Saturday, November 29, 2014

Air Force Chow Pt 2

As Sarge has described in a previous post along with numerous comments from various readers and since we are still in a tryptophan induced lethargy, I felt a need to break from my once a week schedule and add another saga of prandial adventures about Military Chow.  I have eaten in Air Force Dining Facilities, Navy Ward Rooms and Marine and Army Chow Halls.  While not Michelin quality, most were adequate to need, in that I never left hungry.  There were a few times where I was able to experience the dining support provided to other militaries.  Results were varied and somewhat humorous.

So...There I was*.  Deployed to Chitose AB, Hokkaido Japan for an exercise to determine if the JASDF (the Japanese Air Force) could support a deployment of 12 F-15s.  This wasn't a normal deployment where we brought several C-141s loaded with people and equipment.  This was 18 Pilots, a Flight Surgeon, a Maintenance Officer, 12 Crew Chiefs, a Fuels Specialist, Engine Specialist and Avionics Specialist (AKA Sarge).  I was their leader. The rest of the support for the operation came from the Japanese F-15 Wing at Chitose. 

As I've mentioned earlier, this deployment occurred in winter and there was an initial supply problem that impacted operations.  It seems there was a paucity of coal for the coal fired stove that heated the combined billeting/operations building, a WWII era quonset hut.  It was during that problem resolution that I discovered another bigger problem and thankfully a solution.  
Chitose AB.  Quarters circled in bottom center
Source:Google Maps

Now, I consider myself fluent in 32 different languages in that I can order a beer and find directions to a bathroom.  Japanese is one of them, although after a few years on Okinawa, I had progressed beyond beer and bathroom. However, that fluency did not extend to the day to day complexities of operating a small F-15 squadron.  As I'm trying to describe to the supply Officer that we would greatly appreciate a load of coal, I realized his English was limited almost as much as my Japanese.  I'm discussing this with the other folks on the deployment when one of the crew chiefs says "Sir, I speak Japanese."  At that instant, he was no longer a crew chief, but now the JASDF Liason NCO.  Things went a bit smoother from then on.

But what does this have to do with Military Chow Halls, Juvat?  Well, if you would refer back to the personnel listing, Mess Sergeant and other job titles along that line are conspicuously missing.  We're going to eat in the JASDF Mess Hall.  I tend to like Japanese food, so the morning rice and Miso soup was welcome and good.  There was a standard serving line and JASDF personnel were in line with us, so chances were good that what we were getting was their standard fare.  (They didn't give us coal on the first night, so it was unlikely they were going to make any special allowances.)  In any case, I didn't pick up on any actual complaining.  Complaining being different from grumbling or bitching the latter of which are de rigueur for any military operation.

So this goes on for a two or three days, the menu varying for all three meals daily.  I've found something at least edible at every meal and informal consultation with the enlisted folks has given me similar feedback.  The flying operation is going fairly smoothly.  Support from the JASDF has been excellent, and my Liaison NCOIC is performing his duties flawlessly.  We do have one bird that is having consistent problems and as I'm discussing the issue with the Maintenance OIC, a female 1LT from the deep South, I notice that she doesn't look very well.  She seems to be having problems concentrating and looks like she feels kind of weak and puny.  After the meeting, I pull her aside and ask her if she's ok, she says she's not feeling really well.  I tell her to go see the Flight Surgeon which she does.  Later on, I see the Doc at dinner and ask him how the Lt is.  He says "She hasn't eaten since she got here 5 days ago, not a thing."  Unlike the current version of me, she couldn't stand to lose the weight.

I asked him what the problem was and he said, the first morning, the fish head soup freaked her out and she hasn't been able to eat since.  As this deployment was as much diplomacy as operations, I didn't want to offend our hosts by having an officer collapse because she didn't like Japanese Food. Now, the Flight Surgeon was a good friend of mine and a pretty good stick if I do say so myself (taught how to fly the F-15 by your's truly) So, I asked him if he would talk to her and kind of point her to the plain rice, and maybe the chicken whilst passing up the various seafood delicacies being offered.  He said he would and after a couple of conversations, she did. Diplomatic and health crises averted, we went on to have a very successful deployment, and yes, we could operate out of a JASDF base should the need arise.

Later in my career, I had the opportunity to deploy to Thailand for a Cobra Gold Exercise. While most of this exercise was a field exercise with the Thai Army, we were deployed to the 3MEF HQ as a JTF augmentation cell.  Since the 3MEF commander wore 3 and there were multiple US and Thai GO/FO involved, the Exercise HQ was in Chon Buri, a large city southeast of Bangkok.  My team was billeted in a small local hotel which we pretty much filled.

The Thai are a very hospitable people and went out of their way to make us feel at home. They even put on a cultural show that was "revealing".  Given that TailHook and it's aftermath had just gone down, the JTF Commander felt compelled to apologize to anybody on the staff who was offended.  GMAB!  But, as this is a food related post, I am digressing.

