Thursday, August 16, 2018

Too Young...

Aretha Franklin
March 25, 1942 - August 16, 2018
(Source)
The world has gotten a little darker, there's a little less music in the air.

This was a favorite.



My guess is that the Heavenly choir had an opening for a singer.

Well, they got a good one.

R.I.P. Dear Lady...


Negative Waves

I'm sick of 'em.

Let me explain...

There are four blogs I used to follow (not on the sidebar, never got around to it, glad now that I didn't), that have jumped the shark as of late. Mind you, these are blogs which lean rather to the right. Those four blogs were banished to the outer dark. Bookmarks deleted. No more, no more, ever, to darken my thoughts.

These blogs were all touting the "coming civil war," bemoaning the fact that "it's started already and we're not taking it seriously." Geez.

Apparently none of those guys were around in the sixties.

From what I hear from my left leaning colleagues, they have the same fear. My belief is that they're all watching propaganda, I mean, TV news. Yes, there are cities where stuff is going down, mostly on the coasts, mostly in bastions of progressive thought where they can get away with it.

Why according to the "news" there was a "big" antifa rally in Providence not too long ago. Local media didn't say a damn word about it, local folks all said, "Huh? What? Really? I didn't hear anything."

Of course, if 12 people show up wearing black clothing and masks, it's an "antifa demonstration." If 300 people show up in support of the 1st and 2nd Amendments, it's a non-event, didn't happen mate.

All these negative waves!



Yeah, fire truck that.

Oddly enough, there is one rather progressive-type, anti-Trump blog which is on the blogroll and will no doubt remain. The blogger seems almost unhinged at times, but she likes cats, jet noise, and trains. So she's got that going for her. (And it's wise to have more than one point of view available.)

Those others? I sense that they want a civil war, so they can show how prepared and ready they are.

All I can say is...



Well, Red said it so I didn't have to.

No more negativity! This is the United Fire Trucking States, if the place didn't burn down in the '60s (1800 or 1900) then it ain't gonna burn down now.

Geez.

Get over yourselves.



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Adrift... Sort Of

I am pieces of all the places I have been, and the people I have loved. I’ve been stitched together by song lyrics, book quotes, adventure, late night conversations, moonlight, & the smell of coffee. - Brooke Hampton
A friend of mine posted that on Facebook the other day. Struck me it did, made me think, made me reminisce, which for me is always kind of a mixed bag. Like the song says, "Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share..."

Truth be told, most of my memories are positive, happy ones, not all, you just read a series of posts covering a less than happy time in my life, though everything did work out in the end. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, one we often cannot fathom, and events will lead us to where we're supposed to be, not necessarily where we want to be.

I get the sense that the current phase of my life is winding down, we're getting close to a point in time where things will change. I am on the cusp of retirement (again) and that sometimes gives me pause. But hey, life moves on and I'm enjoying the ride so far.


I'm seeing (hahaha, I amuse myself) some improvement in my left eye. Not as fuzzy as it was. But those eye drops, they work but my eyes feel strange. Ah well, this too shall pass.

Coming Attractions -

Not sure how many of you actually read the comments, but Beans is going to look into coming up with an official Chant recommended reading list. He's going to go through the old posts and gather what we've blathered about in the past. Should be fun and interesting.

Also, Beans is now the Archiviste Officiel du Chant. Let the decree be declared throughout the land.



A most interesting television show I just binge watched on Netflix -



Skipping past all of the environmental claptrap and hoo-ha, this series really is a taut political thriller. Two seasons out, it's hard to know who is on who's side, and the EU really looks bad. There is a third season coming, even though the Russians told the Norwegians that they really, really don't like the premise of the series. Hint, hint.

Let's see, Russians throw their weight around, Norwegians fight back, EU are a bunch of soulless bureaucrats. What's not to like?

For some lighter fare, started watching Kim's Convenience, a Canadian series on Netflix about a Korean family and their store in Toronto. Much hilarity, it rings a bell with me, and yes, I identify with the Dad in the series.



I work very hard...

More to come, my eyes tire, time for the drops!

Be seeing you.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Now What?

No, seriously, now what do I write about? After a very cathartic series of posts (nine in all, I counted) stretching over a week and a half, I realize that I am caught out in the open without a clue as to what to write about next.

Fortunately Juvat's post about the Paul Doumer bridge, well, more specifically the attacks on that bridge and some of the men who flew those missions, reminded me of a trilogy I read some time ago, and need to read again.

