Interview with Richard J. Halt
Interviewed by Alexis L. Adsit
Veterans History Project
Interviewed on May 13th, 2003
at the home of Alexis Adsit
AA: Today is Tuesday, May 13th, 2003. And this is the beginning of an interview with Richard Halt, at my home 2415 N River Rd. Marion, IN. Richard is 23 years old, having being born on March 17th, 1980. My name is Alexis Adsit, and I will be the interviewer.
AA: Richard, could you please state for the record what war, and branch of service you served in.
RH: I served in the Air Force during operation Noble Anvil which was coast deliberation campaign, and operation Infinite Justice, which was Afghanistan and Taliban.
AA: What was your rank?
RH: E4, Senior Airman.
AA: When you entered the military, were you drafted or did you enlist ?
RH: I enlisted.
AA: Where were you living at the time?
RH: Marion, IN
AA: Could you give a few basic reasons why you joined and why you chose the branch you served in?
RH: I joined because I would have to pay for my schooling which, would have put me in a lot of debt and I wasn’t ready to go to college. Also, that’s where I felt like God wanted me to be at the time.
AA: Do you recall your first days in the service?
AA: What did those experiences feel like? RH: Pretty messed up, most of them. Comical.
AA: Did anything early on significantly impact your future military career?
RH: Yeah, I had a basic training instructor, who one of his favorite pastimes was to walk around the dorm when we were cleaning or straightening up or learning or reading or something, and he would walk around with this cap gun and he’d point it at somebody, and go “BANG”, shoot them and say “you’re dead, fall down”. And the kid would lay there for like, 30- 45 minutes, sometimes. And the instructor would come back by and he’d look down on him, and he’d go, ”What does it feel like?” And the kid wouldn’t really know what to say. He’d say, ”were you ready to die?” And of course the answer was always “no”. So he just wasted like half of an hour of time he could have been using to prep his wall locker or something. So he’d get back up and went about his business but it made you think about stuff. There were a lot of instructors that didn’t do that.
AA: Tell me about your boot camp training experiences.
RH: I got probably the easiest job in the entire dorm. My job was bed lining which only had to be done once a day, when you woke up. Because when you went to bed you were going to mess them up anyway. So I’d line all the beds in the morning, which left me free to just wander around and crack jokes most of the time. So one of the guys that I came with from Indiana, he was from Fort Wayne, he got to be latrine queen, which means he was in charge of the latrine and keeping it clean. So I went in and helped him and we probably cracked jokes for maybe 6 hours a day. And we’d just be in there cleaning. Like once we got the buffer out and we put a bunch of Tide down on the floor and we buffed the floor so we could get the grout really white. Of course neither of us knew how to use a buffer and turned it on and the first thing that happened was I lost my grip because it spun around real quick and it slammed into the tiling down by the floor and it shattered one of these tiles. And were both pretty upset because T is gonna see that and we’re both gonna be in a lot of trouble and the next thing you know we’ll get washed back or something. And we’d have to redo weeks and no one wants to do that. But he never saw it. I guess he just wasn’t ever looking. I think we took pictures of it before we left though.
AA: Do you remember your Instructors?
RH: Yes, Senior Emmen Girley. That’s his name.
AA: Anything about him that you’d like to explain?
RH: He was not a typical instructor. You could look at him next to other instructors and know that he liked doing it so much that it was kinda hard for him to be yelling at you and you know that it was personal.
AA: Did you have a problem getting through it? RH: No, I adjusted to it pretty well to it.
AA: Which war did you serve in?
RH: I served in Yugoslavia, the Kosovo liberation, and then I served also in the Infinite Justice, which I think the president changed the name to because the Moslems didn’t like it. That was Afghanistan.
AA: You mentioned many places large and small in your biographical information, so where exactly did you go? Halt: (laughs) It be easier to ask me where I didn’t go. I was in Africa, Asia, all over Asia and Europe. North America, we did a lot of training exercises there also. The only place I didn’t get to was Australia and South America. Which, we really don’t do much in South America, but Australia would have been nice.
AA: Do you remember what it was like when you first arrived at those places?
AA: How did you feel?
RH: England was cold and wet, and there was snow on the ground. I had been told for maybe 2 or 3 months before I left from basic training, I was talking to like, people at my next base. They were like, “ oh, no it never snows in England its wet and its cold, but it never snows.” So I fly in and I step off the plane and there’s snow all over the ground and I’m going, “this is messed up!” And I kinda knew that was going to be not exactly your usual stationing in country like that.
