I first met Joe S. at a base intramural softball game at Vance AFB, OK in the summer of 1976. Our squadron, or flight, was playing Joe’s class. Joe was playing 2nd base.
I was coaching 1st base when Maj. Don Ross got a hit deep into right field. As Don rounded 2nd, Joe stuck out his foot and tripped him. Don sprawled to the ground between 2nd and 3rd, then low-crawled on his hands and knees into 3rd. Then, in a single motion, Don came up, called “time out” and headed back toward Joe.
Don was a fighter pilot. He had flown F-100s in Viet Nam. It was a good thing that Don has an “even-keeled” disposition by nature. By the time he reached Joe he had regained enough composure not to pound him into second base…
Joe’s class was just completing “Tweets” (T-37s) at the time. I think I knew that their class was slated to be my next class in T-38s in a couple weeks. (I was the Flight Commander of “O” Flight at the time).
I came across Joe once again at the O’Club one evening before he showed up in “O” Flight. Sue and I were having dinner with Marty and Karen. As we proceeded through a buffet line, I noticed Joe sitting off to the side with a couple of his classmates. I overheard him make a comment something to the affect, “That’s our new flight commander? He doesn’t look so tough.”
I was pissed! I looked over at Marty, reached into the salad bowl with my bare hand, grabbed a handful of salad and jammed it on my plate and said something like, “The last thing I will ever do is take crap from a student!” The “fight” was on.
A week or so later, when Joe’s class finally got to “O” Flight, I was sitting in my office when Don walked in. “Who do I have this class?” Don asked.
“Well, let me see,” I replied as I reached for a roster. I knew however, exactly who Don was flying with.
“Looks like some kid named Sousaris” I informed him.
Don acknowledged it and turned to head into the flight room. I got up from my desk and went over to the Flight Commander’s entrance into the flight room to watch the show. I was standing in the doorway with my arms folded when Don came into the room from the main entrance.
“Who is Sousaris?” he asked as he came into the room.
Joe, who was sitting with his back to the entryway at the time, replied, “That would be me,” and he turned to see who was looking for him. I think there was immediate recognition as the next words out of Joe’s mouth were, “Oh, shit!”
Don just looked over at me as he headed toward Joe’s desk and said something like, “Real cute Holliker, real cute.”
As it all turned out, Don was probably the best IP I could have chosen for Joe. They just got long great, and remain friends to this day…