Thursday, April 24, 2014

All Rise! (Part the Second - Finis)

It's time to finish my second court martial story...

This is the second and last of my bailiff stories - there is another court martial story. In that one I was a spectator. A kid in my shop in Korea was court-martialed for black marketing. The whole shop turned out to root for...

The prosecution.

I'll tell that story some other time. For now let's get back to the tale of the Lieutenant Colonel who committed various and sundry sordid acts, crimes against Nature and other dastardly deeds of which I shall not speak. (I won't say allegedly, because he was found guilty ya know. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.)

Once again, I will remind you that you are under oath...

Nope. Sorry. All this court martial stuff is taking me back in time. Not to the court martial mind you, but to the dozens of episodes of Law and Order I have watched while deployed to a hotel on travel for a couple of years. And again, I digress...

As I mentioned yesterday, I had a rather grand old time at that court martial. The accused, not so much.

It was our custom (those of us laboring for the government) to gather in the courtroom at the lunch hour for to eat our sandwiches and read our newspapers. I'm not sure where the defense went off to, here maybe?

We cared not, for we were the defenders of the American way and stood between vile violators of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and all that was right and good.

Classic Image of a JAG Officer
(At least back in my day..)

Now in that courtroom, at lunchtime, typically OB and I would sit in the jury box and eat our lunches. (Oops, an acronym, OB = Other Bailiff.) The prosecution team would eat lunch at their table and the Judge would dine at his bench. It was all very relaxed and collegial.

As the professional (American) football season was approaching in those days (I do believe the trial was in August, just before training camp opened) OB and I would often speak of tales of the gridiron and the prospects for the coming season. I should note here that OB was, like the Judge, a Texan. With all that entails.

OB started to sing the praises of the Cowboys of Dallas and their quarterback Aikman of Troy (back before he was a famous TV guy). I was nay-saying his prognostications of forthcoming Dallas wonderfulness at every turn.

But then, OB announced that the 1996 Dallas Cowboys were perhaps the finest team to ever walk the face of the Earth. Well, I did not stand for that...

"Objection! The Cowboys are not going anywhere this season." I stated, somewhat forcefully. And then we all heard, from the bench...

"OVER-RULED!" Said the Judge from On High. (Who I will remind you, again, hailed from the Lone Star State.)

"But Your Honor," I cried.

"I've made my ruling Master Sergeant. Take your seat."

Mind you, the Judge continued to read his newspaper throughout this exchange. Never blinked an eye, just swiftly and surely shot down my protests of Dallas Cowboy greatness. (While they did make the play-offs that year, they were eliminated in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Just wanted to make that point. Your Honor.)

So that's how the days went.

Blah, blah, blah  testimony.

Blah, blah, blah evidence.

Et cetera, et cetera. (Actually it was far more exciting than I let on. Mind you it was no Air Show with the Thunderbirds, but it was interesting.)

More exciting than a court martial. A lot more...

Another fun thing I got to do was supervise all the colonels went they went out for a cigarette. (As I was, in those days, a smoker. A habit I am still free of. I'm sure Tuna continues to monitor that situation.)

Remember the crusty old LtCol F-4 pilot I mentioned the other day? He and I would tell lies war stories about our Phantom days, boring thrilling the other colonels to no end tears. It was interesting to hang out with a Phantom Phlyer as it had been some years since I had twirled a wrench or performed BIT* checks on the F-4 Weapon Control System. Warmed my heart it did.

But eventually the trial began to wind down as both sides rested their cases. All the evidence had been presented. All the witnesses had been heard. It was time for me to take the jury panel back to the Fortress of Solitude, for on the morrow they would deliberate and render their verdict on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

The jury's hotel. A reasonable facsimile thereof...

Verdict day dawned, it was a rather hushed and solemn buckle of colonels I collected at the hotel. (That's a term we coined at SAC Headquarters for any grouping of three or more colonels. Herd of buffalo, flock of geese, buckle of colonels. FYI.)

