A Tribute to Horsham’s Air National Guard

When we were young my father occasionally drove the family over to the Naval Air Station (NAS) Willow Grove observation lot to watch takeoffs and landings near the southern end of the air station’s runway. It was treat for us, especially my brother and I, when we were visiting family in the area (Warminster, Lansdale) or out for a summer drive.

Long after I started a family of my own, we moved to Horsham and a house coincidentally less than a mile from that now closed airbase and the observation parking lot we loved to frequent. Personally, as a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy involved in the logistical support of everything the Navy flew (and eventually floated), I enjoyed the sight of military aircraft flying lazy circles over the area and loved the all too infrequent airshow demonstrations.

By far my favorite aircraft to watch – and hear – was the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolts II flown by the Pennsylvania Air National Guard 111th Fighter Wing. The unique sounds of an A-10 flying close by – and at times in multi-aircraft flights right over the house – were always a thrill. (Affectionately known as the “Warthog”, I will use this favored nickname from here on out!)

But as with all things, change occurred with the Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) recommendations from the U.S. Congress in 2005. And since then the 111th lost its Warthogs to a collection of other ANG units around the country, and became a non-flying unit assigned the MQ–9 Reaper Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV).

So as an homage to local Air National Guard, the A-10 Thunderbolt “Warthog”, and Horsham’s NAS-JRB Willow Grove history, I decided to dedicate my most recent aircraft model project to this stalwart, fear-inducing close air support warrior. I found the aircraft model featured prominently at Hobby Lobby with a 40% sales reduction!

Took poetic aircraft license with the weapons load, as we never saw armed WARTHOGS plying local skies.

History of the 111th Fighter Wing

Created as the 103rd Fighter Squadron in 1924, the squadron was assigned to the Pennsylvania ANG in 1946, stationed at Philadelphia International Airport; and federalized in 1950 during the Korean War.

As the 103rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (Medium) the unit lost 2 RB-29 reconnaissance aircraft and their crews in June 1952 when MiG-15s shot them down over Vladisvostok, Russia. The loses were originally attributed to “weather reconnaissance” over Japan in the heat of the Cold War, and it wasn’t until 1993 that the true nature of the mission was revealed to the families of the lost.

In 1963 the 111th Tactical Air Support Group was moved from PHL to brand new facilities at Willow Grove Naval Air Station, tasked as a C-97 transportation unit. In 1988 the group received the OA-10A observation version and assigned Forward Air Control (FAC) and observation duties. They received their first universal version A-10A aircraft in 1996 with an appropriate re-tasking to Close Air Support (CAS) and Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) duties.

The color scheme, as suggested by the assembly kit, does not jive with my memories of the local aircraft,
but I like it. The topside gray is much darker than I recall.

Redesignated as the 111th Fighter Group (1992), then the 111th Fighter Wing (1995) the unit took advantage of its new mission and aircraft during deployments to Kuwait for Operation Desert Storm (1992) and Operation Southern Watch (1995). After the 9/11 attacks the group volunteered for additional deployments including Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. In 2003 the 111th took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing close air support for U.S. Army, Special Forces, and joint coalition operations.

Special thanks to Warrington F-14A modeling enthusiast, Dan Teker, who provided 111th Fighter Wing decals, which included “Philadelphia” markings at the top of the vertical stabilizers.

Bye, Bye to “Warthogs” in our skies

The end came quickly for the fighter pilot mission of the 111th when the Department of Defense (DoD) recommended deactivation of the 111th Fighter Wing for the 2005 Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) legislation (the same legislative measure that resulted in the closure of Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove).

The last A-10A Warthog flew out of NAS-JRB Willow Grove in 2010. In 2011 NAS-JRB Willow Grove ceased all flight operations. The respected, always welcomed A-10A Warthog flyovers of Horsham and neighboring communities are no more. The 111th’s “Warthogs” divvied up among several remaining Air National Guard units.

A portion of the NAS-JRB Willow Grove property was designated the Horsham Air Guard Station in 2011. In 2013 the 111th Fighter Wing was assigned General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The military drone is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high altitude observation. The UAVs are flown remotely out of the Horsham Air Guard Station, but no drones actively fly out of the now-closed U.S. Navy property.

