Just Look at Him!

One morning I was waiting on an aircraft at the gate with a couple-3 of flight attendants. We were just about to begin our trip. One of the flight attendants asked if I had met the copilot yet to which I replied that I had not. But soon I spotted a guy with a vey ‘focused’ look on his face, heading directly toward us. I mentioned to the flight attendants that I thought this might be ‘our guy.’ and further told them I thought he would be armed as a FDFO (Flight Deck Federal Officer.)

One of the flight attendants asked how I knew to which I replied, “Look at the guy – he’s a ‘short’ guy, stomping our way with a somewhat ‘pissed off’ look on his face.”

Shortly thereafter he came us to us, introduced himself in a curt manner, then told us he was armed! The flight attendants all began laughing which caused him to scowl even deeper. Then the copilot asked what was so funny and I just dismissed it all with, “Oh, I told them all a joke earlier, and it looks like they just got it!”

Nothing more was said, and the trip went well…

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“Harry A. Hit a Tree…

In the early 70’s, there once was a C-141 on approach to RWY 6 at McGuire in ‘very bad’ weather one morning. It was misty and the ceiling was ‘marginal.’ As they approached minimums, where they had to make the decision to either land or go around, the AC (aircraft commander) took it upon himself to “press” just a little bit further – in hopes of finding the runway. Not good, and soon it became apparent, even to him, that they wouldn’t be seeing the runway on that approach. So he executed a go-around.

After completing a subsequent successful approach and landing, a tree limb was discovered embedded in their right wing once they reached their parking spot!

Not good! The way I heard that the incident was reported to MAC Headquarters by the local command post was:

“Harry A. hit a tree,
Flew around for all to see,
Now the aircraft’s parked on ‘Oscar 3,
Sure am glad it wasn’t me!”

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“I Guess the Check Ride is Over?”

Years ago, at Vance AFB, OK, this kid was on a check ride in the T-37. As he and his check pilot completed the pre-flight walk around, it began to rain. They both quickly hopped in the jet and began to settle in. Not wanting to get wet, the student decided to close the canopy, without saying anything to his check pilot.

The Tweet (T-37) canopy was electrically controlled, and once engaged by the student, down it came. Soon a sickening, “crunching” noise was heard. The check pilot called out for him to release the switch, but too late. The canopy had already come down and “cleaved” the check pilot’s helmet sitting on the canopy rail! Well Hell, with the check pilot’s helmet now almost in half, they weren’t going anywhere except back to the squadron – the check ride was over.

As they walked back, the check pilot asked his student if he hadn’t hear the awful crunching sound as the canopy closed? The student replied that he had heard the “crunching,” but thought is was “icing” that has accumulated in the canopy mechanism. The check pilot stopped, turned to look at him and asked, “In August?”

The check ride was over…

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“Lt. Col. E., Please Come Up Here…”

(Submitted by Joe D.)

A few years ago there was a change of command at Air Training Command (ATC, now Air Education and Training Command Air etc.). With this position being a 4-star billet there were all sorts of folks in attendence; high-ranking officers of all services, a couple politicos, local dignitaries and so forth. And of course, representatives of the ‘rank and file’ from throughout the command.

At Randolph AFB, TX over the years there was one family name, more than any other, that kept filtering through – the “E” family. There was General Jeff E., Ron E., Don E., Lee E., Lt. Col. Jeff E., and so forth. A couple were directly related, the others not quite so apparent. On this particular day Ron E., his son Lt. Col. Jeff E and Lee E. were all in attendence.

As General Robin Rand, the new Commander of ATC, began his remarks he asked ‘Lt. Col.’ E to come up to the stage. He meant L:t. Col. ‘Lee’ E. but Lt. Col. Jeff E. beat him to the stage! At the time Jeff had no idea why he was being ‘singled out.’

Now I know Jeff. He’s really a great guy, and I can just see him sitting there in the crowd. Then hearing his name, I can imagine him thinking, “What? Well Hell, okay then…” So, up he went.

