Thursday, January 17th, 2002

Today will mark one full set of day watches with the new LT. It’s been a baptism by fire.

We started out with the fiasco of Airman Woods, an uncertified op, training Airman Pedersen; then we had the fiasco when SN Judd’s records hit the front office with no training documented. We’re still getting fallout from the explosion that the Morse aisle set off when they vaulted into 1st place in the Stats Wars. And yesterday I watched him [the LT] fight off SMSgt Holland on the subject of Bennett’s EPR.

Even with flames up his backside, Lt Griffin’s a very cool customer. Not very happy with the fiascos, but very cool. Getting an LT who was prior enlisted can be a plus or a minus; I’m sure Lt Griffin has his minuses, but to date he’s been careful to show us only his pluses.

[11/30/14: In the short time that Second Lieutenant Griffin was Dawg’s watch officer, we got quite a few messes cleaned up. If only he’d stuck around a little longer before he left for a day shop desk.]

Days with LT Griffin | 11:43 am CDT
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Sunday, January 13th, 2002

Seaman Judd pointed out to me that, because she’s on the First Aid Team, she’s carried on the rolls as “SN Judd, FAT.” She added that, at her last station, she was on the first aid team for the stern section, so she was “SN Judd, FAT STERN.” She figures it’s only a matter of time before some wag figures out a way to expand ASS to a usable acronym.

FAT | 7:55 am CDT
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Friday, January 11th, 2002

I’m rapidly approaching the time when I dread reporting to work while the day shop is in. One more example of little to no documentation in training records landed us all in the shitter again today. They say it rolls downhill, so I set fire to every block controller’s ass. It’ll take weeks to shake everybody into line on this, though. I may be alcoholic by then.

(“Do you drink?” Godwin asked me, during one of our meetings. I shook my head. “I give you six months; you’ll be drinking heavily.” Very encouraging.)

six months | 7:53 am CDT
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Wednesday, January 9th, 2002

I went back to the ski slopes again! A couple guys as work, Romeo Bautista and Dave Christy, were headed for Makado, up north by Mutsu Bay, and asked me if I wanted to come along. I probably shouldn’t have; my legs were still sore and tight from skiing at Moya, but I couldn’t say no. For one thing, I needed a little stress relief.

I should’ve know by the end of the first run that I’d be in trouble; my turns were sloppy and my knees hurt, but I figured once I warmed up, I’d be okay. I was wrong. For one thing, I just wasn’t flexible enough; the muscles of my calves and thighs were like cold taffy. For another thing, the slopes were slick with ice; my skis kept going out from under me faster than I could say “ouch!” I tried the fastest slope and ended up going splat five or six times.

Finally, there was no way for me to stay warm. I was plenty warm at Moya in my bibs and jacket, with a t-shirt underneath. For Makado, I put on a thermal undershirt, but seriously misjudged how much colder the wind would make things – and there was lots of wind pushing lots of snow around. I was never uncomfortably cold, except on the long chairlift, but I never got warm all the way through until we went inside at lunch time, where I curled myself around a great big bowl of miso ramen to soak up the heat.

I felt much better after I had a belly full of hot ramen in me. When we got back out onto the slopes, I also had much less trouble making the turns without going splat, which makes the day out so much more enjoyable. We stayed until about three in the afternoon, when the wind got really crazy and the snow started coming down so hard that, on my last run of the day, I might as well have shut my eyes all the way back down the slope.

Makado | 7:44 am CDT
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Tuesday, January 8th, 2002

Shoddy training records … uncertified ops signing for JQS items … no certified ops in the section … and the Superintendent of J34 calling the Watch Officer into her office, as well as the Mission Soup, the CHFS and anybody else worthy of a good ass-chewing. I’ve had better days.

better days | 10:49 am CDT
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Monday, January 7th, 2002

The Morse aisle has managed not only to boost their stats to their highest levels in 16 months, but they’ve managed to take first place over three other flights, also the first time in over a year. To celebrate, day workers from all offices came out to clap Mark Ursich on the back and offer other congratulations. Also asked how he cheated to do it.

I’ve never liked the shift-worker/day-shop rivalry that existed at every single site I’ve been stationed. It always seemed to be a counter-productive negativism that was easily overcome with just a little understanding. I’m starting to think, however, that this place may surpass my ability to understand.

[11/30/14: There was a day shop with the job of tracking everything we did, then presenting the statistics every Monday morning to the commander. The operators on all four flights knew every trick to inflate their statistics, but on Dawg flight we didn’t resort to tricks, we just did the job. Unsurprisingly, Dawg did not do very well in what were called the “stats wars.” But during this one set of watches, Mark Ursich did such a savvy job of managing his team that they were out in front of all the others. To recognize his leadership, he was half-jokingly accused by almost everyone in day shop of gaming the system. And that’s why I was so puzzled.]

stats wars | 11:48 am CDT
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Friday, January 4th, 2002

I’ve probably mentioned to you that I work in poorly-heated rooms. Turns out I was wrong. The place where I work doesn’t, in fact, have any heat at all. None. The building was designed back when computing equipment generated so much heat you could barbecue ribs over them, so the builders installed Godzilla-sized air-conditioning units that ran full-blast, day and night, even in the winter. Now all of that equipment has been replaced by desk-top computers, which are warm, but not nearly warm enough to thaw your fingers after they’ve gone blue and numb, something that happens to me regularly at work.

In every refrigerated place I’ve worked, we’ve complained about the cold, not necessarily because the kind of people I work with are complainers – they are, but it’s more because we’re expected to type a lot, which gets hard to do when you can’t feel your fingertips. The complaints start out as grumbles at first, but by mid-winter we’re openly bitching to whoever will listen. Shortly after that, The Powers That Be whip out the thermometers. It always turns out to be about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, which sounds like a balmy spring day, but even though everybody realizes that we don’t work out in the sunshine, The Powers That Be seem to be using a line of reasoning that goes something like this: “32 is freezing. 64 is twice that number! Heck, that’s practically hot!”

I’m very protective of my body heat. It’s a safe bet you probably don’t want to hear about my underwear, but I’m going to mention that, even though I pad my clothes with several layers of polypropylene and wool, it’s barely enough to keep my blood circulating. I was talking to Richard Bennett and mentioned that after I get home from working a mid, I stand in a hot shower for about twenty minutes or I don’t feel human. “But what’s that got to do with the heat?” he asked, waggling his eyebrows.

hvac | 7:33 pm CDT
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Saturday, December 29th, 2001

The Air Force gave me an official e-mail account so it could send me pictures of horribly mutilated and dead people. Used to be, I would’ve had to go to war to see disfigured corpses smeared with gore; now, I can study them over a cup of tea from the comfort of my desk. Thank goodness for technology.

