©2013 - Patrick L. Groleau

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It made little sense to us, but, per Kipling's dictum, we perfected various skills such as: packing our AWOL bags with little notice; catching a few hours sleep on the floors of various aircraft, none of which was either soundproofed or properly heated; eating box lunches, seemingly surplus from previous wars; checking into all sorts of odd billeting locations, most of which never seemed to have a clue that we were arriving; and, of course, most important of all, playing all-night low-oxygen 100+ decibel poker at 30,000 feet! So much for common sense, that's the tail-door of the C-130 the load crew is perched upon. Me, I never got used to the idea that that big piece of tin could flop open during flight!

Often, we would were transported on our missions by KC-135 in-flight refueling tankers. Politely put, there was no place on board to do a #2, and, of course, there was always the absolute absurdity that the plane in which we were flying would at 500 miles per hour "hook up" and pump thousands of pounds of fuel into another airplane, but the view from the refueling pod was most spectacular! I took this photograph early during our flight, while this particular mission was still relatively "routine." Later, in a giant thunderstorm over upstate New York, the plane was so damaged by wind sheer that we had to make an emergency landing and, after a not-so-restful night in temporary quarters, the next morning continue on our journey with a replacement aircraft.


Exciting, that thirty-seven years after I propped my little camera up against a frame in the KC-135’s boomer’s station and snapped my own picture, my nephew, TSgt. Jonathan Groleau, did exactly the same thing!  Ironic would be the fact that there is a reasonable possibility that he does his job as an In-Flight Refueling Specialist in the exact same aircraft in which I flew so very long ago!


Addendum 2012:  Even more astonishing, almost forty years after I first flew in a KC-135 my daughter, Adrien, tried out her cousin’s work space.  As you can see, she isn’t exactly a fan of places that inspire claustrophobia, and was much more comfortable sitting in the front end of the aircraft!