Termite Hill, Tango Uniform, and Lucky's Bridge are three novels set during the Vietnam War, the main characters in the books fly the mighty Thud, the F-105. The books were written by one Tom "Bear" Wilson, who's bio states -
Tom "Bear" Wilson was a career United States Air Force Officer with 3000 hours of flying time, mostly in fighters. During his 500 hours of combat flying, he earned four Silver Star Medals for gallantry and three Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism. He also served in various roles as instructor, flight examiner, tactician, staff officer, and unit commander. After leaving the military, Wilson enjoyed diverse careers, including: private investigator, gunsmith, newspaper publisher, and manager of advanced programs for a high-tech company in Silicon Valley. Mr. Wilson resides in Texas and has recently completed his ninth novel, Black Serpent. (Source)
I need to hunt down and re-read my copies of those books.

And yeah, Lucky's Bridge is the same bridge Juvat told us about...

The guy who wrote those books was a Wild Weasel backseater.

(Source)
I was saddened to see that "Bear" had passed back in 2014. I tried to track down citations for any of his Silver Stars and/or DFCs but with no success.

Another book I need to track down, Fast Movers, has an entire section on "Bear" and his pilot, Jerry "Hob Nose" Hoblit. (Love the callsigns...)

(Source)
Robin Olds and Ed Rasimus appear in that book as well.

The men who went Up North in those days have my eternal respect. Studs, all of 'em.


The posts are going to be a little light this week. My eyes are really bothering me, the eye drops the doc prescribed have greatly relieved the pressure in my left eye (40 down to 19) but the drops have squirreled up the vision in that eye. New glasses were prescribed but aren't in hand yet (nor on face). I'm okay without my glasses, but can't really get close to the screen and type at the same time.

New spectacles should remedy that.

I'm hoping this treatment works long term (I also see a retina specialist next month), otherwise I might need a new callsign, Cyclops might fit. As LUSH said, "Depth perception is overrated." I wouldn't know, I hope I don't find out.

We shall see.



Monday, August 13, 2018

Bridges



Keith Ferris has always been one of my favorite artists.  The fact that his subject is aviation certainly helps in that regard, but I think it's mostly because the painting are so realistic that one thinks they are actually photographs.  I came across one of my favorites Saturday over on "This day in Aviation", a frequent stop of mine on my internet meanderings.
Source
The painting depicts the egress of a flight of F-105s after they had dropped their bombs on the Paul Doumer Bridge in North Vietnam.  Just looking at that painting, it becomes very obvious what they are doing.

Getting out of Dodge!

But why was this painting on "This Day in Aviation"?  So, I read the article and realized that Saturday was the 51st anniversary of this attack.  Many years ago, I had read about this attack in Air Force Magazine  and wondered why it was such a big deal.  I mean, the Air Force is supposed to be able to knock down bridges.

The fact that they were successful and that was significant puzzled me.   (Naive I was at the time, because a significant number of my Dad's colleagues and students went over there for eternity.)

The Paul Doumer Bridge is, officially, the Long Biên Bridge.  It was named after the Frenchmen in charge of French Indochina when it was built.  It is the only bridge that connects Hanoi and Haiphong, meaning any supplies that arrive in the port of Haiphong such as SAMS, has to cross that bridge to resupply Hanoi.  Ergo, a very important target.  So the US expended a lot of effort to destroy it. 
Source

This attack managed to destroy one of the spans. (There are several spans, 1800 meters is 5905.5').  This took it out of commission for a while, but it was quickly fixed and would be reattacked many times for the rest of the war, finally being put out of commission in 1972 by Laser Guided Bombs for a year.

All of this I knew.  So once again, why did Mr Ferris paint a picture of this attack?

Well, I've discussed in posts as well as commentary my belief that the only difference between the Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross (or the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross) is the writing skills of the person submitting the recommendation or the politics involved with the attack.

I've come to learn that this attack resulted in the Awarding of 5 Air Force Crosses.  You may recognize some of the names.

Colonel Robert White Deputy Commander for Operations of the 355TFW at Takhli AB

Colonel Robin Olds Commander of the 8th TFW at Ubon (future home of juvat and Sarge).

Colonel James McInerney, Commander of the 13TFS and the flight lead of the Wild Weasels.

Captain Fred Shannon, Colonel McInerney's EWO.