The question you’re naturally asking yourself now, presuming you have the stomach to keep reading this not-very-funny drivel, is: Why would the Air Force send me pictures of bloody death? Am I engaged in some new study of battlefield action? No, this has nothing to do with the Air Force’s official business of blowing up stuff with big bombs. Last night’s e-mail, filled with distressingly detailed close-ups of children horribly injured in road accidents, was sent to everybody at work in the hope that it would somehow discourage excessive drinking over the holidays. I may be wrong, but I suspect those pictures will instead make many people want to drink a whole lot more than usual. I know after seeing them, I sure want to.

This is the fourth time in four months that somebody working for an Air Force safety office has sent me photos like this in the name of making the world better for all of us, bless their hearts. Shortly after arriving here, I had to sit through a safety briefing that bored me numb, then ended with a short film clip of a pedestrian hit by one car, then another, as he crossed the road. The moral of the story, which my mother taught me years ago, was “Look both ways.” If memory serves, Mom somehow got the same message across without the scared-straight video.

A winter safety brief featured pictures of people’s mutilated limbs, blackened by gangrene from frostbite, or chopped into little pieces after operating a snow blower without reading the operator’s manual. So the message I’m getting from the Air Force, over and over ad nauseum, is that people are stupid. Or have misinterpreted?

ad nauseum | 7:17 pm CDT
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Monday, December 24th, 2001

Today’s that magical day – yes, it’s the day we start a new work cycle, our first mid. For the next two weeks I’ll become a completely different person, working all night, sleeping all day. For several days at a stretch, I won’t see some of my family for more than fifteen minutes, and some of them I won’t see at all for days. Mids get pretty surreal sometimes.

Dawg flight relieved Charlie for the Christmas mid watch, and after SSgt Baker gave me the pass-down, we settled into the usual small talk: how’d the break go, what’s up with the family, that kind of thing. As the conversation fell into a lull and he seemed ready to put on his coat and go, I said something like, “Better get on home, sleep well,” the usual things I say to let somebody go, then I just barely remember to add, “Merry Christmas.” He settled back into his seat and said, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.”

It was a funny thing to say because I’d been feeling the same way for a while. I know it’s been said plenty already, but the holiday season starts way too darned soon. I had to buy a Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving or do without one, so the poor thing was a dead twig by Christmas eve. Then all through the build-up, hardly anybody seemed to be in the mood. It was a surprise to me whenever I heard, “Merry Christmas,” which wasn’t often.

Then on Christmas eve, My Darling B made the same remark: “Christmas doesn’t feel the same this year.” Maybe that was the essence of it, that it did feel like Christmas, but the way Christmas feels had changed, like so many other feelings, in the last six months.

un-Christmas | 6:33 am CDT
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Wednesday, December 19th, 2001

The day watches are over! Not that I honestly think I’ll catch a moment’s rest in the few days that remain before I have to return to mid watches on Christmas eve, but it’s nice to dream.

momentous | 5:40 am CDT
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Tuesday, December 18th, 2001

B said a funny thing to me the other night – I don’t remember it verbatim, or even how it came up, but she said something about “when I’m the first sergeant.”

“Now what is that supposed to mean?” I asked her. “You want me to be a first sergeant?”

“I didn’t say I wanted that,” she answered.

“You know I’ve thought about it, but geeze, the crud a shirt’s got to put up with …”

“There’s good stuff, too,” she pointed out. “And you could be the one who makes a difference in an airman’s career.”

We didn’t say much more about it than that, but it stuck in my mind because she brought it up; I hadn’t even thought about it for weeks, maybe months – certainly not since I took a crash-dive into the pleasures of being a supervisor over just three airmen. The one airman and the several trips I’ve made to take care of her infractions on my days off have made me think hard about whether or not the game is worth the candle. On the other hand, I have been able to do some pretty cool stuff for the other airmen – nothing super-cool yet, but stuff that made me feel as though I was accomplishing something.

I’ve thought of asking to see the shirt to talk to him about this. Trouble with putting a bug in somebody’s ear over something like this, is that once you’ve mentioned it, there’s no going back. It could happen that I’d end up being a shirt with dizzying speed. There’s also PCS to look at: Shirts go away to a training school, and some of them change station more often than they change underwear. Moves are becoming harder for me to deal with, not easier.

shirt | 7:12 pm CDT
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Thursday, December 13th, 2001

I ran two and a half miles at PT this morning and my ankle hardly hurts at all. When we started doing mando PT three times a week, I had tendonitis around my left ankle something horrible – ankle was swollen, hard to walk up the stairs, gulped aspirin to kill the pain & keep the swelling down. Four weeks later, I stretch a little before I get on the treadmill, run thirty minutes, and I’m good to go. All they require is that we do thirty minutes of aerobic activity, so they get thirty minutes from me. Not thirty-one. Working out at the gym bores my ass off. I usually spend the whole time making a mental list of all the things I’d rather be doing, and the list gets pretty long in thirty minutes.

tendonitis | 7:03 am CDT
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My Darling B and I had a pretty good time at the Christmas party last night. The dinner was so-so, the games were kinda fun – but listen to this: While we were waiting at the bar to get some drinks, Senior Master Sergeant Gorrell stepped up, introduced himself to B, and made a little small talk. Nice of him. After he left, B and I stood around for a while, trying to figure out where to sit. A table in the front corner was wide open, nobody else sitting there, so we moved in on two good seats and sat down with our drinks. Who should come over and ask to sit down but SMSgt Gorrell? Of course we’re going to say okay. After he’d been sitting a while, Lieutenant Colonel Burns, commanding officer of my squadron, comes over to say hi to us, then asks if he could sit with us, too. Just FYI, SMSgt Gorrell works in LtCol Burns’ office. Can’t say no to the colonel. Then along comes Chief Master Sergeant Gething and his wife; the Chief works in the orderly room, although to be honest, I don’t know what his job is. They sit down just before the 1st Sergeant, SMSgt Johnson, and his wife come over. So now B and I are seated at a table with all the senior NCOs of the unit and the commander of the 301st Intel Squadron, and I’m thinking I’ll probably have to listen to shit all week about what a brown-noser I am.

