Taking the Stratotanker to Kyrgyzstan
As I’ve told you in previous Veterans Day editor’s notes both my daughters have served in the U.S. Air Force. And my son-in-law was recently promoted to master sergeant in the Air Force. My husband and I got the opportunity to attend his induction ceremony at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo.
I don’t remember if I told you about my trip with the Air Force from the Grand Forks Air Base in North Dakota to the air base in Kyrgyzstan. The base was located on the Manas airport near Bishkek.
A photographer and I traveled via KC 135 Stratotanker, which is a military aerial refueling aircraft.
I had seen the aircraft before when I was on the base for a tour, but never dreamed I would actually fly in one to a foreign country.
At the time the military was sending many airman from the Grand Forks Airbase to Kyrgyzstan on a regular basis.
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It was my job as a reporter to tell the people back home what those airmen were doing there and what their living conditions were like.
We even made a stop at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in England where my daughter was stationed. So I got to visit her.
But before I could see her I had to have haz-mat suit training and fly over the ocean in a freezing cold airplane. After trying on the gas mask I told our handler that I would prefer not to do that again.
The airman on the plane knew it was going to be cold and they came prepared with sleeping bags. Luckily being from North Dakota, I was dressed for relatively cold weather, but not enough to keep warm on that flight. One of the airman did give me an extra coat which helped a lot.
We thought we would be staying at a hotel in Bishkek but we ended up staying on the base in part of a tent. We were warned not to leave food out in the tent because the rats were as big as dogs. Made for some sleepless nights. But most nights we were busy trying to send stories and photos back to the newspaper. Our computers and the military computers were not compatible and it sometimes would take us 5 or 6 hours to send our stuff out.
I slept for two days straight when I got home.
But I did learn a lot of about the Air Force and how they functioned overseas and was very impressed.
I will take this opportunity to thank veterans everywhere and I hope you will do the same. ❖
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