Saturday, January 16, 2010

Living in America

So what's it like to come back to America after being gone for most of a year? Part of it remains to be seen. I have not left the Fort Dix/McGuire Air Force Base complex yet, so I still have more to see and get used to. I suppose it is better to return slowly.

My first funny shock was the Taco Bell commercials, recommending the new Drive-Thru diet. Taco Bell has very funny commercials. What could be more American than the idea of a diet that you can do just sitting on your butt in your car!! And what could be more sneeringly American than to put the idea on TV for an audience that is drowning in flippancy.

This evening I saw a commercial for a healthy lifestyle diet plan. I don't remember which one it was, but all around the day room where the TV was playing mostly unwatched were men in their late 20s to mid 30s surrounded by pizza boxes and other delivery food containers. They were playing a video war game on line with each other. It was a beautiful day today, almost 50 degrees. These plus-size guys had been playing for hours, eating pizza.

I have been to the PX a half-dozen times already. It's fun just to walk around and look at all the stuff you can buy here in America. I can get any kind of shampoo I want.

I haven't yet had to ride in traffic, drive a car, commute or any of the dangerous stuff I have been spared for the last year. I ordered a new internet serive for our house that had me on the phone for almost an hour. I have to make two more calls for that one.

And sadly, I am no longer immune from the news. I read about Pat Robertson saying that the earthquake in Haiti was God's judgement on the Haitian people and read Rush Limbaugh's predictably callous comments about the plight of the Haitians. Thousands dead and suffering is, for him, nothing more than a chance to take a shot at Liberals for being willing to help. Sometimes I hate the idea that all of us who served went over there in part to defend free speech for people like Robertson and Limbaugh, but in America they have as much right to speak as anyone else. But whether they have a right or not, they are no less pathetic cowards for doing so.

Who Fights This War? Operations Officer


Most people don’t know what they want to do with their lives till they are past their school years and into a career they don’t like. Some people know what they want to do all their lives. When Maj. Lee Hayes was just a kid growing up in Tyrone, Pa., he watched Chinook helicopters roar through the sky over his little town. He knew he wanted to be a soldier and he knew he wanted to fly.

Now 40 years old and completing his second deployment in which he served as Task Force Diablo’s operations officer, Hayes is a soldier, a pilot, and has his eye on his next assignment. Hayes commanded an attack helicopter company from 1998 to 2000 and is looking forward to his next command. If all goes well, he will command an aviation battalion. “Commander is the best job in the Army,” said Hayes. “This is my second deployment as a staff officer. I want my next deployment to be as a commander.”
Hayes joined the Pa. Guard at age 17 serving first as an infantryman while he attended The Pennsylvania State University. He went to OCS (Officer Candidate School) just before graduation and served as an infantry platoon leader until he attended flight school in 1994.

After flight school he served as a scout platoon leader, flying AH-1 Cobra helicopters. He then became as an attack platoon leader in the 1-104th Aviation Battalion, also flying AH-1 Cobra helicopters. He remained in the 1-104th and became an attack company commander. In 2000 he switched to the Reconnaissance and Interdiction Detachment (RAID), an assignment that lead to one of the most fast-paced weeks in his aviation career. “On September 11, his unit was sent to New York City for reconnaissance and whatever else the security teams needed,” Hayes said.
“They arrived in New York the evening of September 11.”

“We flew wherever they needed us,” Hayes said. During the week they transported many VIPs and moved key people wherever they needed to go.

Hayes has worked full time for the Pa. Army National Guard since 2000. He deployed to Kosovo as assistant operations officer with 2-104th in 2002, part of the first National Guard deployment to that country. When he returns from this deployment he will continue serve in an AGR role at Fort Indiantown Gap. He plans to serve at least nine more years before he retires from the job he knew he always wanted.