Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Summer Camp -- The Haunting

SPC C, my trustworthy Chaplain Assistant, and I were supposed to be driven down to Summer Camp -- The Haunting late in the afternoon on Sunday, well after the other troops from our Battalion arrived there on Saturday. I was scheduled to do Mass on Saturday night and then again Sunday afternoon in the Post Chapel here at Summer Camp - North, so SPC C and I just stayed behind as everyone else left.

After Mass on Sunday, as we were waiting for our ride, the Chapel staff discovered that SPC C had his rifle with him, which they'd somehow managed not to figure into the equation, and this presented a huge problem. The Post won't transport a weapon without an armed escort; no escort had been requested, and as it was a holiday weekend (for everyone else, not for us!), there was no one who could carry a loaded M9 (pistol).

I suggested to the Brigade Chaplain, who covers down on the Aviation unit assigned to our Task Force going to Kosovo, that perhaps he could check with his flyboys to see if there were a helicopter mission Sunday night.

There was!

After calls to Fort Knox (really!) and elsewhere, we were told to show up at the flight deck at 2100 hours (9 p.m.) to await our airborne transportation. SPC C had not yet flown on a helicopter, so I was pumped that he was going to get a chance to experience that kind of flying. Granted, there wouldn't be much to see, as it's very dark by 2100 in these parts, but flying in the dark over desolate areas in the Iraqi battlespace where MSG McG and I served was still a blast.

I made sure we got to the flight deck by 2040, just to be on time. We had a lot of gear with us (we'd be gone almost a week), in addition to our battle rattle, which we were wearing.

The aviation trainers were going to send the birds out on a simulated casualty evacuation, and upon the return of the aircraft to base they'd immediately be tasked with an emergency medical transfer: SPC C would be the patient, and I'd be the Chaplain, traveling with him.

It sounded fun, and we were encouraged to "act".

Just my kind of thing!

We heard the "9-line" (highly-scripted formula for communicating information about the medevac situation) broadcast over the communications equipment in the flight ops building at 2130. The mission was expected to take about 45 - 50 minutes in total, with the helicopters landing to refuel before returning to base. Then we'd be collected, and our gear loaded onto the aircraft for the 15-minute jaunt to Summer Camp - The Haunting.

Except that ten minutes before the birds returned I saw lightning streak across the sky. Bad omen.

Especially since the planes in Iraq would not fly during an electrical storm.

More lightning. And wind. And then thunder in the distance.

I told SPC C that he'd not be getting his plane flight, unfortunately. I tried to find someone by phone on Post who could come pick us up, since it was now pretty late, and the guy who'd dropped us off had certainly gone to bed.

I roused the Executive Officer (my boss; XO) and he said he'd find someone who could come get us if we needed to be picked up. As I was on the phone with the XO, the mission was officially scrubbed, so I was grateful we wouldn't have to wait long to get back to the barracks and get to bed.

Shortly after we arrived back "home," it started to rain cats and dogs, and we were treated to a good old-fashioned midwestern thunderstorm that rattled walls and windows and drummed noisily on the roof. The storm continued for hours, because every time I woke up (I do that a lot, unfortunately) it was still storming.

It's 0600 now, and still raining, though there seems to be no more lightning and thunder.

We never had a storm like this while I was in Iraq, and it hardly ever rains in this manner in California where I live, so it's been a long time since I've been in a storm of this ferocity.

Nothing like a raging storm to give one perspective on one's place in the universe, eh?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Few natural weather phenomena can can match a thunder storm in the Great Plaines. I lived in Kansas & Colorado at different times, and the storms are awe inspiring!

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