Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tiger 131

Tiger 131 at home in the Bovington Tank Museum (Photo by Hohum, Source)
I may have mentioned before that I like tanks. (Here and here as well.) I recently acquired a Blu-Ray copy of the movie Fury. I know there are some who didn't care for the film. To each his/her own. The movie does for WWII Sherman tank crews what Saving Private Ryan did for the infantry.

One of the "stars" of the film was the Bovington Tank Museum's Panzerkampfwagen VI, the Tiger.

When I first saw Fury the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up when that Tiger lumbered onto the screen. It did not look like a CGI special effect, no sir, no ma'am. It looked like the "real deal." After I got home from the theater, I did a little research.

It was a real live Tiger tank.

WARNING, LANGUAGE ALERT: The following contains language not really suitable for the young'uns. But it's how soldiers (sailors, Marines and airmen too) talk. Rough and gritty.

While searching the Tube o' You I found a very interesting series called Inside the Tanks, it just so happens that they were exploring Tiger 131. Here's all five episodes:

And to think I was going to stretch this series out over a couple of days. That would've been cruel. Besides which, I wanted to watch all of it myself!

(It was either this or Russian dash camera videos. Addictive but one can only take so much stupidity. So you got tanks. Hope that's okay...)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fifty! We've Got Fifty!

Wow, that was fast. I think that's the shortest I've ever seen someone have to wear the FNG patch...

Sorry Erin it's time to turn in your "FNG" name patch and don the one with your actual call sign on it. (Like I told BP and PA, you have to buy those yourself. It's that whole "frugal" thing I've mentioned before.)

The Grey Goat is now officially FNG 50. Welcome aboard!

Trivia Tuesday!

While trivia as a regular blog feature isn't nearly as interesting as Diogenes' Fishnet Friday, or our esteemed host's periodic postings, it gives me something to keep me from less interesting efforts such as yard work, which I've barely touched since I last wrote about it.  Another weekly write-up is Steeljaw's scribble and a way to help you get through your Monday mornings.  I also saw one called Phone it in Friday, but I try hard to keep my posts from showing such weak creativity.  Yeah, I know, I don't try that hard.

Those posts are all great endeavors, but it's my self-imposed (and Sarge-imposed?) duty to bring you Tuna's non-titillating Tuesday Trivia.  I'm writing this as I snack on some pita chips dipped in homemade pesto sauce.  Not exactly a healthy choice, but I'm balancing my decision against the fact that I hit the gym on a regular basis.  The lack of that balance in today's youth is probably the reason for our first factoid question of the day.

1.  What percentage of Americans between the ages of 17-23 are qualified for military service?  While the services are shrinking and there's less need for the numbers we saw during the Cold War and the War on Terror in the Middle East, the sedentary nature of today's youth has made far too many of them too...shall we say soft?...for service. 

a. less than 28%
b. less than 18%
c. less than 35%
d. less than 43%
NBC News via AP
2. 33 Presidents served in the military.  How many of them were enlisted and did not go on to serve as an Officer?

a. 1
b. 7
c. 8
d. 13

3. There are on any given day, approximately 1.4 million men and women (and one transgendered) serving in our Armed Forces.  What's the approximate number of civilians in the DoD?  It may or may not be a hint, but DoN civilians make up 38% of the combined Naval Force.  By the way, DoD is the largest employer in the United States, with more employees than Exxon, Mobil, Ford, General Motors, and GE combined!

a. 475,000
b. 1.2 million
c. 964,000
d. 718,000

DoD Photo

4.  I'm not sure if this counts the bases in Afghanistan that we're abandoning faster than rats on a sinking ship, but how many military bases do we have overseas?

a. 327
b. 660
d. 185
e. 907

5. True or False.  The US Coast Guard is approximately the same size as the NYPD.

6. While the U.S. President is Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, only two presidents have actually commanded troops in times of war. Who were they?

a. Abraham Lincoln
b. Theodore Roosevelt
c. George Washington
d. James Madison

7. Which branch of the U.S. armed services has no official motto, but is often associated with the phrase "Non sibi sed patriae" (Not self, but country)?

8.  What active sea-going vessel under the employ of the United States was once manned by the Nazis?

I have a co-worker who is an Eagle Scout and a graduate of the Severn River Community College (as he calls it), but is better known by its official title- The US Naval Academy.  He says that Scouts is the perfect training ground for the Navy in that Scout sign-offs to earn advancements and Merit Badges is exactly like the Navy's PQS.  That's the Personnel Qualification Standard system where a Sailor qualifies for a job or watch position by obtaining signatures for proving their knowledge or conducting certain tasks. The Service Academies tend to value the qualities of Eagle Scouts and I've known many graduates and other Officers who obtained that rank.