M-M-M-My Corona … Year 1: A year of modeling navally

We used to track our “two-week” COVID-19 lockdown by the day. Now it looks like we will be tracking them not by days, weeks or even months …

Here’s what I have been doing with my wealth of free time during the lockdowns. It’s an old hobby I resurrected with the unwitting assistance of the snarkier people in my Family. Little did they know …

The first creation was intended as a joke by a misguided family member, based on my World of Tanks Blitz semi-obsession.

What this harmless family joke turned into was the re-lighting of a hobby interest decades-long in the dormant portion of my brain right next to fantasy sports leagues, bowling, and dressing-to-impress. It was the perfect time-absorber for someone searching for sanity preservation during COVID CrazyTime!

Model assembly – at any age – can be fun and challenging. And if you are a bit OCD, having endless hours trapped in your home let’s you be crazy obsessive!

There are thousands of models in all shapes and sizes (scales), whether you are into planes, ships, tanks, cars … whatever. When it comes to aircraft models, there’s a huge difference in the thoroughness, clarity, and complexity of the kits and the instructions that accompany them.

I have found that Tamika makes the best model kits. (See the F-14D above.) They are complex, but thoroughly illustrated and assembly clues (slots, spots, part trees) are logical and easy to follow. Italieri makes very good model kits (See the V-22 above.), but some of the detailed assembly is intuitive.

Regardless of the overall quality of the kits, I found it frequently helpful to refer to on-line photos of real in-use aircraft to replicate details, including paint schemes, equipment placement, decals, etc. There is even a site – Draw Decal – that can provide high-quality markings for any military aircraft and the squadrons that fly them. (See MV-22 as an example.)

On the other hand, my last model foray was somewhat disappointing. Years ago, when I worked in support of the Navy’s SH-60 Seahawk program, I had built an SH-60 model. It was damaged beyond repair during an office move; and I wanted to replicate it.

Bought a 1/72 scale HH-60H Seahawk – the USN Search-And-Rescue (SAR) version – from Italieri, and it was a major disappointment. Pushed through and completed the model despite directions lacking detail, poor fittings, and impossibly small detail parts (one reason why I prefer the larger 1/48 scale models).

The lesson to learn is “You get what you pay for.” There’s a huge difference between picking up a “bargain” model, such as a $19.99 Italieri HH-60H disaster, and spending a hefty $100. for a well-developed Tamika F-14D. Live and learn.

My next project looks a bit more promising for kicking off COVID Year 2 … although I did get a great 40% off deal at Hobby Lobby ($29.99 retail), a great place for model supplies and paints).

Not sure what I’ll do once I have run my course through military models, but thinking maybe crocheting.

Musings on A Milestone Birthday

Birthdays – for me these days – serve no benefit other than reminding one how fast those Lifetime Milestones are flying by. This one had the added attraction of officially designating Yours Truly as soon to be in need of advanced medical treatments.

65 … The Medicare Year … YEA! Could it get any worse? Of course it could …

I spent the morning at the DMV (PENNDOT Division)!

UnHappy Birthday

Hello Blogging, my old friend …

Every year at this time I have to consider the prospect of letting go of Cranky Man’s Lawn. Been a long time, and my attention span for fascination and obsession usually runs 10 years max.

We started our journey here in 2011. (That weirds me out.) And lately, every February I have to convince myself that hanging around would be good. For me at least … With a micro-blog you are – more often than not – talking to yourself.

This year I really thought this was it. CML had run its course. What more could come of this? Let’s just end it.

And then last week – true story – I get two comments from a woman, whose father used to own a bar/restaurant in our old neighborhood (Frankie Masters Tavern), about a blog post I had written that very first year. Without revealing details, she appreciated the chance to reminisce about her parents through a very brief memory I shared.

Then her brother chimed in. It meant a lot to them and to me. How can you throw that away?

What stands now at 9401 Ashton Road

Having My Cake and Eating It

Weight-conscious, healthy people and cake haters are no fun with which to celebrate birthdays. No one wants to eat my chocolate-frosted cake Carol so meticulous prepared.