AA: Were there any particular stories you would like to share regarding the different locations that you had a chance to experience while you were in the service?
RH: There’s always one guy at my shop I will just latch onto, we’ll bond. And in England, it was Tom. And me and this guy would just chum around watch support at the time, so we would do survival training and stuff, And in England, Lakenheath is like one big rabbit warren, they’re all over the place. But you can’t do anything to them because all the animals on bases are protected. So you can’t chase them down, you can’t shoot at them, you can’t capture them. So me and Tom, we’d go out in the back and we’d make snares, because we’d learned how to do that with our survival pamphlets. So we’d open up these pamphlets and look at them and we’d put them into practice. And we’d snare these warrens and I think we set like 20 or 30 of them and we’d watch them for like 3 or 4 months and we never a single rabbit, never. And they were like all over the place I mean you could walk up to them and pick them up and carry them away, they’re that friendly. Never caught one.
AA: What was your job assignment? RH: I was aircrew life support. Which is like a squire for pilots. I take care of flight gear, we do a lot of training courses, water survival, combat survival, land survival, a lot of survival courses. Also, about half the job was chemical nuclear biological decontamination so we trained a lot for that too.
AA: Were there any specific tasks related to your duties that you could describe?
RH: We maintained night vision goggles, which was always fun, it was a lot of time you had to put a lot of time into these things. Because you’d calibrate them. Every 2 months these things were getting calibrated and every night you were post flighting them, which are almost a complete calibration. And it was just time consuming, but there were payoffs. We’d go like camping and we’d like sign out night vision goggles from the shop and we’d term it as a training exercise and we’d take them out in the woods with us and we’d just be walking around with them at night, so there were perks to it.
AA: Did you see or experience combat?
Halt: Yes, I saw and experienced it.
AA: Were there many if any casualties in your unit?
RH: In my first squadron we lost 2 planes, 2 pilots. They flew them selves into a mountain. And then in my 2nd squadron we were a heavier unit,we3 were flying 130 which has like 5 or 6 people on the air crew. And they flew up a mountain, they weren’t really touching it but they kinda hit it and bounced off and then landed it was weird I wish I could have had a video of it. Because they hit the mountain, bounced off, pulled back down, landed and they were stuck up there and one guy was really hurt, hit a Benson tank which is like a internal fuel reserve so its like 5000 gallons or something of fuel broke loose and slide back and crushed him in between the wall and the tank. And so he had cranial hemorrhaging and broken ribs and they didn’t think he was going to walk again, but he recovered. We were pretty fortunate. Most of the squadrons I was with were pretty fortunate.
AA: Could you tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences?
RH: I’m fond of Czech Republic we did an air show Czech Republic. And normal deployments are not much fun when your working because there is so much work involved. You’re there for training or you’re there for like actual flight operations. But in Czech we took 2 planes there for an air show, like a big, big, air show, they had like international air show in Czech and we’re sitting there with our 2 F 15's and one of them is a 2 seater because they took it specifically to fly their commander and vice commander of their air force, because Donald Douglas was trying to sell planes to him. So Lockheed was there and Boeing was there, and everyone is trying to sell them, their fighter. Because these people are up grading their air force so Boeing asked if we could go and we finagled our way in to it. That’s the way we did a lot of stuff. We’re flying this guy and I have to fit him up to equipment and this man has been flying for like 50 years and he’s telling his equipment’s fit wrong. And I’m going, “no, no, it’s not. Look I’ve been doing this for a while and this is my equipment and you fly in it but I maintain it”, and he’s like, ”no, no, it’s too tight” So I was like “ok”, so I loosened it up and then tightened it down again, and he was like, “no, no it’s too tight” and he was on time restrain. So finally my boss just said, “just leave it loose” this is like a colonel saying, “just leave it loose”. So I said “ok”. So he left And I tightened down without him wearing it and I tied it all off and I took it out to him. He had a good time. But the people there were just so friendly. A lot of places that you’d go they don’t like Americans because we’re arrogant we swagger and we’re prideful and we look down on them and just don’t like them.
AA: Were you awarded any medals or citations?
RH: Quite a few. The first 3 or 4 I was all happy for because you’re fresh out of basic training, when you’re wearing your Blues, you don’t have any medals, except for like basic training ribbon, or maybe like marksmanship or something. Then you start getting medals and now you’re happy because you’ve got a row or 2 rows and after you get about 2 rows I just stopped caring and keeping track if I ever had to get dressed up in blues for like a tattoo or some type of awards banquet or something I would go to my orderly room and ask for a decoration’s rip and every time I’d do that, I look at it and go, ”I have that one?” And I’d have to go to the store and buy a couple more. But I was pretty decorated. I guess the people I was working for, were happy with what I was doing. I finished with like 4 or 5 rows of ribbons. I still don’t think I have all of the ones I’m suppose to.
