In the summer of 1985, I participated in the American Legion's Boys' State program, where we set up a mock government to learn about local, state, and federal government as well as the legislative process. That led to my Senior year in high school when I took a Social Studies elective about current events. I was hoping to get into the Naval Academy so I was packing my schedule with all kinds of academic rigor, hoping it would make me a better candidate. Fortunately it didn't help, as the academic rigor at the Boat School would have surely done me in, at least that's what my Calculus and Physics grades in College tell me. In the class we discussed US and global politics, the election process, and whatever were the major news stories of the day.
|The hijacking of TWA Flight 847|
Boys' State and that course really piqued my interest and were probably the catalyst for a lifetime of fascination with politics and current events, not to mention a well-shared hatred of terrorists. However, my interest has waned over the years, probably due to a better understanding of - and disgust with - the process, hence my periodic pithy political posts that I force upon you from time to time.
But I was supposed to be telling you about that time I met the Presidents. Fast forward to my first year in Flight School. The National Museum of Naval Aviation was honoring President George Herbert Walker Bush with a tribute recognizing him being a Naval Aviator.
|N2S KAYDET (aka Stearman) flown twice by then-Aviation Cadet Bush.|
A week or so ago, I read a post somewhere regarding some Air Force leadership that had completely overstepped their authority by administratively punishing some pilots they thought had taken drugs, even when the evidence didn't support it. While not exactly the same sort of situation, it made me think about the crazy decisions each step of the chain of command might make to either impress, or eliminate concern from- the next higher link in the chain. If their immediate superior isn't happy, then nobody is happy. Unfortunately, making the lowest rung of that ladder happy isn't part of the equation.
|"We had to get dressed up for this guy?"|
Even though the President wasn't due to show up until around 1400, we had to show up for the bus from Atsugi to Yoko, usually a 90 minute drive depending on traffic, at 0900. I'm not sure who made that decision, but I'm sure it wasn't anyone who had to go. We arrived at the bus on time, only to find out that it wasn't scheduled to leave until 1000. Apparently at least a little common sense was found by someone, but not by anyone who thought to tell the unlucky few. Traffic was unremarkable on the freeway so we arrived around 1115.
Another bright idea from someone was that we were told not to bring a single solitary thing except our ID cards. That meant no wallets, keys, change, or more importantly- water bottles and sunscreen. I don't remember what time of year it was, but we were in Service Dress Blues as you can see in the picture above, and it was quite warm. Standing in the sun, on a steel flight deck, wearing SDBs and Corfram shoes was damn hot - Africa hot. I remember getting a sunburn on my face because I quickly sweated off the sunscreen I had applied before leaving the bus.
The lack of water was somewhat of a problem since it was warm, but probably a good idea since we weren't allowed to go inside the skin of the ship to use the head- we had to go back to the pier to use the porta-johns they had set up for the occasion. I guess allowing us in the ship was too much of a security risk.
The President's helo was over an hour late. I have no idea who to blame for that once, but I remember actually getting a little excited when he landed. Not to see him, but that I knew our misery was that much closer to ending. After the requisite donning of the flight jacket that you see below, he made some remarks about us out here on the tip of the spear, being a valuable part of National Defense Policy. Other than that I don't recall.
If it had been another Republican President I might consider going to see him or her, but probably not. If it's Clinton's wife someday? Take a guess. If it ever came down me to being told that I have to go?
I'll pay someone to take their wife.