Thursday, January 11, 2018

AH-1G Cobra Rebuild: The End

I'm not sure what was more fun. Taking it apart or putting it back together.

I do know one thing, the more challenging phase of this was, indeed, putting it back together.

Since Sergeant Solomon gave me two days off, I put the second in over at B Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery.

Seemed like everything over there spoke to me as being home.

It felt like the place had a mission to do and a keen sense of purpose. Where pure testosterone was standard operating procedure. Where a ball busting mix Warrant and Artillery Officers pushed their Cobras to the limits and back.  And where the maintenance hanger was a buzz with all kinds of maintenance personnel putting back together what they broke.

There was a tall lanky Lieutenant in maintenance operations whom which I saluted and asked who would I have to talk to so I could transfer over to this unit.

He pointed to a Captain and said that would be Caption Kramp. I went up to him, saluted him and told him I wanted to transfer over to his unit. He looked at me with one of his usual are you crazy looks and said, "So who sent you over here?"

I told him Master Sergeant Solomon over at A Company, 5th Transportation. "He told me to tell you to call him if you have any questions."

"He did, did he?"

"Yes sir."

"What's your MOS?"

"67Y20, Sir"

Have you ever had one of those moments when you said something and everyone around you got deathly quiet? This was one of those moments.

"Your not the one rebuilding that Cobra all alone, are you?"

"I have had help, Sir. But yes."

"Welcome to the El Toros." I saluted, turned and walked away. I felt like a hundred eyes were watching me. What the hell was going on?

The next morning, I cornered Sergeant Solomon.

"You need to see this, please," I said with a sense of urgency. "Do you see anything wrong with these blades?"

He studied them for a moment. "No."

"If I were to take a string and go from blade tip to blade tip, you would probably see it. They aren't in line. In fact, using an eye ball estimate, there's somewhere between 4 and 6 degrees forward. And this is what most like cause the accident."

"You can see this?"

"I took 5 years worth of mechanical drawing in High School, I'm a stickler for accuracy."

"Okay, take it down to prop and rotter and let them balance it. We have to put it back on anyway. Let them tell us just how far out of alignment it was."

Came back as being 4.5 degrees off alignment. One of those more shiny moments.

A week later, I was told my move was approved and a week after that, I was packing my duffle bag with my belongings. The same day the Huey team took to the task of checking all of what I did on the Cobra now standing proud and complete.

"PFC Edwards, Sergeant Solomon wants to see you before you go."

"I'm on my way."

I put my duffle bag down and walked across the street to the hanger where Sergeant Solomon was waiting for me.

"I want you to take a look. A real hard, long look."

There was a Huey mechanic about to put the flag up so the rotor blades would hit the mooring tips against the duct tape with red and blue markings. That's how we balanced rotor blades.

"The normal estimated time to go from where that Cobra entered our hanger to this moment in time is 320 man hours."

"So, I was right on time?"

"For 6 men doing the main frame work."


"Edwards, I don't want you going anywhere."

"You are serious, aren't you?"

"As a heart attack. You know when you first arrived, I labeled you as a dud. I was seriously wrong. And I don't admit that often. I'll let you work on anything you want to work on."

"What about that congressional?

"We can work around it, please stay."

I thought about it for a moment. "Sergeant Solomon, you gave me a chance to prove myself and I appreciate that, but my heart if telling me a change with a fresh start is something I need to do."

"Well, if you ever change your mind, you know who to come to."

I smiled, shook his hand and said, "Thank you, Sergeant Solomon for everything."

That would be the last time I would ever see him again.

It was the longest, loneliest 15 minute walk of my life going to the Headquarters building of the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery.

But you know what the biggest complement was? I saw that AH-1G Cobra come in for refueling. I watched it fly smoothly over my head, transition and move with precision sideways and then just as clean, touch the ground smooth as glass.

It gave me goose bumps. And I almost dropped my bag in amazement.

It was then that I vowed, no matter what happens over the course of then next 6 months. No one could take away what i know I did and saw what I just saw.

It was time to write a new chapter.

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