Christmas party | 7:01 am CDT
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Friday, December 7th, 2001

I work with a guy, Mark Ursich, who has three small kids. The other day he was complaining to MSgt Godwin about how much time he had to spend keeping them from fighting and looking after them, and said something like, “At least you’ve got teenagers; they pretty much take care of themselves.” Godwin and I looked at each other and just about busted a gut laughing. Ursich didn’t get it. When we could draw breath again, we tried to explain that, if he thinks his teenaged kids will take care of themselves, he’s a guy who’s setting himself up for a big disappointment. About the last thing kids learn to do for themselves is wipe their butts; after that, their IQ seems to actually diminish. My oldest boy follows people around the house turning off lamps as they leave the room, on the theory that saving so little as a watt of electricity will benefit the world, but he’ll leave the front door open in the middle of winter while he takes out the trash. And just try to get a teenager to wash dishes or clothes. Might as well wait for bags of money to fall from the sky.

bubble popped | 6:50 am CDT
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Saturday, December 1st, 2001

If I never mentioned my job here, it’s because I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. The past couple months have been like a crash course in what supervising’s all about. They put me on a flight that’s had a lot of trouble pulling together in the past, and is still having some trouble, but there’s been a huge turnover in personnel this season. I’m not the only newbie on flight by a long shot – the Mission Soup[1] is new, one of the block controllers[2] is new, and about two-thirds of the ops[3] are new. Senior leadership has sort of handed it to us to remake Dawg flight,[4] even while we remain the butt of jokes.

I’m the only TSgt on the operations floor, so I picked up three troops to supervise right off the bat. One of them’s a hard-charging Levitow award winner,[5] one of them’s mediocre, and one is considered by just about everybody with more than five stripes to be a ‘problem child.’ I think her biggest problem has been bad supervision and a tendency to procrastinate; I know she’s smart and can do better. Trouble is, she’s determined to get out in twelve short months. I’d like to leave her with a better impression of the Air Force than she has now. The Levitow winner is a challenge equally as huge – how do I make sure he gets everything he deserves from his career? I worry about dropping the ball.

Because I’m a TSgt, the Mission Soup put me in a management slot, overseeing the HF floor.[6] I not only had a big job to take on, I had to learn just what the heck it was my own darned self, because my trainer, the previous Chief HFS, thought that the job was mostly about socializing and taking CBT courses during duty hours instead of showing me what to do.[7] I’m sure I still don’t know half the ins and outs. I’ve supervised an ops floor on a smaller scale, but that was a while ago and, as I remember (maybe my memory is going), it wasn’t anything like this. This job moves at a mile a minute; there’s never a dull moment.[8]

Where am I going with this? I really don’t know. The largest part of my job seems to be putting out fires, and that comes right after trying to plan ahead so the fires never get started in the first place (Don’t laugh. I can dream). After that, I’m just trying to take care of people, and that’s damn near impossible, too. Only a few of the supervisors are taking the job seriously; too many good airmen are falling through the cracks, so on top of trying to make sure the mission gets done, I get to try to straighten that out, too.[9]

[10/22/2014: Time for some boring details:

I worked in an office that operated round-the-clock. I call it an “office” because it was indoors. Our work unit was really many units that worked together.

1. The Mission Superintendent was called “mission soup” – that’s just how it was pronounced; it was not meant as a slam against his character. At least not that I know of. The Mission Superintendent made sure everybody did what they were supposed to do; he (or she) was a non-commissioned officer. At Misawa, the mission soup was a USAF Master Sergeant or a Navy Chief Petty Officer. There were no Army Mission Superintendents while I was there.

2. The operations floor was divided into work units called “blocks,” and a non-commissioned officer, usually a Staff Sergeant, was put in charge of each block. They were known as a block controllers.

3. The airman who worked in each block were referred to as operators, or “ops.”

4. A squadron is made up of two or more flights. Instead of being numbered, they were named A, B, C or D. I have never heard of a squadron with more than four flights. When I was in the Air Force, they were still using the old phonetic alphabet to refer to flights, so they were called Able, Baker, Charlie and Dawg.

5. John Levitow was the youngest non-commissioned officer in the USAF to be awarded the medal of honor. The Levitow Award is given to one person in each class in leadership development school.

6. “The HF floor” was four blocks working together.

7. Not exaggerating even a little bit here. My predecessor spend her time during duty hours finishing her on-line college courses and gossiping with her friends.

8. I remembered that wrong. My previous job supervising an ops floor was in Denver. Compared to Misawa, that was like supervising the demigods from Mount Olympus.

9. I think this was originally written as a letter to somebody, maybe my brother, and then expanded on when I wrote it as a blog post.

Footnotes. Really. In a blog. How pretentious.]

footnotes | 4:04 pm CDT
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Friday, November 30th, 2001

373rd IG held a monthly promotion ceremony this afternoon. I’ve never been to one like this before. Actually, the only promotion ceremony I’ve ever been to was one for a co-worker who pinned on major; I’ve never seen promotions for airmen and NCOs celebrated like this, which is another crying shame.

Once again, the turnout was great. I don’t know if that’s because it was “highly encouraged,” or because of genuine interest, but I was in the back with the rest of the standing-room-only crowd. Once again, the ceremony was mostly formal and quiet until the promotees rose to accept their new stripes. I say “mostly formal” because LtCol Burns was asked to make a few remarks and ended up telling stories about each of his troops, and when Chief Gething came forward to administer the NCO oath to the SSgt-selects, he livened up what some people make out to be a dull chore by ensuring the selects spoke with a purpose. After they timidly responded to “I, state your name,” the Chief turned to the crowd and asked, “Can you hear them?” “NO!” the crowd shouted back. They did better.

Then they marched to the front of the room one by one to get their stripes tacked on. This is going by the wayside in so many corners of the military because apparently many people think it’s cruel, but I noticed nobody raised an objection today. In fact, I noticed the SSgts all asked their friends and supervisors to tack on their stripes, and so far as I could tell, every NCO relished getting tacked on, even the poor girl who could barely raise her arm to salute the colonel afterwards. Several would have gotten away with just a tap when their children or their spouses tacked their stripes on, but Chief Gething and Chief Lucero called the biggest NCOs out of the audience to make sure it was done right.

