Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Eight Years Ago...

Dad in the late 1940s
Eight years ago today, I headed north to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. It was a cold day, a full moon, lots of snow on the ground up north. None in Little Rhody.

It was a Sunday.

Sitting in my Dad's hospital room were his three sons, his wife, and one of his daughters-in-law. He was heavily sedated and hooked up to a machine.

Shortly after I arrived, Dad was unhooked from the machine. Shortly thereafter, Dad departed.


It still hurts.

Miss you Dad.

Lexington, Ft. Sumter, and...?

John had this to say the other day -
Long before the latest shooting I started thinking about where the United States is in the cycle of its existence.
If I look at our Revolutionary War as the first civil war of the colonies, and I look at the Civil War of 1861-1865 as the second American Civil War, I must then start thinking about the possibility of Civil War III.
And I wonder where we are in the timeline leading up to what future historians may is the conflict that ended the United States.
My extremely amateur theory is that there is a point in time when the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. And there is also a point in time where nothing was going to avoid the revolution. I think the same question could be asked of the Civil War.
The question that makes me lose some amount of sleep is, what time is it?

Yes, indeed, what time is it?

I started to answer John's comment with the following -
When you have two opposing viewpoints, the point at which conflict is unavoidable is when neither side is willing to give. For the Revolution, Parliament was completely uninterested in bending to what the colonists (some anyway, perhaps a third) thought were perfectly reasonable objections. Once a politician gets a source of revenue (via taxes) they seldom wish to let go. Political power and money were the issues, in very simple terms.
The War Between the States, pretty much the same - the South wanted something and wouldn't budge on it. Some say that that thing was slavery. In my humble interpretation of events, the real problem was that the South perceived that they were losing power in the Federal government (which they were indeed as the North grew in population) and by making a balance of slave versus "free" states they would stay balanced with the North, assuming, I guess, that a slave state would have more in common with the old South than they would with the North. They couldn't keep pace in the House of Representative, only in the Senate could they hope to maintain parity with the North in terms of political power at the Federal level. (Yes, I am, perhaps, oversimplifying.)
Two sides with diametrically opposed view points, neither side willing to compromise any further or at all. But, as with the tax issue prior to the Revolution, it was really a economic issue. If you mess with someone's cash flow, you're going to have problems. Mess with someone's political power, same result.
These days it's a little tougher to gauge, in my estimation, the depths of the divisions we're currently seeing in our country. There are diametrically opposing viewpoints. One based on pure emotion, the other based more on logic and history. Not to mention the Constitution! But there is emotion on that side as well. Folks tend to get emotional when the loss of their rights is contemplated.
After thinking on it a bit, I had to go dig out some definitions. What exactly is a "civil war"?
James Fearon, a scholar of civil wars at Stanford University, defines a civil war as "a violent conflict within a country fought by organized groups that aim to take power at the center or in a region, or to change government policies". Ann Hironaka further specifies that one side of a civil war is the state. (Source)
One could argue that the State of California, at least the duly constituted government of that entity, is already in semi-open rebellion to the United States Government. Refusing to enforce immigration laws and actually warning illegals of ICE raids. It's not throughout the state, only (seemingly) in those ultra-liberal coastal enclaves.

What happens when California runs out of Federal money? Their taxes are already exorbitant. Who will they turn to for cash when the well runs dry? Their are only two answers, they drop their opposition to the law of the land, or they turn to a foreign power for assistance.

No foreign power that I know of will offer cash without a certain quid pro quo. And what might that be?

To answer your question John, I don't know what time it is. But it's getting late...

I pray that it's not too late.

I once lived in a place* where troops were deployed on every corner in sand bagged machine gun emplacements and armored vehicles prowled the streets of the capital in the expectation of massive civil unrest. It was a very dicey situation. One wrong move and who knows?

I would hate to see that happen here.

What say the readership?

* Read this. I was living in Kunsan at the time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Lest We Forget

I'm just finishing reading an excellent book on the events immediately leading up to the American Revolution, this one -

From the Boston Tea party to the aftermath of the events of the 19th of April, 1775 - a day which saw the battles of Lexington and Concord and the long agony of the British regulars as they retreated from Concord back to Boston.

Mr. Beck tells the story well and I am looking forward to starting his follow on volume, The War Before Independence: 1775-1776, which I purchased the same day as the one above. But today's post isn't a book review (you can chase the links for that and to get a peek at the contents of those books for yourself).

No, Juvat's post yesterday, well the first part anyway, got me to thinking. As I pondered, I was reminded of a television program I used to watch, the opening line of each episode was -
In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.
The police, in general, don't exist to protect us, not directly anyway. They exist to enforce the law, and to investigate and apprehend those who break the law. It is the law which protects a society and, by extension, the people who make up that society.

With that being said (and this is where the book depicted above ties in), on the 19th of April 1776, British forces consisting of the Light and Grenadier companies (picked men, the elite of each battalion) drawn from the regiments quartered in Boston, and a force of Royal Marines, were directed to proceed to Concord. They were to move quickly and quietly in order not to arouse the countryside. Their objective was to seize a store of cannon, powder, and shot believed to be stored in and around the town of Concord.

To translate that into modern terms, the British were not so concerned about the personal weaponry of the colonists, but with military grade equipment (the cannon with their associated carriages and limbers - the former had the cannon mounted upon them, the latter to carry the ammunition for the guns) and with a store of ammunition (powder and shot) for those cannons (and muskets) and in such a quantity that the Crown thought exceeded the day to day needs of the colonists. That is, the Crown viewed what the redcoats were to seize as military assets. Things not needed for hunting if you will.

In those days most of the able bodied men of the colonies participated in the militia. They would train perhaps once a month, where they would march and perform the manual of arms. Instruction and practice in discharging their weapons properly was also given. These were not full time troops by any stretch of the imagination. These militia companies may have been the ancestors of today's National Guard units but there is no real similarity between the two beyond the part time nature of their service.