AA: What was life like in the service?
RH: Strict, not so much so that you can’t easily deal with it, but it was strict. Even when you’re walking around, off duty, there is a lot of things that you would do as a civilian, that you wouldn’t think twice about, just normal stuff which might be legal, it’s still permissible, but in the military they have like a higher standard or rules and regulations. And so you get into something and you say, “ wait a second would I get in trouble for this?”. And you look at it and you kinda try to gage your commander and a lot of times you have to admit, “yeah he would probably jump on me for this”. So, you wouldn’t be able to do it. Most civilians don’t understand that it’s not just you putting your life on the line in the combat zone, it’s not you volunteering to fight for them. It’s you volunteering to change your life style, and they live with maybe a 1/3 less freedoms and rights that American’s flaunt so much in doing what they’re doing, getting paid less than what American business men would be getting paid living with less of the freedoms .But for me it was good, I really enjoyed it.
AA: Were you ever at the front line or under fire and if so, what was that experience like?
RH: I was at the front lines a couple times, briefly. We were under fire a few times. That was just a fluke though. We fly into a base, cause we’d have to airlift supplies or something the last 2 years I spent in the special operations squadron. And so we’d air lift in supplies into these really messed up places like, Kandahar and Afghanistan. You’d fly in at night and everyone would be all MBG’d up, there might be like tracers coming in and going out. We’d flying in just to be in country, we’d create a reason like training or something, just to be in country, just to experience part of it. Once my commander looked at me and he said, “do we have supplies back in Uzbekistan?” And this is when we moved Uzbekistan to Pakistan I said, “no, I don’t think so, I think we brought them all with us”. So I got a message and I heard about a pallet of life support equipment up in Uzbekistan and no one seems to know who’s it is so get your stuff together and get on the plane and the plane was leaving in like 10 minutes get your stuff, get on the plane, fly up there, put hands on it, and see if we can’t take it. And he meant, even if it wasn’t ours get hands on it, load it on the plane and get it out of there. So I did and it was really cold up north. I looked around out in the dark for like 4 hours , I’m sniffling, I’m cold, I’m like looking through pallets, this big open field of supplies and stuff and I’m looking for anything that I can possibly load back on my plane and take back with me and I didn’t find anything. And we had people all over that base looking for this thing, and no one had a clue what anyone was talking about. On the way back though, we had to fly through Afghanistan to get there and then we had to fly through Afghanistan again to get back. The main reason for that flight was to drop a pallet of barb wire, sea wire, this big pallet of stacks of wire and that’s all we flew in there was this big pallet of wire and that was pretty hairy, we hit the ground, engines running and people running around and shouting and shooting and we’re like, dropping off this pallet and pushed it off the plane and they pull up this forklift and we were gone so aside from scattered incidences like that. I was sleeping one afternoon and in the background I heard like 4 or 5 big booms and everything’s shaking this is Pakistan supposed to be a relatively secure area, so I hop out of my tent and I’m walking around with my M16 and I got my boots on and my shorts, I’m like bare- chested, walking around with this M16 slung over my shoulder and like an extra magazine in my other hand and I’m just walking around going “hey what’s going on?” And more guys come in and here come more explosions, craters are forming. They’re like, ”get down, get down! People are shooting at us!” That didn’t last very long, though. Pakistanis are pretty strict when they want to be. So they managed to chase the people off but some guy who had been firing at us with a 107 mm rocket and that’s a big rocket it was making some pretty nice holes and I was just mad cause I couldn’t shoot back, cause no one had a clue where this guy was, it was coming from like over a hill, you couldn’t shoot back. Everyone was like “get down!” I was like “Ah, if I get shot I get shot” I was just mad they woke me up, really.
AA: How did you stay in touch with your family and how much time did you spend doing this?
RH: Email, letters and phone calls. Letters, I don’t like writing letters. If I can’t communicate any other way I will, but it’ll take like a month to get a letter home sometimes. And they get them home pretty quick, but getting stuff back and by the time finish both sides of the cycle, it’ll be like a month before you get it. So for like, the first month you’re not getting any mail and then when you get back from your deployment you’re getting mail from like a moth ago, after being routed half way across the world, find out you’re not there and the routed half way back. I’d rather just do Email and Phone calls. Emails kinda hard to monitor, and phone calls, you didn’t get many of those. You might get like, one a week or something. So between those, I probably spent 20-25 minutes a week communicating with my family.
