Friday, June 30, 2017

A Pair of 38s, and Other Tidbits

A pair of P-38s "over" Shemya. (Source)
It had been a long, tedious flight from Kunsan Air Base, in the Land of the Morning Calm, back to Kadena Air Base, in the Land of the Rising Sun. I don't remember exactly how many hours that journey took, which is odd because I did it a lot, but I seem to remember two-plus hours in the cargo hold of a C-130 Hercules. Quicker in a C-141 Starlifter, but I only did that once. (Did some quick checks, distance from Kadena to Kunsan is 667 miles, cruising speed of an African swallow C-130 Hercules is 374 mph, the older models might have been a tad slower and you need to factor in time to taxi, take off, get to altitude on the one end, then do the whole landing thing on the other end, three hours is probably closer to the mark. Juvat could probably do it in an hour in his Eagle, probably about the same in the Phantom. Which isn't as fast as a -15 and not as sexy, but the Phantom was my aircraft, so I'm partial to the old girl.)

Anyhoo. Long flight on board a military aircraft from one military base to another, our stuff was all checked at one place but, of course, the Military Airlift Command (MAC) wienies had to do the whole customs thing on the ground at Kadena. Probably because of the whole "two different countries" thing (Japan and Korea).


The MAC wienie has us all in a little room in the MAC terminal at Kadena, doing his level best to prove that he is indeed a shoe clerk, and not, most assuredly not, a fight pilot kind of guy. Did I mention that the air conditioning unit in that small room at the MAC terminal was not working all that well? Have I ever mentioned that Kadena in the summer gives Biloxi a run for its money in the "it's Africa hot" sweepstakes? No? Well, it is. Damned hot.


"Does anyone have any firearms, alcohol, or other things to declare?" sayeth the MAC wienie.

At which point a very well-endowed female captain of Security Police stands up, chest straining the fabric of her uniform, and announces -

"I have a pair of 38s..."

Before she can finish, snickering* breaks out amongst the male (non-MAC) people in the room. Yes, two or three of those fellows were clad in flight suits and may or may not have been Phantom crewmen who had to fly with the rest of us peasants because their ride was down for maintenance. Was I one of the "snickerers"? Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't. Anyhoo...

"...a pair of .38 caliber revolvers in my B-4 bag." said the lovely captain casting a gimlet eye about the room, her glance suggesting what might have happened had her (ahem) .38s not been in her B-4 bag.

B-4 Bag (Source)

The room rather quieted down after that. And no, the pencil-necked MAC wienie didn't get it. (I should say that I have nothing against those who served in the Military Airlift Command. That guy though, total shoe clerk!)

I should note that the term "pair of 38s" can, obviously, have multiple meanings. The leading photo was found by Googling the phrase "pair of 38s." Yes, there were other images which popped up. Some actually had revolvers, many did not. Let's leave it at that and move on...

In my salad days I was the day-shift NCOIC** of radar calibration at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. I spent nearly four years at Kunsan, would've stayed longer but they shipped me out when the F-4s left. I offered to learn how to fix F-16s, but the powers that be told me, "Move along, nothing to see here." And yes, I digress.

Now on the mighty F-4C and F-4D Phantom aircraft, there was a requirement for each aircraft to have it's radar system calibrated. Essentially, tested, tweaked, and wrung out so that at least for a few days the damned thing might actually work. Okay, it wasn't that bad. When the system worked, which was more often than not, it could put a radar guided missile into a bad guy and ruin his whole day. Provided, of course, that the missile actually worked as advertised and that the pilot kept his jet pointing at the target. Which, in a combat situation, ain't always - in fact I would venture to guess never - a good idea.

At any rate, requirements being, well, required, every 180 days we got to examine every jet. No, we didn't do them all at once, that's just silly.

One fine Korean day an F-4D was brought into our hangar (yes, we had our very own hangar, no one else was allowed to play therein) and we commenced to prepping the bird for it's semi-annual radar exam. Which involved opening the radome (the black pointy-thing in the picture), attaching various power and hydraulic lines, checking various grounding wires, switches, and safety interlocks to verify that when we applied power nothing would burst into flame, explode, smoke, or otherwise endanger the safety and well-being of personnel. Which would be me and my merry band of maintainers.

We also had to remove Panel 4L, (the L standing for "Left") which I have outlined for you in red in the photo and pointed to with a big red arrow. No, the panel is not outlined in red on the jet, nor is there a big red arrow painted on the jet pointing to the panel in question.

Panel 4L gave us access to the Continuous Wave Modulator (CW for you radar aficionados) which, if bad, could then be removed from the aircraft for repair or replacement. It also helped with keeping Mr. Radar cool during our work. Though we did supply the radar package with cooling air on the ground, every little bit helped.

Now Panel 4L is secured with half-a-billion brass screws. Brass, no doubt for metallurgical reasons (think corrosion prevention and the like) and to provide gainful employment for sheet metal specialists.


Yes. Those brass screws were rather soft, and the heads of those screws would strip out rather easily if removed or replaced with too much vigor. Which was often the case. Like I said, there were a half-a-billion of those screws and oft times we would be in a hurry as the air crew might be standing there whining asking, "Is the jet ready, can we go flying now, are you done, when is it going to be done?" Et cetera, et cetera. (No, I never saw Juvat do that. OTOH, I didn't know Juvat back then and... Nah, no way he'd do that.)

And so it came to pass, that on that one fine day in Korea, we were removing Panel 4L and yes, one of the screw heads was as smooth as a baby's butt, no "X" marks the spot, no way to get the damned thing out. So we call the sheet metal guys, who have to come out and drill the thing out without damaging anything around it. Which, I must say, they were damned good at, you might say they were professionals. Because indeed, they were. (Trained and everything!)

