Monday, February 13, 2017

Orion's lucky star*


Not sure everyone here caught the little tit for tat over at Prairie Adventure's place (which if you're not reading that on a regular basis, you're screwing up by the numbers.  A nice blend of ranching life on the prairie and war stories of a Corpsman on a Carrier, some of which are quite enlightening).

Anyhoo....

Our Beloved Host, the oldest Sergeant known to exist,  made a comment casting aspersions on Colonels, clarifying it somewhat to reduce the sting by excluding "Diet Colonels".  

As they say in the movin' pitchers, "That's gonna leave a mark!"

For you see....At one time in the not so distant (ok, maybe somewhat distant) past, I was a "Diet Colonel".  
Don't even THINK about commenting about that other soda!

Not from the dieting point of view, as I was a lean, mean, fighting machine, running 5-7 miles at lunch, so on and so forth....

Naw, I was a Lieutenant Colonel.

Now, I've heard that the two most dangerous ranks in the Air Force were the only two officer ranks that wore gold.  2Lt's and Majors.  Both had too little knowledge to be worth much and enough rank to use that little knowledge to the service's detriment.

My experience proved that saying to be "fairly accurate".

A corollary to that statement was that actually the two dangerous ranks were Major Generals and Lt Colonels with their retirement papers submitted.  Both had enough knowledge and experience to know what was going on and what to do about it and too little "give a darn" to think twice about doing it.

So, I was at the Pentagon when it became obvious I wasn't destined to be Air Force Chief of Staff in this lifetime.  (I'm sure that was obvious to all but me starting when I was a 2LT, but I'm a slow learner.)  This tour occurred during the reign of Wannabe King Billy Jeff and the Empress Hildabeast.

I had been a Budget Manager for a $5 Billion Dollar Information Warfare budget.  (You can thank me for that doppler radar app you have on your phone among other things....You're welcome.)   With a business and computer background, I found that there were lots of idiosyncrasies contained in those program budgets.  

So...I asked questions.

Then researched the answers and asked more questions.

One Monday morning, I walked into our office and the General was there.  He shook my hand and said "Congratulations Juvat!  You've been selected for a job in current operations on the Joint Staff."

I moved down there an hour later.

While on that staff, I was in charge of writing the operations orders that directed the DOD's support of Counter Drug operations.

Specifically, my job was to figure out how much support the DOD could provide without losing (too much) combat capability.  The CD wienies (CDWs), if they'd had there way, would have demanded everything from everybody and then some.  My job was to say "No".

And since it was obvious that Chief of Staff job had slipped out of my grasp, my "Dar una mierda" as to whom I annoyed was fairly low.

One of the highly prized assets that the CDWs wanted very badly was OldNFO's chariot, the P-3 Orion.  Since the Cold War was officially over (at least in the eyes of the Non-DOD DC politicians), the CDWs used the argument that the Soviets were now our friends and conducting Anti-Submarine patrols and training were counterproductive to the enhancement of our relationship with our newfound commie friends.

To be honest, it was a hard argument to counter.  Most of the Soviet Boats were tied up in harbor and rusting badly.  Not much Soviet Navy was out and about.  Everybody KNEW that peace was at hand and the DOD budget was the "Peace Dividend". It was very hard to argue that we still needed to practice looking for subs because Nobody was Listening.

I'm not sure that the some of the  guys with the pointed objects on their shoulders didn't agree with the CDW's also.  I mean, they'd assigned me, an Air Force Fighter Pilot to fight that battle.  Heck, there was even a P-3 driver in my Office.  Why it wasn't him, I never knew.  

How does all this relate to "Diet Colonel", juvat?"

Relax, Sarge, I'm getting there.  I get paid by the letter, you know.  Mrs Juvat needs new shoes.

So, I spent a lot of time talking to my new best friend, the P-3 driver.  Had him introduce me to a lot of his friends on the Navy Staff and spent a lot of time talking to them.  

After a few weeks, I couldn't remember squat about operating an Eagle's radar and briefing a 2 v 2 DACT, but I could at least answer questions about stalking subs and what the training requirement for that was.
If you look just above the ensign, OldNFO is looking out that window.

But, I'm still under a lot of pressure to add more and more DOD support and the request for forces from the CDWs were getting heavier and heavier.

I'm in my office one day and the phone rings.  "Current Operations, Lt Col Juvat speaking, how may I help you, sir?"  (We weren't overly Politically Correct at the time and didn't need to add "or Ma'am" which always struck me as awkward).

"Lt Col Juvat, this is Col Schmuckatello.  I'm the new counterdrug liaison, having taken over from Cmdr Schmedly."

"Hello Sir, welcome aboard."

"Can you stop by and visit this afternoon, I've got some new requirements I need you to fill for P-3 flight hours."

"Sir, you are aware that we have allocated all the hours we've been approved for this fiscal year?"

"Yes, Lt Col, I'm aware. We're being directed to provide more."

