Celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday
(written while observing the 'cease' order)
On November 10, the U.S. Marine Corps celebrated its 231st birthday. Since we work directly with Marines, we were included in the celebration, which included ceremonies and even an Iraq version of the Marine Corps Marathon, held at Al Asad. Additionally, the Marine Corps allowed two beers for each member in the command, but as an aviation unit we had to defer the beer until a later date (more on the that in a coming post). Though we were employed throughout the birthday, a result of falling under the Marine Corps chain of command, we were able to celebrate our brethren.
As we prepared for our missions, briefings complete, our operations desk took a call asking if we would help celebrate the birthday. Specifically the Marines asked if we would fly over the airfield and shoot off a couple of flares, providing a field expedient fireworks display.
Due to recent consternation within the unit over flare dispensing, neither I nor the other pilot in command was willing to take the responsibility, or resultant ass-chewing for such a stunt. Though we were happy to do it we thought it best to seek permission from the commander before being hung by the jury of instructor pilots. The commander was willing to grant permission given some extra training and some control measures were applied. With that we strolled out to the aircraft looking to add this special mission to the mix.
Upon completion of the regular mission we returned to TQ where the tower staff had been read in on the celebratory fly by. Eager for us to provide the show, the tower asked us if we would be discharging the fireworks upon arrival, but according to the measures agreed upon we needed to disembark our passengers before executing the celebratory traffic pattern.
Worse than a kid in a candy store -- much worse -- I called the second aircraft in the flight, as we were in lead, and requested one more review of what we would do, exactly. Dash 2, or the second aircraft, gave specific directions, we would request the following from the controller: enter the traffic pattern, climb to 1,000 feet above ground level, fly directly over the airfield and dispense alternating volleys on the countdown, not to exceed a total of three. Next I called the tower, with a quiver in my voice, nervous about putting on a show, and we entered the traffic pattern. We turned final at 1,000 feet, and waited for dash two to call the countdown over the radio. 3, 2, 1.............
Keeping my cool I waited for the countdown to end, staving off the urge to pull the switch early. I noticed my hand was nervous holding the switch as we rounded the corner on final.
Over tower frequency "HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARINE CORPS!"
"HOORAH PUNISHER 64 HOORAH"
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