Wednesday, April 23, 2014

All Rise! (Part the Second - Alpha)

Now if you will hearken back to February, I had this post - All Rise! (Part the First), my very first time as a bailiff in a military court-martial. There was a second time but as I intimated the other day, it was a rather sordid affair. The officer in question was a lieutenant colonel and a graduate of the Air Force Academy. Let's just say, as to his crimes, he should have known better.

Now as the details of those crimes were indeed sordid, I will not go into any detail about those. My intent with this post is to cover the events surrounding this particular court-martial. Particularly those involving Yours Truly. For while the party on defense had no fun, no fun at all. We on the government side had an absolute blast.

Well, I did at any rate.

I actually became a brevet colonel for approximately 15 seconds. More on that in a bit.

Mind you the court room atmosphere was solemn and all that. We were all very correct and proper. Behind the scenes though, there was a great deal of hilarity, hi-jinx and good times.

At least for those of us not faced with the prospect of spending some time at Leavenworth. What's that, you ask?
The United States Disciplinary Barracks (or USDB, popularly known as Leavenworth, or the DB) is a military correctional facility located on Fort Leavenworth, a United States Army post in Kansas. - Wikipedia
Not what anyone would call "Fun Town"

Prior to the trial I was tagged with helping to set things up at the trial location. Well, in point of fact, the JAG* had me as point man on getting furniture, manuals and stuff to the trial location.

Now the trial was going to be held at the Tapijnkazerne in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Which from NATO AB Geilenkirchen was about 40 kilometers away (roughly 25 miles), you can see this on the map below. ("A" being Geilenkirchen, "B" being the Tapijnkazerne. -Kazerne is the Dutch word for barracks. Couldn't find any translation for Tapijn. Possibly a person's name.)

My AO for this evolution
(AO = Area of Operations)
The Main Gate at the Tapijnkazerne, my "home" for ten days

So why did the JAG tag me to perform this rather cushy job? Well, we lived in the same village, his oldest was really good friends with The Naviguesser and I guess my boss figured he could spare me for a few days. Also, I did have prior experience as a bailiff.

So I was issued a van and the JAG's youngest son to move stuff down to Maastricht. When we got there with our van load of stuff (which someone had already loaded for us) I got to watch as others unloaded everything. Okay, I carried some stuff in, after all the JAG (who was a major) was there and he was pitching in.

After we got the court room all squared away, son-of-JAG and I got in the van and headed back north. But, unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and found ourselves in some quiet Dutch neighborhood where we could see the motorway we wanted, we just couldn't figure out a way to get there.

Eventually we did discover the secret exit and found our way back to the main highway. We got back to Geilenkirchen about an hour after everyone else. One more load there and back and all was in readiness for the trial. This time we didn't get lost going back.

The first day of the trial dawned and I was off to Maastricht, driving a very nice 8 passenger van which the squadron loaned to me as I was to be the driver for the jury panel. In addition to being a bailiff. I could tell this trial was a fairly big deal. Two bailiffs, both Master Sergeants.

Now the judge was the same judge who had presided at the last trial I was involved in. Colonel Young. He was this kind of short and wiry Texan. We quickly discovered that His Honor had a fine sense of humor. Another thing we discovered (at the expense of the military defense attorney) was that he did not suffer fools gladly. There were two lawyers for the defense, one was an Air Force captain (he who irked the judge) and a high-priced civilian lawyer by the name of Frank J. Spinner. Rather famous in military defense legal circles.

One of the first things I had to do was to get with the Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels who were to weigh the evidence and determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. Eventually they would also vote on sentencing.

There I was, one Master Sergeant, two full colonels and four lieutenant colonels. So the odds were in my favor.

First things first, I explained to the gentlemen that I would be their transport from their hotel to the courtroom (and back) every day when court was in session. I would meet them in the lobby of their hotel, every morning, at 0745 sharp. We would then leave the hotel to proceed to the courtroom no later than 0750.

Random LtCol: What happens if we're late Sarge. Will you wait for us?