The Hotel Manager had gone out of his way to make us feel at home and as such, the Hotel Restaurant had changed their menu to offer us American Food, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  So breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, vienna sausage and toast.  Lunch was Hot Dogs, and Dinner was Spaghetti.

Every Day.

The exercise was a month long.

Which would have been survivable except...

The. Food. Was. Horrible.

The vienna sausage was the same meat as the hot dogs and had nothing in common with the taste of actual hot dogs.  The eggs were under cooked and runny, and I'm pretty sure the tomato sauce for the spaghetti was ketchup.  

This went on for about a week, and the complaining is becoming louder.  One night, the manager comes up to me and asks how everything is going, and was there anything he could do for me to make my stay more enjoyable.

I told him that one of the exercise objectives was to gain an appreciation for Thai Culture and, as such, I wondered if he could provide some sample Thai dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for us to try.  A very large smile came across his face, as he said "Of course."

The next morning, breakfast was wonderful as was lunch and dinner.  That night, the manager asked me  how the meals were.  I told him and he asked if we wanted to go back to the American Menu.  I said "No Thank You!"

Complaints dropped to nearly zero and the rest of the exercise went pretty smoothly.

*Skip calls them Sea Stories, I call them War Stories, but the only difference between them and a fairy tale is a fairy tale starts with "Once upon a time", the other starts with "So,...There I was".

Friday, November 28, 2014

Food and Drink

The Chart House in Alexandria, VA
I may have mentioned this from time to time, but I'll say it again. My kids spoil me.

That opening photo is where we went to dinner after a very long day on Wednesday. Let me say one thing...

The food was incredible. The view (looking out over the Potomac) was magnificent. The service was worthy of royalty. The company? Sublime.

It was much appreciated after the day we had.

Up at 0300 to leave by 0400, to fly out at 0605. Amazingly enough, things went smooth as silk.

Traffic to the airport, non-existent. The line at the airline counter, busy but efficient.

Security had a long line but we breezed through. No complaints whatsoever.

The flight was bumpy, the weather down the East Coast was atrocious. Nothing to see out the window so I actually nodded off and added my snoring to the drone of the engines.

But The Missus Herself was apparently trying out for a part in Roller Ball, at least based on the shots to the ribs I kept taking from her direction. Seems that my snoring was preventing her from catching 40 winks. Oh well, I don't sleep well on aircraft anyway.

We had a nice day catching up with The Nuke and The Sea Lawyer.

Who is that you ask?

The Sea Lawyer is The Nuke's man. Spent some time as a Navy enlisted guy, actually got accepted to Annapolis upon graduation from Nuke school. He was a member of the Class of 2006 at the Trade School on the Severn.

His major assignment at sea was aboard USS GEORGIA, SSGN-729, afterwards he got his Masters in Physics at Monterey.

Now he's in the Reserves, working for a law firm in DC. While attending Georgetown Law.

Yeah, the kid is pretty smart. We decided at dinner that "Sea Lawyer" would be a fine blog name for him. I could tell by the slight grimace that he loved the moniker. Loved it.

We also got to play catch up (and catch) with our granddogs, Bear and Kodi.

Bear and Kodi, Bear is on the left.

Woke up to quiche for breakfast. It was delicious (no testosterone was lost during the consumption of that fine meal).

The Nuke and The Missus Herself went overboard for Thanksgiving chow. My daughter had brined the turkey. It was moist and delicious.

Green bean casserole, yams, deep-fried zucchini, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and now we're preparing for the pies to be brought out. The Nuke made apple pie and pumpkin pie, pretty much from scratch. In addition to being a fine officer in the Naval Service, The Nuke is one Hell of a chef.

Oh yeah, the stuff in the final picture was pretty fine. I always sample the local offerings. Always...

Smooth and potent...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

To all whom these presents come, greetings...

The First Thanksgiving
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

May your Thanksgiving be happy,
May you spend time with loved ones,
May you have something to be thankful for,
May you be loved,
May you have someone to love.

For those spending the holiday on duty,
Thank You.

Happy Thanksgiving

In the painting, the scene depicted is a romanticized version and not historically accurate. The clothing worn by the Pilgrims is incorrect, the Wampanoag did not wear feathered war bonnets, nor would they have been sitting on the ground. I still like the painting. So there.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


CARIBBEAN SEA (Oct. 31, 2010) Dutch Ambassador to Suriname Aart Jacobi walks through the passageways of the
medical department aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) during a tour of the ship.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathen E. Davis
So on Monday night I went to bed at a reasonable hour. I had not eaten anything different or out of the ordinary and was tired enough to go to sleep within a reasonable amount of time after my head hit the pillow. Not immediately mind you, for there is a ten to fifteen minute period of bonding with the cats which started shortly after The Missus Herself began her latest sojourn to the sunny state of California.

As the cats would spend the entire day on their own while I was at work with no one to keep them company, they started to get a bit clingy after Mama had been gone a couple of days.

So they got into the habit of sleeping with me. After the obligatory ten to fifteen minute purr-fest and "we're happy to see you" period, I was allowed to actually close my eyes and go to sleep.

