A longish and somewhat exhausting morning – this the day that my social security is paid into my bank account – (Yes, I collect it, having put into it for all those working years since the age of 16, and having no more patience for working full-time for other people) so we went up to New Braunfels for the semi-monthly purchase of meats and sausage at Granzins, then a little farther to the new super-HEB for assorted groceries, and then a loop around to Tractor Supply for flea spray, drops and collars for the critters. Who are all afflicted with the summertime plague of fleas, and the most seriously effective yet most reasonably-priced remedies are all available at Tractor Supply, including a carpet/surface spray which has a strong yet pleasing odor of citronella and only seems to be available at Tractor Supply. I wish that I drove a pickup truck – I wouldn’t feel like such a townie, pulling into the parking lot there. I might even pull on those vintage Ariat boots that I bought at a charity thrift shop a couple of years ago.

Anyway, loaded up at Granzins on chicken breasts, quarters, a small steak (which is my monthly treat) and some of their divine locally-made sausage, which makes a splendid main dish when rubbed with a little of Adams Reserve Steakhouse Rub, spritzed with a bit of olive oil and then baked until done. At the super-HEB, a 7 ½ pound pork tenderloin at a good price, to be chopped into roasts and boneless chops … and when returned home, an hour of time with the vacuum sealer, packaging it all up for the freezer – set with meat options for supper for the next month or maybe even longer. Look – we flirt with tasty vegan options at least one night a week, but that’s just for the variety of it. Otherwise, we are unashamed carnivores.
Part of the journey to New Braunfels involved a fitting … for a costume to be worn at a book-launch party in Seguin late next month by one of three – the author and my daughter Blondie to be the other two. I committed, in a moment of weakness and affectionate friendship for another author, to sew frontier ‘soiled dove’ outfits for the launch party bash. Easy enough – a white cotton shift, a flashy skirt with lace trim, and a fitted and laced bodice. The skirts and the shift are simple enough, the laced bodice must be fitted to each individual; the pattern is one I am not happy with, since I will have to add some extra lacing to the back of the bodice to ensure that the shoulder portion will not be slipping down … eh, the outfits will be marvelous when I have completed them.

Tuesday mid-day was likewise consumed by a necessary errand – to the cardiologist at BAMC for the yearly check-up. Yes, I seem to have developed a noticeable heart murmur in the last couple of years. Such was was noted when I was in my twenties, but was written off to a) pregnancy, b) a doctor doing research who apparently wanted to find such in healthy young adults for the purpose of generating a research report, and c) a bout of viral myocarditis discovered during a routine physical required when I was putting together an application for an officer commission – a condition which eventually healed on its’ own, although at the time it scared the bejesus out of my supervisors, my parents and the hospital administrators at the Misawa AB hospital. The comforting thing in the current iteration is that it doesn’t appear to have gotten any worse since being first observed. EKG – same as last year. Sound of it all – same as last year. Barely over the line for concern, according to the cardiologist. Hardly rating any concern, considering the appearances of other patients in the waiting area of the cardiology clinic – yeah, the full collection of canes, walkers, and wheel-chairs. Look – we all die of something. A dicky ticker over the next two or three decades appears to be my fate. I’m OK with that, considering some of the other alternatives.

I was skimming through the various stories about the late President Bush the First this week, especially one about how he and Barbara were so considerate of and beloved by the Security Service agents who guarded them. It was kind of sweet, the account of a peckish agent going through the White House kitchen in the wee hours, looking for the cookies that he knew that the stewards of the kitchen had baked for the next day … and being joined by Bush the First, in ransacking the kitchen in search of the elusive cookies. That Bush the First and Barbara were loved and respected by the agents whose mission I can attest to at second hand. One of the Air Force security service NCOs I served with in Korea had just come off an assignment at the White House protection detachment. He adored Barbara, BTW – to hear him tell it, he was one of her favorite agents. She called him “Timmy”, which was kind of cute, as he was one of these six-foot-something guys and built like a concrete traffic bollard; probably Barbara was the only one aside from his mother who called him by that name.

The Bushes – the first and second – made a point of staying in Washington over Christmas Eve, so that their staff and security teams could spend Christmas with their families. Think on that – as I have. More than times I have to count, I spent holidays on duty – many of them having to listen to news and feature stories about how the day was a time to celebrate with family and loved ones, enjoying a lavish meal and relaxing; this when I was alone at midnight in a dark building, ripping teletype copy off the machine, re-shelving records in the library, and wondering if I would have time to eat a ham sandwich while I typed up spots for the reader book with one hand. That the Bushes held off on traveling out of town in order that their staffs could have a nice Christmas at home with their families, instead of jetting off for two or three weeks over the holidays, bag, baggage, staff and security to … someplace else; that was considerate, above and beyond.

I saw this as an acknowledgement that other people, especially those lower on the power totem pole – their private lives, their families and all, had purpose and value, to which decent folk in a position of power, ought to acknowledge. It was very old-school of the senior Bushes; and quite a contrast to the Obamas, who went swanning off to Hawaii for their Christmas holidays, and having a meet-n-greet for Marines and their families on Christmas morning. I suppose that the Marines and their families may have been flattered and thrilled to be so honored … but still. Christmas morning, having to be on hand hours before, the active duty troops likely having been up to all hours ensuring that everything was ship-shape. Spouses and small children taken from their family time and space on a holiday morning. My daughter still wonders how many of those appearing in the pictures taken of those various events were “volentold” : Their presence was required. For the photo-op. On Christmas morning.

I suppose that some of those present would have been OK, would have been there; because, President of the USA! Personal appearance, deigning to appear among the working stiffs, at the pointy end of the spear … but still. Christmas morning. Military – but can’t there be private time with the family carved out? So, I felt kind of sorry for the troops and their families, put on the spot during what should have been private, family, at-home time.

That led tangentially to another thought – about how certain politicians and activists, who make a big show about how much they care for humanity, or the downtrodden minorities, or women – or whomever – are in their personal sphere rude and abusive to their families, employees, or even just those casually encountered. Ted Kennedy, after all – was the darling of Establishment Feminists. In real life he was a drunken an abusive pig towards say, ordinary working-class women like waitresses. Yet someone like Mitt Romney – who likely hasn’t been impolite to a woman of any class in his entire adult life – had the same Feminists raining scorn and outright hatred down upon him. Even though these very same Establishment Feminists have been insisting for decades that the personal is political. How very fortunate that those who talk a good talk and garner credit for having the correct opinions and political stances in the abstract seem to be allowed all kinds of latitude in their real-life conduct … while those who are the epitome of grace and good manners in personal conduct are damned as racists and misogynist haters for not toeing the politically-correct line. Are we, at this late date, effectively calling out any of these hypocrites? Discuss as you will.

For me, the very first – although not the most momentous disappointment in the accumulated collection racked up throughout the Obama administration – was the realization that there would be no line drawn under the old bug-bear of racism with regard to those of us – as a friend of mine during my assignment to Greenland in the early 1980s put it – with the year-round dark tan. Yes, said friend was black, Afro-American, a person of color, or whatever the approved term is these days. (You kids, get off my lawn! Oh … I don’t have a lawn.) My friend was a totally middle-class young woman, the daughter of professionals, who like me, had grown up without ever personally observing much in-your-face unmistakable racial antagonism or prejudice. It was merely something that had happened to other people, a fair number of decades ago; at worst howlingly illegal, at best, rude. We were in the habit of walking together every Saturday, around the end of the Sondrestrom AB runway to the Danish side of the base, there to enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry in the SAS air terminal cafeteria.

North of the Arctic Circle, you take your diversions where you can find them; in this case, the air terminal cafeteria was A) away from the base, and B) actually had rather good food, since it was entirely run by Danes; masters of pastry and good solid comfort food. One Saturday, the cafeteria was empty save for a large party at another table, who stared at the pair of us in a manner most disconcerting. It freaked both of us out, as soon as we noticed. Had we each suddenly grown another head? Were we trailing toilet paper stuck to our mukluks? It wasn’t an American uniform – both of us were clad in the customary Sondy winter mufti, of jeans and plaid shirts, with the addition of dull-green issue parkas and mukluks – why were they staring at us? Finally, I ventured – “Is it because you’re black and I’m white, and they’re from South Africa or something, where it’s illegal to sit at the same table?”