Not even Carol …

Fine … I’ll eat the whole thing myself!

A snowy day in sports hell

God … I’m so so very tired of Winter. More snow today … but only about five inches. Fine. Dealt with it. But I am tempted to leave my car running overnight in an attempt to speed Global Warming.

Thoughts of Spring creep into my brain. The Philadelphia Phillies open Spring Training today! Good to see a franchise do what it takes to re-sign Didi Gregorios and J.T. Realmuto!

J.T. Realmuto

Halfway through snow cleanup … Realmuto breaks his thumb.

The Eagles trade Carson Wentz for two more opportunities to draft a Danny Watkins or a J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Danny Watkins (Eagles fans will get it.)

I cannot believe how quickly the flower of Spring can be trampled by the sport gods! What else could possibly go wrong?!?

Nothing’s worse than a snowy, cold Winter day and Philadelphia sports.

*sigh*

Schiff: Intel Committee to probe Hatboro bakers.

BREAKING NEWS: House Intel Committee Chair, Adam Schiff, announced an investigation into possible Russian agents, allegedly posing as confectioneers at Lechol’s Bakery in HATBORO, PA, for attempting to influence the American Election. The plot, uncovered by the American Bakers Association, allegedly involved the baking of 2020 Presidential Election cookies under the names BIDEN and TRUMP.

Schiff claimed that “anonymous baker people” told him that Eric Trump attempted to meet secretly with the Russian bakers this week. When Trump’s visit to Lechol’s Bakery was uncovered, witnesses allege Eric Trump acted as though he had simply stumbled upon the bakery and then threw rock-hard cookies at passers-by to distract attention.

Four people were injured in Eric Trump’s attack. Three had their feelings hurt, and one was struck in the eye by a ricocheting jimmie. Others on the scene accused Trump of abusing the working class by providing incredibly delicious cookies without a proper milky beverage.

First responders claimed it was the worst bakery attack they ever saw.

Schiff also claimed to have called Lechol’s Bakery during the baking process and heard Al Stewart’s “Road to Moscow” playing in the background. AOC called cooking baking “a selfish act of privilege contributing to the death of the planet”.

Nancy Pelosi called for impeachment proceedings to be authorized.

The electoral cookie count was allegedly manipulated by adding beet juice, borscht, and pumpkin spice to the Biden cookie mix. An attempt by this reporter to confront the Russian co-conspirators was ended by a well-aimed vatrushka.

No explanation was provided as to why anyone would have wanted a Biden cookie in the first place.

Eric Trump seconds before his heinous cookie attack.

My Corona! Day 27

img_2447As this unprecedented health event hopefully approaches “curve flattening” – if not it’s true apex – continued uncertainty, a myriad of stressors, and a drastic curtailing of normal life, I am trying to look at some of the positive aspects of Life’s disruption.  This is not always easy, particularly when you wake up each morning wondering if that cough, sneeze, or runny nose means anything.

Just allergies, I think/hope/pray.

The biggest positive is the timing of this COVID-19 crisis in the beginning of Spring.  Here in Southeast Pennsylvania the crocuses are blooming; tulips have already pushed up through the soil and are blooming; and the landscapes are a verdant green (assuming of course that you subscribe to Cranky Man’s Lawn’s Program for Lawn Love).  Bought a new lawnmower the weekend before the lockdown hit, and cutting the lawn has been more “fun” than usual!

I’m hopeful that warmer temperatures and how it entices people outdoors could be a positive effect.  It’s a welcome benefit to spend at least an hour or so each day outdoors when temps and weather permit.

Outdoor exercise is always a benefit when the weather is nice.  Carol and I have been taking semi-regular walks together just to get out and about.  It lifts the spirits a bit and invigorates … important when trying to avoid the potential for anxiety and depression, given the constant media obsession.

AdobeStock_195276899

Try a puppy instead of The Media

Here’s a solution for Constant Media Obsession: Turn off the TV. Get off the internet. I don’t even read the newspaper much anymore. Try NOT reading any corona-related stories and see just how quickly you can read a newspaper!

