Realities Of War

Discussion in 'The NAAFI Bar' started by CaptainPlume, Aug 26, 2011.

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  1. Flt Lt Caz Leavey, C130 pilot……

    "The time I get up depends on my duties. It could be 2 or 3 in the morning. I’m bleary-eyed and carry all my stuff from my tent to the bathroom, dropping things on the way. I then shower and get ready — basically by scraping my hair back in a scrunchie. We have breakfast — I eat Alpen, hurriedly. Then we get our rations for the flight — sausage rolls, biscuits and fruit — and fill our canisters with hot water for tea and coffee. I call being in Iraq my fat camp, as I always lose about a stone. I think: “Okay, I’m stuck out here, I might as well glean a detox out of it.”
    I wear a green flying suit for normal operations but I also have a warm-climate, sandy-coloured one — I tease the blokes it’s actually pink. If we got shot down and captured we’d immediately be identified as RAF crew and tortured, as we’d have the most information. Now they’re designing fire-retardant combats for us that blend in with the rest of the troops; then we’ll all get tortured equally!

    After breakfast we collect a rifle, pistol and ammunition. I’m not a good shot: in training, target practice wasn’t my top priority. I guess I was concentrating on flying planes. We then get the tactical information for the day, and set off on a standard route: Baghdad-Kuwait-Baghdad, mainly, or around Iraq. Mostly we collect troops or ferry them around in theatre [the theatre of operations].

    My parents were both cabin crew, so I practically grew up in the air. My sixth birthday was spent in the cockpit of a 747, gaily munching cake on the captain’s knee. My original dream was to be a doctor, but I fell short of the three As and ended up doing biochemistry.

    I was pretty despondent, so my brother, who’s a commercial pilot, suggested joining the University Air Squadron. It was exhilarating. I could fly a Bulldog before I got my degree, but long-term I had no idea what I wanted to fly, and my decision was based on location, location, location. I’m a southern girl at heart, so that ruled out Nimrods because they’re based in Scotland. That left Brize Norton, with its VC10s, TriStars and C-17s, or Lyneham, where the Hercules are based.
    I’ve been to Iraq seven times in the last couple of years, and it’s always been hairy. But it’s even more dangerous now. In Basra I’m supposed to shack up in the women’s tent, but they get up at random times for less stringent duties. If they have a disturbed night, they might drop a pencil — but I could crash an aircraft. I’m not supposed to sleep in the tent with the guys, but I do. In theatre I need to be with my crew constantly. We sleep, eat and work alongside each other.
    When rain floods the tents it’s bad. The guys mock me for bringing a Samsonite suitcase with me, but when their Bergens are soaked through and mine is bone-dry inside, they’re begging to put their mobiles and laptops in it.
    I have to put up with a bit of a hoo-ha when I’m lugging it off the aircraft, but you wouldn’t be a woman in the forces if you couldn’t take a bit of stick.

    The first time I made a night approach into Basra, rockets were exploding on the runway. I’d been through the ropes in the simulator, but a real explosion is something else! I had to fly into Kuwaiti airspace while they checked the runway for damage. About two hours later we landed fine, but I felt bad for my 80 troops on board. It’s like: “Welcome to the base — it’s under fire.”

    Our day can be 18 hours long. Lunch depends on when we’ll be at a certain air base — at the American ones there’s Burger King. But I feel safer in the sky. When you’re being rocketed on the ground you feel completely helpless. You just repair to your tent and hope. You hear a “whooo” before a rocket lands, then the ground shakes and the tent sucks in and you’re frozen as you feel the vacuum after the blast. My boyfriend was in the RAF for 10 years, and he once said: “If the rocket’s got my name on, my time is up.” That calms me down.

    The Hercules can carry 120 people and has four engines. Once, a warning came up saying “engine vibration high”. I reduced the power but it didn’t go away, so I shut that engine down and returned to base. It wasn’t a panic, just something I had to do. But once I buggered up a landing, and the crew were like: “What the hell was that?” It isn’t always your fault: the wind might change, and a Hercules hasn’t got air brakes, so you may have to break off the approach. I’ve never done serious damage to an aircraft, but I expect I’ve caused bruises.

    We get basic escape and evasion training, but in my view if you can’t limp to a runway, you’re a goner. A Hercules went down between Balad and Baghdad two years ago. The co-pilot was a close friend of mine. I was at a panto at Brize Norton when we got the news. It was devastating. Some of my colleagues went to 10 funerals. When I joined up there was no war and I didn’t think about that side of things. But when I’m flying, no emotion interferes: I remain cool, detached and professional. It’s on the ground I run round like a hot potato.

