One of the great joys of my life has been the opportunity to spend time in the desert watching the action of Red Flag. Shortly after arriving in Las Vegas 16 years ago, it started with just single day/evening sojourns and then some overnighters sleeping in my car. It wasn't until I was able to get a RV that things really opened up for me. It was like a whole new adventure. Now I was able to spend a week or two at each Red Flag. Since I like to take photographs, those opportunities increased exponentially.
For instance, I received a guided tour by the commander of a Patriot Missile Battalion a couple of years ago just by pure chance. Its location was a tip from a friend. Our Government is now coordinating our ground to air missiles systems with AWACS for safer and efficient cooperation of all our military, all for obvious reasons.
Another evening myself and my pickup were mistaken as a LZ for two Apache helicopters and a platoon of combat ready solders, an experience I'll never forget. Picture yourself in the middle of a wicked, blinding dust storm kicked up by the rotor blades of the two choppers whipping up the dry desert dirt. They then settle down only a couple of hundred feet away disembarking a platoon of armed soldiers, and they are heading straight for you. And you are all alone!
I have had strangers knock on the door of my RV asking directions, etc.. I'd swear they had security written across their forehead from some alphabet soup agency. Maybe I'm just paranoid at times.
And then there was the day of the fateful crash of the F-15 in Railroad Valley in July of 2008. That was one day I wish had never happened. I was a few miles away at Coyote Pass when it went down. A tragic and sad day indeed.
The trip reports of other Red Flag aficionados tell a lot of other interesting tales. Boring, they are not.
The one thing I have noticed the last few years is the change in the aerial activity. Planes are flying a lot higher and the intensity of low level air to air combat seems to be on the decrease at least when I am there. But still, the lure of the action in the sky never subsides.
When you have the time, please peruse some of my albums on Webshots depicting Red Flag through the eyes of an old timer maybe slow in body, but who is always young at heart. I have posted over 1100 photos (OMG) so far.
Notice that some of my photos seem to be redundant, and that is on purpose. Although I take mostly still photos, in my mind I see them in motion. If you have a good processor in your PC you can at times almost see the aircraft flying by as you fast forward the pics in a slide show.
Many photos are taken from next to my RV at the gravel bank just off the ET highway. The model of my Jayco 5th wheel is aptly named the EAGLE.
At times I have thought I was a target. I have watched aircraft deliberately go out of their way and circle me. hopefully in respect for the American flag I constantly fly both day and night. I never understood the act of taking the flag down in the evening unless it is illuminated. Our guys and gals don't stop fighting at night, so why should our flag stop flying. So, when I am there it flies 24/7, as it should IMHO.
Our national anthem sings that our flag was still flying by the dawns early light. That tells me it was flying all night as it should be. Well, at least I got that off my chest.
O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
There are a few photos that show a small white dot next to the ET highway. That white dot is my RV where I usually park. The gravel bank/pit where I usually boondock was quaintly named Alantown by a friend. I just add: population (1)
And of course, nothing compares to the friendships I have made doing what I love to do. That’s a treasure all by itself.