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Ramblings of an Old Veteran

Today’s military is a wonder of dedicated professionals and modern technology.

Since 1975 I have served on active duty, National Guard and Reserve.  I’m still in the inactive reserve but retiring with a two-year inactive commitment. At age 50 I served at Balad AB/Camp Anaconda in Iraq, an old man in a young man’s fight.  There was one other person my age at Balad, the senior chaplain.  (You know you’re the ole man when every young person with a problem back home, usually a relationship issue, comes to talk to you for advice.)  At 52 I served at Kandahar Afghanistan.  I’m now 55 working for the Department of Defense.  I’ve seen a lot during these years of service.

I’ve stood in the Command Post (CP) and watched the camera of an unarmed predator drone as a lone man fired a rocket at us and then started for home.  We decided to watch him to find out where he lived, where his munitions are stashed and who his buddies are.  Late one night soon we’ll knock on all of their doors.   Next in camera came seven Iraqi farmers armed with nothing but shovels and hoes, chasing an armed militant.  They have him on the run and we’re yelling in the CP at the farmers “NO, NO!  Leave him alone!” Now we’re routing for the militant yelling “Go! Run you fool!”  We know they can’t hear us through the big screen monitor but that doesn’t stop us from trying.  We watched them catch him and beat him with their hand tools, then proudly march to our base gate and turn him over to us.  God Bless them for protecting their country!

I have also witnessed via the predator drone, three of the enemy row across the Tigress River and beach their boat at night.  Our technology is so good you could clearly see the three men get out and then throw the tarp back.  We watched them begin to set up six mortar tubes.  The CP operator called the location to a fighter on patrol in our area who’s three minutes from target.  But he has target lock and asks if he’s cleared to fire.  The Iraqis drop one round each of the six mortar tubes. Sirens go off:  “Incoming!”  We are in the sector where the radar says the rounds will land based on the trajectory of the incoming rounds.  We have 20 to 30 seconds before impact to get to cover.   The rest of the base goes about its usual business.  The sirens and warnings do not sound in the zones outside the impact area.  The Iraqis grab the mortar tubes and throw them into their boat and cover them quickly. Then they wade into tall reeds to hide.  They have no idea we are watching their every move live on a big screen while drinking coffee.  “Pilot, you are cleared hot!”  A second later, with skilled precision, the water splashes white as the 20MM rounds hit the water. One second passes.  The water returns to its former stillness expect for the three bodies floating and the glow of hot mortar tubes hidden, but completely visible to us.

Wow.  Technology is a beautiful thing when it works.

But nothing is as good as eyes at ground level boots on the ground.

America should be proud of these kids.  Young men and women- –  usually eighteen to twenty-six years old — serving their country as volunteers, ready to give their lives for each other on the battlefield if necessary.

Imagine gathering together a group of college kids at 03:30 hours.  That’s oh dark thirty for civilians; and for my Marine friends :  that’s when Mickey’s hands… just kidding!

Okay.   Let’s tell these collegians that we’re going to venture out into the desert to build a water filtration plant so a village of complete strangers can have fresh water.  Oh…and it’s going be dirty, hot, dusty, and dangerous. You’ll have to keep your shirt on, sleeves down.  You’re going to wear forty pounds of armor and sixty pounds of food, first aid and bullets.  Then, kids, you’re going to fix your own meals, work in 130 degree heat and probably won’t get any sleep but a wink or two now and then during the four days you’ll be there.  People may try to kill you when you are trying to get that wink or two.  Can you imagine the complaining?  When this same information is given in briefing, our soldiers stand up,  check their watches, gather up their gear, take a drink of water, and load up.  To them it’s just another day at the office.

I’m going to close now since my screen is getting blurry from my tears.  Tears of pride I feel when remembering the selfless sacrifices these honorable men and women make every day without a second thought.   I was blessed to call them my brothers and sisters.

Mr. Timothy P. Cahill Sr. entered the Air Force in 1975.  He served eighteen and one-half years on active duty as Fire Protection Specialist and Craftsman and achieved Master Instructor status as the Airport Firefighter Block Supervisor and Fire Ground Command and Control Instructor.  Mr. Cahill volunteered for and served as the Ground Safety Manager at Balad AB, Iraq and Kandahar AB, Afghanistan.   He is the recipient of the Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters; Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal; Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign Medals; Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal; Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border; Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device’; and, the NATO Service Medal.  Mr. Cahill is currently assigned to the Career Broadening/Safety Ground Operations (SEGO), HQ Air Force Safety Center (AFSC) at Kirtland AFB New Mexico.   Mr. Cahill and his wife, Theresa, are also members of the Patriot Guard Riders Organization. 

To contact Mr. Cahill, send an email to stjohnjournalguest@gmail.com with “Tim Cahill” in the subject line.