AA: What was food like and did you have many chances to experience local cuisine of regions that you were stationed in?
RH: When we weren’t at war I had all kinds of chances to experience local cuisine. Like good food, like Italy, best eating I’ve ever done. Sitting in Italy, 4 star hotel, getting paid 70 dollars a day to look at beautiful women and eat food and that was fun. But when you’re at war, when your deployed, were eating out of MRE’s, meals ready to eat, meals rejected by Ethiopians. I mean, these things are nasty! And for the first week it’s a novelty to you and you’re eating like oh yeah I can do this no problem, so you’re eating like 2 a day. And then about after a month, you lose your appetite you’re all skinny, like everybody on deployment come back having lost like 30 pounds. they’re hefty people they weren’t like Ethiopians running around. Then you drop down to sometimes one a day, and sometimes you just wouldn’t eat at all. Because you just didn’t feel like eating and they’re high enough nutritional value that you can get by with one, less than one and still be ok, you just get tired of eating them. I mean you might as well mixed up this nutrient smoothie, like no flavor, just drink it and there you go, like little George Jetson pills or something.
AA: Did you have plenty of supplies?
RH: When the military’s not at war, there are no supplies. It’s like pulling teeth to get your hands on the stuff you need to do your job. When we’re at war, you buy absolutely everything you possibly can even if you don’t need it but you might need it in the future. And you buy and you buy and you buy and probably once a week we’d send home a plane of supplies we’d bought and procured in the Middle East back to the states to restock the base in the states. We’d stock pile supplies, and you’re not suppose to do that, but we’d stock pile supplies we’d get our hands on all kinds of stuff. We’d get like $20,000 to buy equipment. Money is set aside, we procured $20,000 to equipment so we’d get like a gator, which is a 6 wheel garden tractor thing that you drive around. I guess just to have one. We got like TV’s We got DVD Players We air lifted in refrigerators, pallets of coke, one a week we were eating steak and lobster, like barbequing steak and lobster in the middle east, in cultures that like pork is bad and beef is bad and we’re just sitting there like frying up chunks of red meat and have like pallets of beer. And then you’ve got your hands on all kinds of equipment,110 degrees and you were getting winter gear, simply because you can get your hands on it. And so you’d get like 3 or 4 outfits of winter clothes, coats and gortex and stuff and then you’d pack it up in a bag and send it home on the air plane cause they’d rotate air planes all the time and then you’d have stuff waiting for you back at base that you’d got your hands on, you sent it home. I’d walk into places we’d try to work out deals with people, there’s a lot of bartering going on. It’s like, ”hey you do this for me and we’ll do that”. So one guy in this supply, we took him out to our air craft, and we took pictures of him, he was in his flight suit and all gun hoe and “look mom I’m in the pilot seat and I’m flying a air craft” and we took pictures and it was a good time for him so when he got back he was like yeah, if you ever need anything, just let me know and he’s supply and they have everything so we just go over there going through their stuff at night. And we’d take home pallets and pallets of this stuff cause there was no accountability for it. Which id the way I think it should be, when you’re at war, give then as much money as possible to get the things that they need that they should have had before the war started to do their job. Things just work so much more smoothly at war.
AA: Did you feel a lot of pressure or stress?
RH: I didn’t feel it. I deal with pressure and stress pretty good. I woke up one morning and my back was so messed up that I couldn’t even straighten up it hurt that bad, I hadn’t done any lifting the day before I hadn’t really been doing anything strenuous as far as like hauling stuff around I could not figure out why my back was so hurt and I got talking to like medical people And they were like with your back your back is fine maybe you aught to try to get some rest may be you aught to try to take some time off and I’d been working like16hr days you work 16-20 a day and you sleep when you got the chance you take naps through out the day and that’s telling on you I’m surprised there weren’t many people getting sick, but stress had just wrenched up my back and for like 3 days I was pretty hurting and then it kinda cleared up I don’t know what I did to relieve it there are times since I’ve been In the military almost since day one I’ve started clenching my teeth when I sleep so I’m like grinding down my canines most of my teeth are kinda flat in the back it’s really high stress cause if you don’t do your job right if you mess up its not your boss coming to you reprimanding you, its not him not that’s wrong, we’re going to dock your pay. No, it’s him going “sign this paper, give me those stripes, we’re taking a way pay, and you’re spending time in jail” that’s messing up in the military. And that’s hard to live under.