So the sheet metal dude comes out, gets that last screw out, and we remove Panel 4L. Out of which a rather large plastic wrapped something falls out. We all just sort of stood there for a moment until I realized what it was.

"Dave, go call the cops. Me thinks we've stumbled onto a bit o' dope smuggling."

The Security Police arrived, of course they immediately starting acting like assholes, it's what they do, until I pointed out to them that our job was to calibrate the gorram radar, not to monitor the crap some ee-jit put inside said jet. If we found something out of the ordinary, we'd do what we just did. Call the authorities. A more senior cop showed up, shooed his morons out of the hangar, along with my minions, and he and I had a little chat.

We checked with Job Control and they informed us that the jet had just returned from Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Someone down there had some 'splainin' to do. No doubt someone at Kunsan did as well. The government really frowns on illicit substances being shipped aboard their airplanes.

The cops took the drugs, their commander wanted to impound the aircraft until the Deputy Commander for Maintenance (a full colonel) asked him if he really wanted an assignment to the middle of nowhere, which he swore he could make happen. (Perhaps the locale of that opening photo. A real garden spot I'm told.) The cop commander said, uh, no thanks, the bird is yours, and we all went our merry ways.

As I recall, the crew chief for that aircraft thought he was being clever shipping marijuana from Clark to Kunsan under Panel 4L. I mean there are a half-a-billion screws on that sucker, I mean who's going to pull it?

Dude should have checked to see when his jet was going into Radar Cal. We pull that panel, that's who.

Well, I suppose to cap off this trilogy, I should have a bit o' rock and roll. This tune was one we used to listen to on many a Friday night. Over at Jazbo's room, he had a huge stereo. Yuge. Beer in hand we'd listen to this melodious song, getting ready for a wild night of pinochle, more music, and more rock and roll. Oh, and more beer. A lot more beer.

As if we young airmen could afford to go downtown to the local bars and carouse with the young ladies therein.

Like choir boys we were.

At least, that's how I remember it...

Oh, one last thing. We only played that song on the "Really loud, Dear Lord, I think my ears are bleeding" setting.

* Yes, I was sorely tempted to go with a synonym for this word. Said synonym starts with a "t," but I resisted that primal, adolescent urge.
** NCOIC = Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge. Not to be confused with the HMFIC. That would have been TSgt Ernest E. "Skip" Sipes. One of the finest men I ever knew.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Last Stands

The Last Stand of the 44th Regiment at Gundamuck, 1842. William Barnes Wollen (Source)
As Americans we are familiar with Custer's Last Stand, the Battle of the Alamo, and a few others, perhaps, if one paid attention in history class, back when they actually taught that subject. But I digress.

After a late night in the lab, with many successes which caused us to keep pushing the envelope, I found myself at home, bereft of time to put together a proper post. So, I went to the archives (ahem, YouTube) and searched for an interesting video with which to entertain, and perhaps educate you. For those who think they know this stuff, don't run off just yet. This video has a number of interesting things of which, as Buck like to say, "I had no ideer."

While I consider myself to be fairly well read in history, one can't possibly know it all.

I found the following interesting, I hope you do as well.

A longer post tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Me and Civilians*

Juvat's Monday post gave me a chuckle, especially his dealings with the "Very Southern, Very Old, Very Old Southern Lady" at an air show. While my interactions with civilians during my time in the military weren't quite as hilarious, there are a few encounters which stick in my memory.

Way back in the old days, when we flew on commercial aircraft, we were required to fly in our "dress" uniforms. Also known at times as "service dress" and even referred to by the odd Army type as "Class A uniforms." Think coat, tie, nice shirt, nice pants, shiny shoes. Oh, and a hat, must have a hat. (There is one uniform which has no hat, but that's a story for another time. Maybe. POCIR.) (Of course, back then our dress uniform looked military. Thanks to "General" McPeak, a curse be upon him, the dress uniform when I retired looked like a suit. With stripes. It felt like a suit, it wore like a suit, and looked about as military as a corporate executive's outfit. Minus the tassled loafers. Don't get me started on those, thank you very much.)


I had the opportunity to fly commercial a number of times when I was nobbut a lad in the service of Uncle Sam's Aerial Follies. Most people just assumed I was in the military and left it at that. On rare occasions, twice to be precise, in 24 years, I had the opportunity to sit next to elderly ladies (one was southern, one was not). One time was proceeding from Honolulu to San Francisco.

I was recovering from quite a hangover but was fairly sober when I boarded the aircraft.

What? Hungover Sarge? Say it ain't so! And if true, how did that happen?

Well, long story short, I was stationed at Kadena, on Okinawa, when I was notified by the Red Cross that my paternal grandfather had died. Though emergency leave was normally reserved for a death in the immediate family, I had a great boss at the time. And a really cool squadron commander. So they bundled my young self onto a commercial aircraft bound from Naha (on Okinawa) to Tokyo, thence to Honolulu, then San Francisco, then Chicago, then (finally) Bradley Field in Connecticut.

Also traveling back to the States was a Marine Gunnery Sergeant, a Corporal of Marines, and a passel of privates. Now in the presence of such an august personage as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant, aka Gunny, I felt lower than whale dung in the Marianas Trench. But this Gunny was a pretty cool and squared away individual. Who determined that he would treat us lower ranking enlisted pukes to a beer (or three) once we got to Tokyo.

Now at some point we staggered out of the bar in Tokyo to head for our gate. At which point Gunny, very much in his cups, proclaimed that we had 10 minutes to get to Gate 512 to catch Pan Am Flight 3 (I don't remember the precise numbers, those will do). Sensing that the high numbered gate could not possibly be correct, I checked my boarding pass. Sure enough, it was Pan Am Flight 512, departing from Gate 3. Upon my informing Gunny of this fact, he kind of paused, gave me the Marine stink eye and checked his boarding pass.

