Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Those Were the Days My Friend...

Jay "Jaybird" Riedel (R) being congratulated by Dick "Batman" Swope (C) Sq Ops Officer
and Mike "Smiley" Deloney after landing and reaching 4000 flying hours milestone November 2, 1979.

(Source)
Juvat's lovely post on Monday, dealing with "special" weapons and Operational Readiness Inspections brought back a couple of memories of that very same ORI juvat mentioned. Whilst he was observing his flight lead threaten the very life of an inspector (a sight I would have paid good money to see), Your Humble Scribe was pursuing less glamorous things. Such as calibrating the radar on one of the mighty warbirds that juvat and his ilk would fling into the sky on a daily basis. While wearing full chemical warfare gear. Or "MOPP" gear as the young'uns call it these days.

Normally we just had to wear the gas mask, steel pot (helmet of WWII vintage), and a flak vest. The latter looked rather substantial and was (I am told) stuffed with layers of cardboard. Enough layers (I am told) which should prove sufficient to stop shrapnel (yes, I know what that means, I'm going with the vernacular here) and other small bits of stuff propelled hither and yon by explosive means. Not that I would like to test the theory of the effectiveness of those vests. One day we even had the opportunity to wear the mask, vest, and helmet for a full eight hours straight, and yes, that sucked, thank you for asking.

Yup, same vest, same gas mask carrier strapped to the left hip and the same steel pot.
Minus the cool helmet cover and the M-16, that's what we wore for the ORI.

(Source)
There are three incidents that I recall from that ORI, but before I relate those I will say this. The ORI I went through at Kunsan was not my first, nor my last. However, I recall that the ORIs at Kadena entailed much mopping of floors, much cleaning of extraneous gear, and very little actual aircraft maintenance. The ORIs at Kadena made me wonder just what sort of Air Force I had joined. We usually had advanced notice of the inspection and had plenty of time to prepare.

At Kunsan, in the Mighty Wolf Pack, it was a different story. From the first day I arrived until the day I left, it was obvious to me that the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing took war a little more seriously than my old outfit on Okinawa. I suppose when you don't have an ocean between you and the bad guys, Okinawa is an island, and when you are not much in the way of flying time from the NORKS, it tends to get your attention.

Ask me someday about the 12 hour night shift I pulled in the shop over a weekend and heard artillery banging away, not far from where I sat. Or the night we watched outgoing tracer fire from the South Korean positions on the waterfront (the base is on the Yellow Sea) as some poor fisherman (or perhaps a sneaky NORK pretending to be a fisherman) strayed a bit too close to the coast.

The Koreans are serious about that sort of thing.

At any rate, ORIs were usually a surprise, at least to us down in the squadrons.

Anyhoo. The three incidents, in no particular order because it was a Hell of a long time ago.

Incident the 1st: My buddy Tank and I were strolling from the off base bus stop down to our shop. It was a bit of a haul but the buses were making themselves scarce that day so we decided to hoof it.

Before we reached the large open area between the living quarters and the operations area of the base, the damned air raid siren went off. Damn. Donning our gas masks first, we then ran to the nearest barracks, Where we waited for perhaps 45 minutes while the base played air raid. Yes, when we finally arrived at the shop, our boss, one TSgt Skip Sipes kindly inquired...

"Just where have you two knuckleheads been?

We explained about air raids and ducking for cover and the donning of gas masks just for the fun that was in it. Our words fell on uncaring ears for there were radars to be calibrated and aircraft components to be checked and aligned and "this damned exercise" had cost our dear boss quite enough "fire trucking time." Off to the hangar we went, suitably chastised and vowing to low crawl down to the shop the next time rather than incur Skip's wrath. (Magnificent to behold.)

Incident the 2nd: We were ensconced in the offices of our Radar Calibration hangar, doing paperwork in preparation for sending our latest jet back out to the line where the zipper-suited sun gods could once again break it, er, fly it, when wouldn't you know it, the damned air raid siren went off.

We shut the lights off, it was still fairly light out, and continued our paperwork. That's when the phone rang. Only two people ever called us, Skip (woe betide the airman who didn't answer the phone if Skip called, the shop was a scant fifty yards from the hangar and Skip could sense whether or not we had power on the jet) or someone at Job Control.