Today's Guardsmen are trained, regulated, and equipped by the regular forces of the United States. The militia companies, while some had veterans of the French and Indian War enrolled, learned their trade from their fellow militiamen. Some militia units were good, none were as good as the regular forces of the British Crown.

Also bear in mind that these were the days before police forces existed. Yes, there were sheriffs and the like to enforce the edicts of the Crown, but not to protect the inhabitants of the colonies. They were there to protect the Crown's interests.

The militia served to protect the people. Originally they were embodied to protect the frontier against marauding natives. (Who were none too pleased to have the whites encroaching on their territories and interrupting their own internecine warfare of raid, abduction, counter-raid, and pillaging. These were not a peaceful people living in harmony with nature. As if humankind anywhere has ever been like that!)

Though the British Crown gained greatly from the French and Indian War (known as the Seven Years War in Europe), mainly by booting the French from Canada and gaining that vast region, not to mention what would be the Midwestern United States someday. (George Washington gained his initial fame and military experience from a disastrous British defeat near present day Pittsburgh.)

But wars, as anyone who pays attention to such things knows, is a very expensive business. Because of the recent war, the Crown was a bit short of cash. So new taxes were created, and though many were dropped due to colonial protests and finding ways to not pay the taxes, some remained on the books. Which pissed off a number of colonists. The sort of colonists who refused to take things lying down.

Now Parliament in far off Great Britain was rather teed off at these colonials. "What, don't want to help pay for the war which removed the threat of raiding Indians and Frenchmen? Those ingrates."

Tea got dumped into Boston harbor rather than let it come ashore where it would be sold, consumed, and (of course) taxed and the Crown was most annoyed.

The Crown was also a bit concerned with all of these militia companies running about, who themselves were concerned with the number of British regiments suddenly appearing in Boston. The former Royal governor had also been replaced with a military man. A general on active service no less. (Though in a bit of historical irony, that general, one Thomas Gage was married to a lady born and bred in the colonies and his political sympathies aligned more with the colonists than with Parliament.)

In order to keep the peace, someone thought it a capital idea to remove those military stores from the reach of all those undisciplined and unruly militiamen. So things began.

Fortunately for the future United States, the commander of the expedition to Concord, one Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, was a bit of an incompetent. His mode of operation was dither and prevaricate, a man of action he was not. The operation got off to a slow start and though General Gage had envisioned the regulars arriving at Concord at the crack of dawn, in reality they didn't get there until the afternoon. By that time everyone in the area knew what was going on and the only man perhaps surprised by what came to pass was the good LtCol Smith.

When the argument regarding the Second Amendment comes around, remember how it's worded, words are important...
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
As we're talking about the militia, we're talking military grade weaponry, not hunting rifles, shotguns, bows and arrows, etc. There is nothing a potential tyrant (or committee of tyrants) fears more than an armed populace. And I do mean a well-armed populace with some familiarity with weapons.

What then is this "militia" of which you speak Sarge? You mean the National Guard right?

Today, as defined by the Militia Act of 1903, the term "militia" is primarily used to describe two groups within the United States:
  • Organized militia – consisting of State militia forces; notably, the National Guard and Naval Militia.
  • Unorganized militia – composing the Reserve Militia: every able-bodied man of at least 17 and under 45 years of age, not a member of the National Guard or Naval Militia. (Source)
So who is the militia? Pretty much everybody between the ages of 17 and 45 who isn't already wearing a uniform. (I extend the courtesy of membership in the Reserve Militia to the fairer sex as well as men. I know some of the ladies are every bit as capable as men at pulling a trigger. And to leave them out would deprive them of a critical right, and responsibility, to defend this Nation.)

The Second Amendment is designed to arm the people so that they might fight invasion and/or resist tyranny. To augment the regulars if you will.

Not so they can go hunting.

And that's my...

Monday, February 26, 2018

...carry out your mission and keep your honor clean *

So, for a very long time, I've been told that "guns are bad".  "Only Police should have guns".  "You don't need guns because the police will protect you."  


How'd that work out for those folks in Florida?

They had an armed School Resource Police Officer on Campus and three additional officers arrived very shortly there after.

And did nothing.

In my mind, that should be the final nail in the "gun free" zone argument.  If the police cannot be relied on to protect me, then I am the only one I can rely on to protect myself.

1. Take down the sign. 50% reduction in probability of incident

2. Put up one that says "Our Faculty and Staff are authorized to carry weapons and trained to use them." 85% reduction in probability of incident.

3. Make it so.  98% reduction in probability of incident.

Seems pretty logical to me, but the only thing Logic and Leftist has in common is the L at the start of each.

 Given that, I'm going to stop, regroup and post about something that isn't going to generate a migraine and push my blood pressure into the Danger Zone.

Over the past couple of years, I've posted  a few times (ok, three, here, here and here) on Operation Tidal Wave, the effort to deny Nazi Germany Romanian petroleum products. It was only in the last post, that I discovered a video (narrated by Captain Ronald Reagan, USAAF) that provided a better interpretation of that effort.

15th Air Force was engaged in an ongoing campaign to deny the Nazi's that petroleum.  Not only was there a preliminary raid in June of 1942, that was in fact the first bombing raid against targets in Europe by the USAAF, but there were ongoing regular strikes against the target throughout the war until Romania eventually surrendered.

While not as catastrophic as the losses taken in the 1 Aug 1943 raid there were still significant losses.  Until the end, Ploesti was a dangerous place to attack.

It was on one of these raids on 9 July 1944 that the 6th Medal of Honor was awarded to someone who had attacked Ploesti.
This is NOT his Liberator, but came off the line 3 planes afterwards.

1LT Donald D. Pucket was the pilot of a B-24G Liberator tail # 42-78346 on this raid.  I have been unable to find information leading up to the attack, but immediately after releasing the bomb load, the bomber is hit by AAA, knocking out two engines, setting the oxygen system on fire and killing one of the crewmembers and injuring 6 others.  It has also caused AvGas and hydraulics to leak into the bomb bay.  

