Thursday, October 15, 2009

Navy Airdale - Ground Pounder Story - Stay off the Grass

"Hey Taylor," yelled Turner, he was sauntering over in my direction. I was preflighting the two War Hoovers that would be used for the next launch cycle or Event as we called them. That was how Turner walked, never in a hurry, very deliberate, you could call it a lope if he were tall and had long legs, but he was only my height an average 5 foot 8 inches. He thought the same way too, everything he said was very deliberate, there was meaning in everything he said.

"You're wanted in the Ready Room, pronto too. I'll finish up here." He said after catching up to me. "Sure, what's this about?" I replied pulling off the code gun bags I was carrying and handing them to him.

"Something about 703, she's not making it back on the next recovery. I think they want you to talk to the crew on the radio to prevent a bingo or something. Better get going." He said. "Yep, I'll go straight there." I said and turned towards the port catwalk. There was a passageway that connected directly into one of the two main long passageways that ran almost the length of the flight deck but immediately under it. Our Ready Room as well as all of the other Squadrons embarked onboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was contained between these two long passageways. There were a lot of other vital compartments between them as well.

I paused at the door, this was the door from our Maintenance Control area and it would open into the Ready Room at the end were briefings were held and it was also the end of the Room where the CO and XO sat. Never good to walk in on a Brief in progress or to go toe to toe with the Squadron commanders, they had called me down and I had done nothing notorious lately so, with a clear concise I stepped in.

Sure enough, brief in progress. I stood there in the semi-darkness. The lead pilot pointing out the op area on a huge map displayed against the screen.

"Ah, Petty Officer Taylor, thanks for getting down here so quickly." He said. He was one of the Barnes Twins as we called them. By happenstance we had two pilots with the same last name. This was the 'good' one, the one that did not look down on the enlisted, he would actually talk to you about issues with the aircraft and had more than once actually asked for advice on how to better work the gear in the Jet. An unusual trait and he wrote his gripes out in detail. One of my biggest hit's on Pilots was that they would write really lame gripes. Even though to a man they all had at least a Bachelor's degree in something (we had them all, even a Music majors) we got a lot of "RADAR INOP" or "No Radio entire Flight" What's up with that, we had the most sophisticated equipment in carrier based Naval Aviation and all they can say is INOP?

"We need you to suit up and join us on this next Event." My eyebrows jumped up, as actual flights in an S-3 were rare for us Ground Pounders.

"Yes Sir. What's the issue?" I responded. "IFF on 703 craped out mid-flight. They put them in the 'Penalty Box' and now they have to bingo ashore." He said. The Identify Friend Foe system was bad. Not a complicated system actually, should be easy to fix.

"Any details on the failure." I asked. I wanted to know what kind of gear I needed to take. I had been burned a few months back when one of our Jets went into Tinker AFB without Radios. Everyone said it was a simple box swap but there had been a fire. I spent 10 days there in pure hell (another story).

"Yeah, they had intermittent issues all flight long, kept getting called by ATC to Ident, their squaks were different each time and they would lose the transponder after a few minutes and they could only be tracked with Radar paint. Finally it just went dead." I nodded. This was easy.

"I'll suit up and get some stuff out of the shop."

"Hurry though Taylor, we are the second ship in this next event. We start engines in 15 minutes." He told me, I quickly walked to Maintenance and informed them that I would be on a rescue mission and would be taking parts out of the Hanger Queen. I then hurried to the shop and asked the First Class to coordinate getting me the gear I needed. A tool pouch, fuses and a replacement Transponder and control panel (just to be sure). I than ran to my berthing compartment to get my flight suit. I kept it in my rack cause it was clean and still new looking. That was the only way to keep it that way.

I pulled the suit over my normal work uniform. I wore the OD green fatigue trousers (they had deep pockets where were great) and the green long sleeve turtle neck all cotton flight deck shirt. It had the black stripe down the middle with VS-31 and AT printed on the back. The front had the same plus my last name and my Crow. The two stripes and the eagle on the sleeve that is the Navy patch for the 2nd class Petty Officer.

After I got the flight suit on I put on my flight boots which I also kept in the locker, they too were new looking even though I had owned them and the flight suit for several years. I also grabbed my ID card and some money. These you never carried with you on the boat unless you had to go up to the COM Center for crypto codes or down to the SAS for nuke stores (not that we had any down there but just in case you did need one you would have to have show ID). This was another lesson I learned on the great Tinker debacle.

I then hurried up to the Paraloft where they were waiting for me. They had been called and told to get gear ready for me. This stuff would be shop spare equipment. The torso harness, the LPA (Life Preserver Assembly), a helmet and an O2 mask. This last item was the "VIP" mask, I cringed when they pulled it out. One of the Para Riggers was swabbing it out with an alcohol pad. I knew from experience that it had been used by people who had thrown up while airborne; the mask would smell of vomit.

"I'll clean this up, it'll be good as new for you Taylor." He said.

"Yeah, well just the same, I think I'll just hold my breath." I said.