I had mixed feelings about the ceremony; it was quite a morale boost, but SrA Ball was supposed to be there to get her stripe, and was not. LtCol Burns decided to withhold her stripe until he can see that she has straightened up and will fly right. I went to his office at oh-dark-thirty this morning to hear his decision, then returned at nine to be there when he told SrA Ball. It was a very formal meeting; she took it very professionally, then we went to an outer office where she struggled over an emotionally rocky meeting with the Shirt. After he left, I stayed behind to talk with her until she composed herself to leave. On the good side, she seemed genuinely remorseful, and worried that she’d disappointed the colonel. I was just a tad worried that she might cop an attitude and walk away huffy.

[11/22/14: Getting stripes “tacked on” is one of those weird military traditions that borders on abuse. If I were promoted to Staff Sergeant, anybody in my unit who outranked me could “tack on” my stripes by punching them, usually in a buddy-buddy kind of way, but in every unit there were assholes you never saw before who showed up to punch you as hard as they could. At promotion ceremonies, sometimes the two most senior enlisted people would tack on stripes; sometimes the commander would take part; and sometimes the whole damned squadron would line up to tack on stripes.

Some of the people who were promoted at the ceremony I described above asked if they could have their wives and children tack on their stripes, and the commander allowed that, but then the senior enlisted people lined up to tack them on, too, and the newly-promoted could hardly say no.

I gained quite a bit of respect for Airman Ball after the commander held back her stripe. She pulled herself together and was promoted to Staff Sergeant in the next cycle.]

promotion ceremony | 12:57 pm CDT
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Thursday, November 29th, 2001

I went to the Airman Leadership School graduation in the evening, a lot more fun that the Air Force Ball, but then about anything short of a root canal would have been, so I could have phrased it better.

The 373rd IG was there in force, and it seemed like just about every one of us was very, ah, enthusiastic about being there. Colonel Mitzell later characterized us as “obnoxious, but damned proud of who we are,” and he got applause for that.

Everything was formal and quiet during the social hour and through the dinner. Then it came time to hand out the diplomas. Each time a 373rd student was called to the stage, he was met by a thunder of spoons clattering on tables; F-16s taking off from the flight line next door would have been drowned out. After they received their diplomas and walked off the stage, Col Mitzell called out in a lusty baritone, “373rd IG!” and all the guests from the group would holler back, “IN THE FIGHT!” – the colonel’s pet phrase.

This rousing display of esprit de corps completely baffled the A1Cs and SrAs I was sitting with; they hardly knew what to think. They’d obviously never seen anything like it at an Air Force function, a crying shame, if you ask me. Looks like it’s about time this unit had a combat dining-in.

in the fight | 12:30 pm CDT
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Tuesday, November 27th, 2001

I did my PT this morning after the mid watch, and it sucked every bit as much as I thought it would. Mid watches are at least thirteen hours for me, because senior supervisors have to stay behind to brief the commander; rank hath its privileges.

Everybody’s supposed to get flu shots today, but it would’ve required me to drive back to Security Hill on icy roads through snow flurries after I’d been awake for more than thirty hours, so I opted for the safety of my bed.

commander’s call | 10:19 am CDT
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Petty Officer Franklin is an op on my crew who works eight-hour nights because she’s pregnant, so on mids she’ll mosey over to my desk at about two in the morning to tell me she’s going home for the night. Last night, though, she came over about ten-thirty.

“Sgt O, if it’s all right with you, I’m going home at midnight,” she said. “I’m feeling pretty bad.”

I asked her if she was going to the hospital, by which I meant sick call.

“No, they just send you home if the contractions are more than five minutes apart, and mine are seven, but they’re starting to hurt pretty bad.”

I said something like, “You’re having CONTRACTIONS?” and I may have broken a sweat.

It somehow turned out that Petty Officer Moran, pregnant as well, was also experiencing labor pains about seven minutes apart. All this in the middle of the first snow flurries of the season, making roads to Security Hill slippery. I could just see ambulances sliding across icy roads into the ditch, and panicky airmen (that includes me) trying to deliver babies on the operations floor with a first-aid kit and my wits.

contractions | 10:17 am CDT
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MSgt Godwin came in with a big grump on tonight. SSgt Ursich is pretty good at reading his moods, and gave me the heads-up as soon as he saw Godwin. “Here he comes,” he said under his breath, “he’s got his hands on his hips and that look on his face.” Sure enough, we got chewed because nobody responded to the call for the snow removal team, and then he called us over for a powwow at his desk because nobody had submitted award write-ups on their subordinates.

To be fair to Godwin, he’s not a grump; he likes to joke and grab-ass as much as any of the airmen, and he genuinely wants to be your friend but, unless I’ve misjudged him – and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that, would it? – he’s a sergeant of the old school who expects things to get done when he says, “do it!” His favorite phrase, in fact, is, “make that happen,” and if you don’t, he gets understandably miffed. His temper is perhaps on a hair trigger, but so far I like and respect him.

[11/22/14: Reading this again, I can see Godwin standing hands on hips, head tilted forward so he could properly scowl at us from under his eyebrows as he chewed us out in short-clipped phrases. He could do almost everything right about ass-chewing, but he wore a Charlie Chaplin moustache that only got more comical-looking as he got angrier. It kinda worked against him in that one particular situation.]

hands on hips | 10:01 am CDT
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Thursday, November 22nd, 2001

It’s funny, and reassuring in a traditional way, that Thanksgiving is the one holiday that the government hasn’t fudged around. On holidays like this one, the operations floor usually goes to minimum manning, keeping just a skeleton crew. I slept in this morning by arrangement, and when I got in at about noon, Shawn Bryant, the guy who sat in my spot, went home to his family.

The place was nearly deserted when I got there. We were supposed to have a pig-in, so I was carrying a casserole, even though I figured there wouldn’t be anybody to eat it and besides, we were all going home to eat dinner that evening, anyway. Who’d want to stuff themselves at work, then go home to eat more?

Wow, did I figure that wrong. MSgt Godwin brought in a 30 lb. turkey, somebody else brought in a baked ham, and with my casserole there were about a half-dozen home-cooked items on the table. The Dawgs tore through them like they’d just been released from six months in a prison camp, leaving overturned bowls, crumbs and greasy smears behind on the table.

Our dinner at home was wonderful. Barb fixed a fairly simple dinner this time, with a big turkey, baked potatoes, rice, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. We have that last one every year for the same reason that my Mom cuts the ends off the roast: Because we’ve always done it that way. We ate by candle light and had a long, relaxed meal, knowing that we could all stay up late because none of us had to get up early in the morning.

Thanksgiving | 5:41 am CDT
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Wednesday, November 21st, 2001

Rode the bus to work this morning. The base runs two bus routes up to the north area and back which almost nobody uses. I don’t use it much, but when I do, I’m usually the only one on it. The drivers are usually Japanese. They must think that’s one lunatic job, driving an empty bus round and round the base all day.

