The Author is David Reed, a commercial pilot for over 40 years. Over these four decades he has had many events occur, some interesting, some exciting, a few that were frightening and a lot of misadventures. Every story in this blog is true.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

War Stories



Many things happen on my trips that are interesting aside from flying. One thing I notice is that when two or more pilots are together in a bar, they always talk about flying. Nothing but flying. I try to avoid that. Sure, I'll talk about flying, but I try to steer the conversation in other directions too.
I was on a trip to Florida recently. We flew the boss down to Daytona Beach, and my copilot Rachel and I checked into a hotel by the shore. These trips are fun because we get to spend some time away from the ravages of winter in St Louis, down in the warmth of the sunshine state. The hotel is actually part of a marina, so the bar is outside in a park-like setting with expensive yachts parked in their docks nearby. We both love boats, so this is a perfect location for an after dinner drink. After a couple of Bourbon & Ginger Ale's (my personal favorite), I excused myself and head to the rest room. Afterward I came back and here was some guy sitting next to Rachel at the bar, obviously hitting on her. Now Rachel is happily married and has absolutely no interest in this guy, but she’s too polite to tell him to get lost.
I sit down next to her and she says “Oh, this is my friend, David. Dave, this is Mike. He was just telling me about his experiences in the Gulf War.”
Hmm. Trying to impress her with his lame war stories. What a jerk. Normally I’d just say “Yea, great. Good bye Mike,” but I played along. I just nodded and smiled.
Rachel asks “Dave, you were in the Gulf War , weren’t you?” 
“Yes, yes I was.”
Mike says, “Oh yea? What branch?”
“Navy,” I replied. So far I’m half right. Yes, I was in the Navy. Yes, I was in the Gulf once. Just not during the Gulf War. But hey, as long as we’re telling stories.
“Navy!” Mike snorts. “I was in the Army. We were in battle, not sleeping on a cruise ship in the water.”
Oh, he’s so asking for it.
Rachel looks at me. I look at her, then back at him and say “Well, I did see some action once.”
Rachel says “Really? Tell us about it.”
“It was the night before Stormin' Norman crossed the Iraqi border. I was on an amphibious ship, an LSD, the USS Portland. We were always tasked with carrying the SEAL team, along with some Marines. Our job tonight was to put the SEAL team ashore so they could raise a ruckus and make the Iraqis think we were actually invading from the sea.” This was true. I had been on the USS Portland, LSD-37. We did carry the SEAL team. And the SEAL team did go ashore the night before we invaded to make a ruckus.
“So that night, just after sunset, we put the SEAL team in a Mike boat (a type of landing craft), and headed for shore. Two Bos’n mates ran the boat, Bill and Stanley. James the Gunners Mate manned the .50 caliber machine gun, and I manned the radio. We motor up to this deserted beach and drop the ramp. Just then all hell broke loose. A tremendous amount of automatic weapons fire started coming at us from the tree line up by the road. Yikes! We must have stumbled upon an entire Iraqi battalion or something! The SEAL team ran off the boat and spread out in the sand, returning fire. The .50 caliber starts blasting away not two feet from me. BAM!BAM!BAM!BAM!BAM!
Then the Bos’n mate who was running the boat, Bill, he falls into the water, having been nicked by a bullet. I thought “oh crap! We need him to get back to the ship!” So I jumped into the waist-deep water and started helping the guy climb back aboard. I'm pushing and shoving and hit my side on something on the boat and thought “Ow! Damn it! Oh, that’s gonna hurt!” I clamber back aboard myself and notice the 50 caliber is no longer firing. I look around and there’s the Gunners Mate James helping Stanley raise the ramp back up.
Bullets are still pinging off the steel all around us. I jumped up and grabbed the machine gun, even though I’d never actually fired one before. I grabbed the handles with both hands, point it towards the trees and squeezed the trigger.”
Both Rachel and Mike are hanging on my every word. “The gun starts firing. Every round is a tracer round, and each round fired makes your whole body jerk from the recoil and it's firing nonstop. Let me tell you, that thing is hard to control! Tracer rounds are flying everywhere, and I’m trying to point them towards the trees, but it’s jumping around so much the tracers are arching all over the place. I'm hanging on to the gun handles for dear life, so the trigger is staying firmly depressed. Bill throws the boat into reverse and we back quickly off the beach, turn and start motoring back to the ship, me shooting back at the trees as best I can, trying to help the SEALs get to cover.
A minute later James runs back to me and the gun. “Jesus Christ! What the hell happened to you?” he yells, looking down at my shirt.
I looked down and here is my shirt, soaked in blood! It’s all over my pants, too. Turns out, I didn’t hit something on the side of the boat climbing in, I’d actually been shot with an AK47 round. We called the ship on the radio, saying we'd been hit and they were saying back, "Put pressure on it! Put pressure on it!" Back on board they threw a bandage on us, then flew Bill and I to the carrier where he got a band aid and I got surgery. Luckily it didn’t hit anything important and the next day I was flying home, after my one night in the War.”
Now recently I’d had an operation and it had left a scar on my side that looked just like a bullet wound. I hiked up my shirt and pointed to the scar. “Wow!” Rachel said. “Jeesh,” Mike replied.
Well, Mike couldn’t beat that story so he said he had to get going or something and left. We watched him walking away and Rachel turned to me and asked “So, did that really happen?”
“Nah,” I laughed. “I made the whole thing up. Not bad, huh?”
She laughed. “Well, you sure shut him up! Great story!" Cheers!