    After the final flight of the day we return all our kit, check the plot for the next day, then head for the mess. I have a light supper and, if I’ve got the energy, go to the gym. In the evening, DVDs are the main form of entertainment — except I can’t persuade the lads to watch the movies I like, so I take my laptop and watch Pride and Prejudice, or whatever, by myself on my camp bed. I read a lot too. Then, as long as there are no sirens or rockets, I go to sleep. I always pray that I don’t get mortared that night. In my dreams I always survive."
     
  2. And the reality:

    Flt Lt Caz Leavey, C130 pilot……

    "The time I get up depends on my duties. It could be as early as 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I’m bleary-eyed and have to carry my stuff all the way from my tent to the bathroom, dropping the kids off on the way. I then shower, shave and get ready — basically by scraping my hair back in a scrunchie and a quick dab of right guard where needed. For some reason being on operations makes all my hair grow really fast. We have breakfast — I eat Alpen, hurriedly, which sometimes gives me gas later on. Then we get our rations for the flight — sausage rolls, pies, fairy cakes, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, wine and cointreau — and fill our canisters with hot water (but not piping) for tea and coffee. I call being in Iraq my fat camp, everyone else is fat or camp… usually both. I think: “Okay, I’m stuck out here for a couple of days, I might as well glean a medal out of it.”

    I wear a green flying suit in the bar but I also have a warm-climate, sandy-coloured one for back in the bar at Lyneham — I tease the blokes it’s actually pink like theirs. If we got shot down and captured we’d immediately be identified as RAF crew and sneered at, as we’d have the most money. Now they’re designing pillock-retardant combats for us that blend in with the rest of the troops; then we’ll all get treated equally!

    After breakfast we collect a rifle, pistol and ammunition. I’m not a good shot: in training, I used to get the rifle the wrong way round and couldn’t cock the pistol. I guess I was concentrating on being popular with the boys. We then get the tactical information for the day, and set off on a standard route: Baghdad-Kuwait-Baghdad, mainly, or around Iran if we balls it up. Mostly we collect troops or ferry them around in theatre [the theatre of operations]. There’s a nice Sheraton in Kuwait where I can get a decent bath and shave.

    My parents were both cabin crew, so its amazing they managed to breed at all. My sixth birthday was spent in the cockpit of a 747, gaily munching “cake” on “the captain’s” knee. My original dream was to be a hooker, but I fell short of the ugly tree altogether and landed on the tarmac beside it so I wouldn’t have made very much in that game – They wouldn’t even let me go to Sandhurst I look so rough.

    I was pretty despondent, so my brother, who’s a proper pilot, suggested joining the University Air Squadron. It was exhilarating. I could fly a Bulldog before I got my degree, but long-term I had no idea what I wanted to fly, and my decision was based on location, location, location. I’m a blonde at heart, so that ruled out Nimrods because they’re based in Scotland and I didn’t want to serve abroad. That left Brize Norton, with its VC10s, TriStars and C-17s, or Lyneham, where the Hercules are based. I liked Lyneham more because it rains in Brize Norton.

    I’ve been to Iraq seven times in the last couple of years, and I’ve always been hairy as a result. But it’s even thicker now. In Basra I’m supposed to shack up in the women’s tent, but they get up at random times for less stringent duties and they all hate me because I’m very patronizing and prettier than all of them put together. If they have a disturbed night, they might drop a pencil (bless) — but I could crash an aircraft and frequently do. I’m not supposed to sleep with the guys, but I do. They seem not to mind the smell of my flying boots. In theatre I need to be with my crew constantly – I’m so insecure around people who aren’t pilots as well. We sleep, eat and work alongside each other and tell flying stories to anyone who’ll listen.

    When rain floods the tents it’s bad. The guys mock me for bringing a Samsonite suitcase with me, but when their Bergens are soaked through and mine is bone-dry inside, they’re begging to put their mobiles, lingerie, duvets and laptops in it. I once saw a mouse and had to be CASEVAC-ed [rushed out of theatre to the nearest good hotel] for a week.
    I have to put up with a bit of a hoo-ha when I’m lugging my ass off the aircraft, but you wouldn’t be a woman in the forces if you couldn’t take a “bit of stick” – as they say.

    The first time I made a night approach into Basra, rockets were exploding on the runway. I’d been through the ropes in the simulator, but a real explosion is really really loud! I had to fly into Kuwaiti airspace to get a clean flying suit on. About two hours later we landed fine, but I felt bad for my 80 troops on board. It’s like: “Welcome to the base — I’m only here for a couple of minutes; you have got 6 months and not a hotel in sight.” They’re crazy to do that for so little money.
    Our day can be 24 hours long but sometimes they’re shorter by a couple of minutes for some reason I’ve never understood. Lunch depends on what we eat — at the American bases there’s Burger King and I really get stuck in. But I feel safer in the sky – you’re almost weightless and nobody can see my face if I’m sitting at the front with a big hat on. When you’re being rocketed on the ground you feel completely helpless. You just repair to your tent (which is much safer because they’re made of canvass and they don’t aim for them) and hope. You hear a “whooo” before a rocket lands and an ahhhh when it goes off – lots of pretty colours, then the ground shakes and the tent sucks in and you’re frozen as you feel the vacuum after the blast – maybe that’s an avalanche; I do get so confused sometimes. One of my current boyfriends was in the RAF for 10 years, and he once said: “If the rocket’s got my name on, my name is Arianne VII.” That calms me down.

