The Red Motherfucking Scare (A bit long)Submitted by Cracked_out_cali at 2008-04-08 15:42:35 EDT
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Seeing as how I haven't posted much in the past year, I'm pretty sure nobody remembers who I am, or what it is that I do. I pilot the C-17 Globemaster for the Air Force. A few of my older posts are about it.
I love my job. That means a lot in life. In the short time that I have been doing it, I have had enough insane experiences to fill a book. The downside, however, is not always being able to discuss it with friends and family.
Just once I would like to call my dad and tell him "You'll never guess where I just delivered 3
nuclear weapons. Out in the middle of fuckin' *****!"
Prisoners of War.
A group of Special Force's position.
Where the President will be 3 weeks from now.
Just a few examples of interesting information that is a BITCH to keep secret. Fortunately, this is a story I can share...hopefully.
Thursday night, I get a call at home from Operations telling me to be at the Base Ops building and ready to take off in 2 hours. The only additional info I'm given is not to wear or pack a uniform. I already had an idea where I was heading. I arrive for my briefing and get the remaining information.
"We have a grounded plane in Sochi, Russia. We need you to fly along with another crew and bring it back. Also, we don't have the time to get a maintenance team ready, so you're going to have to replace the part yourselves."
"Do you have our Visas ready?"
"Yeah, that's the other thing. We didn't have time to get those ready for you, but we're working on it. Hopefully they will be ready for you when you get there."
"And what if they AREN'T ready by the time we get there?"
"Well, worst case scenario, you two will get arrested. But I'm sure it won't get to that point."
An hour later, we head on out. Nothing out of the ordinary. Stop in Bulgaria to pick up some Secret Service agents, a few support vehicles, and a sweet-ass Winnebago. Then to Zadar, Croatia where we crew rested for the night. Actually, there was more partying than resting.
By the way Zadar is fucking beautiful, and so are the people.
The next day, I call Operations and inquire about our visas.
"Still working on it, but doesn't look good. Luckily, you're going to have a liaison meet you by the name of Colonel Derek. He has been in Russia for 5 years, and is the point of contact for us over there. Also, we need you to take that replacement computer, and put it in your personal luggage. We don't want the Russians to handle it, or even see it."
And with that, we were off. This is where it (finally) gets interesting.
As we taxi to the parking spot, it was all business on the ground. Two hundred feet to our left was Air Force One. On our other side was Putin's jet. In front of us was about 10 blacked out SUVs surrounded by at least 50 people. As soon as we stop, the entry door swings open, and a short man in a suit and long black trench coat comes running up. He looks around, spots me, and walks over.
"Captain "Cali", Lieutenant "Cali's Bitch", welcome to Russia, I'm Colonel Derek. We are in the middle of getting your visa situation worked out. Just to give you a heads up, the local authorities have received your guys' pictures, and know to look out for you. So stay on this plane, or they WILL arrest you. I'll be back when I have more information."
"How the Hell did they get our pictures?"
He just looks at me for a second, and then leaves the plane.
Forty minutes later, he comes back and orders us off the plane. The Colonel directs us over to where 5 Suburbans are parked in a circle. We stand in the middle of them and start filling out paperwork.
"Okay, these are your temporary visas. I have to tell you, in all my years here, I have never seen, nor heard of Russia allowing on-the-spot visas. But I guess when the president is here, shit gets done."
We load our bags in one of the trucks, and continue to wait, and smoke...a lot. The whole situation was absolutely surreal. On the side of the aircraft closest to Air Force One were a group of Secret Service Agents with what appeared to be M-4s hidden under their coats. On the other side, where Putin's jet sat was a group of Spetsnaz with assault rifles, along with soldiers that look EXACTLY how they are portrayed in every Cold War movie ever made. It looked like a face off, and our plane was some kind of fucked up 38th Parallel. Above us, two helicopters hovered at about 100 feet.
I light up another cigarette, and make small talk with the Colonel about what Bush was up to over there. A few moments later, we hear shouting in Russian from the side that AF1 was sitting. Than more shouting from the Russians on the other side. Everybody stops what they are doing. Secret Service is talking to each other over their headsets, the Spetsnaz are running around and somewhat surrounding their side of the aircraft. Then the all too familiar sound of a weapon charging shuts everybody up. Then another, and a third. By now, everyone is freaking out. Secret Service have their weapons exposed, and the Colonel pushes us into one of the trucks.
Nobody is pointing their weapons, but everybody is poised for action. I'm watching it all from inside the truck, knowing it's bulletproof, but feeling no relief. Everyone calms down after only a few seconds, and the Colonel comes back to the truck. He jumps in the driver's seat,doesn't say a single word and takes us over to the broke jet. It was sitting out in the middle of nowhere, near the end of the runway. The only light at this point was from the moon, and it was very faint. As we approached the plane, we see 4 more Russians standing guard. We carry our baggage onto the plane, and the Colonel tells the Lieutenant and I - "Nobody get on or off of this plane until I get back in about 30 minutes."
"Sir, it will only take about 15 minutes, if you want to stick around"...*please*
"Thirty minutes." He shuts the door and drives off.
Just as I figured, it only took 5 minutes to swap out the computer. We start doing our operational checkouts when we heard the engines of the plane we came in on powering up, and rumbling down the runway. At this point, I was just hoping we fixed the jet so we can get out of here ASAP. Then came pounding on the crew entry door downstairs. I open the pilot window and look down to see a Russian soldier.
"What do you want?"
"Whatever dude... just go away." I shut the window back up.
The Colonel finally shows up a few minutes later. We lock up the plane, get loaded up in the truck, and head off to the hotel. We are doing about 60mph across the flightline, and then off into a field. After about two miles of off-roading, the Colonel gets on his cell phone and simply says "Open the gate."
Out in the middle of this field was a single gate, barely large enough for the truck, and manned with 4 more guards. We were finally out of the airport, and speeding down public streets. He flips on the flashing red and blue lights, and completely ignores stop signs and stop lights. He ran at least 2 cars off the road in the 5 minute drive to the hotel, which was located in the middle of a damned ghetto.
"Alright, here you are. Somebody will call you with tomorrow's take-off time and the names of the rest of your crew. Oh, and one more thing. If somebody from the FSB busts into your room and goes through your stuff, just let them, and give me a call."
"Thank you sir, I didn't feel like sleeping tonight anyways."
And that was it. Went to bed, woke up the next day, bought some vodka, stocked up on $5 cartons of Marlboro Lights, and flew back to Germany.
Like I said, I have had some insane experiences in the few years that I've been doing this. But the 3 hours I spent on the Sochi Airport flightline was crazier than any mortar attack, or having a rocket fired at us on approach, or anything else I can think of.
I thought we were friend with the Russians. Don't take this as an 'Official Statement of the Government'... but we trust the Russians now just as much as we did during the Cold War.