This is a recount of my trip to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, England in support of Operation Central Enterprise. This is my sole warning in reading this recount: I take no prisoners when it comes to my grammar.
On a fine Friday the 23rd of May morning, my orders to head to England finally showed up after nearly a month of trying to get Dyess Air Force Base (AFB) Personal Readiness Unit (PRU) to send me some. Air Combat Command Headquarters ended up sending the tasking down to Mountain Home AFB PRU Thursday afternoon so that I could leave.
The weekend: Can I leave yet? I want to go play in England.
On the morning of Wednesday the 28th, I was a little vigorous in my basketball playing this morning. Not one of my shots went in. One time when I returned the ball to the opposing team, I threw the ball over my head back towards the LT, for him to catch. Minor problem, it hit the wall above him and knocked him in the back of the head. Sorry LT.
Jim escorted me on the trip up to the Boise airport, we arrived about 9:10 am and I was sitting at my gate by 9:25. I would have been to the gate faster but my A3 flyer bags slowed me down a bit. The flights down to Abilene, TX were pretty uneventful other than lots of air turbulence and the feeling of an airborne roller coaster. Within a few seconds after landing in Abilene, I began looking forward to the day I left. SSgt Steve Miller picked me up at the Abilene airport and gave me the really quick trip back to the base with check in at billeting. Steve helped carry one of my A3 bags for me from his truck to my room. I thought the poor guy was gonna hurt himself, but nope he survives. Billeting provided me with a first floor room; room 313 in building 313; hmm… is this a premonition to my trip?
May 29th, rise and shine at 0600. I walked to the shop this morning, in the hot and muggy fog, just so I could see what he base looked like. After a mile or so, I arrived at the shop. While wondering around the outside of the building I spotted a 1996 M998A1 HMMWV. Later on that day I asked TSgt Dave Carson how they got the Hummer. Basically, Comm had it, but wasn’t authorized it. EOD was short it, so they got it. The Dyess EOD facility is a two years old sheet metal construct smaller than the shop at Mountain Home. With eleven personnel assigned to the small shop, it seems kind of crowded to me. It didn’t take me long to find the equipment bay and when I did I was surprised at there light tasking of UTC’s. With a X1 on station and a X3 deployed, there’s not much in the bay. I found new appreciation for the storage bins at Mountain Home, organization and closed containers lends a hand to a neat and orderly appearance. Their mobility bags are tossed onto some shelving in some type of supposed orderly fashion. Around noon I processed through the deployment line and gave a couple of B1 crew members a ride back to their squadron when they asked me if I could. After the duty day was finished, I took off for downtown Abilene to find out what type of town it was. Dirty, dusty and old. Can I leave now? The trip back to base reminded of the projects. On my misadventures in town I did find several Country-Western bars. I’ll be their tomorrow night.
Hey it’s Friday, May 30th. I went for a 10-K run this afternoon. The run was going all right for the first few minutes, and then I started feeling the humidity with the heat. I didn’t have much fun for the next hour while trying to complete my run without passing out nor puking my guts out. The last two miles was along Linear AirPark, each of the twenty some planes were placarded with some info on its origin and history. I barely survived the rest of the afternoon as the run sucked just about every last drop of energy out of me. I sure as heck didn’t go out this evening.
Saturdays May 31st. Yeah, I’m still in Abilene, Texas. It’s still hot and muggy and it stinks too. Remind me not to ever come here for an assignment. Hopping into the trusty Chevy GOV that the shop provided me with, I traveled around a bit and went through the Buffalo Gap Museum of historic buildings and such. There are actually some real trees around here and some decent looking areas. For instance Buffalo Gap was a pleasant enough looking town while Abilene I think, still sucks. For dinner I headed to a broken down BBQ pit restaurant on the outskirts of Abilene. I found some very good garlic and mesquite broiled chicken along with some peach cobbler dessert to boot. Beer, tip and food total were less than $15. My evening’s entertainment involved a little socializing and two stepping at Little Texas from 8 pm until 1 am. What is up with that? I figured two maybe even 4 am closing times not 1 am.
June 2, 1997. Moral of story; I’m in England. How I got there: 6 am wake up after only three hours of sleep, two hour wait for the L1011, two hour flight to Ellsworth, hour and a half wait for plane to refuel, four hour flight to Gander, Newfoundland. In Gander, were departed the plane for a short bit. It was a brisk 37 degrees F, raining and it smelt of seawater; I loved it. A snack bar with ice cream was open so my first meal outside of the States was vanilla ice cream. After a short bit we loaded back on the plane and five hours later we were in RAF Fairford to land there at 7 am on June 3rd. (I should mention, there were 200 of us on the plane.)