9.  Now with that long intro behind us, how many 2014 Academy Grads are Eagle Scouts?  

Scouting Magazine
a. 623
b. 413
c. 1003
d. 256

US Navy Photo

10.  The Blue Angels came about in 1946 flying the F6F Hellcat and F8F Bearcat in that first year.  When did the USAF blatantly rip them off copy them with their Thunderbirds and which aircraft did they first fly?

a. 1949 with the F-86 Sabre

b. 1949 with the  P-51 Mustang

c. 1951 with the F-80 Shooting Star

d. 1953 with the F-84G Thunderjet

That'll do it for now.  I really must get to that yardwork and I plan to get at least 30 minutes on my rodent wheel elliptical before the day is over.


1. It's a pathetic number whatever the answer, but it's a. 28%, meaning almost three-fourths of the Nation couldn't serve if they wanted to.

2.  This surprised me, but only James Buchanan was the non-Mustang/LDO/MCEP/Warrant/Seaman to Admiral/V-12/Direct Commission Officer...etc., serving solely in the Enlisted ranks.  Two of those 33 served in the Confederate Army by the way.

3. d. 718,000 which I think is far too many, but I'm part of that problem.  Check out this quote from a GAO report- one that would make a libertarian's head explode.

From 2004 to 2012, the federal non-postal civilian workforce grew by 258,882 employees, from 1.88 million to 2.13 million (14 percent). Permanent career employees accounted for most of the growth, increasing by 256,718 employees, from 1.7 million in 2004 to 1.96 million in 2012 (15 percent). Three agencies—the Departments of Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), and Veterans Affairs (VA)—accounted for about 94 percent of this increase. At DOD, officials said that converting certain positions from military to civilian, as well as the growth of the agency’s acquisition and cybersecurity workforce, contributed to this overall increase. At VA, officials said the increased demand for medical and healthrelated services for military veterans drove most of the growth in personnel levels. DHS officials said the increase in employment was due in large part to the nation’s border security requirements. (In contrast, ten agencies had fewer career permanent employees in 2012 than they did in 2004).

4.  b. 660 is the closest answer.  "Base Structure Report, Fiscal 2010 Baseline." According to this report, the U.S. has 662 overseas bases in 38 foreign countries

5. False, the NYPD has 34,000 Policemen to 42,000 Active Duty Coasties, but if you add the civilians in each organization, they're both at about 51K.

6.  c and d.  Madison was angered by his Commanding General's imcompetence so he assumed command of U.S. forces in Maryland during the War of 1812 in an effort to save the nation's capital, but the Brits were still able to burn Washington.  And GW personally led troops to quell the Whiskey Rebellion during his 2nd term

7.  That would be the US Navy.

8.  The Wonderful World of Wiki tells us that the German Training ship- Horst Wessel, built in 1936 and put into service during WWII after being given anti-aircraft weapons, was taken by the US as war reparations and recommissioned as this ship:

9. B is the correct answer- 413.  With a breakdown of 139 from West Point, 99 from Annapolis, 25 from the Merchant Marine Academy, and 150 Air Force.  The Coasties didn't track that for 2014 though, so the number is probably higher.

10. d. While the F-80 (T-33) was flown by that first team, it was only for VIP/Press engament purposes.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Now I know what you’re thinking.  “Since juvat retired from the AF, he’s been working in information technology and he’s trying to turn Sarge’s blog into ArsTechnica light.  This posting is about Create, Read, Update and Delete (CRUD).  I’m outta here!” 
Not so fast!  We’re going to be talking about a genteel game played on a snooker table where gentlemen and ladies discuss the day’s events while sipping adult recreational beverages in a quiet relaxing atmosphere.

Ok, the only things true in the above paragraph were Snooker Table and Adult Recreational Beverages.

I’m not exactly sure how the game was introduced to the USAF, it wasn’t present in any of the O Club’s I visited (which was a fair sample size) while in UPT, LIFT or F-4 RTU, nor was it played at the Kun while I was there.  But by the time I got back to the states, it was in full swing at Moody.  More on this later.

According to Sarge’s authoritative source and verified by me, Crud is

… played on a pool or snooker table (usually the latter, when available) using the cue ball (the shooter ball), and one object ball (most commonly a striped ball since it is easiest to determine if it is in motion). Only the corner pockets are used on non-snooker or smaller tables. On these, the side pockets (if there are any) are blocked off, traditionally by rolls of toilet paper.

