08 February 2009

Twelve Hour Shifts

To be clear, I'm no longer working straight nights.
My shift opposite got his real estate agent's license three years ago.
He's a hard-driver and started working toward getting his broker's license immediately. He had just passed that test when the broker in his office quit.
...Right place at the right time... He's now the new broker, though he knows nothing of the job. (Boy, does that sound like someone else right now!)
He needed some days free to do his job as broker.
So like ALL the other pilots in the company I now work one shift of days, the next nights. I hate getting up while it's still dark.
I hate working days.

January was tough.
We normally get airborne three times in 24 hours. And that normally works out to one day flight and two night flights, which, while I was working nights, was just fine with me.
But about half of January passed with the BK in the hangar.
Snow, sleet, ice, drizzle, freezing drizzle/rain, fog...
Our base ended the month with 40 flights. (That pays the bills, but we're unaccustomed to sitting that much.)

February has been about the same...
As I write this on the 8th, we have thirteen flights-
Eight hospital to hospital transfers,
Three Children's specialty team transfers,
and two scene flights.
I'm now in the third day of my six days in a row. Day one, the phone didn't ring. Day two, I was on standby for a motorcycle accident in the morning, then again for an ATV accident in the afternoon. Neither converted.
It's now just afternoon of day three, and I just checked the phone again to make sure it's working. (There is a dial tone.)

Since we are short a pilot at this time, I spend 1/3 of my life either at this base or carrying the helicopter around on my back. No one complains about the facility... we have a nice kitchen with all the bells and whistles, boys and girls bathrooms, community room with TV, VCR/DVD player, an individual recliner and a sofa with two reclining segments. Pilot, Nurse, and Paramedic all have individual bedrooms to retreat to if you want a nap or just want to be alone. There is one computer in the community room, and another in the pilot's room... both have fast internet connections, and we are allowed to surf all we want, within normal limits.

And that's what I've done for two days now... check here to see if anyone has commented, publish those that have, surf the 'net, check to see if anyone has commented...
Isn't that sad?

But yesterday I went to a site I hadn't checked in a while...
A site devoted to Army Flight School. I was mainly looking for long-lost friends. But I got caught up in reading some of the comments others left there...
Sons and daughters who lost their Dads and are looking to fill in some blanks.
Wives, doing the same.
Old men like me, trying to find old buddies.

Two comments struck me enough that I got out pen and paper and copied their email addresses-
One was from a Donut Dolly. You're probably familiar with their mission, but if not you can read about it here. During my tour in Viet Nam it always impressed me how many folks were willing to risk their lives there in non-combat roles... the Donut Dollies and USO shows are two that come to mind. No, they didn't normally get shot at, (but sometimes they did, as you can see from the link). And they certainly were subject to the same dangers we all were exposed to while at base camp... mortars and rockets. I had the greatest respect for them.

So I emailed "Susan", hoping her email address was still active, and thanked her for taking the extra risk, and for bringing a little joy to my life during a time when I was young, frightened, and homesick as Hell.
She must have been sitting at her computer because she responded right away. She said I "made her day", and went on about her respect for the helicopter crews. Turns out she was at Pleiku, Viet Nam just after I left there.
She's a life member of the Viet Nam Helicopter Pilot's association of Florida and attends many of the conventions. Maybe one day we'll meet in person!

The other note that touched me was from a guy that started flight school, and got about 50 hours in the Hughes TH-55, our primary trainer. He was prior service (Marines), and when they started the de-escalation of the war they simply told him they didn't need him anymore.
He cared enough... was excited enough to volunteer to become a "human target" in the helicopter, and halfway through his primary training they sent him home.
This guy would be welcomed with open arms at any of our conventions and I told him so. He's reluctant... I guess I would be too. But he lives in a major city, and if there is a convention held there anytime soon he'll be attending as my guest, I'll promise you that!

That was yesterday. I left my own message at the site with my current email address. Today I got a note from my crew chief at Pleiku. I responded and am now waiting for his return response.
So sitting here bein' a little bored has paid off in an odd way. I'm glad to have the time to explore the web while waiting for the phone to ring.
Remember, "EMS" can mean "Earn Money Surfing"!



Mr. Beard,
I have come across your posts over the years and found them interesting. Intrigued by the 12 hour shifts entry. I saw you mentioned and Army Flight school web site. I will google for more information, but if you could drop me the link I would appreciate it. Similar to you, I went through Wolters and Rucker, then a couple of trips to Vietnam. I have been flying EMS--currently SPIFR, NVG--for the last 25 years. I am out here on the left coast and politics match the geography.
Thanks and Welcome Home...
Steve Greene

Greybeard said...

You can call me Greybeard,
And you can call GB.
You can even call me Grey...
But ya don't has to call me Mr. Beard!
(And you have to be my age to know why that's humorous, so you probably won't have a clue.)
If you have an email you can leave here, I'll send you the link.

Thanks for the welcome, my friend.
Lookin' forward to gettin' to know you!

The Duke said...

Your days sound very similar to mine. Sit on standby due to weather, "check here, post comments, surf web.." etc. I suppose it's not really what I expected out of a combat deployment.


Sorry about the Mr. Beard reference. I shan't let it happen again. Steve@greenaire.com. Flying in the northern California mountains, ice, showers and lots of clouds mostly keeping me on the ground this evening...
Fly Safely,