I really didn’t experience June 2nd, as it was a sore butt blur on the plane. Reilly rescued me from the processing post at 0845 and we headed over to billeting to get me a room. I’m staying in a barracks with lower standards than Indian Head’s enlisted billeting. Can you say blah? The chow halls and such don’t open up until the forth of June so its off to town to find someplace to eat. After a four-mile walk, Reilly and I stop at The Old Rangoon for supper. I try a couple of firsts here: breaded blaise (salmon, cheese and asparagus), R. Whites Lemonade (a.k.a. Sprite, Squirt and 7-Up combined). Supper was concluded with a long walk back to base via a different route.
Comments about England so far:
Saturday June 7, Rise and shine at 1130 after a long night of karaoke, pint guzzling and dancing; of course the couple down the hall screaming and banging the bed up against the wall didn’t hurt taking the alarm clocks place. The weather has become a little damp over the past couple of days, with some evening drizzles and wind blowing. Thursday and Friday mornings have run pretty much the same with awaking around 6:30 am, get cleaned up and go stand in line for chow at 7 am. The food service over here is all right, nothing really to speak highly of, other than I haven’t gotten sick yet and that there’s no fat-free or no-salt style foods at all. It seems that the more fat and salt a food has around here the more likely it’s to sell. I went around town yesterday afternoon in Fairford and looked at some of the newsstands and green grocer’s. Even if I could afford to shop downtown for groceries, my refrigerator is still inoperable.
Thursday morning, MSgt Reilly, Richard from Safety and myself head up to RAF Welford for a look at the munitions dump that’s up there. WOW! I’ve never seen so much stuff before. Have you ever seen a building with 1 million pounds of 1.2 net explosive weight (NEW) or 250,000-pound stacks of 1.1 NEW? During the Gulf War they shipped 25,000 tones of high explosives (HE) to RAF Fairford. Oh, for those of you that say M117 bombs are out of the inventory, well not yet. They are being phased out and I asked if they wanted us to help them get rid of a few M117′s. They said sure, but they didn’t think there was a local 5-lb much less a 750-lb disposal site.
During the drive back from RAF Welford, we drove through more towns than I can remember. Heck this country is so small the towns are two to three miles apart with names such as Lechlade, Birbury, Barnsley, Cirenscester, Burford, Oxford, Woodstock, Chipping Campen and Gloucester. (I copied these town names off a handy map.) These are places in just the local area here. Sheesh, no wonder I get lost while driving on the wrong side of the road. Heck last night, nearly every time I wanted to signal for a direction change, I turned on the windshield wipers.
With pulling standby this weekend, I’m unable to travel far from the base. Next week will be a little more exciting with just a couple hours of work to handle and all the pints I can drink.
It’s Thursday afternoon on this 12th of June, a day filled with low clouds and slight chills flowing through the fire station. Last night thunderstorms struck throughout the area. A few B1′s were hit while flying around Scotland and apparently have been grounded in the mean time to ensure all systems are fine. Once again I’m glad not to work on the flightline. The flightline crew was only pulled off when lighting started striking nearby. On Sunday, I speed tripped it down to Swindon out of curiosity and boredom. For a town that’s sixteen miles away, it sure takes a darn long time to get there. While down there, I explored a couple of their super stores, much like ours in the states except theirs cost a LOT more.
Not much happened on Monday. Tuesday, three techs from Lakenheath came down to give some base EOR and IED training for Wednesday. A1C Dwayne Prowell says hi to Ron. Kent Gray and John Kerchefko say hi and congratulations to Troy and JJ for their promotions. Big Tim, they didn’t know you so they just say hi. Tuesday night, we had a little social down at Eight Bells Pub.
With the base being in exercise Threat Bravo for the past couple of days, people weren’t able to show for the required classes. So were tasked with base EOR/IED training until we leave. We’ve also been tasked to teach munitions ID and a couple of other classes to the fire department. So, I’ve been busy typing and getting ready to start photographing Aircraft and munitions items for a power point presentation.
Yesterday the bugs came out in the hallway in the building I’m staying. A couple hundred or so were letting their presence be known to us. Jason Cebula and Steve Miller went crazy with Black Flag bug spray. Especially since some of the bugs made it into their room. My room thankfully was spared. Last night, I went for 5.5 mile run around a little lake and along the River Coln in town. Swans, ducks, rabbits and dogs ran away as MSgt Dave Norris and I ran by. I’ve been enjoying the fact that there are green trees and streams nearby, I think its great.
