Monday, August 31, 2015

Uniformity


Every so often (ok, quite frequently), one of Sarge’s posts triggers a memory of a similar issue at some point in my life.  This is usually followed by a feeling of relief that I don’t have to rack my brain for a posting subject and quick trip to the computer to make some notes before RAM in my brain is overwritten to perform some other function such as breathing.

Such was the case on Saturday when Sarge wrote a fabulous post that ended up being dominated in the comments by the subject of military uniforms and the foibles of their procurement and wear.  I read the post and the comments and felt the tap on the shoulder from what Sarge would call his Muse, but in my case was my Wife who said “Juvat, Remember that time….”.  So, yes, I’m blaming her.

So,  There I was…..*

Kadena.  The mid-80’s, a glorious time to be in the Air Force.  Flying time was plentiful.  Jets were relatively new.  We were cleared supersonic from just about the time we could get that fast and from sea level to as high as the jet would fly.  Leadership was gradually clearing itself from its death spiral during the reign of the, then worst, now second worst president ever.  They were not overly afraid to try new things.  (Just in case you’ve been asleep or lost in the jungles of Papua New Guinea for the past decade or two, that’s not the case anymore.)

I had been asked by the Boss to stop by his office when I got done with my afternoon flight which didn’t bother me, much.  If he’d said, “stop by my office instead of your afternoon flight” that would have been different.  

Adversary Air (because "Aggressor" is a Microaggression)


So, having lead my four ship and kicked the ever living snot out of some Aggressors (it’s my story, I’ll tell it like I want), I stop by his office. 

Now remember my three prior assignments, two in F-4s and one at Lead-in.  All of which involved both air to air and air to ground.

After I reported in, (yes, the Air Force does that, stop gasping in shock) he proceeds to tell me he’d like me to get with 3 of the other squadron members who had air to ground experience and begin building a program to do air to ground from the F-15.  Develop the standards, figure out the weapons system, the whole nine yards.

Knock me over with a feather!  

Whatever happened to “not a pound for air to ground”?  

Well, turns out, that there was an air to ground mode on the radar, but it wasn’t enabled.  We were going to have to do it the WWII way, with iron sites, and mils and depression.  Still, it would be fun.

So, we’re pretty deeply into this for a few weeks and getting close to actually dropping some practice bombs.
 
It’s a Friday and flying on Friday usually terminated at noon or so.  (That would allow the Air Force to get an early start at the Beach and/or golf course, getting the best spots before the other services could get there.)

It also allowed us to participate in Pilot meetings, to comply with all the ground training requirements and any equal opportunity training that was levied so on and so forth.
In any case, for this pilot meeting the CBPO (Consolidated Base Personnel Office) chief would be speaking.  This guy happened to be my wife’s boss.  Since he knew she was married to a fighter pilot, he asked her what he should talk about.  

The Air Force had just changed up the officer promotion system as well as instituted the pilot bonus (Poorly implemented IMHO, although I took it.  It extended my commitment to active duty by 30 days for $8000/year.  Also, I intended and did make it for 20 so I agonized over that decision for a second, maybe two.)

Anyhoo…

She told him he would probably generate some interest by discussing those subjects. 

So the big day arrives and I’ve spent most of the morning trying to figure out some issue with dropping bombs because we’re scheduled to drop them for the first time on Monday, but it’s time for the Pilot meeting.  I flush all my problems out of my brain so I can focus on Personnel things, expecting to hear about promotions and bonuses. 

Yeah, right.

The CBPO wienie (he really was, he eventually got relieved and my wife took over) begins his talk and almost instantaneously, I’m very confused.  He starts out by introducing his topic as “The proper wear of BDUs”.
BDU-33 (Source USAF photograph)

Now, the bombs I’m concerned with dropping have the nomenclature BDU-33, but are commonly referred to as BDUs.  I spent the first part of the meeting trying to figure out why the heck he’s talking about wearing a 25LB practice bomb, when it dawns on me.  He's talking about a uniform!

At this point, I've been in the Air Force 8 or 9 years.  I've worn my Class A's (bus driver outfit) twice since commissioning.  Once at UPT graduation and once on the plane ride to Korea.  I've worn the Class C's (short sleeve, open neck shirt) maybe a dozen times.  Other than that Uniform of the Day means Flight Suit.
US Air Force Photo

Upon completing his discussion to an audience completely comprised of persons who have the similar uniform expectations and which focused solely on wearing the BDU, he asks if there are any questions.  Unsurprisingly he gets none, so he then leaves.  That's 45 minutes I’ll never get back.

