Monday, February 24, 2020

What is a Wingman?


Yannow...Sometimes there's a great convergence in the internet where, all of a sudden, your recommendations all revolve around a single subject.  Youtube has several videos along similar subjects.  You pull up a search engine and type the letter "W" and it immediately populates the results screen with exactly what you were thinking of.  It's almost like they're tracking you.

Not that I'm paranoid or something.

Ok, maybe a little.

So...There I was *  doing my daily perusal of the latest posting by Sarge.  He seems to be on an artistic type binge.  Bored or something I guess.  Hasn't had anybody around to keep him on the straight and narrow for a while. Went off on a tangent and has been making blog headers for weeks now.

What's the count now?  I think we've got one a week for the next 75 years or so.

However, evidently things have changed and somebody's trying to get him whipped back into shape. I managed to get a video of his training regimen.



All that having been said, several of the headers are really spectacular.  One in particular I like (other than the obvious one...The Eagle).  This one.





The header uses Charles Schreyvogel's "My Bunkie" painting.  Schreyvogel was a self-taught artist and this painting, in 1901, earned him the Thomas Clark Prize from the National Academy of Design starting him on a successful artistic career.

Source
A commenter had noted that the painting's title and subject were the "... 19th century equivalent of brave pilots who went after their wingmen."

My immediate thought was that it's a heck of a lot easier to rescue your wingman when you're galloping along the ground at  30MPH and scoop your wingman up, than it is to be swooping along at 500MPH several hundred feet above.

But, his point was somewhat valid.  Growing up in Fighters, it was drilled into me, "Never lose sight of your lead."  Ever.  No matter what.  I actually had a lead tell me that "if my Lead hit the ground while I was in formation, there'd better be two holes."

The last flight of the T-38 Thunderbirds comes to mind.

However, while upgrading to flight lead, the corollary to the the wingman's rule was hammered home.  "Never leave your wingman behind."  Ever.  No matter what.

So, I have somewhat of an understanding of the Cavalryman's train of thought.

Not having anything to contribute to that thread of comments, I went about my business and turned to U2B (as Prairie Adventurer likes to say).  One of my recommendations was a History Guy video entitled "Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner: A Tale of Two Pilots ".  Since the lead picture was of a F-4U Corsair, I figured it would be worth spending 15 minutes to watch.

This is where the great convergence came into focus.

The event takes place in the Korean War.  Ensign Jesse Brown  was the first African-American Naval Aviator flying off the USS Leyte in Fighter Squadron 32.  His flight lead is LTjg Thomas Hudner.  They are flying sorties in support of Marines around the Chosin Reservoir.  The Chinese have entered the war and vastly outnumber the Marines who are trying to retreat.  It's winter, it's cold, even by Korean standards.

The Corsairs are flying Close Air Support for the Marines.  After several passes, Ensign Brown radios that he's taken a hit and is losing fuel pressure.  After trying to fix the problem unsuccessfully, Ensign Brown radio's that he's going to have to belly land the aircraft and does so.

Unfortunately, during the landing, the instrument panel breaks free and traps Ensign Brown's legs.  Worse, the aircraft has started a small fire.  (Fire and High Octane Aviation Fuel is NOT a good combination).

Lt Hudner does a low level fly by of the crash, see's Ensign Brown in the cockpit waving at him, so knows he's alive.  The site is about 15 miles behind the enemy's lines, so time is of the essence.  He explains the situation and a rescue helicopter is launched.  However, it becomes apparent to Lt Hudner that Ensign Brown is trapped in the cockpit.

He elects to crash land his aircraft nearby and does so.   Uninjured, he rushes over to Ensign Brown's aircraft and tries to extricate him, unsuccessfully.  Radioing the other aircraft, requests that the helicopter bring an ax and saw to help with the extraction.  Then he begins trying to put out the fire with snow, using his bare hands.  Successfully.

