Here we go again … marchin’ down the (same) avenue
Should I do it? Probably not.
The more salient question is, will I do it? The proverbial jury is still out on that one.
If you’re reading this in Sunday’s edition of the Bulletin, you’ll know that the jury came back and sentenced me to resurrect my now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t column for at least the 57th time.
So here we go again. Marchin’ down the avenue. I didn’t make that up. That was one of the many marching cadences from my six weeks of Air Force basic training at Lackland A.F.B. The T.I. or dorm chief or whoever was marching us would call out “here we go again” and the marchers would echo “here we go again ...”
This was against the background of the dull clump-clump-clump-clump of boots on the pavement, along with the sharp click-click-click from the taps on the TI’s boots as he barked out commands.
The physically fit TI’s were an impressive specimen, with their closely tailored uniforms and smokey-the-bear hats pulled low over their beedy eyes. They could also be kinda scary, especially when they said “boo.”
And it certainly wasn’t a good way to show friendship when a TI once referred to me as an (expletive) idiot. Doh! “Excuse me, but I did not appreciate that,” I told the TI, who said he was sorry and that he should not have said that.
So I’ll give Sergeant Column here a shot for at least one time and hopefully more. I’ve actually received hundreds of emails from readers imploring me to bring my column back. What’s that? You’d like to see some of those emails? I’ve … deleted them. Yeah that’s it.
Out of 38,000 people in Brown County, I know of two who would like to see my column back. Two out of 38,000, that’s not bad. And in giving these two folks what they want, in at least for one edition of the Bulletin, my message will be: just because I can’t write columns doesn’t mean I won’t. At least once.
And speaking of the Air Force. I recently acquired a T-shirt with words and emblems indicating I’m an Air Force veteran and I served. It’s one of my favorite dress-up shirts, and I wear it, not to make sure people know I served. I wear it because of my ties to the Air Force, and let’s be honest, because I look good in it. I was only in for four years, but combined with growing up in an Air Force family, I bleed blue.
I wore that shirt when Wife and I visited the Waco zoo. A lady walked by me and said “thank you for your service.” It took me a moment to realize, hey, she’s talking to me! And I was thinking, service? What service? Oh yeah the shirt.
“You’re welcome,” I called out as she walked away. I added, “thank you.”
Me and Wife got into a convo about our military backgrounds and Wife said “not everyone can be Army Strong.”
“Not everyone can Aim High,” I fired back. Score!
Perhaps you’ve been at a military-themed concert by a choir and/or band. Sometimes they’ll close the concert by singing/playing a medley of the songs of the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army, and sometimes the Coast Guard, which I know next to nothing about.
It’s super cool when the “off we go, into the wild blue yonder” lyrics/music start up, and people with Air Force connections jump to their feet, standing at ramrod-straight attention. Same for “Over hill, over dale ...” (Army); ”anchors aweigh my boys ...” (Navy); and “from the hills of Montezuma ...” (Marines).
The Marines have the best motto: semper fi, which, as I understand, means “always faithful.” The Air Force motto, as best I can tell, is aim high… fly-fight-in. As mottos go … eh. I couldn’t find mottos for the Army and Navy.
I wasn’t planning to do this, but I’m being transported down a lane called Memory.
If you’ve heard these stories before, don’t stop me because I like telling stories that feature me-me-me as the star.
So fasten those Koch fittings on your harness, tighten up your G-suit (actually someone else has to do that for you) and come along and slip the surly bonds of earth.
I remember as a kid at Laon A.F.B. in France, where my dad was stationed, riding my bike and pretending I was flying a military jet. The gear selector on my bike’s cross bar was the throttle. I thought the F-101s that flew out of that base were the coolest. In a Bulletin column many years ago, I referred to Laon A.F.B. as the place where the big jet Voodoos roar. Although they aren’t that super big.
My dad told me that because of my reference to the the big jet Voodoos roaring, he couldn’t get the song “LA International Airport” out of his head.
In the vast number of photos that belonged to my dad, who left us in 2009, I recently ran across a lovely photo, now in my possession, of a low-flying Voodoo that had just taken off. The twin-engine McDonnell Douglas interceptor was gorgeous in that photo.
I’m sure the photo was taken by my dad. It was taken from what was known as the base’s Perimeter Road. The road took vehicles (including bicycles) very close to the approach and departure ends of the runway. When a plane was taking off or landing, a sign on the side of the road would light up red, with the command to vehicles to “stop.” Who actually activated that sign? I have no idea.
In my own Air Force years, I was assigned to wings in what was then the Tactical Fighter Command that flew the A-7 and F-4. I was impressed at the intelligence of the pilots. They were also polite and friendly, often funny, entertaining and very much people people. Nothing like the cocky, immature buffoons portrayed in movies such as “Top Gun.” Tom Cruise’s character wouldn’t be allowed within 10 miles of a military jet.
One thing about fighter wings – the guys did tend to think flying fighters was the job to have; if you flew a big plane with four engines multiple crew members, that wasn’t cool.
When I worked at the Abilene Reporter-News and spent time at Dyess A.F.B., I was able to spend some time hanging out with B-1B, C-130 and KC-135 crews. They were just as professional, just as enthused, just as committed to their missions as the fighter bros were.
I visited the Dyess flight line a few times and even got to ride in a KC-135 on a refueling mission and on a C-130 on a cross-country.
The unique (and loud) sound on the Dyess flight line of jet engines at idle, then building up enough thrust to push the planes out of their parking spots, the aroma of jet fuel, the sight of the jet exhaust shimmering in the air, crew chiefs marshaling the planes in and out of parking spots – deja vu all over again.
I saw a plaque on a wall in one of the B-1B buildings. It depicted Mikhail Gorbachev, who was then the leader of the Soviet Union, waking up with a vision of B-1Bs in his head. The plaque had the words “when Mikhail Gorbachev wakes up, he thinks of the 7th Bomb Wing and says ’not today.’”
I may never go near an Air Force jet again, only because I won’t have the opportunity. This won’t happen, but what if I was able to get a ride in the back seat of a two-seat F-15 or F-16? And if I did, would I have the nerve to ride through violent high-g maneuvers and aerobatics? Part of me wants to say “hit it!”
Would I be the dude sitting back there saying yabba-dabba-do! Or would I be the dude who ends up feeling airsick and miserable? Let’s just pretend it’s the former, and leave it at that.
And as real pilots say all the time, over and out!