"Damn, but you're right. It is Gate 3, Flight 512. Damn, you Air Force guys are pretty smart. How 'come you Marines didn't notice that?"

They all sort of shuffled about, looked elsewhere, and played the innocent. but the corporal spoke up.

"Gunny. You say jump, we say 'How high?' You say Gate 512, we find Gate 512."

Gunny sort of swayed in the breeze, looked suspiciously at the corporal for a moment, then swaggered off for Gate 3.

"Damn right!" he said as he headed in the wrong direction.

Me, trying to be helpful, spat out, "Wrong way Gunny, reverse course!"

Glancing askance at me he said, "I knew that. Just checking to see if you were paying attention."

With that we boarded the aircraft. I had the pleasure of the corporal's company on the first leg of the trip and we, having mutually decided that this was a "long damn flight" and that we were "no way near drunk enough" to tolerate that, ordered drinks from our stewardess (for such they were called in olden times).

Imbibing those, we asked for another. We also inquired as to the health and welfare of Gunny.

"Oh, he's a sweet man. He had one drink and went right to sleep."

She didn't really understand why these two uniformed paladins of the American Armed Forces were giggling at that comment, rather like a couple of school girls, but we knew that Gunny had not "gone to sleep." Gunny was, no doubt, passed out from all the alcohol he had on board.

We followed Gunny to Dreamland and I experienced the shortest flight ever across the Pacific. Couldn't have taken more than half an hour. In fact, when we landed in Honolulu and they announced the local time, I was a bit staggered, we had not, by local time, even left Japan yet! We had gone back in time and, and...

"International Date Line, Airman. And I thought you Air Force guys were smart..."

"Ah right you are Gunny, I forgot!" (Yes, Gunny was recovered and looked none the worse for wear. The corporal and I, well, we looked rumpled, bedraggled,  and hungover. I forget what happened to the passel of privates. Gunny probably had them painting the terminal or some such thing.)

So, where was I? Oh yes, if you remember back a few moments ago, I was on board the flight from Honolulu to San Francisco, sitting next to an elderly lady, who smiled and promptly asked me, "Are you an astronaut?"


Visions of the all consuming fires of Hell popping into my head...

Then thinking, "What a great story this will be some day..."


"Why yes ma'am. Yes I am."

"Well I thought so. You have those wings on your sleeve and only astronauts wear wings on their sleeves."

My wings, one on each sleeve -

Did I feel bad about misleading/deceiving/lying to this nice older lady who promptly fell asleep as soon as the wheels came up? Well, yes, a little. Until we landed.

The nice older lady woke up, looked at me and said "Oh hello young man, are you an astronaut?"

"Um, um, no ma'am, I'm not. I should apologize for telling you that..."

"Oh no problem. When do we leave for San Francisco?"

"We just landed in San Francisco ma'am."

"Well I'll be, I was told that it was a much longer flight than that."

Poor dear was just a bit confused. So yeah, now I felt a lot guiltier than before.

In my defense, the other older lady I had sat next to earlier in my Air Force career, which would have been the year before, had been on a flight from Denver to Chicago. She had asked my if I was in the Army, I said no, the Air Force. What do you do in the Air Force. I work on the radar on the F-4 Phantom. What's a radar? What's an F-4? Why is it called a Phantom?

So I decided that next little old lady would not be given the opportunity to question me closely as to what service I was in and what did I do in that service. Easier that way, though rather wrong. I know. (I still feel bad.)

Upon boarding my flight from San Francisco to Chicago, which was packed to the gills (no, aircraft don't have gills, it's an expression), I saw that there appeared to be just two seats left on the aircraft. One two rows up, and one right next to me. I also noted that there were two people coming down the aisle with that "Hhmm, where's my seat?" expression. One little older lady and one very beautiful Chinese lady of about my age.

I knew that as punishment for telling the other older lady that I was indeed an astronaut, I would be fated to sit next to another little old lady on the flight to Chicago. I was already rehearsing my lines, "No ma'am, I'm not an astronaut. I am a lowly airman who works on the mighty F-4D Phantom." When what to my wondering eyes should appear, the little old lady taking the seat two rows up.

Before my inherent and ever-present juvenile male instincts could take over, I thought, "Ah, there must be another seat further back. No way do I get to sit next to a beautiful Chinese lady." When said lady comes up to where I'm sitting, stows her bag in the overhead bin and sits down next to me.

Of course, I say nothing. I am flabbergasted and amazed at my sheer luck in getting to sit next to this fine example of feminine pulchritude. She says hello, I say hello. Then she asks me where I am bound, I tell her New England, going home on emergency leave.

[Good one Sarge, play the sympathy card. - Hey, I was single at the time!]

She says oh, that's too bad. Then she informs me that she is traveling to Chicago to attend a symposium on nuclear physics. Somewhat smugly I ask, "So. You're a nuclear physicist?"

"Yes, I am."

[Ah, now I get it. "Yes, ma'am, I'm an astronaut." Taking advantage of a gullible senior citizen, now the hot Chinese girl, taking me for a rube, claims to be a nuclear physicist. I get it. Well played Fate. Well played.]

Before she settled back to read her book, which was similar to this -

She asked, "What do you do in the Air Force?"

"Uh, I work on the radar on the F-4 Phantom..."

"Wow, that's a cool job!" say the lovely lady.

For the remainder of the flight I tired not to drool on myself, scratch like the primate I am, and refrain from such bon mots as "Well golly gee miss, you shore are purty..."

That was a long flight to Chicago. Scenery though was magnificent. If somewhat out of my league.

True story. For the most part.

And The Missus Herself is far lovelier than that Chinese lady was. And yes, way out of my league. I got lucky.

Just wanted to put that on the record...

* Civilians and I?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Expensive Weekend

(Sources L to R: 1 2 3)
Three day weekend, two of the grandkids and the DIL visiting, what could possibly go wrong? That's pretty much what was running through my head on the drive home after work last Thursday night. Well...