For Anya, this was no problem. She would curl up and go right to sleep. Sasha however, is a different proposition altogether. She will let me think it's okay to go to sleep.

Then she will poke me with her paw as if to say, "I'm still here you know." Believe me, Sasha, I know you're there. After a couple of paw pokes and the occasional head butt, I am allowed to actually go to sleep. It's a process.

Is he talking trash about me? Again?

Last night was no different. Once I was asleep though, things got strange, very strange.

I dream a lot and frequently (but not always) remember what I dream about. Some nights I dream in color, some nights it's black and white. My dreams are always pretty vivid. Pretty detailed. Sometimes disturbingly so. (The weirdest dreams I ever had was when I quit smoking. The drug I used to do so, Chantix, is known to have that side effect. At first it was frightening. Then I started looking forward to those dreams. Bizarre they were but entertaining in an odd way.)

So last night I dreamed that I flew down to Norfolk and embarked upon a U.S. Navy warship. I remember that white-speckled blue tile of the opening photo in the dream, the coolness of the air conditioning (which was actually working, which isn't always the case) and the smell of light machine oil. (Which I always associate with a warship.)

Now I couldn't tell you what type of ship it was. There were areas which looked like the destroyers I've been on, areas which reminded me of the two carriers I've been to sea on and some of the areas were reminiscent of a battleship. Oddly enough nothing reminded me of being onboard a submarine.*

I do remember distinctly that my attire varied throughout the dream. In one sequence I was wearing my Air Force BDUs** (avec les galons de sergent-maître), in another I was wearing U.S. Navy coveralls and in one (very bizarre sequence) I was completely outfitted in MOPP gear.

MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) Gear

The other thing that struck me is that Chesapeake Bay was filled with hazards to navigation. Giant protruding rocks, granite outcrops just below the surface and numerous ship wrecks. There was even a cruise ship on her beam ends near the Hampton Roads Bridge. I was on the port side bridge wing watching that pass by. Even within the dream I thought the captain had far too much way on. What with all the wrecks and rocks you know. But what do I know? I was in the Air Force.

In one portion of the dream I was belaboring a group of chiefs for having a crappy Chiefs' Mess. (This was in the portion of the ship that was big and roomy like a battleship.) The so-called "Chiefs' Mess" was two card tables crammed against a bulkhead on the side of a wide passageway that had a crudely worded sign reading "Cheefs Mess." I kid you not. (The card tables did have a couple of cigar-filled ash trays and numerous coffee cups. So that part seemed accurate.)

It was after I belabored the chiefs that some random lady LT (JG)*** jumped out of her stateroom and started yelling at me for being out of uniform. When I pointed out that technically I was a civilian contractor and shouldn't be in uniform at all, she really lost it. Frothing at the mouth and throwing things at me. Yeah, she was pissed. (Not sure where that came from, perhaps the result of a visit to SKK's blog?)

In the dream, while I was being yelled at, is when I noted that I was wearing Air Force BDUs, with MSgt stripes. Magically I was then transported to the helicopter hangar and was wearing Navy coveralls again.

Maybe it was watching Captain Phillips over the weekend.

Who knows.

Dreams are strange sometimes.

The next picture was included for one reason: knee knockers. One week on The Nuke's first ship cured me of ever wanting to see those again. (Mercifully, there were none in the dream.)


ET3 Jason Blank works on a knee knocker on the 02 level of the USS WASP (LHD 1)
U.S. Navy Photo by PHC (SW/NAC) Spike Call

While I didn't get the chance to go to sea on McFAUL I spent most of one week "visiting" the ship while she was in Newport back in the fall of '05. Visiting with 60 of my closest friends. Never actually ran aground on a knee knocker, but my knees were not happy with hopping over those things all week long. A fellow gets to a certain age, he's not as spry as he used to be. (And that was nine years ago, when I was younger and quite a bit lighter on my feet.)

One really odd thing about this dream, I never got lost.

Of course, all I had to do was think "port side bridge wing" and voilà, there I was. (No, that's not the start of a war story.) In real life I get lost very easily when onboard a warship. Though I can read one of these (see below), I still have some difficulty figuring out where I am. Dreams are easier.

A Bullseye, let's you know where you are.
(If you're really lost, ask someone in E Division.)

One last note, not dream related, I'm off to DC for the Thanksgiving Holiday so posting may be sporadic.

Happy Thanksgiving to my co-authors, Tuna and Juvat, and to all our readers out there in the blogoverse. Here's hoping you have the chance to spend time with friends and family. Eat some good food and maybe watch some football (if such be your preference).


* The warships I've been on are, in no particular order: German corvette HIDDENSEE, USN destroyers USS JOSEPH P KENNEDY, USS OSCAR AUSTIN, USS McFAUL, USS BRISCOE, USS NITZE, USN aircraft carriers USS DWIGHT D EISENHOWER, USS RONALD REAGAN, USN battleships USS ALABAMA, USS MASSACHUSETTS, USN submarines USS DRUM, USS LIONFISH, and USS NAUTILUS. Some modern, some old and some foreign. I actually got to spend a day at sea on both carriers. Good times. Ask ORPO.

