We were the “Final Cadre” of the once Mighty C-141 Starlifter. Only a few years before, the Mighty C-141 Starlifter numbered 288 airframes. The beloved aircraft would operate proudly and efficiently from Vietnam to the Iraq war. “Kennedy’s airplane” and America’s first jet engine transport would haul the heavy loads of our national interest from the mid 1960s until 2005. On this day “September 11th 2001,” we were among the final 4 squadrons and “The Final cadre” of C-141A/B/C aviators that were operating the last 32 Starlifters.
The C-141C crew would sit on the tarmac at March AFB for 9 hours waiting for FEMA assets to show. The tarmac was nice and hot because of a clear sky and the bright California sun. Many of the crew simply laid down under the shade of the aircraft and tried to sleep during the Bravo alert. For 10 hours after preflight activities were completed, we waited for our special cargo. The aircraft had been pre-flighted, fueled, and was ready to go hours before. The forms were clean. The mighty C-141C was ready to go and chomping at the bit. The only sound on the ramp was the hum of a -28 Hobart power unit that was feeding the aircraft.
The Aircraft commander would talk the maintenance folks into going into town and bringing back some fast food and drinks. We would feast on the Carls Junior fatty and greasy delicacies as a crew.
The March AFB Air Force Reserves and civilian workforce aircraft technicians were the best that the Air Force had to offer. They had extreme corporate depth and experience and maintained the Wing of 16 C-141C models with impeccable care. As a Unit equipped Wing, the Air Force Reservists of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing were highly skilled and saw the big picture when compared to the relatively inexperienced Active Duty counterparts at other bases. When one wanted an airplane fixed quickly, one wanted an old head Reservists Air Guardsman, or civilian to do the job. The experience level allowed them to cut through the BS and cut to the chase when repairing aircraft. All I needed from them was “we got it handled!”
Of course, the Active Duty could fix planes well, it just took way longer and many more man hours. When the Air Force reduces manning they always entice the older Active Duty folks to leave. With the exodus of experienced Active Duty comes incompetence and the man hours to maintain a Wing of aircraft goes up, and mission readiness plummets. The real cost of getting rid of experienced Active Duty technicians rears its ugly head out in the system.
As a Flight Engineer, part of my job was to interface with maintenance, assess the fix phase path and how it would affect mission continuance. Most of the time, all it took was a few questions and a little input. Then the younger maintenance troops were off and running. The moral of the story is to encourage experienced mechanics and technicians to stay in the Air Force, Air Force Reserves, and Air Guard, otherwise, readiness, safety, training levels and man hours are adversely affected.
On 9/11/2001, This aircraft was safe and ready to fly. Not only that, the maintenance crew was simply a joy to work with. I never passed up an opportunity to give kudos to the maintenance folks. Because of their efforts, MAC hauled utter millions and millions of patriot troops and retirees all over the world safely. When I jumped on board a 452nd MAW airplane I knew that it was perfect to fly.
The cutting edge navigation system remained on with waypoints loaded. The cockpit windows were open so as to catch the California breeze. The only thing required now was to turn on the glass displays and run checklist items. The 12 hours on Bravo would be spent chatting with maintenance or giving shit to other crewmembers. Well not so much on this day. All of us woke to the visions of heavy jet aircraft crashing into the twin towers. All of us called into the unit and asked what we could do this day. Many thought this was the act of the Palestinians.
Soon, several search dog teams would show up at the aircraft. A few moments later, the assistant director of FEMA would show and the Loadmaster would direct him towards his seat in the cargo compartment. Meanwhile, the cockpit crew strapped in and started the before starting engines checklist.
The sound of the number 3 hydraulic system coming on alerted the ground crew that the aircraft and crew were ready to rock. A moment later the mind-numbing noise of the APU would make its presence known. Next, the chocks and pins would be removed and the ground power unit disconnected and hauled away. Then the Pratt and Whitney TF33-P7 engines would be started one after another. Once the generators were tied to the aircraft’s electrical system, the APU would be shut down. The next checklist item was to direct engine pressurization to the aircraft environmental system. The rush of much desired cooling air would invade the cargo compartment. A cargo compartment that had been heat soaking in the hot sun all day long. The rush of cold air would refresh the hardworking Loadmasters in sweat soaked flight suits. When the throttles were advanced, the resultant air conditioning would be cheered silently down stairs in “the tube of pain.” .