Let’s face it. Ten minutes of COVID-19 coverage and you know all you need to know. There is no (confirmed) cure, no significant flattening of The Curve (yet), no loosening of the isolation standards.

Back to the positives …

  • Although spending a lot of time with family offers opportunity. Spending quality time – even an inordinate amount – with your children can work with a little creativity and ingenuity. Examples abound on social media.
  • Take advantage of your backyard.

Spent early evenings the previous two days (rain today) on our backyard deck and saw more neighbors than you would normally see, even on the most glorious of Spring Saturdays!

  • Working from home?  I have avoided it up to now, actually enjoying my suburban commute to work and the socializing the office provides.  But there are a few extra benefits to working two flights from the bedroom.  And that’s even as I refuse to work in my PJs!
  • Cannot remember the last time I had to buy gas for the car.
  • With everyone under our roof being home all the time and no eat-in restaurants open, home-cooked meals almost every night. (Disadvantage Carol)
  • People are friendlier. Every time we take a walk or step outside, someone is around getting exercise and fresh air; walking the dog; trying to exhaust their pent-up children; doing outdoor chores, etc. And all seem ready with a smile or a wave.

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Sunset over Horsham (PA) this evening

They say hard times make tougher people, truer friends, closer families.

What I think is that these difficult times force us all onto a relatively common level of hardship, challenge, and vulnerability.  It strips down the barriers that tend to keep us apart and prevent  interaction.

Take advantage of that!  But only from a safe distance …

 

The Grand Canyon: Fingers of God

There are sights throughout the World one simply must see; and I have many, many more I have yet to experience. This past week we had the opportunity to view one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Arizona’s Grand Canyon!

Our trip, the offshoot from a cross-country family wedding, included stops along scenic Route 66, Tombstone and the OK Corral, and the wild street donkeys of Oatman. These kitschy, curious cultural attractions take a far back seat to the visual wonder of the canyon.

One could be led to believe they can appreciate the awe-inspiring vistas through the magic of modern photography or high-definition documentaries. But the true depth and breadth of beauty and wonder can only be truly appreciated by standing on … uh, near … the rim of the gorge.

Our stay did not allow a trip down into the canyon, which was regrettable as undoubtably an equally incredulous perspective that must be. And from what we learned, they likely wouldn’t have allowed me to overburden some unfortunate burro.

And by the way, it was unseasonably freezing cold for late October, with sunrise mornings reaching lows of 9-18 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course the following week, temps in the mid-60s were expected. Best check the temps and wind forecasts if flexibility allows.

As a first-time visitor, the most impressive aspect is the sheer depths of the canyon, followed closely by the beautiful colors of the canyon walls and the desire to understand how such a desolate, arid – alien planet-like – wonder was created. It makes one feel small, remote and easily overwhelmed.

From a spiritual point-of-view, I was led to wonder what purpose such magnificence might be intended to serve. And yes, I realize as one who is not particularly religious, some may find such thoughts as Purpose to a natural wonder might sound silly or pretentious. And yet, I wonder …

I sometimes hear the expression “the finger of God” often used to express the power and often the devastation of naturally occurring phenomena. To me, my experience on my first view of the Grand Canyon was that of the Fingers of God, creating and shaping a spectacle of nature intended to demonstrate His power and majesty. Reminding Man that he is temporary and peripheral. One who should be mindful of his place and respectful of what was placed here for his benefit and for the benefit of those who follow.

So I leave you with this thought.

No matter whether your higher entity is God in all His glory … or nature or earth or even if science alone defines “purpose” for you, it’s extremely difficult to witness such grandeur without the thought that it exists … was placed here … made available for humanity to witness for some exalted purpose.

Regardless of your views on any of that, the Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring experience for which we all must take the opportunity!

Golfin’ California: Trump National GC, Los Angeles

Trump National GC, Los Angeles #9

For two weeks this August we had the opportunity to enjoy another combined work/family excursion to sunny Southern California. And as I am won’t to do, I wander off with my more golf-talented brother to indulge our mutual hobby of choice.

So we found ourselves on a gorgeous Tuesday morning preparing to explore the oceanside beauty that is Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles! It’s a golf course we had lusted over even though brother Pat had played there once before.