She agreed that it must be something like that; it must have been the only explanation, and we returned to enjoying our tea and pastries, marveling at how things had changed so much for the better, from the times of violent civil rights demonstrations twenty years before.
At that point – and especially in the military – systemic racial prejudice appeared to be something from the bad old days. It was so far off the table, it wasn’t even in the same room. No one turned so much as a hair over a commander, supervisor, NCOIC being of another race, and if racial prejudice were a factor in the dating and marriage scene, it was one of the best-kept secrets since the Enigma coding device. So, twenty-some years after that tea-time in the airport terminal, I had some thin and comforting hope that the election of B. Obama to the highest office in the land would at the least put a dagger in the heart of the myth of the USA being Teh Most Racist Nation Evah! – even if he delivered on nothing else of note. And this, even after the “G*d Damn America” sermon stylings of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright came to light among the conservative side of the blogosphere. I’m at heart an optimist … surely the chances of a light-weight Chicago machine pol, with not much going for him other than a mellifluous voice (when reading from a teleprompter) and a slightly unusual personal background couldn’t do all that much damage … could he?

Ten years later, that answer is along the lines of ‘oh, hell, yes!’ Between the crazed indifference to the actual facts of the various ‘police on black thug’ shootings on the part of BLM (and the statistics on crime by black vs white perps generally), the curious rise of the ‘knock-out game’, an anti-Semitic race-mongering sleaze-ball opportunist like Al Sharpton achieving a comfortable sinecure and apparent social respect among Dems as a media commenter, American institutions of higher learning piously condemning ‘whiteness’, an earnest and involved group of citizens like the Tea Party partisans being routinely condemned by the establishment news and entertainment media as racist … all that is bad enough. But now it seems that Nation of Islam honcho, Louis Farrakhan – vicious, anti-Semitic, poisonously-hateful of whites in general, and all-around nut-bar – was on closer acquaintance with our former President than previously thought. Yes, presidents and rising pols need to rub elbows with those from whom a normal private citizen would otherwise run screaming, or at least murmuring polite apologies as they edge towards the door – but what are we to make of this? Trump is expected to apologize endlessly for having attracted the support of David Duke – but the support of a malignant hater like Calypso Louie is just – oh, well, one of those political things?

Sharpton, at least, gives off the vibe of being a particular sort of crass racial opportunist (aside from the anti-Semitic thing). Stoking racial animosity been berry, berry good to him over the years – but Louis Farrakhan? He comes off as a fanatic, and of a dangerous sort. Discuss, if you can bear it.

18. October 2016 · Comments Off on Dust in the Wind · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Force, General, Home Front, Military

I saw the hungry armies of the men who had no work
I saw the silver ship fly to her doom
I watched the world at war and witnessed brave men go berserk
And saw that death was both the bride and groom
I watched Bikini atoll turn from coral into dust
At Dealy Plaza worlds came to an end
And swirling winds of time blew as the Soviet went bust
And life is born in stars as some contend
The swirling winds have always blown around man’s aimless trials
And will continue blowing ‘til the stars
Wink out in just a few short eons as the goddess whiles
Away the time in counting kings and tsars
Who think that they control the winds that swirl around their heads
Believing they are mighty as the sword
Not knowing that in blink of eye they’re taken to their beds
The swirling winds of time are oft ignored
Until, like we, the winds becalm and we stand face to face
With zephyrs and Spring breezes at our back
Propelling us toward what it seems is finish of the race
The winds we have but time is what we lack –

Walt Erickson, the poet laureate of Belmont Club, on this particular discussion thread.

So, tempus fugit and all that … dust in the wind, as the pop group Kansas used to sing. That number always reminds me vividly of a certain time and place, a memory which is strictly personal and has no bearing on this post, really … save for reminding me in an oblique way, that as of this month twenty years past, I went on terminal leave from the USAF. As of the end of this year, I have been retired from the military for as many years as I was in it. I can’t claim that I have traveled as far in this last two decades as I did in the two before that … after all, when I went to my high school reunion in 1982, I won the award for having come the farthest to attend the reunion. That was the year I was stationed in Greenland at the time, and the reunion was coincident to my middle-of-tour leave. The two decades past included travel to California to visit family, to Brownsville on client business, to Washington DC/Arlington for a milblogger convention, to Houston once and innumerable road trips to the Hill Country on book business. Dust in the wind, my friends – dust in the wind.
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01. August 2016 · Comments Off on Under Siege · Categories: Air Force, Allied Treachery, Fun With Islam, Military, War

The base at Hellenikon was often under siege and sometimes physically so; before, during and after I was stationed there in the early 1980s; regularly once a year when the local national employees went on strike, and blockaded the front gate, and now and again by anti-US and anti-NATO protesters. Although there was a Greek Air Force installation right next to the American base, there was no passage between the two, unlike the base at Zaragoza, where Spanish and American personnel had pretty much free passage between their respective halves of the facility. In the case of striking workers, or hostile protestors at the main – and only entrance – those of us inside the base were stuck there, while those outside were also cut off. Only one year did it become a problem lasting more than a single day – but it was an inconvenience for us all, and particularly frightening for family members.

And I was remembering all of that, this weekend, reading about how Incirlik Air Base – which also used to be called Adana Air Base – was cut off for about a day this weekend, after having commercial power cut off for nearly a week by Turkish civil authorities, in the wake of an attempted coup against a president who strong-armed himself into office by side-stepping the established rules. Because of the deteriorating situation in Turkey, all family members were ordered out at the end of March, 2016; a NEO evacuation, as it used to be and still is termed, for Non-combatant Evacuation Operation. (I used to have to keep current paperwork for an escort for my daughter, in the case of one of these; she would travel with various friends who would deposit her eventually with my parents, while I would stay behind.) Months before, the military quietly stopped facilitating accompanied tours to Incirlik. Currently, according to the bases’ own website, there are about 1,400 American military personnel serving there, with another 400 civilian employees. The dependent schools, teen center, child care center – all are closed; presumably the various employees of same are either evacuated themselves, or enjoying a nice vacation.

Incirlik’s mission and that of the 39th Air Base Wing is, according to the bases’ website, “to help protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive staging and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based air power.” Part of this mission also includes a store of nuclear weapons. The base website is naturally, non-committal about this aspect of their mission. Even if there aren’t any such weapons in the bomb dump at Incirlik, likely there are all kinds of interesting munitions and weapons. Which is all very good and well – but Turkey’s President Erdogan has been loudly accusing the US – and the former USAF commander of Incirlik – of plotting and assisting with the failed coup. The commander of the Turkish Air Force assets at Incirlik is reported to have asked the US for asylum, which was refused; the man is now under arrest, as part of the purge of Erdogan’s political enemies. I have read here and there that those American military assigned to the base are confined to the base itself; considering Erdogan’s incendiary accusations, probably a wise move.

As for what now – like Will Rogers of blessed memory, all I know is what I read in the newspaper, or on-line at various sites. But the nightmare visioning that woke me up several times this weekend was of a full-on mob attack on Incirlik’s American sector, on the order of the Benghazi consulate writ large, and with even more weapons and determination … and with the tacit encouragement of Erdogan’s government and Islamist allies.
So much for being a NATO ally. And since our State Department did very little in the case of the Benghazi attack, save for blaming it all afterwards on a mysterious video that hardly anyone had heard of … can one count on the DoD being all that proactive in the event of a serious attack on Incirlik AB? Discuss.

12. April 2016 · Comments Off on The Heart of the Matter · Categories: Air Force, Domestic, Home Front, Local

Curious indeed, to reflect that by the end of this year, I will have been out of the Air Force for as long as I was in it – but the time does fly when you are having fun. But twenty years in the Big Blue Machine does leave marks, as well as an exquisite sense of how the military really operates in real time, among the lower-ranking levels, close to the ground. This isn’t a sense readily developed from reading, although I suppose someone with wide experience, a strong sense of empathy and close personal associations with veterans can develop it by proxy.

This around-about way of explaining how all this last weekend, my daughter and I were wondering about a murder-suicide at Lackland AFB on Friday morning. A trainee airman had fatally shot his squadron commander, and then killed himself. Of course, it all came out in dribbles over the weekend; the trainee was an E-6, aged 41 and a student in the pararescue course … and had also resigned from the FBI as a special agent. Everything about this was curious, even unlikely; the Air Force para-rescue specialty is one of the most physically-demanding jobs the Air Force has. It’s comparable to the SEALS, and Army Special Forces, in that many are called, few chosen, and even fewer still graduate.