"Ok Sir, I'll be there shortly."

I hang up the phone, thinking the CDW's are upping the ante by replacing my counterpart with an O-6, so I walk in and talk to my Army O-6 boss and let him know I may be needing some top cover.  Actually, I may be needing to USE some of my existing top cover.

My boss was an Army O-6, his boss was an Army O-6, his boss was a Navy O-7 by the name of Tim Keating (I called him Admiral, or alternatively Sir) and his boss (the JCS J-3) was a Navy O-9 by the name of Vern Clark (I also called him Admiral, or "Yes Sir").  
Lot's of stripes on that sleeve.  Retired as Chief of Naval Operations
Source

So, my Boss now aware of the situation, I walk in to the lair of the CDWs and ask their secretary where I might find Col Schmuckatello.  She kinda looks at me funny which puzzled me.  (I had a pretty good relationship with her, never hassled her and always got my paperwork to her with plenty of time or at least a heads up that it was late.  She always treated me fairly).

She looks at me and says, "You mean Dick?"

As I said, I'm puzzled.  She never called any O-6 I knew by his first name. My confusion must have showed I guess because right about then the door opens and an Army Lt Colonel walks in.  She says "Here he is now."

Ahh, I see, or as they say her in Fritztown "Alles ist klar!"

"Hi, Dick. I'm Juvat.  Admiral Clark is adamant that we have provided all the support to Counter Drug operations that we will provide for this fiscal year.  If you want to readdress that issue with him, please have his counterpart in the Joint Agency for Counter Drugs formally request that."

No way in Hades that's going to even make it out of Dick's front office.

So....OldNFO, if you flew anything other than CD stuff after 1998.....I like Scotch!

As a footnote, one of the other assets I had to handle were the aerostats flying along the border.  We had another interagency foodfight over tasking for those assets that ended up with Admiral Keating and I at the White House with some guys from the Agency that broadcasts TV into Cuba and somebody on the President's staff who's going to decide.  

That decision went our way, and as we're riding back to the Pentagon, Admiral Keating says that he'd heard I was retiring and ask what my plans were.  I told him "move back to Texas, and maybe plant grapes".  He asked if I was hiring as he might need a second career.

Doesn't seem that's the case.
Again, a lot of stripes on that sleeve.  Retired as Commander of Pacific Command.
Source


All in all, it must have gone alright.  I asked my boss if he'd like to preside over my retirement ceremony.  He said that he couldn't, Admiral Clark had said he was going to do it. 

It was a nice ceremony.  One of the going away gifts was a picture of a P-3 signed by all the P-3 guys on the Navy Staff. 


* Jimmy Buffett

28 comments:

  1. ADM Clark did your retirement? Holy crap, color me suitably impressed!

    Nice post Juvat. Why aren't we supposed to mention Coca-Cola? [*He said innocently*]

    Remember, be nice to your elders!

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    1. Yeah, I just wanted a quiet ceremony with my buds in the Southcom/Acom staff. Wasn't to be. It was in the Main briefing room where the Real Big Wigs get briefed when things are heading south. Adm Clark was very gracious and I was honored.

      Thanks.

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  2. My brother was a navigator in a p-3 (I think) tracking subs. He passed a few years ago from brain cancer, I suspect related to his duties on those flights.

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    1. I suspect you're right. I know lots of my colleagues who have had various forms of the disease. A combination of high altitude exposure to the radiation from the sun as well as a high powered microwave running pretty much all the time positioned between your legs probably didn't do anybody any good.
      I know Airline personnel have a statistically higher occurrence than other people for their age.

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  3. My skipper long ago told me, upon his promotion to Commander, that Lieutenants junior grade, Lietenants, and Lieutenant Commanders were all really just lieutenants. I'm sure he would have included lieutenant colonels and lieutenant generals if he knew any. :) He was the very definition of a PT boat sailor who just didn't give a crap about anything he wasn't in charge of. By the time he retired he had commanded 5 warships.

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    1. So...In short, your Skipper was a pretty good leader then? Take care of the troops, be a "Sierra" screen against outside distractions and get the mission done. Sound like my kind of guy. Had a few of them in my career (to damn few in my opinion).

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  4. You get paid by the letter!?!? All this time I thought we were paid per picture! Met ADM Keating once upon a time- he was C5F when I was at CENTCOM and we had a Component Commanders Conference in London during which I was slide beyotch.

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    1. The slide beyotch? Never heard it called that, love it, will use it.

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    2. Well, The Eldest "Coke Drinking" Sergeant (Evah!) is a complex individual. While your dazzling him with your visual brilliance, I trip him up with misspellings, misplaced commas and unnecessary parenthetical commentary. Our two pronged attack strategy seems to be working quite well.

      I always though Adm Keating was a pretty nice guy (as far as Admirals go). He was on my short list of good leaders.