General Rand, upon seeing Lt. Col. Jeff E. instead of Lt. Col. Lee E., begins a brief generic ‘spiel’ about how fortunate the Command is to have men like Lt. Col. Jeff E. as leaders – and off he goes singing Jeff’s praises, never skipping a beat in his presentation. And, no one was the wiser.

After a couple minutes of chatting with Lt. Col. Jeff E., he thanks him for his service, tells him to keep up the good work and Jeff heads back to his seat. Then General Rand continues, “And wouldn’t you know it, we have another ‘Lt. Col. E. here this afternoon, Lt. Col. Lee E., would you please come up here!” And the program picked up where it first left off…

While this is hilarious in and of itself, if you knew Jeff as I and many others do, it’s even funnier! Jeff is so unpretentious, he actually thought General Rand wanted him to come up on stage. I hope someday to talk with him about it – for his take on it all…

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“Oh, Bewdy!”

One afternoon I was flying in a 4-ship of T-38s at Vance AFB, OK. It was a beautiful day and we were really enjoying ourselves. The mission was going quite well, the students all doing fine. At one point I took the jet for a straight ahead rejoin. Captain Marty Miller was Lead at the time.

Marty was one of our “young troops;” highly motivated with being an IP, and very competent. When he called for the rejoin I was in the Number 3 position. We were all in trail, with 1 mile spacing between jets when Marty called for the rejoin. Being Nr. 3, I was 2 miles behind Mart. For whatever reason I was determined to “beat” Nr. 2 back into our fingertip formation that day. Number 2 was to rejoin on one of Marty’s wings, and I was to rejoin on the other wing, with Nr. 4 then rejoining on my wing.

So, out came my fangs and I lit both Burners! I “blew by” Nr. 2 about a quarter mile out from Marty, with a great deal of “Smash” (overtake) – too much as it turned out! I just couldn’t get that Bad Boy slowed up. Throttles idle, speed brakes extended, cross-controlling the jet – nothing was slowing me down! So when it was apparent (even to me) that I was going to overshoot, I rolled away, inverted and pulled, exposing my belly to Marty as I went by. All I heard from him was, “Oh, Bewdy,” in a manner that made me just want to hide!

We eventually all got back together and the mission continued – with me a bit humbled. A lot humbled actually! From that time forward, the term “Oh Bewdy” has stuck with us. And we both laugh every time we hear it.

When I later was transferred to Texas, I applied for a personalized license plate:

O Bewdy!

This is one of the tags hanging in Marty’s garage today…the other tag hangs in my shop. And some 45 years later now, we are still laughing about it… Gawd did we ever have fun back then!

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My 3,000 T-38-Hour ‘Backstory’

And now for the “backstory” of how I was able to acquire 3,000 hours in the T-38…

I had always wanted to fly Fighters, but it just was not meant to be. In 1975 I found my way into T-38s at Vance AFB, OK after a SEA (Southeast Asia) tour in HC-130s. After 4 years at Vance, I applied for A-10s, but no luck – so I took an HQ ATC job in T-38 Flight Safety. That lasted for a year and a half then I went to Australia. Upon return, I was once again was assigned to T-38s at Randolph AFB, TX.

I loved my time at Randolph, instructing at the “schoolhouse” for T-38 IPs. And I was blessed to have moved up the “food chain” as I went along: line IP, Flight Commander, Chief of Check Section and Chief of the Wing Stan/Eval Division. In 1985 I knew my 4-year tour was about to end so I began looking for other jobs where I could remain in flying. That was where my heart was. The ‘competition’ in ATC was tough, more “political” than anything else – and I din’t want to play. So I began to explore flying options elsewhere. Going back to the C-141A, at McChord AFB, WA, held appeal for me. So, I went out and got the assignment! (Another story in and of itself!)

About this same time we had a new Director of Operations (DO) assigned to us, Colonel Ron Shamblin. I had known Col. Shamblin from past assignments, and I liked him. But I still thought it was time I move along. When I received my assignment to C-141s in the Fall of 1985 he called me into his office and asked ‘what it would take for him to cancel my orders.’ I had never had a senior officer show that much interest in my career before, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay. I had begun to see and feel the “politics” of ATC and I wanted nothing of it all.