The helicopter arrives and the pilot and Lt Hudner try until nightfall to extract Ensign Brown, unsuccessfully.  They make the Ensign as comfortable as possible and plan to come back in the morning with better equipment to extract him.

The mission the next morning to extract is cancelled by higher headquarters due to extreme risk.







On September 15th 1952, another example of never leaving your wingman occurred.  Lt Col Robbie Risner (Rise'- nur) was escorting Fighter Bombers attacking a target on the Yalu river, the border between North Korea and China.  During the mission, they are attacked by Chinese MiGs.  Risner engages then and is chasing one back towards its home base.  Having scored multiple hits on the MiG, Risner chases it between hangar buildings scoring more hits.  Eventually, he shoots the MiG down.  It crashes into parked fighters.

On the way out of the area, his Wingman, Lt Joseph Logan, is hit in the fuel tanks by AAA (HISSSSS!) and is draining fuel.  In an attempt to get him home, they climb to altitude.  Risner then has Lt Logan shut down his engine.  Risner gets behind him and sticks the nose of his F-86 in the F-86's tailpipe and begins to push him in an attempt to minimize his sink rate and get him within gliding distance of friendly territory.



 Near an Allied occupied island in the Yellow Sea, Risner tells his wingman to bail out.  He does, however, winds cause his chute to drift out to sea.  On landing, he becomes entangled in his chute and drowns.  Risner runs out of fuel shortly thereafter, but manages to dead stick his jet to a landing at Kimpo AB outside of Seoul.

I knew of Brig Gen Risner, through his exploits as a POW during the Vietnam war.  I didn't know about this episode until I was "pointed" to it while viewing another little convergence recommendation.

I had heard about this next convergence episode while transitioning to the F-4, in 1978.  Virtually all my IP's and IWSO's had combat time in Vietnam.  Unfortunately, "Jimmuh" was in charge, so rules were plentiful and flying time was not.  Neither of which were  conducive to building combat skills.  However, buying my instructor's a beer at the squadron bar would give me extensive lessons on what I needed to know.

One of those stories was known as Pardo's Push.  The convergence here was a fairly recent article in the San Antonio Express News about the event and its aftermath.

Source

 It's March 10th, 1967, Capt Bob Pardo is a pilot in the 8TFW (of which, both Sarge and myself are alumni) and is scheduled to fly as #2 in a 4 ship attacking a North Vietnamese Steel Mill.  During the attack, both Pardo and # 4, flown by his friend Capt Earl Aman, are hit.  Aman is leaking fuel badly and starts an immediate climb to altitude with fuel streaming from his aircraft.  A fuel check shows that he doesn't have enough gas to exit North Vietnam.

Pardo maneuvers his Phantom under Aman's plane attempting to piggy-back it out of danger.  He forgets that air rushes both under and over the airplane.  As he makes the attempt, the airflow from Pardo's aircraft pushes Amans tail higher into the air, meaning the aircraft starts descending into Pardo's.

Oops.

Pardo backs out, and then has Aman lower his tail hook.  The tail hook on the F-4 was a holdover from when the Phantom was a Navy jet.  It's humongous.

Aman does and Pardo moves back into position and puts the tail hook directly on the front pane of the canopy.  This section is very thick and supposedly bullet proof. The "lore" of this tale says that Pardo pushed Aman to safety this way.

This painting is correct, if you notice the hook is not on the windscreen
Source

Pardo, in this article, says that very shortly after making contact, the canopy glass started to fracture, so he backs out again.  Still not giving up ("Never give up, Never Surrender"), he moved back in.  This time he positions the hook on the metal vent that is used to blow hot engine exhaust over the wind screen for rain removal and anti-fog protection.

(I used that once.  It got very hot, very fast in the front seat.  It was effective, but uncomfortable. 800o exhaust gas is somewhat...warm.)

Back to the story, juvat!

Aye, mi muy viejo sargento de la fuerza aérea!