And an instant promotion to E-5 or E-6, Blondie and I agreed, must mean this man must had been prior service; Marine or Army Ranger, in order to waltz in without going through Air Force basic. But to have dropped from the FBI to enlist … curioser and curioser, Blondie and I agreed – and until today, there was nothing really reported which explained any of this … until I found a story from the L.A. Times. A reporter had actually looked at the anomalies, and reported thusly:

Bellino joined the Army after graduating from high school in 1992, training first as an Army Ranger at Ft. Stewart, Ga., then as a Green Beret at Ft. Bragg, N.C., according to his attorney, Daniel Conway. In 2002, he left the Army and joined the Army National Guard, serving with a special forces unit based in Ohio, according to Conway and military records. During his time in the Army and National Guard, Bellino served multiple tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Kuwait …From 2004 to 2007, Bellino also worked as a civilian contractor with a private security firm, the lawyer said. In 2011, Bellino left the military, went to work as an FBI special agent in the New York office but resigned after less than two years, according to an FBI statement. He then tried to reenlist in the Army or join the Navy, but eventually settled on the Air Force because it involved the least amount of red tape…

To recapitulate; ten years in the Army, then the Army National Guard for nine years, to include three years as a civilian contractor, then a mere two years as an FBI agent … and back to military service, as a trainee among people half his age. I’d venture a speculation that this extremely checkered career is an indication of certain personality traits; traits that made him a very bad team player and a huge problem for commanders and NCOs, all the way along. I’d also speculate that he looked good at first look, every time … but eventually the problem traits surfaced, and it was just less trouble for all involved to let him move on. Discuss.

23. April 2014 · Comments Off on Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines · Categories: Air Force, Fun and Games, History, Technology, That's Entertainment!, Wild Blue Yonder

Just for fun, and because I am thrashing out a review of The Birdmen, for Amazon Vine – a song from a movie about the early days of aviation, which became a British hit…

15. December 2013 · Comments Off on Time Passages · Categories: Air Force, Military, Technology

Sgt Celia copyCuriosity led me to look up the history of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service – from which I parted company about two and a half years before I retired from the military. I found a couple of names I recalled – a guy who was a baby airman when I knew him, now a master-sergeant and instructor at the military broadcaster training school, which amused the hell out of me. Well, someone has to do that – just that I had never seen him as having that potential at all. Frankly, I’m still surprised there still is an Armed Forces Radio and Television, what with the international reach of satellite radio and TV these days. For all of me, the military information mission could be folded up and inserted as needed as public service announcements and segments into regular commercial satellite radio and television programs beamed overseas.

Oh, I had fun for a time with various assignments in my career field, and didn’t bring down any particular discredit on the various outlets I was assigned to, unlike some that I could mention, but the bald truth of it is that it was a dying career field, and moreover, one which had an unenviable reputation for chewing people up and spitting them out. Add in the fact that you were guaranteed to spend long stretches overseas or in remote locations, and any assignments back in CONUS were guaranteed to be very, very short ones … it was only natural that the appeal of working in a in that field would wear thin after a while. I looked around one day, when I had about fifteen years total active federal military service, and realized that every station manager I had ever worked for had cracked up in some spectacular manner, either physically or emotionally. There was the one who tried to commit suicide – twice – the one who barely survived the heart attack and the quadruple bypass which ensued, the one who had to work several outside jobs to keep up with the alimony and child support for all of his ex-wives, a handful who were serious alcoholics, the one who tried to stiff the US government with a false claim on his travel voucher … it went on, and on.

Reflecting on this dismaying tendency, I concluded that it was because of a particular kind of stress inherent in having a management position of the kind that broadcasters did. There was an enormous amount of responsibility, but no hands-on effective control. That, so I was told in several professional development courses that took over the years, was guaranteed to produce a high level of stress. One had to see that certain tasks were performed – there were so many hours of live programming produced by the staff, so many spots and readers, that so many hours of television programming were aired – but the means of ensuring that it all happened were all severely limited. One had to operate within the constraints imposed by the supply chain, the transport chain, the station’s individual technological capabilities, peculiarities of the host nation (some of which – notably Greece – were flat-out insane), the personnel system, plain old human nature, and the fact that most stations were tiny tenant units on a larger base. Throw in the demands of a distant headquarters – whose demands were quite often contradictory when they weren’t nonsensical … a good few years of this would begin to tell on the most able, dedicated NCO.

I didn’t see any of these stressors during my breaks from broadcasting, when I worked in the PA shop, or in the military video production service. I saw excellent managers, high morale, an achievable mission, support from higher HQ and realistic expectations of personnel. I got my very-best performance ratings and service citations during those stretches – which to me merely emphasized the dysfunction in the broadcaster organization. I’d have cross-trained in a heart-beat, if I could have, but the high panjandrums of military broadcasting didn’t allow it; you couldn’t even get out to be a recruiter or a DI, which is usually an all-paid-expenses escape with the blessings of your personnel manager. So, I got out of it the only way possible – by bailing at 20 years and never looking back. So did another NCO that I knew – the finest all around broadcaster, manager and leader that I ever worked with; good at everything, which was rather rare (most people had a strong suit of technical skill, administrative wizardry, or leadership, or a combination of any two) – he didn’t make any higher rank than I did. He went into local politics – he’s a city councilman in Plano, Texas these days. I scribble historical fiction. We both got something out of being military broadcasters for a while, but sometimes I do wonder if any other career field would have done better for us.

07. August 2013 · Comments Off on Counting the Blessings · Categories: AARRRMY TRAINING SIR!!!, Air Force, Fun and Games, Good God, Rant

Among the blessing that is about biggest in my inventory of them – aside from finishing out my final military tour in Texas, which I didn’t much like at the time, since it was third on my list of choices. Dammit, the personnel who dictated broadcaster assignments were supposed to turn themselves inside out, giving retiring broadcasting personnel their first choice of a final assignment location since they could then do things like buy a house and work up local connections to facilitate the post-retirement second career which the customary long stretches of overseas/remote duty tours usually didn’t allow an opportunity to do. It turned out for the best, although I certainly didn’t see it so at the time. The main thing is that not only am I now glad that I am retired and long past being recalled to active duty (like they couldn’t get enough military broadcaster talent that they have to recall a slightly overweight lady of certain age) but I am glad that Blondie is also long past recall. And that she didn’t sign up for Reserve duty, either.

There, I said it. I am glad both of us are no longer on active duty; and I am also glad that the handful of friends that I kept in touch with post-retirement are retired. The hints and portents which have emerged from the military machine over the last year or so do not give cause for assurance; a portion of the tippy-top echelons in the service being forced by convenient circumstance to retire at the top of their game is, I think the most obvious harbinger. God knows how many other of lesser rank, or long-experienced NCOs are also seeing the writing on the wall and walking away. Certainly note won’t be made in individual cases. Military operations in Afghanistan appear to be going about as well as every other historical foreign military operation ever did – and I should like to point out here and now that I never really expected much else, even back in 2003. Keep the money flowing, and a couple of units of Special Forces to thump the obvious Talibunnies when they got too obstreperous, secure Kabul and some of the other population centers, and generally administer to the theater with a very light hand. Let the indigenes sort out their own salvation and keep them from damaging anyone else. Of course, our current administration, not known for any other political and international savvy than it needs to keep the Chicago political machine functioning, thought otherwise. Now there is a steady trickle of metal coffins coming back, to practically no notice in the news media than that in the hometowns of the deceased. (Anyone know if the current president has a private meeting with every family/next of kin to those killed in combat? The usual search engines are … unproductive of answers in this regard.)

Then of course, there is the one-two punch of allowing openly gay personnel to serve also openly and with every prospect of the same benefits and courtesies as the heterosexual, and the ever-green question of permitting women in direct, full-frontal infantry-style combat specialties. Both of these moves by the current administration were immensely popular among that portion of the civilian population which didn’t actually have to deal with realities on the ground as experienced by serving military. Believe me when I tell you this – it’s a great deal more complicated than it appears when discussed in the faculty lounge. Really-oh, truly-oh.

Allow a slightly overweight and defiantly non-combat-specialty retired career AF NCO to provide enlightenment. Firstly, at the grunt-level, my own service and specialty didn’t give a rip about what you did with your significant other in bed, as long as you weren’t doing it in the road, or on the base commander’s front lawn. No, really – we didn’t care all that much. Just – don’t demand rapturous approval of your life-style, which from my own personal observation and the best figures available, only involves about 2-3% of the general population. No, really – a dismayingly large proportion of the public thinks that a quarter to a third of the population are gay, but that’s because they are only so LOUD about it. I don’t know which percentage of that 2-3% are confrontational to the point of hysteria about demanding that the rest of us line up and clap like a gaggle of performing seals – but I suspect there are actually not many, and very few in the active and serving military.

No – some deep dark secret-revealing here; I am about 96% certain that the true reason that the military didn’t go out and embrace the rainbow agenda is that administratively, they barely had a lock on heterosexual harassment; mostly of males doing it to females, but now and again the other way around. It was about as much as they could do to keep the heteros from jumping each other and using upper rank to exploit the lower. The last thing that anyone in authority wanted to see was even more sexual harassment cases on their personal docket – or because the military is still a preponderantly male preserve – to see it turn into something like a state prison, only with snappy uniforms for all, not just the prison guards. A lot of military life is lived in confined quarters, and with a severely authoritarian structure in place. The scope for abuse of the lower-ranking is incredibly wide. Again – turning a large structure inside out and upside down for the benefit of a microscopically small but vocally outsized minority – only a community activist and former college lecturer could think it a good idea, or that there wouldn’t be problems down the line – including morale problems. More about the morale problems later.

