“Persent – Arms!” …or, Putters!

In 1978 MGen. Ralph S. Saunders, Commander, Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service, came to Vance AFB to speak at a student graduation.  I had met General Saunders in 1974 when I was in the 56th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand.  As it turned out, Sue and I just happened to be at that particular graduation.

As the festivities were winding down, the Wing Commander, Col. Tom Magner, and Sue and I happened to be visiting with General Saunders in the O’Club lobby.  Col. Magner mentioned to General Saunders that the next time he was in town, we could take him up for a T-38 ride.  The General didn’t miss a beat. He asked Col. Magner if he could take him home to Scott AFB, IL in the morning.

“Sure,” Col. Magner replied.  He then looked at me, knowing I had met the General before, and asked if I was “okay” to fly.  “Sure,” I replied, as I sat down my drink…

I think our departure was set for 0900 the next morning.  I showed up early and did the flight planning.  Someone else took care of orienting the General, with respect to the jet.  It wasn’t until I got to the jet that I discovered “they” were putting the General in the front seat!  We usually didn’t do that.  There were just too many things in the front cockpit that the guy in back didn’t have access to.  But, what the hell…

I think the General was a “little under the weather” from the night before, and was just then realizing what he had asked for!  He was real quiet as we strapped in.

All in all, it was a good flight, until we arrived at Scott.  He wanted the landing, and who was I to say anything else but, “You bet!”

The approach looked fine, until he flared for landing – at 50 feet!  That got my attention!  I tactfully took control of the aircraft and we went around.  I then asked the General if he would like to see a T-38 landing pattern before our full stop.  He agreed that might be a good idea.

So I configured the jet with gear and flaps and as we rolled out on final approach I let it settle into “the weeds!”  I think that kinda watered his eyes, but he got the idea.  We then went around and I gave the jet to the General.

With my exaggerated demo, his final approach was acceptable and we landed without further incident.  I think we were both glad to be down!

We had a travel pod on the jet so after I unpacked his personal stuff, I put his chute and helmet in the pod, and pre-flighted for departure.  Start and taxi were without incident.

To use this one runway at Scott I had to back-taxi to the end to be legal.  As I taxied I noticed these 3 guys on the golf course staring at me.  That’s odd I thought.  Then I turned and aligned the jet for takeoff.  When I received take-off clearance, I released brakes, and lit the burners.  Then I just happened to look over to the golf course and all 3 of those guys were standing at attention – saluting!  YGBSM!  I had never seen anything like that!  So I just casually waved, and was on my way…

It wasn’t until some time in flight that I figured out why “Larry, Curly and Moe” were saluting.  As I pre-flighted the jet before departure I neglected to notice the 2-star General officer plaque attached to the front canopy railing!  Well, okay, that makes sense now…  still funny, to think of those 3 guys standing at attention, with putters or whatever, by their sides…

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