"Hi honey, my 'Maintenance Required' light came on in the car today." said the love of my life.

"Wow, did you..."

"I have an appointment to get that checked Friday afternoon at two."

"Ah, alrighty then."

On Friday afternoon, The Missus Herself informed me that the maintenance light was for an oil change. (And you didn't know when your oil was supposed to be changed, because... - I thought to myself, of course. Though I can be brave, I ain't suicidal.)

"Oh yeah, my brakes are damned near shot so I'm taking the car back tomorrow to get those fixed."

Okay, the car has the original brakes, it's like five years old, less than 20K miles, but yeah, okay, it's one of those things that have to be done periodically. Better keep it maintained than ask the question, "Hhmm, why am I not stopping and what is that loud squealing noise?"

Then, I am informed by the distaff side of the household that I will be putting in the downstairs air conditioner on Saturday.

"Um, remember what I said last year? We need a new one, the old one won't stay in the window as the rail on top is busted."

"So we'll buy a new one after we drop my car off to get the brakes fixed."

"Oh that's right, I forgot, air conditioners are free this year."

Okay, sometimes brave, not suicidal, but I am sometimes stupid and say things which earn me, "The Look." Yes, that just now was one of those times.


Thoroughly chastened I agreed that we should go buy an air conditioner on Saturday.

We dropped the car off (it being Saturday on this timeline) and headed west to Best Buy for to purchase a window air conditioner. Only to discover that the main road (Route 6 for those with a map handy) between Swansea and Seekonk is closed*. So after spending rather a long time exploring the back roads on the way to Best Buy, we arrived at our destination and found that air conditioners were to be had for a fairly reasonable fee. (Though most assuredly not free.)

We purchased said item and headed home (her car not ready yet, so we did not retrace our steps searching for the Northwest Passage). We got home, had a chance to catch our breath and then got the call that "your car is ready."

So far, (for those wondering where the post title comes from) - roughly a hundred bucks for the oil change, 350 for the air conditioner, 700 for the brake job, for those who are arithmetically challenged, that's one-thousand, one hundred and fifty simoleons laid out and Saturday ain't quite done yet.

We get home and I settle in to write Sunday's post...

"Honey, my cell phone isn't working."

I check, the battery is gone, well, it's still inside the unit, but it has joined the choir invisible, it has gone to its reward in battery heaven, it's pushing up the daisies, bereft of life it lies there...

In other words, it's an "ex-battery." (With apologies to the Pythons and their dead parrot sketch - "Beautiful plumage...")

The Missus Herself informs me that the battery has refused to hold a charge for more than a couple of hours over the past couple of days and...

"So, did you think to inform me of this? Did you perhaps think that the cell phone, if allowed to get plenty of bed rest, would get better? Did you think..."

Okay, perhaps I am a bit suicidal, definitely lacking in common sense, and perhaps just a bit deranged. But I digress.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that all of her photos on the phone are now, more than likely, unrecoverable. No power, no memory access and ... (WARNING, language alert) -

Sunday we were off to the AT&T store. There the sehr hübsche Vicki helped my wife get into a new phone.

"Which one should I get honey?"

Looking at the selection, I was sore tempted to say "This flip phone looks nice." but I am perhaps not suicidal at all.

"Did you like your Android?"

"Yes, I did."

Pointing to the latest model I suggested she get that one. Pricey? Yes. Wife happy? Well...

"So can you transfer my pictures and contacts from my old phone to my new one."

Tossing a look at me, as if to suggest "you bastard, you didn't tell her, did you," the lovely Miss Vicki told my wife that her old phone was gone, passed away, ne'er to activate no more, etc., etc. In short, photos, all gone. Contacts, all gone. Videos, all gone.

My comment that we would give her old phone a nice Viking funeral out on the Bay was met with stone silence from both females present. I sensed that young Vicki was now allied with The Missus Herself and that I should just strike my colors and throw myself upon the mercy of the court. (Hey, I can mix metaphors if I want. It's my blog innit?)

So, add the 800 bucks spread over the next cuppla years to the 1150 spent earlier in the weekend, and we're close to two grand in expenditures over the weekend. Fifty dollars shy of two grand for those keeping track.

So yeah, I dropped 30 bucks on a computer game as well. Hey, in for a penny, in for a pound.

Expensive weekend indeed.

But I had fun. How 'bout you?

* Some yahoo had crashed into a light pole, killing power to a big chunk of the area. Fortunately not Best Buy. Their power was restored an hour before we got there.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sonny! I KNOW what that is!

At the time you are reading this, I will be traveling "North to Alaska".

Yep! It hit 100o this past week (in Texas) with a "feels like" of 107.  I'm outta here!  Fly into Anchorage, Train up to Denali, Train back down to Seward, board the Celebrity Millenium and sail on down to Vancouver.
So,  given that Sarge won't grant me dispensation from posting on Christmas Day.

Good likeness of Sarge there on the left, Me?  I haven't had that much hair since High School..
(C'mon, you KNEW that was going to come back and bite you when you posted it, right?)
I knew better than to ask off for something as inconsequential as a vacation.

So, I was doing a bit of research on the Tube of You for something to post about and found something that reminded me of a story.

Wait for it........

So.....There I was*

I'm an IP at Holloman flying the mighty AT-38 instructing newbie Fighter Pilot wannabes in the basics of flying a fighter.  It's a good assignment and I'm pretty sure I learned more about employing a fighter than I taught.  There were some excellent Fighter Pilots instructing there.

But, I digress.

Flying time was plentiful in the waning days of Reagan's first term.  10 sorties a week was pretty much normal, 15 wasn't unusual.  Cross Countries were available for the asking.  We also were tasked to deploy to other bases and provide adversary air for aircraft on those bases.  Those were always fun.