** BDU = Battle Dress Uniform think woodland pattern camouflage, a very '90s uniform. Ivan coming through the Fulda Gap and all that. Very apocalyptic.

*** LT (JG) Lieutenant (Junior Grade), O-2, one silver bar. Equivalent to a First Lieutenant in the other services. But not a Navy First Lieutenant, which is a completely different thing. The latter is a job, not a rank.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Air Force Chow

800th Aero Squadron - HQ and B Flight Chow Line Camp Coëtquidan, France
circa 1918
So in Juvat's last post (here), Buck brought up the topic of the chow hall. Now a chow hall is what we Air Force types called our dining facilities back in the day. In the opening photo you can see what it was like way back in the day. Guys waiting in line to dine, mess tins in hand. (Hhmm, why aren't they called "chow tins"?) No, Buck, I'm not suggesting that you are waiting in that line. Of course, I'm not suggesting you aren't. Just sayin'... Though there is a guy over there on the right of the photo that bears a passing resemblance to Juvat. Hhmm, 800th, 80th, seems too coincidental. Me? I'm under the pine tree...

Buck recalled in passing a number of unaccompanied (read stationed overseas all by one's lonesome) meals in Air Force facilities during major holidays. While the only time I can recall dining in a military facility on a holiday was back in 2008. Onboard USS DWIGHT D EISENHOWER (CVN-69) while she was in port over Christmas*. (No, honey, that's not a "fairy" on the fantail of that ship, it's a wasp. As in USS WASP. I know it looks like a lit up "fairy"... I love it when the haze grays are dressed for the holidays.)

At any rate, the discussion of food in the Air Force brought back a lot of memories. As it's the holiday season, I'll share some of those memories with you. (It's what I do, I share. Just stay away from my beer. A man has to draw the line somewhere.)

My earliest memory of the Air Force dining experience was at basic training. Well, not the first couple of meals, those were very much "WHY-ARE-YOU-STILL-EATING-AIRMAN? MOVE MOVE MOVE!!!! THIS ISN'T A DAMN RESTAURANT!!" (Back in those days the instructors were allowed to yell and scream and even use profanity, were they so inclined.)

Eventually though we had the chance to sit down and have a leisurely meal. (Well, 15 minutes to eat felt leisurely at the time.) Steak and lobster tails.


Steak and lobster tails.

I was ready to re-enlist for 30 years right then and there.


"What? Seriously? You want to re-enlist now? For thirty? MEDIC!!!"

After the docs certified me as "not insane" I was allowed to return to my flight.

So the food in basic training was not bad. Not bad at all. Of course, folks in different squadrons may have had different experiences. My outfit had good cooks.

Lowry AFB was also "not bad" in the culinary department. That's where I went for what we called tech school. The "tech" being short for "technical" - no, I don't make these things up.

My first operational outfit in the Air Force was Kadena AB, Japan (technically speaking Okinawa, which belongs to Japan but isn't, historically, part of Japan).

The food at the chow hall nearest to my barracks was alright. The food was usually pretty good. But I'm not the best judge of that because for a long time I worked what we called mid shift. Midnight to 0700. The best shift to work if you are a night owl (which I am). There are no big shots around and no arse kissers. (As there are no big shots, there would be, almost by definition, no butt kissers around. No need for 'em.)

The one drawback to working mids is that one day, back in the mists of time, someone, somewhere decreed that midnight chow would be the same as breakfast. Eggs, cereal, pancakes and the like. So for a long time the only meal I ate was breakfast. Before going to work and after going to work. On rare occasions I would hit afternoon chow. Until one day all they had was liver and onions. Or fish. Yes, little Sarge went hungry for a couple of hours that day. (The Missus Herself says that I could stand to miss a meal now and then. I won't disagree.)

I well remember one of our local national cooks in the morning. He was a wizard at omelets but we all believed he only knew two words in English. Neither particularly well-pronounced. (Not a criticism mind you, my Japanese is execrable.) Every morning in the chow line for eggs we would hear...

"Scram?"  (Would you like scrambled eggs?)


"Om-ret?" (Perhaps an omelet would be more to your liking?)

Both spoken in a very gruff, guttural voice. Think Toshiro Mifune in Red Sun.

Who you ask?

This guy...

三船 敏郎

He played the lead Japanese character in the mini-series Shogun, was in about 170 films, mostly in Japan. He was one of my favorite actors. Sadly Mifune-san passed away in 1997.

Anyhoo. That's what the guy who cooked me breakfast for 2 and a half years sounded like.

Now while I was on Okinawa I got married to The Missus Herself. (Before you get confused with the whole Okinawa-Korea thing, let me explain. I was stationed at Kadena when I met the future Mrs Sarge, she lived in Korea. One of the main raisons d'être for the existence of Kadena AB was to support operations (if needed) on the Korean peninsula. As it was envisioned that Korea is where we would fight, we did a lot of temporary duty in Korea. I also used up many days of leave in Korea as well. I spent a long time on Okinawa trying to get permanently stationed in Korea. But that's a story for another day. POCIR**.)

