The Making of a Master Jeweler

Great article in this current issue of PilotMag about the owner and master jeweler of Aviation Jewelry Designs, John Witt.  If you like aviation and jewelry this article is a must read and please take the time to check out John’s amazing work at



Link  —  Posted: February 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
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The Last Six Seconds

Posted: May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

This is worth the read:

“The Last Six Seconds”

One can hardly conceive of the enormous grief held quietly within General Kelly as he spoke.

On Nov 13, 2010, Lt. General John Kelly, USMC, gave a speech to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis, MO. This was four days after his son, Lt. Robert Kelly, USMC, was killed by an IED while on his 3rd Combat tour. During his speech, General Kelly spoke about the dedication and valor of our young men and women who step forward each and every day to protect us.

During the speech, he never mentioned the loss of his own son. He closed the speech with the moving account of the last six seconds in the lives of two young Marines who died with rifles blazing to protect their brother Marines.

“I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are, about the quality of the steel in their backs, about the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans. Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda.

Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and whom he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like, “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?”

I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like, “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding ‘sweetheart’, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way – perhaps 60-70 yards in length, and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened, I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different.

Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event – just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life. What he didn’t know until then,” he said, “And what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal.”

Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. No sane man. They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before, “Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.

It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were – some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the (I deleted) who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers – American and Iraqi-bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.

If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight – for you.

We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth – freedom. We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious – our soldiers, sailors, airmen, U S Customs and Border Patrol, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines – to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can ever steal it away.

It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the “land of the free and home of the brave” so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.

God Bless America, and SEMPER FIDELIS!”

IT WOULD BE NICE (GREAT!) TO SEE the message spread if more would pass it on. Semper Fi, God Bless America and God Bless the United States Marine Corps.

Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever.

“A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check, payable to the United States of America “for an amount up to and including my life.” That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.


Capt Imlay was killed in an F-15E yesterday while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Those who wish to pay tribute to Capt Imlay may contribute to an IRS 529 College Savings Account set up for his two children. This has been set up through the Red River Fighter Pilots Association (RRVA) and the Air Warrior Courage Foundation (AWCF). Contributions may be sent to the Air Warrior Courage Foundation, P.O. Box 877, Silver Spring, MD 20918. Designate in a note that the contribution is for the Imlay children.

To use a credit card. Go to the AWCF home page at
On the right side of the Home page is a blue DONATE button. Click it and it will take you to a page with a GIVE DIRECT button. Click it and fill in the blanks. In the COMMENTS
block, put in the name of the Imlay family fund.
Please repost this info to give this message maximum exposure.

John Hope
Executive Director
Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association