Lt Pucket regains aircraft control and begins exiting the area, then hands control over to the co-pilot while he goes back to assess the situation.  The damage has jammed the bomb bay doors closed, but he manages to use a hand crank to get them opened, so the gas and hydraulics can dissipate.  He administers first aid and gets the crew to start jettisoning things in an effort to reduce weight and try to keep the aircraft flying.

Eventually, it becomes obvious that this is a futile effort and he orders the crew to bail out.  Unfortunately, there are 3 crewmembers who refuse to jump.  The citation says this was due to "uncontrollable fright or shock".

Now, here is the conundrum.  1 of your crew is dead, all but three others are bailing out, and those three refuse to leave.  You know the airplane is not going to fly much longer, there is no hope of landing it.  

The three who refuse to leave are doomed.

Do you bail out with the rest of the crew and leave them to the fate they chose?

Not if you're Lt Pucket.

He climbs back into the cockpit and tries to fly the aircraft.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, they are unable to clear a mountain and crash killing all 4.

I doubt anyone would have questioned his decision if he'd have bailed out. However, I'm impressed with his sense of honor that he would have preferred to die trying to save those crew members rather than spend the rest of his life wondering "what if?"

I suspect those Deputies in Florida are doing that right now.

Lt Pucket's Citation:

"He took part in a highly effective attack against vital oil installation in Ploesti, Rumania, on 9 July 1944. Just after "bombs away," the plane received heavy and direct hits from antiaircraft fire.
One crewmember was instantly killed and 6 others severely wounded. The airplane was badly damaged, 2 were knocked out, the control cables cut, the oxygen system on fire, and the bomb bay flooded with gas and hydraulic fluid.
Regaining control of his crippled plane, 1st Lt. Pucket turned its direction over to the copilot. He calmed the crew, administered first aid, and surveyed the damage.
Finding the bomb bay doors jammed, he used the hand crank to open them to allow the gas to escape. He jettisoned all guns and equipment but the plane continued to lose altitude rapidly. Realizing that it would be impossible to reach friendly territory he ordered the crew to abandon ship.
Three of the crew, uncontrollable from fright or shock, would not leave. 1st Lt. Pucket urged the others to jump. Ignoring their entreaties to follow, he refused to abandon the 3 hysterical men and was last seen fighting to regain control of the plane.
A few moments later the flaming bomber crashed on a mountainside. 1st Lt. Pucket, unhesitatingly and with supreme sacrifice, gave his life in his courageous attempt to save the lives of 3 others."
*James Mattis


Sunday, February 25, 2018


Yesterday a number of folks shared their experiences with hospital emergency rooms. Due, of course, to The Missus Herself and I spending a few hours ensconced in one of those on a Friday night in Little Rhody. (Hhmm, Friday Nights in Little Rhody, sounds like the name of a bad chick flick. If you ladies will pardon the expression.)

I have had four occasions where I have found myself in hospital emergency rooms as a patient. Once in Japan, once in Germany, once here in Little Rhody, some time ago, and of course once in Virginia very recently. That last one was when I sprained my ankle on Boxing Day last. Two involved alcohol while I was in the military but did not involve motor vehicles. The third involved acid reflux, my first (and worst) experience of that malady. As it doesn't paint me in a bad light, I'll talk about that one first. (The ankle thing I have already regaled you with, here.)

That way y'all can save up all of your scorn for the alcohol related incidents stories.

The Missus Herself was out with her Korean tribe, those ladies get together once a month, sans husbands, and relax in each other's company, and I was at home reading. Yes, it's an exciting and thrill-packed existence I lead.

Anyhoo. Whilst the lady of the house was "oot and aboot" I began to experience some discomfort in the chest area, right under the sternum. As the evening wore on, it got worse, I had chomped on a couple of antacids, to no avail, and was beginning to feel rather distressed. As I was thinking that a call to 911 might be in order, the love of my life rolled into the driveway.

"Hi honey, I'm home...  What's wrong? You look terrible!"

I explained, she piled me into the car and off to the ER we went.

When called forward, the receptionist wanted to know my complaint, and I was feeling so rotten I didn't quip "My taxes are too high" but went straight to "chest pains, pretty sharp ones too."

At which point I was plopped into a wheel chair and rolled back to an actual room, rolled onto a gurney and hooked up to half a zillion pieces of medical apparatus. I do believe we were in there from about 2100 to 0500 the next day. A bit more than six hours, neh? Once the medicos had determined that it wasn't a heart attack, they fed me some liquid that had the consistency of weak cement and tasted like mint flavored chalk. Yummy. But I got better after a course of Nexium, not the over the counter variety but the prescription strength.

Not a great story, but I was the innocent victim in that one. Now on to the stories where I gained my hard won reputation of being an idiot.

Head Wounds Bleed Like Crazy

Yup, even a minor head wound can look like Michael Corleone just shot you in the face over dinner. I know, I've had two. The pair of which earned me roughly 20 stitches. Messy indeed.

It was a squadron picnic, back in the day when very few women were in aircraft maintenance and alcohol was freely consumed by the troops, usually while doing something stupid. In the case of the boys of the Weapon Control Systems (WCS) shop of the 18th Avionics Maintenance Squadron (AMS) it was football. Yes, it started as two hand touch, but they didn't refer to us as "WCS Gorillas" for nothing. We could get real primitive in a hurry. Especially as the alcohol flowed.

So there I was*...

I was playing defense and saw the quarterback dropping back to pass. There! An opening! In I go, the QB is mine, glory is mine, and WHAP!

Freaking Mike McGuire, from Philly, who had perhaps the hardest head on the planet, threw himself in my path to protect his roomie, who was playing quarterback. Mike, never having played organized football, figured that a head butt would be a good technique to stop a fellow much larger than he, which I was. It was a most excellent plan on his part. I went down as if I had been pole-axed.