Once I had all the gear on and helmet on my head I started towards my shop to get the hardware. Walking in this gear took a lot of practice; you kind of waddled when you were inexperienced like me. I am sure I looked like a penguin working my way up the passageway. Once I got to the shop they had all my equipment in a bag, I added my gloves and my flight deck cranial helmet and started for the Roof. They had already stated motors.

I waddled up to the flight deck and commenced the long walk forward to where the aircraft I would ride was waiting for me, AG711 my favorite. They already had the #1 engine running and the landing gear pins pulled and stowed inside the aircraft. They were holding the start of #2 for me to get inside. I signaled the ground grew I was going inside and waved to them all. I hefted my equipment bag up inside and then climbed in after. When I got up inside I gave a mock salute to the Lt. Barnes who smiled back at me and gave me a thumbs up. He immediately turned his attention out of the cockpit and signaled for the start of #2.

I busied myself with securing my gear bag back in the tube of the aircraft and then buckled myself into the SENSO station. The TACCO was busy setting up his operational program, even though a lot of it was preprogrammed there was still a lot of manual entry to do and most TACCO's used this time to get it all done.

Just after getting strapped in the aircraft that had been on the cat ahead of us went into tension, the two motors screaming at full military power. Even though we were behind a Jet Blast Deflector, 711 still shook from the blast. It was 701 launching as this was a two aircraft event for my squadron. It was only seconds at full power when it took the shot, the screaming dying off as the plane was hurtled off the front end of the ship. The E-2 on the port side of the ship was now in high power and the famous Hummer hum was now reverberating through our jet.

We started the move forward taking our turn on the cat track. We were soon ourselves in tension, full power on the two TF-34's engines and infamous Hoover Scream was emanating from just outside my window. Lt. Barnes called for our readiness for launch. I held up my thumb and the TACCO called us both ready. I sat back holding my head back against the cushioned head rest with both hands in my lap and I waited.

Over the ICS I listened to the chatter from the front end, the two front seaters went through their quick and dirty check list, checking engine speed, turbine temp and pressure, then came the flight controls or "wipe out" as it was called as he cycled the stick and kicked the rudder from side to side. I had always watched from the outside looking for the tale tell signs: ailerons flapping up and down, the speed break panels flipping up then down, the elevator tab movement up then down, and the big rudder making the long swipes left and right. Here it was the copilots stick that I was watching, which was all I could see from my angle in the back of the Viking.

"Feels good, free nothing binding. Here we go, hand salute." The Good Lt Barnes chatted away. A couple of seconds later the holdback fitting in the nose landing gear split and it was our turn to defy gravity in 2.5 seconds.

We lifted off and turned slightly right, a clearing turn they called it. I was always amazed at the feeling immediately after the take off, like we were suspended by wires, kind of a floating feeling. Maybe it was because I was in the back and had poor visibility but the feeling was completely different than flying commercially.

A moment or two after takeoff I heard the call from "BigEye", the airborne E-2C who would now act as our controller.

"Longhorn 711, all modes and code sweet, turn to 167, climb to angels 15 contact Exercise Control on button one one." I listened to the Copilot confirm and read back while Lt Barnes executed the commanded turn.

We were actually part of a very large exercise. The Eisenhower battle group and her air wing were at war with the US Air Force. For the last 4 days we had been sneaking around the Gulf Of Mexico launching airstrikes against targets in Florida a couple of times a day. And now we were going to be hammering places in Texas. Good fun for the Air Crews. We got updates every day of the exercise progress from the Ships CO and the Battle Force Commander. We were winning the simulated war and as proof we had not seen even a single Air Force aircraft in our sky.

But, with that call from BigEye, I took my cue and adjusted myself in my ejection seat and locked the harness and went to sleep. I would leave the mock combat to the professional killers and bag me some sleep. I can sleep pretty much anywhere and pretty much on command. I zonked out while the crew of Longhorn 711 did their part to fight the evil Big Blue Air Force.

Almost 4-hours later the TACCO shook my shoulder and I came too. He signaled me to get on the ICS as I had disconnected from it, I pressed a single button on the panel and I was reconnected to the crew.

"We are going to be doing a Carrier Break over the field. Get ready." He said. Ah, the Carrier Break. Something the fly boys like to do. Scream down the runway heading and turn the aircraft into very tight left turn standing the jet on its wing with the tail hook down of course. It was fun to watch from the ground.

I braced for the turn as we screamed past the tower. While we were on our wing I was able to look right out the little window and see features of the base we were flying into. The runway, taxiway and then aircraft parked on the flight line and in front of hangers. I noticed these great big deep green colored aircraft parked down there, B-52's. BUFF's. Wow, I was wondering if I could get a close up look at one of them.

I keyed the mike with my foot and asked the TACCO what base we were flying into. "Barkesdale AFB, we are in Louisiana." He said.

That explained all the swamp, it was going to be hot and miserable out there, just like working back in Jacksonville, Florida where we were home ported whenever the ship was pier side in Norfolk.

