Thursday, August 9, 2018

Karl, and Everybody Else

Medina Annex Gate - Looks different now, I seem to remember Satan's imps guarding the old one back in '87.
Google Streetview
As I mentioned yesterday, there were three types of folks typical of the victims students at OTS, back in the day:
  1. one group were recent college grads who wanted to fly for the Air Force but didn't manage an ROTC scholarship during their college days,
  2. the second group couldn't find jobs they liked with their (perhaps useless) college degrees, so "what the heck" they joined the Air Force,
  3. the third group were the enlisted, looking to get a commission in Uncle Sam's Aerial Follies.
Yes, dear readers, Your Humble Scribe fell into that last category. We had a mixture of groups two and three in my flight, we had one chap from the first group. Fellow named Marks, hence the nickname "Karl."

This guy.
Karl was at OTS for one reason, and one reason only, to eventually fly A-10s. He didn't care about any of the horse manure going on around him, dude was freaking focused. As you can see, that focus paid off. I don't remember if he already had a slot for flight training or not. I'm guessing he probably did, I can't imagine putting up with that OTS crap for "you might get a slot in flight training."

So, OT Marks did make it through, after my departure he was the only one of my flight mates I ever heard of again. When I was at Offutt, I saw a story in the Air Force Times about an A-10 flight lead and his wingman (one 1Lt John "Karl" Marks) destroying a bunch of Iraqi tanks during Desert Storm. Twenty-three Iraqi tanks, if one was counting, and they were. You can read about that here.

So other than the stud future fighter pilot Sarge, what other sort of folks were with you aboard the Good Ship Medina? Well, they were a mixed lot.

One guy was an aircraft maintainer who had had a couple of years at the Air Force Academy prior to being shown the door there and getting to pay back his two years of free college by working on Uncle Sam's airplanes. Somehow he received the whole "second chance" thing and was now at OTS. Dude was the best analogy guy I have ever seen. He had an analogy for every occasion. The rest of the flight gave up trying to say "well, that's just like..." because OT AnalogyDude would top it, every single time.

He's also the guy who stunned us all by calling someone by their first name, rather than the "required" Mr. (or Ms.) So-and-So. As he had "been there, done that" at the Academy, he had a good nose for what he could and could not get away with. Great guy, I often wonder if he made it through.

Two other guys stand out in my mind, one of whom I actually remember his name. Well, his last name. That would be Mr. Gordon. Why do I remember his name and not the others? Well, Mr. Gordon did not look like a Gordon. He was an Israeli, an actual sabra who had emigrated to the U.S. and decided to join the USAF.

Dark complected, with that rugged look that so many kibbutzim seem to have. (I have no idea if he had lived on a kibbutz or not, but he looked like the kind of guy who could create farmland out of desert.) His attitude was also very similar to mine, the difference? He kept it to himself. He would bemoan the stupidity of the system when among the rest of us rebels but when the staff was around he was Joe Air Force, Mr. OTS all the way.

I don't know how he did it. (Not to get ahead of myself, but when I stopped by OTS to get some paperwork done in late March, I ran into Mr. Gordon. He was, believe it or not, the OTS Wing Commander. Heh. He had fooled them all!)

My roommate I remember his name and everything, which I suppose isn't that surprising. A more unmilitary guy I couldn't imagine. I actually got yelled at once for his bed not being made properly.

"OT! Why is your roommate's bed such a disaster?" barked Ahab.

"Um, I don't know Captain. Perhaps you should ask him?"

"We expect you priors to take care of the civilians." Ahab admonished.

"Okay, so we're supposed to compete against each other, yet we who have been in a while are supposed to babysit the new kids?"

"Yes, exactly."

"Hhmm, pardon me if I don't agree with that. I showed Mr. C. how to make his bed. I was only shown once in Basic, why should he need more? After all, he wants to be an officer, seems that he should be able to perform a task an airman with three days in the Air Force can get right nine times out of ten."

"I don't like you OT."

"I think we've had this conversation before..."

"BEFORE WHAT?!?!?" barked Ahab.

"Um, before today?"

As she was glaring at me, about to stroke out, I showed pity, in order to save her life I added, "Ma'am?"

Yup, for some reason she didn't like me.

I really remember only one other guy in the flight. Well, him and the guy Mr. AnalogyDude called Mr. Roboto, as the guy marched like a robot, a robot with a broom up his ass. Mr. AnalogyDude would march behind him and mutter, "Dude, dude, you're out of step." Fun to watch as Mr. Roboto would hop around trying to get back in step. When he already was in step. Anyhoo, the other guy I remember had been a BB stacker, er, I mean weapons loader, at some bomber base before going to OTS. The dude actually flipped out, told Ahab that he couldn't take the pressure and was considering ending it all with his OTS-issued scissors. (Which Mr. AnalogyDude mentioned that he'd like to see him try. OTS scissors were very similar to the ones you get in kindergarden.)