“Pool cues are not used; the shooter ball is launched across the table surface with the hand. A game of crud involves moving around the table and other players, trying to grab the shooter ball and either strike the object ball before it stops moving or sink it.”

There are multiple styles of play.

Here’s the way General’s play.  Forgive the cheesy smarm of the typical military broadcast journalist, please.  I knew quite a few of the people on camera and given that this was filmed at a multi-service, multi country conference in Korea, diplomacy was in full swing.  These folks were good for that sort of thing, and some of them for not much else.  Of note, watch the delicate ballet of movement around the table as well as the two poor Lts in Mess Dress acting as Refs.  Good Lord!  If that had happened in a Fighter Club, the players would have been laughed out of town and the LTs would have been buying new uniforms the next day.  Watch the video, it’ll give you a chuckle.

Welcome back.  Now we’ll get on with how the game is played for real.  The following is a masterpiece of understatement.

“ This boisterous game is usually only played in a military mess as the management of most public establishments would not normally condone contact sports and the apparent abuse of their equipment.
This video shows a mild form of “Combat Rules” Crud. 

in Combat Rules, Body Contact is authorized and encouraged.  The only person who is not supposed to be contacted is the ref and even that is a judgement call.  He is supposed to have an adult recreational beverage in his hand at all times. He is encouraged to drink it. If incidental contact is made with the Ref and his drink is spilled, the offender loses a life and, of course, must replace the drink.

Did I mention this game is typically played in the bar at the O-Club?

Oh, and if combat rules are called, no one is immune!  Wing Commander’s, GO’s, no one.  I’ve seen 1LT’s level their Squadron Commander.  We had a former Linebacker for the USAFA football team in our squadron at Kadena.  Took our Commander to the floor.  Both got back up and went back to play.  The Commander got him back in a spectacular running slide across the table, hitting him just prior to ball release resulting in a missed shot and dead ball life.

It’s a fun game, although it wouldn’t surprise me in this day and age to find it banned.  So, juvat, what’s this got to do with you?

Well, So, There I was…..*

I’ve completed my first operational assignment and left the ROK a week or so before Christmas.  Spent Christmas Leave with my folks, bought a new car to replace the one I’d had in college all the way through F-4 RTU (A ’76 Chevy Vega, but that’s another story).  Drove to Moody AFB, in lovely Valdosta by the Sea Swamp, GA.  I arrive on a Friday and in process with the squadron.  It’s now Friday evening and I, along with my new squadron and the other two squadrons are in informal bar at the O’Club.  I guess there must have been a Formal bar, I don’t know, nobody I knew ever went in there.

Given there were three squadrons of 2 seater F-4Es and about 30 crews in each squadron, plus wives, girlfriends, ladies who’d like to be wives/girlfriends and assorted non-rated folks who didn’t know what they were getting into (some of them did and the phrase “Fighter Pilot is an attitude, not an AFSC” applied to them).  The bar was crowded.

And the focus of the bar was on the pool table.  There was lots of motion, jostling, yells, groans going on.  In short, it was obvious people were having fun.  Not having a clue what was going on, I ordered a icy cold Adult Recreational Beverage and went over to see what the hubbub was about.  Two squadrons were going at it on the Crud table, neither of them mine.  But my squadron is forming up to take on the winners.  One of my guys sees me and asks if I played Crud.  From the blank stare, he gathered I hadn’t.  He then proceeds to talk me through the game.

Not playing was not an option.  I had reported in, I was a member of the squadron, I would play crud.  No pressure. Not having a blog post to explain the game and YouTube videos to pick up techniques, I moved over to the score board where the rules were posted.  As I began to read, a deathly silence came upon the crowd.  The ref marched over and placed his elbow on the last rule (pointing with anything other than an elbow is verboten), which read, “Whosoever shall read the rules shall buy the Ref a beverage of his choice.”  The Lt Col had a taste for Single Malt Scotch.  

Great start Juvat!

Our game commences and I lose my 3 lives quickly and am relegated to the peanut gallery for the remainder of the contest.  I buy my opponent a round and sit down and watch subsequent games.  Later in the evening, the crowd has thinned a bit, but the squadron representation is still strong.  I’m staying in the BOQ until I can find a place to rent, so I got no place better to be.

The games are still going strong although the team size is reduced.  It is our squadron’s turn again, and in spite of my Stellar performance in my debut start, they still want me to play.  It seems we’re playing against an All-Female team.  Ahh, that’s why they want me.  Get me some seasoning against the JV team.