Yeah, kinda like that.
I hit the ground feeling rather woozy. (Did I mention that we were also playing in the rain? Doesn't really advance the story, but it's a detail, innit?) Staggering to my feet, one of the chaps indicated that I was a bit bloody, so someone fetched me a wad of paper towels. I made it to the back loading dock of our shop (we were playing nearby) where the beer was. As I held the wad of paper towels to my wound, I drank my beer.

Over comes TSgt Norm Phillips (his initials were NKP, so the other sergeants called him NKP, which also was GI slang for a former USAF base in Thailand, Nakom Phenom, another one of those colorful details) who says, "Let me see that wound!" (No, he wasn't really asking.)

He turns to another airman and says, "Get him over to the clinic, he's gonna need stitches." Off we went, after NKP made me put my beer down, of course. There to be greeted by a very officious nurse captain in a very white uniform who bids me sit down while she did the paperwork.

By this time those paper towels were sodden with rain and blood and the pain was starting to kick in, i.e. the beer was wearing off. As the nurse droned on about rank, unit, social security number, how did this happen, was alcohol involved, etc., etc., my noggin was throbbin'. Thinking to speed things along, as in get medical attention, the next time the nurse asked me a question, I got out of the chair and leaned over her desk, removing the paper towels from the rather nasty cut over my right eye.

"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!" squealed the nice nurse captain as blood literally spurted all over her desk and that nice white uniform. I think I managed to spoil the paperwork as well.

"Take him in there! Now!"

Off I went, to be joined in a couple of minutes by two Air Force pararescue dudes (we call 'em PJs). These are guys who rappel off helicopters into jungles, deserts, mountains, etc. to rescue downed pilots. They fly in very powerful helicopters as PJs have giant brass cojones which weigh quite a lot.

So the PJs put some sort of cloth over my head (with a hole in it over the wound), shoot me up with a local anesthetic and commence to stitching up Yours Truly. They are having great fun making witty remarks like, "Use the thick thread so he'll have a cool scar." And, "Sew his eye shut so he can get disability!" We were all having such great fun, well, they were. I was bleeding like a stuck pig, seems I had severed a small artery under my eyebrow. Which they had to reconnect first, then stitch up the outer hull, er, skin.

When they were done they had me sit up slowly, which I did not and almost passed out. I was rubbing the back of my head, which was very wet and sticky, which I found odd, when one of the PJs pointed at the gurney and said, "You lost a shitload of blood airman, you need to take it easy for a couple of days."

When I looked where my head had been, sure enough, there was quite a puddle of the red stuff. I'd guess a pint or more. Don't think that's a lot? Well, the average homo sapiens only has eight pints to start, so I had lost about 12.5% of my blood. Which explained the extreme wooziness.

As the medicos had told me to take it easy, I took a week's leave for to travel to Korea and see The Missus Herself (who at the time was The Fiancée Herself, we wouldn't be married for another six months or so.) She was rather disturbed that where my right eye had been (and still was, under all the bruising) was this puffed up reddish mass. Unattractive I think she called it. After seeing myself in a mirror, well, I couldn't really argue with her.

Well, I still can't really argue with her. She's always right. And in the interests of domestic harmony, I always agree.

Second head wound was in Germany, it was received shortly after we had departed my going away party, at which I had gotten famously drunk, and upon departure from had had words with the Polizei who were responding to a noise complaint. They found my slurred German (which was properly pronounced and in those days I knew all the right words) to be most hysterical coming from an American airman. So they shooed me back to my hotel.

There, I decided to go outside and have a cigarette. (Yes, yes, I smoked back then. I quit five years ago so alles gut jetzt, ja?) Anyhoo, I was pretty blasted, all gyros were down, nav systems were offline and I was taking on a serious list to port. So when I decided to lean against the hotel while I smoked, it seems that the hotel leaned away and when my hand missed (due to the hotel moving mind you) the hotel leaned back in and smacked me on the top of my punkin head.

After the hotel so brutally attacked me I continued to head towards the earth with a gravity assist. I got up, brushed myself off and finished my smoke. Thinking that my head seemed to be sweating an awful lot. (I was wearing a ball cap, so the blood was somewhat contained.)

Weaving back up to the room, I took my cap off, ran my hand threw what was (and is) left of my hair and came away all bloody handed. I mentioned this to the love of my life, who gave some thought to just letting me bleed out, for the insurance money of course, but then thought better of it and called a buddy of mine to haul my sorry ass to the Krankenhaus. So off to the German ER I went.

There I met a very nice German lady doctor in a very white uniform, who berated me, auf Deutsch natürlich, to which I gave as good as I got (which is how I remember it).

The good doctor indicated that as I seemed to have a sizable quantity of beer on board, she thought it best not to use a local anesthetic while she sewed my head back together. I vaguely remember bellowing, "Do your worst Frau Blücher!"

At that she pitched in with a will.

I was returned to the hotel with a large patch of my remaining hair shaved away and thirteen stitches to boot. Two days later we flew back to the States and I entered retired status.

After not having seen my parents in seven plus years, all my Mom could say was, "What happened to your head?"

Long story Mom. While it took some 46 years to learn, I drink in moderation these days. And no, last March in Arlington doesn't count, special occasion dontcha know, harrumph, move along, nothing to see here.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

That'll Buff Right Out

The Battle of Actium, 2 September 31 BC - Lorenzo A. Castro
So I rolled into the driveway, home from work, on a Friday, ready for the weekend.

The plan was for The Missus Herself to fly down to Dulles today, I would remain at Chez Sarge to man the ramparts, feed the feline staff, and, when not sleeping or blogging, continue to report to the place of employment and earn that paycheck which keeps us all in the lifestyle we've become accustomed to. (Which to my way of thinking is "high on the hog," but to The Missus Herself is barely scraping by. Alright I'm exaggerating in both instances.)

Anyhoo. As I prepare to unload the few groceries I had acquired on the way home, my phone rang. It was The Missus Herself.