Lt Col Daren Sorenson was the flight lead of a flight of two F-15Es, callsign Dude 05, providing Close Air Support (CAS) in support of Coalition Forces, Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan on 25 May 2011. On that day, Dude 05 flight had just completed kinetic support of a Troops in Contact (TIC) situation in the Konor province when they were retasked to support a second TIC 60nm west in the Nuristan province. Approximately 50 dismounted friendly forces were on patrol in the remote mountain district center of Do Ab when they were ambushed from all directions from enemy fighting positions on extremely steep valley walls rising over 6,000 feet above them. Enroute to the new tasking, due to his formation’s already low fuel state, Lt Col Sorenson coordinated an ad-hoc refueling plan directly above the ongoing fight to eliminate any breaks in support to the troops below. Within minutes of taking over the stack from the outgoing fighters, it was clear to Lt Col Sorenson the dire situation on the ground and the likely prolonged battle that was about to ensue. He immediately took control of one of the jet’s radios, coordinated with Army Apache helicopters, manned and unmanned ISR platforms, contacted the ASOC and his squadron operations desk where he gave them a situation update and led turn requests for additional CAS assets to include the likely need to launch ground alert CAS fighters. He then directed his wingman to begin “Yo-Yo” refueling operations with the tanker orbiting overhead, minimizing the time to refuel by 50% and allowing both jets to be back on station with over two hours of playtime. Within minutes of returning from the tanker, friendly forces began taking effective fire again from all directions far above them up from both sides of the steep valley walls. The JTACs were initially unable to determine the exact location of the enemy, so Lt Col Sorenson immediately recommended conducting a Show of Force (SOF) to cause the enemy to break contact. Knowing he was about to put his aircraft at risk of small arms and RPG fire, he directed his WSO to conduct visual scans of the ridgelines as they descended into the deep canyon. He expertly navigated the narrow, deep canyon at an incredibly low altitude of just 500 feet AGL. The SOF caused the enemy to break contact for approximately 20 minutes, during which time the JTAC seized the opportunity to eliminate a cave complex the enemy had fled to for shelter and was also a suspected weapons cache. Lt Col Sorenson expertly analyzed the cave, which was against the base of a steep canyon wall and could only be targeted from a narrow attack azimuth, plus or minus 10 degrees, or else the attack would be non-effective. The steep walls obscured the target from any look down angle less than sixty degrees. He determined the optimum weapons combination required to neutralize the cave complex as well as enemy personnel in the open just outside the cave. With only a single 2,000 pound GBU-31 weapon remaining, Lt Col Sorenson developed a non-standard attack putting his young wingman out in front to deliver the first weapon against the cave while he delivered two air burst GBU-38s against the personnel in the open outside the cave. Within just two minutes of receiving the 9-line, Lt Col Sorenson flawlessly orchestrated the formation attack and all weapons impacted exactly as designed, with multiple enemy KIA and the cave burning from within. Enemy fire then erupted again from all directions and Lt Col Sorenson recommended another SOF. Within 20 seconds of receiving approval, he conducted two more SOFs. The JTAC attested, “I personally observed Dude 05 do multiple SoFs that directly exposed them to the same intense fire we were receiving. Dude 05 literally weaved his aircraft directly over the heads of the insurgents allowing me time to prepare another 9-line as well as giving the Army guys a chance to reposition and take precise aim at our attackers.” As the last SOF was being completed, Dude 05 could hear the sense of urgency in the JTACs voice and the sound of automatic weapons fire over the radio. Lt Col Sorenson selected full afterburner to expedite his climb back to altitude while simultaneously communicating the next attack plan with his formation. Due to his expert leadership, the formation was ready to employ again in less than two minutes. However, just as they were preparing to drop, Dude 06 had a communication limitation that prevented them from employing their weapon. Lt Col Sorenson immediately orchestrated a successful single ship attack in less than one minute. Furthermore, in the incredibly short span of the next 10 minutes, Lt Col Sorenson flawlessly maneuvered his fighter in continuous full afterburner to employ on three additional 9 line taskings, averaging just over 3 minutes per tasking until they had delivered all of their ordnance. He then passed the tactical lead to Dude 06 to employ their remaining ordinance, while he maneuvered his jet into a difficult low altitude orbit beneath an encroaching weather deck and directly over the heads of friendly forces, to relay critical release clearance from the JTAC to his wingman. Dude 06 delivered his last weapon just as he reached his combat BINGO fuel, utilizing every gallon of additional gas that Lt Col Sorenson had the foresight to coordinate for more than two hours earlier, and shacking the last known enemy fighting position and ceasing the extremely effective fire the friendly forces were taking. All 14 weapons from the formation were employed with 100% lethal precision with zero civilian or friendly casualties. Post fight Battle Damage Assessments conducted by ground forces assessed approximately 68 insurgents killed and countless more wounded. The outstanding flight leadership and individual accomplishments of Lt Col Sorenson directly and substantially contributed to the preservation of over 50 Coalition lives and significantly degraded insurgent capacity in the Nuristan provinces. The JTAC summed it up best, “We would not be here if it were not for you guys…you saved our lives.”


Posted: November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Afghanistan 2011

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

After many months of training, prep and packing the sixth deployment of my career is now officially underway. Previous deployments have included flying over such countries as Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but this one will be the first time I will actually live in country and fly out of a base in Afghanistan. Previous deployments have always stationed us in a different country, far outside and removed from the actual fighting. This time, we’re almost right in the middle of it. I have been to Afghanistan before, my last time was back in 2007 so I am sure plenty has changed and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress that has been made over the last few years.

The trip started out of Las Vegas on Tuesday, 22 Mar. After saying some very tough goodbyes to everyone I care very much about, I boarded a commercial flight to Baltimore. After spending the night in Baltimore, Wed was a day to process into the Air Mobility Centers system for moving military across the globe. It’s setup much like a commercial airline, bags were processed and I actually got a ticket and seat assignment on the chartered MD-11 jet. The plane was packed to the gills with every seat full of military deploying to various locations around the globe. Our first stop would take us to an airbase in Germany where we would swap out crews, get gas and stretch our legs. After rebounding we took off again this time for one of our airbases in Turkey. Turkey was a much quicker stop, everyone stayed on the plane and we were back in the air in less than an hour. This time we were headed for a base just outside of Afghanistan were we could stage and process in to the local system. The entire trip from Baltimore to where I am now just just over 17 hours to complete. Now we sit and wait for a military cargo plane, most likely a C-17 to take us the rest of the way into Afghanistan.