This morning is the beginning of a new week, Monday the 16th. Earlier in the morning, I went to Public Affairs and picked up a letter of authorization to take photos out on the flightline. Some 20 photos later, I’m typing this while the pictures transfer into my computer. Later on today, we will be giving some Firefighter Munitions Orientation training. I must agree with a few people on their thinking that it is only another 16 days till we head on home. The vacation is nice, but can I do some real work or please send me on a real vacation?
On Saturday I headed into London at eight in the morning. The bus didn’t arrive until nine thirty or so. My first order of business was go and find a bush to wizz on. Next, I headed over to Buckingham palace to view the Queen for her birthday carriage stroll. The horses and guards were all dolled up in their uniforms with frilly hats and swords. Then came time to wonder around town and find something interesting. I eventually got disorientated and ended up in Picadilly Circus after scalping a bus ticket for ten pounds instead of the normal twelve. I paid an arm and a leg for a Californian pizza lunch at Planet Hollywood. Next trip, I’m going to try Hard Rock Café when I first get into town, because the lines are shorter then. (I never made it back to Hard Rock.) After lunch, I hopped back on the bus and took a few trips around town learning where stuff was and seeing the sites. Such as the Big Ben bell, the Tower of London, several parks, Shakespeare’s Globe playhouse and what not. I even saw a street named Cannon Street. My next trip will be a more walking tour and shopping trip. This trip was just an orientation to London. The Tube, London’s underground subway, will be my next tour guide. Paying three pounds to get around versus twelve sounds very good to my pocket book. The pictures are transferred now, so bye for now.
Good morning on this slightly chilly Wednesday morning. Once again not much has been accomplished here. Can I come home now? I setup my tickets to come back to Idaho yesterday. I’ve been going through Dyess’s laptop files. They sure don’t stick things in a logical nor same place when they type things up. Files are all over place, kinda like their dungeon storage area. Well if it works for them, then leave it. We have another firefighter munitions ID, EOR and IED class today at 1pm and the last one should be tomorrow. Yeah, those things get a little dry after the first time.
I’ve run over twenty miles so far this week. A three-miler on Sunday, 9.5 on Monday and 7.5 yesterday. Friday will be another 7 or so. I’m glad I’m getting my distance and pace up, but I miss my road bike and swim training. Today’s (Thursday) FF Munitions Orientation course is being cancelled until Monday due to several responses and HAZMAT training this afternoon. Present rumor is 60 series TO being written that requires us to become DOD HAZMAT Techs. That was actually heard a week or so ago. The Brits have got some really messed up game and afternoon TV shows.
Local running distances- Billeting Gate to Fairford Intersection 1.0 mi. FFI to Sunhill 2 ¾ mi. SH to Quenington 2 ½ mi. Q to FFI 2 ¼ mi. FFI to Railroad Inn ¾ mi. RRI to Q via valley 2 ¼ mi. Gate to SH-Gate 7.5 mi. (speed, slight hill) Gate to SH-Q-FFI-Gate 9.5 mi. (long, slight hill) Gate to FFI-Q-RRI-FFI-Gate 7 ¼ mi. (hill) Gate to Whelford 1 mi. W to Kempsford 1 ¼ mi. K to Marston Manor 2.8 mi. K to Dunfield 1.0 mi. Gate to W-K-Gate 4.8 mi. (flat) Gate to K-MM-FF TO-FFI-Gate 9.8 mi. (long) FFI to Whelford TO via A417 1.7 mi. WTO to Whelford 1.2 mi. Gate to W-WTO-FFI-Gate 4.9 mi.
Almost time for bed this Sunday the 22nd of June. I’ve just returned from a short bit of bar hopping and ashtray collecting. Here’s a short recap of the past few days. Boring, boring, boring and more boring. Can I return to the states now? Friday’s run was cancelled due to a bit of a downpour from the gray skies above. I headed to the gym for some LifeCycling and weight lifting. That evening, I took a CE Heavy troop down to Crickdale to pick up a rental car. Minor problem, he didn’t have enough poundage to pay the deposit, so I took pity on him and took care of it until he returns the car at which time he’ll pay cash and I’ll get my credit receipt back. Saturday was more boring as usual, I read another book, tried figuring out how to do charts in Excel and watched meaning less movies until it was lobster time for dinner. They actually offered us a small whole lobster for dinner on Saturday; I was very much impressed; though I still prefer crab. Opinion time, this was nice, but how about using this money to feed us some better food throughout the rest of the trip. Another question I have is where does it state what services must feed us for meals. I’m really curious about what they say our food requirements are. Today was read another book and be bored until I finally cleaned myself up for the evening. I headed over to Marston Meysey’s Spotted Cow and Spotted Calf pub for a sweet. White chocolate bon and vanilla ice cream kept me entertained for a short while. Thank fully I’ve been keeping my exercising up or else I’d have trouble with my own fat content. The food is good, but darn it’s as heck not very healthy.
