Book Review: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a WomanCatherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Russian History, so I’m not in a position to judge Robert K. Massie’s Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman on accuracy, but I read and thoroughly enjoyed his books on the World War I naval war, so I have no reason to doubt his accuracy when it comes to Catherine the Great. So much of what you see about Catherine the Great is about her sexuality, so it was wonderful to read about her ideas and how and why they changed throughout her reign and about her accomplishments. She’s such a fascinating subject and Massie did a great job describing what developed and formed her personality and how her experiences changed her thoughts from childhood to Empress then over her reign as Empress. Since Catherine was a Western European taking an Eastern European throne, Massie does a great job showing how it disadvantaged her and how she overcame her subject’s suspicions. He also does a wonderful job fitting in the complicated relationship between Russia and the rest of Europe and how the two influenced each other. If you’re a fan of History or Biography, this is definitely a book to put on your reading list.

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Book Review: Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 by James Barr

A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 by James Barr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

James Barr’s A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 is great book for those who are interested in how we came to where we are today in the Middle East. A Line in the Sand is a tale of the competition between Great Britain and France to control the Middle East, from World War I to the birth of Israel. It’s a story of deviousness, betrayal, and violence on all sides and one that neither Britain or France comes away from favorably. Barr’s writing is captivating and objective; while one could develop the idea that he’s sympathetic toward Britain, by the end I didn’t feel sympathy for either. Furthermore, after reading this book you understand why there is no trust in the Middle East; there’s no reason for trust. This is a must read book for understanding the current state of affairs all over the Middle East and the predicament that we in the West have gotten ourselves into.

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Book Review: The Vikings: A New History by Neil Oliver

The Vikings: A New HistoryThe Vikings: A New History by Neil Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though I’m a History enthusiast, I didn’t know a lot about the Vikings before I decided to read Neil Oliver’s “The Vikings: A New History.” To be honest, World History classes in High School and European History classes in college just didn’t have much to say about them, but after reading this book, I came away with more knowledge of the Vikings and a desire to learn more. Oliver goes from the pre-History of the Vikings to the close of their age in the British Isles, exploring their origins, their development, and their movement across Europe, the Middle East, an Asia. He shows how they often adapted to the cultures of the areas they occupied instead of forcing their culture on the occupied. They have a fascinating History and Oliver tells it in an enthusiastic, conversational way. In my opinion the books has two shortcomings. First it has no maps; maps would better illustrate and represent the Vikings’ travels. Second, he is admittedly enthusiastic about the Vikings and while I don’t know enough to presume to call his objectivity into question, the thought did linger in the back of my head at times.

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Third Sentry Savannah Exercise of 2018 Underway at the Savannah Air Dominance Center

Savannah – Earlier this week with my Mode-S receiver in Brunswick, I picked up a couple of KC-135s departing the Savannah area for the Special Use Areas off of Savannah.  Since KC-135s are permanent residents at Savannah IAP or Hunter AAF, that activity usually indicates that there is an exercise going on. Some of the few snippets of radio traffic I was able to pick up with a handheld scanner in Brunswick indicated that there was an exercise going on as well. In addition, I got some tweets from the Savannah area that fighter activity was being heard and seen overhead the city. All of that was a solid indication that an exercise is underway and since mid-July has seen Sentry Savannah exercises over the last few years, I assumed that is what we had this year.

Yesterday, I got back to Savannah from Brunswick and was able to listen to the activity, confirming that there is a Sentry Savannah exercise underway. This Sentry Savannah’s players include regular visitors to the Savannah Air Dominance Center, the 43rd FS and their F-22As and the 2nd FTS and their T-38s. Two KC-135s are at Hunter AAF to provide tanker support; one from the 161st ARW, Arizona ANG and one from the 117th ARW, Alabama ANG. In addition to those units flying out of Savannah, F-16s from the 169th FW at McEntire ANGB, South Carolina, and the 187th FW at Montgomery ANGB, Alabama participated. So far, they’re flying two sets of sorties a day; once in the morning around 0900/0930 and another in the afternoon around 1300/1330. Since the exercise started this week, I expect the F-22s and T-38s to be at the Air Dominance Center through next week.

For the most part, the usual Sentry Savannah frequencies seem to be in use along with usual air-to-air frequencies for the units participating. They did, however, use SEALORD W-137 discrete frequencies during yesterday’s morning sorties. Based on yesterday’s monitoring, here’s what’s in use so far:

119.100/257.800 – Savannah-Hilton Head IAP Tower
120.400/353.775 – Savannah Approach/Departure
125.300/371.875 – Savannah Approach/Departure
124.975/279.575 – Hunter AAF Tower
126.200/285.425 – Hunter AAF Base Ops

282.200/124.675 – Jax Center Jekyll Low
282.300/135.975 – Jax Center Alma High
285.650/126.125 – Jax Center Statesboro High
363.200/132.925 – Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low

237.000 – ADC Ops; 43rd FS “HORNET/STINGER Ops”
256.750 – 43rd FS Air-to-Air
288.900 – 43rd FS Air-to-Air
320.600 – 2nd FTS Air-to-Air

298.300 – 169th FW “SWAMP FOX Ops”
141.825 – 169th FW Air-to-Air

277.450 – 187th FW Air-to-Air
283.700 – 187th FW Air-to-Air

120.950/284.500 – Sealord North Primary
313.700 – Sealord North Secondary
288.400 – NORAD Discrete; Check-In
349.800 – W-137 Discrete; Intercepts
376.900 – W-137 Discrete; Intercepts
293.600 – NORAD Discrete; Intercepts
316.300 – NORAD Discrete; Intercepts
265.400 – NORAD Discrete; Aerial Refueling
278.000 – Aerial Refueling
RAPTOR (F-22A, 43rd FS)
SAVAGE (F-22A, 43rd FS)
STINGER (F-22A, 43rd FS)
VAPOR (F-22A, 43rd FS)
BEAGLE (T-38, 2nd FTS)
HOUND (T-38, 2nd FTS)

COPPER (KC-135R, 161st ARW)
DIXIE (KC-135R, 117th ARW)

MACE (F-16CM, 169th FW)

BAMA (F-16C, 187th FW)

DOGHOUSE (325th FW Schoolhouse)


I’ll be back in Brunswick on Friday morning, so if anyone hears anything new or different over the next week and a half of Sentry Savannah activity, please send it to me and I’ll include in updated lists.

Something You Don’t Get To See or Hear Every Day in Savannah

Savannah – Earlier today, two E-2D Hawkeyes visited the Savannah area to do some approach work at Hunter AAF. Each one did several Ground Controlled Approaches at Hunter AAF on 134.700 followed by ILS approaches on 124.975, Hunter Tower. After their pattern work, they departed to the north cleared to MCAS Cherry Point on 132.925 with Jacksonville Center.

I got a visual on them as flew past the house on approach to Runway 28 at Hunter, but they were too far away to get photos. Paul, KJ4FAV was able to get some nice photos of both as they flew over his house. The last four digits of the bureau numbers and the modex are clearly visible on both.

In other military aviation news, a new Sentry Savannah exercise began this week. I’ll have another post up sometime tonight or tomorrow morning with more information.