Communication back home with loved ones has been fairly good so far. The iPhone with international roaming has been transparent that I ever left the US. Every time we land, it finds the local carrier and feeds in waiting text messages, emails and missed phone calls. I’m not 100% it will work in Afghanistan, but we should find out for sure tomorrow. (If anyone is using an iPhone in Afg please let me know). Just the fact that it is working flawless in the middle of K-Stan is impressive enough for me. Other apps like Skype are going to be worth their wait in gold as I get settled. One can’t really put a price tag on the value of seeing a smile from a loved one 8000 miles away. For the folks who stay at home, they miss the deployed member, but they still have all the comforts of home to surround them. Being deployed to a combat zone, all those comforts are left behind and are usually replaced with blank tent walls, dirty brown sand, and a small personal space normally normally referred to as your hootch. Pictures from home are worth their weight in gold as they are quickly pinned up to remind us all of what we are over here fighting for. The technology that keeps us in touch cannot be overstated in it’s value to the morale of the troops.

This morning was my reintroduction to chow hall food. I laughed as I reentered the facility and smelled the all too familiar smell of the grill. Some things never change. The food is ok, but the variety doesn’t change much. After over 2 1/2 years over here in my life, it’s like going to the same fast food place way too many times. The rest of today is the calm before the storm. A good time to rest and catch up from lost sleep on the long flight over. For tomorrow we will be back in Afghanistan, back in the war, and it waits for no man. War is like jumping into a raging river. It flows fast and furious 24/7, 365 and you just do your best to not drown. Tomorrow we jump in the river once again and in six months, the river will spit me out the other side.

The war paint is on, this is as real as it gets. Fights on! Don’t bring it weak!

Why I love to fly

Posted: December 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

Some things you’re just born with; it’s in your blood, it’s in your heart. You can’t really explain it, it just is. How lucky are we to soar with the birds in the heavens above?

Love the words to this song. Read them, then click on the link below and enjoy the video. I think they’re a good match.

Sunday morning 9 a.m.
I saw fire in the sky
I felt my heart pound in my chest
I heard an eagle cry

Now I’m alive, I can breathe the air
Feel the wind, smell the earth in the air
I watch an eagle rise above the trees
Project myself into what he sees

Hey, take me away
Come on and fly me away
Take me up so high
Where eagles fly

I often dream I sail through the sky
I’ve always wished I could fly
The simple life of a bird on the wing
Oh Lord, I could sing

Hey, take me away
Come on, fly me away
Lift me up so high
Where eagles fly, oh yeah

I’m alive, I breathe the air
Wash the earth from my face
I catch a glimpse of another dream
I turn, I look there’s no trace

Take me away
Come on, fly me away
I wanna fly away, pick me up so high
Where eagles fly, oh yeah

Eagles fly
Oh, take me away
Eagles fly
Oh, take me away

Come on, let’s fly away
Where eagles fly
Come on, fly away
Where eagles fly

by Sammy Hagar

I love the Marines

Posted: December 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

November 27, 2010
Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. – A U.S. Marine reservist collecting toys for children
was stabbed when he helped stop a suspected shoplifter in eastern Georgia.

Best Buy sales manager Orvin Smith told The Augusta Chronicle that a
man was seen on surveillance cameras Friday putting a laptop under his
jacket at the Augusta store.

When confronted, the man became irate, knocked down an employee,
pulled a knife and ran toward the door. Outside were four Marines
collecting toys for the service branch’s “Toys For Tots” program.

Smith said the Marines stopped the man, but he stabbed one of them,
Cpl. Phillip Duggan, in the back. The cut did not appear to be severe.

The suspect was transported to the local hospital with two broken
arms, a broken leg, possible broken ribs, multiple contusions and assorted
lacerations including a broken nose and jaw… injuries he sustained when
he fell trying to run after stabbing the Marine.

The suspect, whose name was not released, was held until police
arrived. The Richmond County Sheriff’s office said it is investigating.