Wednesday, September 4, 2013


In 1996 the US military prepared for the Atlanta Olympic Games by polishing our fangs so as to deter Iran from doing anything crazier than usual. It took the form, in Naval Forces Central Command, of daily flights of Air Force cargo planes arriving with 'stuff' that was offloaded. The planes were emptied and then flown home. Concurrently, a brand new radar sonar surveillance system and generators were sent to me via an opportune lift (Air National Guard training flight) C-141. I met the plane when it landed at Bahrain International Airport. As it taxied up to the navy's military cargo area and home of the Desert Duck, I saw that it had some problems. Fuel. Lots of fuel was sleeting off the top of the wings. 10 men got off the plane and all appeared to not notice gallons of jet fuel dripping on them.

My purpose was twofold. I was going to take delivery of the replacement surveillance system and I was going to load up the one we had for return to the states. Simple. There was another problem. The plane had not one but two load-masters and they were in a snit. There was a third man who was also a load-master who was 'observing and rating' the two guys throwing a fit.* It took them 6 hours. SIX HOURS to offload two generators and my surveillance system. They elected to use a 5 ton truck to pull the system off up until they backed it into one of the upraised personnel doors in the aircraft. It left a mark. When they became hysterical, the civilian ramp boss snuck up behind them with a piece of yellow gear and whipped the stuff off the plane.

The plane continued to offload fuel from the top of the wings. Once the cargo was off, my problems began. If it took this crew 6 hours to get a generator off. It was going to take forever to get a 20 foot milvan embarked. I had 10 minutes. The crew were told they could not remain overnight and had to leave for Dhahran; never to return.

I took my brand new surveillance system back to the Banz and phoned home to let them know that I now had two of them and what did they want me to do with the spare. They were quite excited at the news. This was before video conferencing so I can't be sure that they were foaming at the mouth but that was the impression I got.

So, we return to our highly polished fangs now. There were all these completely totally empty Air Force cargo planes returning CONUS. Why not, we wondered, see if we can use them for opportune lift? It must be noted that my community had no money at all. None. We were skint. We looked under the cushions for change and dipped a finger into every payphone coin return. I consulted my brothers at NAVCENT and even deigned to talk to CTF 54 and ASU. Yes yes, I knew better but optimism is my guiding star. I did it. I consigned the old surveillance system to an empty C5 on the promise that it was free.

Months later I was home on leave for a couple of weeks when I got a call from our Logistics Officer. He was a very nice man, ordinarily. Jeff started out the call by asking me if I had my checkbook. He told me that the Air Force had billed us $54,000 for that opportune lift and he thought I should pay. I countered with the system was damaged in transit and he should send a bill for $54,000 to the Air Force and stop bothering me.

It became a game. A game I truly enjoyed playing. My stuff always moved by a DEPORD after that. Deployment Orders from the Joint Chiefs of Staff always tell the services to comply and capture the cost for later reimbursement. No money or funding has to change hands. I think it a more sane approach. Imagine. An army platoon sergeant calls for air support in Afghanistan and the Air Force operator asks if he has a funding site for that which can be billed by the Air Force. That was TRANSCOM.
I took notes and now I have them again
*there was another load-master there. We took advantage of the 452nd's offer and got certified simply because it was far easier to self-manifest. Only played us false one time, in Adak. No. I did not even breath a word as I watched that farce. It was not life and death and they did not work for me.


OldAFSarge said...

I was going to say "unbelievable", then realized that the story was completely believable. After all, I did spend 24 years in the USAF. We had lots of stupid rules, lots.

Buck said...

Chris has seen MUCH more flight line antics than I... Hell, Curtis, by telling this one story YOU have seen more o' that stuff than I, as a matter o' fact. The only time I was ever on a flight line was when I was getting in or out of a -130 or a -141 as a passenger.

That said, I saw lots o' stupidity in the radar bid'niz. It was not uncommon.

HMS Defiant said...

Once upon a time I hurtled down the runway at NASNI in a C141 getting right up to the point of no return when the pilot elected to not take off and slammed on all the brakes and reversers. I was looking very hard at the deuce and half griped down just behind me with a bit of alarm. It was definitely moving. It was creeping up on me.

I prefer commercial.