Lt. Colonel Harry Schurr, Commander of the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

Lest anyone think they received the medals because they were in command of the units doing the fighting, that does not seem to be the case.  Col White had been a P-51 pilot in WWII, then flown the X-15, prior to becoming the Deputy Commander for Operations of the 355TFW at Takhli AB.  On completion of this mission he took a blown up copy of the picture below and walked it around the flight line showing it to all the personnel working there.  He wanted them to know and appreciate how important they were to the overall wing mission.

I believe that's called "Leadership".
Source
Col White retired as a Major General and was the Commander of Air Force ROTC while I was a cadet.

Col Olds requires no introduction to this crowd.  And, as can be seen below, he didn't have any problem commanding respect in his wing.  People were still talking about him as the Wing Commander in 1980 when I got to the Kun.
Source

 Col Olds retired as a Brigadier General.  He came to talk to a Dining in at Webb AFB while my Dad was an IP there.  He and Dad got into a friendly wrestling match and Dad ended up with a cracked rib.  Yes.....alcohol was involved.  He also spoke at a Dining in I attended.  Fascinating man.  No....I didn't wrestle him.

Col McInerney flew 101 missions as a Wild Weasel over North Vietnam.  "First in...Last out."  That's not a job for a shrinking violet.  During his tour, the squadron lost no pilots in combat. 

Capt Shannon was 5 feet behind him and, as a crew, they destroyed 17 SAM sites. Interestingly, he entered the Air Force as an Aircraft Electrical Systems Technician, served an assignment as such at Westover AFB MA, then went to OCS and was commissioned.  Now...Ain't that some coincidence right there!


Source
Col McInerney went on to retire with 2 stars.  He comes from a long family of folks who "Walk the Walk" and don't just "Talk the talk"
Plaque at the Thayer Hotel near West Point

Col Schurr would continue his career and eventually command the 3rd TFW and the 8TFW both at Kunsan.

As I was researching this post, I came across this post, that although technically about building a model airplane, contains some interesting data.

 
Source
 This gentleman was #4 in Col White's flight and is credited with one of the hits on the Doumer Bridge.  In the post, he talks about the attack from his point of view.  Yes....Some folks missed, the bridge, He didn't, and some of the folks shooting at him didn't either.  Fortunately the Thud is a tough bird.

He would later be an Ops Officer at Holloman where he uttered the immortal words to a young 2Lt fighter pilot to be, "Go Get Him, Tiger!"  The rest, as they say is history.

These were the kind of people that made me want to join the Air Force and emulate.  I hope  there are still some like them out there.  It's been quite a while since Leadership was a sought after trait in commanders.  (The small c denoting title, not ability.)

I couldn't work it into the post, but the first source below is a conversation with someone else I have a deep and abiding respect for,


Sources
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.aviation.military/YXryWgVwYTU
https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/11-august-1967/
http://peteralanlloyd.com/us-air-strikes-on-bridges-during-the-vietnam-war/
https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol13no4/html/v13i4a01p_0001.htm
https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/197485/strike-at-the-doumer-bridge-lt-col-james-mcinerney-and-capt-fred-shannon/
https://www.largescaleplanes.com/articles/article.php?aid=196
http://usafocsalumni.org/class-pages/63a-bios/piowaty
https://www.thethayerhotel.com/mcinerney.html

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Epilogue - Down Mississippi Way

"Hurricane Hunters" such as these aircraft, the WC-130J (right) and C-130J-30, are part of the Air Force Reserve's 403rd Wing located at Keesler Air Force Base, MS.
(U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett)
So the long awaited dream of a commission was DOA. I headed home, back to Colorado, couldn't put enough distance between myself and Medina Annex. And yes, this scene ran through my head a few times...



But hey, no hard feelings, right?

I got home on the morning of 2 April, a trip documented here. While The Missus Herself was rather irked that I had walked away from a $650 raise, and The Naviguesser was somewhat aghast that his old man had actually "failed" at something, the daughters were cool with having Daddy home again.

Thing is, I looked like death warmed over. I went down there at 185 pounds, came back hovering around 170. I hadn't weighed 170 pounds since high school. All my clothes and uniforms hung on me. I forgot to mention just how bad the food was at Medina, but I did mention that here. I wouldn't feed the slop they served up to my worst enemies. Hell, I wouldn't even feed it to the OTS staff. (Heh, they inflicted that chow on themselves, with no help from me!)

