Wednesday, May 23, 2007


What an incredible day! I can’t find enough adjectives to describe the awesome display we saw today. Today was our visit to the Adirondack air to ground range which is run by the New York Air National Guard (ANG). You might ask, what is an air to ground range. Simply put, it’s thousands of acres of land used by the ANG to provide training for fighter planes to blow things up. Is that simple enough? The land (called a range) has various targets on it –moving targets that would simulate a convoy, tanks, missile launchers, etc.

Unbeknownst to us, the show started before we even arrived. As we were riding down the road to the range, a pair of F16s roared over us just over the tree line. We'll find out later that the flyover was ordered just for us by the control tower.

Most of us have heard the roar of F16s, but not many see them dive in to shoot a target. And here’s the best part – we were watching all this from the control tower.

What’s so cool about that you ask? How about seeing F16s and A10s dive down, head straight for you and pass within what seems to be only a few hundred feet. And they do this at what is almost the same altitude that we are at! We’re going eye-to-eye with these guys – are you getting the picture. Good, because they were traveling by us so fast, I couldn’t move the camera fast enough to get a good shot. The earlier photo you saw is an approach shot and doesn’t do it justice. But wait, it gets better. As an A10 approaches us, it unloads its rounds on the targets down range. So close that we feel the air blast of the rounds. Unbelievable!! If you look close, you'll see the puffs of smoke of some of the targets being hit down range.

Then for some extra fun, they shot up some surface to air missiles because let’s face it; the pilots need practice in real life combat situations.

It’s one thing to see what goes on in a routine day. It’s another thing when the routine is adjusted and enhanced (what an understatement) just for our visit!

Here's a picture of all the guys in the tower. On the lower right is Lt. Col. Robert Blank. He runs the show.

Did I mention there is no elevator up to the tower?

And by the way, these guys can cook too! What a feast we were treated to! Some kind of seasoned chicken that was great, homemade tuna/macaroni salad and more great chow. Our best lunch of the week!

This equipment scores the accuracy of the pilots shooting. Each strike is plotted (you can almost see it on the left screen). There are video cameras and multiple microphones near the targets that sense every round and can calculate the position. Pretty cool!

Then we headed down on the range to check out the damage. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

This one didn't go boom.

Our camera guy found some A10 and F16 rounds.

Here is a shot of Tech Sgt Joe Graves (in non biker gear). This guy does it all on the range. And he was a hell of a host, tour guide and just a great guy to us over the last few days. We can't thank you enough Joe!

And last but not least, a big thanks to Lt. Col Robert Blank. You certainly rolled out the red carpet and treated us like family. You put together an event that will give all of us memories for a lifetime.

Here's Tom doing his media thing before we leave.

Then it was time to go home. When we were riding down the road leaving the range one of the A10 pilots flew over the road and waggled his wings to say good-bye. We thought that was it, but it wasn’t. Just as we were approaching the end of the road, out of nowhere and right above the tree line and right in front of us appeared a Blackhawk helicopter. Fist pumps were flying!

Then it was off to get ready for the check presentation ceremony. Thanks to so many incredibly generous people, we have already raised almost $19,000! Because of monies coming in, but not yet received, the group decided to commit to a total of $22,000. $20,000 going to the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes and $2,000 to a scholarship fund at Fort Drum.

A few of our heroes wounded in action.

Oh, and here’s a little side story. I earned my own purple heart (sort of) today. Any yes, I’ll tell this story for the world to know. When it’s warm out, my favorite way to ride is with just a t-shirt. Well, it was pretty darn warm today. Anyone that has driven a motorcycle with just a t-shirt before will be able to relate to this. You see, as you ride bugs hit you – not a big deal. Every now and then a bug will go up a sleeve, down a collar, etc. Anyone that has ridden a bunch has had it happen – and it’s happened to me in the past. But this one is quite unique. You see, I felt something on the back of my neck while I was riding, and I brushed it off and figured it was gone. Well about 10 minutes later, I feel this sting – not too bad though. Then, for the rest of the trip home, I keep having this feeling like when you have a splinter and I figured I knew what it was. I know, get to the point. Well when I got home and removed the clothing where I felt the sting, I was right! There it was – some little bee. What makes this a bit humorous is that it somehow found it’s way down my shirt.... and right to my tush! But as you can see, the bug paid the ultimate price!