As a warmup, we had played Steele Canyon Golf Club in Jamul, CA. A solid 27-hole track that cost $125, making a $195 investment for a circuit at a Trump golf property, overlooking the Pacific Ocean a no-brained!

For me, a consistently semi-talented golf hack, the Trump LA track was more than a little intimidating. We had the chance to view Trump LA a year or so previously while in SoCal for a family wedding event. The picturesque ocean-front scenery is dotted a bit too generously with deep, gaping, fluffily white sand traps. The greens billiard-smooth … if you like your billiards played on elephant graveyards where the pachyderms are buried just barely below the surface.

Yeah … only regular golfers will understand that last reference.

Yet the actual play was much less threatening than the visual would suggest. Like any golf course demands you must – as the pro shops resident Captain Obvious pointed out – “Hit the ball straight” as consistently as is possible. Certainly trouble lurks on almost every hole, but it’s easily avoided with a modicum of talent. True life golf hacks are in for a rude and rough ride!

Now permit me a bit of what my bro would call “golf heresy”.

On previous visits to California (Always good to strategically position a close relative on the Left Coast!), we have played Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, local muni tracks in the Long Beach area, and another whose name escapes me in the wine country of Temecula. And frankly, I more thoroughly enjoyed – from an entertainment, relaxation, and playability point-of-view – The Trump experience more so than Pebble!

Perhaps my opinion is jaded by a struggling round years ago at Pebble, or what I like to call the Disneyland of golf. Difficult holes with tough carries and greens so tough to read, you might rather take up bowling. Frankly, I even like Spyglass Hill much more than Pebble Beach!

My biggest problem playing Trump LA was keeping my mind on golf and off the incredible scenery. And yes, that’s impossible. The crystal blue waters … the homes on the cliffs overlooking the course and the Pacific … the natural flora and fauna … the beauty of the well-manicured grounds …

Yes, it was a struggle of monumental proportions, but what’s not to like? And let’s not forget, one also gets to play on a property bought, redesigned, and improved upon by one of the best American Presidents to grace The White House in decades!!

Yep … Worth every penny!

https://speakerdeck.com/obfusc8or/california-golfin-trump-national-gc-los-angeles

Bella Vista GC: Where “Relaxing Golf” is an Oxymoron

We have been playing golf for over 30 years, some even longer.  We enjoy and respect The Game.  We love the fresh air and exercise.  We love The Game.  We are considerate and observant of golf’s expectations for efficient play and the condition the the courses we play.

What course would not want us as patrons willing to play and pay?

We have had our bad experiences, usually at the hand of golfers who are not quite so mindful or considerate.  From those experiences, our appreciation for The Game and the correct way to play it has grown.  Ultimately though, our pleasure in playing Golf comes from the enjoyment of playing with good friends on quality golf courses on beautiful days!

However, if you can identify with the pleasures of the game described above, you may want to avoid Bella Vista Golf Club in Gilbertsville, PA!

For my foursome Bella Vista has become a golf course to avoid. The golf course’s current management has completely ruined a very good thing.  And for what?  A customer service approach that emphasizes speed of play over the Enjoyment of Golf!

Don’t rush Tony S. on a golf course!

The Big Aha:  What we did learn was a valuable lesson about the abuses of golf course GPS technology that would make Tony Soprano blanche.  The cart-mounted units allow Big Brother to micro-manage golfers like a incentives-crazed production line supervisor.

Our Experience:  Teeing off at 0824 on a beautiful June morning, we settled in to enjoy a relaxing day on the golf course.

After some early struggles, our round settled in to a nice rhythm. We were playing our round at a pace not unheard of for a Saturday morning in June.  At least in our opinion …

Being well-experienced golfers, we are always mindful of those playing behind us and the drag it can be when waiting around to hit your next shot.  But forcing players – to the point of confrontation – to maintain sight of the group ahead can be subjective and unfair, since several factors can magnify any gaps between foursomes.

On this Saturday, we can claim that at no time were the golfers playing immediately behind us ever standing around and waiting to play a shot.  In fact, when going over the incredible developments of that day, we could not even remember seeing the trailing foursome after the 2nd or 3rd hole.  Only on the 10th tee did we delay our play in the name of Bloody Marys and hotdogs!