We also deployed for static displays at various Air Shows around the country.  It was this duty I was performing when this story occurred.

I had flown single ship, single pilot down to Tyndall AFB, Panama City, Florida for an Open House the Wing there was hosting. Normally, this would have been two aircraft and two pilots as we were tasked by TAC headquarters to provide an airplane for the show, and since "two is one, and one is none" applies to all forms of weapons, two aircraft were scheduled.  

Since we were flying so much on our training schedule, only two pilots could be spared.

Unfortunately,  the other jet developed a problem and had to abort.  

So,  I'm free!  Flying a jet, by myself, with nobody around me to watch.

Yes, there might have been a bit of inverted flight as I initiated a descent.


I arrive at Tyndall the afternoon before the Open House and get briefed on what I needed to do during the festivities.  Basically, I was to stand by my jet and answer any questions any spectator might have.

For about 8 hours.  Which made me wish the other guy hadn't aborted.

So, I'm standing there in the hot Florida sun, on the concrete, answering questions.

"How fast will it go?"

" About 1.2 times the speed of sound."

  "How fast is that?"

" About 800MPH.'

  "HOOOIE, that's fast!"  

'Yes, yes it is.'

Rinse, repeat, over and over and over and over......

When all of a sudden an older lady walks up,  Very Southern, Very Old, Very Old Southern Lady.

"Sonny, What kind of flyin' machine is this?"

"Ma'am, this is an AT-38"

"What does it do?"

"I train new Fighter Pilots with it"

"Sonny, don't you be funnin' me!"


"This here's a new clear bomber!"

Pause to translate.


"This here's a new clear bomber!"

"No Ma'am, it does have the capability to carry practice bombs, but not nuclear weapons."

"Sonny, I know what that is!"

She points under the belly of the aircraft.

"That's a new clear bomb!"

No, that's not a new clear bomb underneath.

I had no wish to be rude, so I stifled the retort and laugh that was on the verge of busting out of my mouth.

"Ma'am, that's not a nuclear weapon, that's a baggage pod."

"Sonny, don't lie to me, I know what it is!"

This goes on for a few more rounds.

Finally, I say "Ma'am, that's where I put my dirty clothes for the trip home!"

"Oh! .... Well, that makes sense! "  and walks off.

I turn around still trying to stifle a laugh and come face to face with the Tyndall Air Division Commander, then Brigadier General, Charles A. Horner.  I quickly come to attention and salute, He returns it and glances over my shoulder to determine the lady is out of hearing range and lets out a loud guffaw.

"Capt. juvat, it's good to see you again! You handled that situation very diplomatically."  

Several years before,I had flown one sortie on his wing as an F-4 student pilot when he was the Wing King at Luke.  I don't remember anything out of the ordinary happening on that sortie that would have caused him to remember me, but he did.

He went on, of course, to be the Air Component Commander for Desert Storm, then commanded NORAD as a 4-star before retiring.

That was back in the day when the Air Force had leadership!

I have a posting ready to scramble if needed that features General Horner.  My intention however is to post from the Cruise Ship to see if free unlimited wireless is indeed unlimited.  You'll see if it is this time next Monday.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


The view for part of my daily commute.
I'm taking a break from my NATO series. Sometimes a series can be taxing for the reader (no, not another NATO post) and sometimes taxing for the writer (have I told that story before, better go look). Variety is indeed, the spice of life. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

So, I've been working these odd hours, roughly noon to nine in the evening as after five is the best time to get access to the equipment we need. The day shift guys are doing things of a higher priority and it is, after all, their equipment. It's no use trying to get everyone in there at the same time as sometimes what we want to do screws up their testing. So we improvise, we adapt, we overcome. (With apologies to Gunny Highway.)

I suggested the classic second shift (swings we called it back in the day) starting at 1500 and running to midnight, but some of the team are still young and have lives. I'm old and decrepit, it's just me, The Missus Herself, and the two cats. So I can pretty much work any shift. The cats and the wife really don't mind. As long as I keep getting paid, we're all happy.

Anyhoo. Over the last couple of months the state has been performing some much needed maintenance on the Mount Hope Bridge which runs between Bristol (where I live) and Portsmouth (where I work). So from time to time traffic is one way and we motorists have a few moments to contemplate life and take pictures (like that one above).

Here's the bridge as seen in Google Earth (a thing I love to play with, in case you're interested) -

Bristol at the top, Portsmouth at the bottom. Google Earth
During the summer it's a joy to live in this area (even with the bridge work), for the most part it ain't that shabby in the winter either. Sure, it gets a little cold from time to time and we see some snow now and again. But it's relatively mild compared to what I grew up with in Vermont, experienced in Korea, Colorado, and Nebraska. Not bad at all, all things considered.

Yes, the politics in this state are a bit further left than I care for but the screaming hotbed of progressivism is more towards Providence, which I avoid like the plague. For that matter, most of that crap is only seen on the news and in the papers (those which still exist). It's not something one sees day to day. We avoid politics at work, though there are a fair number of conservatives where I work, defense industry, go figure, so many of us are of like mind, so to speak.

Speaking of Google Earth, when I loaded it up earlier, I was presented with this -

Google Earth
Obviously I didn't have to wait quite that long for it to load. (ICSFTH)

So life goes on, I have my health, two of the grands are in town and The Nuke and her beau (along with the grand-dogs) will be in town for the Fourth. Things are good.

One thing I should mention about Little Rhody, there are a crap ton of decent restaurants in the area and they are open year round (southern coastal Maine has a lot too, but many of them close in the winter). Places where you can get this -

I do like a good porter and Aidan's is a superb Irish pub. The beer menu and that sign on the back wall tell the story pretty well. Okay, the food is good too, the bangers and mash, the fish and chips, I'd match them against any other place. No, really. You haven't really lived until you've had their 14 ounce sirloin with Irish whiskey gravy. It tastes as good as it sounds!

