Of the two “Chiefs” I had in my shop, Chief Edwards was the oldest – or at least, he looked the oldest. I think he may have been… A great guy, he was.
One morning we were sitting around in the office when the hanger fire alarm went off. We all rushed out into the hanger bay to see what the problem was. There were but a couple jets (F-111s) in the hanger, and they looked fine – no fire. Then we saw a couple of our young troops coming out of their break room and they told us that (while fooling around) someone was pushed into the fire alarm. Crap!
Pulling a fire alarm is something you just don’t do, unless there is an actual fire. And to have one go off while someone was “fooling around” is not good. I thought my ass was grass! “Oh, Gawd-damn it!” I exclaimed.
Chief Edwards looked at me, and then looked at his watch and said, “Calm down Loo-ten-dent, everything will be fine.” (He always pronounced ‘lieutenant’ with 3 syllables.) How could it be, I wondered – and my Air Force career was going so well!
The alarm kept blaring, and I kept worrying. I just couldn’t see how everything was going to be ‘okay.’ Then the base fire trucks began to show up.
Chief Edwards was the first to meet the firemen. “Who is in charge here?” he roared. I had never seen him so animated.
A guy in a ‘silver suit’ raised his hood and said “I am, Sir.” And the Chief lit into him.
“Do you know how long your response time was?” he asked.
“No Sir,” the fireman replied.
“Do you realize how vital these aircraft are to our nation?” the Chief continued.
“Yes Sir!” came the reply, as he came to ‘Attention.’
“Seven minutes and 53 seconds,” the Chief bellowed. “That’s bullshit! The next time we run a fire drill I expect you to be here a lot sooner! Do you understand me, Fire Chief?”
“Yes Sir!” once again came the reply from the guy quivering in his shiny silver boots.
“Now, reset the alarm and get the hell out of here,” the old Chief snapped.
The Fire Chief secured the alarm then scrambled to get back on his truck, and Chief Edwards headed back toward our offices – but not before scowling at the young troops for horsing around. Nothing was said, he didn’t have to say anything. Just that look of his said it all! Glad it wasn’t aimed at me!
About 5 minutes later I returned to our office and saw Chief Edwards back at his desk, working his daily crossword puzzle and drinking coffee as if nothing had happened…
I love that guy, and the lesson was not lost on me!