Puff - 5" x 7" - oil
I won't ramble on about the travel day but let's just say that it's easier to find your way through the Bermuda Triangle than New Jersey. Since this was the first time that I met either John or Tatiana (illustrators from California) the road trip to the hotel did give us a chance to get familiar with each other.
The first day of the trip started off with John, Tatiana and I making our way to the base to meet up with TSgt. Sturkol. We were under the impression that Jim and Bill were going to meet us there since they were driving in. We were very wrong because when we arrived (30 mins. late) we saw that neither of them were there yet. We exchanged pleasantries and proceeded to get our car and base passes. It didn't take that long but the young lady found it to be near impossible to find the right Steven Walker (there are only a couple of thousand of us out there).
Once that ordeal was over the tour began. When I looked at the itinerary for the day it didn't make a whole lot of sense and it seemed dull as hell but a trips a trip. We still didn't know when Jim or Bill were going to arrive. TSgt. Sturkol took us around the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center. It was extremely informative because at the time I was not clear as to what all went on at the base. We took the tour and in the process met a few of TSgt. Sturkol's supervisors. The Expeditionary Center was packed with hundreds of paintings from past illustrators. We didn't recognize the names of most of the artists that did the paintings but nonetheless they were beautiful.
From there we headed to the armory. Again, I didn't know what to expect or what kind of questions to ask. Tech. Sgt. Sean Heraty made it easy for us and just started whipping out assault rifles, sniper guns and anything else that we've seen in movies. He seemed pretty excited to show off all of his toys.
The itinerary read "tape drills." What does this mean? What kind of tape...masking, scotch, duct? It turns out that it's a drill to help train soldiers on how to secure a room. Where does the tape come in? I'm glad you asked. They tape off the floors of the gym to resemble a floor plan. I noticed how the soldiers stayed focus on their training. They seemed really comfortable with having people hang around and take photos.
Lunch at Mulligan's was were we finally met up with Jim and Bill. No one gave them a hard time because honestly it's very confusing making your way around the base. "Turn right at the brown building...but they're all brown." I'll say this much...our meals were great everywhere we went.
Lastly we arrived at the Air Force Phoenix Warrior Training Course. The itinerary was very deceiving as it read something about first aid. Automatically I assumed that we'd watch guys apply tourniquets. The presence of several soldiers with AK-47's, a large field and the biggest baddest instructor (Tech. Sgt. Rudolph Stuart) that I had ever seen told me that this was a new kind of first aid. This is how the course went. A thunderous BOOM starts the exercise as one of the sergeant's gets out of a truck flailing her arms and collapses. About three members of the first team tended to her as the others gave cover. Thank the heavens that they were using blanks because otherwise I'd be dead five times over. To further simulate action there were five other instructors scattered out in the woods pretending to be the enemy. It was wild. TSgt. Stuart's demeanor is to be admired as it reflects my teaching style (yell and curse until you get horse and then curse some more). The challenge was to transport the "hurt" sergeant from one end of the obstacle course to the other while still keeping cover and not getting your patient killed. They didn't do too well the first go around but once they tracked a little mud on their uniform they were a lot quicker. They went over walls, through trenches and under barbed wire and all while transporting their patient.
Before we left, both John and Bill gave TSgt. Stuart a memento (a watercolor study from John and a drawing of Scrat from Bill) to take home with him. We later found out that Bill's drawing made TSgt. Stuart father of the year.
Getting back to the hotel was no easy task but it only took us 30 mins. more than what Google maps predicted. We all unwound by going out to eat at the nearby mall. You'd be surprised how long five artist that have never met can talk. It was the equivalent to "playing bridge with the girls."
Stay tuned for Day 2...