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Brandy; Looking Glass; Site R; Pilot/Sailor/Biker; Green Screen Images? Apostles, Warm and Cold

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For those of you whose first reaction to today’s title lead was “Ty’s hitting the sauce!”, I can only say “No, I am reminiscing… but not about 1972, a girl or a French liqueur.” Our local radio station here in The Villages plays oldies, and on Sunday they played “Brandy (You’re a fine girl)”. This 1972 hit by the Jersey Shore band Looking Glass made #1 and sold over 1 million copies. I was at sea then, and while I liked the band’s song, “Looking Glass” held a very different meaning to me and a small part of the US military.

“Looking Glass” was an Air Force EC-135 aircraft that looked much like any cargo plane or tanker, but instead of trucks, bullets or jet fuel, it carried the most sophisticated command and control (C2) and communications equipment in the world, and a crew of about 30. It was called the Airborne Command Post (ABNCP), or more colloquially the “Doomsday Plane”, because its mission was to provide emergency/backup command and control of nuclear forces if ground nuclear C2 centers at the National Military Command Center (NMCC) in DC, US Strategic Command at Offut AFB, Nebraska, and Site R in Pennsylvania had been destroyed/disabled in a nuclear attack by the Russians. It got its name because its capabilities and mission mirrored those of the three ground centers. When at high alert conditions, pilots in the early days had to wear one eye patch to prevent being blinded by a nuclear flash. Today they wear special goggles that instantaneously go opaque in the event of a nuclear flash. In 1998 the Air Force EC-135s were replaced by Navy E-6 TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) aircraft that can also communicate with our strategic deterrent submarines (SSBNs).

My indirect experience with Looking Glass’s mission was at sea aboard destroyers and Battleship IOWA, while Suzanne’s assignment as Aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during and after 9/11 took her to Site R, the Raven Rock Mountain Complex. Fortunately, these capabilities have never had to be employed “for real”, but constant training, drills and inspections are designed to keep our forces ready for any contingency.

On a lighter note,the weather has gotten much more Florida-like over the past few days. Yesterday’s high was 81, and the skies were mostly sunny. HOO-RAY!  I even got out to work on power-washing the driveway pavers, one of my annual household maintenance jobs.  My only complaint was that it was so sunny and hot, I needed a ballcap and sunscreen. And maybe a beer…

One of our long-time sailing friends, Jim Wohlleber, dropped in for a short visit. Jim is a retired Continental Airlines pilot who is now flying professional sports cheerleaders (oh, and their teams as well) around the country. He has a big motor coach like ours, and in fact first gave us the idea of getting one like his and touring the country in style. Just back from an “interesting” winter sailing voyage from Bermuda to the Virgin Islands, Jim is driving his sleek BMW Z-3 around Florida and thinking about getting a BMW motorcycle (capable of 170 mph)… can you see this guy in black leathers like Harley riders? HA! (He’s not dressed in a coat and tie because we do formal breakfasts here at Das Giesemannhaus in The Villages; he’s actually headed to a meeting in Gainesville.)

We recently heard from our Arctic Tundra Correspondent Terri of the Frozen North. She is well, and apparently recovered from surgery, because she has been sighted out snowboarding… not in sub-tropical Sochi, Russia, on the Olympic Half Pipe, but in Frigidly Cold Coon Rapids, Minnesnowta (temperature +1 degree F as I write these words). “Move over, Shaun White!”

Multi-talented Terri evidently has a lot of time on her hands (a common condition among snow-bound Far Northerners), because she forwarded us this “green screen” image of Suzanne and Your Faithful Correspondent…

Those readers who followed our travels last summer may recall that one of our favorite stops was at Apostle Islands National Seashore, on Lake Superior. Here is My Lovely Bride paddling through a sea cave near Cornucopia, Wisconsin, last September. The weather was cool and sunny, but water temperatures were in the low 60s.

These more recent photos taken in the same area show that both air and water temperatures may have dipped a bit since we fled south for the winter… what is all that white stuff? (Thank you, Terri, for these beautiful images as well. I am sure they will help draw many Southerners up north to share in the joys of eternal winter!

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