As for women-in-combat; back in my day the Air Force was pretty ecumenical about it all. Because it was … the Air Force. Technical and brainy and all that stuff; no very great degree of upper body strength required for most of the AF specialties. After the Vietnam War (say from about the early 1980s), the only Air Force specialty confined to strictly XY Americans in good health and medical fitness for military service was that of para-rescue specialists, and if memory serves, of advance AC controllers and spotters. One required a great deal of upper body strength and a tolerance for dealing with dead bodies in variable states of decay, and the other with Special Forces-degree skills at humping a heavy pack through the brush while avoiding or dealing with hostiles who didn’t have your best interests at heart. Other wise, most of the Air Force military specialties could be performed as easily by women as men. Not so your basic grunt rifleman, although there have been women – especially Marine women who had the basic fitness, were taught the skills and could very well cope with incidental combat when it came their way. But full-time, all the time and round the clock for indefinite periods of time … er – no. This is not to downplay the courage and skills of women who have served as such in the most recent round of wars, especially those who performed heroically when the hot lead was flying; but they are a small percentage and self-selected. In the long run, about all that we can count on is that training standards will be loosened to accommodate women, the guys will resent the hell out of them, and very likely women will die … to prove a point upheld by academics and politicians who will never in a blue moon come anywhere closer to the military than a base open house.

I am also hearing rumblings regarding balancing the rights of atheists with regard to Christians in the military, and frankly I am a little perplexed at that. Looking backwards at my own career, it didn’t seem to me as if believing and practicing Christians of whatever denomination were a big enough percentage of the force to give anyone who wasn’t any kind of heartburn, even overseas. Anecdote is not data – but those of us in the habit of attending weekly services, or going as far as regular Bible study were pretty much in a minority, considered against the non-observant. Making a habit of proselytizing your peers was considered bad form – and frowned on, for one of higher rank to proselytizing those in lower ranks. I did know a couple of atheists or people who claimed to be, and there was one young man whom it was whispered, belonged to a Wiccan coven – which was no sweat off mine, since it meant that he had a social life after all. I suspect that it is the attitude of believing Christians with regard to gays that is driving the sudden upsurge of hostility to the openly devout.

These four things – the purge of the upper ranks, dropping of don’t ask-don’t tell, women in combat specialties, Afghanistan – are all affecting morale in the services, to one degree or another. Morale, in an individual or in a unit of any size, is a delicate thing; hard to build and easily destroyed. I’ve been in units which had good morale and a sense of mission, a leadership cadre whom we trusted and in turn trusted us. I’ve also been in units which didn’t have good morale, where we scraped by from day to day just hoping to escape being made a scapegoat for a leadership-created disaster. At those units, I counted the days until I rotated out. I expect there are a fair number of serving NCOs and officers now doing the same.

(cross-posted at chicagoboyz.net)

(With apologies to the Obama perpetual re-election campaign. Other people have had a go at this concept – I think The Life of Brian is one of the funniest, but I wanted to have a go at this myself. )

3 Years Old – Under President Eisenhower, Celia stays home with her younger brother, as her full-time work-at-home Mom helps her get ready for school by reading aloud to her, supervising her playtime and providing a secure home environment. She will join thousands of students across the country who will start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.

17 Years Old – Under President Nixon, Celia takes the SAT and is on track to begin applying for college … which college program includes two years at a local junior college capped by two years at a state university – a public university system that the taxes paid by Celia’s parents over the years have subsidized. The public high school which Celia attends is in a working-class suburb, but offers academically enriched courses for those students who qualify for them.
More »

21. March 2011 · Comments Off on The Duck of Death Quacking Up at Last? · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Force, Fun and Games, Fun With Islam, General, sarcasm, World

Yeah, I know – juvenile humor at best, but somehow that’s about the only reasonable response you can make to a walking, talking comic-opera cartoon villain like Moammar Khadaffy. Or Quadaffi, or what the hell – Khadaffy-Duck. I mean, the clothes, the sprocket-hung uniforms, the transparent megalomania, the fembot body-guards, the rip-off of Mao’s Little Red Book . . . and was he the inspiration for the villain in Jewel of the Nile? And then you remember the serious stuff: the airplanes and discos bombed, the terrorists like the IRA generously funded – the politicians and intellectuals paid to be his respectable front, the plight of those foreign doctors and nurses who were accused of deliberately infecting patients with AIDS, the death of a British policewoman in front of the Libyan embassy in London (who was shot from within the embassy), and the brutalization of his own people . . . no, Quadaffy-Duck was every bit as malevolent as Saddam Hussein; his pretensions and dress-sense was just a little more risible. Otherwise, just a matter of degree, and frankly, I can’t think of a nicer person to have a J-DAM coming down the chimney with his name on it, no matter how the heck you spell it. I did so hope that he would wind up like Mussolini (his corpse hanging from a gas-station – which would be ironic in the extreme) or stood up in front of a wall like Ceausescu; the thing being that it would be Libyans themselves performing the necessary chore of taking out the flamboyantly-clad trash. Ah, well; however the job gets done.

Anyway – as you can guess, I’ll be breaking out the popcorn and celebrating the immanent demise of the Duck of Death; it’s been long overdue, no matter who or what is responsible for seeing that he achieves room temperature. However . . . the infamous however, well-freighted with irony . . . I do have a few small concerns, chief among them being – who and what are the anti-Khadaffy Libyans, exactly? When all the dust settles, and someone who is not the Duck of Death or of his ilk and kin is in charge . . . who will that person be, and will they be an improvement?

Secondly; what next? Are we just clearing out the Duck’s flyable assets so that a no-fly zone may be installed? How long will the no-fly zone be in effect – as long as the no-fly zone over Iraq, which protected the Kurds? Months, weeks, days? Of the allied nations assisting in this, who will have the resources to continue that long? Should it be necessary to put boots on the ground . . . whose boots will they be, and what exactly will be the assigned duties of those boots?

And the irony of Obama doing just about what Bush was damned up one side and down the other for doing, with regard to another middle-eastern oil-rich nation ruled by a brutally iron-fisted autocrat with a penchant for seeing his own face everywhere? Rich, I tell you – as in two scoops of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Watching half of Obama’s backers turn themselves into pretzels trying to explain how one of these things is so not like the other, and the other half going into gibbering hysterics realizing that it is . . . it’s turning out to be quite a giggle for me. Enough reason for anther round of popcorn, anyway.

And finally – you know, they told me if I voted for McCain/Palin, that there would never-ending war in the Middle East – and damn if it doesn’t look like it.

14. March 2011 · Comments Off on Japan Update · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Force, General, Wild Blue Yonder

From an email by a member of a Yahoo discussion group for FEN broadcasters – dated Sunday

About one hour ago or 12 noon Misawa time I had the privilege of watching the USAF Misawa trucks and buses convoy out the main gate on their way to the local coastal areas to provide relief assistance. A half dozen buses filled with local military and USA teams that landed here. Also a dozen 60 foot flatbeds loaded with supplies and equipment. Local townsfolk came out to the curbside to wave and bow. A very heartwarming display indeed.
The northern coastal areas near Misawa AB were hit hard by the tsunami as was Hachinohe though not much was mentioned by the media.

Misawa has just announced the all clear for tsunami. Aftershocks are all but absent now. Power is back on after 36 hours without. Base has limited power. Japan has a lot to do now to clean up and get started again. This has been one really bad week. We grieve for those not far from here.

Info can be had at Facebook under “AFN Misawa” or by visiting the Stars and Stripes online newspaper.

Bill Bunch
Misawa, Japan

11. March 2011 · Comments Off on Shaker of Worlds · Categories: Air Force, General, Good God, Memoir, Military

I was stationed for four years at Misawa AB, in the very north of Japan, from early 1977 until the very end of 1980. It’s a very rural part of Japan, relatively speaking; very cold in the winter. Misawa was a pretty smallish city, as Japan goes, about seven or eight miles from the coast; the countryside around is as flat as a pancake, and not terribly far above sea-level. There was a nice little mountain range to the north, within a short drive; very scenically wooded. Up to the mountains to see Lake Towada, over the mountains to Mutsu Bay; it was a very pleasant place to spend four years: Misawa’s mission then was as a security service base; a support system for a huge monitoring complex called the Elephant Cage, or just “the Hill.” Which was maybe thirty feet above sea level, which was enough to constitute a considerable height in that part of Japan.

