Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Crossing the Line

This week I was prompted by Red Writing Hood to write about a time someone crossed the line.  This is a piece about a time I did just that.  Literally.

I had an hour left on my 12-hour shift with 2 flight schedules left to deliver.  It was New Years Eve in Keflavik and most people had already begun their drunken rendezvous.  How I longed to be one of them instead of Duty Driver.

I decided to take a shortcut across the backside of the flight line since it was empty of taxiing aircraft due to the holiday and the hour. I was cruising along, jamming to the only American station that came in- elated to hear English.  It had been too long.

Suddenly flashes of red and blue lights from a base security vehicle cascaded in my mirror and blinded my eyes.  Alarmed, I immediately stopped the van.  Instants later, muffled shouts came from my window.  I glanced in their direction and my gaze was met by the muzzle of an M-16.


I was paralyzed.  Surely this was a mistake.  I was in uniform, driving a government vehicle.

“SHOW ME YOUR ID- NOW!”  I snapped out of my trance and obeyed.  The dark figure in uniform escorted me in front of the van- directly in the beam of the headlights.

Other vehicles soon surrounded us. 

“On your knees, hands behind your head!”

This has got to be a bad dream.

My American aggressor trudged through the snow away from me and began talking on a scratchy hand-held radio.  This forced him to remove the rifle from my face.  It was nice of him.  The ice began melting under my knees.  I thought of the two flight schedules I had left to deliver.

“Please, what is going on?”  I pleaded to one of the other guys walking over.  I glanced back at our hangar a few hundred feet behind me, wondering if anyone in my squadron could see the chaos.

“Do you know what a ‘red line’ is?”

I stared at him blankly as if it were a trick question.  Of course I knew what a red line was.  They surrounded all of the places that were off limits.  I had been warned extensively.  My legs were going numb from the cold and my nose began to run.

Just then, Mr. Rifle Man came back.  “What are you doing on the flight line?” he asked sounding more like an accusation than a question.
“I was... delivering... flight schedules."

“Are you aware that you have crossed over a point of no-entry?”
“I did?  Where?”  I was confused.  I had driven here before- without a rifle shoved in my face.

“That is where you came from.” He pointed.  "The point of entry is approximately 20 feet to the left.” 
I squinted out into the blackness, straining to see my tracks.  Maybe it was the darkness, or the endless snowdrifts, but I saw no such red line.  Still, I nodded.

“Stand up,” he commanded.   “You're gonna have to come with us.”

“Please- my squadron- my SDO is right over there.”  That day the SDO was my 3P (third pilot) affectionately called “Sweet Pea” because of his cherub-like face.  I pointed to the hangar that was a good baseball’s throw length away.  By a professional player that is.

Oh, I was done.  I could see it now.  I’d been in this squadron barely over a month now and already in a dire predicament.  I began shaking.  Partly from the cold, and partly due to the anxiety that began welling up inside me.

Mr. Rifle Man began talking on his radio again.  The guy next to me tried to talk.  In that moment he could have told me that he enjoyed licking spotted frogs and I would not have remembered.  All that I could think about was what was going to happen to me.

Then, in the small light from the hangar, I could make out the SDO trudging down the snowy flight line.  I was flooded with relief upon the sight of a familiar face.  As he approached I shot him the best I’m-so-sorry-please-don’t-be-mad face I could muster.  He simply shook his head.
I don’t know what he said to Rifle Man, but soon after, they released me to him.  We drove back to the duty office in silence. 

At last, I broke it by saying the only thing I could.  “I’m so sorry, Sir.”  My voice wavered.  Don’t do it.  Don’t get emotional.

“Airman Maki, stop.” There was a long pause.  Then in a business-like tone he continued. “I trust you will be more careful around the red lines from now on.”

“Yes, Sir.”

And true to my word, I avoided red lines like the plague.

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