AA: Is there anything that you did special for good luck?
RH: I did lots of praying, lots of praying. And it wasn’t so much good luck, as it was fun, but I had this 12 inch GI Joe, that people in my shop sent me the first time I went off to war and I just carried it with me since then. So when I got back the first time I started buying outfits guns and weaponry and stuff for him. So by the time I went the next time, he had like desert camouflage and body armor, helmets and all kinds of weaponry. And he became a permanent fixture in the shop and my air crew would walk in and they’d be getting their equipment and they’d be looking around for combat hulk, that’s what they called him. Little Combat Hulk. And he’d be doing any number of things from waving an American flag to there were some days he was just laying back and every time you came in he was in a deferent pose I ended up making a Osama Bin Laden doll. And Combat Hulk was like pile driving him a lot, throwing him around, like he was choking him and stuff. It was just a good time.
AA: Moving on from there, how did people entertain them selves?
RH: We entertained our selves in a lot of ways. We made an NCO Club, sitting in the middle of the Russian steeps in Uzbekistan. We made an NCO Club. Scrounged up plywood, tarpsgot our hands on coffee makers, all kinds of gourmet coffees, and candies. And this is like air force land, sitting in the middle of 10th mount division, which is like big army, so for this one hanger is air force land. And life is good. We have like an out door theater. They hated that, cause they’d be digging holes and we’d be watching Forest Gump and surround sound speakers. We’d steal
pans of sheet cake from mess and that would be our coffee cake. We started playing a
Air Force- Army Football, game on Saturday and Sunday. We played Air Force on Army and we beat them like 4 times in a row, we beat them so bad the last time that the army base commander banned football. We weren’t allowed to play any more, they were always losing.
AA: Were there entertainers?
RH: The military says they have entertainers running around. And Hollywood is all about going out and entertaining troops and then they pat themselves on the back and go home but they don’t entertain the troops anywhere that the troops need to be entertained. I think Britney Spears went to Turkey which is been an established base since desert storm and there’s no one shooting at them and security’s real tight and the foods great its like one of the best chow halls you’ve ever eaten in. And she’s there and she’s dancing around, throwing here bits and pieces around and doing her thing but all the guys there are like cheering while we’re sitting in the field living in mud and MRE’s reading about her entertaining the troops in turkey. Drew Carey came through where we were at in Pakistan and I got a lot of respect for that guy, cause that was messed up, I mean we were getting shot at and he just flew in with Bruce Springsteen, and they did a concert. That was a good time. Some of them, the really good entertainers will go there I know why people love Bob Hope, because he would go where the troops were at.
AA: What did you do when on leave?
RH: I did a lot of nothing when I was on leave. When I was on leave I wouldn’t commit my self to nothing. I wouldn’t fill up my schedule with appointments and stuff if I wanted to do something, I’d do it. If I didn’t want to do something I wouldn’t do it. If I wanted to sleep 14-16 hours a day, I’d sleep 14-16 hours a day. That’s the stuff that I did on leave. I’d go shopping for no other reason than I had money sitting there. I’d spend $1000 -1200 a day just buying stuff.
AA: What did you do with any free time you had during the day or in the evening?
RH: In England I spent lot of time on the Internet, and then we did a lot of traveling as well. At war you don’t have much free time, if any. In Florida, I’d watch a lot of movies, I’d get off base as much as possible. I’d be away from base, some nights I’d drive for 500 miles, Friday night, get that far away from base, be as far away from base as I can be, legally as far as like, base rules were allowed. And just get a hotel and just be away from that environment.
AA: Were there any particular places that you traveled to while you were there on vacation that you recall?
RH: I never had a desire to travel much. Because the military sent me so many places, by the time I could throw together a trip to France, I would have already been there. I probably traveled more in the US when I was stationed in the US then I did on my own time over seas.
AA: Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events?