The brakes would be released and the C-141C started taxiing to the 15,000 foot long SAC built runway.
Once lined up on the runway, the throttles would be advanced, and I would give all cooling air to the loads in the back during take off roll.
The C-141C broke ground and went wheels up at 11PM on 9/11/2001 give or take 5 minutes. The pilot would state, ” positive rate, gear up!” He then would tell the flight engineer, ” Eng open the forms at 11 pm on 9/11!”Will do sir, I would reply!”
After flying runway heading to approximately 4000 feet, the March tower would then tell us to contact Departure Control on another victor frequency. Once we were on Departure Control VHF frequency, we would be given permission to fly directly to McGuire AFB. Normally, the departure from March AFB was a very intricate affair. Normally because of Los Angeles air traffic, Air Traffic Control would provide a dozen different headings before Center gave permission to fly direct or via filed flight plan. This day, at 4000 feet runway heading, we cleared direct to New Jersey. We would be one of the only military aircraft in the skies over America. In fact, for the next 5 hours, we would not hear a single radio call from another aircraft.
Over Denver Center, I would break FAA radio protocol and talk with the controller about Jake Plummer and the Broncos. My home as a child was one mile from Denver Center. I passed 17th and Hover thousands of time on my way to school or into town to drag Mainstreet. Today we were passing it 7 miles up at 420 knots true airspeed. I thought, “How bouts dem Broncos” would cheer them up a little and I believe it did.
Every controller at every air traffic control center sounded the same. Instead of employing their differing tempos and verbal styles that demonstrated their level of experience, and expertise, we were passed from one controller to the next without the controller bling or flare. Instead, we were treated to sober verbiage void of regalia. Communication that showed the pride and professionalism of the Air Traffic Controller was replaced by temperance and seriousness. An atmosphere of violation inundated every center and controller this day. . Everyone was sullen and downtrodden from the attacks on the Twin Towers that morning.
Other than being transferred from center to center, all we heard on the radio was the crack, whirr, buzz, and fizz of the VHF radio. I took in the solemn and reflective moments in time, while the aircraft rocked and porpoiseed slowly from autopilot inputs. It was dark and clear. The stars sparkled brightly all across America.
Along the way, the crew pondered and talked about the Twin Towers attack. My thoughts at the time were that the Palestinians did the deed. I had no idea that the Saudi Arabians had perpetrated the attack. Either way, Geroge W. Bush exploited the symbol of 911 and attacked Iraq. The skull and Bones history major who never showed up to fly at his Vietnam avoidance Air Guard unit had no idea what he was doing. He did not understand the consequences of war or the plight of refugees when countries are attacked. The history major did not understand history. He would talk the world into attacking an innocent sovereign nation so the neocon could make money.
George Bush would exploit the symbol of 911 and launch America into 20 years of war. Barack Obama and Joe Biden would spend more on the Geedub “war for profit” than any other administration in US history. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria would all be subject to regime change, nation building and war profiteering. No planning or contingencies would be offered for the humanitarian crisis that would ensue. Then after all the blood, death, wounded and treasure, Obama would abandon Iraq to ISIS. Donald Trump would have to clean up the mess, and he did it in short order. Under Obama and Biden, it was only about armaments stock values with no regard to starving children or rampant refugees. The military industrial complex stock values would return over a 1000 percent. Every politician that invested a dollar in armaments stocks received 10 dollars in return. Of course, the wars would be funded from deficit spending and the $6 trillion dollar bill slipped to the children. The veterans Administration budget would increase 10 fold. The peace dividend replaced with hundreds of thousands of PTSD claims. The national debt would balloon from Approximately $5 trillion under George Walker Bush to close to $30 trillion under the corrupt and dementia ridden illegitimate president Joseph Goebbels Biden.
Obama, the fellow that apologized for the USA in front of the Brandenburg gate and left a million dollar cleanup bill for Berlin, would leave the Middle East a messy ruin with millions of refugees. Then in September of 2021, the dementia ridden and corrupt Joe Biden, after being elected via massive voter fraud, would leave Afghanistan and the Taliban $100 billion in advanced weaponry. The folks that gave safe haven to Bin Laden and the Saudi terrorists that leveled the twin towers and killed over 4000 innocent Americans, were given a massive trove of modern weaponry. They would get more Blackhawk helicopters than Australia. The biggest insult were the urban assaults’ vehicles that could be used against the Afghanistan citizenry. Of course the senile village idiot Joe Biden will talk about a so-called republican war on women in the USA while allowing the Taliban to murder and beat the women of Afghanistan.