Me: Negative Sir. You will have to find your own transport. AND explain to the judge why you missed your ride.

Crusty older LtCol: So I guess we shouldn't piss you off, right Sarge?

Me: Nah. You guys should be fine. I can't imagine a lofty group such as this staying up too late, drinking and carousing, so as to miss your ride in the morning.

Crusty older LtCol (should mention, he was a pilot): Hahaha.

Me: Actually Sir, I will be keeping an eye on you. And the other pilot.

Scanning my badges, ribbons and such, the crusty older LtCol realized I was an old aircraft maintenance guy. We quickly hit it off. Especially as he used to fly F-4s. Had been "Up North" and all that. A really cool guy. (We Phantom types tend to stick together.)

Anyhoo, I never had a problem with any of the jury panel. Though the younger LtCol was a couple of minutes late one morning. The senior colonel told us all to hide and he would pretend that he was pissed as the younger guy had caused him to miss his ride.

Heh. It was pretty funny, the young LtCol came into the lobby, looked around and muttered something to himself about "fudge" (I think). Then the colonel came out and went into his "Where the Hell have you been Mister?" act.

Finally the younger LtCol heard the rest of us trying to contain our laughter just out of his line of sight. He started to go ballistic, then realized that the senior colonel was in on it too.

Though when we got to Maastricht, as he dismounted the vehicle he did mutter something else about the tendency of F-4 types to be the offspring of unmarried parents. Or words to that effect. (Poor guy. Used to fly cargo planes before getting a staff job. All the cool kids picked on him.)

Another thing I liked to do was to head to the little Army-Air Force Exchange Service Shoppette there on the kazerne and pick up enough copies of the Stars and Stripes newspaper for all the guys in the courtroom.

After the first day the defense team didn't get any newspapers. The defense attorney captain had complained (on the first day) that his paper was torn. Sumbitch didn't even offer to pay either. So on the second day, when he asked where his paper was, I told him, "Probably still over at the Shoppette. Sir." Before he could start whining/complaining/whatever, the judge walked in, I handed him his paper and he thanked me. And handed me a twenty. To cover all of the newspapers.

When the captain asked if I would get him a paper later, I informed him that he was no longer in my good graces. But if the judge directed me to do so, I would. He should ask the judge. Poor bastard actually did ask the judge to direct me to get him a newspaper. Judge just looked at him and said, "You're a special kind of stupid, aren't you?" (I don't think I was supposed to hear that. When I started to chuckle, the judge shot me a look. Which made the chuckle die in my throat. Of course, he eased the sting of that when he gave me a wink. Cool guy was the judge.) Truth be told though, I took pity on the captain and got him a paper the next day. This time he chipped in.

Now about that "field promotion" to brevet colonel I mentioned above. At one point in the trial the head of the panel asked me to relay a message to the judge. Seems the panel had a question and wanted to know the proper procedure to ask it.

I went to the judge, he explained to me that they should write their question down and then when court was back in session, he would direct me to collect said paper from the panel colonel and render it to the judge colonel. Lots of colonels in that room there were.

So the moment arrived and the judge announced that the jury had a question. He then asked the head of the panel if said question was written down. When the panel colonel answered in the affirmative, the judge colonel looked at me and said,
"Colonel would you retrieve the jury's question and bring it to me?"
Well, I got all puffed up, retrieved the piece of paper and handed it over to the judge. It was all very colonel to colonel to colonel it was.

The judge took the piece of paper, paused, looked at me again and said,
"Thank you Master Sergeant."
At the next break in the action, the judge called me over and asked (with a big Texas grin on his face),
"So how did it feel to be a colonel for, what was it, ten seconds?"
I smiled at the judge and said,
"It was fifteen seconds Sir. Fifteen. And it felt great."
And so it came to pass, that for one short moment in history, the Old AF Sarge became, "the Old AF Colonel." Ah, glorious it was. Simply marvelous. Not enough to implement my many schemes and strategies but it was there. For one brief, shining moment.

