Sunday, June 9, 2019

Blast From the Past

Okay, I confess, this is just a fancy way of saying "rerun."

PLQ thought my old nickname of "Chuckles" might make an interesting post, and it did...

Back in 2015, though YMMV, as always.

So for your edification, education, and enlightenment, I give you this blast from the past, er, rerun...

This is not a post about the star of a certain Disney movie and a certain type of candy.

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
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."

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.

* Original link.


  1. Nicknames.
    My first name is John, as was my father's, and was his father's.
    Except when I reported to the William R. Rush (DD-714) where someone, and I don't remember who, called me Harry.
    Not a play on hairy, clearly it was Harry.
    No big deal, I figured it would stop after a while, and the worst thing I could do would be to show that the nickname annoyed me in any way.
    As we were a reserve can, our active duty crew numbered around 180, and shortly every single person on board called me Harry.
    When the SELRES (Selected Reserves) came on board to fill out the missing one third of our crew, they called me Harry.
    I was called Harry for the entirety of the two years I was on board, and haven't been called Harry by anyone else since the day I transferred to shore duty.
    I have been called far worse.

    It's not a rerun if I hadn't read the original.

    I followed the link, read and returned.

    Both good posts.

    The Navy's tech schools are called "A" schools and I recall the Machinist Mate's A school being a good mix of classroom and hands on.

    1. Harry? You have to wonder where they got that from.

    2. I had to leave out some data because of OPSEC.
      I sent you an email to fill in the blanks.

    3. Message received.

      It's wise to practice good OPSEC.

  2. Dad and a few of his squad were serving an arrest warrant one night. Their target took off running... They had a tall, skinny officer in the group. He was hiding and stepped out from behind a bush right in front of the guy. The runner fell down, yelling, "It's a spook!! It's a spoooooook!!!!" Everyone had a good laugh, and that was the officer's nickname from then on. I never knew him by any other name.

    Nicknames aren't meant to be flattering... just accurate.

  3. Beans is actually one of the best nicknames I've ever had. Won't even touch on previous names.

  4. I have grown to like "fuzz". I know that Jesse (my flt CO and drinking instructor) who gave it to me, meant well. I was so green. Lordy, looking back, I was green.
    But it worked out OK.

  5. Just got back from reading the old blog entry about what was inside the pretty black thing on the front of the airplane. This struck me somewhat,
    "so the pilot merely steered in the direction of the reticle:"
    This kind of information should not be let out for general consumption. Talk about OPSEC. The Russians are watching.

    1. But our reticles work, theirs might not. 😊

  6. Dave, I wouldn't worry about OPSEC in this particular case - the cat's already out of the bag. Quite a while ago, Al Gore gave this info to the Chinese, along with the submarine info, who then gave it to the Russians, who then gave it to the Iranians. Did I leave anyone out?

  7. Well, I was correct; that was a good tale, of which I had not previously read- Bambi-err-Chuckles-err-OldAFSarge.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  8. Hey, what's up with calling me "Geezer"?!! That's "Old Geezer" at this point in time! ;-D. But seriously, the class I had at the time at Lowry occasionally would talk about this mysterious individual named Bambi so it was very satisfying meet you when we were at Kadena. I was finally able to put a face to the name (although it didn't fit!)

    Now as far as Chuckles goes, I thought it fit you perfectly. You always laughed very easily and yours was such an infectious laugh, many times I would see others laugh with you even though they had no idea what you were laughing about. Keep it up because it's really true, "laughter is the best medicine"!!

  9. I'm glad none of them made their way to the more official blog nome de guerre. Old AF Chuckles just doesn't have the same ring to it. Now why you USAF types change callsigns at all is a little strange for us Navy types- you get a callsign and you keep it! Forever. End of story.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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