These guys knew that they would be sitting in judgement on one of their own. Guilty the fellow might be, but he still wore the same uniform we did and had sworn the oath. Sitting in judgement on a fellow airman is not an easy thing.

When we arrived at the courtroom, I noticed a small olive-drab station wagon of the type our Security Police drove at Geilenkirchen. I didn't think much of it until I saw SSgt Wiggum (not his real name) standing in the JAG's office, just off the courtroom.
Not SSgt Wiggum. I don't think they're even related.
Especially seeing as how Chief Wiggum is a fictional character.

"So Wiggie, what are you doing here?" I asked.

He explained that it was required by regulation to have a vehicle and two (armed) Security Policeman available at sentencing. For if the defendant was found guilty, after sentence was pronounced, the defendant would immediately be taken to a confinement facility, there to await transport to Leavenworth. (That USDB thing we mentioned yesterday.)

Yup, he would not pass go, he would not collect $200. Justice would be sure, justice would be swift.

At this point in my conversation with Chief SSgt Wiggum, OB stepped into the room and asked where would our defendant be transported, if found guilty. Wiggie told us that the nearest confinement facility was at the American airbase in Bitburg. As Wiggie said, "About three hours from here..."

Immediately OB and I sang out "a three hour tour" from the Gilligan's Island theme song. That little olive-drab station wagon was immediately christened The Minnow, Wiggie was now The Skipper and his Senior Airman (E-4) sidekick was now, you guessed it Gilligan. Much to his chagrin.

Word of this did get to the Judge and the Prosecutors. To their (discrete) amusement I might add.

So the jury deliberated, the defendant was found guilty by a jury of his peers. Mitigating evidence was offered and considered and in the end, the defendant was sentenced to six months hard labor at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (Leavenworth) and dismissal from the United States Air Force. Not exactly an honorable end to his career!

The Judge called me over and said (ISYK) "Sarge, go get The Skipper and Gilligan to collect their prisoner."

I did. The former defendant, now "prisoner", was handcuffed, loaded into The Minnow and was hauled off to Bitburg. To begin his sentence. His case was appealed, numerous rumors abounded amongst the troops that he had been restored to his rank and was back on active duty. All stuff and nonsense.

The prisoner did appeal his conviction but the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces heard the appeal and upheld his conviction and sentence.

Me, I went back to being a standard issue Master Sergeant, one (1) each, retiring three years later. After a long and honorable career. I did get to collect $200. Didn't even need a "Get out of jail free" card.
Had one, didn't need it...

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

*BIT = Built In Test

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Now There Was A President

Two weeks ago today, I had the distinct pleasure and honor of riding on the ship named for this great President.

I was on active duty during the Carter presidency. Morale was at rock bottom, the nation divided and weak. Then Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected.

Morale skyrocketed in the military, the nation was strong and proud once more.

I cannot even begin to express how much I loved this man. And miss him.

H/T to Joel.

All Rise! (Part the Second - Alpha)

Now if you will hearken back to February, I had this post - All Rise! (Part the First), my very first time as a bailiff in a military court-martial. There was a second time but as I intimated the other day, it was a rather sordid affair. The officer in question was a lieutenant colonel and a graduate of the Air Force Academy. Let's just say, as to his crimes, he should have known better.

Now as the details of those crimes were indeed sordid, I will not go into any detail about those. My intent with this post is to cover the events surrounding this particular court-martial. Particularly those involving Yours Truly. For while the party on defense had no fun, no fun at all. We on the government side had an absolute blast.

Well, I did at any rate.

I actually became a brevet colonel for approximately 15 seconds. More on that in a bit.

Mind you the court room atmosphere was solemn and all that. We were all very correct and proper. Behind the scenes though, there was a great deal of hilarity, hi-jinx and good times.

At least for those of us not faced with the prospect of spending some time at Leavenworth. What's that, you ask?
The United States Disciplinary Barracks (or USDB, popularly known as Leavenworth, or the DB) is a military correctional facility located on Fort Leavenworth, a United States Army post in Kansas. - Wikipedia
Not what anyone would call "Fun Town"

Prior to the trial I was tagged with helping to set things up at the trial location. Well, in point of fact, the JAG* had me as point man on getting furniture, manuals and stuff to the trial location.