It’s my turn and I’m receiving.  My opponent at this point is a very cute 2LT standing all of 5’ 2” or so.  I think this is going to be easy.  She serves the cue ball and misses the object ball.  She gets three tries.  Serves it again and misses.  I relax, she’s going to lose a life and I didn’t have to do anything.  She serves it again, much harder and smacks the object ball into the pocket before I even know what happened.

Since she is directly across from me on the lineup board, I’ve got to play against her.  My game style at this point is much like my flying style.  All velocity, no vector.  Smack the ball hard and hope it goes in.  Hers on the other hand is much more along the lines of something from Sun Tzu. “(S)he who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.”
She had mastered the double tap, whereby she would trap the ball against a rail by hitting it softly and having it bounce back hit the cue ball again and come to a halt.  She is also, as already demonstrated, deadly on the serve.  In short, she was excellent at the game.
The game is finally over, the 2LT being the sole survivor from her team against 4 or 5 members from mine (not including myself of course, ignominious defeat came early).  She has managed to prevail and win for her side.  I approach, introduce myself and ask her what she’d like for her victory libation.  Purchase it and return.  

I sit down at the table with her and guys from my squadron and the other members of her team.

Well, turns out, that Crud was a Canadian Air Force invention, and a while back, a detachment from the wing had travelled to Moose Jaw for a Maple Flag.  They brought the game back with them. Fighter Pilots being Fighter Pilots, the ladies were not invited to participate in the Friday night games.  So the 2LT had gotten together with her friends and practiced on nights when the Club wasn’t populated with guys in bags.

Finally, one Friday Night after many weeks of practice and later in the evening after most of the hubbub had lessened, the 2LT and her team had challenged one of the squadrons, and soundly thrashed them.  Much quibbling about the reason for defeat were postulated, but none held much water.  They had been beaten by GIRLS!  A rematch was scheduled for the following Friday. The results were the same.

The 2LT and her team became regulars on the schedule and were not to be trifled with.  There came a time when the Canadians deployed down to Moody for an exercise, and of course that involved the Club on Friday and Crud.  The Wing King had challenged his counterpart to a game.  

The Canadian Colonel had his finest players at the table, when the Wing King walked in with his team.  The 2LT and her friends. There was much hooting and hollering from the Canucks, and some solemn nodding of heads from the Americans seeing lambs being lead to the slaughter.  It wasn’t even close.  The Wing’s honor upheld.

I’m sitting there listening to all this, when the 2LT asks me if I’d like a little help with my Crud skills.  

And that’s how I met my wife!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Snow Outside, Spring Inside

Until a few days ago, I had never heard of a weeping pussy willow. Now we have one. (And yes, that is an orchid behind it, she has lots of plants in the house.)

The Missus Herself trimmed it back a bit, when she first brought it home it looked like this -

A bit wild and unrestrained it was.

Can't have that now, can we?

I used to wonder at her gardening efforts. No more. You've seen what our yard looks like in the summer and...

What's that? You haven't seen it?

Here's a taste -

Somewhere out there, under all that snow, spring is lurking...

I heard a cardinal singing in the distance today. A sure sign of spring in these parts.

It may feel like a long time until spring, but really, it's not that far away...

Stephen Wolfe Photo CC
A cardinal told me...

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Mom and Dad
I was a happy kid growing up. A pretty simple fellow who still enjoys the simple things in life.

All thanks to those two people in that photo.

I know that I was a pain in the butt as a teenager. How Mom and Dad got through those years, I'll never know. Patience.

Mom had more patience than Dad I think. Most mothers do.

Still and all, they gave me a happy childhood and many happy memories.

Five years ago this month, I talked to my Dad for the last time.

I was in a hotel, traveling for work, he was back at home after a pretty rough hospital stay.

I could hear the pain in his voice but, as always, he wanted to know how I was doing.

So yes, the last time I talked to my father was on the phone.

Not long afterwards he was back in the hospital.

Not long afterwards I made the long, lonely drive from Rhode Island up to Lebanon, New Hampshire.

It was cold, lots of snow on the ground in Vermont and New Hampshire.

A full moon lit the snow-choked fields and mountains of my youth as I drove north.

The call had come after church.

"It won't be long. You need to be here."

I've told parts of this story before, here and here.

It doesn't get any easier. The pain doesn't go away. It's always there, some days you just don't notice it.

Then it will creep out of the mists of memory and wound me anew.

I still remember sitting in that darkened hospital making the phone calls that would get the news out to my oldest daughter, The Nuke, serving her country far out at sea on board an aircraft carrier. It gave me purpose, something to do.