Those latter chaps one could sometimes ignore, they would assume that we were on the jet, but as Ops was panting at the leash to get the jet we had back, and we had said it was close to complete, I decided to answer the phone.

Some last minute inspiration caused me to muffle my voice with my hand to simulate wearing a gas mask. Which caused the chap on the other end (a Job Control type) to misunderstand damned near every other word I said. Which caused Ed, my partner in crime, to giggle hysterically. Which also set me off.

"What's the status of that jet?" a non-muffled voice queried, which made me realize he wasn't wearing his mask, the bastard, wasn't even pretending. I answered to the effect of...

"Mumble, jet, mumble, buttoned up, mumble mumble, come and, mumble mumble, 30 minutes."

"What? Ready in 30 minutes? I can't understand you."

"Mumble, jet, mumble, buttoned up, mumble mumble, come and, mumble mumble, 30 minutes."

"Damn it, take your damned mask off and talk to me!"

"Mumble, a, mumble, violation, mumble mumble, , mumble mumble, could die."

"Damn it! Can we have the jet or not?!?!"

"YES!"

Yeah, that was fun.

Incident the 3rd: We're working on another jet, might have been a couple of days later, and Skip is at the hangar helping us with a rather knotty problem. As we're looking at schematics and trying to figure out why the damned Target Intercept Computer won't compute target intercepts (like it's supposed to, making it as useful as a 2nd lieutenant), when an inspector guy rolls up in a vehicle at the front of the hangar.

"You men are all dead, this hangar has been destroyed in an air raid."

As Ed and I start to head back to the office, might as well be dead sitting down, Skip yells out, "Not so fast you two, we need to figure this shit out!"

At which point the inspector said, to Skip, "I just told you sergeant, you and your men are dead, this hangar is destroyed, this aircraft is destroyed, you can't work on it, report to the NCO Club immediately!"

Once again, Ed and I prepared to head for the Club, might as well be dead sitting down AND drinking a beer.

"You two gott-damned freeze, Ed go get the other tech order in the office."

Inspector: "Sergeant, you're not paying attention!"

Skip, walking over to get in the inspector's face, "Sir, I am fire trucking dead, I am one angry fire trucking corpse and the fire trucking colonel wants this fire trucking jet as soon as fire trucking possible. So unless you want to explain to him that the fire trucking jet is destroyed and that we're all dead, get the fire truck out of my hangar. This is an illusion to you, we're three fire trucking dead men working on a destroyed fire trucking plane in a destroyed fire trucking hangar, this is the fire trucking afterlife, to you it's just burning fire trucking wreckage. QUESTIONS?"

The inspector just kind of looked at Skip for a second, shook his head, then drove off. Now I'm quite sure that Skip caught holy, unshirted Hell from somebody for that little incident, but it wasn't from our squadron commander or the deputy commanders for maintenance and for operations (DCM and DCO) both of said worthies being colonels of the full bird variety, both of whom had probably seen real war at some point in their careers.

Good old Skip, a good man, a good comrade.

But that's what I remember from that ORI. Nobody threatening to shoot an inspector, but I swear Skip probably could've scared that one to death had he the lack of common sense to stick around.

And yes, fire trucking Ops got their fire trucking jet back in record fire trucking time.

I was there.



52 comments:

  1. “In the long run, we are all dead and this jet is wreckage.” ~John Maynard Keynes, probably

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  2. "Mumble....mumble....could die" ....... heh heh, that got me chuckling during breakfast. Thumbs up Sarge.

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  3. Two additonal comments come to mind. First this ORI occurred within about 6 weeks of President Reagan taking office after replacing the second worst President Ever. Parts and other supplies were very scarce, as such, flyable aircraft were not always available in the number required by the Air Tasking Order. (The ATO was the message from the High Muckety Mucks at some HQ in Hawaii, in the case of the Pacific who knew next to nothing about reality on the ground). As such, it was nearly impossible to generate enough sorties when everything was peachy, much less when a given maintenance shop was "dead". Said IG bonehead most likely had not thought out his little exercise input and undoubtedly did not get it approved by the IG team chief who would have had to get it acknowledged, if not approved, by the Wing Commander. The Wing King would have explained the cascading effect on the Wing's capability to prosecute the "war". Casualties undoubtedly occur in actual combat, which is why funding readiness requirements to offset losses in personnel and materiel is so critical in peacetime. Something, Jimmuh, Billy Jeff and Obi-wan never got through their skulls. /rant

    On a lighter note, one evening late in my tour and after visiting Clark AB in the PI, I had returned with a blow gun and associated darts. I had become fairly accurate in the use of this device and this evening, having participated in another Exercise, had returned to my room and divested myself of the combat gear Sarge inventoried above. My Flak Jacket was draped across the back of my desk chair. I noticed it, and the Blow Gun in one glance. Being bored...Yep, the darts went in all the way to the hilt leaving about 3" protruding on the other side.