[10/20/2014: The “north area” of Misawa Air Base was anything north of the runway: a housing area, a gym, a store, and just about all of the Japanese air force’s stuff. We lived in the housing area on the south side of the base which, if memory serves, was called simply “main base.” I worked in an entirely different part of the base that was off on a spit of land to the west. The only way to get to it was to drive about five miles around the end of the runway, through a forest and across a causeway. We had just one car at first, so on days when B needed the car to go somewhere, I took one of the two buses that ran circles around the base, and they were almost always empty. I’m not kidding. I was very often the only guy on a sixty-passenger bus. The white-gloved Japanese drivers spoke no English, not that that was a problem: all drivers pulled over at every bus stop and opened the door, whether somebody was waiting there or not. Most often not. They would wait a couple beats, then close the door and drive away. This made a trip to work – normally a ten-minute drive – drag out over a half-hour. I usually brought a book, or napped.]

base bus | 5:24 am CDT
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Tuesday, November 20th, 2001

A day off? How’d that happen?

I checked out the Base Honor Guard this morning during their weekly practice, to see what the entrance requirements were and how often they performed. Honor Guard is something I’ve always wanted to take part in, but I’m thinking this is the wrong time for it. Besides the weekly mandatory practice sessions, they sometimes perform several times a week. I’m a fast-moving target right now trying to keep up with work, supervising, PT and keeping in touch with my family. I can’t see shoehorning one more activity into my regular schedule and keeping it all balanced. Think I’ll have to put this on the back burner and get to it later, if I can get to it at all.

Then I went to PT. This is becoming bad for the tendon over my left ankle, which is swollen and painful; must have tendonitis from pounding the treadmill and cranking the stationary bike. Think I’ll spend the next two days sitting at my desk on my narrow butt, gulping aspirin.

But for the rest of the day, even though I had errands to run, I tried not to do a whole lot. I took the library books back and got the mail, but I turned that into a reason to stroll in the crisp autumn air. I did the crossword and the cryptoquip while washing the clothes. I fixed a door, but that was pretty much mindless work, which is a pleasure after the brain-crunching of writing an EPR. I made calzones for dinner. I’ll probably spend the rest of the week farting the cheese out of my system, but what the hell, sometimes you gotta satisfy your lust.

a day off | 5:06 am CDT
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Monday, November 19th, 2001

Got hailed at the Dawg flight Hail & Farewell, where I sat all night NOT drinking beer. Wasn’t thinking ahead when I volunteered to be a designated driver. Like the Air Force Ball, this get-together was a bit of a disappointment for me, but this time mostly because I’m the new guy. Without any common ground, it’s hard to stay with the conversation; not for the first time in my life, I’ve thought that I may have to take up football or baseball just so I can do something other than sit there like a slack-jawed ignoramus when somebody tries to jump-start the conversation by asking me, “Did you see the game last night?” I get such a kick out of the way the game is automatically about football. If I started talking sumo or rugby, somehow I’d be the weirdo.

[11/21/14: A guy at the hail & farewell introduced himself to My Darling B, said they used to work together up on the hill. “Remember me?” he kept on asking, but no matter how many different ways he tried to remind her of where they worked and what they did, she could not get the neurons to fire so that she could recall who this guy was. He left us utterly deflated. Weirdly, this same scene would play out the other way around when B and I went to her favorite noodle shop and the owner, who she seemed to remember as a good friend, had no idea who she was.]

hail & farewell | 4:44 am CDT
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And I was having such a good day today.

It started off with PT, which is boring but not too bad, and I had to go in to work right after that, but I went in happily because I was writing up a letter of appreciation for a troop who was doing such uncommonly good work on duty that it was a crime not to recognize him by giving him a one-day pass. I finished by visiting a few office heads to tie up some loose ends, then set off to pick up B from school. I was already light of heart, but seeing her smiling face somehow lifted me even higher.

After we came home from the commissary, I went straight into the house to answer the ringing telephone and, in an almost magical moment, that is to say a moment afflicted by a curse, my hand paused over the receiver and I said out loud to myself, “Do I really want to answer this?” But, shaking off the fear as irrational and stupid, I picked up the phone and said hello to the NCOIC of Operations, SMSgt Holland, who was looking for SrA Ball’s supervisor. Lucky me. SMSgt Holland had a few curt words to say about SrA Ball’s conduct and then left the matter for me to resolve immediately.

I supervise just three people, which means that I’m supposed to look after them personally and professionally; not just write regular evaluations, but provide them insights to military life that will lead to their appreciation of the Air Force. I’m supposed to ensure the good ones to stick to their standards, and to encourage the not-so-good ones to do better.

I have to encourage SrA Ball. This is challenging in so many ways, first and foremost because she, like many airmen new to military culture, has a tendency toward flippant familiarity bordering on insubordination, which is not a bad thing if it can be controlled and used to foster positive traits such as self-determination.

Communication is also a problem, because it’s nearly always a one-way stream of almost nothing but self-criticism, and wow, the girl can talk. Weapons experts the world over can only dream of delivering the kind of rapid fire SrA Ball routinely uses. I have to forcibly break in to every conversation I have with her to get any kind of message across, and I feel pretty rude about doing it, but unless I do, little communication takes place, if any at all.

Probably the next biggest challenge is representing her to command staff – well, to anybody above me, really. From what I can tell, she’s alienated just about everybody on site with four stripes or more. I don’t know what to do about SrA Ball except just keep listening to her stories, and keep documenting every incident she gets involved in.

[11/20/14: Somehow, I left out the best part of this day, the phone conversation I had with airman Ball immediately after the NCOIC of Ops directed me in no uncertain terms to straighten her shit out. Her infraction this time, as best as I can remember it, was a string of parking tickets she had put off paying for a leetle bit too long.

Ball was attending Airman Leadership School at the time and it must have stressed her out a bit more than usual, although almost everything stressed out airman Ball. She was in class when I called the school, so I left a message and when she called me back she was apoplectic with rage when she found out why I was calling, and I mean she was screaming into the receiver so loudly that she probably didn’t need a telephone to get her message across. If I’d stood at my open front door, I might have heard what she was saying from the other side of the base.