We landed promptly and were asked to roll to the end of the very long runway we had landed on, my crew wanted to pull off at the first intersection but they had an escort vehicle waiting for us at the bitter end. Once we pulled off the active I told everyone that I was going to "pin" the aircraft and do the Plane Captain function once outside. Everyone agreed and I unstrapped from my Ejection Seat and stood in the aisle. I stripped off my LPA and torso harness and the helmet replacing that with my flight deck cranial helmet. I sat on the step with the landing gear pin's in hand for us to stop which was not too far from the end of that long runway.

I was given the signal from the TACCO and I proceeded to unlock and lower the hatch. I stepped down into the high humidity and immediately commenced to pinning the landing gear. These are those long pins with the "Remove before Flight" flags on them that safe the landing gear from accidental collapse. I also installed a safety pin on our tail hook and I opened the sonobouy chute safety door which are all standard items after a landing. I then walked up to the front of the aircraft and noticed that we were parked alongside our sister aircraft. An Air Force lineman was standing in front of the aircraft; I gave him our "take control" hand signal to which he simply shrugged. I guess the signals were different between the two air forces. I took control anyway.

I turned towards the cockpit of the aircraft I had just been a passenger in and gave them the APU Start signal. The APU deployed and commenced to operate adding its drone to the two engines already operating. After a signal that things were good in the cockpit I gave them the #2 cut sign, killing the engine on the far side of the aircraft. I stepped back and over to watch that engine shut down, making sure we had no indications of fire. With that done, I then proceeded to signal for the kill or shut down of the #1 engine. It too secured normally and then I cut the APU.

Silence followed and I turned to the Air Force Lineman who was still standing there. As I pulled my cranial up off my ears and perched it on top of my head, I told him I was a Plane Captain and that I was in need of a ground electric power plant an MB-3 version if he could get one, so that I could get the other aircraft powered up. He said he would radio for a unit and asked if we needed anything else. The crew had now deplaned and they too were stripping off their flight gear as well. They were hanging their gear on the sway brace pins on the bomb racks holding our drop tanks. One mentioned that they needed transport to the Air Operations center to meet up with the other crew. We also needed fuel.

A radio call was made and while waiting I took stock of our surroundings. We were parked in a small ramp area just off a taxi way not far from the end or start of a long runway. There were several others of these little parking areas; each with a B-52. They looked huge, we were close to one and it would be an easy walk from the little parking area we were in, I would have to find time for a close up inspection. Funny that they were kept way out here as there was a huge ramp area not far from here that included hangers. Maybe this was the High Power area that is how our Naval Air Station was set up, there was a place where we would take the aircraft to run the motors to full power. Made sense to me.

It was very hot here, the base being built in a swamp with a huge lake not too far away as well. I decided to strip off my flight suit and work in my normal flight deck cloths that I was wearing underneath the flight suit.

Soon a huge van pulled up, it was a step van and the driver said it was a "crew" van and all the fly boys climbed in, telling me they would come back once they made contact with the other crew and they had a plan. I was to stay and fix the ailing 703. No big deal. They drove off and right behind them a truck pulled up towing an MB-3 mobile electric power plant. This was not unplanned as I had a license to operate one of these and was why I had specifically asked for it my model. I proceeded to get to work. I spotted and chocked the MB-3, opening panel doors and I unspooled the power cable and attached it to 703. I then proceeded to start it up and get it running. Once at full throttle I went up into the S-3 and started testing the IFF. I soon had what I thought was something concrete and went out and did a replacement.

It was while I was changing out the Receiver-Transmitter that the Air Force Lineman came up to me. He asked if I was ok working alone and I said yes. He said he had to run a bunch of guys to a café for a piss brake. I needed to go too and wondered if I should hold up what I was doing to join them. I decided to go on alone and make sure 703 was good before I stopped work. I could always piss in a bag (there are called piddle packs and each of our aircraft had several of them) or just heave to on the grass. I told the guy I was good to go it alone. He took off.

I was back up in the cockpit rechecking the system when I saw the truck the Lineman was driving departing the area, it was one of them 4-door dodge trucks. I noticed it had maybe 4 or 5 more guys in it and I wondered where they had been as I had not seen that many other men out there. No bother, I called the tower on our radio and asked for help with an IFF test. They humored me as I did several IDENTs with various modex numbers dialed into the IFF control panel. All tests were good. I thanked them for their help and killed the system and then power to the jet. I climbed out onto the ramp and killed the Mobile power plant. I then dressed up the power cord and pushed the cart out of the way of either aircraft.

I stood there all alone, the need to tinkle ever present. I decided to keep myself busy and started a preflight and turnaround checks on both aircraft. Using the plastic checklist cards that I carried in my little flight bag I did a complete turnaround check on each jet. After about 40 minutes of toil I had both jets ready for start up, all I needed was to fuel them up and of course to pee. The "High Urine" alarm was now flashing and I would need to de-water soon.