The next big city to the south of Misawa City though – that would be Hachinohe; which was known for a peculiar style of carved and painted wooden horse sculpture. In the late 19th century and into the 20th, Hachinohe was horse-country, and the original Imperial Army establishment at Misawa had been a cavalry post. The next big city to the south after Hachinohe is Sendai – closest to the epicenter of the latest earthquake. It looks from the news headlines that a whole train full of passengers is now missing, from near Sendai. I visited Hachinohe once, maybe Sendai, too. Coming back from leave Stateside, I traveled by train from Tokyo to Misawa, coming home from leave, so I must have passed through there at least once.

There were constant small earthquakes, all during my time there; most usually just a small rattle and shake, rather like being inside a small frame building with a heavy truck rumbling past outside. In fact, sometimes it was hard to tell of it was an earthquake, or a heavy truck, the physical sensation was so similar. If we hadn’t heard a truck, then it was an earthquake. Slightly more emphatic earthquakes shifted furniture, sometimes . . . and at the old AFRTS radio/TV station where I worked, our usual indicator that it was a serious shake would be rolls of teletype paper falling off the shelves of the tall metal bookshelves where they were stored. If the paper rolls began toppling from the shelves, it was time to vacate the building. Which isn’t the recommended practice, generally – but in this particular case, there was an extenuating circumstance. That would be that the base water-tower sat about 100 feet away from the station, a creaky wooden water-tower standing on spindly 90 foot tall wooden supports. If there was ever a shake hard enough to collapse those spindly frame supports, there were good odds that however-many gallons of water in that tower would pour onto a rattle-trap frame building stuffed full of powered-up electronic equipment. So – mad dash by all staff, when stuff started rocking hard enough to fall from shelves.

Being from California, and having been through some small quakes and the big Sylmar shake in 1971 – I could be fairly blasé about the whole Pacific Rim of Fire/seismically active thing. Many of the other members of the unit weren’t – not at first. But with little ones, all the time – they’d get pretty blasé after a couple of months. But every once in a while, there would be much bigger one, which would grab everyone’s attention; once it was a pair of tremors on a Tuesday evening, almost exactly an hour apart; that was a quake which collapsed a department store in Hachinohe, or Sendai. Another time, a girl was briefly trapped in her barracks room, because her dresser slid across and blocked the door. Another shock caught one barracks resident in the middle of a shower; she shot straight out of the bathroom, down the corridor and out of the building, stark naked.

The one thing that struck me about the big quakes was that there really was a noise to them; an absolutely horrific noise. The one thing that I can easily compare it to is to imagine standing on the platform of a railway station, when a long fast train roars straight through the station without stopping. That’s what it sounds like – a long, rumbling and roaring sound; of course, part of this noise is the sound of things falling. In the Sylmar quake, I remember hearing the sounds of the sash-springs in the window-frames rattling like mad. And unlike all those movies of earthquakes – people don’t run and scream much. Most usually, they are getting underneath something, and trying to make themselves small, maybe shouting to someone in the same room or in the same building to do the same – but no running and screaming like a banshee.

This quake off the coast of Japan was several times the magnitude, and the pictures and video emerging are horrific. 8.8 on the Richter scale is something almost impossible to imagine – and to be compounded by tsunamis sweeping in from the sea, and the debris catching on fire – that just adds to the horror.

24. November 2010 · Comments Off on Korea Meditation, Revisited · Categories: Air Force, Fun and Games, General, History, Memoir, Military, N. Korea

In the early 1990s, I did a tour in Korea; a year at Yongsan Garrison, working at HQ-AFKN, barely a stone’s throw from where my father had spent a couple of weeks at Camp Coiner in 1953. Camp Coiner was where new troops were processed for assignments in-country, and it was still a self-contained miniature garrison with a dining hall, movie theater, club, PX and chapel. Processing new arrivals takes only a day or two these days. When I was there, Camp Coiner housed soldiers assigned to Yongsan in a series of Quonset huts that had been covered in such a thick layer of foam insulation that they looked like nothing so much as a row of enormous Twinkies.

Camp Coiner to my father was a bunch of canvas tents in a field of mud, surrounded by deep rings of barbed wire and a deeper ring of hungry refugees, watching them intently. It quite took away one’s appetite, said my father, to have people watching you eat every bite of your C-rations; and it’s not as if C-rations were a gourmet treat to start with. The soldiers were forbidden to give away their food, but my father said a lot of them did anyway, tossing cans stealthily over the wire. Seoul was a wrecked place fifty years ago. While I was there at AKFN that year, I edited an interview which the late Col. David Hackworth had done for AFKN, where he described how he himself had first visited the place, retreating across the only bridge over the Han River. Nothing but rubble, and rats nibbling at corpses in the gutters, the only live people being his squad and the Chinese snipers shooting at them. What Colonel Hackworth and veterans like my father saw in the 1950ies and what they see when they visit Seoul now leaves them rubbing their eyes in astonishment.

I had the incredible good fortune to be put in the way of doing a lot of voice-over narration jobs while I was at Yongsan, as well as a regular part-time job copy-editing the English language simulcast of the regular Korea Broadcasting System evening TV newscast. Most evenings or Saturdays after I finished my day job, I was taking the subway or a bus to a production studio somewhere (a taxi if I was feeling extravagant), and reading an English-language script on practically anything that someone felt would go over really well if they did a version in English.Amonger other things, I did a script about the manufacture of soju (which put me off ever drinking the stuff), an assortment of company puff-pieces, some fiendishly complicated English lesson tapes, a kid’s storybook, unless they have re-done the whole thing since, I am the English-language version of the recorded information for Kimpo Airport. I was a skilled and experienced production technician, working with other skilled audio technicians, away from the post. I developed friendships with the people I worked with in the KBS newsroom, who laughed at me because I had never gone to any of the tourist things in Seoul. I had, I explained, gone close to them, or had seen them from the outside on my way to a job; just like a native does.

Modern Seoul is a sprawling city of high-rise buildings, eight-lane highways, a splendid subway system, a golden glass tower 63 stories tall close by one of the fifteen or twenty bridges spanning the Han, and the Namsan tower glittering like a Christmas tree topper on a green hilly island in the middle of the city. In the evening, coming back from KBS on the bus, I could smell the bakery smell of vanilla cake from a commercial bakery close by. Sometimes at KBS we talked about the North, wondering if the discipline of an invading army of North Koreans would last past the first big grocery store, or electronics shop. When the old Supreme Leader died, I sat in the newsroom and watched half an hour of newscast cobbled out of the same fifteen minutes of stock video of the North, plus new footage of the bereft Northerners mourning ostentatiously. It seemed to me the KBS technicians were horrified and embarrassed by the elaborate demonstration of grief; I and they could only wonder what sort of coercion could force such undignified displays from people.

I liked working in Seoul, I liked what Koreans have built in fifty years, these tough jolly people on the south side of the DMZ. Cosmopolitan and professional, possibly as a nation the sharpest-dressed people on the face of the earth, every salaryman or woman turned out fit to be on the cover of GQ; as different from their cousins and second cousins north of the DMZ and still be on the same planet.

OSer Don Rich poined out in a post yesterday that the North Koreans regularly perform what he called the Korean Motherland Unity Game of Repeated Chicken – every six months to two years, there is some kind of saber-rattling game, a bit of public theater intended to remind everyone that they are there and bellicose. The old-time Korea hands that I knew over there, as well as my Korean friends were relatively blase about it all, for several reasons. One of them was that – well, mostly it was a bit of theater; it would die down in a week or so. Another being that for all the sprockets and medals hung on Nork generals – they really haven’t fought a serious war, balls-to-the-wall-and-all-guns-blazing war since 1953. There’s been a lot of evolution since then. But – lest the South Koreans get too over-confident about calling the North Korean bluff; the city of Seoul is well within range of Nork artillery, and quite a lot of it, too. Which is a very good reason to keep a cool head. And the other great argument for the status quo being maintained – is that if the DMZ magically evaporated and the Koreas were united once again, the South would be carrying the burden of the North … pitiful, starving, traumatised and hermetically isolated for sixty years, a country-sized concentration camp with all the brutality and horror that implies. The North has been in such bad shape for so long that teenage refugees from there are actually physically stunted, in comparison to their Southern cousins. So – while everyone gives lip service to reunification, in actuality, not so much.

But this week the Norks opened fire, shelling civilian areas on Yeonpyeong Island – an action which will be a little harder to brush off on the part of the South, Japan, and the United States. That ratchets up the Korean Motherland Unity Game of Repeated Chicken to a whole new level. So – who acts first? At this point, any guess is as good as any other.