When she was done venting, and it took a while, I directed her to pay the parking tickets, then report to me at work that evening with a copy of the receipt in hand. I tried to keep it brief because I was speaking through clenched teeth and didn’t trust myself to say much else. If I recall correctly, she did manage to take care of the tickets the same day, and I think she even apologized to me later for blowing up on the phone. Oh, the joys of supervising.]

joys of supervising | 4:38 am CDT
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Sunday, November 18th, 2001

I may be wrong, but I think the Dawgies are starting to settle down to work.

I expected a bit more rowdiness over weekend day watches, when there wasn’t as much to do and everybody was in that weekend mood. Not much trouble at all, though, and in fact several of the ops are doing outstanding work.

After the watch, Mark Ursich told me a bunch of Dawgs were going to get together at Viking for a bite. Viking is an all-you-can-eat place, where you pick out what you want from prepared food and cook the meats back at your table on a gas grill. I tried salmon sushi (okay, so you don’t cook that), marinated lamb, some kind of beef strip, and the usual Japanese stuff I love like gyoza and miso.

I love eating at Japanese restaurants, but there was one hitch to eating at Viking. It had what I guess you’d call a traditional dining area, where you sat on the floor at short tables. I had to take off my shoes when I entered the dining area, and though the restaurant provided slippers to put on when I went to get more food, the biggest slippers they had are comically small on me. They went as far as the balls of my feet, and I had to shuffle across the floor with my toes clenched to keep them from falling off.

Dawgie chow | 4:34 am CDT
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Saturday, November 17th, 2001

Shawn Bryant sat CHFS for me so I could leave about eleven o’clock to get ready for the Air Force Ball, my first chance to wear my mess dress here, and B’s first chance to go get her hair done again, and goodness, did they do her do. I knew she’d be in the beauty shop so I went straight from work down to the mall (yep, we’ve got a mall) and hung around waiting for her so she wouldn’t have to walk home in the rain. When she finally came out of there, two flippin’ hours later, her hair was piled in a curly coif that took her an hour to undo. Now she’s talking about a short-haired perm, not that I blame her.

800 people showed up for the ball, and from what I could tell, it was just another night at the club, except that we dressed up for it. Well, some of us did. Some of the prom dresses that the wives wore made the night almost interesting; Barb and I spent most of the night wandering from room to room, pointing out fashion crimes and trying to decide how to describe them. Lots of tattoos on parade. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but a women who has a blue rose the size of a cantaloupe tattooed on her breast should probably rethink her decision to buy, let alone wear, a low-cut ball gown, and women with unidentifiable winged things tattooed across the backs of their necks probably shouldn’t go out.

[11/20/14: My goodness, I was an opinionated son of a bitch back then, wasn’t I? It’s like I didn’t know that people could get a tattoo if they wanted. But I wasn’t the only one in the Air Force with a stick up his butt: This year or the next, the higher-ups would enact new regulations that would prohibit airmen from displaying tattoos. They could get tattoos, but they had to be in places where they would be covered up while on duty. But that’s not why I dissed people with tattoos; it was most likely because I was an being an asshole. At Misawa, there were a lot of people from the generation that was starting to get tattooed. I was meeting them and their tattoos for the first time, and I didn’t know how to react. That’s typically when my assholishness tends to rise to the surface of my personality. Change does not come easily to me.]

a night at the ball | 4:23 am CDT
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Friday, November 16th, 2001

I’m a certified Chief of HF Systems now. That means if anything goes wrong on the ops floor, the Mission Soup chews my ass first, which happens more often than you might think. The Soup, MSgt Godwin, is a teensy bit excitable; tends to go off like a hatful of nitroglycerine at the slightest provocation, scuttle back and forth across the ops floor, spewing expletives, until he gets it all out of his system. Giving him the chance to vent is written into my job description. When he’s not wound up, though, he’s a decent guy, and seems genuinely interested in making Dawg flight a good place to work.

[10/20/14: I’m not sure why I cut this so short. Godwin was a good guy. Gave me rides to work and back home all the time, told me stories on the way about his days as a crew member on a tanker or a cargo plane, one or the other. Tried his best to mentor me in The Ways Of The Air Force. I did not always take to his lessons, but looking back I can plainly see that I shoulda listened.]

scuttle? | 9:53 pm CDT
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I’ve gone to more mandatory formations in the ten weeks or so that I’ve been here than I ever went to in the last ten years in the service. They brief us on everything here; today, we got briefed on winter: It gets really, really cold in winter. Don’t get frostbite. And we get so much snow that people have heart attacks shoveling it, so be careful not to keel over and die. Now, in our own special way of trying to scare you out of doing something stupid, here are some gruesome photos of frostbitten toes, and hands that got mangled in snow blowers. Thanks for your time.

winter brief | 9:52 pm CDT
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Wednesday, November 14th, 2001

First day of break between day watches, sort of. The flight’s PT-ing together now, which means that everybody on flight has to trudge over to the gym at least three times a week and sign in with the duty sergeant, go do something aerobic like play basketball or run on a treadmill, and then sign out. Most of the airmen don’t so much as try to pretend to work out; they get on a bike, for instance – if it’s broke, that’s perfect, but if it’s not, they put it on its lowest setting and pedal as slowly as they can for thirty minutes or so while they watch television. Sometimes they get off the bike after ten minutes or so and wander around as if they’re looking for something else to do. Airmen are so good at this that it should probably be considered an aerobic activity, although I rarely see many of them break a sweat. I get to be the duty sergeant next week, by the way.

There’s a definite nip in the air now, and not a friendly, bracing chill, more like a threat, really. We had our first snow of the season today. Barb says it snowed yesterday, but I didn’t see it and it didn’t stick, so I figure it doesn’t count. The world was white this morning and it came down on and off through the day, even though a lot of the stuff on the ground melted by afternoon.

break broken brunk | 5:55 pm CDT
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Tuesday, November 13th, 2001

On to work: I’ve spent quite a bit of my time lately talking to all the operators on the floor so I can give them an idea what’s expected of them while they’re at work, because a lot of them don’t seem to have the idea that, while they’re there, they’re supposed to do something other than gab with each other and play games. I started by briefing each of them on flight policy, which included what I thought were common-sense things, like stand when an officer talks to you, don’t read books while you’re supposed to be working, that kind of thing. The briefings were an opportunity to squawk about whatever they saw as unfair, or ask me questions about anything, but surprisingly just one of the troublemakers said anything. Everybody else took it like bad medicine and pressed on.

I went to the section where the linguists sit to ask the controller a question, or something just as routine, and as soon as I stepped into view everybody bolted up out of their seats and stood locked at the position of attention, eyes front. I just about wet myself. I’d been having a mixed day, and that light bit of ribbing was just what I needed. It was the high point of my day.