Yeah, that's the guy!
Well, Mr. BBStacker was drummed out of OTS. He was allowed to stay in the Air Force, but he wasn't allowed to stack BBs anymore, I think they made him a clerk. They also jerked his security clearance, all of which one of our flight captains relayed to us after the fact. Hhmm, I don't see him as having much of a career after that. On the other hand, he'd be a perfect candidate to become a senior enlisted advisor. (Are you guessing I have a low opinion of that species? You'd be correct, I might explain that someday. POCIR.)

Shortly after Mr. I'mNotAllowedAroundWeaponsAnymore left the building, our flight captains (I may have neglected to mention that's what our two upperclassman were called, they trained us, sort of, while being trained themselves, in reality, they were rather glorified babysitters) called for a meeting in one of the dayrooms.

We all showed up and the senior of the two walked in wearing a second lieutenant's uniform.

"This gentlemen, is what it's all about!" gesturing at the gold bars on his collar.

Of course, I just had to chime in.

"So, impersonating a commissioned officer is what it's all about?"

"No, I'm doing this to make a point. You have to understand..."

"All I understand is that we are all witnesses to a felony. You might wish to reconsider this move. Sir."

Yeah, the meeting broke up rather quickly after that. As I headed back to my room, I could hear the shouts from down the hallway, it was time for all the OTs to gather and sing "Wild Blue Yonder."

No, seriously.

I felt as if I was in a really bad movie from the '40s. I guess the stuff worked on the kids, but to an old sergeant, it was so much nonsense. I once remarked to Mr. AnalogyDude that attempting to generate an atmosphere of esprit de corps amongst a bunch of 90 Day Wonders, who were competing against each other, seemed like rather a waste of time. It seemed to me that the ones who bought into that nonsense were the last folks you would want as officers.

All he said was, "Watch Karl. Karl gets it, he says all the right things, he does the whole 'Yessir, nosir, three bags full' thing but generally stays out of things. He pretty much does what they want, when they want."

"He's like a trained animal who..."

"Who wants to fly A-10s."

Which made me think, why the Hell did I want to be an Air Force officer anyway? I couldn't fly, not with my eyesight, I was destined to be a computer puke at Tactical Air Forces Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Well, making a lot more money for one thing. I also had a feeling that I would like Virginia (which I do, hadn't been there before the kids were stationed there, I would have liked Langley I think). As to the more money thing, yeah, about $650 bucks a month more, pre-tax.

Then the straw, or rather straws, which broke the camel's back happened. At the same mass briefing on the same day. Put me over the top it did.

On base there was a theater, which the school referred to as the "Mass Briefing Facility" as all of the various OTs would fit so we could be brain-washed briefed at the same time. The troops called it the Master Bedroom. Once the lights were down low, at least half of the OTs would fall asleep. Sleep was not something one did at OTS. When you could get it, you went for it.


All gathered together, one of the school staff got up on stage and told us that one of the school's prime goals was to teach us to be officers. (I would have thought that was their only goal, but who was I to quibble?) And...

"For you prior enlisted, we need to break you from the habit of thinking like sergeants."

Much muttering ensued. Mr. AnalogyDude said to me, "Ah, we're not supposed to think at all!"

"Well, the goal is to make us second lieutentants. Right?"

Hilarity ensued, glares were directed in our general direction.

After that "brilliant" observation, the guy on stage said...

"You all came here with follow on orders for your first assignment as officers. Except for the pilots, all those orders have been cancelled. We think that we here at the school are far better judges of where you would best suit the needs of the Air Force after graduation."

Oh shit, oh dear.

Though it was years before Star Wars, I sensed a disturbance in the Force. I was not to be a computer officer at Langley AFB in Virginia, the bastards would find a way to send me to some freaking desolate outpost. Like Thule, or Shemya.

I was freaking doomed. I could almost sense Ahab's glee, no doubt she thought she had a glimpse of the White Whale.

Next time -

Sarge and his roommate depart.


  1. Whoa.......another installment......most excellent! Suspense builds....what will the brass pukes do to exhibit their Superior Intellect?

  2. Why do I get the sense that the whole “cancelled follow-on orders” shtick got pulled on everyone? Like it’s a test so see if you still have a soul, or something.

    1. Wasn't a test. They actually did it.

    2. Maybe “ordeal” is a better word than “test” — I never doubted for a second that it was a real thing they actually did. I meant that it’s probably part of the process of differentiating between candidates who are ideal (thank you ma’am, may I have another) and those who still have hopes and dreams.

    3. Could be, but I doubt they were actually that sophisticated. Then again, I despised them all, so I'm a bit biased.

    4. Never attribute to incompetence that which can be explained by malice, or so the saying goes... ish.

    5. How did Karl get back into flight training? Did he do something to get his orders cancelled?

    6. Karl kept his orders. From what I understand, OTS couldn't touch pilot/navigator orders.

  3. This regal tale makes me think I missed out on a huge mess. WOW. Glad I missed that boat. You and my son must be cut from the same cloth. His tales sound very similar....