So, enjoy your Sunday, I shall be relaxing and enjoying life.

Not a bad view to have when you're stuck in traffic!

Yup, life is good down by the pond...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Until the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead...

USS Fitzgerald, DDG-62
Unless you've been living under a rock, or have been off-planet, for the last week or so, you probably know of the incident where a civilian ship collided with the Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, USS Fitzgerald. Resulting in the loss of seven sailors of our Navy. (You can read about one of the latest reports on the incident here.)

I often tell folks not to fret about the future of this great nation of ours. When we have kids out there in the fleet like these, I am confident that somehow, we'll be alright. (I call them kids because I'm ancient, not to imply that they're children, they most assuredly are not.)

They were a cross-section of the good guys out there, in the Fleet, the Army, the Marines, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard. They're the kids down the street helping out an elderly neighbor, they're the kids studying hard to make something of themselves, to contribute to society. There are more of them than there are the asshats the MSM likes to celebrate. But I digress.

I test combat systems, Navy combat systems. While in our computer lab the other night, I looked up to see what one member of our team had put into the scenario we were running, that's when I see the symbol for a friendly surface track, with the label DDG-62. Gave me pause that did. When I brought that to the attention of the team, yeah, moment of silence time.

I haven't posted on this yet, don't know why. That incident in the lab was, to me at any rate, a sign that perhaps I should. Friday I started looking into the details behind the story. Who was the ship named after for instance. Well, let's call this sign number two -
USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), named for United States Navy officer Lieutenant William Charles Fitzgerald, is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the US Navy. W
William "Bill" C. Fitzgerald (January 28, 1938 – August 7, 1967) was a United States Navy officer who was killed in action during the Vietnam War, while serving as an advisor to the Republic of Vietnam Navy. He received the Navy Cross posthumously for his role in fighting off a Viet Cong attack. W
As for sign number two, LT Fitzgerald was a fellow Vermonter...
Fitzgerald was born in Montpelier, Vermont, the second child and first son of Louis and Mildred Mary Fitzgerald. His father was a career Navy man who retired as a Chief Petty Officer. Fitzgerald grew up in the local area and graduated from Montpelier High School in June 1956.

Following graduation, he followed in his father's footsteps and enlisted in the United States Navy. As an enlisted sailor, Fitzgerald served on USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823), USS Hugh Purvis, and USS Gearing. Fitzgerald also served with Utility Squadron Six at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, while working on the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) program.
I recommend that you read more about LT Fitzgerald here, seems the Naval Academy does not forget it's graduates who distinguish themselves.

Here's a fellow you should know, and remember: Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr. -

There are a lot of stories floating around out there about his actions during and after the collision aboard "The Fightin' Fitz," if even half of them are true, FC1 Rehm deserves this -
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal
Extract from SECNAV INSTRUCTION 1650.1H -

FC1 Rehm sounds like my kind of guy. A petty officer devoted to the Navy, the mission, and the sailors he was responsible for. "His kids," as he called them. The kids he died trying to save. Dear God, where do we get such men?

That's this old sergeant's two cents. For what it's worth.

Fair winds and following seas men, Rest In Peace -

  • Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia
  • Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California
  • Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut
  • Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
  • Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California
  • Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland
  • Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio.
You will be missed...

I will hold you in my heart. Forever.

Friday, June 23, 2017

NATO - Part III, Essen und Trinken

 The Humble Brötchen (Source)
I cannot think of my NATO assignment without remembering the gustatory delights of wonderful Deutschland. Which vary from region to region, so I can only speak for Nordrhein-Westfalen, which is where we lived. But the beer, the wine, the pork, the sandwiches...

Eh, sandwiches?

Well, in the Rheinland a belegtes Brötchen is when you take one of those delicious rolls and put stuff on it, a belegtes Brötchen translates to "occupied little bread." In reality Brötchen is the word used by Rhinelanders to describe a bread roll, other regions of Germany have different terms for it. (And that's something I just learned.)

Now in the comments the other day one of my old comrades-in-arms mentioned the Brötchen Bar in our wing. For a nominal fee, you got your Brötchen, you spilt it, buttered it up, then applied cold cuts and cheese. And that was breakfast for me during the week for seven plus years. The bread rolls were delicious, the cheese was superb, and the cold cuts sublime. I am almost drooling as I write this. Check that, I am drooling.

So that was breakfast. Around 1000, the Germans introduced me to something else which at the time they said most of the other Amis didn't care for - espresso. We had out very own wing espresso machine, not a cheap one either. So belegtes Brötchen for breakfast, then espresso at 1000. Most excellent.

Now for lunch I'd wander up to what was called the NATEX, which was the NATO Exchange, which in reality was the Canadian Exchange, what the military folks in the Great White Up would call the CANEX. (Which we humble Yanks call, variously, the Post/Base Exchange, PX/BX or the Navy Exchange, depending on what service you're in. Note that the PX/BX are the same outfit whereas the Navy Exchange is a different organization. I know, it can be confusing.) Before I forget, the NATEX had two shops on base, one for clothing, jewelry and the like, the other for food.

Anyhoo, for lunch I hit the NATEX (the food one of course) to get my ready-cooked, garlic-roasted bratwurst. Two to a package which I would take back to my office and eat with a healthy portion of Löwen-Senf, literally "lion mustard," this stuff -

And yes, make mine Extra scharf - extra sharp. Rather spicy! The first time I tried that on my bratwurst, one of my German colleagues thought I had used rather too much, warning me that it was "very hot." I assured him I would be fine. Later on that year he tried kimchi and then understood why I relished that German mustard. (Yes, that's me trying to be punny.)

