Archives For USAF

Parachute Optional

January 27, 2015 — 8 Comments

c141Under what circumstances would you tell an airman that pulling their rip cord if they exit the plane is optional? I never knew of any until I read an article about resupply missions to the South Pole.

The current issue of Air Force Magazine includes a fascinating article about resupplying McMurdo Station and a second temporary site at the Pole itself. Because of the extreme cold, 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (that’s -73.333 degrees Celsius), any airman who accidentally fell from the plane as the pallets were dropped, could not expect to be rescued before freezing to death.

Parachute-laden crewmen standing near open doors of a C-141B Starlifter during a midwinter Antarctic airdrop in 1983 were told they could pull the D-ring ripcord if they fell overboard—or just not bother. The chance of being safely recovered in the darkness and [bone-freezing] temperatures was practically nonexistent.

Putting things in historical perspective, we can consider the fate of WWI pilots in Germany. Theirs was the first nation to provide standard parachutes, and during the first 70 bail outs, a third of the pilots perished. With those statistics, one wonders how many airmen followed the “just not bother” course of action and chose to remain with their plunging aircraft.

C.S. Lewis had a friend named Leo Baker who had served in France as a pilot of the 80th Squadron of the Royal Air Force. The two combat veterans hit it off because of shared interests, including their mutual love of poetry. Here is how Lewis initially described Baker to his lifelong friend, Arthur Greeves, in 1920.

You ask about Baker, and I hardly know how to describe him. He was at a mixed school of a very modern type, where everyone seems to have written, painted and composed. He is so clairvoyant that in childhood “he was afraid to look round the room for fear of what he might see.” He got a decoration in France for doing some work in an aeroplane over the lines under very deadly fire: but he maintains that he did nothing, for he was “out of his body” and could see his own machine with “someone” in it, “roaring with laughter.” He has a bad heart.

He was a conscientious objector, but went to the war “because this degradation and sin might be just the very sacrifice which was demanded of him.” He maintains that everything in Algernon Blackwood [writer of ghost stories] is quite possible: and though the particular cases may be fictitious, “things of that sort” are quite common. He is engaged to be married.

In appearance, he is about my height, with very fair hair, glasses, remarkable eyes and according to the Minto [Janie Moore], rather like you. I like and admire him very much, though at times I have doubts on his sanity.

Like Lewis, Baker had been seriously wounded during the war. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Fortunately, it appears he did not have to rely on a primitive parachute. Or, if he did, he was one of the fortunate survivors.

Returning to Antarctica for just a moment, it seems that South Pole mission would have been an exciting adventure in which to share. Terrifying too, perhaps. Fortunately, like Lewis and Baker (and Tolkien, as well), all of the service members returned home safely, mission accomplished.

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The picture above is a military photograph of a pair of Emperor penguins observing an American C-141 resupply mission during the summer months.

Adoption = Love

November 21, 2013 — 13 Comments

coupleToday marks a very special day in our family, the anniversary of our oldest grandchild’s adoption into our family.

While seven of our grandkids are aged seven and younger, Andrew is an amazing young man who has already married a lovely young woman. My wife and I are terribly proud of the path he is on, which has taken him to Japan, where he is promoting peace as a member of the United States Air Force.

While we all naturally love children physically “born into” our families, there is a singular affection—a consciously chosen and active love—we extend to those we adopt.

Delores and I seriously investigated international adoption during my assignment to Korea in the late eighties. Unfortunately, the doors closed, and it was not to be. We believe strongly in the importance and delight of adoption.

Although adoptions bring a few unique challenges to the family mix, there is no stress free recipe for parenting. Every successful formula involves a number of the same ingredients. Among them, patience and forgiveness need to be poured out in considerable quantity.

I wish to commend each of you readers who have adopted a child, or helped others to do so. And I also pray for God’s blessing upon each of you who are foster parents.

Finally, I offer a prayer for each of you who are, yourself, adopted. May your relationship with your parents fulfill all of the hopeful dreams that were held by all on the day that you entered your “new” family.

C.S. Lewis knew a great deal about adoption. He recognized how ill-prepared he was to become a step-father and ultimately a widowed single parent. In a 1957 letter he wrote:

I have married a lady suffering from cancer. I think she will weather it this time: after that, life under the sword of Damocles. Very little chance (not exactly none) of a permanent escape. I acquire two schoolboy stepsons. My brother and I have been coping with them for their Christmas holidays. Nice boys, but gruelling work for 2 old bachelors! I’m dead tired now.

In his biography, Jack’s Life, Douglas Gresham, one of those “nice boys,” described the situation after the death of his mother, Joy.

Jack also had a new responsibility to take care of, two teenage stepsons, each presenting the typical problems associated with growing up, though each in his own unique way. As was typical of the man he had become, Jack did everything he could to help these two young men. He knew all too well from his own life’s experiences how difficult their lives had been and tried hard to do the best he could for them.

A closing thought, as we all return to our other tasks and diversions. Christians see themselves as adopted. While all humanity is created in the wondrous image of God, entrance into the community of faith, the family of God, comes through faith in his only begotten Son. Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we are able to rightly call God, “Father.”

I’m overjoyed to be adopted into that holy family. And that adoption didn’t occur because I was smart, or handsome, or witty, or praiseworthy in any way. I was adopted solely because of the mercy and love of God.

And that divine adoption provides the perfect model for us to emulate in our world today.