Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bambi and Chuckles

Photo by ForestWander Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
This is not a post about the star of a certain Disney movie and a certain type of candy.

Public Domain Photo

No, dear readers, this post is about me and two nicknames, one of which was hung upon me in tech school shortly after the last of the glaciers had receded from North America and the woolly mammoths were dying out in droves. The other I received while assigned to the sunny, semi-tropical isle of Okinawa.

Yup, it was a long, long time ago. Mid-70s to be precise. Round about '75 to '77. As I recall.

So there I was...*

First of all, the nickname "Bambi" occurred so far back in time that when FRaVMotC Russ mentioned it in the comments the other day, I really had to think about it. Hard. After a great deal of cogitation, I remembered, vaguely (as through a glass, and darkly) the origin of that particular cognomen.

When I was assigned to Lowry AFB the first time, it was to learn the mysteries and sacred rituals of the AN/APQ-109A radar set, as mounted upon the mighty F-4D Phantom II fighter-bomber. This was a fairly long course of instruction.

This beast (Source)

It began with basic electronics and ended with the actual radar itself. All drummed into our wee heads by a corps of dedicated, "been there, done that" instructors, of whom Russ was one. (Though I did not know him at Lowry, we did work together on Okinawa, where I picked up that "Chuckles" moniker. Thank God, Russ didn't follow me to Korea for I would, no doubt, be reminded of many other things I have said and done and would then have to remember and blog about. The brain, it tires as one gains age.)

So, as I remember it, a bunch of us brand new "right out of the box" airmen arrived at Lowry in late June / early July in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Five. We knew how to fold our underwear, hang our uniforms in a locker and upon ourselves and we could march in formation and respond to simple commands.

No, we were not much use at all to the mighty United States Air Force. That's what tech school would do, give us useful skills which could then be used to defend our way of life and bring the joys of freedom to the benighted shores of far away lands. (When we weren't chasing the women and drinking the native hooch in those far away lands.)

We had a troop by the name of Donald Downs (IIRC) in our squadron, also a budding WCS superstar (an E-model type methinks) who was good buddies with my roommate and Yours Truly. Of course, he became Donald Duck, or simply, "The Duck."
Public Domain Photo

Uh yeah, that guy.

Needless to say, I found that funny, no, hysterical. It was, to me, hysterical. As it was to my roommate, whose real name escapes me.

Yes, Airman Downs hated that nickname. Primarily because whenever he came into a room, we would all make quacking noises à la Monsieur Donald. Because he hated it, it stuck. That's what happens. Don't like a nickname / callsign? Embrace it, love it and tell everyone how wonderful it is...

Nope, they'll just change it to something else.

If you let folks know how much you hate it, it will stick. (By the way, don't try reverse psychology, as dogs can sense fear, people who bestow nicknames / callsigns can sense reverse psychology. It is known.)

So of course, The Duck had to retaliate. I think he heard my roommate's girlfriend call him "Sugar" once, so yes, roomie became "Sugar," later shortened to "Shoog" (spelled phonetically, as "Sug" doesn't look right). Follow me, so far?

Of course, I laughed hysterically at that nickname too. And yes, my roommate hated it. I should have known to stop right there. But no, I'm not that smart.

So of course, between the two of them (which one I don't remember) they decided that I too needed a nickname. Something insulting. Something I would hate. So they came up with...



How the heck was I Bambi? I'm not young and fragile. I don't frolic in the forest with Flower and Thumper. I don't...

Oh, wait.

Now I saw it. The perfect nickname. I hated it. So it stuck. Duck and Shoog laughed their asses off. So did everyone else who heard it.

I. Was. Furious.

I thought it was isolated to just the guys in my squadron. Until I went to class one night.

Now I need to digress here for a moment. (Surprise, surprise, surprise. To quote Gomer Pyle.)

In the radar part of tech school, I went to class from 1500 to midnight (C shift, they called it). If you remember this story, my instructor, SSgt Bill Ames, was a really cool guy. (In fact, all of the instructors on C shift were pretty cool. Including the guy in charge, MSgt Dillon. Of whom, I will tell a story some day. It involves the faux submachine gun which I mention in that previous link. But not today.)

So, I'm sitting in class. Confident that my new nom de guerre is known only at my squadron and not at the school. SSgt Ames said something which I thought required a funny rejoinder. So I made some remark, the class laughed, SSgt Ames turned to me and deadpan, said...

"That'll be enough out of you. Bambi."

Oh shit, oh dear.