The US generals were rudderless when Afghanistan fell once again to the Taliban. 20 years of corporate depth related to force protection protocols during war time were abandoned, resulting in 13 Marines being killed. The senile and incompetent Joe Biden would be responsible for the deaths of 13 Marines and countless wounded. Joe Biden killed those Marines.
Loyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense , was too busy fixating on a hate whitey campaign in the services. He was too fixated on an absurd “woke culture” to make contingency plans for the withdrawal of Afghanistan. He was too fixated on teaching ‘Critical Race Theory” to whites in the military and abandoning the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, to destroy $100 billion in war materials or ensure that all Americans made it out safely. For 7 months, Loyd Austin would fixate on a hate whitey campaign and never consider a staged and well orchestrated withdrawal from Afghanistan. The dude is fixated on the color of skin.
Joe Biden will now have to go to the Brandenburg Gate and apologize for his total incompetence. As it is, Joseph Goebbels Biden turned 20 years of war into just another Saigon. He made the United States of America look like a bunch of special interest fools that do not understand foreign policy or the responsible application of military power. Joe Biden turned the Symbol of 911 into a symbol of failure and an American embarrassment that will last through the ages.
The pilot would turn to me and state. ” This is war, Brodhead!”
I had been in Mecca during Southern Watch Missions. I had stayed at the Khobar Towers in Saudi two weeks before they had been blown up. I remembered how Air Force pilot Martha McSally had sued the Air Force over the Burka policy in Saudi. A policy where female fighter pilots had to wear a Burka in public while off base in Saudi. The McSally affair and Khobar Towers attack would lead the Twin Towers attack. After all, Saudis hate women rights and did not like infidels in Mecca. The first female combat fighter pilot stirred the pot.
Many of us were perplexed that a person with no aviation training could fly a jet into a Tower or at low level into the Pentagon. The Pentagon attack required a pilot that could fly through ground effect at 500 miles per hour. This suggests that the 911 perpetrators were highly trained. They were possibly trained on Saudi Arabian simulators by experienced pilots.
The Bush neocon avoided looking into the Saudi Arabian connection and turned their sights on regime change and nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thomas Jefferson would have simply bombed the hell out of the Taliban and left them to fend for themselves. George W. Bush and the neocons would send millions of pieces of equipment to the region. The average cost per kill would be in the millions and billions. George W Bush would exploit 911 and launch America into the worst foreign policy in the history of the country. Of course, Barack Obama would then adopt all things Bush and continue the destabilization of the Middle East.
I had been up for close to 24 hours. To clear my mind and refresh my being, I would take copious breaths of 100% oxygen and direct gasper cooling air to my face. Between drinking the crappy MAC coffee and inundating my face with a cold washcloth, I performed the 5.5-hour flight without nodding off at all. When the sun rose in the east the light would envelop the cockpit and send a rush of vitamin D to my senses.
When the sun broke the horizon, the crew looked on at the smoke of the collapsed Twin Towers from 35,000 feet and 100 miles. The smoke trail had to be 75 miles long as it wafted southward. The collective effect of the sun and the view of the smoke trail would be a sobering experience. It brought clarity to the moment. After being up all night, the inherent adrenaline rush enabled me to run normal checklist items safely and competently until we landed and headed for crew rest.
At the end of Vietnam, the proud and Mighty C-141 would haul the Hanoi Hilton POWS from Vietnam. The images of patriot POWs netering the aircraft would be a symbol of American freedom for close to 50 years. We left Vietnam with honor I guess. The C-141 was a symbol of freedom fro the ages.
The C-17, would become a symbol of nation building and war profiteering and an awkward withdrawal from a war zone by a senile and incompetent president. Instead of POWs saluting while entering the “Hanoi Taxi” and leaving Vietnam, we were treated to Afghanis falling from the C-17. We were treated to frozen remains in the wheel well or body parts ripped from humans and crushed between landing gear doors. We were treated to $100 billion in military hardware being given to religious extremist swine.
The “Final Cadre” of the mighty C-141 had done the job on 911.