When I was a little girl, I was normal! I wore dresses, and had stuffed animals. I wore Mickey Mouse ears, and was... cute, or so I've been told.
What happened you ask? 2 things changed the course of my life forever!
1. My Mom let me listen to the White Album on our old, hutch style, stereo system. It had a radio, turntable, and 8 track. I loved pushing the button on the 8 track and skipping from song to song. The White Album, is not the Beatles best album in my opinion... but it has some of my favorite songs! They were on a lot of drugs at the time, and maybe not the best influence for my young mind. I still LOVE Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Glass Onion, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Rocky Raccoon, and one of my all time favorite songs... Blackbird.
2. My Mom took me to see Grease. At the end of the movie... When Sandy come to the carnival in the leather jacket, spandex pants, with the red heels and big hair... smoking a cigarette, I said "She is so pretty, I want to grow up and be just like her!" Today Olivia Newton John turned 64 years old... and I still look at her in that movie and think... Bad Ass Chick!
See, I could have grown up normal... But the Beatles and Olivia Newton John had other plans!
With the 11th anniversary of 9/11 upon us, it brings mixed emotions for me. Obviously, the sadness of that day is the first emotion that I feel. The vulnerability of being attacked on our own soil, was something that my generation had heard about but never experienced. We were truly afraid. Pride is the next emotion that comes to mind. I was proud of how we stood as a nation, and united in our grief, anger, and patriotism. I was also proud of our team here at WAAF, for switching gears on a moments notice and doing something none of us ever thought we would have to do... the news. We became a well oiled machine, and you allowed us to be part of a day that none of us will ever forget.
The flag we hung in the WAAF studio that morning, still hangs today. It's hard to go through a day, without looking at it, and remembering.
Five years later, I headed to Baghdad, to say Thank You to our local troops, who had volunteered to go after the people responsible for that terrible day. I got to see with my own eyes, just how brave and selfless our troops could be. I spent the day of 9/11/06 with the 181 Engineers at Camp Cropper, and the night at a USO concert featuring Drowning Pool. They asked me to introduce them on stage, and it was one of the most emotional things I have ever done in my life.
Five years later, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I headed to Kabul, Afghanistan to visit our local troops. They were still, after all of these years serving our country proudly, and deserved to know that we hadn't forgotten about them. Unlike Baghdad, where I moved around a lot, I stayed with the same guys for the entire trip and went out on missions to visit other bases and other units. You can't spend that much time with people, and not get close. I made lifelong friends there.
A year has gone by, and another somber anniversary is upon us. But, I also have some great memories of this date, and I am conflicted by them. Obviously, I still remember the victims, and their families. However, I can't help but smile, thinking about all of the amazing people that I have met during my trips overseas. So, I went back, and looked at all of the video that we shot in Afghanistan, and there was a lot of serious, and emotional stuff. But in 2 1/2 weeks, you are bound to have a little fun, no matter where you are.
Now that "My Guys" are all home safe and sound, here is a little anniversary gift. Some of our greatest hits... The laughter through the tears.
Over the weekend, I headed out west to Barnes Air National Guard base to visit the 104th Fighter Wing. I've been out there a few times before, because of all of the cool aircraft that they have. I flew a refueling mission with the A-10 Warthogs. Those things are loud and totally badass! A few years later, I got to
fly in an F-15 with WOD my pilot.
It only took 9G's and 630mph to get me to pass out, and earn the Callsign: NARKO :)
I returned a couple of years ago to fly with John Klatt in his 300E stunt plane! So much fun!
But, the Mass. Air National Guard, is more than just kickass aircraft, a lot more!
On Saturday, I spent the morning training with the on base Fire Department. They dressed me up like a baked potato, and took me inside the burn house to 'save' a couple of dummies from the smoke filled tower. I was amazed at how heavy 'dead weight' was. The heat, the heavy gear, the sensory deprivation, the limited mobility, and the absolute trust in your partners required is beyond comprehension!
We even made Andrew our camera guy, put on a mask and follow me inside. This video should be awesome. I'm not sure that he knew this was in his job description. They lit a fire in the building and got the heat up to 900* at the ceiling. I got smoke in my eyes, and after my eyes teared up I looked like Alice Cooper as the make-up ran down my face. Not a problem that these guys have to deal with on a daily basis. I had to get in the shade, and take a few minutes to cool down, I though I was going to pass out! I don't know how they do it for hours at a time. I grew up in a Fire Fighting family, and I've been around it all of my life... But I have a new found respect for the job after that!
We got back to the firehouse, and I was soaked to the bone with sweat. Andrew was laughing his ass off when he took this picture!
The guys were busting my balls pretty bad about the last time I wore 'bunker gear'! There was a lot less under my suspenders! You'll have to find an old Mantown calendar to see that pic! ;)
After I spent some time sliding down the pole, it was time for lunch! After a pulled pork sandwich and fries, we headed to the Demo pit to blow up stuff. After a little begging, I got the OK to push the button for the Earth shattering KABOOM!
We set up a camera closer than we were allowed to stand, and hoped that it didn't get destroyed. They put us outside of the fence, and showed me how the switch worked. "Fire in the hole" BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!
A pound of C-4 is fun as hell to blow up, I wanted to do it again! We went down and inspected the damage in the pit, a 2' crater with a huge black smudge on the wall. NICE! We headed inside to learn how the EOD works, and to play with the toys. What could possibly go wrong?
We asked about dynamite, and how to build a bomb from a candy container. We heard the guys "talk shop" about their deployments, and took a tour of the training facility. I had to try really hard NOT to steal a fake bomb, but I knew nothing good would come from that. I can see the headlines now, "Boston DJ causes explosive scare, shipped to Git-Mo".
It was time for the suit... Unfortunately, for the EOD, the only frame of reference anyone has of them is The Hurt Locker. As it turns out, they look at that movie the way Slash looks at Spinal Tap... a joke. But the suit that Jeremy Renner wore, was in my future. The had a size small, but they thought it would be much funnier to see me in a large! They were right. I have never worn a Kevlar diaper like that before! The entire thing weighs around 85 pounds, with a big part of that in the helmet. YES, I made a Darth Vader reference, I had to!
They had me walk around outside with an inert missile, and not one person took a double take. I guess that's normal out there! They put me on the floor, and laughed as I tried to get up. They turtled me! Someone got the brilliant idea, of handing me a jump rope. You'll have to see the video, to see how that turned out. All I will say is that the EOD guys were crying from hysterical laughter, and I almost passed out again. Anything to make those guys laugh, talk about a stressful life!
After taking abuse from Andrew the camera guys all day, the EOD guys stuck up for me, and made him wear an OTV, just like I wore in Afghanistan. They handed him a training gun (they didn't trust him with a real one) and told him that he looked like a terrorist. You be the judge!
Later on that night, during that crazy rain storm, I bumped into some guys at the NCO's club that I met in Iraq 6 years ago during WAAF's Boston to Baghdad trip! It was so good to see them again, and I hope to go flying with them again soon!
The video is on the way, and you will see how foolish I looked trying to do the jobs of these highly trained and brave guys. The beer tasted great at the end of a long, and sweaty day! Thanks to everyone at Barnes, who couldn't have been nicer to Andrew and I. Thank you for everything you do for us! #SupportTheTroops
(thanks to MSGT Smith for taking the pics, while Andrew was busy coming up with stupid things for me to do, while dressed in super hot gear, in the sun!)