Now the trial was going to be held at the Tapijnkazerne in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Which from NATO AB Geilenkirchen was about 40 kilometers away (roughly 25 miles), you can see this on the map below. ("A" being Geilenkirchen, "B" being the Tapijnkazerne. -Kazerne is the Dutch word for barracks. Couldn't find any translation for Tapijn. Possibly a person's name.)

My AO for this evolution
(AO = Area of Operations)
The Main Gate at the Tapijnkazerne, my "home" for ten days

So why did the JAG tag me to perform this rather cushy job? Well, we lived in the same village, his oldest was really good friends with The Naviguesser and I guess my boss figured he could spare me for a few days. Also, I did have prior experience as a bailiff.

So I was issued a van and the JAG's youngest son to move stuff down to Maastricht. When we got there with our van load of stuff (which someone had already loaded for us) I got to watch as others unloaded everything. Okay, I carried some stuff in, after all the JAG (who was a major) was there and he was pitching in.

After we got the court room all squared away, son-of-JAG and I got in the van and headed back north. But, unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and found ourselves in some quiet Dutch neighborhood where we could see the motorway we wanted, we just couldn't figure out a way to get there.

Eventually we did discover the secret exit and found our way back to the main highway. We got back to Geilenkirchen about an hour after everyone else. One more load there and back and all was in readiness for the trial. This time we didn't get lost going back.

The first day of the trial dawned and I was off to Maastricht, driving a very nice 8 passenger van which the squadron loaned to me as I was to be the driver for the jury panel. In addition to being a bailiff. I could tell this trial was a fairly big deal. Two bailiffs, both Master Sergeants.

Now the judge was the same judge who had presided at the last trial I was involved in. Colonel Young. He was this kind of short and wiry Texan. We quickly discovered that His Honor had a fine sense of humor. Another thing we discovered (at the expense of the military defense attorney) was that he did not suffer fools gladly. There were two lawyers for the defense, one was an Air Force captain (he who irked the judge) and a high-priced civilian lawyer by the name of Frank J. Spinner. Rather famous in military defense legal circles.

One of the first things I had to do was to get with the Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels who were to weigh the evidence and determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. Eventually they would also vote on sentencing.

There I was, one Master Sergeant, two full colonels and four lieutenant colonels. So the odds were in my favor.

First things first, I explained to the gentlemen that I would be their transport from their hotel to the courtroom (and back) every day when court was in session. I would meet them in the lobby of their hotel, every morning, at 0745 sharp. We would then leave the hotel to proceed to the courtroom no later than 0750.

Random LtCol: What happens if we're late Sarge. Will you wait for us?

Me: Negative Sir. You will have to find your own transport. AND explain to the judge why you missed your ride.

Crusty older LtCol: So I guess we shouldn't piss you off, right Sarge?

Me: Nah. You guys should be fine. I can't imagine a lofty group such as this staying up too late, drinking and carousing, so as to miss your ride in the morning.

Crusty older LtCol (should mention, he was a pilot): Hahaha.

Me: Actually Sir, I will be keeping an eye on you. And the other pilot.

Scanning my badges, ribbons and such, the crusty older LtCol realized I was an old aircraft maintenance guy. We quickly hit it off. Especially as he used to fly F-4s. Had been "Up North" and all that. A really cool guy. (We Phantom types tend to stick together.)

Anyhoo, I never had a problem with any of the jury panel. Though the younger LtCol was a couple of minutes late one morning. The senior colonel told us all to hide and he would pretend that he was pissed as the younger guy had caused him to miss his ride.

Heh. It was pretty funny, the young LtCol came into the lobby, looked around and muttered something to himself about "fudge" (I think). Then the colonel came out and went into his "Where the Hell have you been Mister?" act.