Over the next couple-3 months Col. Shamblin continued to “work on me” to stay. Finally, in February 1986, as I was about to leave he called me into his office once again and said, “Shut the door.” I did, and he asked, “What would it take for you to stay?” He then went on, “We need guys in ATC who aren’t afraid to tell the truth, and I think you are who we need as a squadron commander.”

At the time I had 2,600 hours in the T-38 and another 2 years would give me ample time to pick up the 400 more hours I needed to achieve that coveted 3,000-hour threshold. Not many do, and I wanted to be part of that crowd.

So I gave him permission to cancel my orders, he did, and I achieved my goal. I retired with 3351 hours in the T-38A.

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Colonel Gene Taft

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 Colonel Gene Taft, RIP

I met Colonel Taj when I reported for duty in Canberra, Australia, in July 1980.  Right from the very beginning I liked him.  At our first meeting he was pressed for time.  He told me to have a seat, then proceeded to tell me how ‘to do well’ in my new assignment.

“Bob, keep in mind 3 things, and you’ll do well here in Australia.  First, you’ll be expected to ‘drink your lips off,’ don’t embarrass the Air Force.  Second, you can’t extend – it’s a 2-year tour. And third, don’t screw Australian enlisted women. (Apparently he had just had to send home a Captain for that vey infraction.).  “Got it, Sir,” and I knew right away I could work for this man.

Over the next 2 years I only saw him briefly, more often than not, at social functions.  In 1982 I returned to Randolph Field in Texas.  Colonel Taft and his wife, Fran retired to San Antonio and we began a deeper friendship.  I remember one day sitting at my desk when he walked in my office.  He sat down and we chatted for 20 or 30 minutes – about nothing I suppose, but I do miss talking with him.  When I retired in July 1988, he attended my retirement ceremony, and I was proud to have him there.

                                                          Mom, and Colonel Taft

I was so fortunate to have worked for such a great man… Below is his obituary:

“Colonel Gene Elton Taft, age 84, of San Antonio, TX, passed away into the care of his Lord on Sunday, January 18, 2015 in San Antonio, TX. Family and friends will be conducting a Memorial Service in celebration of his life at the Army Residence Community (ARC), 7400 Crestway, on Friday, January 23 at 2:00 p.m. in the Auditorium. He will be interned at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery at a later day to be determined.

Colonel Taft was born June 13, 1930 in Ventura County, California to Wells Lyle Taft and Mabel Luella Crawford. He grew up in Santa Paula, California and attended Santa Paula High School, where he met his devoted wife of 65 years, Frances Maud Nowlin. Gene excelled in many sports, and was recruited to play football for Oregon State in Corvallis. For decades, he held the record for the longest touchdown return in Oregon State history. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

He was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC program, and in 1954, entered the Air Force. Upon completion of pilot training, he served 30 years in a number of key leadership positions around the world.

During his combat tour in Vietnam, Gene, flying the F4 Phantom, was credited with a shoot down of an enemy MIG aircraft. His many awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 11 Oak Leaf Clusters, and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross.
Following his distinguished Air Force career, as an avid and lifelong golfer, Gene was actively involved in both professional and amateur golf tournaments. He served as Senior PGA Tournament Director for 2 years at Dominion Country Club, and chaired the Retired Military Golf Championship at Randolph AFB for 15 years. He also was an active participant of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association.

Gene was a devoted and loving husband and father. He was a sincere, loyal and trustworthy friend. He was a light that shined brightly in this world, and will be greatly missed.

He is survived by his wife Frances and daughter Kimberly Kimbriel of Dallas, TX.”

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Tattoo at the Taj: Running Out of Airspeed, and Ideas

As the ceremony came to a close, just after the playing of Taps, the Taj would be lit up in Red, White and Blue colored lighting. Then a lone T-38 would come from behind, light the Burners and climb into the heavens. That was the plan…

On this one night the solo ‘38 was flown by a young FAIP (First Assignment Instructor Pilot.). Another FAIP was in the Taj, relaying ‘how it was going’’ to a guy in the Tower who, in turn, passed the information to the Sol Pilot for timing. Being either early or late would dampen the whole show.

