|F-4D Phantom 66-8709 of the 80th* Tactical Fighter Squadron (USAF Photo)|
Though I read John Q. Public whenever he's got something new, some of what he writes about is hard to believe. This story I found particularly concerning. While I had knew of a couple of very senior generals who really abused their power back in the day, it didn't seem as endemic as it does now.
One of the things we used to joke about was it seemed we'd get a new set of uniforms every time the Air Force got a new Chief of Staff. Some of them really sucked in my estimation. (We Are The Mighty has a good take on that. Kinda funny, kinda not. I still want to heave every time I hear Tony McPeak's name!)
Some of the bad stuff I hear always seems to emanate from the good old Continental U. S. of A. Overseas we seldom had time for the sort of crap which seems to occupy the shoe clerks who tend to camp out in the U.S. and avoid overseas tours like the plague. Well, at least they did in my day. Probably still do.
Two of the best assignments I ever had were both in PACAF, Pacific Air Forces, Japan and Korea. PACAF being headquartered at Hickam AFB in Hawaii, a place Juvat is very familiar with, as he was with Kadena and Korea. Those guys in PACAF, for the most part, took care of their people.
When I first got to Kadena, in Japan, on the island of Okinawa, I didn't really care for it all that much. Most of our senior sergeants thought we were still in Vietnam. So we were on 12-hour shifts. While they did seem to realize that it was actually peace time so we had two days off every week, much of what we did could have been accomplished on eight-hour shifts. But "that's not the way we did it during the war" was their hue and cry. They didn't appreciate this young airman (moi) telling them "dude, the war's over, chill."
Eventually all the old Vietnam and Thailand guys rotated back to the States. Mind you, most of the younger sergeants were awesome (yeah, Russ, I'm looking at you) and I learned a lot from them. After my first chief departed for the "Big BX" (which is what we called the US of A, BX = Base Exchange, think military department store) we got a new chief, a guy I will never forget, Chief Colona. (Though the correct spelling of his last name escapes me, be in reality I always just called him Chief.)
Guy was amazing. Though I knew a number of E-9s when I was active duty, Chief Colona was the first one I worked for and probably the only one I ever respected. (Now there were guys I worked with who went on to make chief and might have been good ones, two spring to mind right off the top of my head who were probably outstanding chiefs.)
One thing I need to mention. The rank of Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force is in the pay-grade of E-9. Referring to someone as an "E-9" is most definitely not a mark of respect. Referring to someone as "Chief" is. Just thought I'd mention that.
Now you might imagine that I may have been something of a "handful" as an airman. I never been good with dealing with BS, nor have I ever been reticent in throwing the "BS flag" when I thought it was called for. Now on Okinawa I was an unhappy camper at first. I had had an assignment to Thailand (Udorn RTAFB to be specific) and had taken some getting used to the fact that I wasn't going to Europe. Which is what I wanted. One of the sergeant's at my training squadron took me aside and convinced me that I would absolutely love Thailand. (Yes, I would have, knowing what I know now.)
But Udorn was going to be closed and Big Air Force knew it, why assign people there only to have to re-route them elsewhere. Well, short story is that's what bureaucracies do, and outside of the flying bits of the Air Force, there is a crap ton of bureaucracy. So my orders to Udorn were cancelled and because I had orders to Udorn, I was going to go to Okinawa, where the guys who hadn't finished their tours in Thailand were being sent.
Long story short, I was a pain in the butt until Chief Colona and I had a "come to Jesus meeting." He showed me the errors of my ways and I became a pretty decent troop after that. But I see that I have digressed with this bit about the Chief and Okinawa.
Main point I was trying to stress is that being in PACAF was heaven, being Stateside sucked (so I was told) and mother Air Force kept trying to suck me back to the States. I wanted to go to Korea. (For many reasons, okay, one reason.) So I kept extending my tour at Kadena, six months at a time. The Chief asked me when I would stop extending, I told him that when Big Air Force gave me an assignment to Korea or when I retired, whichever came first. (I should note that Chief served a LONG time on Okinawa, I want to say 20+ years.)
Chief understood and hooked me up with a guy he knew from PACAF HQ. No sweat the guy from HQ said, when do you want to go? How about right freaking now and how did you do that? Randolph AFB (where Air Force assignments was home based) couldn't do squat for me and told me constantly, "there are no slots available". As the guy from HQ told me, "You belong to PACAF, as long as we want to keep you, you can stay. Big Air Force has no say past the coast line of California. Because...