But a month off with home cooking and nothing to do restored my weight to its then normal level. The month passed quickly and all too soon the movers showed up to pack us out of our apartment so we could hit the road to Mississippi.

They were three hours late, they were lazy inefficient idiots, and they helped themselves to some of my property. Which was discovered later and I discovered that the Air Force in the '80s seriously didn't give a shit if movers stole things. Hey, we'll reimburse you, they said. At about half of what the stuff was worth. Bastards. Movers and the Air Force. On my last two moves I didn't lose a thing. I took pictures, told the movers that if any of my things "went missing," I'd be back.



So rather than hit the road around noon, we were on the road to Biloxi around 1700. No, we didn't make it far the first day. Maybe a hundred miles east of Denver, where we decided to hold up in a Motel Six until the next day. I do believe that The WSO, all of two and a half, mentioned that while the car ride was fun, couldn't we go home now? So she could sleep in her own bed?

Struck me that although the older two had "been there, done that" in terms of PCS* moves, this was The WSO's first move. She eventually got used to the idea that home was now in front of us, not behind us. For a while that is, the school in Biloxi would only be three months.

Three months on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the summer: May, June, July, and about half of August. Yes, as I mentioned yesterday, it was a very hot and humid summer. But we overcame, we improvised, we adapted. In short, we were together and we had fun.

We found a place to live in Long Beach, right across the road from the beach. Fully furnished, pots and pans and all the amenities. Maid service and a pool. We never actually went to the beach, going to the pool meant not having to cross a four lane highway with three small kids. Also the water in the Gulf was shallow. I swear, one had to wade out to the Continental Shelf before the water got above one's waist. An exaggeration yes, but not by much.

Now the place was small but it was well-furnished and cozy. It was also air conditioned, a very important thing, down Mississippi way, where opening the car door after school was like opening the oven door to check on the turkey on Thanksgiving. Yes, Tarzan would have had trouble with that heat.

Our maid was this grandmotherly black lady of about seventy, she loved telling stories to The Nuke and The WSO, they loved having her pay attention to them. Odd thing though, every now and then The Nuke and The WSO will pronounce a word in a rather odd way. They actually say it like an older black woman from Mississippi. Like when we got to Germany.

Coming home from work, The Nuke ran up to me and said, "Daddy, daddy, our town has a wint meal!" Those last two words actually came out in a Southern drawl,

"A what?"

"A wint meal!"

Eventually it dawned on me, having seen it on my way home that very day, that what our town had was a wind mill. Odd the way kids pick things up, innit?

Anyhoo. Though our place was a good sixteen miles from the base, I didn't mind it much. Truth be told, I don't like living too close to a base. Too many pawn shops, tattoo parlors, dive bars, and other places designed to separate an airman from his pittance of a pay check.

One drawback to living so far out was that my school started at 0600. In order to be alive, alert, and presentable at such an hour, I had to get up at 0400. Lovely.

Also, unlike every other Air Force school I had ever been to, this school was a full eight hours long. Started at 0600, an hour for lunch, all down at 1500. Because you know programming a computer is hard. People go to college to learn that stuff.

Well, d'uh.

Even so, it was a vacation for me. Assignments took maybe a half hour to complete, if I took my time. Yes, I was freaking sleepy all the time, but it beat working for a living.

A couple of incidents from the school have stuck in my mind all these years. One was on the very first day when a class leader was to be selected. Our squirrel of an instructor, she was a nice civilian lady but a real squirrel, in fact, that was her nickname, Squirrel, she told us that! Anyhoo, she said she had looked at our records and Staff Sergeant NotMe would be the class leader as he had the most time in grade.

Raising my hand I said, "Uh, I object, I think you might be wrong there Ma'am. Staff Sergeant NotMe, what's your date of rank?"

"01 December 1984."

"Alrighty then, guess I'm the class leader, 01 December 1979."

"Should have looked just a bit closer Ma'am. Now let's get on with this computer programming stuff, shall we?"

Our class was composed of people who had been the Air Force for a few years and were cross training (I wonder if they had had to wait two months) and young guys just out of Basic Training. Most of the young guys knew computers very well. The older lot, not so much.

Anyhoo, the other incident I remember is a young instructor explaining to the younger airmen that this, the school, was not the "real" Air Force, but was...

"Yeah, I'm going to have to stop you right there Sarge."

Turning to me with a puzzled look, he asked, "Did I misspeak?"

"Why yes, yes you did. This is the real Air Force. I'll bet they treat you new guys like crap back at your squadrons, right?"