I looked around for options. And there just a 100 feet away was that huge B-52. What the hell I thought and I started the walk across the grass that separated the little parking pad we were parked into to the one the B-52 was in. I figured I could get a good look and if no one showed up to take me to a civilized pissatorium I would simply go in the grass.

Oh what a sight this mighty BUFF was up close. I scanned the engines on the right wing; the drop tanks on the pylons between the engines were huge. Maybe 10 times the size of the ones we carried (a mere 300 gallons of extra fuel apiece). Each pair of engines had a ground start cart hose plugged into it, on all 4 engine pods across the wings. That was odd I thought; and they were keeping one of them mobile electric power plants plugged in as well. No telling why, I then took a look at the BUFF in the pad across the way from this one and it too had all the gear attached. I would have to ask why. I continued with my inspection.

I crossed in front of the BUFF looking at the two huge chin bumps that house the FLIR system. We had a very similar system in our aircraft but ours was in a turret that could rotate all the way around. I then proceeded down the left side of the aircraft looking at the long bomb bay doors slightly cracked open. That was something our Ordies did as well, open the bay doors a little. I guess to keep them from trapping too much moisture in them I theorized.

I came out from the fuselage under the wing walking its length to the little out-rigger landing gear at near the wing tip. These were used because of the fuel load this aircraft carried; it bent the wings down so far they needed the little wheels to keep the tip of the wing from dragging on the ground.

It was here at the end of my inspection that my piss warning was too much to hold off and I decided to simply take a few steps and unleash myself here in the grass, next to this huge BUFF.

So there I was, enjoying the feeling you can only get when you are unloading a full bladder package. I was marveling over the landscape with the shade of the B-52 covering me, it was actually quite nice.

That's when I heard the sound of a vehicle coming. Figures, you know how it works, just as soon as you get the wedding tackle laid out on deck someone shows up to check up on you. I was hoping to finish before anyone came my way. Maybe they would simply park with the S-3's and wait for me, but no, this vehicle drove straight over to me. I did not turn to check it out, I was still pumping a full stream and the vehicle pulled up behind me on the other side of the big wing. I heard the doors open and boots hitting the ground. Dam I thought, I was going to have to call to them to let them know what I was doing, never a good thing.

But before I could call to them I heard the sound no one wants to ever hear. A sound I was familiar with as I had had weapons training. The 'Racking' sound. That is the sound made when one pulls the bolt on an assault rifle or a semi-automatic pistol. I heard both.

This was bad. I commenced an emergency pump shut down and rewind of the wedding tackle. With any luck I would not spray myself too badly. I quickly put one hand up and called over my shoulder that I was simply pissing.

They were having none of the niceties. "PUT YOUR HANDS UP" the one on my left called to me. "Yeah, yeah, just let me get back intp my pants." I responded. "YOU'RE HANDS, NOW. BOTH YOUR HANDS UP NOW" These guys were not being nice I thought and decided to give them both hands, I would have to leave my fly down. Both hands went straight up.

"Now, kneel down." The voice said. Oh, good grief I thought, they were going to put me face down on the ground, in my own piss. "Hey, I just pissed here, let me scoot over." "GET DOWN NOW." The voice said. Good god what was this guys major malfunction I thought. I started to kneel down but I twisted to my left a little. If I could get me a little left angle I could lay down on dry grass. They did not complain.

I laid all the way down, face down in the grass. The guy that had been on my right stepped over around in front of me, he was standing right in the piss I had just put down. Little droplets had been kicked up onto his very shinny boots.

"Hey bud," I said to him, looking up from the ground "you are standing in piss." "Shut up" said the one on my left. The guy on the right took a couple of steps back out of the piss zone. He was the one with the M-16.

I felt the other pull at my left arm, "Hey I can explain, " I started. "I said SHUT UP". Boy that guy was not having nothing to do with being civil. He pulled my arm down and attached a hand cuff and then he pulled the other and cuffed it as well. As soon as I was cuffed the guy helped me up into a kneeling position and then up onto my legs. I stood there with both hands cuffed behind my back. They guy that had done the cuffing and all the yelling was a Senior Airman, an E-4. I was a Second Class Petty Officer an E-5. It was not time for me to get indignant.

"Listen bud, I am an E-5 here on official business. I demand you un-cuff me and set me free. You have no authorization to place me into custody." I said.

"Sorry, you are in a restricted area and we have authorization to shoot you if need be. Now who the hell are you." He replied. I was kind of shocked by the "authorization to shoot" thing. What the hell was that about.

"I am Petty Officer Second Class James Taylor, I am with VS-31 and I flew off the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. I came here in one of those Navy aircraft just on the other side of this B-52." I said.

"Why are you over here and not over by your jets." He asked. "I needed to piss mainly and I wanted to check out this aircraft. We don't get to see BUFF's where I work."

"You didn't see the signs warning of this area being restricted access." He asked. I looked puzzled and said, "What sign?"