So this one evening the Solo pilot got a little ahead of himself and had to do a couple “S” turns for spacing lest he be too early. And by doing that he inadvertently bled off more airspeed than he realized. As he pulled into the vertical, the airspeed bled off even more – until he almost ran out of airspeed! So there he was, over the reviewing stands, out of airspeed, and ideas.

It wasn’t long before the jet pitched over and the kid found himself staring at all the attendees – almost going straight down! I can only imagine what everyone thought, from either perspective. Very slowly, as the airspeed began to build, he recovered from the dive, but not before giving everyone quite a show!

The next morning I showed up to work around 1100 or so as I had been part of the 4-ship formation that evening myself. Until then I had no knowledge of the show. The ADO (Assistant Director of Operations) called me in and asked, “What happened?” I didn’t have a clue, at that time. When I found out the details I felt a cold chill run through my body. We came so close to a real disaster!

Of note, the kid’s squadron commander was in his rear cockpit…

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Take the Afternoon Off and Go…

I was talking with (callsign) Spongebob the other day. He currently a T-6 IP, on duty as a Lt. Col. Reserve officer on leave from the airlines. So, he’s having the time of his life!

A couple-3 weeks ago he told me that one of his new students informed him of his “high-powered” degree in rocket science, and vague attempt to intimidate Spongebob with his intellect. It didn’t work. Then as he progressed though the program the student began to employ the the age 0ld techniques of quibbling and whining. They didn’t work either. Spongebob has been around the Closed Pattern with too many students before this kid to buy into any of his crap. So last week or so the kid reverted to “crying!” (YGBSM!). That didn’t work either…

At his last crying session, first the kid tried to claim “dry eye” when challenged about it. That didn’t work either (Spongebob’s tough), and at this juncture, Spongebob had had enough! He casually sat back, looked across the table and told the kid to take the rest of the day off – to go home and “unfuck” himself! And he said this in the flight room; if the kid had no reservations about crying at his desk, well Spongebob had no reservations about offering a solution!

I wish I had had this “tool” when I was instructing in the 70’s and 80’s – I flew with a few students who could have used the direction – to head home and “unfuck” themselves! But then again , maybe not…

(BTW, after Spongebob told me this story, I laughed all the way home, and woke up the next morning, still laughing over it!)

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Talking With ‘Old Guys’

Joe and I were talking the other day, about how we used to love talking with ‘old guys.’ We learned so much from these guys who ‘went before us’ – about everything, about Life. One of the ‘old guys’ I used to talk with was Carl Gamble.

Carl was the father of a friend of mine. We met in 1964, when I began college. Carl was a grocer and had served as a Forward Artillery Spotter in WW II. To this end he was darned near deaf! (Go figure?). At any rate, one night I happened to ask him if he had any idea how many Germans he was responsible for “taking off the playing field?” He told me that he had no idea but would think about it… Carl was a “ponderer.”

A little later he reported that he felt personally responsible for calling in artillery on 823 unfortunate German soldiers. And we went with that. Then a couple months later he told me that remembered 3 or 4 more he caught sneaking away in a trench one day. Called in the coordinates, and took them ‘out of service.’

It wasn’t long after that, that he brought up another 4 or 5 unfortunate soldiers he found, and “removed from the fight.” And we would laugh about it all… knowing it was just banter.

Truth be told, Carl was, and remains, a personal Hero of mine. He was a true Man of Grace. When you met him he made you feel as if you were the most important person he had ever met. And all levity aside, he had so much to share about Life in general. About Honor, about Integrity, about Work Ethic, your Word and so forth… Our conversations helped shaped me as a Man.

When I went on Active Duty I would seek out the ‘old guys,’ to learn from them. And learn I did, and I prospered from it; professionally and personally.

As Joe and I talked a while back, he remarked that he rarely finds young people today even remotely interested in what he might have to say, about anything. I’ve seen this too…

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