By Karem Elazegui Neri (PMA 1995)
Early in the morning of 26 January 2006, the sky was covered with patches of dark clouds, delaying the scheduled take off time. Weather satellite report confirmed scattered clouds with intermittent rain shower.
|Philippine Air Force's OV-10 Bronco light attack and observation aircraft .|
Manufactured by North American Rockwell. PAF plans to replace
the two engines OV-10 with the rugged and fuel efficient one engine
Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano for counter insurgency (COIN), close
air support, and aerial reconnaissance missions.
“Sir, we might as well go to the canteen to eat our breakfast, while waiting.” Junie said, as he approached me at the right side of the two-engine plane. “Sure”, I replied.
CAPTAIN ANIANO “JUNIE” AMATONG JR PAF (A member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1996), a seasoned OV-10 pilot with more than a thousand flying hours will be the pilot-in-command this day. The maintenance crew, composed of eight skilled enlisted personnel headed by the engine man, Master Sergeant Silio, was resting at the nearby hangar. They have been preparing the aircraft before the breaking of dawn.
As we were eating our meal, Junie expressed his plans in the future since he's been serving the air force for ten years. “Sir, my wife wanted us to migrate to America, too”. Why? I asked him. Well, Arlene said that some of her relatives are doing great and have a better life there. But I am hesitant. I’d rather work as an airline pilot”, He continued. “Well either way Arlene is a doctor and you have only one child. You should be fine”. I said. The conversation ended, as soon as we consumed our short breakfast. Consequently, the weather looked favorable to fly now. I never thought that this eye-to-eye dialogue with this kind and soft-spoken, thirty three year old gentleman would be my last.
My life changed forever after this short conversation. We headed back to the hangar, close to where our plane was parked. Our mission was a joint training exercise with an American Joint Special Operations Task Force. Loaded with practice bombs to simulate a coordinated and simulated bombing