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.


  1. Hahahaha.......Arms..DOWN!...hahaha......oooh... haha... thanks for the chuckles Juvat, needed that after last week.

    1. Yes, but it was said with....AUTHORITAH!


  2. First off I remember the Kelly Flinn case, interesting case, I met her attorney, Frank Spinner, who was defense counsel at a trial for which I was a bailiff. (Long run-on sentence is due to it being Monday morning, first coffee has yet to be taken aboard.) As for your 3-star to 2, he sounds like a douche.

    Off to obtain caffeine, I've got the tanker on radar, now I just need to hook up and gas up.

    1. Does that involve a straw in the pot, or do you just attach your lips to the drip-spout while someone runs around carrying the coffee maker?

    2. Sarge, Oh he absolutely was. One of the Creech/McPeak Gang. Pretty boy with no real leadership or pilot skills. But at least he topped that bit of Arschloch-ishness by doing the wife of one of his Enlisted. Douche does not begin to describe the depth of my loathing for that triumverate.

    3. Bear, Not going to touch that all.

    4. When you come along the tanker, make sure you have your life jacket and hard hat on.

  3. ...all so very esoteric.
    Bus I get a kick out of all you savvy laughers.

    1. Stick with us BC. It'll come to you. The key to the second was the formation, while not particularly difficult to fly, was restricted to only the Thunderbirds and is their signature formation. Hence "look like the Thunderbirds" was interpreted (broadly, very broadly) by the Squadron Commander ("The boss") and I as "fly a Thunderbird formation". Luckily, we got away with it.

  4. After I doffed midshipman device I never marched again. I still don't. :)

    1. Well, I march to the beat of a different drummer.....AKA Mrs J.

    2. ...Now...

      Gotta cut my nails back.

  5. Obviously the ground controller's watch had not be correctly synched. Too bad it cost you a buck! :)

    As a nurse, I would strongly encourage you to follow Schmedly's example and rest up. Fluids (of the non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated type), and LOTS of rest are two important ingredients to kicking le gripe on down the road. Chicken soup with lots of garlic helps.:) There has been waaay too much of "the plague" running around this winter.

    Feel better!!

    1. Went to bed Friday @8 woke up the next morning @7, had breakfast and sat in my easy chair. Fell asleep and woke up at 9:30 when Mrs J went to work. Got up went into the Bedroom and laid down on the bed, woke up at 1:45 when she called needing change for the store. Got back about 2:30 laid back down woke up at 4:45. Went to bed around 7 and slept through til 7. Took papal dispensation from church, wrote the post and went down for the nap at noon. Woke up at 4. Feeling pretty good now. Had lots of Chicken Soup over the weekend, didn't know about the garlic though.
      Oh and I think it was the .6 seconds that cost me the buck. Took that long for the General to look at his watch and read it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;-)

  6. Whining about a second late? You definitely had some "good" bosses. Unexpected headwind of 1kt greater than forecast, he misjudged your position due to the altitude, his vision was off, etc., any of these are perfectly good reasons for the second. You're a better man than me- I would have paid him in pennies!

    1. Yes, but the two of you are much quicker thinking and shrewder than I.

    2. Not really. Monday morning quarterbacking there (or is it quarterblogging?), and I'm flat out of pennies. I'm like George Costanza with the shrimp. "Hey Colonel, the Jerk Store called and they're out of you!"


  7. USAREUR 1960's we Engineers had a few Change of Command shambles to go along with the daily march by platoon from barracks to motor pool and the ever popular company one mile double time at reveille. The Artillery Battalion down the street went in for parades all the time. They were also big on mascots. After the mule was repeatedly molested, and the goat expired from beer consumption, they got a huge St. Bernard, like the size of a small pony. At his first parade he got loose and charged through the formations. Surely, some efficiency reports were harmed by that shamble.

  8. We did our change of commands without having to march... :-D And I can't believe you missed the TOT!!!

    1. Yes, Shamed I was, Shamed!

      Took almost a quarter of a beer to wash that shame away. Course the 6 seconds of stable pipper on the back of the jackasses skull a few months later also helped assuage the feeling.

      Just for BC's edification, there should be no way that an Eagle would end up with a stable pipper (meaning I'm going to take a very well aimed gun shot) on it anywhere much less on the canopy. But.... he was a somewhat ok pilot of fighters.

  9. Replies
    1. Only been my editor for a couple of months, there's a noted improvement in my speling since then. ;-)


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