VEGAS. Because a person in our squadron got sick, I was given two days notice I’d be attending a war exercise in Las Vegas. Because I don’t want to get my ass kicked by Public Affairs, here is what Red Flag is, from their press release:
“Red Flag-Nellis is conducted on the Nevada Test and Training Range and involves U.S. and allied forces from all brances of service. Each Red Flag exercise normally involves a variety of interdiction, attack, air superiority, defense suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance aircraft. Within a typical 12-month period, more than 1,200 aircraft fly 20,000 plus sorties while training more than 26,750 personnel. Since combat is no place to train aircrews, Red Flag provides a peacetime “battlefield” within which our combat air forces can train. Inside this battlefield, aircrews train to fight together, survive together and win together. Red Flag-Nellis is held four times annually.”
We were there with many different countries this time, including Denmark, Belgium, Germany, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
A little background about Saudi Arabia: “Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians. It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian. ‘Women in Saudi must obtain permission from a male guardian to perform ‘certain surgeries’ and to ‘leave the university campus during study hours.'”[source] You should have seen the shade the Saudi Arabian Air Force was throwing my way when they saw me driving around in our awesome gilded (okay, beige-ish gold colored) government-issued mini-van (which I dubbed “Goldmine”). Or the constipated looks I received when I was doing something as dubious and insolent as walking around the base. Or attending briefings. If Saudi women aren’t allowed to drive cars, does that mean they can’t fly bombers, too (if they had them, of course)? I wonder if their minds get changed just a little bit, like a seed of doubt is planted, when they see how competent, badass, and capable our female aviators are? Like maybe the cake is a lie?
So, yeah, I went to Las Vegas for two weeks. This was my third participation in a Red Flag exercise, more than anyone else in my squadron. Overall, I found the exercise to be run less efficiently than Red Flag Alaska. Perhaps it’s the leadership, maybe not. I did get some time off to explore Vegas, and I encouraged everyone to step outside their comfort zone and do fun things they usually wouldn’t do; do something other than drink. I did see the Cirque du Soleil show “Zarkana”, which was pretty amazing. When two handsome acrobats were flying over the audience, a guy friend next to me said “Man, wish I could do that.” I simply replied, “Me too.” Heh. Wrecker, a fellow female Radar Navigator, was a pal to go shopping and see the sights with me. We even visited two (!) Bettie Page clothing stores while we were there, and bought fancy cocktail dresses to attend the Zarkana show in style. We even got a fantastic seat at the Hyde Bar at the Bellagio, right in front of the windows overlooking the fountains. I even got a very handsome ensemble from Agent Provocateur for a souvenir, since there was a store there at Caesar’s Palace.
Today, Larry and I are going to see Bossier Parish Community College’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, everyone’s favorite musical. Besides The Sound of Music, of course.