Well guys, I finally made it! I’m sitting on the balcony of my room overlooking the beautiful Caribbean ocean and the night lights of St George, Grenada and the view is amazing. What a long, but satisfying day it’s been. Just 22 hours ago, I was boarding our California Air National Guard C-130J along with 52 passengers and a lot of cargo at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida. Waking up at 3am was not my idea of a good time, but the end result was worth it.
With 52 passengers, 7 aircrew and only 59 seats, it was going to be a full flight. With every seat taken and a pre-dawn take off scheduled, finding a way to get some shut eye was going to take some creativity. We loaded in single file and snaked into the 4 rows of seats. I got the one closest to the cockpit. Not a bad seat, but with only 2 hours of sleep, I was looking to get some serious shut eye during the 5 hour flight to our first stop, Saint Lucia.
Luckily from my experience yesterday, I was all set to go. As soon as the gear was retracted, belts were unclicking, and the Pararescuemen were scrambling like little kids climbing a tree to get on top of the cargo pallets and boxes. I grabbed my jacket, sleeping bag and pillow and went straight to the back ramp. There were already two hammocks setup, but I saw a spot on the ramp in the corner underneath them. With my bag laid out on the uneven steel floor, I managed to contort myself into a reasonable sleeping position. But man was it cold. My North Face sleeping bag and medium weight jacket was just enough to keep me from freezing in the uninsulated aircraft. And 5 hours later, I awoke to the signal to prepare for landing. 15 minutes later, PRTNR09 was touching down on it’s first of 3 stops for the day; Santa Lucia.
As soon as we landed, the loadmasters began unloading the cargo for the Pararescuemen who were getting off at this stop.
But there was no rest for the pilots who were getting ready to launch once again for their next leg: Santa Lucia to Grenada.
Grenada is where I deplaned. A lunch with the Prime Minister awaited myself and the Aircrew for Operation Southern Partner.
Our executive chef for the event was Mr. Adil Sherwani, who had prepared an incredible meal to welcome us to the island.
And once our meal was done, it was time to check out the property that I’m staying at. Ahhhhhhh….so beautiful! Warm waters, white beaches, and lush green trees. It’s going to be a great few days.
My evening ended with a trip to downtown to watch the US Air Force Academy Band “Blue Steel” rock the waterfront during a sunset concert for the locals.
As the two hour set when on, more and more people started to show up. With nearly a hundred people jamming this park along the water, it was really fun to see everyone excited to hear them play.
While the band played some great tunes, including one of my favorites, “Brown Eyed Girl,” the highlight for me was watching some of the locals joining in to jam with the band. People were just jumping in and showing off their stuff, and the crowds were cheering them all along. I’m sure jamming with “Blue Steel” was quite memorable of an experience for those lucky few.
People were dancing in front of the stage, little kids jumping around, and at one point, nearly 20 people were showing off their electric slide moves. I knew at that point this is what the Operation Southern Partner was all about. A way for the locals to connect with the Air Force. People were smiling, music was pumping, the backdrop was amazing, and what more could you ask for?