Thursday, April 19, 2018


There is just something about the Air Force these last 40 years. I don't know what did it but if there was ever a Service that had been subjected to a humorectemy it has to be the Air Force. They don't see the humor in anything and any attempt at humor is blasted with the anti-humor equivalent of the MOAB. It brings to mind a passage from Anton Myrer's book, Once An Eagle.
Damon said: “I never had the advantages of West Point.”
Krisler glanced at him a moment—then grinned his gleeful, face-cracking grin. “Yeah! Isn’t that the truth. But the worst part of the place was the stony-dungeon humorlessness. Not one West Pointer in fifty has a real sense of humor. Jesus, they all think a joke is a long story that has a dog in it with a man’s name.”
Damon laughed; he decided he liked Krisler a good deal. “You must have had a bumpy time of it there.”
“The upperclassmen considered me unsound. Frivolous, they called it. ‘No plebe can afford to be frivolous here, Krisler. We are taking it upon ourselves to see that you rid yourself of that odious characteristic.’ Why in hell do they always think they have to talk like Dr. Johnson? I made the mistake of telling one of them that, once.”
“You lasted four years up there with that attitude?”
“Three. Our academic careers were cut short so as to fit us into the grand conflict. I was just as happy, to tell you the truth.” His jet black eyes glinted, his jaw flexed; and Damon saw there was a lot of steel under the headlong bravura. “It became a game after a while—a grim, methodical kind of game. They threw it all at me—I eagled and dipped and braced and walked my punishment tours hour by lonely hour … but every evening I looked in the mirror at my ugly phiz and told myself: ‘You have not lost your sense of humor.’ And it worked.” He watched a pretty French girl at a nearby table for a moment with eager interest. “Well—I take that back about all Pointers. Colonel Caldwell’s got a sense of humor, all right. Nothing seemed to be happening that night, and I couldn’t find anybody that knew anything, and when I saw Caldwell I ran up to him and said: ‘Colonel, my orders are to take command of the Third Platoon, C Company, First Battalion.’ He gave me a really marvelous look and said, ‘Thank you, Lieutenant—I shall return to my duties with a lighter heart.’”
In the Navy reenlistments are pretty much per the whim of the Petty Officer who is re-enlisting. I've re-enlisted sailors at the top of the forward mast on a Spruance Class destroyer, on the very bow of the X USS Midway, atop one of the caissons holding up the Coronado Bay bridge after climbing up it out of our zodiac which was tied alongside. I've heard of sailors re-enlisting in just about any way possible and although I'm pretty sure none have tried a dinosaur puppet, I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong.

I put in 2 years as an AFROTC student before seeing the light and joining the Navy. There wasn't a spec of humor to be found in the Air Force back then. Years later, I remember the Air Force forced me to spend the night in McGuire one night enroute to the middle east. I sent a junior officer straight to the phones when we arrived at the terminal to get rooms at the visiting officers quarters. He was halfway across the terminal when he turned and shouted a question at me. "What do I tell them if they aren't familiar with navy ranks?" I replied, "we're the equivalent of a Lieutenant Colonel and Major." A hand tapped me on my shoulder and a clearly irate LtCol said to me, "Lieutenant, I don't think that's very funny."

Humor is a lubricant. There's enough friction in war that a little lubricant goes a long way to make it easier to get over the hurdles one runs into after 17 straight years of war.

The Colonel was shot at dawn the following day and the sergeant was busted to 2nd Lieutenant.


  1. I make no claims as to the veracity of this account, but a caller-in to a radio show in Trashville said that she knows the woman in question (the reenlistee), and that this was for the amusement of her young child. The actual oath may or may not have already been administered; the caller thought that it had, & that this was a repeat, sock-puppet and all.
    I was a sailor myself. We had a bent sense of humor, almost to a man--that's one reason we were in the Navy. All military services do need to maintain their dignity, but at the same time, could use a bit more facetiousness here & there.
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. As is so often the case what actually happened doesn't matter if somebody filmed any segment of it and it gets released to the wild. I am, on balance, grateful that when I served as a JO nobody except the chaplain had a video camera and that iphones didn't hit the fleet until I was beyond my youthful indiscretions.