The class laughed their asses off. I sat there, wanting to protest, wanting to scream my rage at the heavens but, knowing it would be futile, held my water. So to speak.

Fortunately that nickname didn't follow me to Okinawa. I think. (I'm sure Russ will correct me in the comments if I misspoke here. Guy has an amazing memory for a geezer.)

No, on Okinawa I received a new sobriquet.

One day, while driving down the flightline, riding in the back of the line truck (a thing you can read about here) heading for the jet. For to maintain the Weapon Control System and protect the American way of life. Mom and apple pie, cue John Philip Sousa.

Ahem, digression... Sorry.

Line truck, bunch of WCS troops with toolboxes, aircraft write-ups to fix on a fine Okinawan day (which means it was either blistering hot or pouring rain or both), rolling down the flightline. Young Airman First Class Moi sitting with my mates, laughing at some witty remark made by someone.

Truck, driven by one TSgt Mike Brown (though he may have been a SSgt at the time, he was promoted before he left Okinawa) rolls to a stop next to an allegedly broken jet. (I say allegedly because from time to time our valiant warriors of the air would only think something was broken. When in actuality they were just doing it wrong. Like the time one bright young First Lieutenant of a WSO wrote up the radar for "won't transmit in the O.F.F. mode" - I kid you not. Even his pilot laughed at that one.)

TSgt Brown pulls to a stop and says "Here's your bird Chuckles and somebody-else-whose-name-I-forget." The guy whose name I forget jumps off the truck and looks back at me, expectantly. I knew I was working with that guy today, who was this Chuckles guy...

Oh, wait...

Yup, Mike tagged me with the nickname "Chuckles". Hell, the entire squadron was calling me that by the end of the week. I found it slightly annoying. But it could have been worse, far worse. I remember some of the other nicknames Mike had bestowed on people. I was content to answer to "Chuckles." What the hell, it fit.

Then, as now, it didn't take much to make me laugh.

Thanks for the memory Russ.

Now stop that.



  1. Heh. I didn't get a call sign until Search and Rescue school (1982) in which I was dubbed "Kid", by the instructors. They always followed with the question, "Where's Hannibal Hayes?" That name stuck until I left the fleet in late '95 and went to London, where they remained ignorant of my old call sign.

    1. Wow, I had to jump into the way back machine for that one. Alias Smith and Jones was the show, as I recall.

      Sometimes it's good to move on and leave certain things behind. Like nicknames and call signs. Of course, there's always the danger of picking up another, much worse callsign. It's been known to happen.

  2. I would have preferred those over "Bullet" or "Hog Jowles" but you are right,a nick name is no good if the owner of the moniker likes it.

    1. I dunno Joe, Hog Jowls has a certain ring to it, as does Bullet. The latter is actually VFA-2's callsign.

      Then again, Hog Jowls isn't very flattering, is it?

  3. Thanks Sarge, you activated my junior enlisted memory module. Thought that thing had been surveyed and jumpered years ago.

    Outside of medical I was always Doc. Period. I'd hoped for a cool call sign but it never happened. Sometimes at Oceana we flew station SAR with two corpsmen, both of whom were Doc. You'd think that would cause confusion on the ICS but it never seemed to. Later, when I routinely filled the right seat of an Intruder for two glorious deployments, I was still Doc.

    I was most often Mikey in medical, And Evert to my runnin' mates.

    1. That's the danger of remembering things. One memory sparks another and soon enough, you're in the way back machine...

      Doc is an awesome nickname. Every useful corpsman I've ever known was called Doc. Heck, one of the guys that goes to our church retired from the Navy not long ago. A corpsman. Spent most of his career with the Marines. When I'm not thinking, I naturally refer to him as Doc.

  4. Sarge, you've once again triggered old memories of "early Navy". I'm a couple years older than you, but only just.

    When I got to training school after boot camp, I made the unknowing mistake of leaving my Navy-issue skivvies folded, right out of the seabag, on the shelf in my closet. My roommates immediately named me "Four-Oh", as in the perfect 4.0 score on a Navy barracks inspection.

    Fortunately, they graduated soon after and my newer roommates thereafter didn't catch on. :)

    1. Four-Oh. I love it.

      Sometimes you leave your nickname behind, sometimes those who tagged you with it move on.