A lot of head nodding on that point.

"Well, instructors like to tell you that the "real" Air Force isn't like that. And to a certain extent they're correct. But make no mistake, when you get to your first permanent duty station you are going to find sergeants and officers who are going to treat you like crap. If you get a civilian job someday, it'll be the same. Assholes are everywhere."

"They're not just instructors at training bases. Now, computers Sarge, I believe that's why we're here?"

The school staff pretty much left me and my class alone. Probably because we were a pretty savvy bunch, We had a tech sergeant in another class who thought very highly of himself, but wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer in computer terms. I overheard him telling one of my airmen that his average in the course was 89.

"Hell Sarge, our class average is 95. You'd be the dumbest guy in our class."

I rescued the kid before TSgt Dumas (not pronounced that way) could jump all over him, but I was proud of the kid. We had very high morale in our class. Everyone made it, we even picked up a kid from another class who had been set back for not making the grade. We helped him out, showed him a few tricks of the trade and he made out fine.

It was a great bunch. Whoa...

Another incident (a third this would be) just popped into my head, the day Sergeant Cook and I nearly caused an international incident.

We were out on break and saw two guys from another class smoking and acting like big shots. Two Egyptian lieutenant colonels. Yes, in other countries the officers had to do the thinking work, conscription, dontcha know, doesn't yield a high class of recruits in some (most?) Third World countries. When kids learn (maybe) to read and write then go to work on papa's farm, it kind of limits their opportunities.

Anyhoo.

The two light colonels went sashaying past us into the building when Cook (one of the funniest guys I've ever met) starts whistling this...



Then I started, well, you know, walking like an Egyptian. We had each other in hysterics. I don't think the actual Egyptians noticed, but the school commander did. He was right behind us.

"Ahem."

"Hahahaha, ha, oh shit..."

"Good afternoon Sir!" I barked.

Shaking his head, the commander opined, "Knuckleheads." but he said it with a grin as he walked off.

Heh. We were incorrigible.


I look back on my time in Mississippi with great fondness. I was there again for the NCO Academy, a six week course a couple of years later. Another pleasant experience, good classmates, good instructors. But the family was back in Omaha and I missed them dearly. I drove out to our old condo when I was there.

Big mistake. I could almost hear the echo of my kids' laughter in the little yard outside our door. (We had a corner unit on the ground floor, a place for the kids to get outside and play was awesome.) I was nearly overwhelmed with homesickness. Damned allergies started acting up. Might have been the beach dust...

Still and all, I have fond memories of the Gulf Coast, so I was devastated at the damage caused by Katrina. Most of the places I remembered, and loved, were gone. Literally blown away by the storm, including our little place by the beach.

The view looking south, there used to be more trees here. This is across the road from where we lived.
This empty lot is all that remains of the condo complex where we spent three and a half great months.
We were in the building in the yellow circle. Our place was at the top, in the front.
It's sad to see a place you lived, a place you loved, destroyed like that. Just gone.

But we keep it in our hearts, we have to, it's all that's left.


And so ends the saga of the Old AF Sarge's journey to O-land**. All to the good I suppose, after all, Old AF Captain just didn't have the same gravitas.

Ah well...






* PCS = Permanent Change of Station
** O-land = Officer land. D'uh.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Tout est Fini

What OTS thought they were doing to me...
(Source)
What it felt like to me...
(Source)
So the "big day" had arrived. The day before, The Departed (of whom I was one, no longer part of OTS, yet still at OTS) were instructed to move their automobiles from the OTS parking lot down to the parking lot at the main gate by such-and-such a time. A shuttle bus would bring us back to the Land of the Walking Dead. (Not part of, still there, a "dead man walking" kind of thing in the eyes of the OTS staff wienies.)

We were also instructed to be on the shuttle bus at 0800 (I think it was) the next day dressed in our uniforms, sans any sort of identifying insignia. Sort of a Branded scenario is what I think the imps of OTS had in mind.

Here's what those bastiges envisioned -



But here's what it felt like to me -



The night before the "walk of shame," I had sewn new staff sergeant stripes onto my shirt and made sure that my name tag and ribbons were all squared away. Over this I wore my uniform blouse, stripped of all identifying characteristics, as per orders. One thing though, which the OTS imps hadn't noticed, I wore an enlisted flight cap, not the officer cap the OTs normally wore.

