling lucky enough, two other crewmembers with similar altered team dynamics were scheduled to leave within 24 hours of us returning to Germany. On a crew that was weighed down with 3 who never seemed to pull their own weight the change was welcome. If those who left were new flyers I could perhaps understand however these 3 had almost 2500 flying hours combined. Some things I will never get.
With the new crew ready we were eager for our first mission which came a few days later. We call it the Triangle, a stop at Ali Al Salem, Balad AB and then return to Germany. The previous time we ran the mission was the day that almost lasted 24 hours. This time we were back in 17 and 2 hours ahead of schedule. We always knew our previous crew had weak links however we made excuses for them and pulled their weight, we had to. To compare the two crews is night and day and will make the next 3 months a little easier to say the least.
Sunday morning bright and early the phone rang. “Operation Ash Tray II” was in effect. Evidently the volcano had sent another ash cloud toward Europe and had Ramstein in its sights. As you can see by the photos, it was a mad dash to get everyone and all of our equipment out of Ramstein and off to an alternate location. First we were heading downrange (dessert) which quickly changed to Rota Spain, a Navy base which means it is near water. I liked that idea. Unfortunately after we had rushed to get out of Dodge nobody told the ash cloud and it was too late. We never took off. After sitting on a C-17 for the better part of 6 hours we unloaded and waited for further instructions. Those instructions didn’t take long, we were going to bus to a location 5 hours away and meet another C-17 there however before the buses arrived that plan was scrubbed too. Finally at 10pm, 14 hours after I first left my room, I opened my door, showered and went to bed to try again the following day.
Monday morning we all met at 8 am for plan 3 and by 9 am everything was cancelled all together. The ash cloud was expected to clear within 24 hours and the decision was made to keep us in place. Once again, nobody informed the ash cloud and it wouldn’t be until Wednesday that a few flights finally took off. For the second time in 6 short weeks we were grounded and out of play, I wasn’t very happy at the thoughts of sitting around once again but there was little I could do about it.
We used some of our downtime to take out our frustration at a local go-kart track 20 minutes from base. I had never been there before but had heard numerous stories about the place. It didn’t disappoint. After being strapped in and fitted for a helmet we hit the track. These karts go about 45 mph and after 30 minutes of driving my arms were shaking we I climbed out. After sending Joe, Kevin and a few other into the wall I felt a whole lot better and we were back in the following Friday night.
That’s it for this installment. Hope all well and I will talk to you soon. Chris.