    Made me feel real comfortable and safe, it did.

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    Replies
    1. Damn, if I had known that I probably wouldn't have bothered with the bloody thing.

      And yes, said inspector was a bit of a knucklehead, as Skip might, or might not, have remarked.

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    2. "(…who knew next to nothing about reality on the ground)" Possibly a reference to the same folks who ran the SE Asian exercise during the sixties and seventies.
      Yup, I'm almost sure.

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    3. Heh, Obi-wan... People think he's cool, he tries to act cool, but he sucks round athletic equipment. Good one, juvat.

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    4. Hahaha!

      You owe me a new splash shield for my monitor...

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    5. That sort of kevlar-fiber vests aren’t rated against stabbing, as any number of drunken soldiers have discovered...

      Reason being that a fine point/knife edge will push/cut the ballistic fibers out of the way one at a time, whereas a low-velocity fragment will impact numerous strands simultaneously and be unable to force them aside (i.e. it’ll stop). In theory.

      So, it’s sort of a weird situation where a low-tech low-lethality projectile is actually more likely to penetrate...

      You’d probably need modern ceramic-plate-reinforced armor, or armor specifically designed to be stab-resistant to stop a blowgun dart. Hold my beer and watch this!

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    6. But at least you were smart/sober enough not to enlist a buddy for the test =]

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    7. Yeah, I know, but it served as a good discussion point when we were sitting around in our vests, steel pots and chem gear doing nothing at all but sweating and griping about the institutional stupidity.

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    8. And...you are right about that last point.

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    9. OldAFSarge - you can take it out of my paycheck. Actually, take it out of juvat's paycheck as he is the one that started it.

      As to stabability of vests, yes, you need chicken plates for anti-stabiness. UHMW plastic works for just stab resistance, and is easily obtained from plastic drums. The brown drums used for food are usually thinner than the blue or black ones, they just retain the smell of the food (like, oh, say, salad peppers...) If you have a vest with plate pockets, make templates out of cardboard, cut the plates, sand the edges and pop in your carrier. Won't do much vs bullets (unless you get like 1/2" thick or thicker) but it will stop stabby-stabby.

      Better would be make a back and breast plate combo and put it over your vest and then put your LBE or tac vest over said combo.

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    10. Now that would have been good advice, back in 1980.

      :)

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  4. Smiley Deloney was the Squadron Weapons Officer (WSO) who gave the four of us our pre-exercise retraining mentioned Monday. I'm not sure the actual swap out time when Batman took command after Jaybird left, whether that was before or after the ORI. I'm thinking it was after, but could be wrong. The gentlemen in that picture probably had more that 10K hours total in the F-4.

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  5. Army, Germany, circa 1965 we had one of "those" lieutenants - incompetent is being kind. On our three day combat proficiency test while bivouacked in a German forest, a new shiny tractor pulling a flatbed trailer drove up to our perimeter. Riding on the trailer were four young very fit "civilians". So obvious they should have kept their green berets. We lowly enlisted swine tried to alert the Lt to no avail. He personally moved the barbed wire barrier and motioned the tractor through. Of course, we failed the test.

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  6. "Or "MOPP" gear as the young'uns call it these days." That's what we called it in the '80s, when I was in the CalARNG.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. We never called it that in the Air Force, at least not around me. It was (and remains) chem gear or NBC gear.

      I don't care for the term, sounds like bureaucratic nomenclature. Maybe it's just me.

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    2. I think we (the squadron) called it that. Once the sirens sounded, "Mopp Up!" was the next call. I think it was related to the requirement to Mop your face immediately upon unmasking to keep from drowning in sweat.

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    3. I did a lot of NBC stuff in NATO (I was on the NBC decon team), we used German chem gear (better than ours at that time BTW) and no one ever called it MOPP gear. Not sure why.