Monday morning was spent getting the rental car returned and figuring out what I was going to do for the next week of boredom. Monday afternoon we taught the final class of firefighter munitions orientation. Earlier in the day I found out that I’d be leaving on the 1st of July from here. So I changed my return tickets from Dyess to Boise for the 2nd of July. Tuesday afternoon, I visited the library to pick up a few more science fiction books. While I was there I located what schools in the Pacific Northwest offered Computer Engineering and were affordable. I was surprised to find that Central Washington University offers Computer Engineering along with Comp. Sciences, Artificial Intelligence (as if I would need more of that) and Comp. Information Systems. CWU is located in Ellensburg, Washington.
Yeah its Friday evening, I’ve been looking so forward to this day. Only one more working day until I leave here. Not that I dislike here or anything, but without proper funding and consistent transportation to places other than town and base, there isn’t much to do. I’ve accomplished most everything I wanted to here. From seeing churches, cottages, and pubs along with taking the motorway to London.
Oh yeah, we qualified with the MK 31 JROD using the MX-22. I didn’t do it, but a couple of people tried firing the unit right after we plugged the cart in. So, for some funny reason it didn’t fire as designed. Hmm, doesn’t a wait time sound familiar?
Saturday, I went down to London again to shop this time. I stopped into several stores such as Burberrys, Hamleys and Godiva for family and friends gifts. While out and about trying to waste some time riding the subway I became a little disorientated. Actually, for a change I will say I got LOST not just a little disorientated. I missed a changeover and went four stops too far from where the bus was parked. Trying to get back to the bus meant me running quite a distance with my bag of gifts hoping I was going in the right direction. Thankfully the bus was still there fifteen minutes after it was supposed to have left. Fellow riders clapped and jeered me a little for my tardiness. Upon returning to base and dropping my goodies off in my room, I headed into town for some stir-fried shrimp and fresh vegetables and a funky tasting ginger soda.
Sunday, Oh wonderful Sunday, thank goodness you’ve finally arrived. My bags are nearly packed only the last minute clothes and computer items are still unpacked. Today I woke up a little past nine o’clock thinking I’d go and get a nice breakfast at the chow hall. Yeah right, they changed their operating hours yesterday to 7-9am. Heck they’re changing their weekday hours also to 6-8am. Long story short, I didn’t eat much for breakfast. I finished reading a book this afternoon while munching on some goodies from a Tesco super grocer in Swindon. I was bored as usual so I had headed on down to Swindon to look around, get lost and figure see if I could return the same way I came.
As it was the last duty day before us TDY personnel returned to the states we had to clean everything up. We lucked out with the truck, just clear the garbage out and fuel it up, no washing. Our rooms though, well there’s not much you can do with chipped plaster, no vacuum and mildew. For the fire station office there’s not much we can do for it either. Packing firefighter, Civil Engineering Heavy and our gear into mobility bins became our next objective. A command decision was made to hold putting the safe and .50 cal cartridges into the bins until just before we left. Otherwise owner/user security rules would’ve come into effect and I really would not have enjoyed sleeping on top the bins outside. Shortly, the Customs Inspectors showed up to insure we weren’t packing any contraband. Who us? By 1400, we had accomplished all that we could do until we board onto the planes tomorrow. Now it is time to consume all of the alcohol and food reserves that we have stockpiled for the past month.
Tuesday the 1st of July was a repeat of day I flew to RAF Fairford only in reverse. Thankfully though, waits for boarding and customs were kept to a minimum. We departed RAF Fairford around 1 pm to arrive for customs in Bangor, Maine at which point we finished our flight at Dyess AFB, TX at 5:30 pm. I figured out a sore butt buster, a half-hour run.
On Wednesday morning I finally crawled out of bed at 4:30 am since I couldn’t sleep anymore. After a very quick taxi ride, I caught a 6 am flight to begin my exodus out of Texas and into Boise, ID. Hey I guess you can figure out that someone picked me up at the airport, I drove home safely on the right side of the road and said hello to everybody that I hadn’t seen in a while. What do you know? I’m finally home and I’m getting ready for my next trip.
1/28/2002 – Originally posted