Napoleon could marshall at Bella Vista GC

Somewhere around the 5th or 6th hole a wandering Course Ranger (Let’s call him Todd.) approached us and advised that we had a hole-and-a-half open in front of us.  Not a desirable pace, so we agreed to pick it up as best we could.  Again, no golfers waiting behind us. In fact, we could not even see the following foursome.

Fast forward to the 11th hole, when “Todd” approached us again and now DEMANDED that we pick up our pace, claiming that we were holding up the entire flight of golfers behind us.  When we pointed back to the 11th tee, where we had been just minutes before, no golfers were visible.  Yet “Todd” actually claimed that those golfers – invisible to us on the fairway – were “being polite” (whatever that meant) … apparently wearing camouflage and hiding among the bushes and trees!

Camouflage may be the new trend at Bella Vista GC

Apparently a new trend born at Bella Vista GC for “polite golfers” …

When we argued, “Todd” whipped out his iPad and proceeded to show – via a full-color graph – how our pace-of-play was “holding up everyone on the golf course”! So we once again pointed back to the empty 11th tee, and asked him where the hold-up was?

But at least the iPad revealed what the REAL problem was. A data-driven “golf quota”, no doubt fed from cart GPS units to a programmed spreadsheet that fed “Todd’s” tablet and drove him to become a golf course pest of unequaled persistence.

Tony Soprano was right all along! The Authorities could use the cart GPS to harass golfers!

Take out the GPS. I don’t want the FBI tracking us with it.” – Tony Soprano

That’s what I like about you, boss; you are always thinking of the big picture.” Paulie Walnuts Gualtieri.

Then the ridiculous turned unbelievable when “Todd” demanded that we SKIP the par-3 12th hole to bring our pace-of-play up to standard!  We pointedly demurred as we struggled to determine which episode of “The Twilight Zone” we had stumbled into.

Fast forward to the 13th tee after we ignored the “advice” to skip a hole.  And here comes the course superintendent to add in his $0.02, which was more like $4 as he proceeds to argue for 10 minutes.  In other words, interrupting our round to preach about pace-of-play while repeatedly stating that he “hated to be out there” harassing his customers.

By now we were disgusted; could not wait to get out of there; realizing we were playing our last round at Bella Vista GC. We have been spreading the word and this ridiculous story ever since!

But let’s review …

1. Yes, nothing screws up a golf round more than playing behind extremely slow golfers and having to wait continuously to play a shot.

2. Our foursome never saw anyone playing behind us, let alone waiting to hit their shots. Not ONCE anywhere during our round, including the roughly 20 minutes during which we were preoccupied by the lunacy of being accused of slowing down the entire golf course!

3. Pace-of-play is a noble concept. But it needs to be pressed judiciously, not a blind data-driven blip on a graph or spreadsheet!  Think Gabe Kapler pulling Aaron Nola in the 5th inning on Opening Day!

usa-ap-gabe-kapler-aaron-nola-braves

The dangers of obsessive data-driven management …

4. How do you blame golfers for delaying play when none of the foursomes playing behind are being directly held up by your “slow play”!  If they were, for any length of time, many golfers will either confront you directly or will take the passive-aggressive approach of “hitting up on you”.  Neither occurred this day …

And that’s where we will leave this episode of “The Twilight Show”, Tony Soprano-golfer style.

What we will never do again is play Bella Vista GC. A review of on-line ratings suggest this is not the first time course personnel have made dubious pace-of-play claims that have ruined the good mood, experiences, and monetary investments of area golfers!

Do the smart thing, if you enjoy a relaxing round of golf, and avoid playing at Bella Vista GC in Gilbertsville, PA!

Campaign 2020 Prep

In a moment of rare disappointment, I just tossed a work of fiction in the trash as I found myself rolling my eyes at the hero’s exploits way too often. And no, the book is not worth sharing …

Instead, I will take this time to begin prepping for the upcoming 2020 Democrat Primary campaign season with a historical look into the ancestry of one Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator …

Next in line:

Kamala Harris

… followed by Cory Booker