Finally the younger LtCol heard the rest of us trying to contain our laughter just out of his line of sight. He started to go ballistic, then realized that the senior colonel was in on it too.

Though when we got to Maastricht, as he dismounted the vehicle he did mutter something else about the tendency of F-4 types to be the offspring of unmarried parents. Or words to that effect. (Poor guy. Used to fly cargo planes before getting a staff job. All the cool kids picked on him.)

Another thing I liked to do was to head to the little Army-Air Force Exchange Service Shoppette there on the kazerne and pick up enough copies of the Stars and Stripes newspaper for all the guys in the courtroom.

After the first day the defense team didn't get any newspapers. The defense attorney captain had complained (on the first day) that his paper was torn. Sumbitch didn't even offer to pay either. So on the second day, when he asked where his paper was, I told him, "Probably still over at the Shoppette. Sir." Before he could start whining/complaining/whatever, the judge walked in, I handed him his paper and he thanked me. And handed me a twenty. To cover all of the newspapers.

When the captain asked if I would get him a paper later, I informed him that he was no longer in my good graces. But if the judge directed me to do so, I would. He should ask the judge. Poor bastard actually did ask the judge to direct me to get him a newspaper. Judge just looked at him and said, "You're a special kind of stupid, aren't you?" (I don't think I was supposed to hear that. When I started to chuckle, the judge shot me a look. Which made the chuckle die in my throat. Of course, he eased the sting of that when he gave me a wink. Cool guy was the judge.) Truth be told though, I took pity on the captain and got him a paper the next day. This time he chipped in.

Now about that "field promotion" to brevet colonel I mentioned above. At one point in the trial the head of the panel asked me to relay a message to the judge. Seems the panel had a question and wanted to know the proper procedure to ask it.

I went to the judge, he explained to me that they should write their question down and then when court was back in session, he would direct me to collect said paper from the panel colonel and render it to the judge colonel. Lots of colonels in that room there were.

So the moment arrived and the judge announced that the jury had a question. He then asked the head of the panel if said question was written down. When the panel colonel answered in the affirmative, the judge colonel looked at me and said,
"Colonel would you retrieve the jury's question and bring it to me?"
Well, I got all puffed up, retrieved the piece of paper and handed it over to the judge. It was all very colonel to colonel to colonel it was.

The judge took the piece of paper, paused, looked at me again and said,
"Thank you Master Sergeant."
At the next break in the action, the judge called me over and asked (with a big Texas grin on his face),
"So how did it feel to be a colonel for, what was it, ten seconds?"
I smiled at the judge and said,
"It was fifteen seconds Sir. Fifteen. And it felt great."
And so it came to pass, that for one short moment in history, the Old AF Sarge became, "the Old AF Colonel." Ah, glorious it was. Simply marvelous. Not enough to implement my many schemes and strategies but it was there. For one brief, shining moment.

A New Air Force Rank:
Master Sergeant Colonel

Ah, what might have been.

I'll continue this story another time (yes, there is more, so much more), I just can't continue right now, I need to go bemoan lost glory and all those "might have beens"...

Sigh. I coulda been a contender!

*JAG = Judge Advocate General

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The IG Complaint

Not the United States Air Force Inspector General...
Once upon a time, near the wee town of Geilenkirchen, in the land of Germany, on the banks of the Wurm River, a decree came down for Yours Truly (and others) to hold themselves in readiness to testify before the Inspector General (IG) regarding various and sundry matters both sordid and (quite frankly) unbelievable. Matters regarding our well-respected and much loved Colonel. (Well, he was only a Lieutenant Colonel at the time, but that is far too tedious to have to type out over and over. So I'll go with Colonel. Write it off to artistic license. Occasionally I'll be inconsistent and say "Lieutenant Colonel", again "artistic license.)

The "Mighty" Wurm
Burg Trips, on the banks of the Wurm.

Main gate of NATO AB Geilenkirchen
(I see they spent some money since I left, this is "new" as in, it wasn't there in 1999.)