I got on the bus with the rest of The Departed, and we road the bus down to the main gate. Where I disembarked and scurried to my waiting auto voiture. I was going to take off the blouse, then decided, "Fire truck it. The MFers wanna play games, let's play games!"

Off to Lackland I drove. At the gate not a word was said when I flashed my ID card. I found a parking space not too far from CBPO and dismounted. Off I went. The trip to the building was mobbed with basic trainees and instructors. Most of whom were chivvying the airmen in their tender care to and fro, back and forth, hither and yon.

As I strode manfully through this throng an instructor noticed me, I could see him glance at me, note the uniform and turn away. Immediately his head snapped back around as he sensed something not quite right with what he saw. It was then that I noticed the "you gotta be shitting me" look cross his face.

He nearly sprinted across the road to accost me. I had my trusty ID card ready.

"AIRMAN! What the Hell kind of uniform is that?!?!?!"

Calmly I turned to the young fellow, flashed my ID in his face and quietly said, "Good eyes Senior Airman. As you can see, I'm a staff sergeant and you are interfering in matters beyond your ken. Go back to your flight, there is nothing to see here."

"AIRMAN!  I don't know what kind of..."

 In my outdoor voice I responded, "ARE YOU FIRE TRUCKING DEAF AIRMAN? MOVE ALONG, RIGHT FIRE TRUCKING NOW!!!!!"

Startled him it did, before he could respond, I had dramatically pulled off my jacket to reveal my staff sergeant stripes in all their glory. Then I took one step towards Smokey Bear.

"Oh wow, sarge, sorry, I had no idea. Hope I didn't mess anything up. Some kinda exercise right?"

"Yes, yes indeed. Now carry on. We'll pretend this didn't happen."

Man, I had balls back then. Brazen I was.

Anyhoo...

I reported in to CBPO where I made contact with a Senior Airman (SrA) Weems, his real name, who took my orders. Noted that I had just bailed from OTS and he would start the process to send me off to Florida, where they still had a few F-4Ds in the inventory. (Might have been Tyndall AFB, it was a long time ago, so I wouldn't bet the mortgage on that.)

"So, Airman Weems, the Air Force just spent a crap ton of money to teach me all about computers. Wouldn't it make more sense to put me in a computer related field rather than go back to working Weapon Control Systems on an aircraft being phased out of the inventory?"

SrA Weems thought for a few seconds, then agreed with what I had to say, but, of course, it wasn't that easy. Paperwork was needed, I would need to "cross train" from my old specialty to the new. And, and, and...

"So you can't just give me orders to be a computer guy?"

"I know, I know, it makes no sense Sarge, but that's the way we do things. We don't get many former OTs here."

"I would imagine not." I said and SrA Weems made a few phone calls. Then we started the paperwork.

One could not just go from one specialty to another, one had to request it, and the request had to suggest three, not one, not two, but three specialties one wanted to cross train to. Rather than point out to SrA Weems, who was doing his job as he had been trained to do (whatever you do in life, never, ever be a "special case," systems can't handle "special cases"), I played along and filled out the cross training request.

My choices:
  • computer programmer
  • computer operator
  • air traffic controller
"Really, air traffic controller?"

"Hey, all the other choices sucked."

"Oh, okay."

Then it was off to check into the temporary quarters and report back to SrA Weems the next day. The ball was rolling, I was away from those imps at OTS and I felt like I was almost back in the real Air Force. SrA Weems, or "Weemsie" as I called him, did an outstanding job in the face of great idiocy and prevarication on the part of his idiot superiors. One of whom, a major, said not to work too hard helping out a "failed officer candidate."

I asked Weemsie for the fellow's name. He declined to give it to me, can't say I blame him, I'd be gone in a short while, he had to stay and work for the prick.

Anyhoo.

Tests had to be taken as the personnel pukes didn't believe my college transcript. So I took their tests.

Computer programming aptitude test - nailed it.

Computer programmer's school bypass test (so I didn't have to attend the tech school) - nailed it.

Then it was sit and wait. For like two months while the Air Force "processed" my paperwork.

I worked in the airmen records section over at Basic Training, where I had a great deal of fun. Met some great people, including a female tech sergeant who restored my faith in Air Force women. After the two complete idiots at OTS, this lady was a squared away professional. Not bad looking either, but I digress.