15. April 2010 · Comments Off on More of What I Saw at the Milblogger Conference · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Force, General, Military, Veteran's Affairs

Milblogging – alas, I have had to explain that concept to a number of my purely civilian contacts over the last few weeks. Just a plain old military blogger. A blogger on active duty, a veteran, a family member or someone just interested in aspects of the military life, all of whom are blogging about their experiences and life in the military, around the military, or as the military touches on their life. To mainstream America, since the end of the draft, this is terra incognita. If all one knows about the life military is what can be gleaned from current movies, television and popular culture, then there might just as well be dragons out there over the edge in DOD land. Another language, of slang and shorthand, of instantly understood references, certain subtle habits of manners and bearing, the quiet display of badges, rings, patches, souvenir coins or tattoos – all of which serve as tells to other residents (or past residents) of DOD land. Most pure civilians usually miss the ‘tells’ – which is why fake veterans will fool them practically all the time.

So, I have been a milblogger since 16 August, 2002, which is the Dark Ages of blogging, practically. I was invited to join this blog when it was still called Sgt. Stryker’s Daily Brief, at a time when there was a sudden and increased national interest in the military experience during the ramp-up to the Iraq War. SSDB was one of only a handful of milblogs carried on the Instapundit blog-roll. I had just barely discovered this newfangled internet thingy, I had a background in public affairs, wanted an outlet for my own writing . . . and my daughter was a Marine, heading towards a deployment in Kuwait and eventually, Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003. Comparing notes at the Milblog Conference, I discovered that the date of my first blog-post predated everyone elses’ by at least six months.

That entry is included, for your benefit, as a historical document –

Sgt. Mom’s Ancient Tech Story:

So the new colonel commanding was getting a tour of the AFRTS station, from the Station Manager. The colonel looks through the soundproofed glass window into the radio studio, and there is the on-duty DJ, stripped to his underwear, sitting cross-legged on the turntable*, going round and round and round. The colonel, slightly-bug-eyed, turns to the Station Manager and demands
“What the %#@&&& is he doing?
The Station Manager shrugs and says,
“Thirty-three and a third.” **

(footnotes appended for those under the age of 30ish)
* Probably a heavy, 16″ Gates turntable. They were used to play “records” also called ETs, or Electrical Transcriptions, which in the days when the only body parts being pierced were ears, were 16 or 14 inches across.
** Revolutions per minute. 16-inch records were played at 78 RPMs, 14-inch records (which replaced them) at 33 1/3

Yeah, I’ve gone a long way since then, although the audience laughed their hummm-hums off, when I re-told it at the conference. A good few didn’t even need the footnotes – but don’t let that lead you to assume that all attending were old fogies . . . I met a trio of earnest young college students, two veterans and one heading military-wards. A bit of an interview to follow about them, over the next two days. (Look, am I a public utility? I produce good bloggy ice-cream when I can!) There was also this young lady present, who is not only extraordinarily pleasant and patriotic, but possesses a charmingly retro aesthetic sense – as well as a sense of duty. (No, I never minded girlie pinups – as long as I could admire the equivalent and aesthetically pleasing male form . . .)

But enough of the wander down blogging-memory lane, more observations of the 5th Annual Milblogger Conference. It is the very first one which I have attended, which made for a curious experience. I have ‘known’ some of the other bloggers nearly as long as I’ve blogged and consider them as friends and fellow veterans, but this was the first time I ever met them face to face. I tend to think of them first as they named themselves with their original nom du blog – Greyhawk, Blackfive, Baldilocks – rather than their given names. Most of the early milbloggers chose to do so, not wanting to put absolutely everything out there.

Another curiosity – I’d guess that a little under a half of the conference attendees were women: fair number of veterans, or DOD civilian employees, some from various military-oriented charitable organizations, or military spouses. There were present, though, a fair number of active-duty men with the high-and tight haircut – that which makes them look as if they had shaved their heads entirely, and then parked a small, short-furred rodent on top. On the first panel of the conference – a selection of early bloggers, three of us were Air Force or AF veterans (Baldi, me, and Greyhawk – all NCOs), one Army veteran – Blackfive, and one Marine officer – “Taco”. (His last name is Bell.) This distribution drew some comment from the audience: I have no explanation for this. Another very early blogger was a Reserve Navy officer, Lt. Smash. My purely amateur and scientific wild-ass guess about this distribution is something along the lines of the Air Force and the Navy being more technically oriented, and drawing in a more middle-class and educated recruit. Another curiosity is that four of us have written or edited books, and “Taco” is planning to write one as soon as he retires and can uncork his best stories. Eh – one of my best-received one-liners: blogging is a gateway drug. (Did I mention that I do have a mad compulsion to entertain and inform? Laugher from an audience – manna to the starving!) More to follow, including how I had the neck ask a blunt question of a 4-star and to tell Garry Trudeau about the newspaper clipping that has been on the front of my refrigerator for almost eight years now – I promise. Real life and bills to pay will interfere. Really.

I’ve been invited to be on one of the panels at the 5th Annual MilBlog Conference, in Arlington, Virginia, April 9th and 10th – and Blondie and I are intending to drive, since she will be on spring break! (Route tentatively planned as Dallas-Memphis-Knoxville-Harrisonburg)

Any other milbloggers from the San Antonio or Ft. Hood area also going to the Milblog Conference? Anyone in Arkansas, Tennessee or Virgina want us to stop and visit along the way? Recommend some good eats, or something interesting to see?

12. March 2009 · Comments Off on RIP Chief Master Sergeant Paul Wesley Airey, First CMSgt of the Air Force · Categories: Air Force

Wow, have I been out of touch, I used to hear about this kind of stuff the same day.

I got to hear him speak once, long ago when he was touring with then Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Parish.  He always seemed taller and bigger than everyone around him.  He LOVED our Air Force.

Rest well Chief.  Thanks for leading the way.

03. November 2008 · Comments Off on Air Force Aims to ‘Rewrite Laws of Cyberspace’ · Categories: Air Force, Technology

Via Drudge, The Wired Blog is Reporting:

The Air Force is fed up with a seemingly endless barrage of attacks on its computer networks from stealthy adversaries whose motives and even locations are unclear. So now the service is looking to restore its advantage on the virtual battlefield by doing nothing less than the rewriting the “laws of cyberspace.”

It’s more than a little ironic that the U.S. military, which had so much to do with the creation and early development of internet, finds itself at its mercy. But as the American armed forces become increasingly reliant on its communications networks, even small, obscure holes in the defense grid are seen as having catastrophic potential.

Read the whole thing

Let’s see, you’ve spent the past 10 years getting rid of your programmers, networking folks and applications experts, and then turning your networks over to civilian contractors, some of whom were literally learning how to help-desk while on the job, and now you’re surprised that the security ain’t what it could be?  I know at least 20 people off the top of my head that the Air Force “right-sized” out that are exactly the kind of folks needed to fix these kinds of problems.  Some of them screamed until they were blue in the face that, “We’re doin’ it wrong!” 

I’m sitting here doing the “I f***ing told you so!” dance.

My… is it Friday already? The end of October, with tomorrow being the Dia de los Muertos… or as we plain Anglos call it, the eve of All Saint’s Day. Time does have when you’re having fun. And I am having fun this week. My hours at the Corporate Call Center just up the road were slashed to the bone this week, allegedly to accommodate their slow time of the year. Perhaps I’ll get them back in November, perhaps not. It’s a job that I am privately most unenthusiastic about, although you’d never know it to hear me answer the incoming calls with brisk and chipper enthusiasm. I would not mind very much actually – I’d miss the money but not much else, as I the local publisher that I am doing work for has actually begun to pay me on a regular basis and shoot interesting little jobs my way.

