Thursday, April 24, 2014

All Rise! (Part the Second - Finis)

It's time to finish my second court martial story...

This is the second and last of my bailiff stories - there is another court martial story. In that one I was a spectator. A kid in my shop in Korea was court-martialed for black marketing. The whole shop turned out to root for...

The prosecution.

I'll tell that story some other time. For now let's get back to the tale of the Lieutenant Colonel who committed various and sundry sordid acts, crimes against Nature and other dastardly deeds of which I shall not speak. (I won't say allegedly, because he was found guilty ya know. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.)

Once again, I will remind you that you are under oath...

Nope. Sorry. All this court martial stuff is taking me back in time. Not to the court martial mind you, but to the dozens of episodes of Law and Order I have watched while deployed to a hotel on travel for a couple of years. And again, I digress...

As I mentioned yesterday, I had a rather grand old time at that court martial. The accused, not so much.

It was our custom (those of us laboring for the government) to gather in the courtroom at the lunch hour for to eat our sandwiches and read our newspapers. I'm not sure where the defense went off to, here maybe?

We cared not, for we were the defenders of the American way and stood between vile violators of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and all that was right and good.

Classic Image of a JAG Officer
(At least back in my day..)

Now in that courtroom, at lunchtime, typically OB and I would sit in the jury box and eat our lunches. (Oops, an acronym, OB = Other Bailiff.) The prosecution team would eat lunch at their table and the Judge would dine at his bench. It was all very relaxed and collegial.

As the professional (American) football season was approaching in those days (I do believe the trial was in August, just before training camp opened) OB and I would often speak of tales of the gridiron and the prospects for the coming season. I should note here that OB was, like the Judge, a Texan. With all that entails.

OB started to sing the praises of the Cowboys of Dallas and their quarterback Aikman of Troy (back before he was a famous TV guy). I was nay-saying his prognostications of forthcoming Dallas wonderfulness at every turn.

But then, OB announced that the 1996 Dallas Cowboys were perhaps the finest team to ever walk the face of the Earth. Well, I did not stand for that...

"Objection! The Cowboys are not going anywhere this season." I stated, somewhat forcefully. And then we all heard, from the bench...

"OVER-RULED!" Said the Judge from On High. (Who I will remind you, again, hailed from the Lone Star State.)

"But Your Honor," I cried.

"I've made my ruling Master Sergeant. Take your seat."

Mind you, the Judge continued to read his newspaper throughout this exchange. Never blinked an eye, just swiftly and surely shot down my protests of Dallas Cowboy greatness. (While they did make the play-offs that year, they were eliminated in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Just wanted to make that point. Your Honor.)

So that's how the days went.

Blah, blah, blah  testimony.

Blah, blah, blah evidence.

Et cetera, et cetera. (Actually it was far more exciting than I let on. Mind you it was no Air Show with the Thunderbirds, but it was interesting.)

More exciting than a court martial. A lot more...

Another fun thing I got to do was supervise all the colonels went they went out for a cigarette. (As I was, in those days, a smoker. A habit I am still free of. I'm sure Tuna continues to monitor that situation.)

Remember the crusty old LtCol F-4 pilot I mentioned the other day? He and I would tell lies war stories about our Phantom days, boring thrilling the other colonels to no end tears. It was interesting to hang out with a Phantom Phlyer as it had been some years since I had twirled a wrench or performed BIT* checks on the F-4 Weapon Control System. Warmed my heart it did.

But eventually the trial began to wind down as both sides rested their cases. All the evidence had been presented. All the witnesses had been heard. It was time for me to take the jury panel back to the Fortress of Solitude, for on the morrow they would deliberate and render their verdict on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

The jury's hotel. A reasonable facsimile thereof...

Verdict day dawned, it was a rather hushed and solemn buckle of colonels I collected at the hotel. (That's a term we coined at SAC Headquarters for any grouping of three or more colonels. Herd of buffalo, flock of geese, buckle of colonels. FYI.)

These guys knew that they would be sitting in judgement on one of their own. Guilty the fellow might be, but he still wore the same uniform we did and had sworn the oath. Sitting in judgement on a fellow airman is not an easy thing.

When we arrived at the courtroom, I noticed a small olive-drab station wagon of the type our Security Police drove at Geilenkirchen. I didn't think much of it until I saw SSgt Wiggum (not his real name) standing in the JAG's office, just off the courtroom.
Not SSgt Wiggum. I don't think they're even related.
Especially seeing as how Chief Wiggum is a fictional character.

"So Wiggie, what are you doing here?" I asked.

He explained that it was required by regulation to have a vehicle and two (armed) Security Policeman available at sentencing. For if the defendant was found guilty, after sentence was pronounced, the defendant would immediately be taken to a confinement facility, there to await transport to Leavenworth. (That USDB thing we mentioned yesterday.)

Yup, he would not pass go, he would not collect $200. Justice would be sure, justice would be swift.

At this point in my conversation with Chief SSgt Wiggum, OB stepped into the room and asked where would our defendant be transported, if found guilty. Wiggie told us that the nearest confinement facility was at the American airbase in Bitburg. As Wiggie said, "About three hours from here..."