Once a fellow gets married, he doesn't eat in the chow hall any more. One thing I remember about the chow hall nearest to my shop was that they always had roast beef. Always. Fortunately, they did a pretty good job of cooking it. But visiting the chow hall was rare after I tied the knot with The Missus Herself. At least not unless it was lunch time or one of the other meals one might partake of while at work.


No. No.

Om-ret, do-zo.

But there is one place I remember in the Air Force that had the worst food on the planet. (And I've eaten in some real dives!) Medina Annex at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. I once had the extreme displeasure of being stuck there for a few weeks back in the day. The food was bloody horrendous. The only thing they did not screw up at Medina was the salad. (Though sometimes the only salad dressing available was what they called "Italian" - looked, and tasted, like light machine oil.)

I do believe I lost 20 pounds during that particular evolution.

That was a time when I spent 3 months on temporary duty down at Lackland in the late '80s. When I returned home from that little stint the kids wanted to know...

"Has Daddy been in prison? Why is he so skinny?"

Let's just say this, if the food is so bad that I won't eat it, it's pretty bad. Some day I might tell that story. POCIR.

But in 24 years, that's the only place in the Air Force I ever ate where the cooks were probably guilty of crimes against humanity. Perhaps they didn't like being there either.

Oh, one last thing. While assigned to NATO AB Geilenkirchen I had the opportunity to go to midnight chow once. And only once. I was stunned, no eggs, no bacon, no pancakes.

They had Beef Wellington, and it was superb.


Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoyed my assignment to Germany?


Beef Wellington.

Good times.

*FWIW, that meal was outstanding. The Nuke assured me that they didn't eat like that everyday. In fact, I believe she said "Not even close..."

**POCIR = Providing Of Course I Remember

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving with the Juvats

So, There I was….* Kunsan AB, ROK about 4 weeks before my DEROS (Date Estimated Return from Overseas, Hey, I don’t make the acronyms).  Under the leadership of the second worst president ever, I’ve got almost 100 hours of operational time in the F-4 and can manage to at least hit the ground with my bombs and not myself, although that issue has been in doubt.  My next assignment will be to Moody AFB, GA where further adventures will abide and at least one life changing ceremony will take place, but that’s all in the future.  

For now my task as defined by my Squadron Commander, Lt Col Dick “Batman” Swope, is to plan and provision a Thanksgiving dinner for the 80TFS Pilots, WSOs and enlisted and the 80AMU, our maintenance personnel.
Batman takes Command of the Juvats
(USAF Photo)

  Now, Batman does not want cucumber sandwiches with tea for this soiree.  No, he wants Turkey, Dressing, Mashed potatoes, Pies, the whole 9 yards (which actually is a fighter pilot saying, Sarge should be able to tell you what it means). There’s one teensy weensy problem with this plan.  Kunsan’s “commissary” was comparable to an understocked 7-11 in what it carried in inventory.  On a good day, you might be able to purchase some peanut butter, no bread, but crackers (old, stale) to make yourself a snack.  Sodas were rationed more heavily than Beer.  Lunchmeat was generally green in tinge.  Finding the fixings to feed a couple of hundred folks might be hard.  Osan AB, the next closest base wasn’t a whole lot better.  What to do?

We had a new guy join our squadron just prior to this whose previous assignment had been Okinawa. He reported that the commissary there was very well stocked and he could probably get someone to procure the groceries if I could find a way to transport them to Kunsan.

I checked with the MAC detachment and they said they could not transport victuals (they actually used that word) intended for private functions on Military Aircraft.  (I wondered if they knew about Air Force One?)

I then realized that I was a pilot of an aircraft with the ability to carry a significant payload.  Now if I could just find a baggage pod.  I knew they existed, but hadn’t seen any around.  My Dad had always told me if you need information, find the oldest NCO around.  They know everything. So, I found the guy driving the maintenance truck on the line, he looked ancient like he might have been 35 or so.  I asked him about baggage pods.  He asked why so I told him about Batman’s party.  He said if I’d save him a pair of Drumsticks, he’d get them for me.  Done.
Note baggage pod under left wing. We had one under each on both.  Not an 80TFS bird, but TX ANG, given the copyright restrictions, almost as good.

Now, I've just got to convince Batman to let me have an airplane for a weekend.  Realizing that, one, this is during the reign of the second worst president ever, so flying hours are scarce and two, that I have a very limited number of them under my belt, this is going to be a hard sell.  But this is HIS party, so I've got that going for me.

After a 5 minute meeting during which I described the logistical problem in great detail, he interrupts me and says why don’t I find a flight lead and a couple of WSO’s that want to take a trip to Clark with a stop enroute at Kadena to order supplies, a day at Clark to rest and recuperate, then a return stop at Kadena to pick up the supplies?  What a great idea!  Wish I’d have thought of Clark in my version!