    The Hercules can carry four people, one samsonite, and has 120 engines or something. Once, a warning came up saying “engine vibration high”. I reduced the power but it didn’t go away, and eventually they found the offending article still switched on in my suitcase! returned to base very embarrassed. It wasn’t a pic-nic, for the next couple of weeks I can tell you. But once I buggered up a landing, and the crew were like: “What the hell was that?” It isn’t always your fault: the wind might change or you forget to put the wheels down, and a Hercules hasn’t got air brakes, so you may have to land right at the front of the runway. I’ve never done serious damage to an aircraft I was in, but I expect I’ve caused a couple of write-offs like in my Polo.

    We get basic escape and evasion training, but in my view if you can’t limp to a Maccy-D’s, you’re a goner. A Hercules went down between Balad and Baghdad two years ago. The co-pilot was a close friend of mine. I was in a panto at Brize Norton when we got the news. It was devastating. Some of my colleagues went to 10 funerals. When I joined up there was no war and I didn’t think about that side of things – I thought was joining the RAC for the first couple of weeks. But when I’m flying, no emotion interferes: I remain cool, detached and professional for most of the flight and only cry for ten or so minutes before landing. It’s on the ground I run round like a hot potato – have you seen them go the little blighters? Theyr’e not like cold ones at all.

    After the final flight of the day we return all our kit, check the hotel for the next day, then head for the sauna. I have a light supper, or I’ve got the energy, go for a heavy one. In the evening, DVDs are the main form of entertainment — except I can’t persuade the lads to watch the movies I have been in, so I take my laptop and eat pringles, by myself on my camp bed – it makes me happy. I read a lot too. Then, as long as there are no sirens or rockets to watch, I go to sleep. I always pray that I don’t get bullied by the girls in the night. In my dreams I really am a beautiful princess and everyone likes me."
     
  3. Awwwwe, so nice.
     
  4. It's an old one but it deserves an outing.


    Not sure about the fast jet heroes but a truckie might experience something like this......

    0700L - Woken by telephone call. It's another crew-member reminding you that wheels are at 0700L.

    0700.5L - Leave hotel room fully clothed, refreshed, with bags packed, ready to face the day's challenges.

    0705L - Get to bus. Apologise to rest of your crew for your tardiness. Claim that you spent too long in the gym that morning. Note looks of disbelief. Remember not to use that excuse again.

    0706L - Take seat on bus. Note t-shirt is on inside out. Hope nobody else notices.

    0720L - Recline in air conditioned luxury as the bus propels you to the airport. Suspect that you didn't pack your shoes and that your washbag is still in the hotel bathroom.

    0745L - Arrive at airport and debus. Note that suitcase is suspiciously light. Now fairly confident that shoes are still under hotel bed.

    0800L - Negotiate airport security. Spend several minutes being told that you cannot take the knife on your flying suit onto the aircraft without the captain's permission. Explain that you are the captain.

    0810L - Still negotiating airport security. Guard now on telephone to superiors. Suspect he does not believe that you are the captain. Remember t-shirt is on inside out. Now suspect that you have also not brushed your hair this morning. Try to see reflection in window to confirm. Get funny looks from guard.

    0815L - Eventually allowed to pass on the understanding that you hand the knife to loadmaster for safe keeping until you reach the aircraft. Leave knife and now worryingly light suitcase with loadmaster and proceed to Met.

    0820L - In depth met brief for 15 minutes as very keen met officer explains that there is in fact no weather within a 500nm radius of the airport or your destination.

    0835L - extract a selection of performance figures from a variety of graphs.

    0845L - compare selection of figures with those of co-pilot. Decide that they're close enough although suspect that the co-pilot isn't entirely sure what's going on.

    0850L - The cause of the co-pilot's distraction becomes apparent when he announces that he has left the imprest in the hotel safe.

    0853L - stop laughing to take a breath.

    0854L - Co-pilot disappears to find taxi back to hotel. Decide that you've briefed enough and head out to the aircraft.