He pointed to a large bill board next to the turn off into this little apron area; there was another across the ramp on the other side. I couldn't read them from here.

"No. I did not come in here from down the ramp; I walked across the grass from over there." I said, pointing with my chin.

"You walked on the grass!" he said. The tone in his voice was like I had been caught in bed with his wife or daughter. I looked back at him.

"We don't walk on the grass here, that's why we put the sign up on the asphalt." He said. He then pulled me towards the tuck they had driven up in. Another car with lights on was flying our way down the ramp. It turned into the little parking area we were standing in.

"That will be the Captain. He is going to want to know why we didn't shoot you." He said. He led me around the far side of his truck and the car pulled to a stop in front of us. The passenger door opened and a primly dressed Captain climbed out. He was wearing a white cap and a braded rope around the one arm connected to the shoulder. His sidearm had long cord that attached back to his belt. I wondered if they so often misplaced their pistols that they had to put leashes on them.

He came around in front of his car were we were standing and asked for a report. The two Airmen with me saluted and I felt awkward not ratcheting my arm up also into a salute but I was uncovered anyway. He returned their salute. And the Senior Airman gave him a quick rundown. Name and service and that I was there 'relieving' myself. The Captain looked over at me. "Navy huh, what kind of uniform is that you are wearing?" He asked.

"It's what we wear on the Flight Deck of Aircraft Carriers. I came straight off the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower." I replied.

"Oh, yeah, we are in war games with you guys. That's why they parked you way back here. Out of the exercise. Well, you might not be re-joining your troops anytime soon."

"Sailors, sir!" I said. He looked at me with a quizzical face. "Say what?" he asked. "We are Sailors, not Troops." I said. A small smile crept onto his face.

"A Smart one eh. You have ID?" he asked. "It's in my flight suit, over in that aircraft over there." I motioned with my chin, towards the jet across the way.

"How is it you get all the way over here on my Alert line without seeing that this was a restricted area." He asked. Before I could say anything the Sr. Airman spoke up, pointing towards the two S-3's he said, "He crossed over by walking on the grass. He missed seeing the signage on the ramp, sir."

"You crossed over here on the Grass?" he repeated. I shrugged. "Seemed like the most efficient way to get over here, sir." I said. "Son, this is an alert line, these boy's have authority to shoot for coming this close. Course, they have to be here for that." He looked over at the Sr. Airman, who I think blushed.

"Well, no matter we will have to see what the Major thinks of you. Load him in my car." He said to both me and the other Airman. This one led me to the sedan and opened the back door behind the open passenger door.

I slipped in but he stood there with the door open and I could hear the conversation outside between the Captain and the Sr. Airman. The Captain said they were lucky that no one important was watching the CCTV and he wanted to know where the rest of his people were at. The Sr. Airman said they had gone to the café on a piss break and were due back soon. The Captain was really upset that no one was there to challenge me and wanted to Sr. Airman and the other Airman to stay until the rest got back and that they were no longer allowed to leave the place completely unmanned. The Sr. Airman acknowledged the new orders and they saluted.

My door got closed and the Captain climbed into the front seat. His driver started backwards to the main ramp way. At first I thought they were going to take me to my S-3 to get my ID but they drove right by. I did not say anything. He was the Captain after all; he was supposed to be the smart one.

"What kind of airplane is that you fly anyways?" He asked as we sped down the ramp. "It's an S-3 Viking, we hunt Submarines with it." I said.

He turned slightly towards me and that creepy smile was back on his face, "We got no Submarines here in Louisiana, son. Lot's and lot's of crayfish but no submarines." "Well, that's the funny thing about Submarines, Sir. You don't know you have them nearby until one pop's a torpedo up your ass. That's why we look for them." I replied. He frowned and turned back to the front. The driver gave me a look in the mirror that said I was treading on thin ice; he shook his head ever so slightly. I stayed quiet for the rest of the drive.

We sped down a long ramp in front of several large hangers; lots of B-52's were arrayed in many rows. These were non-alert aircraft and I could have gotten off scot free pissing on one of these. I wonder how long you had to server for penetrating a secure area like that.

We did not go too far off the ramp area when we pulled up to a long single story building. It was a "Special Security Detachment" and we pulled right up to the front. Both of the two Air Forces guys got out and the Airman Driver came around and opened my door. He took hold of my left arm and the Captain led us both into one of the doors on the front of the building. As we came in he pointed to a box painted on the floor. The airman holding my arm led me to the square and we stood there, the Captain walked across the room to an office area where I heard him rap and announce his presence. There was mumbling and he stepped inside and out of sight.

I took stock looking around the large room. To our left was a field of desks, only a few were manned. On the right was a long counter with a sign over the top that said "Charge Desk". There was a cute looking Blonde working behind that counter. Another Airman, or was that Airwoman? She was working on some paper work but kept glancing at us, or was it me? I put my "look" on. You know that look. All us guys have one, it's one of those looks that is supposed to 'get' the girls. I kept a my eyes locked on her, hoping for some eye contact.