RH: We’re sitting in Pakistan and generated a mission for ourselves so that we could get our plane over to a base in the Middle East because Pakistan is an alcohol free country. And we’d get a plane to the Middle East for something that we’ve created and there’s justification for it. So we would have flown this multi million dollar aircraft, spent thousands on fuel to get it over to the middle east just to buy a pallet of beer. We load it up on the plane and they fly it back. And then when the plane got back, usually they have steak and lobster and stuff and they have a big barbeque. And this is a dry base so all the big officers would pretend they didn’t see it. And here would be all of these men just getting sloshed and I didn’t drink and I still don’t drink. But I was sitting at work once and I was finishing up something that I was doing and I spent a lot of time there because they’d alert all the time one of my air crew came in, and he kinda tripped his way through he door. and I looked at him and I go you alright? and he just smiles this big goofy smile and he kinda stumbles his way over to me, and he almost fell but he reached over and grabbed my shoulder and he propped himself back up I go “You little drunk?” and he’s smiling as wide as I’ve ever seen anybody smile. This isn’t typical for him, he’s usually so laid back and just serene, just this big smile teeth and all and he goes “Exactly, exactly,” and I’m kinda ok, your out of it and I’m just going to sit her and wait for you to go away and he starts rubbing my shoulders and he’s digging in, this is like a painful back rub. I’m cringing kinda buckling underneath him and I go uh thanks man and he goes exactly, exactly and he turns around stumbles out the door and almost falls, stumbles around and falls all over and he walks off and that wasn’t really that uncommon for the stuff that would go on, cause we would work hard and we’d work like 20 hours a day and we’d get like 3or 4 hours a sleep a night and then we would play really hard and they would just barbeque, and party, and get drunk, and pass out for like20 hrs. When they would give us a down day everybody would drink for like 6 hrs and then pass out for like 18 or 20.
AA: What were some of the pranks that you or some of the others would pull?
RH: We got into prank wars a lot in our shop. And I’m pretty creative. And I was single which meant I had a lot of money that I wasn’t doing anything with. Got into a prank war one day, girl took my hat. And you can’t walk around, anywhere on base with out a hat, you get in trouble. You need to have a hat on your head. And if you don’t have a hat on your head, you get yelled at by every single officer you pass getting back to your dorm till you can get out of uniform. Well, this girl stole my hat and I didn’t have an extra hat. Because I had taken my vortex home, I usually had an extra hat in that but, So I got mad at her, I was like give me back my hat or I’m gonna mess you up and she wouldn’t give it back so, I stole her shirt when she wasn’t looking and I vacuum packed it, we had a big vacuum packer and I vacuum packed it inside this bag and there these clear plastic bags. And I took that and I stuffed in side another clear plastic bag. And I filled it with water and baby powder then I vacuum packed that over it. So it looked like I had vacuum packed her shirt inside of this nasty water baby powder stuff and she was mad she was like crying and stuff I said you should have given me back my hat. I wouldn’t have ruined her shirt I didn’t want to mess up her personal property so she goes out side and she’s like opening it up and she discovers that her shirt was ok and everyone was laughing at her but, because every one was laughing at her, she didn’t give me back my hat she left she went home and I’m stuck there at work, without a hat. I’m looking around all over the place and she had taken it with her. Luckily I had a change of civilian clothes with me I got so mad I drove to Wal-mart and I got all kinds of stuff I spent like an hour there just buying stuff and I rigged this battery with like 3 or 4 cans of silly string to the back of her locker. I left work at like 2 in the morning that’s how long I spent working on this. And I set it up on her locker. So that when she opened the locker, she’d get hosed down with silly string. yeah, we got carried away with pranks. They went on all over, it didn’t matter where you were at, they’d go on all over the place .I took a picture of some guy with a digital camera while we were at war and I got on the internet and I down loaded pictures of Britney Spears and I cut it all out and I spent like 3 days working on it and stuck him right next to Britney, with his arm around her, like nuzzling up to her neck. It looked pretty good. And I posted it up all over the place. One of my bosses once got a fighter pilot ride. And he took a bunch of pictures of himself and he was all proud of those. So I took that and gave him like, a massive fro, like his fro was like, 8 times the size of his head. And I posted those pictures all over the place. Just stuff like that; you substitute humor for a lot of the stuff you miss out on.
AA: What did you think of Officers and fellow soldiers?
RH: This is how officers go; 1st Lieutenant, 2nd Lieutenant, Captain. Great men, they’ll hang out with you, chum around, they’ll just be happy-go-lucky with you. Majors, Majors are just not very cool at all. I could say a lot of messed up stuff about Majors. Because they’re all Bucking for Colonel. They want their bird. And so a lot of Lieutenant Colonels they’d push a lot of stuff. And they’d get you working pretty hard because they’re all looking for their Colonel. And some Colonels, it’s about 50/50, some are really laid back and cool and some are pushing for their star. And it depends on what the Guy is like, where he wants to stop. Most Generals are really good people because they are more of a PR job. Their job is to make people look favorably on the Air Force. Because they don’t do anything when they’re not at war. Most of the organization, most of the running of the air force is done at the NCO level. Officers do very, very little functional stuff if we’re not at war.