      But yeah, mopping the sweat off was definitely a thing.

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    4. MOPP is an Army term. I think the Air Force was just being different. Same sucky equipment, just a different name.

      And, no, I never had an Army ROTC instructor get pissed at me and make me wear one. For a day. Apparently extreme sarcasm was unappreciated, or so I am told...

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    5. Oh, yeah, forgot to add, this didn't happen in Florida, in the summer. Bleh.

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    6. Beans the 1st - Yup, Army term.

      Army ROTC instructors are easily riled, DAMHIK.

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    7. Beans the 2nd - Oh, the joy of it all.

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  7. I remember the 8TFW ORI in '65. It seemed like they aroused us early in the dark, flew us around the United States (literally) landed at Bergstrom AFB and proceeded to have us do war games, etc. for about four days or so, then recover back the George AFB in sunny Victorville. The range at Bergstrom was where my future bro-in-law flipped inverted on a strafing run, a maneuver which did not end well for him or his GIB. RIP guys. "Mobility" was always an interesting thing to watch. C-130s appearing out of nowhere, packing up and moving almost EVERYTHING to some distant place and the shots - oh, the shots. Administered by A/1Cs who actually got pretty good at it. ;-D

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    1. The thing I loved about Kunsan is that were already at our war location. The only deploying we did was down to the Philippines for Cope Thunder. Kadena on the other hand...

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    2. Ah, Air Force medical shot slingers... the bane of every dependent's life. Moving from one base to another in the US, oh, only gotta get some shots. Moving to a foreign post, well, time to experiment with the pain machine!

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    3. "Moving to a foreign post, well, time to experiment with the pain machine!" Yea? Try doing it as an under two-year old going to Japan within a year after the end of WWII.

      Paul

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    4. Beans - Ask my kids about that one, they know.

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    5. PLQ - And here I thought I was old...

      ;)

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    6. "C-130s appearing out of nowhere,..." So that's where they were. Why we had nought but C-119s to jump from.

      Paul

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    7. "PLQ - And here I thought I was old..." When I was born, FDR was President.

      Paul

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    8. PLQ the 1st - I remember seeing the C-119s flying over the house back in the day, loved 'em.

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    9. PLQ, wow....That means you must of rode up San Juan Hill with him!

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    10. I was too young to know what a President was, or care, during the administrations of FDR or HST. I became aware of Presidents during the Eisenhower administration. I, too, like Ike.

      Paul

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    11. As a cadet in AFROTC, we went on field trips in the $1.19 and later, the 121. The trip I remember the most was from Scott AFB, Illinois to Lowery AFB, near Denver. We made it in a C-47. They let those of us who cared "fly" the gooney as long as we wanted to. All I remember was that it was heavier than the J-3 Cub I had soloed in as a part of the FIP program. Yup, heavy.
      I too, was born under the reign of FDR.

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    12. Dave - You got to fly the C-47?!?!?

      **Not jealous, not jealous... Oh, damn it yes, I'm jealous.**

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    13. Right seat (duh!) and "don't touch the throttles, but you can turn and try to trim!" Had to use rudders in a turn, how strange, to this old jet, "use rudders in a fight", jockey.

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  8. OldAFSarge the 1st- Of course you loved C-119s, you were only looking at them, not jumping from them.

    Paul

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  9. Ah, yes. Fond memories of MOPP gear and basic training at Ft. Ord, 1974, looking very much like the young troop in the photo above, sans flak vest. So here's the drill, having become aware that there may be N, B, or C in your area--

    Stop.
    Place rifle between knees, butt (of rifle) on ground.
    Remove helmet, place over rifle muzzle.
    Remove gas mask from pouch.
    Don gas mask and test.
    Replace helmet.
    Recover rifle.
    Max time for completion, 9 seconds.

    So let me get this straight. While advancing in combat under fire, I am to stop, perform a 9-second solo conga routine in place, and then continue on? Got it.

    Now, just on the off chance that one of your fellow troops is completely clueless as to what you just did and why, your next task is to run over to him (yeah, HIM back then) and give warning by yelling "GAS!". Except, as pointed out above, it is heard as a muffled, semi-loud, "MUMBLE!", to which the most likely response is "Whut?". What could possibly go wrong?





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