We were all wondering what exactly this IG testimony was about. We had not heard anything through the grapevine, nor did we know who the complaint was against and who the complainant was.

Gradually bits and pieces of information leaked out and we discovered that a sexual harassment complaint had been lodged against our beloved Colonel. That's all we knew. We had no idea who had lodged this complaint.

Now our Colonel was a well-respected family man, wife, two kids and was an all around decent chap. Treated his NCOs with respect and actually kept his ear to the ground and his nose to the wind. The man had things well in hand from a mission and duty perspective.

Now I know what you're thinking, this is exactly the type of person who does this kind of thing. Pinching bottoms, not-so-subtle innuendos in the workplace. The guy you least expect to do this kind of thing, then does. And gets caught. But this was not the case. No, not this time.

While I am by no means an expert on the sexual peccadilloes of field grade officers, it does seem that I was exposed (pardon the expression) to more than one Lieutenant Colonel who had been caught with their figurative "pants down." (Bailiff at two courts martial for Lieutenant Colonels who, shall we say, committed indiscretions of a sexual nature. One I've written about, the other I have not. As the latter case was very sordid, it may be some time before I regale you with that tale. If ever!)

But this particular episode seemed so far out of character that many of us had serious doubts as to the veracity of the complaint. But being good Master Sergeants (and above) we held judgement until in possession of all the facts.

One fact that came out early was that the officer investigating the complaint was a full colonel. A female colonel. One or two of my colleagues immediately cried "Witch hunt!" Again I held back. One of the best officers I ever worked for had been a female major. She was tough, but fair. She once threw two captains out of our office for swearing, in Italian.

They chuckled, thinking she was kidding. I was frantically trying to get their attention to let them know, oh-my-God-she-is-not-kidding! "Fly you fools!" It was only when she stood up and asked them "What part of get out of my office don't you two clowns understand?"

They learned quickly that Major Fraker was not one to be trifled with. On the other hand, she treated those of us who worked for her very well.

Bottom line, I don't judge an officer by their gender, never have, never will. (And it has nothing to do with having two daughters who are officers in the Navy.)

At any rate, the day came when I was informed that I should wear my best togs to work the next day as I would be chatting with the IG.

Testifying, as it were.

Again, not the USAF IG

The hour of my appointment with the IG Colonel arrived. I, in my best uniform, was briefed by another officer (again, a female officer, even I was beginning to get slightly suspicious) as to what I would be "chatting" about with the IG.

They must have dealt with a lot of nitwits, ne'er-do-wells and simpletons back in those days. It was a good five minutes before the lady captain gathered that I did indeed understand English (even the big words) and was not likely to pick my noise, pass gas or otherwise "let down the side" while talking to the Colonel. While I won't bet on which fork to use at a big dinner party (I've heard you start outboard with the utensils and work your way inwards) you can actually dress me up and take me to the nicer establishments.

(Which doesn't mean I wouldn't feel right at home with a bunch of sailors on their first port visit in three months. On the way back to the ship. Been there, done that. I recall Lex having a "colorful" story, or two, about being in charge of the liberty boat!)

Ahem, where was I? Oh yes, about to be ushered into the august presence of Her Majesty, the Air Force IG Colonel.

While it was somewhat daunting at first, it quickly became apparent that the Colonel had already drawn her conclusions. (Patience Gentle Reader, it ain't what you think.)

As the interrogation questions began, it was immediately apparent who the complainant was. The Colonel did not seem that surprised when I used the good female captain's name in answer to a question. This poor girl had arrived in Germany, full of vim and vigor and ready to do her job the best way she knew how.

Unfortunately, she did not know how. Not her fault really, most of the American captains in our outfit were about six pay grades above the work they had to do. As NATO was (and probably still is) a prestige assignment, most nations won't send just anybody there. (Well, the Italians do, but they are good for morale. What with the cuisine and such they bring with them, and share. Give me an Italian who can cook over two competent computer guys any day!)

So we had what you might call bloat. Too many people who would be telling people what to do at any other place on the planet, are now the ones doing the actual work. All in the name of politics.

