The call from Jenny came at eight thirty. She let us know that we needed to fly in. The Base had stopped all visitors from entering by car unless they had a military reason to be there. There had been several attempts to crash the main gate.
The G5 was inbound from a paying flight to the Midwest. The pilot was going to make the quick flight to get us there. It would take longer to get in the pattern and land than the time to make the actual flight.
Jenny was waiting at the military terminal building when we walked in. We had to go through a check point and ID check that took at least 30 minutes. There were no court proceedings today. They were using the weekend to prep for next week’s court time. I don’t think it would have mattered by the bear hug she gave us.
A military car carried us and our bags to the quarters that Jenny was using. After the door closed Jenny was all over us. No problem to know that she missed us.
We went back to her temporary office with her but were not allowed into the planning sessions. A captain ordered two privates to give us a base tour while we waited for the court group to finish up.
This was an Air National Guard base with an extensive flight line. I had noticed the rows of planes when we landed. The privates led us through the most mundane buildings on the base they could find before they finally took us down the flight line.
There were two, C130J Super Hercules a much improved version of the one that had carried me with the freight that fateful night from Japan to Korea years ago. This version could go faster, had a better electronics package and could do a lot more than just carry freight.
There were thousands of the older C130s still serving around the world. While looking at the plane, I remembered falling asleep to the sounds of them landing and taking off in the sandbox. I was surprised that they were here.
This Air National Guard unit was well known for its A10 Thunderbolt, affectionatly known as Warthogs or just Hogs to ground troops. They were built right here in Maryland by Fairchild Republic.
A couple of walks around the C130 with the privates trying to impress us that they really knew something about an airplane while they were trying to put the make on us was a comedy. There were a couple of times it was all we could do not to break out laughing. Marcy and I knew more than they did about a plane. Jack never stopped teaching anytime we were on a flight with him.
We made our way down the line to the A10’s. While I was in the sandbox, when they had flown just feet over our heads they looked impressive and more than once the sound of the Gatling gun winding up had meant the difference between life and death.
They had been built to fight Russian tanks in Europe but proved to be a real fighting weapon in the sandbox. There were tales of Iraq troops running at the sight of an A10 bearing down on them. They were heavily armed and protected. Several pilots had returned to base with huge holes in the wings or an engine gone.
As I looked down the line at all the nose art I wondered if any of these had been the plane that had saved my ass. I tried to remember the nose art but I could not. All of them had sharks or barracuda and boar teeth drawn on them to look ferocious.
Marcy and I walked around one several times. I looked at the covered Gatling and I remembered the stream of empty shell casings the thing sent to ground when it was in action, and the hell that was going on where the rounds were hitting. That gun plus the rockets, missiles and bombs could put pure hell on a target.
The pentagon brass wanted to mothball all the A10’s in favor of the zillion dollar new fighter bombers that could only fly high and fast. The warthog was the last close-in ground support plane for ground troops. Choppers proved to be easy targets for the enemy.
The A10 pilot could see and do things for grunts that choppers and fast attack jets could only dream of. I had witnessed that with my own eyes. I had seen the choppers and fighters leave the battle site for the hogs.
We were standing to the front of it when a Humvee came to a stop beside us. A decked out Captain stepped out and saluted. I came to attention and returned the salute for the respect that was being shown me.
He handed the privates several papers as he began speaking, “Sergeant Jones, General Newcome, the base commander extends a lunch invitation to you and your party in the officer’s mess. I will continue the tour with you from here. I saw you looking at the Gatling gun.”
“Privates, pull that canvas cover off so that Sergeant Jones can get a good look at it; I know she has had experience with the working end of it,” he said. They passed the papers back to him. I saw that the top sheet was a picture of me at the Naval Academy Ball in the dress blues with all my medals.
With the cover removed the Captain gave a detailed description of the gun, the plane and the things that it would do. Even the privates were paying attention to him.
“The maintenance group has one in the hanger with the inspection plates off; you can look at it when we get there. They might even have some stands so you can sit in the pilot’s seat,” he said.
“How many hours do you have in the Hog?” I asked.
“2500; I spent a lot of time in Germany, Iraq, and Afghanistan,” he replied.
“Did you ever meet Captain Brubaker? I think he came from somewhere in the South,” I asked.
“I never met him but if you ever flew an A10 you heard the stories and trained on some of the tactics he developed,” the captain replied.
In the maintenance building the mechanics did have one in there with a lot of the panels off; more of the gun was exposed. The Captain knew a lot about the aircraft.
The cockpit canopy was open and he had the privates, with the help of a mechanic, move a stairs like the ones you see at Lowes – only a larger work version next to the plane.
From the platform he explained what every switch and control did. Then he assisted getting me into the cockpit. I was amazed at the view and also the lack of it the pilot had in some areas. Marcy noticed the same thing that I did when she was sitting in it.
By now it was near lunch time and we walked towards the officer’s mess to meet Jenny. She had sent a text that they were almost finished.
Edit by Alfmeister