Tales of My Youth – Part 1
With Friends Like These…
Now, where was I? Oh yes….
It was just a few days before Thanksgiving, and I was eagerly looking forward to the following Wednesday, when I was due to go home and marry Katherine, a beautiful and formidable young Lady from my home town of Cleveland. My future brother in law – a Loader, though I have never held that against him – and a hospital troop were of the party as well, and the three of us were looking forward to a week or so of happiness and comparative quiet.
Needless to say, my mind wasn’t entirely on my work – Katherine had done most of the heavy lifting for our upcoming nuptials, and for the most part my job was to stand there and look good in the old black-and-white NCO mess dress. Which of course I did. My future brother in law – a Loader, though I have never held that against him – and a hospital troop were of the party as well, and the three of us were looking forward to a week or so of happiness and comparative quiet. Global deterrence, however, knows no holiday and the old saying about no rest for the wicked applied as well.
At this point I was an ALCM Storage and Handling crew chief, which was a pretty cool job. The ALCMs were stored on their pylons, which in turn were ensconced upon a supporting gantry, which in final turn was supported by a massive trailer. The thing to remember here is that, in its usual well planned and thought out manner, the USAF didn’t buy enough trailers to carry every pylon, and each B-52 needed two pylons. Thirty-four pylons on station and – if we were lucky, given their temperamental nature, less than half that many trailers – meant that we were doing a lot of daily shuffling, and this day was no exception. The Word of God – or in this case Munitions Control, which was the next best doggoned thing – had come down and decreed that the missile facility needed an empty trailer, and if it wouldn’t be too much trouble could we please provide one, oh, fecking YESTERDAY? At this point the rest of my hearties were actually out in the field, and that left me, another CC who shall be callsigned here Captain Space (a truly good and decent soul who simply had a slightly off-kilter outlook on life)…and A1C Dumbjohn, who was up to that point minding his own bidness in the corner reading a Stephen King novel and doing his best to remain unnoticed and out of trouble. My efforts to stay warm, safe and dry until my departure for Ohio were clearly going to be thwarted, but there was nothing for it – duty called. The weather – and this is to be remembered – was cold and raining off and on, unusual for that time of year…and when we got the call to move out, the rain was on. This bothered Space and I not a whit, for we were going to be in the relatively dry confines of the mag, A1C Dumbjohn, however, would be out in the rain with his shotgun. I am sure Space and I thought about this for a moment, but our thoughts would have been distilled down to one simple, elegant, yet succinct phrase – “Sucks to be him.” Orders were given, weapons procured, briefings given, and ALCM Storage and Handling once more rose to the fight for at least the third or fourth time that day. However, had Space and I been a bit less eager to get the job done and get back, we might have noticed an odd cast to Dumbjohn’s face…a darkness, a hardness, an almost indistinguishable twitch at the corner of one eye.
For you see, my brothers and sisters, Airman First Class Dumbjohn felt himself Wronged, wronged in thought and in mind and in deed. He had been trodden upon once again, and he could not resist the inexorable forces of authority and adversity. Let me assure our Gentle Readers ahead of time that most fortunately, armed resistance never entered his pointy lil’ head. Dumbjohn was a pain in the hindquarters, but he wasn’t insane. But an idea had popped into his mind as we climbed into our vehicle…a tiny ember that grew into a roaring flame. He would use our own rules against us, and in turn teach us a lesson. I have always guessed that at that point, Dumbjohn’s brain was filled with a cackling laugh that would have terrified Smeagol as he clutched his Preciousss…and Space and I heard it not.
We arrived at the ALCM mags, the SPs right behind us, and went through the time-honored protocols of accessing the Holy of Holies – the SPs would mangle my last name, I would clarify it to Whiskey Alpha, we would exchange access codes, and the movie-worthy blast doors would rumble open to reveal the massive pylons with six instruments of Armageddon, all of which were perched atop a trailer which embodied the best weapons transport tech money could buy. Space and I stepped in and began our checklist, while Dumbjohn took up his wet and lonely post outside.
Now, here is where shiat began to happen.
One of the Scriptures of weapons handling is the Two Man Policy/No Lone Zone. Translated into simple English, it meant that there had to be at least two people around a weapon at any time, and each of them had to be within direct line of sight of the other at all times. Given the size of the pylon/trailer rig, the line of sight rule was sometimes bent slightly out of plumb, but given as we had a guard who could see us both it was assumed that would do. (I should point out that I do not remember ever getting a definite ruling on that, so there MAY, rpt MAY have been some justice in what happened next.)
The APU on the trailer was screaming at full meemee, which meant we had hearing protection on and were pretty much focused on our tasks when I realized a shadow had fallen across my post. I looked up to see Dumbjohn about three feet away. face hard and grim, yelling something at me that I couldn’t hear/lipread to save my life. I reached up to take off my headset, and asked him, “WHAT?”
Dumbjohn’s reply was swift, direct, and remarkably non-verbal. He racked the slide on the 1100 and leveled it on me, the muzzle directly in line with my face.
It is said, Gentle Readers, that in times of existential crisis, our brains have the ability to slow down time – ‘temporal distortion’ if I remember correctly – to allow us to evaluate the situation and formulate a response. Men in combat remember people moving in slow motion, aviators ejecting from their crippled birds speak of the experience taking minutes instead of milliseconds. I myself had an experience early on in my career where something that I know took seconds seeming to take hours. But in my case that day in the ALCM mags, a couple million years of evolutionary development that had culminated in the most advanced lifeform in the Universe As Far As We Knew and equipped with the best training the United States Air Force could devise, gave me the time to scan, evaluate, and think:
1. That son-of-a-beachball just drew down on me.
2. There appears to be a serial number engraved inside the muzzle.
3. Can I take the little (Illegitimate Person)?
To be continued….