It's been an exciting couple of weeks. Our time on COB Speicher was a total success, and the Psych class finished with 39 students. They were so eager, and earnest, and leaving was pretty difficult.
As lovely as they were, the camp was starting to wear on me. It was a lot of work, with little down time, save for a few exceptions. The best one came in the form of my pilot friends, CJ and Raleigh, who I met in Tai Chi class. They came by at lunch time on a Friday, then asked what I had planned for the day. Of course the answer was "WORK," but they had other ideas and I went off with them for a tour of the air traffic control tower. It's an old Iraqi building with odd square architecture and very low ceilings. The military folks there explained to us how they track the planes and manage the airspace. Some of it was over my head, but it was still really interesting. And of course, the view from the top was amazing.
After that they took me to the hangar and showed me the planes they fly – C-12s. They are civilians and they fly around all day looking for IEDs. So far they've found lots and probably saved many lives. I got to sit in the pilot seat and push buttons, even though the plane was not turned on.
Fully tapping into the resource of our tai chi class, we went to see a guy who is a tai chi master, and also happens to run the helicopter simulator machines. He also has the word BEER tattooed huge on his right forearm. Our timing was right on, and he let us use the simulator to play around. It's basically an exact replica of the inside of an apache, surrounded by giant screens. The chair moves to simulate the feeling of flying, and the huge screens mimic a real windshield. There are two machines so that one person can be the pilot and the other is the copilot and gunner. It was great fun, but boy do I suck at flying helicopters. I actually made the thing do a backflip on accident and I crashed twice. I did get it going for a while, but they all agreed that I should keep my hands off the controls of all flying objects. I got to fly in there for an hour at least, and it felt like I was only in there for a few seconds. Definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done!