"Hi honey, I've been in a fender bender. I'm at location X, can you come get me?"

After a number of imprecations and, frankly, some rather unkind words about the skill levels of drivers here in Little Rhody, I said I'd be right there.

Apparently some kamikaze grandma, paying rather less attention than one should on a rainy miserable wet day, didn't notice all the brake lights coming on ahead of her until just before impacting the rear end of m'lady's vehicle.

Of course, traffic was a mother bear as I tried to get to the love of my life's location, so she calls again.

"Where are you?"

"About a half mile out, stuck behind all this traffic."

"Okay, my back and neck are really stiff so the ambulance is going to take me to the hospital. Can you drive the car home?"

I agreed as what else could I do?

After hanging up, I see an ambulance roll on by, I tried calling my wife back, no answer. Damn!

I get to the scene and the nice officer there stops traffic so I can cross the road. (Her car was facing south, I was facing north.) The policeman followed me home so I could drop off the Missusmobile and he'd take me back to get my car.

First time I've been in the back of a police cruiser. (Well, not the first, but the first in a long time. The other time was when a kamikaze jackass tried to destroy my car while in college...)

"Officer, I cut in front of this kid and he didn't even slow down!"

"You cut in front of him?"

With that the officer let me out, apologized for any inconvenience and sent me on my way. He also indicated that the yahoo, whom he still had in his car, would be getting a citation.


As we're returning to the scene of the accident, I saw a Jeep dead ahead with a Philadelphia Eagles decal on the back.

"Hey, let's pull that guy ahead over! I mean c'mon, an Eagles fan? With Rhode Island plates?" I said from the all plastic cage in which I was riding.

"Hahaha! Yeah, cite him for an illegal formation!" The officer exclaimed.

No, we didn't stop the guy. Someday we'll get over the loss to the Eagles. Nah, we're still pissed at the Giants from a few years ago. Twice.


Got my car and headed down to the hospital. The Missus Herself was off getting a CT scan, so I sat and waited. Eventually she was cleared, CT scan was normal but she was going to be real achy for a couple of days. So back to Chez Sarge we went.

Oh yeah, while at the hospital The Nuke called and we discussed the "within the next 18 hours" flight to Dulles. All concerned agreed that perhaps next week might be better.

Trip postponed. Aching wife put to bed, and Your Humble doesn't have to arise earlier than he'd care to for a trip to the aeropuerto local. Oh yeah, I wrote this post.

As to the mighty Missusmobile, no, that ain't gonna buff right out, but the bumper did its job, popped damn near every fastener holding the edges flush to the car, so she's gonna need fixing.

The WSO, "So Dad, what happened to the lady who ran into Mom?"

"She bailed from her vehicle and attempted to flee on foot. Cop shot her down after she refused to halt."


"Yes honey?"

"You're an idiot."

"Seems I've heard that before."

"Yes, yes you have."

All this after a day in which our IT department moved one step closer to making all of the computers in our company non-functional. Took four hours to get the "updates" properly installed and the computer to actually run.

I don't think our IT guys own any company stock.

Just a hunch.

Friday, February 23, 2018

If It Starts to Feel Like Work...

An F-15E Strike Eagle takes off in Southwest Asia, July 7, 2017. The aircraft, assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, is supporting U.S. Central Command's Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.
Air Force Photo by SrA Damon Kasberg (Source)
I once told myself that if this blogging thing ever started to feel like work, then I would stop.

Now, now, don't panic, today is not that day. (For those of you who started cheering, sit back down and keep coloring.)

There are those days though where the Muse has decided to stay out late, have entirely too much to drink, fall in with a bad crowd, and leave me staring at a blank screen wondering just what the heck am I supposed to write about. Before you turn away thinking that this is one of those "I got nothing" posts, it isn't. Not really. It's just that from time to time I feel the need to blather on about whatever pops into my head.

That time is now. So here we go. (Stay tuned I may throw some military pr0n at you, maybe even a video, I dunno yet, I'm flying by the seat of my pants right now.)

One thing I want to say first is that occasional reader William (at least I think it's him) has been doing some excellent work over at The Lexicans. Especially this, a little thing I like to call "The Index." Pretty much the highlights of Lex's work over the time he was blogging. This plays into my (non) choice of topic for today's post. For various reasons, the Cap'n had thought of getting out of the blogging game, but (Praise the Lord) did not. So I read that post today. The second piece of that (which originally ran a week later) was what really struck me.

Am I obsessive about blogging? You betcha. There are times when The Missus Herself has mentioned that I needed to step away from the keyboard and take a breath. The Nuke considers me to be "part of the media." (Which I deny, vociferously.) The WSO just wants to know, "So is today's post about me?" To which the answer is sometimes yes. (Yes, I still remind her that we're all breathlessly awaiting her inaugural post, I mean after all, she is on the masthead.)

While I am not constantly thinking about what to post, no, really, I'm not, (okay, there are days where that is the case), I have, occasionally gone to bed perhaps a tad later than I should, writing what I hope will be an excellent post. Yes, that is rather a hit or miss proposition.

For instance, my last couple of posts were regarding current events, a topic I try to stay away from because I like to take the historian's long view of things. (Current events, by their very nature, are not yet history, not quite. Sure they're in the past, but not the "years ago" variety past.) So when I do address a recent event, it's because I feel rather strongly about it.

I have been working on a post about Poland (really Paweł, I'm working on it) but such a topic is "yuge." Poland has a long history, much of it of the unhappy variety. So when I'm chasing down things that I find interesting about a topic (and I hope you do as well), I will occasionally stumble upon an interesting thing which just blows my mind. Like this.