All of a sudden, I've got LOTS of friends in the squadron!

I get a flight lead, a Captain from Alabama, who speaks with a very slow, very deep drawl.  My WSO is also a Captain, usually rambunctious, but competent.  Lead’s WSO I have no recollection about.  We brief the mission and the supply requirements and get ready to launch.

Now, back then there were things like ADIZs to contend with.  Air Defense Identification Zones. Radar Flight Tracking wasn't anywhere near as complete as it is now.  One would be out of Radar Coverage and Radio coverage for long sections of time.  I had never done anything like this and neither had my flight lead. The WSO’s had however, so we were comfortable.  

Launch out of Kunsan and exit Korean Airspace south of Cheju Do.  Very quiet for a while and then we start to approach Japanese Airspace.  Lead calls for a radio change and attempts to contact the Japanese air traffic control at Fukuoka.  Now, let me explain this.  Their callsign was Fukuoka Control, pronounced Foo Koo Oh Ka.  Lead is from Alabama.  He can NOT say this in a manner recognizable to the Japanese!  This is a family blog, but it shouldn’t take much for you to imagine how he was trying to pronounce it.  And the guy on the other side was not having any of it.  Lead would make an attempt and the controller would say “No! Foo’ Koo Oh Ka! With the accent being on whichever syllable Lead screwed up. This went on for about 15 minutes.  My WSO and I are laughing so hard, I am having a hard time flying formation for the tears in my eyes.  Finally the controller gives up and passes us off to some other sector controller with a much more pronounceable name. 

We land at Kadena, get checked in to the VOQ, call our contact and pass them the list, and then race out Gate two for a little time on the town.  First time with Kobe Beef.  Marvelous stuff that.

Next morning, we blast off and as we pass Miyako-Jima, lead calls and tells me his centerline tank isn't feeding.  He won’t have enough gas to make it to Clark, so he’s turning around and going back to Kadena.  Why don’t I go on ahead to Clark, and oh, by the way, would I pick up his crocodile skin boots while I’m there? 

He turns around and disappears back to the north.  I look in and the TACAN is searching for a lock on and will continue that, unsuccessfully, for the next hour and a half.  I’m driving on, looking around at a whole lot of not much to see, and notice that my WSO was unusually quiet.  I ask him what’s going on, and he says he’d called home last night to talk to his wife and she had informed him she wanted a divorce.  As nonchalantly as I could, I asked him if he’d mind switching the radar to air to ground mode and run it out to max range.  I figured a dead reckoning heading would get me close enough to find Luzon on the radar.

My R and R at Clark consisted of escorting a highly inebriated WSO around various locales, to include a boot shop and the Nipa Hut, and then finally carrying him to his rack at Chambers Hall.  It’s what we do.

Sunday morning, he’s surprisingly chipper, hale and hearty.  We blast off, and make our way back to Kadena.  Land, Dearm and get directed to park in front of the tower.  As I pull into the parking space and shut down, I notice a small Nissan station wagon pull up under one of my wings.  I get out as the crew chief begins refueling the jet.  Walk over to the Nissan and Lead is there setting up a conga line passing turkeys from the car to the pods.  We load a dozen turkeys into each of the baggage pods.  All the rest of the groceries are already loaded in Lead’s pods. 

Dinner loaded, Dzus fasteners tightened, Fuel in the tanks, Lead runs over to his jet, straps in and gives me the fire up signal.  Dash-60s roar and soon, so do we.  Blast off, get handed off to Fukuoka Control.  I’m waiting for the encore, but Lead comes through.  (Later found out, that his WSO had spent his R and R buying beer for Lead all the while conducting diction lessons on how to pronounce the name, not wanting to restart WWII after all.)

Re-enter Korean Airspace, come down initial at Kunsan. Not wanting to re-enact an episode from WKRP in Cincinatti, we gently pitch out and land.  

We’re met in the dearm area by the maintenance bread van and several maintainers.  Dzus fasteners opened and another conga line from pods to van.  The NCOIC says the Security Police had heard about the party and were looking to confiscate the “contraband”.  

Pod empty of all but our skivvies and a pair of crocodile boots, we taxi back to the shelters.  Shut down and are met by the SPs and the drug dogs.  Dogs sniff all around and start howling at the pods, we open them up for the cops and show them they’re empty.  Clearly disappointed, they leave empty handed.  Some of the turkeys were dispersed to all the O-5s since they were the only ones with ovens in their quarters.  The remaining turkeys were taken to the O’Club where we've bribed negotiated with Mr. Kim the manager to allow us to cook them. I think the cost was two cooked turkeys to serve to the other, uninvited, wing personnel.

Thanksgiving arrives and my clan, warriors all, has gathered.  The two reserved drumsticks are paid to the Maintenance NCOIC, prayers were said, the appropriate toasts were given and dinner is served.  