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    3. See what I mean? Placed a couple of verbal landmines in that comment just to trip him up. Or maybe it's the Theraflu.

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    4. Remember Juvat, I spent over 7 years reading aircrew write-ups in the 781s.

      Misspellings, misplaced commas and unnecessary parenthetical commentary? I see them, I view them as "par for the course," shrug my elderly shoulders and move on.

      Sigh, in truth, you're both underpaid...

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    5. "Radar is Broke" didn't work?

      To be honest, in my current job, I feel your pain. "Student can't login, There's an error message." "AND!?????"

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    6. "Radar is Broke" wasn't bad. Not all that specific but at least accurate. "Radar does not work in O.F.F. mode" was interesting. Yes, I really saw that one day at Kadena.

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    7. I believe I'd have probably responded "Could not duplicate. Works perfectly in O.N.mode."

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    8. From the P-2 days:
      "Number two engine missing on run-up."
      "Located number two engine on starboard wing."

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  5. In addition to the joy and pleasure gained from reading these posts, I am continually reminded about how many people I've come to know over this interweb that have, what to this old former USAF Sgt., had exceptional careers and experiences in the military. My four years of building bombs and building more bombs for our last gasp in Vietnam ('71-'74) was a run-of-the-mill humdrum experience (exciting to me though, especially the times I spent on the flight line on a few Pacific Islands). Thanks Juvat!

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    1. Ron, I think you hit the nail on the head with the statement "exciting to me though". Life in the military (to me) had its moments of excitement, but it wasn't that which highlighted that life. It was with whom I experienced those events. My comrades in the Squadron. Even when I wasn't flying and was sentenced to life in prison in the dungeon of the Pentagon, the people I worked with made that bearable. (For the most part....but that's another story)

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  6. As a cynical Spec4/5, I viewed all officers as (1) Will this one get me killed leading? or (2) Will this one get me killed because he is a f^^k up? #1 Ok, I took the oath, so be it. #2, Ah, no, and you may be our first casualty. From my perspective it didn't much matter if he wore a butter bar or an eagle.

    Sounds to me as though you were a #1.

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    1. Interestingly, I took a similar view. The AF (back in my day) was structured differently than the other services. BITD, the warfighting was predominately done by officers. There were enlisted crewmen, of course, but not in fighters and attack. Even in heavies, most of the crews tipped toward officers.
      So, yeah I looked at the other officers with very similar criterion as you. Fortunately, the deference towards "feelings" had no place in debrief. You had to couch the "you are a dumbass" comment with a "sir" at the end, but none of the squadrons I flew in tolerated a blowback after the debrief was over.
      I don't think that's true any longer, more's the pity.
      So...thanks for the compliment. That was my goal.

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  7. Thanks for the post juvat. As usual, both post and comments are a joy to read.

    Paul L. Quandt

    P.S. I know that I was here earlier today, why didn't I see this post then?

    Paul

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    1. Thanks.
      All I can think of is I must have initiated the "Stealth Post" function for the Pacific Northwest by accident.

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  8. Thanks for the shoutout Juvat. You're very kind.

    Those P-3 guys, I liked 'em a lot. I could never hang with them at the club, but I did get to see a few incredible "hold my beer and watch this" moments.

    In the natural game of aviation one-upmanship we derided them for never hitting the boat and being overpaid (have per diem, will travel), but down through the ages the PATRON fellows have really walked the walk.

    Great post. I don't know how many times I've seen that telephonic rank pulling crap explode in someone's face. One of the joys of watching officer interaction. You might not think we notice, but we enlisted are like children, we notice everything.

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    1. No problem, I meant what I said. I enjoy reading your posts.

      Yeah, I'm not sure what he was thinking. He invited me to a face to face. Did I think I wouldn't recognize Army rank? As I recall, he wasn't in that position for too long. Probably promoted up and out ala "The Peter Principle".

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  9. Heh, I flew a BUNCH of that s**t back in the 80s, in addition to chasing USSR and 'other' subs around... Crossed paths with VADM Keating when he was 5th Fleet in 03-04. Good guy especially for a FAG (Fighter/Attack Guy)... We always wondered WTF was going through y'alls heads over there, I think at one point there was something over 130% of total available MPA hours requested...LOL

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    1. I was doing my best to slay those dragons. I remember that statistic and used it quite frequently with varying degrees of success. Aircrew innately understood what that meant. The Clinton Mafia...not so much.

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  10. Great Story...been awhile since I checked these pages and glad I did. I was P-3 NFO in the late 80's -early 90's, and thought the Counter Drug Ops were the last good deal in the Navy. Imagine a 1-2 week det from NAS Brunswick to NAS Key West in mid-February. 8-10 hour, low level surveillance flights over the Caribbean every other day...followed by some post-flight libations in downtown Key West. Sure beat the deployment to NAS Keflavik !

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    1. Key West or Keflavik?

      The former, definitely. Oh, welcome back!

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