The low point of my day was having to sit in on the ass-chewing that the Mission Soup, MSgt Godwin, gave to the kid who got busted for getting drunk and breaking curfew. The kid was in deep trouble. He’d violated a general order, a very serious thing. Godwin evidently thought that the way to demonstrate that was to cuss and rail at the guy for a good long time. I thought some of the things he said were just plain mean, or said out of pure anger; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a sergeant yell at an airman just because. I hope I don’t have to see it again soon, but I get the feeling that I’ll be privy to anything that happens to the kids on the ops floor so long as I’m Chief of HF Systems.

joys of supervising | 5:57 am CDT
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Thursday, November 8th, 2001

[a letter to Mom:] Thought I’d pass along to you that I finally went through the hoard of coins you passed on to me from Grandpa Fred. It was a lot of fun, just like going through his pocket change, and I wanted to thank you. Lots of nice coins in there, by the way; about 450 pennies, some as much as ninety years old, and an interesting mix of foreign coins. The Canadian coins were especially fun.

After years of being little more than an airman sitting at a rack, I’ve suddenly become an NCO with all kinds of nasty things to do. I started this week by giving an official reprimand, a job I found very unpleasant, and I finished it tonight by chewing out some insubordinate snot-nosed loafers, not quite as unpleasant; in a way, I was actually looking forward to it. I’d gone to sleep thinking about it, woke up thinking about it, and was so used to thinking about it by then that I was more or less determined to get it over with, although it still made me a little anxious when it came to actually doing it. I’m not used to bawling out anybody except my kids, and it occurred to me the other night that these airmen act just like my kids, or any kids do when they’re caught doing something they’re not supposed to do. One of the two I got after tonight, for instance, was spending way too much time in the wrong place, and I said so to him. There was no reason whatsoever for him to listen to me. He could’ve taken me three falls out of three and could probably talk faster, too. Didn’t even try. Just mumbled something like, “I was just leaving,” and headed back to his rack. Being in charge is a very sudden turn of events for me. And it’s not all nasty; there have been some pretty cool things, too. Trying to get a sense of the balance of the experience is the part of it that makes me a little nervous, like balancing on a cliff’s edge.

dear Mom | 6:36 am CDT
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Monday, November 5th, 2001

Stopped by the Orderly Room and asked to see the 1st Sergeant because it seemed to me that I might be spending a lot of time talking to him anyway, now that I’ve got a “problem child” to look after, but I didn’t want that to be the only time he saw me. He asked me into his office right away and we had a warm face-to-face; intel’s in his background, so he understands operators and shift work. Seems to be a very straight shooter, and genuinely loves his job.

I had about forty minutes to kill after seeing the 1st Sergeant, so I went to work. While I was sitting at a work station, a staff sergeant, servicing a rack right next to me, looked over and remarked, almost to himself but loud enough that I was obviously supposed to hear him, “Ah, a rich tech sergeant.”

“A rich tech sergeant?” I asked. “You know one of those?”

“You make more than me, right?” he shot back with a smile.

“Can’t deny that,” I answered. “Now the question is, do I get to keep it?”

“You married? Kids?” he asked. I nodded affirmatively. “Never mind, then.”

richer than he knows | 5:37 am CDT
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Sunday, November 4th, 2001

Last night I was party to a minor miracle: I sat down with two other guys and we drafted an initial performance report. Enlisted Performance Reports, or EPRs, have got to be about the biggest pain in the ass the Air Force has it in its power to devise, mostly because every NCO in the chain from me up to the commander feels he just has to add his own personal touch to every draft I submit, even though it’s my name at the bottom. Even if I’ve got the most outstanding troop in the Air Force, it’s just about impossible to submit an EPR without getting it back with red ink through every other word. I think this practice began as a way for senior NCOs to pass along EPR writing techniques to junior NCOs, and when they realized how much pain it caused besides, they refined the technique to maximize the torture.

But back to the minor miracle. An initial EPR is even harder to write than a regular annual EPR. After my troop’s been on the job a year, I ought to have something to write about, but a troop right out of tech school hasn’t done anything except, well, go to school. Doesn’t fill up a lot of space on the EPR, and filling up all the space is the biggest challenge to writing an EPR, after getting it past the senior NCOs.

maximize the torture | 5:35 am CDT
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Sunday, October 7th, 2001

My first night with Dawg flight went like this: After I traded war stories with the mission supe, he took me on a short tour of the ops floor, then encouraged me to circulate and meet the ops.

I met the Chief of HF Systems, who told me the story of how Dawg flight was formed: Until sometime last summer there were only three flights, but when the ops floor began to work a 12-hour schedule they needed four flights, so Dawg was constituted. The Chief’s story was that the other flights gave up only their very worst operators for the formation of Dawg.

“We’re all a bunch of criminals,” she said. “Dawg flight only gets the very worst that comes down the pipe. Everybody here has some kind of stain on their record. Every new guy is a new problem child.”

I think this was meant to be a confidence shared in a friendly manner, but when there was a break in the conversation, the newest guy on the flight – that would’ve been me – turned to the second-newest guy and said, “I’ve got a big, warm fuzzy; how about you?”

Toward morning we all found out that the first air strikes against Afghanistan had begun. Mixed reactions from the ops floor personnel.

new Dawgs | 5:46 am CDT
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Wednesday, September 26th, 2001

Yesterday, I was supposed to show up for work at one o’clock. A very young security policeman – I mean, he was about eight years old! – took me to his “office,” a closet with a computer in it, read me all the big words that mean I can’t tell you what I do, then had me sign about a dozen papers and made an ID badge for me. Once that was over, I was finally “at work,” so he lead me down the hall to another guy’s office, who asked me a couple questions about my training records, which I didn’t have, before he turned me over to another training office. That was run by another very young airman, maybe seven years old. She said it was too late in the day to start training, come back tomorrow at eight in the morning.

So today I showed up right at eight. She had me fill out a few papers, told me about important stuff like lunch break and where to get snacks from vending machines, then asked if I had any appointments. I said I had to visit the housing office, and I wanted to get ahold of the guy who was going to sell me his car. “Okay, why don’t you take the day off to do that?” she said.