After a couple of minutes she started to smile, forcing herself not to look over at me, but still grabbing glances. The "look" was working.

The Airman next to me lightly pulled on my left arm. I looked his way and he leaned towards me and whispered into my ear "Forget it buddy, she's one of us."

I nodded then whispered back, "Take these hand cuffs off me and give me a fair chance at her and we will see." He frowned, I think he wanted to growl at me but the Captain was snapping his fingers at us. He pointed for us to join him outside the office. My escort pulled at my arm and we walked right in front of the Blonde Airman. I kept looking over at her since I did not have to worry about navigating being led around by the arm. She took one long look as we walked past, the smile on her face us unmistakable.

My escort stopped us both in front of a door to what looked like a small lounge; there was a small desk a couch and a coffee pot at the far end. An Air Force Major was drawing coffee. He waved us in and the Captain led the way into another much larger office. This office had a chair bolted into the floor right in front of a desk. I was led to the chair which I took to mean they wanted me to sit which I did. The Airman departed but the Captain stood next to the desk. Soon the Major joined us carrying his coffee; he stood behind his desk surveying me while taking a sip.

"Well, what brings you here to my base young man, the Captain here tells me you are a Navy man? That true?" he asked. "Yes sir. I am assigned to Air Anti-Submarine Squadron three one from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. I am an AX2. Petty Officer Second Class." I said. He nodded. "Id?" he asked. "It's in my flight suit, sir." I said. "We did not stop to retrieve it sir. I brought him straight here." The Captain said. The Major frowned shook his head and looked over at the Captain. "How are we to know this man is who he says he is without his ID, Captain?" "Well sir, his name is on his uniform. It's even printed on the back of his shirt." He said. And it was. The Major nodded.

"So what were you doing around those aircraft?" He asked. " Well sir, I was left alone there to fix the one Jet. I flew in on the one but I was brought here specifically to fix the broken one. Which I did but I needed to relieve myself and there was no one around to take me to a hanger or to that café. So, I figured I could go in the grass but decided to check out the B-52 first, then, you know. Take care of business." I said.

"You did not see that you were entering into a restricted area?" he asked. Before I could say anything the Captain spoke for me, "He walked across on the grass medium instead of walking on the asphalt. He missed all the signage we have posted there."

"You walked on the Grass?" He asked me with a deep frown. I nodded, not really understanding the importance.

"Young man, this is an Air Force Base, we don't walk on the grass here. Do you walk on the grass on you base?" he asked.

I waited a moment, not knowing what kind of Major this guy was, the equivalent of a Navy Lieutenant Commander. In the Navy the most 'touchy' officer was the Lieutenant Commander, some were humorless and very short fused and I think the ones that know they will never be advanced to Commander were 'gamey' and you could reason with them. I wondered now if the Air Force was the same way.

"Well sir," I started, "I live on an Aircraft Carrier. We don't grow grass there." I said.

The Captain flinched but the Major held me in a stare, a slight smile spread across his face. He glanced up at the Captain and he leaned back in his chair. "You part of this big air War we are having here?" he asked. "Yes sir." I replied.

"You hear about how that is going Captain, any word out there?" He asked. "No sir, nothing so far. Just that group of F-15's came here that we are keeping extra watch over. Nothing other than that." The Captain said.

The Major leaned onto his desk, took a sip of his coffee and then asked me, "What you hear about these war games on your Aircraft Carrier." He emphasized aircraft carrier by annunciating it real slow.

I figured I was either going to the stockade for a long tour or they were going to throw me back, like a fish into the sea. I had nothing to lose.

"We are told that the Navy is waxing Air Force ass." I said, smiling. The Majors' eyes lit up, I think the Captain flinched again.

"Well Captain, what do you thing about that. Is it possible that the Navy is actually winning this little war?" He asked looking me over, he was smiling too.

"Must be true sir, you know how the Air Force PR machine is, if we were winning even in the least it would be all over the base."

"Yeah I suppose so." The Major said and then stood up, he was waving to me and was going to say something when a commotion from outside his office interrupted him.

Both officers looked out through the blinds in the office, I could see several flight suited men standing at the Charge Deck, members of my Crew.

The Major told the Captain to go out and find out what was going on. When we were alone the Major looked at me and said, "I suspect that will be members of you Squadron coming to claim you." "Yes Sir." I said acknowledging that I recognized them.

"Look, I got us a problem. Normally we would toss your ass into the stockade without any consideration what so ever. Walking up to a nuclear alert asset is a big deal on an Air Force base, more so than walking on the grass." He smiled when he said this last part. "Yes sir." I said.

"But, my problem is that we left those aircraft unguarded which is a big no-no. Hell, if I put you in the stockade I'd have to put the whole security detail in there with you. And I'd have to save space for the Captain in there and myself for that matter. So, my problem is I have to trust you to go back and not say anything about what was on that aircraft. It was just a B-52. Nothing more."