This vent apparently is sufficiently strong, as they are able to progress towards Laos.  Finally, near a Special Forces base, and almost out of fuel and altitude and having shut down one engine due to a fire, Pardo backs away and Aman and his WSO bail out.  They are successfully recovered.  

Pardo attempts to make it to a near by field, but flames out shortly thereafter.  He and his WSO successfully bail out and are recovered.

When asked what the favorite part of this story was, Capt Pardo replied “Lucy may tell you she thinks it’s wonderful because Earl came home and they got to have two sons,”

Lucy is Capt Aman's wife. 

Now for the (as Paul Harvey might say), the "rest of the story".  Lt Hudner received the Medal of Honor for his actions with Ensign Brown. Ensign Brown received, posthumously, the Distinguished Flying Cross.  Brig Gen Risner would go on to receive 2 Air Force Cross medals in Vietnam, the first for Gallantry in Air Operations, the second for his actions as a Senior POW.  I also detailed a similar rescue last month which resulted in Major Bernie Fisher receiving the Medal of Honor for rescuing his wingman in Vietnam.

Well...what about Capt Pardo, juvat?

Capt Pardo ran afoul of the 7th AF Commander, Gen Spike Momyer (MO' my-er), who wanted to court martial him for his actions.  Shoe Clerks** got to shoe clerk.  Capt Pardo's Wing Commander, Col Robin Olds went to bat for him.  Momyer agreed not to court-martial him if Col Olds would not put him in for a medal.

That was that, until well after the war.  Capt Pardo's story was becoming well known among pilots and reached the ears of Senator John Tower, R-TX, who asked him about it.  After hearing the story, Senator Tower recommended that Capt Pardo and his WSO be awarded the Air Force Cross.  In 1989, they received the Silver Star as did Capt Aman and his WSO.

 I think the Cavalryman in the Painting would approve of these warriors.

* Standard Juvat Caveat


** There are two kinds of people in the USAF.  Fighter Pilots and Shoe Clerks.  A Fighter Pilot puts the mission and its people first.  Shoe Clerks put themselves first.  Many pilots who fly fighters are Shoe Clerks.  Many folks that don't fly fighters are Fighter Pilots.  This is the USAF translation of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy.



44 comments:

  1. Thanks for naming the General Disaster that wanted to court martial a hero. I like to tie my disdain for shoe clerks around the proper neck. Sheesh.

    I've probably mentioned the stack of Reader's Digests my uncle gave me. I had a closet full of them. I read them voraciously as a teenager. One story stuck out from the Korean War.

    3 F-80's were coming back from a mission, and one of the pilots lost oxygen, and passed out. The other two tried to wake him via the radio. He started to descend, and they knew he was gonna go straight in if they didn't figure something out. One remembered an old barn storming trick he saw. They got on either side of the passed out pilot, and put their wing tips under his. The air flow acted as a cushion, and they descended to breathable altitude and he eventually woke up and flew home.

    Another story was of the F-80 pilot that shot himself down. He had a wing tip tank that was full and wouldn't drain. He shot a hole in it with his pistol, and the slipstream siphoned out enough fuel to keep him in trim.

    I really enjoyed the history lesson today.

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    1. Do you get a “kill” for shooting yourself down?

      http://www.ejectionsite.com/F-14%20SHOOTDOWN.pdf

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    2. That would work to slow a descent, but would take some pretty controlled flight. As for the other, that gives a different meaning to the term "shot down". Thanks

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  2. Well, c’mon. Pardo did throw away his perfectly good jet, and those things are expensive compared to training a new slab of meat. What else is a dollars-and-scents clerk gonna think?

    (I’d heard of the Sabre attempt, but not Pardo.)

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    1. Well, not really, he had battle damage also, and during the whole push thing, one of his engines caught fire and was shut down. So, not only is he pushing another jet, he's doing it single engine. Besides, much as I loved them, the Phantom could be replaced. Momyer didn't understand that.