The two most recent are transcribing old documents – one not all that old, since there is a Star Wars reference in it, but the other might have some actual historical interest, being a pocket year-diary from 1887, bound in crumbling red leather. The owner of it plans to sell, and wants an accurate transcription – or at least, as accurate a transcription of the contents as is humanly possible. The reason he is willing to pay someone to do it – is because the diary-keeper wrote in occasionally illegible ink, couldn’t spell for s**t, had an uncertain grasp of the principals governing the use of capital letters and appears to have been completely uninterested in using punctuation. On the plus side, each entry is only about one run-on sentence long, and three-quarters of those entries are variants on ‘spent the four Noon at Ranch/town …. No news … fair and cloudy to day’

It’s the other entries that are mildly fascinating, for the diary-keeper seems to have been a manager for a cattle ranch in the Pleasant Valley of Arizona, and on the periphery of the murderous Graham-Tewksbury feud. His apparent employer was one of the owners of the “Hashknife Outfit” – famed in West Texas lore and in the books of Zane Grey, so perhaps this is why the current owner thinks the diary is worth something to a collector. I don’t see any evidence so far that the diary-keeper did anything more than pop around like a squirrel on crack all through that year, from town to the ranch and up to various line camps, to Flagstaff for the 4th of July celebrations, seeing to his various duties, which must have ranged from the office-managerial to overseeing round-ups and short drives of cattle from the back-country to the railway (which paralleled Route 66 through Arizona.) There were a few interesting slips of paper tucked into a pocket in the back of the diary, like a bank receipt from a bank in Weatherford, Texas, long strings of figures which appear to be a tally of cattle and a scribbled recipe for some kind of remedy, featuring a lot of ingredients that today are controlled substances (belladonna? Sulphate of zinc and sugar of lead, one drachm) Still and all, as Blondie said – he was dedicated enough to actually sit down and make an entry, every day, in a whole year of days in which one day was mostly like any other, full of work and responsibility, and very little in the way of amusement, or at least amusement worth mentioning specifically. Still, an interesting peep-hole into the past, and another life, distant and yet close.

The other document is a rollicking memoir written by a WWII veteran, who spent nearly 18 months in the China-Burma-India theater, flying cargo over the notorious “Hump” – the Himalayas. At that time, there were large chunks of the land below their air route that was simply white on their maps; never explored by land or by air. This writer lost some friends to the perils of high-altitude flight among mountains that were sometimes even higher, but his exuberance and energy come through in his memoir, quite unquenched. His personality is a little more accessible than the ranch manager of 1887, and he spent a little more time noticing marvelous things like a spectacular show of St. Elmo’s fire lighting up his aircraft during a flight through a high-altitude blizzard, or the white-washed towers of a mountain monastery, perched at the top of a 6,000 foot sheer drop. He wondered about the faint lights seen at night, from tiny villages far below the aluminum wings of his aircraft, wondered if the people living in those simple houses even knew that young men had come from so very far away, to fly a perilous re-supply route over the dark land below. Did it make any difference to their lives? Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. The flier went home, married his girl, lived a long and successful life. Among the little things to be included in the transcription of his memoir was an envelope of papers – receipts from a grand hotel in Calcutta… and a BX ration card, in which Blondie and I were amused to note that he had maxed out his beer ration for the month of September, 1943—but only purchased one bar of soap.

The history, the past, near and a little distant, in bits of yellowed paper, a year of entries bound in faded red leather or eighteen eventful and frequently nerve-wracking months racking up 800 flying hours. It’s all there, our history. We must remember where we came from, who we are – who our ancestors were, and how they built their lives and did their work. It’s not far distant, it’s more than a few tedious chapters in a history textbook written by an academic with an ideological ax to grind. Our history is real people, meeting challenges and accepting responsibility with courage, grace and humor. It’s why I write books, to try and get people in touch with that history again, to connect with our ancestors. To remember who we are, and where we came from.

(Still taking pre-orders for the Adelsverein Trilogy, here The official release is December 10, and I have lined up some signings locally – schedule is here. Also a review of Book One – The Gathering just appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of True West (dead tree version) ! It’s on page 91, for those that are interested, but alas, no links – the True West website only goes as far as… September)

15. August 2008 · Comments Off on AF Cyber Command “Delayed” · Categories: Air Force, Stupidity, Technology

According to the front page of the Air Force Cyber Command’s Website:

8/14/2008 – Barksdale AFB, La.  — The Air Force remains committed to providing full-spectrum cyber capabilities to include global command and control, electronic warfare and network defense. The Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force have considered delaying currently planned actions on Air Force Cyber Command to allow ample time for a comprehensive assessment of all AFCYBER requirements and to synchronize the AFCYBER mission with other key Air Force initiatives. The new Air Force leaders continue to make a fresh assessment of all our efforts to provide our Nation and the joint force the full spectrum of air, space, and cyberspace capabilities.

Which makes sooooo much sense considering that the military doesn’t have a cohesive all-around cyber defense policy.  Seriously, cyber security measures can change literally from base to base.  What drives those measures?  You would think it would be a standard set of security practices applied to all and you’d be somewhat correct.  However, what you also have to take into account is that almost every base has a different contract company taking care of their network  security measures.  Those measures may be based on what the contractor is willing and able to do for the price that the military is willing to pay.  On some bases, you may have three to five different companies taking care of the various networks depending on the security level of the network.  Not only is the security level dependent on the classification of the material on the network, but it’s also dependent, again, on the capability of the contractors.

I remember getting a call when I was in NORAD/USSPACE from a flag officer and he needed me to come over and help him with one of his computers.  Since that part of the network wasn’t “owned” by NORAD/USSPACE, I literally was not allowed to help him.  I simply didn’t have permissions for that side of the network.  I  had to file a help desk ticket for him which, according to contract, allowed up to 3 business days before it was addressed.  Since he WAS a flag officer, the contractor did put a rush on it, but still.

I’ve been against the privatizing of the military’s networks since they started.  Okay, so you don’t have to pay contractors retirement benefits and all the other baggage that comes along with a military person’s life, but if you don’t write the contracts correctly, the military can wind up needing a task completed by the contractor that’s not in the contract and you can’t force them to complete that task without amending the contract which would also mean, MORE money.  That’s right, when a new task is added for any reason to a contract network admin or techie’s tasks, they may not HAVE to do it until the contract is reviewed to see if it falls under the contractor’s “scope of support.”  And because only contractors can touch the network on some bases, folks in uniform can’t complete the task either.  And since we’ve slashed the living shit out of the military’s network specialists in favor of contractors, we don’t have them to utilize anyway.

Which, if I’m being cynical, leads me to believe that someone has finally realized that having a cohesive policy across all the networks that the Air Force “controls” means that every single one of those contracts is going to have to be rewritten and I’m betting that some Senior NCO and their team has done the legwork and given General Lord and his bosses the cost analysis for those new contracts and someone with power of the purse-strings has crapped their drawers when the reality of what a workable, cohesive, policy is going to cost.

That’s if I was being cynical.  It could just mean that what we’ve got is working just fine and there’s no need for a cyber command in the first place…and I swear to you I typed that with a straight face…after three tries.

Thanks to He Who Needs No Linkage for the tip.

You want to know the funniesnt thing for me about all this?  I’ve got interviews with two contractors in the next week for jobs supporting the military’s network.  I hope the question, “What’s your opinion about privatization?” doesn’t come up and I hope to hell I’ve got the good sense to lie about it if it does.  I need a job.

01. August 2007 · Comments Off on It’s Official · Categories: Air Force

After 23 years of active duty, I’m now a civilian.

It’s weird, but I feel even less stress than I did yesterday.

I’m liking this retirement thing.

If I’d have known it felt this good, I would have done it last year.

09. July 2007 · Comments Off on Wrong Kind of Fireworks · Categories: Air Force, Domestic, General, Military

Baldilocks has a story up this morning about a McGuire AFB loadmaster who was killed shot over the weekend. Seems some guy drove to the 22yr old airman’s home on Wed evening (umm, that would be July 4), and shot him in the chest, then killed himself.

The airman, Jonathan Schrieken, is in critical condition at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.

He and his family need your prayers and good thoughts. For that matter, so does the family of the killer shooter.

Authorities have no idea what prompted the shooting admit the killer shooter left 2 suicide notes, but the AP articles doesn’t mention that. Authorities do not know whether the two 22-yr olds even knew each other.

News Article

UPDATE: I should have followed the links in Juliette’s post before I posted this. She got the news from LGF. LGF posted an email from a reader who knew knows the airman, and has lots more details about the killer’s shooter’s motivation, which the AP chose to leave out of their article.

[The airman] had been on leave here in Ohio and got back to his home off base and was unpacking stuff from his car when this 22 year old guy walked up to him and asked him if he lived in the house. When Jon said yes, the guy said “not any more” and shot him point blank in the chest. He tried to shoot him again, but his gun jammed. Jonathan made it into the house. The guy then shot himself. Turns out the guy left a couple of suicide notes stating how much he hated the military and he wanted to go out making a statement, so he chose to make his statement on Independence Day trying to kill a soldier.

UPDATE 2: I should never write posts before coffee. The airman is ALIVE, not dead. So the creep is a creep, not a killer.

18. June 2007 · Comments Off on The Passing Parade · Categories: Air Force, General, History, Military, Reader Mail, Wild Blue Yonder, World

Regular reader Robert D. emailed me overnight, letting me know that an ace in two wars, General Robin Olds had died over the weekend.

In my early time in service, General Olds was famous for a defiantly non-reg mustache, and for having flown with Chappie James over Vietnam, forming a duo nicknamed “Blackman and Robin”.