As you might have noticed that link goes to Правда, er, I mean, the New York Times. What really drew me in, and made me read the whole thing, was the headline -

Poland’s Nationalism Threatens Europe’s Values, and Cohesion

Well gee, isn't that special? If, like me (sometimes) you found the article to be TL;DR (too long; didn't read) I think these two paragraphs are what spun me up -
The tug of war has intensified as Eastern Europe becomes the incubator for a new model of “illiberal democracy” for which Hungary has laid the groundwork. But it is Poland — so large, so rich, so militarily powerful and so important geostrategically — that will define whether the European Union’s long effort to integrate the former Soviet bloc succeeds or fails.

The stakes, many believe, far outweigh those of Britain’s exit from the European Union, or Brexit, as the bloc faces a painful reckoning over whether, despite its efforts at discipline, it has enabled the anti-democratic drift, and what to do about it.
So the European Union is worried about Poland actually being Poland. The NY Times is worried about it as well, I dunno, perhaps the Poles are doing something right? That bold underlined bit above really jerked my chain - I mean really, "the EU's long effort to integrate the former Soviet bloc"?

Integrate as in "dictate to them"? Is that what they mean? What do some of the ordinary "man in the street" Poles think?
Rafal Pstragowski, the 37-year-old mayor of Sniadowo, an independent in his seventh year in office, echoed the sentiments. “Poland is a traditional Christian country and Poland respects other religions,” he said, “but we want our culture to be respected, too.”

“There is a fear among people that Western secularism is a threat to our traditional culture,” he added. “If things in Europe keep going in the same direction, people think that the migration crisis and terrorist attacks could start here, too.’’

Slawomir Zgrzywa, 55, a local historian, said that Poland’s long history of conflict with Russia had made it skeptical of “any sort of left-wing or liberal politics,” and had enhanced the standing of a deeply conservative and politicized Roman Catholic priesthood.
I'd be interested to hear occasional reader Paweł's take on what's going on in Poland.

So yes, there are times I sit down to write and the old noggin is as blank as a snowy field in Wisconsin (just to see if occasional reader Scott is paying attention). At other times, the posts seem to write themselves.

I'm not sure where today's post falls on that scale. But hey look, another Eagle! (Or three...)

Three U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles from the 44th Fighter Squadron train with Japan Air Self Defense Forces Nov. 17, 2010, off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan. Twelve jets and nearly 200 Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, participated in an aviation training relocation program.U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mike Tateishi (Source)
The weekend approaches, perhaps another historical post, perhaps not.

I'm about as predictable as New England weather...

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fragile, Handle With Care

German Army Leopard II tank
It may seem counter-intuitive to refer to a tank as being something "fragile," which needs to be handled with care, but they can be. As the Turkish Army is finding out in Syria. LL has ongoing coverage of that fight, here, here, and here.

The Turks use the Leopard II and apparently the Kurds are eating their lunch. So badly that the Turks are asking the Germans to provide them upgrades to their existing vehicles. Which I got from a YouTube video which the daily timewaster had posted. (I would reproduce that here, but give my buddy c w the traffic, he helped us get going back in the day.)

Back in the day I got a hold of a couple of U.S. Army pamphlets which they were considering publishing. They were in cartoon format but were very useful and easy to follow. One of the pamphlets was how to kill a tank.

"Duh, Sarge. Use another, better tank."

"Heh, I'd use an A-10, slag that mother."

Well, thanks guys but I'm a simple gravel-agitator, a grunt*, all I've got is my rifle and maybe some grenades. But hey, the good news is that we're either in the woods or in an urban environment. Second bit of good news is that our opponent has barged on in with no infantry to support him.

While a tank seems all protective and cool, have you ever been inside one? In the summer you're riding in an oven, in the winter it's an icebox, and it's noisy and smells bad. All that fuel, ammo, oh yeah, and your unwashed buddies who share the tank with you.

What's worse, if you have the hatches closed, you can't see squat.

"Duh, Sarge, open the hatches!"


"What the Hell was that?"

"Uh that was PFC Schmuckatelli shooting at you with his rifle."

"Okay,  that explains the BANG part. What about the SPLAT?"

"Uh, that was the round from Schmuckatelli's rifle going through your punkin head stinking out of that open hatch."

"Oh, guess I better close the hatch. But I've still got all this armor around me, I'm good."


"What the Hell was that?"

"Schmuckatelli's buddy jammed some rebar steel (or a good sized tree limb) under your track, that noise was it coming off the rollers. Hey, you can still drive in circles!"

What happens next is like those old WWII movies with guys shooting through your vision ports, jerking your hatches open and tossing grenades in. A blinded, immobilized tank may not be as defenseless as a newborn kitten, but damn close.

Give the infantry rocket launchers and the like and pretty soon the tankers in your army are having a really bad day and are bellowing for infantry to come up and get them out of the jam they blundered into.

In other news, also in Syria, apparently some Russian mercenaries, contractors, volunteers or what-have-you (in battalion strength and looking for a fight), decided to cross the Euphrates River. Which a bunch of people told them was a bad idea. They found their fight. Not so many got to walk away though.

The Good Captain over at HMS Defiant covers that here. Go read.

For the historically savvy amongst you, his title comes from a like-named battle in WWII in the Pacific. Anyone care to guess?

Lesson 2 is: the U.S. military still knows how to kick ass and take names.

Lesson 1? Don't mess with the Kurds.

Male or female.

* gravel-agitator, grunt - both terms of "endearment" to describe an 11-Bravo, er, I mean infantryman.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I Was Going To...

Google Street View (Source)
Write a post about the Florida school shooting...

Then I realized that nothing I write or say will solve any problems in this world.

I thought about the three kids, JROTC cadets, who died trying to save their classmates. They're the kind of kids who, if they had had the chance to grow up, would have been the kind of people who run into danger to try and halt its spread, its impact. Then it struck me, they were already that kind of people. I was going to write about them, then I thought, "What about the other 14 who died? What about them?"

Then it struck me, what about the kids who get gunned down everyday in the streets of Chicago, in Detroit, heck, even in Providence here in Little Rhody? Where is the outrage at their deaths? Are their deaths somehow less worthy of note then those folks who were gunned down in Florida? At a school.