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    2. Momyer saw planes and pilots as interchangeable chunks of stuff, and probably put a larger value on the hard stuff vs the meatbag stuff. A perfect example of 'Human Resources Management' (Hssssssssssss. HR is the AAA of the business world. Hsssssssssss.)* And a perfect example of the type of person who should not be in charge of men, or in charge of anything.


      * (HRM is the theory that everyone is interchangeable. That guy with 30 years of plastics processing and molding is just as capable of fixing the roof or working in the warehouse. A body is a body is a body. Metropolis (the movie) is an example of HRM taken to the extreme, like at Boeing today.)

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    3. Beans, while you and I use different words, I think we're pretty much in agreement most of the times. This would be one of those times.

      Re: Momyer. That article from the express news described him as a tactical genius. Everybody I knew who flew in Vietnam while he was 7AF Commander and everything I've read about him, absolutely negates that staatement.

      BTW, Mrs J was a personnel officer. She is Most Definitely a Fighter Pilot!

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  3. The series JAG used Pardo's Push as a basis for one of it's episodes IIRC. All three pilots posted here really thought outside the box, talk about guts and determination! Shoe clerks can be such little people....... A Tale of Two Pilots was new to me, good posting juvat.

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    1. Thanks, I think I saw that episode. As to Shoe Clerks, yes they are. Thanks.

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  4. We've met Captain Pardo et al before.

    ENS Brown and LTJG Hudner are well-known to me. Fighting 32 is now VFA-32, The WSO's first operational squadron.

    Great post juvat!

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    1. Yeah, There was quite a bit more of the back story in the Express News article.

      As to VFA-32, I knew that also and was another convergence point that I forgot to mention. As is this video where the squadron does a missing man flyover for Capt Hudner's funeral at Arlington.

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    2. Rather dusty all of a sudden...

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    3. Just because I have read something before, doesn't automatically mean I would not want to hear or read about it again. I have many books that I have read many times as I enjoy the story or just need the boost a particular story gives me. Someone who not only says we don't leave anyone behind, but walks the talk is always a pleasure to read about again.

      Besides, at my age I forget stuff rather frequently, so it is always nice to be reminded of a good deed by a good deed.

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    4. Facepalm!!!

      a good deed by a good story.

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    5. I re-read my books all the time. You're not alone there Suz.

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    6. As do I. The characters in them are like old friends to get reacquainted with. I just finished my second time through OldNFO's Gray Man series. Picked up a few things I'd sprinted past on the first round. Found a new author I'm working through now, P.T. Deutermann. WWII Navy stories.

      So, as the old guy said. "You're not alone there Suz"

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    7. Deutermann is excellent. AMHIK

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    8. I'm 2.33 books into him. I agree. "The Nugget" and "Ghosts of Bungo Suido" are on the re-read list,"Sentinel of Fire" is what comes up when I push the Amazon app on my iPad now.

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  5. While I young Ensign, I used to hang out with Nasal Radiators during my AIC training (At NAS Glynco Ga---now FLETC). I was instructed that wingmen were only allowed to initiate conversations with two statements:
    1. "Leader you're on fire" and
    2. "I'll take the fat broad".

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    1. I was taught there was one other allowed radio call. That was "Two" (or "Four" as the case may be). Other than that....

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  6. Sort of on-topic: Ted Williams on being John Glenn's wingman:

    https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-red-sox/2016/12/08/ted-williams-john-glenn-photo

    The part about how Glenn saved Williams' bacon was pretty interesting.

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    1. That is interesting. I suppose that might work and as long as you're pointed towards safety during the climb, you're exiting the area, minimizing AAA risk, and it's better than doing nothing. Besides, there's that old pilot saying "The 4 most useless things in an emergency to a pilot are 1)Runway behind you, 2) Altitude above you, 3) Fuel in the truck and 4) 2 seconds ago."

