If you weren’t able to make the Second Annual Blue Blazer Charge, we’re officially saying that you didn’t miss anything special. We spent most of the time watching Hubbard’s home movies and filling out “TPS reports” in a plainly decorated conference room at a modest hotel.
For the rest of you, here’s a quick recap of our weekend in Vegas!
Those Blue Blazers who took the bus ride to Vegas met early at the Wigwam, and Bennett (aka “‘Mater” for his remarkable skill at driving the bus in reverse…and his occasional direction-related challenges) began the relatively quick drive to Vegas. Spirits on the bus soared as the credits to “The Great Santini” rolled and as odors from the coach’s restroom wafted.
But the best was yet to come. We met up with fellow Blue Blazers at the Walmart across from Nellis AFB, watched several fighters fly overhead, and restocked the coolers. Next stop – Red Flag!
We could not have had a better host than Col “Bart” Weed who rolled out the red carpet for the BBS. He provided an excellent briefing on the history of Red Flag, how the exercise is conducted, and the difference Red Flag has made for our airmen and international partners. He was joined by right-hand-man “Boomer” who would spend the balance of the day with us, as well.
After the initial briefing, he directed ‘Mater to drive our bus straight down the middle of the parallel runways at Nellis and park at the approximate point an F-15 and F-16 rotates and begins to climb. Ear plugs handed out by Col Weed barely muted the scream of jet after jet after jet taking off in full afterburner. I’m not sure our bus driver thought this is how his day was going to go or if his bus windows would survive the roar of jets in such close proximity. Ron Sites joked that he may end up tipping FCP for giving him the opportunity of a lifetime. Photographs and video of this event were strictly prohibited, but if you go to Nellis AFB’s Facebook page, you can get great video of the most recent Red Flag exercise.
We then went to watch the ongoing Red Flag exercise in real time in a briefing room with “War Games” style monitors tracking the 80 aircraft participating that afternoon. This offered great insights into the complex and dynamic air operations our men and women in the Air Force and other services engage in.
The experience at Nellis AFB so far had been amazing, but there was still much more. Col Weed then took us to Threat Training Facility (aka Russian Petting Zoo) where tanks, planes, helicopters, Scuds, anti-aircraft guns, and other equipment used by our enemies over the years were there for us to kick the treads, climb in,
flip switches, and in some cases ride like Major TJ “King” Kong. Both Bart and Boomer took smaller groups of Blue Blazers to different sections of the Petting Zoo and gave great history lessons.
The photos will tell a much better story than this post can. As we were loading the bus and getting ready to depart, the heavies from the Red Flag exercise which had just concluded began to come in for landing, so several folks took a quick break to take a few photos of AWACS, tankers, and a B-52 on final. The day was complete…except for the fact Col Weed had another treat for us.
Our next stop was the home of the USAF Thunderbirds! We had an excellent briefing from one of the senior enlisted airmen from the Thunderbirds’ public affairs section (who came in on a day the Thunderbirds team had off) about the entire history of the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron from its beginnings in 1953 at Luke AFB to the present. We then had the opportunity to look around the museum and walk in the hangar. Awesome!!
Our day at Nellis AFB concluded and we could not have had a richer experience – thanks to Col Weed and his team for their unparalleled hospitality.
After ‘Mater executed an amazing U-turn in the middle of a post-NASCAR traffic jam, we were off to the Westin Lake Las Vegas to check in and enjoy some amazing food at the appetizer hour we had outside looking over the lake (unfortunately, it was dark and we couldn’t see the scenery). The food and conversation was a great end to the day. David Haddad passed out cigars, people sat by fireplaces and many of us ended up turning in a little on the early side…it had been a full day!
Following a superb hot breakfast buffet, the Blue Blazers had a great morning spent recapping 2013 and planning for 2014 and beyond. BBS leadership could not have asked for better input. It should be noted how appreciative the Blue Blazers are of the incredible leadership of Bruce “Four More Years” Larson who has poured his heart and soul and contributed his blood, sweat and tears into this organization. We had lots of laughs, cheers (Kathy Knecht for her amazing description of the BBS in front of millions when she appeared on Wheel of Fortune), gasps (probably Hubbard), and constructive conversation.
After lunch, the Blue Blazers met on the beach (with a cooler full of some liquid made with water, grains, yeast and hops) for a great afternoon of activities (cornhole and paddleboat races) and the chance to get to know one another better. Congrats to Team Penetrator for their decisive victory (Ames, Bruflat, DeSomma, Iacuelli, Klonoski, Liuzzo, and McCracken)!
That evening we had an amazing dinner with Col Weed, “Boomer” plus “Gadget” from Nellis AFB and their spouses. The crowd looked great in the BBS jackets and the food was amazing. Thanks, again, to those who sponsored the dinner (Brady, Bruflat, DeSomma, Foreman, Gable, Ginis, Hornback, and Orsborn) and helped make it a fantastic night.
We did have a few laughs at dinner during a brief awards ceremony. In addition to officially recognizing the prowess of Team Penetrator, the following awards were given:
Best Penetrator (three perfect cornhole throws in a row): Mo Iacuelli
Captain Titanic Awards: Eric Orsborn and Darrell Wilson
Most Kid Friendly Team Cheer on the Beach: Laura Liuzzo on behalf of Team Penetrator for “Let’s knock some bitches down!”
Later that evening, some stayed behind to hang out with Col Weed at the resort and a few brave souls went to the Green Valley Casino and enjoyed a little gambling. In all, it was a great day!
Following a late breakfast, the BBS met to discuss the upcoming FCP Golf Tournament and have a robust conversation about the potential for a significant fundraising event later this year. Again, thanks to all those who participated and provided great input.
By about noon, we were all checked out and loaded up. It was a quieter bus ride home (except for the sounds of Inglorious Bastards and Ladykillers movies playing on the bus’ AV system).
Thank you to all who made this Charge one to remember – especially Ron Sites and Susan Lovelace…we couldn’t have done any of this without you. Please thank all those who sponsored, led discussions, made presentations, and organized activities next time you see them. Make to visit the FCP Flickr to view all the photos!
Until next year…
Jason Isaak, BBS Vice Commander