Monday, June 21, 2010

Beer Rafting

We took a trip with the squadron to Munich for the annual Beer Rafting event. It was our first time being a part of this one-of-a-kind event and we had a blast.

Starting our night out in Munich in the traditional German lederhosen and dirndl.

The Hofbrauhaus, Munich

Our chariot for the 6-hour float. Note the pre-placed beer steins. What you don't see is the 4 kegs and a German band on board!  The raft is made of logs and is assembled in the morning.  After our float down the river, the raft was disassembled and the logs were loaded on a truck and taken back to the starting point.

Cold and rainy Germany

Cyber, Rocket, Splinter, Mule, Champs, and Brick

The longest of several slides. Pretty exciting in a raft that weighs more than an F-16.

Holding true to a longstanding tradition, none of the dudes leave the river until they've gone for a swim. The water was ice cold.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Israel Flying

Our squadron took a 3-week trip to Israel for a flying exercise.  We got to do a lot of things we can't do in Italy, like drop live bombs, shoot the gun, and train on a large scale with another nation.  Every day we flew an exercise with around 30 jets.

Living quarters built by the U.S.

It was just two of us in this room.  Other rooms were slightly larger and slept four.

The weapons dudes building up a GBU-24 for us to drop.  The humongo section they're assembling is the guidance control unit, which detects and guides the bomb to where the laser energy (provided by our jet or by someone on the ground) is pointed.

The huge guidance fins are folded in.  When the bomb separates from the jet, the fins snap out and guide the bomb to the target.  

In front of my $55,000 bomb.  I dropped two on this flight.  Thanks for paying your taxes.
After leaving the range, we flew a low level over the Dead Sea.  Cruising at 500+ mph at only 500 ft above the water was pretty awesome.  Plus, my altimeter read -720 ft (yes, MINUS 720)...we were way below sea level and still 500 ft above the ground!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Masada, Israel

We took a side trip to Masada National Park, which is the site of the last stand of the Jews in the Jewish-Roman War.  On the way, we learned about Israeli Bedouins, who are traditionally nomadic people, but many have settled in semi-permananent "towns" in the desert.

Bedouin kids look after the sheep.

This was one of my first photos in Israel.  I was going for the flags and got so much more...a few dudes from our group are inside checking out Israeli beer and a bunch are in the reflection. 

Pretty sure these guys are locals.

I like what they've done with the place.

This is the ramp built by the Romans in the year 72 that allowed them to finally overrun Masada and defeat the Jews.

Dead Sea

We took a day trip to the Dead Sea, which is over 33% salt and is the lowest land on the planet (somewhere around 1200 ft below sea level).  "Swimming" in the Dead Sea requires no effort whatsoever because of the increased buoyancy.  In fact, it's nearly impossible to swim under the water.  Even standing straight up and down in deep water, I couldn't get my head below the surface...I just kept bobbing back back up.

The crew floats and drinks

Treading water


Drinking beer in the Dead Sea makes people do crazy things.

Harsh conditions above the Dead Sea

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv.  We only spent one day here, but I got such a cool vibe from this huge city.  I want to go back.

The nicest crowded beach I've ever been on.  Perfect sand, warm water, no kelp...amazing.


Our tour of Jerusalem took us to several vista points where we could see how close Palestinian territories are to Israeli-controlled land.  We also toured the main holy sites, which were crowded with people on the Sabbath.

Looking into Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem.  Note the white wall that divides the Palestinian land from Israeli land.

Church of Gethsamane, where Jesus was arrested.

Inside the Church of Gethsamane

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was crucified.  The Stone of Anointing is where tradition says his body was prepared for burial.

The now germ-infested Stone of Anointing receives thousands of kisses a day.

I was lucky to capture this ceremony on the Sabbath.