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  7. There is nothing more important in War than the buddy system. Whether it is wingmen, or shield buddies, or partners in a foxhole, a good buddy works hard to get the partnership out safe.

    Unfortunately, there are buddy-screwers out there. And they somehow get noticed by higher up and recognized positively for their buddy-screwing abilities (maybe because too many higher-ups are buddy-screwers themselves.)

    Buddy-screwers screw up an organization.

    Don't be a buddy-screwer!


    Otherwise, excellent post, juvat-sir. Thank you for bringing some information (like the further tales of Cpt. Pardo) to light. I can just see Col. Olds with steam coming out of his ears barging into General Fathead Mom'sboy's office. Well, in my mind, Duke Olds picks up Momwhatever and smashes Momwhatever's desk with Momwhatever's body. Would probably have saved the US of A a lot of trouble if he had. Sadly he most likely didn't.

    Why do I get an image of John Wayne (a younger one) playing Robin Olds? (If, that is, time travel is ever perfected and we could save The Duke and all the film staff of 'The Conqueror' from being irradiated thanks to fallout from a big boom.)

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    1. I forget where I read it, maybe the Robin Olds link above. But, I think that was probably the effective end of Olds career. It may also have been Ras's book Fighter Pilot, but essentially he never did anything really important after that. Commandant of the AFA not withstanding, doesn't really hold a candle to commanding a fighter wing in combat. So, Mo may have stuck the screws to him. But...standing up for your people is what Fighter Pilots do. Not doing so is what Shoe Clerks do. Don't be a Shoe Clerk!

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  8. Outstanding senor! Tales of bravery and deringdo (?P) tend to remind me of the great men, and women, who have served our nation. And I agree that there are too many "shoe clerks" in the system. Some call the REMFs, others call them Pogs. Whatever the nomenclature, they are useless excess.

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    1. Yes, they are, but they are also remarkably resilient. Whenever you get rid of one, two come back in its place. Worse, if you don't get rid of that one, three come back in his place.

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  9. "Devotion" by Adam Makos tells the great story of Jesse Brown and Thomas Hudner. Thomas met Jesse's wife at the award ceremony in Washington and was able to tell her of her husband's last day.
    Momyer...what can I say? My father was the Tan Son Nhut Air Base Operations Officer in 1966. At that time he was a Major who rose from the ranks as a mustang (to use a Navy term). I have an email from one of my father's assistant operations officers and he described my father thus: "Your father was a 'colorful character,' to say the least. Nevertheless, he was thoroughly dedicated to the immense job of being base operations officer at what was then the busiest airport in the world. He was able to get along with (and get cooperation from) all the different players on the airfield; Seventh Air Force, the Vietnamese Air Force, the Vietnamese civilian airport authorities, Air America, the U.S. Army and Navy (which had aviation detachments on the base) and the Vietnamese civilians who did building maintenance. We were always short of assistant ops officers (like myself) to cover the 24-hour duty rosters but your father was always as fair as he could be about juggling the schedule to keep us from getting burned out."
    And he then described the encounter with Momyer: "Maj Birdwell was the Base Operations officer when I first arrived at Tan Son Nhut in January 1966, and General William Momyer was Seventh Air Force Commander. The general was a very hard man to get along with. He often met DVs and VIPs arriving at base ops, and he insisted that the place look no different than a stateside air base. The troops at base ops had fortified a Conex container on the ramp to serve as a shelter in case of a mortar or rocket attack, and General Momyer made them take it down because it made Saigon look like a war zone. He also insisted that the base operations officers wear Class B uniforms on duty instead of the much more practical fatigues for the kind of work we were doing. The general insisted that the VIP aircraft he met would parked in the number one spot in front of base operations. One day he arrived to find that a C-130 air evacuation aircraft was parked on the number one spot and the VIP had to park in the number two spot. Gen Momyer was furious, and he sent his chief of staff into the office to fire Maj Birdwell and give him 24 hours to get out of the country, even though parking of aircraft is a transient alert task, not a base operations task. Such are the hazards of war."
    Years later my father told me, "At least it got me out of Vietnam and back home three weeks early...".
    As for me, I swore to myself to never be an officer like Momyer.