The Juvats
(USAF Photo, of which I own a copy)

Post Script.  I ran into Batman a couple more times in my career.  When I was at CincPac, he was the 13AF Commander at Andersen AFB Guam.  Later, while I was on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, he was the USAF IG. He and I retired from the Air Force on the same day.  I was a Lt Col, he was a Lt Gen.  Sadly, I've learned he passed away in 2011 at 68. RIP.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thunderbird Ride Along

"USAF Thunderbirds Amigo AirSho-1- 2010" by Desizemoe - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
There are days when I just need to get some aerial action*. Some in cockpit stuff. With or without the "cheesy" music as Buck likes to put it. (Truth be told, the music doesn't bother me.) I found the following video over at Air Boyd. The video was shot by USAF Staff Sgt. Jarid Watson. Who had the opportunity to watch the team, up close and personal. (Me jealous? Nah. Well, maybe a little.)

No music. Just flying. A bit long but hey, it's from the cockpit. And yes, I recommend full screen. Let's kick the tires and light the fires. (Does anyone ever actually say that? I mean outside of that scene in Independence Day.)

*No, it's not because I couldn't come up with anything to write about.

Well, yeah. Today that's the case. But hey, we all like jets.

Am I right?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Preview of Coming Attractions

"StevenFUdvarHazy". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The above is a place I plan on visiting while in the DC area for the Thanksgiving festivities. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which is (and yes, I quote) "the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM)'s annex at Washington Dulles International Airport in the Chantilly area of Fairfax County, Virginia." (W)

Last time I was down DC way we spent most of our time on the Mall as our hotel was just a short walk from a Metro stop and then a fairly short ride to the National Mall. There is much to see on the Mall, including the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. A place where I could (and did) spend hours.

As we were in town for what was, in effect, a long weekend, we did not get out Chantilly way. So I am rather pumped about going there.

Expect pictures.

Lots of pictures.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Turkey Day

"Washington DC skyline" by Ad Meskens - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
And so the word came down from "on high" that La famiglia Sarge would be traveling to Our Nation's Capital for the celebration of Thanksgiving. Sometimes known as "Turkey Day" but not by me under normal circumstances. These, however, are not normal circumstances. Hence my uncharacteristic use of the term "Turkey Day." (Next thing you know I'll be talking about "Xmas." [Shudder])

A few weeks ago I had a call from The Nuke asking me what my plans were for the fourth Thursday in November. At the time I indicated that I was going with my new default plan of traveling up to the ancestral lands for to spend the holiday with my Mom (The Nuke's grandmother for those keeping score at home) just as I had done for the past two years.

That was when my oldest daughter, the middle child of my immediate descendants, i.e. the second born, told me that she thought it would be nice if The Missus Herself and Your Humble Scribe should board an aircraft and fly down to her place in Alexandria for the sharing of this meal.

I informed this sweet child o' mine that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was the WORST day to travel of the entire year. Perhaps it would be better to visit her and her man some other time. She left it at that with a "think about it."

I knew immediately that this would be elevated up the chain of command all the way to The Missus Herself. Here's what the change of command looks like at Chez Sarge -

You can see where I fit in the scheme of things. Even the cats outrank me.


But (wait for it) I digress.

For a few weeks we've gone around and around on this topic. I prevaricated, stalled and obfuscated. All to no avail.

The Missus Herself has signed the orders and I can but obey.

Therefore I will, on or about the 26th of November report to the designated transportation hub, there to board an aircraft which will, on or about 26 November deposit me at Reagan International. Ground transportation to be arranged by The Nuke.

I may be at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Saturday. If that excursion gets approved. The Nuke is in favor of the trip. We shall see.

We shall see.

Contact me on Guard if you will be in the Chantilly area on or about 29 November in the year of Our Lord Two-Thousand and Fourteen and have any interest in a meet and greet.

That will be all...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Me and My Coffee

"A small cup of coffee" by Julius Schorzman - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
While it's not exactly "coffee week" here at the Chant du Départ, an incident at my local Dunkin' Donuts on Wednesday morning got me thinking about coffee. Tuna's post Musings of a Coffee Veteran was a further spur to send me down this particular path. Let's relate that Wednesday morning story first.

Every work day I stop at the same Dunkin' Donuts here in Fair-Rhody-By-The-Sea. (Not my town's real name but as the Cap'n has his MetroParkCentralis and Tam her Broad Ripple I now have this. Such as it is. Okay, so I'm not that creative. Now where was I... Oh yeah, coffee.)

Now this is not the same 
Dunkin' Donuts I used to frequent on my way to my place of employment. No, that was pre-exile, this new one has become my Dunkin' Donuts only in the last couple of years. I started going to this one because it is within a quarter-mile of Chez Sarge and I got into the habit of acquiring the occasional Saturday breakfast there. I got to know the folks who work there, they chided me for using the one "downtown," and eventually I transferred my allegiance to this "new" place. (Which when we first moved here was something else entirely, not a Dunkin' Donuts, but that is a story for another day. If I remember...)


I arrive to find three annoying things. The first is the standard big pickup truck parked immediately in front of the store in the special "Fire Lane, No Parking" parking lot. Apparently if one is in a hurry it's okay to violate the parking ordinances here in Fair-Rhody-By-The-Sea. So that's the first thing.