Where I worked was crawling with brand new, been in the Air Force maybe a week, baby airmen. They were so damned young and so damned scared of their own shadows. When I had to leave the work area to go elsewhere in the building, I felt like a great white shark swimming through schools of bait fish. The kids would scurry out of my way with panicky, jerky movements, until one day I told them to "knock it off."

"Airmen, no instructor badge, no problem. I am not a TI, some day, you'll be just like me. Act human for God's sake!"

But they'd still duck and cover when I moved through them. Ah, I vaguely remember being that way. Well, no, not ever really. Well, maybe the first day of high school, maybe.

I tried to go easy on 'em, they got enough grief from their instructors, who were paid to do that. Not my job to harass the kinder, as fun as that might seem.

One day at work I saw one of the airmen in the office reading the riot act to a small group of basic trainees. So, naturally curious and hating that sort of crap, I went over to see what was going on. Seems the airman two-striper was giving the trainees the business. I had that done to me in basic, and didn't care for it. No Smokey Bear hat, you do what the Air Force pays you to do, and that doesn't include belittling the new recruits.

"What do you airmen need?" I spoke up.

The airman who worked there full time, turned to me and said, "I'm handling this, go do something else."

Rather taken aback, I collected myself, took a deep breath then looked at the kid, then got right in his face.

"Give me your ID, then go sit at your desk. And yes, that's an order. If you refuse to do so, I will call the Security Police to come and take you into custody. Your move, do I read you your rights and make a phone call? Or do you go sit down?"

He went and sat down.

I helped the trainees get what they needed. When their instructor showed up, I gave him the airman's ID and told him what had happened. He went over and had a talk with the kid from my office. The kid didn't look happy.

When they were done I went over to the kid's desk.

"D'ya know what you did wrong?"

"Yes, Staff Sergeant."

"When did you finish Basic Training? Last year maybe?"

"Yes, last summer."

"Did you like the non-instructor staff giving you crap?"

"No, but I just thought that that was the way things were."

"Not anymore. Not while I'm here."

Kid behaved himself after that. In the meantime, The Missus Herself and the progeny were sitting up in Colorado, wondering when I was coming home. I was starting to wonder myself. So it was off to see Weemsie.

"Paperwork is in Sarge, all we're waiting for is approval for the cross training."

"What's their phone number?"

"I can call them..."

"Nope. I want to talk to them, personally."

With the phone number in hand, I called them. Asked for the guy Weems gave me the name of...

"Oh, he's on leave, started today."

"When is he coming back?"

"Thirty days."

"Harrumph, well let me talk to the person handling this while he's gone."

"There is no one else."

"What? Do you mean to tell me there is no one else in all of the Air Training Command who can do this? Everything comes to a screeching halt while he's on leave?"

"Uh, yes, I guess so."

"What's your name?"

"Uhh..."

"Look kid, I know where your office is, don't make me come over there. And what's your boss's name?"

He gave me his name, which I confirmed in the directory, and his boss's name. My next call was to the Inspector General (IG), I was done screwing around with these nitwits.

The next day Weems called me up, not long after the IG had called to tell me that I could expect action to be taken on my paperwork that very day. That if it did not I should call the IG back, they'd light some fires under selected butts until things started to move. The Master Sergeant I talked to at the IG's office had sounded pissed. And not at me.

"Weemsie, what's up?"

"Great news Sarge! Your cross training has been approved, but..."

"But? Weemsie, I don't like the sounds of that."

"You've also got a slot at the tech school for computer programming down in Biloxi, Keesler AFB."

"So, I have a degree in computer science, and some dumb ass thinks I need to go to tech school?"

"I know, but I can clear that up, shouldn't take more that a couple of days, but then it will take a week or so to get you an assignment and..."

"So Weemsie, what if I just say the Hell with it and take the slot at Keesler, when can I get those orders in hand?"

"This afternoon."

"Well, start printing them up son! I guess I'm going to Keesler."

"But you have a degree in that, and..."

"So the school should be pretty fire trucking easy, shouldn't it?"

"Well, if you're sure?"

"I am, print my ticket out of this zoo. I'll stop by this afternoon and be on the road tomorrow morning."

"I can probably get you out of here today."

"Nah, I need a good night's sleep first and leaving tomorrow seems pretty damned fitting."

"Why's that?"

"Dude, tomorrow is April 1st."

"Ah, April Fool's Day."

"Roger that."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I'm going to do the epilogue thing tomorrow. Keesler was alright except for one thing...



But it wasn't the heat, it was the humidity.

Stay tuned!