Hell, I didn't mind. Did I mention that this was in Germany? That our multinational outfit had Italians (who could cook) and Danes and Greeks and Turks (though not in the same room) and Norwegians and Brits and Germans and, and...

Well, lots of various and divers nationalities.

It was all too much for our lady captain. She had come from a rather good staff job to being just another body at a keyboard. Rather a let down.

Also the environment in Europe in those days was the near exact opposite of that in the States, political-correctness wise. The Germans were all male and had no compunction against making rude remarks to the unwary Yanks who could not sprechen Deutsch.

Risqué calendars were also all the rage with our Teutonic allies. (Most of the American ladies learned to grit their teeth and look the other way. Different times, different culture.) Seems our lady captain had taken one insult too many, seen one too many a "Fräulein November" and decided that the Colonel should "do something about it!"

Apparently our dear Colonel had hinted that she needed to put on her "big girl panties" and deal with the Germans (and other Euro-types) herself. She took offense and lodged an IG complaint.

The IG determined that there wasn't much the United States Air Force could do about the situation. Short of pulling out of NATO I guess. Mind you, this was before we had Presidents who get their jollies bowing and scraping to foreign potentates. Even Clinton didn't stoop that low!

So our lady captain discovered that she wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Apparently the IG assured her that that was indeed the case and that if she couldn't deal with it, then perhaps a new assignment was in order.

And so it came to pass...

The lady captain was reassigned back to the States. Our colonel stayed to the end of his tour and eventually left Germany to go to the Five Sided Puzzle Palace Pentagon where he made "full" colonel and then (in the fullness of time) eventually retired after a long and glorious career. (Hhmm, maybe the Pentagon tour was punishment?)

I'm pretty sure the lady captain thrived back in the good old (politically correct) US of A, then faded into career obscurity and was never heard from again.

Nowadays I'm sure she'd be a full blown celebrity making the rounds of the talk shows.


Wondering about those movie stills? Our colonel's name and the name of Frank Sinatra's character in that movie were identical. Well, the last name anyway. Without the "von".

Monday, April 21, 2014

All Things Must Pass

Another Easter come and gone. Another year older, another year closer to "going home."

Another nice weekend receding rapidly in my wake.

And it was a good weekend, The Missus Herself and Yours Truly had Easter dinner with close friends and (as always) we ate too much, laughed a lot and one or two of us had more wine than is probably healthy. (Count me among the guilty as charged in that respect.)

But when one only drinks once in a blue moon, that's okay. (Oddly enough there have been two of these "drink too much" blue moons this month. But then again, it's not every month that I go to Sandy Eggo, ride an aircraft carrier and then celebrate Easter the next week.)

Now I have a story pending, one I was going to do today, which would have required me writing it last night. That's why I mentioned the wine. Just was far too jolly to concentrate last night.

So that left me bereft of a post to inflict bestow upon you this morning. On the other hand, Bubbles and the Winnebago seems to be garnering a lot of hits. So I've got that going for me.

Now the story I was going to relate has been moved to the back burner. Primarily because the latest offering over at I don't know; ask the skipper got me a bit spun up, but also reminded me of another story. Which I need to tell.

Well, "need" is a bit strong, perhaps "want" better describes it. It's something we're trying to teach Little Bit.

"Grampa, I need a juice box!"

"No baby girl, you want a juice box."

"No Grampa, I need a juice box. NOW..."

Yes, we do spoil her.

Perhaps it's genetic, I've been known to need a Guinness.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Eugène Burnand, The disciples Peter and John came running to the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection, 1898. Paris, Musée d'Orsay
I have to concur with c w on this one, greatest Easter painting ever.

John. Peter. My two favorite Apostles. Men I can relate to.

The looks on their faces explains Christianity to me beyond what any words can convey.

And from Proof, this magnificent hymn...

May the Lord of Hosts shower blessings upon you.

Now and always.

My Easter is complete.

He Is Risen!

Luke 24
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.

In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, 

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!"

He has risen indeed!