on a mission
When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
needed to catch a plane while in the Greater Middle
East last week, two Platte County natives were
tapped for the job of transporting the dignitary.
Major Ty Sampson of northern Platte County and
his first lieutenant, Eric Rawlings of Platte
City, picked up Rumsfeld in Uzbekistan and flew
him into "theater" at Kandahar, Afghanistan
and then into Kabul, Afghanistan.
Sampson and Rawlings are both graduates of Platte
County High School. They are with the 180th Airlift
Squadron of the Missouri Air National Guard unit
stationed at Rosecrans Airport in St. Joseph.
Their squadron has been activated by presidential
order since March of last year and has been deployed
to five different countries in support of Operation
Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Those countries include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman,
Kuwait, and Uzbekistan.
Sampson says his C-130 aircraft squadron is assigned
by the Air Force to fly missions in the Afghanistan
theater. Last Thursday, Feb. 26, his crews were
given the mission to transport Rumsfeld and his
entourage of about 30 folks, mostly national press
agents from the big networks.
Sampson, via email exchange with The Landmark,
says the busybut excitingday played
out this way:
After a wake-up of just after midnight, his crew
planned the flight and was soon airborne to pick
up Secretary Rumsfeld at a nearby airfield in
At daybreak, with engines running, the secretary
and entourage ran on board and the flight soon
Once airborne, Sampson and Rawlings soon had
a visitor on the flight deck. Rumsfeld climbed
onto the deck and there he stayed, visiting with
the crew most of the flight.
"We found him to be very personable and
down to earth. He was willing to pose for pictures
with all the crew members," Sampson told
Rumsfeld askedand answeredquestions
in an engaging conversation during flight, Sampson
"As a former Navy pilot, Mr. Rumsfeld was
knowledgeable about our activities in the cockpit.
I asked him about his career, both while he was
in the Navy and then in politics," Sampson
Rumsfeld said he got out of the Navy while Eisenhower
was still president and then went knocking on
doors of congressmen in Washington, D.C. looking
for a staff position. Eventually that led him
to becoming President Ford's chief of staff.
"He is very energetic and quick-witted,"
Sampson said of Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld knew the flight crew had put in a tremendously
long day in order to be in position and available
to fly him around, yet he still kidded them about
having "banker's hours.
When Sampson told the secretary that he and four
of his crew members had also been activated for
Desert Storm in 1991 and now were activated again
for the current operations, Rumsfeld replied:
"Well, at least we gave you 13 years off.
At the end of the flight from Uzbekistan into
Kandahar, Lt. Rawlings made a perfectly smooth
landing that elicited a two thumbs up signal from
After the secretary's two hour long tour, the
group reboarded the aircraft, again with the engines
They flew on to Kabul, Afghanistan for a visit
to that city, which is the site of the new Afghan
Once again, Rumsfeld was happy with the flight
and the professionalism of the entire crew and
commented "you guys could be Navy pilots.
"As Air Guard pilots, we weren't sure if
that was a compliment or not, but we think it
was meant to be!" Sampson told The Landmark.
Due to the length of the Kabul visit, the crew's
duty had expired, meaning Sampson's crew could
no longer fly the aircraft without a 12 hour rest.
In order to continue the mission, a second C-130
aircrew was flown to Kabul to fly the remainder
of the mission.
"At that point, we became passengers ourselves
and when the entourage reboarded the aircraft,
we sat in back of our own aircraft with the secretary
and his entourage. This afforded us an additional
opportunity to talk with not only the secretary
but several other members of his group, including
the aides and journalists," Sampson said.
In all, the mission "went like clockwork.
"It was a fun and interesting day, albeit
very long. We were up for about 23 hours by the
time we returned to our living quarters,"
Sampson, who was home for a time around Christmas,
said his crew hopes to be home again in mid-March.