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    1. Now, THAT was a good story. Your father sounds like a Fighter Pilot and not a pilot of fighters.

      Re: Brown and Hudner, I liked the part at the end of the History Guy vid where, when relations with the North Koreans cooled off a little Capt Hudner went and brought Ensign Brown's remains back home. Never leave your wingman behind. Ever. No matter what.

      Indeed.

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  10. I did not know about the Rob Risner story, either. I am just amazed at you guys, and have been my whole life. ( I am the son of "Trees" Winebarger)

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    1. OK....You almost stumped me. Was your Dad Forrest S. Winebarger (page 6 of link) a Thud Driver and possible Wild Weasel assigned to the Juliet flight of 12TFS (of which I'm also an alum) in June of 69 and eventually became a BG?

      If not, I'm sure there's an interesting story involved with the callsign.

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    2. "Trees," first name "Forrest." Seems prosaic enough. Is there another story underneath that which appears obvious?

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    3. I know of a few people who brought back branches from trees they had encountered in their successful attempt to avoid tying the low altitude flying record. My attempt at that record was a small island off the coast of Korea. There were no trees there. So, I wasn't given the callsign of "Trees".

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    4. Yes, that Trees. Flew 105s, then A-7s in SEA, then stateside flew 105s, F-4s, and finally F-16s. Retired as BG at Hill.

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    5. Also- the name came during flight school, as far as I know. sort of "Forrest, huh? From now on you are 'Trees' ".
      My son, named after him, is also Trees.

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  11. "There I Was....."

    Brought back memories of the Bob Stevens book.....

    https://www.amazon.com/There-Was-25-Years/dp/0830638318

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    1. Yes, I was raised on Air Force Magazine. First stop was the back page with Mr Stevens cartoon. Pretty sure that and being an AF Brat prevented any delusions about what an AF career entailed. It worked.

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  12. Back in 2001 or 2002 on my last ski trip to Steamboat Springs, where Gen. Olds lived after he retired, I spotted him in the lobby of the hotel where we were staying. There appeared to be some sort of pilot reunion brewing. I always wish I had the nerve to walk over to him, tell him how much I admired him and offer to shake his hand, but I didn't, to my lasting regret.

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    1. I never met the man. But, I’ve heard from people I respect that he was a real person. What you saw (and heard) was what you got. If you were on his side, he’d come in “guns a blazin’” in your defense. Shoe Clerks...not so much.

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  13. Great post juvat. These stories need to be told and retold. You're part of the effort to counter the narrative vomited up by the noisy shoe clerks of the nation who are doing everything they can to destroy the Constitution with their smears and lies. The spirit of the Wingman/Bunkie is alive and well in the hearts of everyone who consciously spurns the notion of being a self licking turd polisher.

    I found this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT66OVATvJs on the U2B; at 46:52 Wacky Wachter tells about the BONE crew whose jet was on fire and began the ejection sequence. The first guy's seat interrupted and he was unable to eject. The story has a happy outcome but that's not the point. They other three guys stayed with him. The shoe clerk narrative never tells such stories. But they do get told in places like this, and using the platform owned and operated by self licking turd polishers!

    As to "U2B," I got that by hanging out with "kids" I'm supposed to despise, Gen-exers who know shoe clerks suck and want nothing to do with polishing turds.

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    1. I think I'd either heard that story or saw that video, because it sounds familiar.

      I'm going to steal the U2B because it's 4 less characters I have to type. And since Sarge doesn't pay by the character.....

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    2. U2B is going onto the Acronym Page. That's two for PA today!

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)