Another favorite of mine was schnitzel. Now, like many northeastern Americans, all I knew of schnitzel was what I got from Hogan's Heroes. Which, you might gather, wasn't a lot. Now Wienerschnitzel was about all I knew. That type of schnitzel is a breaded veal cutlet which came from Vienna (Wien) originally. I don't care for that at all. Your more traditional German schnitzel is technically called Schweineschnitzel, which is a breaded pork cutlet. Now in both types the meat is pounded to tenderize it. The beauty of schnitzel is not in the meat itself but what you put on top of it.

My favorites were schnitzel mit champignon (schnitzel with mushrooms), Zigeunerschnitzel (Gypsy schnitzel which has a tomato based sauce with spices, primarily paprika), and Jägerschnitzel (Hunter schnitzel, another one topped with mushrooms but in a brown gravy). All three are most delicious and are best eaten with one (or more) of these -

Bitburger is a most delightful pilsner beer brewed in Bitburg, Germany. Which wasn't all that far from where we lived. (Okay, it was two hours and you had to drive through the Netherlands and Belgium to get there via the fastest route. But it takes you through the Ardennes, lovely country that.)

Of course, I also liked this one -

And this one -
It's Dutch, but the Nederlanders make an excellent brew. Seems we always had this one after our softball games (if you struck out, you owed the team a case at the next game). I got a kick out of the porcelain bottle caps, yes, I said porcelain. And for fun, plug "Grolsch" into Google Translate, which you'll have to tell it that it's Dutch, and hit the speaker button. The Dutch really make a show out of the letter "G." You'll see. Or rather hear.

So let me see, Brötchen, schnitzel, beer, bratwurst...

What else, what else? Ah yes, the frites! Which is the French word for "fries," as in French fries. The Germans called them that as well. One thing The Missus Herself learned was never order "French fries" in Belgium. Dude was quite irate, claiming he only sold "Belgian fries." Oddly enough, that was at a food stand at the battlefield of Waterloo. Which I visited once or twice. (And not every damn year as The Missus Herself claims, there were a couple of years she didn't go. Out of seven...)

To truly enjoy frites gotta have 'em with a sauce of some sort. Mayo is liked by some, but there are others. Most Belgian food vendors had a variety of sauces. All of 'em pretty tasty. Not that I tried all of them. Most? Maybe?

As I was poking around for other memories of Germany, I "stumbled" across a post I wrote back in January of 2016, titled, appropriately enough, Speaking of Wine. Which was another tale of NATO in the waning years of the 20th Century. Sadly enough, one of the "crying Scots ladies" in that post, a very dear friend and wonderful person has passed on since I wrote that post. Here's to you Marion, I'll never forget you, you were a fine lass.

One last thing, something which a bear pointed out, um, okay "a bear," which is his nom de web I guess you'd say...

NATO, of course, stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whereas OTAN, it's mirror image, is the French version, Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord, and yes, French has a few extra words in it, but ODTDLN just looks wrong. Doesn't it?

Um, where do you see NATO/OTAN Sarge? (The first post in the series, but here's another photo.)

Though it's late, as I write this, not, perhaps, as you read it, I am sore tempted to go find me some brats and beer. I am feeling a mite peckish all of a sudden. While I do that, watch this refueling video, that's one of our NATO birds.

I'll bet that a few flight suits (on both aircraft) needed laundering after that little episode. (Wouldn't be surprised if that pilot lost his air refueling qual as well!)

(Note, although the video title refers to that jet as an E-8 AWACS, um no, it's an E-3A. I spent over seven years around those big jets, almost as many as I spent around the Phantom, so I guess I'd know.)

With a tip of the hat to my old comrade-in-arms Bob. Bill, another old AF sarge, also chimed in with his memories of the Brötchen Bar. Two of the good old boys from GK.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NATO - Part II

The flightline at NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen (Source)
So, we're now in Germany at NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen. At the time we had 18 E-3A Sentry aircraft assigned, all registered in Luxembourg, so of course we would sometimes refer to ourselves as the Luxembourger Air Force. In that lead in photo the light gray aircraft furthest from the camera are the NATO birds. The two aircraft in the foreground are USAF KC-135 tankers. We used them a lot when the unpleasantness in the Balkans was going on. The NATO birds maintained round-the-clock surveillance of that area.

So, I've arrived and met my replacement. Here's what he produced, once a week -

"Um, what is this exactly?" I asked of my successor.

"Well, this pie chart shows that for the total number of computer starts last week, the green were the successful ones, and the yellow..."

"Uh, is this for one aircraft?"

"No, the whole fleet."

"This is for the whole week?"


"Alrighty then..."

Then the old E-6 took me to where he stored the handwritten logs of the aircraft computer operators. Those were in a sealed manila envelope, in a safe, along with the print outs of any significant events which occurred during the flight.

Seems that these logs would come in the day after the flight, and our old E-6 would collect them, go to the computer room and enter the flight number and whether or not there were any restarts, either when first loading the computer or during the flight. These events were logged by the operator.

I don't think he ever looked at the printouts. Which, I later discovered, contained a wealth of information. His job, the one I was rushed to Germany to perform, having to fly on New Year's Day mind you, took him all of two hours each day.

"So what do you do the rest of the day?" I queried.

"Whatever I want." Was his answer.

"Alrighty then..."

Seems the pie chart was printed out, marked "UNCLASSIFIED" and then sent to the Operations Wing, the Training Wing, and a copy was filed in our wing admin. (I was in the Software Support Wing, IIRC, later the name was changed to the Mission Support Wing.) Then all those print outs and hand written logs were shredded. On this rinky-dink shredder which would jam if you fed it too much paper. Not a problem when there were only a few logs each week. A very big problem when we were flying missions over the Balkans later on. But I will speak of that shredder, and the Balkans, in a later post.(POCIR)

So yeah, it took about ten minutes to learn that job. The rest of the time I was getting to know my co-workers.