    0858L - Arrive at aircraft. Loadmaster now extremely hot and sweaty manhandling pallets single handedly into aircraft, cursing the local handling staff. Praise him for his hard work. Pretend to miss his request for help and proceed outside hastily. Spot Flt Eng and GE looking concernedly at a large trail of orange fluid emanating from an engine. Saunter over casually to join them but they spot you and pretend they were talking about football. Mention the large leak. Note they both feign surprise and pretend they hadn't seen it. They dismiss it as a "seep". Retire to flight deck safe in the knowledge that they will die with you if it explodes in flight so assume that it'll probably be alright. Note tray of sandwiches on flt deck bunk.

    0910L - Finish last smoked salmon and cream cheese baguette just as the now exhausted loadmaster joins you on the flight deck. Apparently he could really do with a smoked salmon baguette. State that sadly there were none. Surreptitiously wipe cream cheese and salmon from your chin and hope he didn't notice. Offer him processed ham and gherkin sandwich. He declines.

    0925L - Co-pilot returns looking somewhat frustrated. Establish that imprest had in fact been in his suitcase all along.

    0935L - Call for crew check in on intercom then realise you are in fact the only one on headset. Again, hope no-one noticed. Eventually gather enough people on intercom.

    0937L - Commence starting checks. During start a light on the top panel comes on. Remember seeing this light during a simulator once but cannot recall what exactly it is. Flt Eng begins explaining an electrical fault with the aid of a large wiring diagram. Nod every now and then and agree with him at salient points. Wonder if you shaved this morning.

    0940L - Fault rectified, taxy off blocks. Only 10 minutes late. Not bad going.

    0941L - ATC pass lengthy clearance. Note the co-pilot copies down "ATC Clears Ascot 5432 to destination..." and then nothing else. ATC requests readback. Co-pilot asks - "did anybody get that". Navigator proceeds to pass the details to him. Flt Eng assists by commenting that he thought the clearance was slightly different. Flt Eng and Navigator argue. Co-pilot drops pencil. You note that your cup of tea has gone cold.

    0945L - Cleared line up.

    0946L - Airborne. Gear up. Now positive that your shoes are still in hotel.

    1100L – Top of climb. Autopilot appears to be u/s. Express relief that it’s the co-pilot’s leg.

    1115L – Commence first meal.

    1130L – Replete from meal, retire to freight bay to use the “facilities”. On return, note large pallet of full mail bags. A quick test reveals the pile to extremely comfortable. Relax eyelids briefly.

    1400L - Return to flight deck to find co-pilot now desperate to use “facilities”. Explain that you were delayed discussing your routing with some of the pax down the back. Take control.

    1405L – Co-pilot returns. Comments that the passengers must all be asleep in the freight now as he couldn’t see them. Remember vaguely that you actually have no pax.

    1415L – Pass overhead large international airport. Nil cloud or weather, calm, unlimited visibility. Co-pilot asks you get the weather for the airfield below. Look out window. Navigator asks for the QNH there. Make up figure.

    1500L – Get cramp. Go to “inspect the freight bay”. Discover that loadmaster has been hoarding chocolate in his drawer in the galley. Steal the good ones.

    1520L – Steal Flt Eng’s FHM. Read out the jokes at the back. Flt Eng comments that they have already been read out earlier in the flight. Look busy with Jetplan.

    1600L – Top of descent.

    1615L – Commence second meal. Spill curry on flying suit leg when putting the gear down.

    1630L – Aircraft lands at destination.

    1640L – On chocks. Aircraft met by officious customs man who demands that the can of coke you are now drinking from be destroyed before you can leave the aircraft.

    1830L – Eventually find bus to take crew to hotel. Despite having been on the ground for 1.5hrs it still takes 30 minutes for every man and his dog to get on the bus.

    1915L – Arrive at Hotel Splendide. Receptionist requires passports, ID cards and birth certificates from each crew member.

    1957L – Eventually receive room key. Arrange to meet in co-pilots room in 10 minutes for more money.

    2006L – Finally get to room. Happens to be most distant room from reception. Again. Open suitcase. As expected no shoes. Or washbag. Find trousers that go best with flying boots.

    2008L – Arrive one minute late at co-pilot’s room to discover he has gone. Adjourn to hotel bar. Crew member visited this location 7 years ago. Remembers a fantastic bar. Set out to find bar.

    2230L – Arrive back at hotel bar having walked around city centre twice in search of bar. Crew member then remembers that in fact the bar wasn’t in this town but one like it. Blow entire kitty on one round of beers at hotel prices.

    2345L – GE gets address of low quality strip bar from hotel barman. You decide it’s bedtime. Crew members engage in harsh banter. You hold your ground.

    2346L – Leave hotel for low quality strip bar. Evening becomes a blur……….

    0700L – Woken by telephone call……………………..


    The events portrayed above are fictional. Any similiarity to any events experienced by persons living or dead are purely coincidental.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Mr Logic.

    That post is pure class!
     
  6. I think all of us, in our different trades have been in exactly the same boat.

    I raise a glass to human frailty.