Today I will write about an unforgettable event in my life.
It had already been an exausting day. We had been up since O Dark Thirty as we say in the Army and the sun had set again. My team was preparing to fly into Albania with the first wave of US Soldiers in preparation for what we thought would be the impending invasion of Kosovo. The year was 1999 and it was April I think.
Preparations had been going on for weeks. Everything from packing our personal gear, uniforms, boots, personal hygiene products. To getting our equipment ready. Packing the truck, checking the radios. Training was being conducted to bring our wartime skills up to the highest level. We were at the firing range. We reviewed procedures and contingency plans. My team and I carved out a plan for potential landing sites all the way to Belgrade.
The day had finally come. The “purple ramp” at Ramstein Airbase was bustling with nervous faces and constant activity. Our number was somewhere around 90, meaning we were on the 90th flight out. Suddenly we got word that we had been bumped up to 20. It seems they needed the Tactical Army Air Traffic Controllers on the ground sooner. With a jolt my boss shook me awake, s a soldier you sleep, eat and shit whenever you can, to move out and get things ready to leave.
Our team was ready. “This is it” I thought. Half running we exited the bright holding area into the dark. Looking back at my guys and girls I made a final headcount to make sure everyone was accounted for. My head hand’t fully swiveled back to front when I was stopped by an aggressive hand and a loud voice tell me to “watch out”. I always have a quick mouth and was about to snap back with a snide comment. Something to the tune of “Make a hole and make it wide”, when i was confronted by a large soldier with a large machine gun. My eyes hadn’t fully adjusted to the darkness but i couldn’t miss the 4 Stars on the hat of the man standing behind the bodyguard. It was General West. Commander of US Army Europe and the highest ranking officer in theater.
He could clearly see we were hustling to get where we were going. All of us stopped and I saluted and apologized for not being more careful. Gen West reached out his hand a told me It was his fault and not to worry about it. He said “you have a job to do and I should be more careful.” After a brief exchange about where I was from in the US and where we were headed in such a hurry, he patted me on the back and said “Carry on Soldier! And Good Luck”
He turned to watch us leave and we were on our way.
As we arrived at our vehicles to drive them on the waiting C17 Globemaster, we were told we had been moved back to number 40. We had about 2 more hours until they would call us again. That is the Army for you. Hurry up and Wait…
Hope you enjoyed this little story about how I almost ran over a General. See you tomorrow…