Inside we have the owner-operator of said pickup truck waving his receipt in the air and looking all around as if he's expecting someone to react to that. As far as I can see, no one, other than me, even notices his somewhat odd behavior. So that's the second thing.

Now at the counter is a guy ordering coffee and approximately 8 feet from the counter is another guy who is giving no hint as to his purpose in the store. Is he perusing the list of things one can buy at 
Dunkin' Donuts or is he actually waiting in line? Some folks around here have a concept of personal space that is admirable but rather impractical for waiting in line. If one is going to wait in line one should actually be, you know, in line.

The chap glances at me, I look to the counter and then look at where he is standing with a quizzical look on my visage. He gets the point and moves forward to actually be, in line. That was the third thing.

So now I'm actually in a line, Waves-Receipt-In-Air (Annoying Thing 2) has left the building (and moved his humongous pickup truck - Annoying Thing 1) and only Doesn't-Know-Where-Line-Is (Annoying Thing 3) is left. He gets his coffee and moves on. Probably to Montana as he does like his personal space.

I am about to order when OMG-You-Must-Be-Kidding enters the store.

I have seen this guy before and he is a colossal pain in the arse. He appears to be in his sixties but acts like a 12-year-old. A not very bright 12-year-old.

Today he has an old coffee cup full of change which he is cradling and shaking back and forth like some sort of weird tribal ritual is about to begin. Yes, the sound is mildly annoying. Then it gets better, much better. He approaches the counter and stares at the three people working behind the counter. Shakes his head and returns to the wide open spaces behind me. Where I can hear him pacing back and forth, shaking his change container. Then I hear this -
"What the Hell? Three people all working on one order! This is unbelievable! What is going on here?"
To be fair, I had to agree with him. But his antics weren't quite what one expects in modern society. After receiving my iced coffee, I quickly departed the store. As I did so I turned to see OMG-You-Must-Be-Kidding spreading his lucre all over the counter. My word, there had to have been ten dollars in pennies and nickels there. Not a dime or a quarter to be seen, folding money not in evidence.

Like I said, a 12-year-old. Bear in mind, the guy is not mentally handicapped or deficient in any but the finer graces of civilized society. Yes, he is what we like to call, an asshole.

I know, hard to believe but we get a few here. Not many, thank the Lord, and usually they don't get up that early.

Anyhoo. This post is supposed to be about me and my coffee, not random assholes you might meet on the street. At this point The Nuke and The WSO would no doubt point out that Your Humble Scribe could, on certain days, fall into that category. Yes, yes, it's true. There are days when I am not fit for polite company. But Wednesday was not one of those days. Tuesday? Yes. But not Wednesday.

So coffee. What about it?

Oh yeah, me and my coffee.

I didn't start drinking coffee until I got married. Primarily because The Missus Herself drank coffee and would actually make coffee. One fine morning she asked if I would like a cup. So I said, "Why yes, yes I would."

Bear in mind, I had tried coffee as a lad when I would go hunting with my Dad and kid brothers. Dad drank it black, I thought it horrid stuff. 'Twas my better half who taught me about cream and sugar. (I'm sure right now that there are any number of you guys out there thumping your chests and proclaiming your alpha-male status because "a man drinks his coffee black." Nope, sorry. The type of coffee you drink isn't what proclaims your manhood. I would say the ability to field strip a firearm is a better quantifier of manhood. And yes, many women know how to do that and many men do not. Still and all, seriously the ability to savor coffee with nothing in it makes you "a man?" Hhmm, I think I just revealed a pet peeve. So be it. Where were we?)

Coffee. Cream and sugar (nowadays milk and Splenda) and mostly iced. Something else the light of my life introduced me to. I will drink iced coffee when it is 20 below (and have).

One morning in February, walking into work with my iced coffee, one of the security guards fixed me with an unbelieving stare and asked,

"How can you drink iced coffee when it's this cold?"

First I played the born-in-Vermont-you-call-this-cold card and then countered his question with two of my own.

"Do you drink beer in the winter?" To which he replied in the affirmative.

"Do you warm your beer in the winter?" At which point he saw the unassailable logic of my position and ceded his position.

Typically I only drink hot coffee on the weekends. One cup on Saturday, at home, and another on Sunday, at church.

Though lately I have been quaffing a nightly cup of hot decaf in the evening while I ponder what tales to torture regale you, the readers, with. It may be the brew or it may be the coffee cup. I'm not sure.

The WSO got me that cup when I was last out Sandy Eggo way. For to ride the boat*, visit Lex and drink Guinness at Shakespeare's.

What, there are other reasons to visit Sandy Eggo?

Do tell.

* I know Nuke, I know, it's a ship, not a boat. Please humor me, I come from an aviation background. It's only natural that I would adopt the jargon of the Air Wing and not that of ship's company. Besides which, you hate the term "bird farm" even more. And I was sore tempted to use that instead. Sore tempted.