By CRAIG RICHOLDS, special to The Daily Damn
The following is the second of a two-part story. The events described actually happened.
I don’t lead men into battle, I feed numbers into equations. Risk for me is navigating rush hour traffic.
Lucky for me I’m the junior person in the room. I’ve got a lead engineer, but his eyes are locked on the speaker phone connecting us to the airbase in crisis. His mind is on an endless loop; locked down for who knows how long. There is also a safety officer, but he is busy flipping through rules and regulation books looking for an answer we all know isn’t there. Finally there are a half dozen enlisted men in the room, all experienced aircraft maintainers. But they, like the unit on the phone are conditioned to respond to leadership and not deviate from procedure; they’re looking at us for the answer.
Gripping the chair to keep my hand from shaking and I open my mouth again, this time doing my best to sound confident.
“Sarge, you got a 3T and a cable sling?”
I’m referring to a large forklift and a thick braided steel cable. They should have both on hand and I’m praying they do.
“Yes sir, and a flatbed truck!”
This reply came a few seconds later.
“The plane should have dragged you a clear path through the minefield. I want you to take the cable, hook up to the jet, and drag it out. Once you’re clear get the pilot and get the hell out of there. We can make the paperwork right later.”
“Yes, Sir, we can do that! We’ll get back to you!”
With that the lines clicks off and suddenly we’re alone a room here in the states, not half way across the world at an airbase soon to be under fire.
“We don’t have any procedures for that!” the safety officer has finally come up from his book.
“Can we even authorize that?”
My lead engineer is slowly blinking his eyes, his brain finally sputtering to life.
There’s no word from the aircraft maintainers. They’re just smiling and glad that someone took charge of the situation and gave the word to act.
I have no words for my superiors and begin to pack up my things for the evening. I have traffic to navigate and my mind is on a squad of airmen who are running through a minefield to rescue a pilot because I told them it was ok.
And that’s my giving a damn.
Happily married with a newborn daughter, Craig has two degrees in aerospace engineering, done research with national space administrations across the globe, designed lunar orbiters and landers, worked with NASA on the space shuttle, and now supports the American war fighter by maintaining Air Force fighter jets.