Now I worked directly for a Canadian Air Force captain, René, most of the other guys were German, though there were also two Italians in our office, one civilian, Adolfo, the other military, Felice, from Sicily. The boss was an American major, one of the best bosses I've ever worked for. The division chief was a Canadian lieutenant colonel and the wing commander was a Norwegian colonel. Now that was the operational side of things.

We also had our American administrative chain, we had a senior enlisted guy, and an American lieutenant colonel. While they had NATO jobs, they also took care of the American things which NATO didn't really care about. Like yearly evaluations, promotion testing, golden flow, weight checks, PT, and the various and sundry other things which were meant to keep us all healthy, wealthy, and wise. Well, not so much wealthy or wise, but I digress.

Now the whole shooting match on the base consisted of a number of squadrons on the flying side, which fell under the Operations Wing, the Training Wing handled flight and ground (non-flying) training, and a NATO clinic for the Europeans. We, being Americans are, apparently, built different so...

Being Americans we had to have our very own medical clinic, probably so the medical types could have a cool assignment in Germany which didn't involve the giant base at Ramstein, or the two fighter bases at Bitburg and Spangdahlem. NATO was special, we didn't belong to USAFE (United States Air Force in Europe, the acronym is officially pronounced "You-Safe-Ee," I always called it "You-Safe." It's that pedant thing again.) and we didn't have to play any silly USAFE games. Though there were some silly NATO games, they weren't as anal as the USAFE games tended to be. (And by games I mean operational exercises to test readiness and the like. In PACAF they were called ORIs - Operational Readiness Inspections - which for we enlisted involved a lot of mopping and waxing of floors and doing last minute training that we were supposed to know but only did if an ORI was coming.)

We also had two, count them, two American squadrons, with two, count them, two lieutenant commanders for to command the two, count them, two squadrons. I never did figure out why we had two, eventually somehow higher up the food chain asked the same question and we were reduced to one. I mean it takes time but eventually the Air Force does fix things. Well, they used to, I'm not so sure these days.

At any rate, being in NATO was excellent. Other than this job I had. Which, while not very taxing, seemed a poor excuse to send me to Germany. But, I was in Germany so I definitely had that going for me!

After the old E-6 retired and returned Stateside, I sat down with Johannes to bounce a few ideas off of him to make my job more useful and productive of something other than a pie chart. Which I had discovered our wing would file away, all the other wings would throw it away. Useless drivel that it was.

Well, over time Johannes and I created a system on a PC, unclassified data only, where we tracked which computer operators flew on which aircraft. Which operators took more than once to load up and boot the computer. Everything was on magnetic tape. Yes, we discovered, through talking with the operators, that sometimes the first tape they tried didn't work, though the second usually did the trick. I think they carried three on each flight, yes, sometimes they went through all of them. If they couldn't get the computer to load, it was a mission abort. That big radar dish on the bird's back was no good without the software to drive it.

So Johannes and I came up with a plan, our boss Major Fraker (a most excellent female officer, one of the best officers I had ever the privilege to work for) said, "do it" and we got things rolling. After a couple of weeks we were entering data into our PC and getting interesting results. Things like,
  1. Tapes with a certain lot number never worked.
  2. Certain operators just did not have the knack of getting the tape hung right the first time.
  3. Certain of the aircraft had bad tape drives.
  4. Some of the operators had their own "method" of loading the tape and booting the computer, and yes, you're right, it was unauthorized and didn't work.
When the initial report went out, folks started noticing. Some of the operators would come by and share their insights and problems they were having. That bad lot of tapes, yup, they were dumped.

The maintenance guys also liked the new report. It helped them pinpoint problems with the aircraft computer. They too had suggestions for data to be captured and how to present it.

No one missed the pie chart. No one. In fact, no one ever remarked "whatever happened to those pie charts we used to get?" The word got out, soon nearly every organization on the base who dealt with flight ops wanted a copy. They too had suggestions as to how to improve the report.

Johannes and I also automated the process of generating the report. Our wing's secretary had mentioned that we had made more work for her, though she meant it jokingly, we took it to heart and wrote a simple program which generated the entire report with the "press" of one button. (Not an actual physical button but a software button.) The secretary (a lovely English lady named Moira, with whom I am still friends) was overjoyed. She mentioned that she had been kidding about the extra work, now she joked, "if the colonel sees this I might be out of a job!" (We made sure the colonel knew that Moira had to make sure the report was formatted correctly, made sure that he signed it, and made the necessary copies, collating and stapling same, and then distributing them to the right people. She really did have to do that, printers back then were not what they are today.)

So that's how I made myself useful in Germany for the first four years I was there. The last three were different but interesting, perhaps only from a software wienie's perspective, but that's what I was part of the time. The rest of the time I was doing data entry and then analyzing the results. I even provided ad hoc query services for one of the maintenance guys, a Belgian chap who wanted to make sure that the air crews had the most reliable systems possible. The man had all sorts of interesting angles to look at problems. A brilliant dude and a joy to work with.

Most of my tour in Germany was like that.

Next time, which may or may not be tomorrow, depending on my mood and what I want to write about, I'll get into the social scene in Germany. The wing had a touring committee who came up with all sorts of bus trips, for very reasonable prices. A four day weekend in Paris was the first we went on, I can't remember how many trips we made to the Mosel River wine country in Germany. For one thing there were a lot of them, for another, well, we drank a lot of wine on those trips.

But that's a story for another time. I'm off to bed, having just completed my latest late shift. (Which for you was last night, but which for me is right now. Time travel, neh?)

The town of Cochem, as seen from the Mosel River. Yeah, Germany, from my perspective, was all castles, wine, and beer, oh and schnitzel, mustn't forget the schnitzel. All of which I will regale you with at a later date. (Source)