Monday, March 22, 2010

Helicopter movement

This was an interesting weekend. Last week we were notified to deploy 3 helicopters, plus support and command/control, to Haiti to provide an air mobile asset. (Mission would be movement of distinguished visitors and troops, aerial assessment of damage -- likely important in rainy season -- and medical evacuation.) Haiti is pretty far from Honduras, and sending the helicopters on their own would have taken several days. We requested, and were granted, strategic airlift.

On Saturday, 2 C-17 airplans arrived at Soto Cano Air Base. Saturday's activity was to load the aircraft. One C-17 had to carry 3 UH-60 aircraft. The helicopters had been prepared for the movement by folding the blades and taking off the tail lights (reducing height). A C-17 can hold 3 UH-60 aircraft, but it's really tight.

They load the helicopters by lowering the ramp of the C-17 to be ground level, pushing (with a tractor) the helicopter to the edge of the ramp. Next they attach a winch to the helicopter. If the helicopter is going in forward, then the pilot steers and people guide the rear tire with a tow bar. When the helicopter is backed in (the 2nd one), then a tow bar on the rear wheel is how the helicopter is steered. There's almost no extra room when you have 3 helicopters on the C-17, so it took quite a while to get each helicopter into place. There were several scary moments when the helicopter wasn't going exactly the right way... but by the end of the day, all 3 were on the C-17. It was amazing to watch and I was really proud of our military for the teamwork that took place to get the helicopters to move.

As of today, the helicopters have moved and are operational!

Copan Ruins (Ruinas Copan)

In February, I visited the Mayan ruins in Copan. These are some of the things I saw. I still am amazed at the ability of the Mayans to carve in rock these images. And they've last for thousands of years! Amazing. First, is a turtle. The next is a jaguar. The Jaguar is carved into the wall of their collesum. Mayans would pair a warrior against a jaguar much as the Romans paired prisoners against lions.

This next image is part of a parrot face. The parrot is a very important animal to the Mayans. This was inside the temples. (Every so often -- 52 yrs I think -- the lunar and solar cycles align and the Mayans would rebuild their city, so this is much older).

Next to the parrot is a picture of part of the wall of hyroglypics. The hyroglypics wall is about 4-5 stories high and I think is one of the biggest discovered.
The picture with me and Maj Jana "Diva" Nyerges is in the collesum.

There were several statues like the one here. The square is an altar, and each of the 16 Mayan rulers is depicted on the outside. One of the rulers was 18 Rabbits. His pictures always have the number 18 and a conejo (rabbit). He's the 2nd from the left.

This is a picture of one of the buildings (there were about 2 sq miles of ruins... a number of buildings but also some fields and statues).
It was a great trip. I learned a lot. Now I think I'll need to pick up a book on Mayans to be sure I really understood (our excellent tour was in Spanish) the nuances.

Best day

About 3 weeks ago, I got the opportunity to travel to DC. I got into DC late on a Monday and had an important meeting on Tuesday. That day -- Tuesday -- was one of the best days I've had in a very long time.

I got up early in the morning with my beautiful girls. We got dressed together then I took the girls to school. After dropping Emily and Margaret, I had about 20 minutes with just Sarah. We went to Starbucks (got a latte... it tasted great!). We sat at a table by the window and found a fly who must have had a broken wing. The wing would climb half way up the window and then fall down. Sarah and I spent quite some time predicting how high the fly would get before falling. We also got to chat. After dropping her, I went to the Pentagon.

I got to see friends and had several very successful meetings. My work day ended about 2:30 and I picked up the girls. We played together fora bit then we had a date night.

We went to our favorite restaurant -- Bamian. It's an Afghani restaurant. We loved our waiter who kindly took care of us. We loved the soup. In fact, the girlsl loved the soup so much that they asked the waiter how to make it. He took them back into the kitchen to meet the chef. Chef didn't speak English, but the wiater translated. We toasted each other and laughed all night. Sarah told me I should date the waiter... I told her he was too young for me and too old for her. We laughed more.

After dinner, we went to see Sydney -- our dear friend -- and her family. It was great to visit with dear friends. I miss them a ton!

After the visit and dinner, we went back to Abuela and Abuelo's house and everyone got to go to sleep. I slept with Emily and Magie that night (had slept with Sarah the night before).

I also got to see my brother and his family as well as my parents. It was lovely... and the best day I can remember having for a while.