Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Mid Week Repeat ...

Kadena AB, Okinawa
Whilst casting about for something to entertain you all with, I came across something which bears repeating ...

The following post.

I was nobbut a lad of 22 when I first set foot upon the ancient island of Okinawa. I had been in the Air Force for a bit over 8 and a half months. I knew how to march, fold my underwear and had a head full of theoretical knowledge of the weapon systems of the mighty F-4D Phantom II fighter bomber. Note the use of the word "theoretical."

A month of leave before going overseas caused a lot of that dearly won knowledge to slide right on out of my brain. While I really enjoyed that leave, it might have been smarter to head to the flight line right after tech school, while that training was still fresh.

On the other hand, after setting foot on Okinawa (with a brief interlude of two weeks emergency leave when my grandfather Louis died) I didn't set foot on American soil again for over six years.

I left the U.S. an overgrown boy, single without a care in the world. Six years later I had a wife, a son and another baby on the way. One could make the argument that my time in Asia helped me to grow up. In some ways. (I'm not what you'd call a complete adult. I can be when I force myself. Which I perhaps don't do enough. Oh well.)

While looking for photos of those days so long ago (1976 to 1978 on Okinawa) I was amazed at how much the place has changed. I'm quite sure there's not much left that I'd recognize. The three photos in this post are all from the 60s and 70s and I recognize each place. Not like it was yesterday, but, as Patton wrote, "as through a glass, and darkly." The details fade but the memories linger.

The commissary these days looks nothing like it did in my time. Back then it seemed, I don't know, foreign and somehow quaint. Nowadays you couldn't tell that were you overseas. I suppose things have to change, progress and all dontcha know.

Another thing which struck me is how much the Air Force has changed over the years. We still have some damn fine kids out there serving the nation. But, like with many organizations, we have our share of strap hangars, social justice warriors, diversity bullies and just plain idiots.

In my time of service I knew a handful of senior non-commissioned officers who were any good. Most were political animals once you got past Master Sergeant. I knew one, that's right one good Chief Master Sergeant. He was one of the sergeants who straightened my ass out on Okinawa. Chief Colonna (I don't even remember the correct spelling of his last name, to us he was just "Chief" - said with a great deal of respect and yes, affection) was everywhere on the flight line.

Need a power unit at 0300? Odds are the Chief found you one. Then he'd be at his desk in the hangar most of the day doing his paperwork. I swear, Chief never slept.

But this isn't a tale of the "new" Air Force. You want the straight dope on that, read Tony. I do. When I can stomach it that is.


I lived in the shadow of that radar for the entire two and a half years I was at Kadena. Woke up one morning after a typhoon had brushed the island to see every single shrub on that hill completely stripped of its leaves. Big winds out that way, I can tell you.

This picture seems to be taken from the roof of the chow hall I used to eat at. There are two barracks in the background, up next to the hill. I do believe my first barracks is the one to the left. As I recall our squadron, the 18th Avionics Maintenance Squadron, had two barracks for us single enlisted types.

Eventually they refurbished most of these buildings and we moved to another building just around the corner of the hill to the left. As barracks go, they weren't bad. One man rooms, we had a fridge, a desk and a bed. Which is about all I needed. A place to sit and read. A place to store my comestibles and adult beverages (think beer) and a place to lay my head when the urge for sleep was upon me.

The first barracks was not air conditioned, a fan seemed to do the trick. I seem to recall that after the renovations, my second barracks had central air.

Not a bad existence to tell the truth.

Now the first six months on the Rock we were on 12-hour shifts. Which entailed a lot of sitting around and playing cards, if we could get away with it. Seems there was always some brand new lieutenant waltzing around wanting us to do more martial things. Like read tech orders.

We put paid to that on one memorable Saturday morning at or around 0400.

While we did work 12-hour shifts, we did get a two day break. Just so happened that our pinochle-playing, beer-guzzling social club all had this one weekend off. Friday night we gathered after sleeping the day away (we had gotten off work at 0700 that morning) and purchased adult beverages and headed to one of the guy's rooms for an all night pinochle-playing, beer-guzzling social event.

In the wee hours of the morning they blew the recall siren. All hands on deck, get your ass to work, Maybe it's a drill, maybe it's not. (FYI, in the entire time I was at Kadena there was one recall which was dead solid real. Two Army officers had been butchered in the DMZ by the NORKS. Within 48 hours the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing had two squadrons of Phantoms in country and loaded for bear. But that's the only time it was for real. Scary days those were.)

So this time was another drill. We all rushed back to our barracks, threw our uniforms on and headed down to the shop.

Once there, we were all sitting around rather bleary eyed when in comes the lieutenant.

"You men seem to have been drinking! That's a violation of..."

I don't remember which of us suggested that the lieutenant go somewhere and perform an unnatural act of reproduction with himself. But words to that effect were spoken and the room got real quiet.

That's when one of the sergeants came over, took the lieutenant by the elbow and into a back room where the young lad was told the error of his ways.

The powers that be moved the lieutenant to day shift. Probably better for him, definitely better for us.


In those days we worked hard and oh my Lord did we party hard.

Now one day, when we had moved to our second barracks (which might actually be the one in the photo above, I'm not sure) our other squadron mates were in visual range. Across a street and then a parking lot. Which is important to the tale which follows.

Now it might have been around the Fourth of July, it might not have been. Heck, maybe Russ might remember, I'm not sure if he was still there, Like I said, it was a long time ago.

But it was a pleasant evening. A bunch of us WCS gorillas were in the parking lot and hanging out on those stairs you can see above. Imbibing adult beverages (as was our wont) and taking the air on a pleasant Okinawan evening. The sun was going, the breeze off the East China Sea was pleasing and we were in our element. Young Americans a long ways from home, making ourselves at home.