Monday arrives and we crank up the jets, taxi out to the arming area, get armed and are waiting for the AWACs on short final to land, when I get a call from the Supervisor of Flying.  Seems he just got off the phone with the PACAF commander, General Merrill McPeak. (He evidently went by Tony, but I think Merrill better reflects my respect for the man.)

Seems HE had not approved this endeavor and our demonstrating this capability would most certainly endanger the funding for the F-15E.  Therefore we were to abort the mission and forget it ever happened.

Not a pound for Air to Ground.

Shortly afterward, the selfsame PACAF commander came for a visit.  Some of us Majors were invited to talk listen to him face to face.  I was one of the lucky ones selected.  

One of the other Majors is sitting in the front row and his flight suit legs have ridden up, revealing his socks.  He was wearing white cotton socks with a colored ring around the top.  (So did most of the guys in the room, that was the style the BX had that month, but he’s the stuckee.)  The meeting begins with an O-10 to O-4 reaming about being out of uniform because of his colored socks. 

When McPeak asked for questions later.  Dead silence.

But a new Air Force Tradition was started that Friday at the Squadron Bar. (I wonder if they still have Squadron Bars?  Somehow I doubt it.)  At some point after all the members, which frequently included wives, had arrived, someone would yell “Sock Check!”  The front zippers of all flight suited patrons would be undone and the flight suit dropped to the floor, so the inspecting officer could check that socks were completely white.  It was always hilarious, especially after a couple of beers.

I’m positive that tradition has been exterminated nowadays.


*SJC

14 comments:

  1. Oh yeah. McPeak. Even us Navy guys heard of him. Felt sorry for the USAF for the first (but not last) time in my life,

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    1. Other than having been a Misty Fac in Vietnam (think Col Bud Day), I never saw much "there" there.

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  2. What kind of yahoo would brief pilots on the proper wear of BDUs? (Oh yeah, a complete yahoo.)

    McPeak. (I'll say no more.)

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    1. Well he was relieved for incompetence. Which was a twofer for Mrs Juvat. No longer having to work for that incompetent boss and now being the boss.

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  3. And then the nav selected the Blue Death Uniform as their BDU style. SMH.

    Having read his books I find mcpeak a scary guy.

    After the Desert One fiasco I got to help update/rewrite Navy CSAR doctrine/procedures in the early to mid-80's. Lots of superb flying and rewarding hard work. Then I got to watch as better ideas came off the cuff and to the fore in '90 and '91, guaranteeing the reinvention of costly mistakes. Whatchagonnado?

    There are two versions of the DS/DS story. One holds that the late-Veet-Nam generation vowed to make up for the horrible doctrine they endured as JO's and fixed everything. The other is the truth. Not that I'm keeping track or anything.

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    1. He was also the first person I thought of when Sarge was talking about generals taking over and their first official act was to redesign the uniform. The Air Force went from being Bus Drivers in their Class A's to being Airline Pilots. Which, of course, caused a bunch of pilots to actually become Airline Pilots.

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  4. Squadron Bar? Heard the term before. Even seen pictures of one. Still hard to believe. A BAR in SQUADRON spaces!!!

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    1. Heck there was even one in my office in my first job at the Pentagon. You just had to know where to look.

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  5. Y'all worried WAY too much about that crap... You even polished your flight boots (no-no for fire)... And those cute little dickies y'all wore... Really??? McPeak was a strange one, and yes, even the Navy heard about him. In the Navy, we were just happy to have a flight suit that didn't have holes in it. And boots that didn't have duct tape holding the sole on...

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    1. The dickies were before my time. Scarves however....

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  6. OH yeah, re bars, 57th FIS was actually banned from the Brass Nut in Kef because y'all kept getting drunk and stupid and picking fights, or falling down stairs and breaking things...

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    1. I always heard the 57th was kinda staid, being interceptor drivers and all. Getting banned...That musta been a bad day or something.

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    2. It went on for about three months, probably 2-3 fights a month, and at least one broken arm and a broken leg... Dunno what was up with that... They were banned for at least 6 months that I remember.

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    3. It went on for about three months, probably 2-3 fights a month, and at least one broken arm and a broken leg... Dunno what was up with that... They were banned for at least 6 months that I remember.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)