The next day, awakening at my parents' home realizing that it had been no dream.

Five years ago today, I lost my Dad.

I miss him still.

I miss him always.

A Bag of Gas

I vividly remember one of the first lessons taught in VT-10, the primary training squadron for Naval Flight Officers.  It was taught to us by an F-14 RIO- LT Phil "Fess" Parker, as a way of encouraging us to study hard, work even harder in the cockpit, and ensure the pilot preferred us over a bag of gas.

What he meant was for us to be invaluable to the guy in the front seat- anticipate what he needed so the aircraft and crew was one- kind of zen-like- a single fighting machine that worked seamlessly to effect the mission.  For an NFO-centric aircraft like the S-3 or E-2, it's not so much an issue.  The pilot just puts the plane where the NFO needs it, and occasionally we'll send a waypoint or aimpoint up to monkeyboy in the front seat to keep him happy.  If the NFO isn't doing his job, the aircraft is useless.

A VS-29 Dragonfire NFO conducting pre-flight checks of the computer system.             WIKIcommons
For a Tomcat, a Marine Hornet 2-seater , or a Rhino (F/A-18F), it's a little different.  I would say that those are more pilot-centric aircraft (not to diminish the role of the RIO/WSO), where the NFO can be either a help, or a hindrance to the pilot .  If those two aren't working well together, or the NFO isn't pulling his weight, it's more likely that the pilot would rather trade the guy or gal for 500lbs of JP-5 - supposedly the weight the seat and the NFO-  "A Bag of Gas."

Throughout the NFO syllabus, and especially when we started the low-level portion, we learned how to feed the pilot info that was useful to him- what was coming up next, what features on the ground could help him find his turn-point, or what have you.  "Two minutes from the turn, outbound heading is 235, outbound course - 230, wind is NNW at 10kts.  Turn-point is a power-plant smokestack 500yds right of course."  It became even more apparent during the BFM- or Basic Fighter Maneuvers fam phase.  This was where two mighty T-2 Buckeyes would be pitted against each other with the NFOs calling out bogey positions to help the pilot keep the other guy from getting into a firing position.

To be perfectly honest, I hated BFM.  Keeping sight of a guy behind you while strapped into an ejection seat wearing 30lbs* of flight gear and an O2 mask was tough enough, but while pulling G's?  It just sucked.  Never worked so hard in the airplane, sweating through my flight gear, wrenching my neck around with the mask/helmet under G-loads fighting me the whole time.  I was happy to be in the "Overwater Jet Navigator" syllabus, knowing that I'd never have to hunt bogeys for a living.

But I digress...

Even though I hated it during Flight School, I remembered the bag 'o gas lesson when it came time for DCM- Defensive Combat Maneuvering flights in VS-41, the S-3B Fleet Replacement Squadron. The Viking was no fighter jet, but we could possibly get into a situation where we'd have to attempt to out-maneuver a SAM or an enemy aircraft, and the Hoover, with those long straight wings, had an excellent turning radius.  I think we only had one or two flights, but that was plenty.  It was another sweat-ex with me shifting around in the seat to see as far behind the jet as I could, calling out clock-codes to the instructor pilot.  I think I did okay on that grade-sheet, but  probably because he saw how hard I worked to maintain sight, not that I actually helped him.

Flicker- Phil Arommore

I suppose that's one advantage of a 2 seat fighter- the NFO adds another set of eyes to the problem, helping keep the pilot informed and the bad guys off your tail.

Another advantage of having an NFO over not having one, is much better in-flight footage.  Sure, you can strap a pencil camera to your helmet, or a Go-Pro to the canopy, but those videos tend to be a little boring in their focus- all one view pointing back at a narcissistic pilot, one that's constantly shifting (and inducing motion sickness) because it's on his helmet, or locked into a single view from where the pilot straps it down.  Whereas an NFO can actually hold the camera and get some varied and much more interesting footage.  You're never going to see your wingman, or follow a bomb as it falls off the wing, with a strapped down Go-Pro.  The NFO is a built in cinematographer for the Navy!

Not that that's a reason to trade a human being for a bag of gas, but without NFOs, I wouldn't be able to see really cool videos like this.  Which is really why I wrote this entire post.   


I'm sure there's some attached Go-Pro footage in there, but there's a lot of hand-held too, which just makes for better production value in my opinion.

That's just a big-ass camera he's carrying.

* Sorry Skipper, I just can't write it as "lb", it just looks awkward that way.