AA: Did you keep a personal diary and if you did, how often did you reflect on it?
RH: I didn’t keep a personal diary. There were really only, I think back in WWII and Vietnam, there were a lot of guys that were keeping personal diaries. Maybe Korea but, most guys, I think I knew maybe 2 or 3 men out of like 300 or 400 that were keeping diaries. I took a lot of pictures. I like to remember this stuff on my own.
AA: Do you recall learning of the World Trade Center attack on September 11th?
RH: We were at work. I was stationed in Florida at that time. We always had CNN or Fox News on because; 1) it’s justifiable to have that running because its news and current events and, 2) you like to keep up to date on stuff that’s going on. The first plane slammed into the tower and then all the news stations started show this live feed of this burning building. And my boss is sitting there going “hey Halt, Some dumb honker just flew a plane into a building” And I go over there and I’m looking at it and it’s all smoking and stuff. And I’m thinking, “Man, what an idiot, it’s a clear day, how do you miss a skyscraper?” ya know, “Oh, man, it just jumped out at me” and the next thing you know you’re slammed into it. No, you see it. They’re there it’s a big structure. So we watched that for about 5 minutes and we see the live feed of the 2nd aircraft, slamming into the 2nd building, and it just knifes through. And we’re just silent, everybody there. There’s like 8 of us watching this. And everybody is just aw struck, And we got so little work done that day because we were watching this so much. And maybe an hour later, that other plane hit the pentagon. And there was like bomb threats in Washington, and people seeing car bombs. And the entire time all this is going on I’m thinking, “What on earth is going on here?” And my boss looks at me and he says “Start looking over the mobility kit, and when you get home tonight, start packing.” And we always kept stuff packed anyway; you keep like a basic bag packed. It was suppose to be with in an hour you could go home, grab your bag, finish up whatever financial stuff you have, and you could be gone in an hour. So 4 days after that we were gone. We were on our way over.
AA: How did it affect your daily duties? What did you do once you were deployed?
RH: There’s about 4 weeks prior to and shortly they’re after deployment in which everybody is doing 3 or 4 more times the work that they normally do. And you’re getting stuff together, and you’re putting these kits together, and your building things you might need. And all kinds of scenarios are popping into your head and you’re planning for them ahead of time. And then you get to war. And there’s about 2 weeks that you hit the ground. You’re building and setting stuff up. And the first day that you’re there, everything’s set up. As a squadron you can function, you can work you can do your job. And then you’re just building and then after about 2 weeks everything’s more or less comfortable for you. And then it all gets laid back again. You do what your tasking is, you fly. So you fly like 3 flights or something in a day, and your there, and you put the planes up, and you wait for them to come down. And maybe 8 hours later they’ll come back down, and then you do your post flight stuff and you make sure there aren’t any problems with your gear. And then you catch your self 4 to 6 hours of sleep.
AA: How were you personally affected by it?
RH: I’ve gotten a lot of self-confidence from the military and the experiences that I’ve had. It’s gotten to the point where I can get pulled over by a police officer for doing that I know was wrong, like speeding. Like I know I was grossly speeding and he’d come up and my hearts not beating fast and my adrenaline isn’t pumping and I’m just looking at him and usually my first response is “What’s up?” Not “Yes officer, what can I do sir?” “What happened sir?” “What’s going on sir?” It’s “What’s up?” Then he’ll tell you stuff and I’m just sitting there joking with him and talking with him and I’m just that confident with my self that I’m not easily intimidated by something like that. I think I’m probably a little more paranoid now than what I was. I sleep with a gun beside my bed. I don’t feel as safe around home as what I did when I was on base, or in the military, or even in a combat zone.
AA: From your stand point, who was the war you served in waged against?
RH: People picking on people, who couldn’t defend themselves. Both of them, I think that’s what it comes down to. It comes down to like, the big men picking on the small men, when there are big men standing right behind him, asking them what they’re doing. And there like, “well, I’m picking on this little guy.” “So you’re killing innocent people? So your out there raping women burning houses and making people afraid?” And that’s not right any way you look at it, that’s not right.
AA: Do your feelings considering the prospect of war, match up with the actions taken by the United States?