A New Air Force Rank:
Master Sergeant Colonel

Ah, what might have been.

I'll continue this story another time (yes, there is more, so much more), I just can't continue right now, I need to go bemoan lost glory and all those "might have beens"...

Sigh. I coulda been a contender!

*JAG = Judge Advocate General


  1. I once had a friend and coleague when I was posted to Berlin. His name was Tony Pohlabel.
    My one outstanding memory of him is from an annual MWR Christmas-time play. This was in '74 or '75. The play was titled, "Father Ruffian" and had been written by one Lucien Agniel, who was in Berlin, working for the State Department, with RIAS. At that time, the theater was located on the Clay HQ compound, on the bottom floor of what was also the AFN enlisted billets.
    My friend, Tony, was in the production, playing the role of a WWII Major General at the Battle Of The Bulge. During the premier, with the CG Berlin Brigade attending, somebody upstairs in the billeting area began blasting their stereo. Tony, in costume, was dispatched to ask that the music be turned down. To hear him tell it... he knocked on the door... was ignored... knocked again, louder... was ignored... banged on the door... the door opened and the occupant began to say, "What the F**K do you..." saw the two stars on Tony's uniform collar, snapped to attention (nearly breaking his back) while yelling, "Sorry Sir!"
    Tony played it straight, told the guy to turn down the music... then departed quickly before anything else could be said... or realized.

    I'd guess that my friend Tony was a Major, Specialist Five, General for all of the five minutes this incident took.

    1. Major Specialist 5 General, I can see that. It has a nice ring to it.

      Great story by the way.

  2. Nah Sarge, OldAFColonel just doesn't sing as a blog callsign! Besides as a Master Sargeant, you had the perfect balance of authority and deniability. Certainly more authority than a Lt Col (I know for an absolute fact).

  3. Affirm what juvat said. Far rather be the one who runs things, than the one who merely thinks he does.

  4. 1 Master Sergeant = 2 Full Birds and 4 Light Cols. Yeah, the odds were in your favor!!!

  5. Yep, at least you had some fun with yours...

    1. Some did, some didn't.

      I always try to be on the "fun" side.

  6. Nice P-Shop on that eagle. Great story, too.

  7. Perhaps the only "perfect" rank is that of Marine Gunner. All of the Gunners I remember were at least six months older than God and were a power that you did not mess with. As the old saying goes, "The Cabots speak only to Lodges, and Lodges call the Gunner Sir!"

    1. I only had to encounters with Marine Gunners. First time, I was on an exercise with 3MEF in Okinawa, we'd been up for about 48 straight and it's 0300. It's me, a Marine LtCol and the Gunner. He stands up and says "Gentlemen, I'm turning in, is there anything I can get before I go?" I replied "Gunner, I'd kill for a cup of coffee" thinking he send one of the runners to bring some. Nope. He went and made it. Taught me two things. 1. If a Marine Gunner makes coffee for you, you must be doing something right as far as he's concerned. 2. If a Marine Gunner makes coffee for you, don't plan on sleeping for at least two more days.

      Second encounter, I went to Sarajevo. Got off the C-12 and was met by a Gunner. About 5'6" top to bottom and shoulder to shoulder. After the military formalities were finished, he took me aside and explained that he was my protection and as for instruction on what to do if things went poorly, they were this (verbatim). "Sir, if you see me reach into this bag," pointing to a briefcase, " the highest part of your body I want to see is your a$$!" Simple, easily understood instructions. I can deal with that. So there we are at dinner. I'm not fond of sitting with my back to the room, but there I was. The Gunner was across the table. I hear the door to the restaurant open, and I see him stiffen. I immediately start the slide under the table. He stops me and says "Don't worry Sir, it's Christiane Amianpour. I don't like her!"

    2. I never encountered that lofty personage in my military career. Though I've heard that they did exist.

      And Dave, you're right. That is a perfect rank.

      Juvat - you sure had all the fun back in the day didn't you?


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.