Or something like that.
Now I spent six years and four months in PACAF. Loved it most of the time. We were there to fly and to fight. (Well, I was there to maintain the jets. Guys like Juvat and Tuna actually flew them. Wasn't much fighting at the time either, but with North Korea only a short flight away, we had to be ready.)
Eventually all good things must end, but whereas most of my compatriots were sent to Florida to work in the hot sun repairing our dwindling numbers of Phantoms of the "C" and "D" model variety, I received the Stateside dream assignment for my career field. Denver, as in Colorado, as in no jets, we maintained the weapon control system trainers used by the trainees and instructors. As a training base we were last in line for spare parts. So we had a lot of spare time.
Now for a Stateside base Lowry (which used to be the base there in Denver) wasn't all that bad. It's where I went through training and, much unlike other training bases, they didn't feel the need to treat the young airmen going through the schools there like subhuman slime. Like some other bases, yes Keesler and Shepperd, I'm looking at you. Now I have never been to Shepperd (near Wichita Falls, Texas), but guys who went through training there didn't care for it, not at all. I have been to Keesler, in Biloxi, Mississippi but that was as a Staff Sergeant. In the mornings we would watch the new airmen being
Okay, so it was the Air Force so it couldn't have been that bad, neh? I mean what's the worse that could happen, having to eat lobster twice a week? Having one's tee time moved? (I kid, I only had lobster once in the Air Force on Uncle Sam's dime, it was during basic training. Rough I tell you, really rough.)
I did have another overseas assignment, in Germany, as I may have mentioned 26 or 27 times over the years. But it wasn't in USAFE (US Air Forces in Europe), no I had the privilege and honor of being a NATO asset. No USAFE games for this troop. No sir. I had heard that USAFE was just like being in the States, only the natives spoke German, rather than English.
Another great thing is that where I was stationed in NATO had been in the British Zone of Occupation after the war. Most of the US presence in Germany was down south around Kaiserslautern, which invariably was Americanized to "K-Town." Very Americanized it was down there. My base, outside Geilenkirchen, was much more rural. While the party life for a young airman was very lacking, we had very few young airmen there. The assignment was intended for the more mature types. I loved it. Of course, it also helped that I spoke a bit of German and got along famously with the Germans.
That was a great assignment, did seven years and five months there. When the Air Force asked me to stay another couple of years (as a Master Sergeant I had to get out at 24 years, which, like most things in the Air Force could be waived) I asked if I could stay in Germany. They said no, I said stuff it, I'm retiring. Which I'm really glad I did. I retired when housing was cheap and jobs were somewhat plentiful. Not so much the case later on.
For the most part I had a great time in the Air Force, I just wonder if it's just getting really bad press lately (the last Air Force Chief of Staff was a complete ass, even worse than McPeak in my estimation). One reason I chose the Air Force over the other services was the caliber of the people and the stability. (Air Force bases, unlike aircraft carriers, tend to stay in one place.) I knew I did not have what it took to be a Marine (I'm too damned lazy) and the Army jerked me around at a time I really wanted to enlist. So if they couldn't play fair with me when I wanted to join, I could only imagine what it would have been like once I was wearing the green. So to speak.
But to do it all over again in today's Air Force? I don't know. This picture kind of summarizes my feelings about the modern Air Force. Some cool stuff, but some WTF stuff as well...
That sums up the modern Air Force to me, lack of attention to detail and wasting time and resources (in a freaking war zone no less) "showcasing uniforms." This, mind you, is the same bunch who wants to retire the A-10 Warthog. Damn.
|Child please... (US Air Force Phot0)|
(What? They don't fly the Phantom anymore?!?!?!)
But in reality, what would Buck say at these semi-anti-Air Force mutterings? No doubt he's somewhere shaking his head saying "this just won't do..."
So, if I had to do it right now? Well, like the song says...
Yup, off we'd go into the wild blue yonder once again.
Damn, but I do get teary eyed when I hear that song.
Aim high my brothers and sisters in Air Force blue, fix the stuff that's broken and drive on.
I'm with you in spirit.
So is Buck.
* The original photo had this IDed as a 35th TFS bird. As Juvat so correctly pointed out, the 35th didn't have a yellow fin flash, their's was blue. So this is an 80th TFS jet, in other words, this jet belonged to the Juvats! (And Juvat would know, where d'ya think he got his nom de blog?