Soapweed's Ranch Ramblings
The writings of a Nebraska Sandhills cattle rancher!

Military Merchandise on the Meadow
October 11, 2005

Some of you may recall that last evening I mentioned that there were helicopters flying close to our ranch buildings. We watched them hover around, and then they went out of sight, though we could still hear them. Soon thereafter, our son returned from a ball game in Cody. He came excitedly up the steps and announced, "Do you know there are three big helicopters that have landed down in the meadow?"

It was real dark and foggy, but I told Brock, "Guess we have made peace with our Maker. Let's go see what's up." We jumped in his Blazer, and he let me drive. We drove up pretty close to the first helicopter, and a soldier wearing night goggles stopped us. Soon the commander, a Lieutenant Colonel, walked up out of the darkness to visit with us.

It seems that the foggy weather had the pilots worried about the high-dollar brand new Chinooks that they were in charge of. They had left Fort Campbell, Kentucky, earlier yesterday morning and had re-fueled in Topeka, Kansas. Their intended destination last night was Rapid City, where they had transportation and motel reservations. Originally there were four of the big Chinooks that landed on our meadow. The second one in line was instructed to again become airborne, and see if it could get through the poor visibility to the Martin, South Dakota, airport. It was too thick to set down in Martin, so the helicopter continued on to Rapid City, and wallowed through the fog to set down there.

The commander in charge came up to our house and used our telephone to get in touch with the Rapid City Airport. It was good news that the fourth helicopter had arrived safely there, but with the weather situation such as it was, the other 'copters felt it best to stay on the ground. The main reason for this was that they were brand new, and were not approved and certified to fly in such bad visibility. They are very capable of flying through the murk, but legally they were just not ready for the test. As the value of these big birds is between 80 and 85 MILLION dollars each, the risk was not worth it.

Eventual destination of these new Chinooks is in the Fort Lewis, Washington, area, where a new unit of these helicopters is being set up. There were 41 soldiers (none were females) traveling with the three helicopters that spent the night on our meadow. They all bedded down for the night in the copters, and made do with the supplies that were with them. Several cases of MRE's (meals ready to eat) kept them from getting hungry. Our contribution was several rolls of toilet paper, and a shovel for each helicopter.

With the value of these Chinooks calculated, when all four of them were landed on our meadow, there was a third of a billion dollars represented. Even after the one left, the other three added up to a quarter of a billion dollars. Payload on these big outfits was 26,000 pounds each. In other words, they could haul half of what a big semi-load of livestock would represent. The back door was big enough that several small cars could drive into the cargo area. It was all pretty impressive.

It was foggy until after ten o'clock this morning, but they were finally able to take off. Mrs. Soapweed, Brock and I went to Rapid City today, and as we went through Martin, we could see the big 'copters in the sky headed northwest. It didn't take long for them to pass us and disappear over the horizon. Anyway, this was the recent excitement for the Soapweed outfit, and at least the mystery from last night was solved.

I would like to put in a good word for the crew. They were highly competent, and very personable. They are proudly serving their country, and all have the best interests of their beloved country at heart. I was impressed with the fact that they were doing the wise and prudent thing, under the circumstances, and that their main concern was in protecting the high-dollar equipment with which they were entrusted.

They were all men to make any parent proud, and when Brock mentioned to them that he was thinking strongly of becoming an Army Ranger, they had nothing but encouragement for him to pursue this goal.

We feel very thankful that our fine nation has soldiers of this type guarding our freedoms. We should never take it for granted. We commend them with our greatest respect.






Copyright © 2005 Steve Moreland
All Rights Reserved