Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Flying high

There was a time in my life, more than three decades ago, when 'flying high' meant something very different from my present experience thereof.

But we're not going to go there now!

Recently, SPC C and I managed to do a religious support mission via helicopter -- my 170th time (169 missions in Iraq, of course), but SPC C's very first. We'd been attempting to accomplish this milestone for him for quite some time, but each time we were set to go, the weather did not cooperate.

So SPC C would have to drive us to our destination -- quite a feat, given the distance involved, and the condition of the roads here, especially in the midst of blowing snow and poor visibility! With the locals being such idiosyncratic drivers (read: crazy, irrational, and dangerous), I'd much rather have flown on each of those occasions.

SPC C is a great driver, by the way.

Having been so constantly thwarted by climatic conditions in this regard, I began to give a hard time to one of the regulars at Sunday Mass, a young weather professional (Air Force, naturally). Without fail, it seemed, the weather on the days leading up to our scheduled flights would be perfect for flying, and there'd be aircraft visible and/or audible at various times during those mornings and afternoons. Ditto for the day or two *after* our each of our scheduled flights.

But on the days when our names appeared on the aircraft's manifest -- AIR MISSION CANCELLED.

I told the young Senior Airman, SrA J, that he was skating on thin ice, being responsible -- as he undoubtedly was -- for the repeated cancellation of our missions by air. He attempted to foist some cockamamie excuse upon me to the tune of, "I don't cause the weather, Sir. I just report it."

Yeah. Right.

Week after week we were denied our opportunity to fly, meaning that SPC C would have to sit behind the wheel of the car and negotiate the intricacies of the Kosovo "street system" for many hours. Week after week, my 'chats' with the young Airman grew more serious in tone and nature.

Finally, exasperated, I told him after Mass one Sunday, "Look here, young man! You've got one more chance. You prevent us from flying this time, SrA J, and I'll excommunicate you!"

"I'll do my best, Sir," was his stammered response.

SPC C flew on a Blackhawk for the first time just a couple of days later.

Amazing what a little 'contextualization' will do in terms of one's job performance, eh?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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