Wow, I’m back in the Air Force now.

training day | 5:30 am CDT
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Friday, September 21st, 2001

It’s a lot more alien than I was ready for; if you’d plopped me down in the middle of an ant colony, I wouldn’t have felt more out of place. Everything’s so tiny. The shops and houses look like ice-fishing shanties standing shoulder to shoulder and stacked atop one another. The cars are about the size of gumdrops. The chairs we sat on in the noodle shop were strangely western-looking but had deceptively short legs. The only things not shrunken are the telephones; they’re at least as big as breadboxes and colored green and red and gray.

Friday evening we taped a holiday message for Armed Forces News. You might have seen these before round about Christmas time; before they go to a commercial break, stations will play these little blips where you see a military guy with the family, they’ll say a quick “hi, folks!” and wave like goobers. We didn’t wave, but we still looked like goobers, so it’ll be pretty easy to spot us. B will be the one who looks like she’s been into the cooking sherry. You might be getting a call telling you when it’ll be on, but I’m not sure they have to do that.

Saturday we wanted to stretch our legs, get out of the room, and off the base, so we headed into town. Misawa is right out the front gate; just take a right and you’re in a main street shopping district. The culture shock is tremendous, most immediately because I can’t read anything. We took a long stroll down one side of the street, stopping for a bite to eat, then worked our way back along the other side of the street. Our first day out, the Jehovah’s Witnesses found us. I thought it was just a Japanese couple being friendly; well, I suppose it was. They chatted with us a bit before he whipped out the pamphlet and asked me to take out a subscription. I accepted his card but said I’d have to get back to him on the subscription.

more ant colony | 9:24 pm CDT
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Sunday, September 16th, 2001

It rained again all day Sunday, but B wanted to see if she could find the house she used to live in, so we set off in the rain to tramp through an old housing area just a block away from the hotel. She was in familiar territory here, and zeroed in on her quarters almost right away. It was a corner apartment on a four-unit building, derelict and covered in graffiti now. All the buildings in this corner of the housing area were vacant, and I found out later that they were all scheduled for demolition in the spring.

The base chaplains held a memorial service in the base theater in the evening. The place was packed; dozens were standing in the back of the room. The service was simple; after the posting of the colors, each of the chaplains said a few words in reflection of the week’s events, we sang the now-inevitable chorus of ‘God Bless America’ while we held lit candles, and everybody filed out after a moment of silence.

It was a cathartic moment; I got a little misty, even though I’m frankly growing more than a little tired of hearing ‘God Bless America’ every day on the public address system just before retreat. Our way of life in the civilian and, somewhat more pointedly, in our military world has been changed so fundamentally, and yet the event that has sparked the change was so outrageously crazy that I can see it’ll take quite some time for me, for probably anybody, to appreciate the weight of it. I’m fairly certain I’ll never be able to get my mind to encompass it fully.

fundament | 9:20 pm CDT
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Saturday, September 15th, 2001

Here’s a funny thing: To fly the military charter flight into Misawa from the States, you actually fly PAST Misawa to Tokyo, land there and wait several hours in the terminal – well, of course you do! – and when you take of again, you head south to Okinawa, where once again you wait several hours in a passenger terminal before you finally get back on the plane and head north to Misawa, where you land some six or seven hours after you flew over it in the first place.

Needless to say, security was tight. Armed Air Force Security Police boarded the plane when we landed at Yokota AB in Tokyo, and a rep from the pax terminal gave us a thorough briefing before we were allowed to leave the plane. Yokota was HOT! The humidity must’ve been near 100%, and the pax terminal wasn’t air conditioned. I peeled off the long-sleeved shirt, fleece and coat I’d been wearing on the plane and sat panting as sweat puddled around me, knowing that I would turn into a popsicle as soon as I got back on the plane and the sweat froze to my skin.

We landed at Iwakune, a Marine air station in southern Japan. Once again, armed guards boarded the plane and a pax terminal rep briefed us, and WOW! Were they wrapped up tight! He told us not to leave the plane without our IDs and boarding passes. If we did, we would not be allowed into the terminal and we would not be allowed to re-board the plane. I guess we’d just have to stand there on the tarmac for the rest of our lives. He advised us to take only what bags and baggage we absolutely needed, because it would all be opened and everything inside would be searched. He reminded us not to leave our IDs and boarding passes. He cautioned us to go directly from the plane to the terminal and not to sneak off for a smoke or to look for a toilet, because the armed guards would jack us up. He reminded us not to leave our IDs and boarding passes. He noted that the bathrooms were to the left inside the pax terminal, past the snack bar. Lots of ears pricked up at the mention of a snack bar, as we hadn’t been fed since we left Alaska. He then added that the snack bar was closed. He reminded us not to leave our IDs and boarding passes. He said that after we’d checked into the pax terminal we could ask to go outside to smoke, but otherwise we were to remain in the terminal building. He reminded us not to leave our IDs and boarding passes. When it was time to re-board the plane, we would be called up in order and we would not be allowed onto the airplane unless we could produce our IDs and boarding passes. As we filed off the plane, he reminded each of us to check that we had our IDs and boarding passes. “There’s always one that forgets, isn’t there?” I remarked on the way out. B smacked me in the back of the head. “You dope! Tempt fate like that and it’s going to be YOU!”

We touched down on Misawa in the rain; the weather was cool. As the plane taxied to the terminal, I saw a small gathering of people standing by the fence, swinging an American flag and waving at the plane, and I thought it must be nice to be the lucky guy who gets that kind of welcome back.

This time, the boarding party was not only armed guards and the pax terminal guy, but the base commander, a one-star general, Chip Utterback, and his Command Chief, the dad-like Chuck Clymer. Utterback said they’d heard just five hours ago that we were inbound – that would’ve been about the time we landed in Yokota – and a bunch of social club members got together to bake cookies and cakes for us, scooped up a carload of cold beverages, and put together an impromptu welcome for us. That was the crowd I saw waving at us in the rain. He welcomed us to the station, and we got off the plane. Waiting just inside the terminal was the commander of every group and squadron on base, as many colonels as I’ve ever seen in one place, and they shook hands with each of us as we filed in. I met my new commander, Col. Mitzell, who stopped to say hello to B and the boys.

It was pouring down rain most of that evening, but Barb was so excited to be back on Misawa Air Base that she just had to have a look around, so we broke out a couple umbrellas and wandered a short walk from the hotel. It was almost as hard for her to keep her bearings as it was for me; there’d been so much new construction on base that she recognized almost nothing. We poked our heads into the community center and the gym to see what they were like before we went back to the hotel. Bedtime was very early that night, and we even managed to sleep in until six or seven.

Arrival | 9:14 pm CDT
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