Shortly after that church shooting down in Texas, one of the ladies of my church asked me, "Could that happen here? Is there anything we could do to prevent that?"

My first reaction was, "No, can't happen here." The I realized that yes, it could happen here, it can happen anywhere. Like I told her, all we can do is stay alert. Short of having armed guards though, there is no way to prevent such attacks. But having armed guards would only lessen the damage done. In the time it takes to realize that someone is armed and is about to open fire, it's already too late. They are going to get rounds out before a good guy can react.

On the other hand, if they know that there are other armed folks about who will return fire, it might deter them. It might not. It depends on the situation.

The calls for "sensible gun control" always flare up after these shootings. What does that mean?

Not allow felons to have guns? That's already the case, that law is on the books. Hasn't stopped a felon who wants a gun get a gun, has it? Recreational drugs are, for the most part, illegal. Does that prevent people from buying and using them?

Driving while intoxicated? Illegal.

Theft? Illegal.

Sure write a new law, that'll fix everything. After the Station Nightclub fire here in Little Rhody, 15 years ago, there was a hue and cry that new laws needed to be passed to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. Those who pointed out that if the existing laws had been enforced then the fire might not have happened were either shouted down or ignored. Would enforcement of the laws already on the books have prevented that tragedy? Maybe. But you can't legislate against stupidity. Like Forrest said, "Stupid is as stupid does."

The world can be a horrid place at times, even here in the U.S. of A. But there are places that are far worse.

I have no answers. I will say one thing, all of the gun control laws currently on the books are unconstitutional for the most part. What's worse is that many of those laws are completely ineffective.

Do I think a person should have some training before owning a firearm? Yes, yes, I do. But who provides that training? One's parents, the military (I had both), the police, the State itself (whatever that means, probably a new bureaucracy which would quickly fill with useless bureaucrats)?

Common sense is really rather rare when you think about it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Say It Ain't So!

(Photo Source, Painting Source)
So the other day I was running through the blogroll and the Good Captain of HMS Defiant had a post up which I found rather painful. Now if you went over there and read that post, then the opening graphic might make sense*. What I found most galling is that I had just returned from that purveyor of fine written material not 30 minutes before reading that post.

Every now and then The Missus Herself et moi travel to our nearest Barnes & Noble for to peruse what they have on the shelves. We usually make an afternoon of it by hitting the book store then going out to eat. Which we did Saturday last. I purchased five books, all history related, two by an author I had never heard of before but which upon reading the first page of one of his books, I was hooked, you could not have pried that book from my fingers with a battalion of Marines backed by a squadron of F/A-18s, but I digress. (Alright, it may have only taken an enraged second lieutenant, but he or she would have to be a BIG second lieutenant. I may be old but I'm shifty and I fight dirty.)


Here's the thing, when I go to a bookstore I'm usually there to browse, to look around, see what's new in the history section, check the discount racks (you would not believe some of the great deals I've found there, but then again, if you read as much as I do, you've probably been there yourself), and I will always hit the fiction section to see if any of my favorite authors have anything new out. I go in not knowing what I want.

The online thing is "okay" if you know exactly what you want. I fear though that that would limit me to the authors I already know, not really willing to take a chance on an interesting title amongst the others I see on the shelf.

I also don't like the idea of some software wienie deciding what my search means. It's not that the online world is rife with bad software, though there are days I think it is, it's more about how I know the way software gets to "market."

Someone has a great idea, someone agrees to undertake said great idea, then "management" wades in to screw it up. Do I think we'll ever have cars that "drive themselves"? Probably.

Will I buy one? Absolutely not.

I am by no means a Luddite, but there are certain things which should have a presence in the real world (meatspace as I've heard it called, a term I don't care for, and FWIW, Blogger marked "meatspace" as a misspelled word, stupid software). Bookstores should have a presence in the real world, so we browsers can just walk on in and see what we can see. (And I normally buy what I see. Much to the chagrin of the love of my life who bemoans my already overcrowded bookshelves.)

But I fear that the physical book store may be doomed to extinction. I hope I'm wrong. (Don't get me started on electronic books. Damn it! I want to hold it in my hand, feel the pages, smell the ink, etc., etc. Hhmm, maybe I am a bit of a Luddite...)

Perhaps my battle cry should be "Remember Borders!"**

* If not, let me 'splain it to you - I superimposed a painting of the Alamo over a photo of a Barnes & Noble in Tennessee. Yes, I am comparing B&N to the defiant, but futile, stand of the Texians down in San Antone back in 1836. Hoping of course that I'm wrong and that B&N will come roaring back like Sam Houston at San Jacinto.
** Not to be confused with the nautical "Repel Borders!" Also, "Remember B. Dalton!" which just sounds weird. Then there's "Remember Waldenbooks!" Which some might confuse with Thoreau's "On Walden Pond." All places from which I have purchased many a beloved book...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Parades and other formations

A week or so ago, Sarge made the pronouncements that this blog site was designed by Forrest Gump.

Then he proceeded to discuss an unusual melange of subjects to include marching in parades while in the AF.  Although not unheard of, parades are fairly rare once a person finishes training and enters "active" active duty.

However, some things are up to the whims of the Commander and what the Commander wants the Commander gets.  Even if it does screw up the training for the Mission of the Air Force ("Fly, Fight and Win! Don't you ever forget it!).  As has been discussed at great lengths on this blog as well as others, some people in positions of authority put that mission way behind other priorities such as, say, the advancement of their careers.

Which brings us to parades.  Being a product of ROTC, and not, say, the Colorado School for wayward Boys and Girls, parades were not an every week event.  We marched at a few events, primarily the Detachment Change of Command and an occasional Corps event.  I was on the drill team (Sabers were our weapon), so did a little bit more than others.  The only time we marched with any regularity, say daily, was at ROTC summer camp. 