Immediately OB and I sang out "a three hour tour" from the Gilligan's Island theme song. That little olive-drab station wagon was immediately christened The Minnow, Wiggie was now The Skipper and his Senior Airman (E-4) sidekick was now, you guessed it Gilligan. Much to his chagrin.

Word of this did get to the Judge and the Prosecutors. To their (discrete) amusement I might add.

So the jury deliberated, the defendant was found guilty by a jury of his peers. Mitigating evidence was offered and considered and in the end, the defendant was sentenced to six months hard labor at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (Leavenworth) and dismissal from the United States Air Force. Not exactly an honorable end to his career!

The Judge called me over and said (ISYK) "Sarge, go get The Skipper and Gilligan to collect their prisoner."

I did. The former defendant, now "prisoner", was handcuffed, loaded into The Minnow and was hauled off to Bitburg. To begin his sentence. His case was appealed, numerous rumors abounded amongst the troops that he had been restored to his rank and was back on active duty. All stuff and nonsense.

The prisoner did appeal his conviction but the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces heard the appeal and upheld his conviction and sentence.

Me, I went back to being a standard issue Master Sergeant, one (1) each, retiring three years later. After a long and honorable career. I did get to collect $200. Didn't even need a "Get out of jail free" card.
Had one, didn't need it...

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

*BIT = Built In Test


  1. "With all that entails"??????????
    I'll not dignify that with even one more word.

    1. 'Twas meant to be a compliment. I think. You Texans are somewhat mysterious to the rest of us.

      Actually, as I typed that my first thought was, "This should spin Juvat up nicely."

      I guess it did.

    2. No offense taken. WE know we got it good. We just want to be selective in who we share it with. You OK. The average San Franciscan, not so much.

    3. Don't mess with Texas. As the saying goes.

    4. "...The average San Franciscan, not so much"
      SF has not always been such as it is today.
      There are natives who cringe at what's happened to The City.

    5. Yep, Mom's family is still there. I was as a city council meeting recently and a guy got up to speak about an issue being considered. He started his comments with "When I was in California...." Pretty sure nobody heard anything after that.

    6. Skip - there are people who cringe at what's happened to the country in general. I spent a few days in San Francisco couple of years ago, loved it.

      Juvat - As my son put it, where he lives (Central Valley) it's pretty conservative, you can talk politics with your neighbors. In the San Francisco area (where he works), the conservatives lay low, very low.

    7. In the San Francisco area (where he works), the conservatives lay low, very low.

      I hear that. I was one of only three conservatives in that start-up I worked at in SFO (but we weren't exactly lo-pro). I lived in Berserkeley for the first year I was there and I could NOT talk politics with MY neighbors... although I did put on my BUFF tee shirt for Sunday morning forays to the coffee shops near my apartment, just to stimulate conversation. Fun times!

      In the end I voted with my feet... and left without looking back. Two and a half years was about all I could take. That said, you'll not find a prettier city in these United States than SFO.

    8. Those Sunday morning forays must have been interesting.

      And yes, SFO is a very pretty city.

  2. You don't want to mess with Texas; they're all hurt & insecure about being only 40% the size of Alaska.

    Oops, did I say that out loud? :)

    1. One of my favorite maps has Alaska superimposed over the United States. I don't get all worked up about that size thing.

    2. Whoa, what kind of heresy is this? Texas, small? Alaska, big?

      I live in Rhode Island, Hell, even Delaware is bigger. You're both freakin' giants to us.

    3. I only bring it up to tweak the nose of my buddy in Killeen. He gets all grumpy when I talk about it... heh.

    4. Tweaking the nose of a buddy, priceless.

      (I can relate to that!)

  3. "...OB and I would sit in the jury box and eat our lunches. (Oops, an acronym, OB = Other Bailiff.)"

    It is probably a good thing you cleared that up.
    A casual visitor might just have thought you'd taken up with the Brighton Pensioner's spouse, for whom he uses the same acronym.
    I can't bring myself to calling her by the pet name.

    1. Yeah, I've read BP's stuff. I cringe every time I see that pet name for his spouse.

      In Korea, OB is a beer.

    2. I'm fairly certain he would not refer to her as the OB if she hadn't snagged that reference for herself.
      GS and I have had the pleasure of the lady's company when they visited Northern California back in 2006.
      Now that I think about it, that was the last time I showed anyone around San Francisco.
      The first stop on the tour was the top of Twin Peaks so they could get the panorama.

  4. You make being a bailiff sound like fun. I can do that sometimes when talking about fixing radar, but VERY infrequently.

    1. Being a bailiff beat the Hell out of my day job.

      I think you have told a "fun" radar-fixing story here and there over the years.

      Though yeah, not that many...

    2. Speaking thereof, I think I'll plug today's video over at Old NFO's place. Some very cool flying scenes and quite a few non-air wrenching wrenching activities by the deck crew.

    3. Good stuff indeed. Courtesy of the Royal Maces of VFA-27.

  5. Nice posts. Unsurprisingly short of titillating details though. I served on a CM myself once upon a time, which wasn't nearly as fun as bailiff duty I think. Maybe I'll share it someday. I like the Thunderbird picture by the way. I know you photo-shopped it though to make it look like they were flying as close as the Blue Angels. (guffaw!)

    1. Oooh, you are so evil (re: that photo-shop remark). But funny. Funny is good.

      And do tell on the CM story.


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