  5. So they picked Bambi just because you wouldn't like it, and nothing else? No connection at all? That's just irritating, even to me just reading it 40 years after the fact. Sometimes I gotta shake my head at you Air Force types! Ha ha. C'mon, there's gotta be something to make a call-sign or nickname fit, even if the fit has nothing to do with you. For instance, a buddy had the call-sign "Clap" as in "Cries like a ... kitty.". I'll leave it as kitty, but you get the idea. He had missed his first watch as SDO (on his 2nd day in his first squadron) because he was getting his household goods delivered. They had expected him to bitch and moan and cry like a kitty, so they had already picked the name when he arrived late. He didn't, but that fact made him kind of notorious so the name stuck. He didn't "clap," but at least there's a story behind it. Bambi? I guess it makes sense that it didn't stick, but I'm surprised it was ever considered in the first place.

    1. I still can't remember how they came up with that.

  6. SJC -Oh, now THAT's funny! I don't care who you are!

    Finally above freezing and stopped raining, ice cold water dripping off everything right now and about an hour until dark. 0730 church tomorrow could be sporting.

    1. Thought you'd get a chuckle from that.

      Your weather sounds very Texas.

  7. +1 on Tuna, at least in the Navy whatever you got, there was a reason behind it...

    1. The only reason I can think of is that it irked me.

      We were young enlisted guys. What did we know?

  8. Being an 'ex bootneck' I have an important question on the 'AN/APQ-109A radar set.' (the like of which I have never seen before!) Does it also boil water for making tea?

    Yours Aye.

    1. Well it certainly gets hot enough EB. Not sure if anyone has ever tried though.

  9. You should be happy that no one from your class was also assigned to Kadena because Bambi would probably have followed
    you there.

    On my first day of class at Lowry, one of my classmates from Yonkers, New York thought my redneck accent was so funny,
    he said "Where the hell are you from, Podunk?" So there it was, I was Podunk and of course since I positively hated it, that
    moniker stuck.

    My first assignment after I graduated was Udorn Thailand and lucky me, Ed got the same assignment so I was still Podunk
    halfway across the world. My third week at Udorn I was reassigned to Phu Cat, Vietnam due to a severe shortage of WCS
    gorillas and I just knew I would finally get away from the name I so detested but believe or not, Ed showed up a week later!!
    I didn't get away from Podunk until I finally went to Luke AFB.

    Chuckles really did suit you though. You laughed so easily and your laugh was so infectious that I would see people
    start laughing even though they had no idea what they were laughing about!!

    Geezer, huh? Well, I suppose that fits. I am amazed sometimes at how crystal clear most of my memories are from
    the '70's and '80's and yet I constantly walk into a room here at home or in one of my labs at work and find myself
    thinking "I know I came in here for something really important but for the life of me, I can't remember what it is!"
    So geezer it is!!!

    1. Don't feel too bad about the geezer thing Russ. I'm right behind you in the geezer ranks!

    2. Oh, I don't feel bad about the geezer thing, I think I've earned it! I've used it a few times myself. A nickname I can live with. ;-]

    3. I too am proud to have attained geezer-hood. It sure beats the alternative!

  10. I picked up my nickname in Vietnam. I suffer with allergies and my nose would often be stuffed up or runny. Anyways . . . my roommates christened me "Snuffy."
    The name didn't follow me out of Vietnam but kept it in mind as a badge of honor thing. I started reusing it when I began posting on line. Added the "ny" because there are many other Snuffys out there. I've come to the conclusion that it's not the name that makes a body but the body that makes the name. Wear your moniker proudly.

    1. Sometimes you just have to embrace things.

      I have often wondered about your nickname. Now I know.

  11. Back when I was young and cute I happened to be in Vegas during a Tailhook convention. My girlfriends and I made it to the Hilton where we were being introduced to a group of handsome pilots by their skipper. One of the pilots looked like a baby with his blonde hair and freckles, and I said said something about him looking more like Dennis the Menace than a pilot. Conversation stopped. You could see light-bulbs going off over each guy and they broke into giant evil grins - all except for Dennis the Menace. He spun around and stalked off with the other pilots guffawing. I'm afraid gave him a new call name.

    1. Lou, that is simply brilliant. You do realize that you contributed directly to the defense of our nation by suggesting that callsign.

      I wonder if Dennis the Menace is still flying?

      Love it!

  12. Hi, I was at F-4C/D WCS tech school at Lowry in 1972-73 and lived in the old WWII dorms. I was curious if any were still standing when you were there (I'm guessing not) and if you might have any pictures of them. I know it's a long shot, but if so, I'd appreciate you letting me know.

    1. Hey Bruce, good to hear from another WCS guy.

      There were a few of the old WWII dorms left when I was there (1975). Don't have any pictures though.


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