Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Outlaw's Last Flight
Good Friend Outlaw13 recently took his last flight in the US Army. Outlaw has been in the Army for 23 years, flying Hueys and Apaches. He has spent about 6 of those years deployed overseas. 4 deployments of a year or longer to combat zones (3 times in Iraq, one in an 'undeclared war') and a year spent in Korea on the front lines of the Cold War.
His last flight was at home, in the bright sun on a beautiful Central Texas afternoon. He and his gunner gave me my own private airshow on a small hilltop just south of the airfield complex at Ft. Hood. This was only the second time I had seen him fly - the first was watching him blow over a string of porta-potties while landing a Huey (completely accidental, I can almost assure you).
As I stood on the hilltop with one of his fellow pilots, I was awed by the aircraft and what he did with it. I have seen hundreds of Outlaw's pictures of Apaches in action, but until you see one up (very) close flying around pointing its gun at you, you just do not have an appreciation for what it brings to the table in conflict. Jim, the pilot who was on the groud with me, remarked that it was the first time he had seen the Apache from that perspective, he now saw why the good guys on the ground were so happy when the Apaches showed up to support them, and why the bad guys crapped themselves and ran away.
Upon landing, the base fire trucks gave him the traditional Crossed Sabers tribute with their water cannons as he taxied back in. They then hosed him down as he walked back to the hangar, where a group of his peers then doused him with warm champagne and a Corona. Traditional fanfare for the last flight of a long time aviator in military service.
I have been priviledged to know Outlaw since before he put on the green uniform. I am proud to call him friend. I am convinced that our country has been safer with him in the cockpit than it would have been without him. Likewise, I am convinced his fellow soldiers have been safer with him looking after them.