"Yes sir, I can do that." I said. "Good then, a stern warning about pissing on Air Force property and you will be off." He said.

The Captain returned with the Good Lt. Barnes in close formation. He had my ID card which after being introduced he handed the card over to the Major. He took it, studied it a moment and then smiled at me.

"James Taylor. Well, hells bells I like your music." He said chuckling, he handed the ID back to Lt. Barnes. He motioned with his hands to the Captain to remove my hand cuffs. I stood while the manacles were being removed.

"Lieutenant Barnes, this young man was caught pissing on an Air Force B-52. You return him to his parent command and advise his Commanding Officer of this most serious offense. I am only inclined to release Mr. Taylor on the grounds that he is desperately needed to continue the "waxing of Air Force ass" in this little air war we are having."

"Yes Sir, immediately. We are ready to go?" he stated but the question was for me. "Yes sir, 703 is good to go." I said.

"Good, now be gone all of you Navy guys, and stay off the grass." We all stood at attention and the Captain saluted. Both Lt. Barnes and I stumbled in our attempts to salute. "Sorry sir, we don't salute indoors." I said. "Yeah that's right, another reason for you guys to get the hell off my base." He said as we all moved for the door. I looked back at him; he winked at me as I smiled and nodded at him.

We marched smartly passed the Charge Desk. I gazed upon the Blonde Airman, she was standing now and I smiled at her as we passed. She smiled back. And then she was gone.

We returned to our aircraft in the borrowed crew van. Lt. Barnes asked immediately what the hell had happened. I said I had been caught relieving myself on a B-52 since there were no facilities nearby and it was a long walk up to the hanger.

"I never saw anyone put in hand cuffs for that." He said. "Well, like that Major said, it's a "most serious offense"." I said.

We suited up and climbed aboard our trusty Hoovers. We were soon taxing down the ramp back towards the near end of the runway, it was a quick two left turns and we were there. As we made the second left turn I noted through my littlewindow two security trucks following us. They were taking no chances with us.

We were soon airborne and headed out to sea. There was a lot of chatter on the radio about F-15's that were following us, but at about 150 miles off shore we dropped altitude to less than 500 feet and then "dirtied up" the aircraft. That is they dropped the landing gear and extended the flaps to allow very slow speed, something less than 100 knots. The Eagles soon departed the area, leaving us alone and then we cleaned up the two jets and increased speed. We spent some more time flying vectors designed to fool anyone watching our flight path on RADAR. No one in either crew wanted to lead the Air Force back to the Boat.

We landed in due course and I resumed my duty as a trouble shooter. Later that night I went into the Ready Room to drop off paper work and noticed on the big chalk board a hand drawing of a B-52 getting whizzed on by the squadron caricature (a blue cat). There was a white "AT" on the back of the cat, in reference to the shop I worked out of. They must have all had a good laugh, nothing was ever said to me about the incident.

The very next day I was up in the COM Center getting new codes of the day and ran into Lt Barnes coming out of Strike Operations.

"Hi there Petty Officer Taylor, you'll like this. We are planning a raid on Barkesdale. A big Alpha Strike and we are taking a 4-ship in first. Should be great fun after our little diversion there don't you think." He said. "It would be great to be on the ground there to see their reaction. Maybe they will think we are getting rid of the submarines there." I said in a laugh. Lt. Barnes looked at me strange, he did not get the joke. "Yeah, well you had to be there I guess." I said.

Many years later, and I am talking something like 25 years I was finally on another Air Force Base. It was Andrews AFB in Maryland. I was visiting my first Son; he was an Airman TAD from his unit in PA, working at the National Guard headquarters. This was after 9/11 and he was helping set up their computer network in the re-construction of the HQ which had been destroyed in the pentagon attack. He gave me a tour of select places on the base.

Everywhere we went I stepped off onto the grass. Between buildings I would short cut on the lawn. Even when we were both on the sidewalk I would walk on the grass.

It was finally too much for my Son. "Papa, you are going to get me in trouble here. You can't be on the grass. This is an Air Force Base, things are different here. Different service different rules. You know, please stay on the concrete." He said to me.

"Sorry Son, I can't help it." I said. "Say, did I ever tell you about the only time I have ever been in hand cuffs?"

BT: Jimmy T sends.


virgil xenophon said...

Funny, Funny, Jimmy. And it all rings true! I have a "don't walk on the grass" story of my own from my days in might appreciate.

Was a guy in my Squadron that I had never really hit it off with--one of those personality--"I don't like the way you part your hair" kind of things that you can't put your finger on, but bottom line: we just rubbed each other the wrong way--didn't hate or anything, but bugged each other no end. Of course, he was married and I was not, so we didn't spend a lot of time together off duty, either, as he lived off-base in the English country-side.