Across the way, at our sister barracks, we could see some of the fellows up on the roof of the barracks (why they gave us access to the roof, I'll never know). They were doing much like we were, having a few brews and a few laughs. But there was something much more purposeful about their movements.

Moments later we watched, with joy and amazement, as a bottle rocket lifted off from the roof and up into the gloaming. Boom. Sparkly stuff drifting to earth. Then whoosh, a volley of five rockets lifted heavenward.

Oohs and aahs emanated from our side of the street. It was entertained we were.

Then after a few more volleys, the kettenhunde* showed up in a couple of cars. They were ordering our squadron mates to cease and desist. Furthermore they were commanded to come down off of that roof and turn in their bottle rockets forthwith.

Perhaps our lads were confused as to the order of events they were supposed to execute. Seems they decided to turn over the rockets first. A few at a time and in order to facilitate delivery to the security cops, they lit the rockets off and let them fly down.

The kettenhunde were astonished, confused and concerned. They were being defied. No, they were being mocked as well. A number of the local barracks dwellers gathered round to watch the security types huddling behind their vehicles as they were showered with rockets.

One or two of them even rushed the building to discover that all doors had been secured to keep out intruders.

'Tis frustrated they were. Thank God they kept their wits about them. I mean after all, these guys were all actually armed with pistols and no doubt there may have been an M-16 or shotgun in one or both of their cars.

Eventually our lads ran out of ammunition and some of our senior squadron types showed up. The security types were sent off with promises of dire consequences for the rocketeers.

I don't remember what the aftermath was. In those days it was more than likely that the perpetrators got their asses chewed by the squadron commander (who we respected) and by the First Sergeant (who we did not). An ass chewing by the old man could be epic. Not that I had any (ahem) personal knowledge of that.

Nowadays I'm sure they'd all be dishonorably discharged or something equally foul.

Those were kinder, gentler, more logical times.

Ah, what a night...

The rocket's red glare,

The bombs bursting in air.

On that note, I think I'll lift a glass to the old days.

Better times.

* See here as well.


  1. In the Army, when MP's acted like "The Blue Line Gang" and that their shit didn't stink, they would hear the taunt;
    "You can't spell WIMP without MP!"

  2. Couldn't let unused ordnance fall into the hands of the authorities, leastwise not to my way of thinking. Thanks for the dip into the past Sarge, photos always help to colorize the memories.

  3. Sarge, I have had the same experience when I see or read of the town I went to college in. The last time I went back was likely over 20 years ago. I see pictures wonder - the apartment building I lived in the first year was torn down for parking and smaller dorms and the campus looks not at all the same - let alone the town. I would like to go back there sometime, but it would be hard with the memories that haunt my every step.

    1. My old college town has also changed. Much more built up in some areas. Nothing is static I guess.

  4. Sarge,
    Reruns are good. I find I'm watching more reruns on TV than current shows. Haven't found many new shows that hold my interest for more than a few seconds and I'm off to my iPad for the evening's entertainment.
    From the looks of it, your first overseas tour was a lot like mine a couple of years later. I would have been the new 1LT wearing a yellow scarf around my neck that you looked on with your 2 years overseas experience as the "young'un". Throttles at max and all "B*lls, D*ck and no Forehead". Fortunately, much like you, I survived, learned the lessons presented to me in all training fashions and moved on, older, wiser and still willing to make mistakes for the good of the squadron's reputation.
    Couldn't do that now, more's the pity, but, dang! Those were good times.

  5. The bottle rockets cracked me up. 1985 I was at NAS Jacksonville. My roommate (now Brother in Law for 35 years) and I went on leave. On the way back we stopped at South of the Border. I bought a bunch of bottle rockets that were real cheap because the sticks were bent. One evening after dark I stuck a bunch of them in the sand, hooked their fuses together and used a lit cigarette as a timer. We were standing there waiting for them to go off when Base Security pulls up. We're standing there when they went off. The Security guy was just getting out of his truck at the time. One of the guys (not my Brother in Law) yells "They're running down towards NARF!" The guy gets back in his truck and heads towards NARF with his lights flashing. As soon as he left we took off the other way. He never got a good look at us and it wasn't our barracks that we were standing by. You're tale popped that memory back into my head and gave me a laugh.

  6. Drinking was a violation? Of what- some rule that said you can never drink, or was it that it appeared you had been drinking? "You men seem to have been drinking!" Well, you LT seem to be an asshole!

    1. Which was pretty much the gist of the conversation.

    2. One from the past related by a friend about his father who was attending engineering school at the Univ of North Dakota in the 1940s. At the time, UND was host to (Army) Air Force aviation cadets receiving instruction and primary flight training. As expected, they were arrogant and condescending toward the regular students. One night, some engineering students decided to have a little fun. A couple "liberated" a pound can of sodium metal from the stockroom, punched holes in the can, tossed it into the placid waters of the English Coulee that flows through the campus, and retired to join their fellows on the roof of the Engineering building to watch [metallic sodium reacts violently with water to produce hydrogen gas and gets hot enough to ignite it. Usually, the hydrogen is mixed with air by that time and explodes]. There were a series of window-rattling blasts that lit the sky. Cadet squads were running to and fro like ants with (empty) rifles, squad leader's whistles awhistling looking for saboteurs (or something). Neither they nor the cops ever thought to look up at the watchers atop the three-story roof of the Engineering building.

    3. Always have the high ground. Neat story.

  7. That same radar is on a tower at Volk Field, Wisconsin, 12 miles from where I grew up. So I suspect that I have been well and truly radiated by it.


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