    Marks sounds like a guy I knew in college. de Groot was a good pilot, graduated first in his class from flight training and went tankers. He's flying for my boss now. My old recruiter really liked him. I did too. We did spins in a cloth Citabria one Saturday morning. It was ggggGRRREAT!

    1. Other peoples' experiences varied.

      I think luck was not in my favor on that trip.

      "Karl" was one of the most intense and focused people I've ever met. He and the A-10 are a perfect match.

  4. Incompetence and malice. Bad juju indeed.

    IIRC, in his book 'About Face', Ltc. Hackworth talks about the post WWII Army wherein it was decided to "get back to basics" or some such insanity. You had combat vets going through classes teaching them how to field strip their weapons. In one particular instance, there was to be a class room lecture on small unit tactics. A particular engagement was to be discussed complete with sand table. The instructor explained to the class the the individual who had led this particular action had been awarded the CMOH, and further that this same individual was a member of the class. At this point, another class member stepped up to inform the instructor that no, said CMOH holder was no longer a class member, having been dropped due to lack of academic performance.

    IMHO, this piece of advice should be told to every newly minted 2Lt. "Lieutenant, your job is not to have all the answers. If you need answers, talk to your sergeants. Your job is to make decisions".

    1. But it never hurts to know all the answers, or at least a flock of them should the need ever arise for an informed decision. You would not believe some of the petty officers I worked with that would frighten you with their density and resistance to learning.

    2. Ah, but I would believe you Cap'n. I've worked with some NCOs who were dumber than a bag of hammers.

  5. BTW, I just got a report from Space-x, the satellite is stable in Geo-syncronous orbit. You are cleared to complete the mission.

    1. What? WHAT? What is your obsessions with my ranting abilities?

      You two need a different hobby. Like golf.

    2. I know you're talking about me. The voices in my head say they can hear you two plotting, plotting...

    3. Beans #1 - Golf? That requires equipment, and tee times.

      This is free! I like free.

    4. Beans #2 - Plotting would require organization. And time. It's almost as bad as golf!

      (As long as the voices in your head reach a consensus, there's nothing to worry about.)

    5. You know I always tried the same argument when I was leaving early for golf....I'm off to study up on ballistics.

    6. There ya go! Golf requires a knowledge of ballistics, which is physics, which is science. What kind of hobby is that?

      (I caddied one summer, cured me of ever wanting to play golf.)

  6. I’m beginning to understand the difference between the two Supply Officers on the ship.
    The first was Regular Navy and squared away, maybe too much so.
    The second OCS, Ahab, would’ve eaten him alive.

    1. I don't know about the Navy, but I can't remember a single AF OCS officer that was worth a darn. Which is not to say the there aren't some good ones, but they are very few and light years between. Lt Marks sounds like one. Interestingly, he looks familiar to me, like he might have gone through my squadron at LIFT. Wouldn't that be a coincidence? When did he get commissioned?

    2. "Karl" was commissioned in 1987.

    3. Must be my imagination. I was at Kadena at the time.

    4. As we age, time compresses. That's my theory anyway. So from my point of view, I was at Kadena yesterday...

      Or not. ;)

  7. The installments are quite entertaining! Made me go back and look at family photos which include some my father took when he attended OTS (or its equivalent) at Lackland AFB in 1952. Looks like graduation day, his classmates (all male) are raising their khaki trouser uniform to show regulation black socks held up by garters and the socks are filled with everything they were not allowed to carry in their pockets, i.e. cigarettes, papers, etc. I never know Air Force folks could carry so much stuff in their socks! - Barry

    1. We had specially made socks. I think NASA produced them.

      Shirt garters!! Oh Dear Lord, there's a memory I thought I had suppressed forever.

      I'll be okay, not your fault Barry. (If by that you think that I didn't like them, you would be correct!)

  8. What a pack of feckless, childish idiots the training officers were. Were there any of them worth the buckshot to blow their heads off, thus increasing the IQ of the body by 100 points? No wonder the Chair Force went down in flames if that is what they wanted as officers.

    As to the idjits who put on improper rank, isn't it a felony to knowingly allow said impersonation? My suspicious nature thinks it was a setup by higher-ups to pin the blame on a certain 'prior' in order to ruin said person (and I'm not talking about the actual wearer of the 2nd Louie bars, either.)

    I am glad some people actually made it through as productive human beings, rather than just another worthless commissioned troll.

    And that changing postings after leaving? Seriously? The system is supposed to motivate the candidate, not turn the candidate into a ball-less pile of dog-squeeze. Talk about being on a power trip. Like something from a bad BF Skinner experiment, on LSD.

    Oy vey!

  9. The Tomcat must have had big throttle going on, skidding the sideways-turned nose gear across the deck until it broke off. I wonder if the ejection(s) were because the crew thought they were going over the side.....

    1. I think their concern was with going over the side in that big bird. They sink pretty fast.


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