RH: Yeah, I’m always for war. When you have to go to war you go to war. And when you go to war, you fight, don’t tie my hands, don’t tell me what I can’t do. You’re telling me to go kill this man; I’m going to kill him. If I feel like I need to kill him by stabbing him 7 or 8 times and your saying that’s inhumane, no, no that doesn’t factor in. What factors in is you’re telling me to go kill another man, and that’s messed up. So you let me do my job, because I don’t want to do it, your telling me to do it. I feel like once congress says “go to war”, all the politicians should back up, step in line behind the military people, and keep their noses out of it.
AA: Do you feel like the enemy was defeated and that the country accomplished what it set out to do?
RH: I think that we dealt with the immediate problems. The U.S. is a relatively happy place. I don’t see how a person could live in the US and be un happy I just don’t understand it. There is a lit of countries out there that don’t have a lot of the stuff that we do, they don’t have the opportunities that we do. And that fosters a lot of resentment. So you deal with them as they come. And we dealt with what we could, what’s there to deal with right now, I’m sure that we’ll have to deal with more in the future.
AA: Do you recall the day that your service ended?
RH: Yes. I was just relieved really relieved. I signed up for 4 years and they kept me for about 4 years and about 4 months extra. And about 8 months of my last year in service was spent deployed to combat zones. So I was relieved. When I got home I didn’t really know what to do. I went from a life of regimen to a life where I wasn’t obligated to do anything. And that took a little while to get re-adapt to.
AA: Where were you when you found out that you were done?
RH: I was back in the states. They had us stop-lose for a while, which means, even if your enlistment was up you couldn’t get out. And even though I wasn’t sure if I could get out or not. I was out possessing I was taking care of the accounts that I had with other government agencies. Other organizations that were on base, getting my records, getting my medical appointments and dental and stuff. So that on the off chance that they would let me out, that I could leave. I happened to fall into like, a week and a half window where they lifted stop-lose and started letting people out again. And this was before I think president bush was making it known that he was going to be walking into Iraq if they didn’t straighten up and so they found out that there was prospect of them having to go back to war so they stopped Stop-lose about the 3rd or 4th day of that week and a half, I was out I finished my out processing. And I left. I was pretty fortunate. I wouldn’t have minded doing another couple months, another 6 months our so maybe another year, but anything after that, I think I would have been a little unhappy doing. Not because I didn’t want to do it not because I didn’t want to fight, but because I given them 4 and a half years and then I would have given them another year on top of that maybe 2 years on top of what my original commitment was. And I understand the necessity for me to be there and I was good at my job and they didn’t have to worry about me. But I wanted to get on with my own life.
AA: Did you work or go back to school?
RH: Yes, and yes. I work and I’ll be starting school in the fall.
AA: Will your education be supported by the GI Bill?
RH: Yes it will.
AA: Did you make any close friendships while you were in the service?
RH: I made a lot of close friendships. My phone bill is kinda steep. I keep in contact with people. I have a friend in California. I’ve got a couple of friends in Florida. I’ve got one that lives in like, Minnesota. They’re pretty far away. But I keep in contact with them.
AA: Do you plan on keeping in contact with them for a while?
AA: Did you join or have you considered joining a Veterans Organization?
RH: I have thought about it. When I got back, But I might have to wait until more young people get out and think about doing. I don’t have a problem with the older people but they’re like WWII, Korea, Vietnam Vets. And there’s a pretty big age gap there. I’m not sure that I’d feel comfortable being around that.
AA: What do you plan on doing for a career now that your military service has ended?
RH: I’m going to be a radiologist. And I hope to do that only so long as it takes me to get a book published and at that point I want to be a writer.
AA: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war, or about the military in general?
RH: No, I’ve always bee pro-military. There should be a separation between government and military, the military should be there to support the people, not the government. And so long as the government is backed by the people, the military should work in consort to that. I did begin to feel more strongly that once the government sent the military to war the government should mind its own business and take care of business in the states and supporting the war with money and fund raising. But the should not get involved with Foreign policy. When it s around that theater I just think they mess things up.
AA: How did your service and experiences affect your life?
RH: Positively. I’m definitely a better person for it.
AA: How long do you plan on remaining in the Reserves?
RH: Only as long as my obligation. I thought about being full time reserve, maybe being active or continuing on with Reservist. And I am there if they need me but, if they don’t need me I would like to do a little bit of living for a while.
AA: Should there be a large-scale war that the country enters would you consider rejoining the military?
RH: Yep, I don’t think I’d hesitate. If we got into a large scale war with like, China or Russia, or a confederation of countries than yeah, I would go back, I would drop my school and I’d fight.
AA: Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview?
AA: Thank you very much.