4 weeks of pure hell restricted living, up at 0600, run a mile and a half, chow, morning formation which included marching, some class, chow, afternoon formation, which included some marching, some class, evening chow,  some other make work activity, then light's out. Rinse and repeat.
These are actually basic trainees at Lackland, but there was really nothing different about our uniforms at the time, no rank, no insignia.

During that time, we had to memorize the sequence and exact pronunciation of each command in the Pass in Review process.  It was a specified number of commands that got everybody from slouching around in a general gaggle to the point where they passed in front of the dignitary resembling Roman Legions.  The Air Force was so adamant about its usefulness to an Air Force Officer, they published a 119 page regulation on it. Read it and weep sleep.

I recovered that area of brain where that information was stored, very shortly after commissioning, and didn't have need for it until I got to Holloman as an IP.  Shortly after I arrived, the Air Force restructured the base, which had 3 wings (49TFW -F-15s, 479TFTW -AT-38s and the Test Wing - all sorts of airplanes).  Needing jobs for General Officers, else they might not be able to keep them, they created an Air Division and put the Wing Kings under him.

Needing something to do, the new Commander promptly set out to make sure his Air Division was kept "ship shape and Bristol fashioned".  Not really needed as the F-15s were quite proficient at "Eagle-ing" and the AT-38s were training their fledgling fighter pilots without issues and the Test Wing was, well, "testy".  

But clearly something needed to be done!  Because, after all, He was the commander.

So, he instituted a new policy, the first and third Thursday of every month there would be a ceremony for to hand out awards, retire folks, and generally show that the general was in charge.  One of the 7 flying squadrons (The test wing, not being a TAC resource was somehow exempt) would set up the parade.  The Flying Squadron and the Maintenance units would provide the personnel.

It would be a grand and majestic sort of thing.

Oh, and the Squadron in charge would also do the flyover.  

So not only, did they have to march, they had to generate 5 sorties (4 plus spare).  So 10 maintenance guys, plus a supervisor and assorted other maintainers, plus 5 pilots, plus 1 ground observer to coordinate arrival time, were unavailable for the parade.  However, the oporder (yes, I'm not kidding there was an operations order laying all this out) specified a minimum number of persons in the parade.  Which usually could only be met by borrowing persons from another unit.  "Hank, I'm short 5 guys for the parade this week? Can I borrow them from you?  I'll repay you at the next parade."

It's now our first turn in the barrel.  We're out there in front.  The boss and First Sergeant out in front with one of the Enlisted from Life Support as the Guidon bearer.  We've marched into position without too much issue.  A couple of change steps at the beginning, but not so much as you'd notice.  Squadron Halt, Left Face, At Ease all went without problem.  

We're standing there, in the dry Holloman heat of a nice August afternoon, trying not to perspire so as to ruin our uniforms as the Commander and assorted dignitaries conversed in his Air Conditioned office.  Finally, they deign to mount the review stand.

The boss, calls us to attention, and proceeds to issue the commands to reform the formation.  Attention, Right Face, Dress right Dress.  Left arms shot out, heads cocked 45 right.  A bit of shuffling to get everything straight. Then a pause.........


I crank my eyes as far left as they can go, to see the boss with a look of terror on his face.  

He can't remember the next command!


Arm's starting to get a little heavy.

Finally, I see him take a deep breath and then barks

"Put your ARMS ----Down!

A couple of hundred arms smacked down with the sound of one.

Flexibility, thy name is Fighter Pilot.

At another Parade later on in my Holloman career, the Commander issued an edict to the boss that he'd noticed that the flyover's lately had been a little lax in both timing and formation.  He said that this flyover had better look like the Thunderbirds and be on time.  He was going to fine the boss $1 per second early or late over the review stand.

So it is written, so it shall be.

The boss comes in to my office and shows me the directive to "look like the Thunderbirds and be on time".  I said I could be on time, no sweat, but what did the boss want me to do to "look like the Thunderbirds"?  He just smiled...

Lord, did I have some good bosses.

So, being the Squadron Scheduler, I had a bit of power to build my formation with whom I wanted.  

I gathered the 6 of us in a briefing room and told them what the plan was.  Offered them an out, but none took it.

The day arrives and we're briefing it up.  We've computed the timing from the Tule Peak, a small hill 13 miles north of the runway and our initial point (IP), down to the second, with make up speeds for early or late.  
13.56 miles = 1 minute 56.2 seconds to be precise (oops 7 miles/min not 6)

We WILL be on time.

The day arrives and we take off and head out to a close in practice area where we warm up with some mild finger tip formation maneuvering.  The spare flies nearby to critique the formation spacing and uniformity.  

Fully warmed up, we move into the final formation for the flyby and practice a bit while, again, the spare critiques spacing.  

We then proceed to the IP and loiter in a loose formation while contacting our ground controller for final approach clearing.

He gives us the 30 second warning, which tells us when to depart the IP, I rock the formation into position, and clear the spare off.

We are right over the IP as the Ground Controller says cleared.  This is going to be good!

I give a slight wing rock and #4 moves into position.

I feel the slight nose down pressure as he arrives under my tail.

Timing is perfect and what I can see of the formation is perfect.

Look like the Thunderbirds? Aye!

We arrive over the review stand at 420k approximately 500' in the air and on time.  

Exit the general area, shake the formation out, reenter the traffic pattern and land.  

Taxi, shutdown and debrief were normal.

The boss buys the beers for the debrief.

We arrive at the Club and are having a salutary round of beers when I feel a hand clamp my shoulder.

It's the Commander.

"Do you know what you did?"

"No Sir"

"You were a second late! Cost your commander a dollar!"

"Here, let me pay it for him" as I slapped a buck on the bar.

He later made three stars, but retired with 2.  Only General officer I've ever gotten on gun camera film with the pipper on the cockpit.  He was in an Eagle, I was in an AT-38.

Unfortunately, I'm recovering from a bout with "La gripe".  My wingman, Schmedly, who usually takes care of the editing of my posts, today volunteered to take care of my napping duties instead.  However, I am now going to recommence those duties.