But we did have one "buddy" routine that we took part in together. I always drove my old XK-140 Jag down the flightline from the BOQ to the SQ every day, but Mike's wife dropped him off so she could tool around the English country-side doing Brass Rubbings in English Churches or go shopping in Ipswitch, so Mike was stranded until the end of the day. So, if neither of us was up flying, I'd give him a ride down to our little Quonset-hut O Club and Cafeteria for lunch, which sat right across the parking lot from the BOQ (how convenient, eh?) And on the way, we'd stop and check mail at our little Quonset-hut P.O. Well, we did this for almost
two straight years, and never once did I see Mike take a short-cut and walk on the grass, but squared the corner (as did I) and followed the sidewalk.

Well, plenty of others did not, and eventually the short-cut path on the grass killed all the grass and left a dirt strip angling across from the sidewalk to the P.O. entrance. Naturally, this state of affairs could not be allowed to exist for long and they re-seeded (NOT sodded) with a little sign that said: "Please don't walk on the grass" and a little string fence on sticks to mark off the area.

Well, the next time we went to check mail Mike very determinedly stepped over the string fence, and tromped over the seeding both going and coming. Once back in the car I turned to Mike and said: "Mike, we've been doing this for almost two years now, and in all that time I've never seen you walk on the grass. Why, of all times, did you start now?"

Well," came the reply, "You see it's this way: I never felt like walking on the grass before until they put up a sign that said, 'Don't walk on the Grass.' " LOL!

(And I can vouch that his attitude as expressed totally fit his personality! LOL)

JimmyT said...

VX, that is pretty funny. One of them didn't care until he was told he couldn't!! I'll have to write about my time on Tinker AFB, it was much longer time, not nearly as much trouble. But the AF was truley different experience from the Navy.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Bag Blog said...

Once again, I love your story. Being an Okie, I look forward to your Tinker story.

There used to be a sign on the side of the road in Red River, NM that said, "Do not throw rocks; Pedistrians below." I couldn't imagine someone stopping to throw rocks in that particular place, but once they put the sign up, I wanted to throw rocks.

Buck said...

Heh. Pretty good, Jimmy. The only time I've ever seen an alert area was at Minot and I can pretty much guarantee ya you wouldn't have had the chance to get "up close and personal" with one of the BUFFs there. I'm more than a little surprised that security at Barksdale was so lax, actually. We used to take that sorta stuff pretty seriously in the way-back. That major wasn't kidding about having to put his security detail away if he put you away. I'm thinking there was some SERIOUS ass-chewing taking place after you vacated the premises, if not Letters of Reprimand.

As for Tinker... I feel yore pain. My final assignment in the AF was at Tinker... two years. But I was on an annex a couple o' miles off main base, where Air Force Communications Command had its Engineering-Installation Division HQ. A completely different animal, that was, and more than likely better, too. But Tinker ranked right up there with my "less than desirable" assignments, especially since it followed the three years I spent in London. My dissatisfaction mostly had to do with the local area and not the base, tho... talk about "culture shock," LOL! (With apologies to Lou)

virgil xenophon said...

Buck, Jimmy/

Talking about bad duty stations, there used to be a big maintenance school (closed now) called Chanute AFB at Rantoul, ILL, a suburb, really just north of Champaign out in the middle of carrier-deck flat corn & soybean farmland in E. Central ILL. Was the worst of all worlds. In the middle of nowhere with no city bigger than Champaign within a radius of 100 mi and blazing hot in the summer band miserably cold in the winter where the Canadian winds would swoop down across the flat plains without anything over sic inches tall to break their force. Would get just enough snow to quickly semi-melt and turn to black slush everywhere one walked or drove--totally miserable conditions. My home town of Charleston, Ill is only 50 mi south, so I know the area well.

Well, with my description in mind, one didn't really have to ship screw-offs in one's organization outside the lower 48 to Thule, Greenland or Nome, Alaska; no, there were other alternatives. The saying in the AF about what to do with total F***-ups in one's command went as follows: "Don't shoot 'em, Chanute 'em!" LOL!

Reese said...

James (love your music),

I didn't miss the real reason the blonde Airman was smiling at you (the core of this excellent story). Perhaps she was even stifling a giggle. Think, people... the answer:
You never closed your zipper!

Wife and I both had similar run-ins with finely machined slide noise. Hers on the _USS CAPE COD_ (AD-43) and mine on Kirtland AFB. Someday I gotta get my own blog. That'd make you my blogfather (or maybe Buck).

JimmyT said...

Lou, thanks for the complement, and Yes I am working on the Tinker story.

Buck, I think the good folks at Barkesdale were stretched thin, if I remember right they also had to guard the AWACS aircraft that were brand new and the F-15's which were kinda new too (this was late 1978) so I think under different circumstances I would not have gotten too close either.

VX, I think the Navy dump yard was the Portsmouth Naval shipyard just outside of Norfolk. A horrible place for a sailor, especially during the '70's.

Bob, Yeah I think it still was down as I still had my hands cuffed behind me!!!

BT: Jimmy T sends.

ASM826 said...

Great story. Reminds of one I could tell about the Marine fighter squadrons being kicked off of Kadena and told never to return, although my knowledge of that one is second hand.