He was a colorful character; these days seeming like a character in a swashbuckling adventure novel, or a movie serial.

More here.

14. June 2007 · Comments Off on Remembering Vince · Categories: Air Force, Domestic, Memoir

In late August 1984, I arrived in Mountain Home, Idaho, my first permanent station with the Air Force. As a single airman, I was destined to live on-base in a dormitory. The Headquarters Squadron had two dorms – one of them housing the Dorm Manager’s office.

The Dorm Manager, a senior NCO named Vince (I’ve forgotten his last name, because we all just called him Vince), was either a Technical Sergeant (E-6 for our non-USAF readers) or a Master Sergeant (E-7 ). Swarthy-skinned, short and powerful, he was a former aircraft mechanic who’d been re-trained due to health issues.

Vince met me, talked to me, and assigned me to room with another airman who was close to my age. He thought we’d make a good match. I spent months convinced he was wrong, and then one day something clicked and my roommate and I became good friends.

Vince was smart like that. He was smart in other ways, too. There was nothing he couldn’t fix, from a broken faucet to a wounded heart. The guys would talk to him about “guy stuff,” whatever that is. But the girls could talk to him, too. He listened, and he cared.

Dorm Managers are part of the background in an Air Force dormitory. Like the building superintendent in an apartment building. Or like your parents after you’ve moved out on your own. You know they’re there, but unless there’s a problem, they’re not really in the fore-front of your consciousness. But they’re there, a steady force in the background, one more stable piece in an often unstable world, one more part of your life that won’t change.

Vince wasn’t going anywhere. This would be his job, and his base, until he retired. He had a business in town – I don’t remember if he ran an apartment building or if it was a trailer community, but there were rental units involved. I never dealt with that side of his life, and at that point in my life I was much too shy to just sit and visit with him, as if we were just regular folks. He was an NCO (or senior NCO – wish I could remember his rank), and I was an Airman. In my mind, there was a huge chasm between us, and it was enough that I was allowed to call him Vince, instead of Sgt Whoever.

As dormitory residents, we were not only responsible for keeping our rooms clean, we also shared the responsibility for keeping the dorms clean. Every so often your name would come up on the rotation list, and you would spend a week as “Bay Orderly,” or as we called it, “Bay Hoser.” For that week you belonged to Vince, doing whatever tasks he assigned. Cleaning the day rooms (TV lounges, basically), vacuuming the hallways, dusting, etc. I seem to recall that we even moved furniture, on occasion. Menial work, but necessary to the comfort and well-being of all those living in the dorms. And it was for Vince, and with Vince, so it was ok.

I was at Mountain Home for about 3 1/2 years, and Vince was part of my life for most of that time. Until one summer, and I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t even remember which summer it was, but I think it was late summer, 1986. I was spending a week in town, house-sitting for my first sergeant while he was on vacation, when the phone rang. Part of my job as house-sitter was to take all his messages, so I answered the call.

I could barely understand the voice on the other end, then I recognized our Assistant Dorm Manager. He was trying not to cry as he asked for the First Sergeant. It seems that on this unseasonably hot Idaho day, Vince had been mowing the yard at his rental community, and his heart gave out. That magnificent, caring heart, that made him such a good dorm manager for two buildings of young adults who were mostly on their own for the first time in their lives, wasn’t up to the strain of heavy yard work on a blisteringly hot summer day.

We had a Service on the base. Three or four dorm residents were asked to speak – I was Dorm Council President, so I was one of them. I don’t remember anything I said that day. I remember very little of what anyone else said that day, other than one of the other airmen saying Vince was a father-figure. I hadn’t thought of it until she said it, but she was right, for all the reasons I listed above. I blocked most of it out, willing myself to not hear, to hold it together until the end.

The service ended, the Honor Guard marched out, I shook the widow’s hand and murmured something appropriate, then ducked and ran for the nearest latrine, where I locked myself in a stall and released the tears I’d been fighting since the other airman compared him to a father.

The stability that Vince had represented disappeared with his death. We got a new Dorm Manager, and later that year, a new First Sergeant. I moved out of the dorms the next spring, and shared a small house with a co-worker until I moved on to my next duty station that December. The dorms weren’t the same without Vince.

Vince was an amazing man, who always had a smile and a kind word. I’d not thought of him in years, until I read Timmer’s post about his red-eyed airman grieving for her friend lost in Iraq. I’m glad I remembered him, even though the memory brings tears. He’s worth remembering.

11. June 2007 · Comments Off on Dammit · Categories: Air Force, Iraq: The Ugly

As I was outprocessing today I learned that one of my former Airman’s good friends was killed in Iraq this weekend.

There are just no words.

The Airman was only 19. Yeah, 18’s an adult. That’s easy to say when you’re 18. When you’re over 40…not so much.
So before I left I spent a few moments “sexually harassing” (hugging) a very red-eyed Airman that is very special to me. Practically a second daughter. I felt bad that I couldn’t stay longer and talk like we used to, but shit happened as it does when you’re trying to outprocess and I was already three hours behind schedule. I’ve never felt quite THAT crappy about leaving anyone in my life.

I still think we were right to go in given the circumstances at the time.

I can’t tell you when it happened, but at some point I began to lose confidence in our leadership. When it hit me that “I’m” leadership, I knew it was time to go.

Do me a favor?  Pray if you got that goin’ on in your life.

10. June 2007 · Comments Off on The Retirement Ceremony · Categories: Air Force

Now that Beautiful Wife, Gorgeous Daughter and Boyo are off on the road to our new home and the cleaning lady is working on the house, I have a few minutes to sit with Maximum Dawg and let you know about my retirement ceremony on Friday.

First of all, Gorgeous Daughter came to town and that was very cool.  My Mom and Sister couldn’t have cared less…until AFTER the ceremony of course when I called my Mom to let her know it went well and THEN she went off on how she didn’t know that it was that big a deal and I should have told her.  Sigh.  That’s how it works in my family.  It’s MY fault.  You think I’d have figured it out years ago, but of course…I didn’t.  It hurt for a few hours and then I just chalked it up as, “Mom’s in her 80s, she just didn’t get it and never would have no matter how much I explained it.”

On to the ceremony.  My family was escorted to their seats which went over HUGE with Boyo.  The Commander and I marched in, took our places and then one of my troops sang the National Anthem.  She’s small but she’s mighty, and she’s got a voice I never would have expected out of her.

My Commander then outlined my career and the rest of the folks that have worked for me and with me did a very cool thing.  They all dressed up in the different uniforms that I wore over the years and as the Commander went over the different parts, they stepped forward wearing the uniform I would have worn during that time period.  With the help of Beautiful Wife, they managed to all be wearing my name tags.

Then came the standard last medal, certificate of retirement from the Chief of Staff.  Certificate of Appreciation from The President, a very nice shadow box in the shape of a Master Sergeant Chevron with the flag folded at the top and my medals and patches in the lower half.

Then the folks that worked for me and with me did a very nice flag folding ceremony accompanied by a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.”  Awesome.

My Wife received her certificate of appreciation as well, along with the one of my troops reading the poem, “The Military Wife.”

Then it was my turn to talk and I presented Boyo with a Red Ryder BB Gun.  Yes, the same one from The Christmas Story.  Wife and Daughter received some Hawaiin Leis that I had ordered.  Wife was born on Oahu and she loved it there when we were stationed there.

Then I rambled something that I tried to make meaningful but basically messed up for about five minutes or so.  It’s okay.  There’s the speech you want to give, the speech you give, and the speech you wish you gave.

Then it was time to leave and a not well kept secret is I freaking HATE, LOATHE, DESPISE, The Air Force Song.  I’m sorry if that bugs anyone, but, “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder.” just seems the most insipid of all the services’ songs.

So…the bagpiper played “Scotland the Brave.”  We got the crowd clapping and stomping and off I marched to serve cake and punch.

Tomorrow I’ll have my last few appointments and then me and Max be following Beautiful Wife, Gorgeous Daughter, Boyo, Miko the Cat and Spirit the Cockatiel down I80 to our new lives.

It was a good send off.  I’ll remember that day for quite some time.  They did me right.

08. June 2007 · Comments Off on That Was Very Cool · Categories: Air Force

The other IMers in the group got together and did a very cool thing during my retirement ceremony.  They dressed in the various uniform combinations that I’ve worn over the past 23 years and while the Commander described the various parts of my career, they stepped forward.  All of them managed to have my name tag on the uniforms.  And where they found old A1C and SrA stripes, I just don’t know.

I still have to outprocess on Monday and then after that, I’ll put away the uniforms and disappear West on I80 and then branch off on I84, into the sunset.

I feel like a ton of bricks has been lifted off of me.