With Friends Like These…
…I’ll give him this: at this point, A1C Dumbjohn was doing everything according to Hoyle, with just a smidgen of Clint Eastwood thrown in. I had not taken my eyes off the little twerp’s finger – which was ON the trigger, though the safety was on – and I became aware of Captain Space next to me, with his hands in the air. Well, not wanting to be the odd man out, mine went up as well. With that, Dumbjohn motioned us outside and snarled, “Up against the wall!” as he called the SPs and notified them of a Helping Hand, the code at the time – and may still be – for a violation of nuclear security. There were some loud and most definitely urgent squawks overheard on the radio, and we settled down to await the Cavalry. I had been Jacked Up, friends – an incident that at best left an unpleasant taste in one’s mouth and at worst led to one standing tall before Colonels With Much Fruit Salad explaining just why you were such an idiot.
Wurtsmith’s Finest showed up in pretty much under two minutes, and deployed as the Sacred Texts specified. The SP super for the WSA was actually there first, and as the last of the SP vehicles rolled in, I heard the screech of another vehicle – the quarter ton pickup reserved for our NCOIC and his loyal assistant. One of the SPs patted me down and got our ID, and he did it most professionally and politely, but firmly none the less. Now, all I can see at this point is the orange paint on the blast door, but I can hear pretty darn well – and remember, at this point I KNOW we’ve not done anything wrong, and as soon as The AuSable Kid over there can brief the cops, I can stand down from the Position and proceed to wring his neck.
And this, Gentle Readers, is what I heard:
SP SUPER: “Okay, what happened?”
DUMBJOHN: “Sir, I was doing my duty as mag guard when –“
ALERT AREA KLAXON: BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAP
This is what had happened: Strategic Air Command, in its infinite wisdom, had picked THAT moment to send a lightning bolt down from Olympus and check our alert status. The horn went, the aircrews rushed to their aircraft, and they started up.
Oh, and by the by, EVERY LAST FECKING SP ON THE BASE HAD TO REPORT TO THE ALERT AREA. Save for the one they left behind to make sure we didn’t skip out on any of the fun. This meant that your hero would be assuming the position for the next, oh, 45 minutes or so. Could have been worse, I thought. Might be raining even harder–
– And of course the Heavens did open.
It was about an hour later when not only the SP super and his companions returned, and this time they had several others with them. There were at this point – by my later reckoning – about eleven or twelve SPs behind me, along with my NCOIC and his Loyal Assistant. There was some more unintelligible palaver, followed by the SP Super starting his questioning once more.
SP SUPER: “All right son, let’s start again. What happened?”
DUMBJOHN: “Sir, while serving as mag guard I observed a violation of the Two Man Rule!”
SP SUPER: “UNINTELLIGIBLE”
SP SUPER: “Fine. What did you do then?”
DUMBJOHN: “I went up to Sergeant Kozlowski and told him to evacuate the mag immediately.”
SP SUPER: “Okay. Then?”
And here was where his fiendish and exquisitely crafted plan fell apart:
DUMBJOHN: “When he did not immediately comply, I put a round into the chamber – “
Followed by the sound of eleven or twelve weapons being unholstered or shouldered, and the distinctive rumble of the turret on a Peacekeeper armored car swiveling…all of which, as it turned out, were now trained on A1C Dumbjohn.
SP SUPER: “PUT YOUR WEAPON DOWN AND GET ON THE GROUND NOW!!!!!!”
It took a few seconds more before an SP tapped me and Space on the shoulder and said, “It’s okay, you guys can get up.” I turned with fury in my eyes, murder in my heart, and several pounds of soaking wet fatigues on my back to go speak with my wayward apprentice until a hand closed on my shoulder – my NCOIC, MSgt Reno, a man of rare gifts and wisdom who knew that adding a beating to the day’s events was not going to smooth things over with anyone. I just looked at him, stood tall with as much dripping dignity as I could muster, straightened my hat and said, “He’s mine.” MSgt Reno simply smiled and said, “Patience, Michael…patience.” I looked over at Space, and even his normally saturnine expression was one of pure, unadulterated hatred for Dumbjohn and all that he stood for. We watched – battered, wet, but unbowed – as Dumbjohn was most unpleasantly frog-marched into the Peacekeeper and driven up on base for what we most gleefully assumed would be a difficult afternoon. The SP Super came up to us and shook our hands – shook our hands! – and apologized profusely and hoped his lads had been of proper military bearing. Somewhat mystified, I assured him that they were, and they were indeed the steely-eyed sentinels SAC demanded. Reassured, he headed back to his office and his lads returned to their assigned posts. Upon our return to Storage, there was a message waiting for us that the Squadron Commander and the Maintenance Super would much appreciate our presence as well as that of our immediate superiors, like right now.
Over the next few hours we got the full skinny on exactly what had happened. Although Dumbjohn never admitted it to Higher Authority – he did so to those he thought were his friends but whom now had to wonder if they might find themselves on the wrong end of target practice – he had decided that if we wanted him to be a guard, he’d be the best damned guard they ever saw…and he’d start by getting us jacked up. The round into the chamber thing was an unplanned detail that just sort of happened on the spur of the moment, lucky us. The conversation between him and the SP Super that I couldn’t make out apparently led that distinguished individual to conclude that there had at best been only a technical No-Lone violation, and that it never should have proceeded past that – hence his apologies. Not to mention the fact that every NCO within hearing knew me, and knew that if there had been a security violation, something had indeed gone very wrong. Proof once again, friends, that a good reputation can pay dividends. My version of the story, delivered in exquisitely phrased milspeak, left no doubt that I was A) in the right, and B) ready to kill the little so-and-so. My take recieved official blessing, and no more was said. Did find out later that CINCSAC did see the incident report, and a shadow flitted across my heart, then disappeared.
On the other hand, A1C Dumbjohn’s time as mag guard was capital-O Over. He received a Letter of Reprimand and was briefly suspended from the Personnel Reliability Program – often a kiss of death in the 46X fields, but in his case the Gods did send one minor ray of sunshine down upon him: he received orders just a month or so later, and the whole thing was quietly forgotten, as he was now about to become Someone Else’s Problem. He spent the rest of his time issuing tools and – something that I am not at all sure went over well with him – handing out shotguns.
There were two footnotes to the Shootout At the ALCM Corral. First, that night I called my betrothed and told her what had happened. There was an outraged gasp on the other end, and in an indignant voice, Katherine asked, “Did we invite him to the wedding?”
Yes, my Dove, we indeed had.
“Tell him he’s not welcome!”
Well, that’ll teach him.
The other was a couple days later – Friday, my last day before going home. MSgt Reno had posted something from the morning distribution run, and for some reason it was getting a lot of snickers and suppressed guffaws. As I was actually, you know, doing my duty, I didn’t get a look at it up until an hour or so later:
FROM: 379 MMS/CC
TO; 379 MMS/MUNITIONS STORAGE
- COMMENCING IMMEDIATELY, IN THE EVENT OF ANY VIOLATION OF NUCLEAR SECURITY WITHIN THE WSA, ALL ARMED SECURITY PERSONNEL (SP, LE, OR 46XXX) ARE TO PROCEED TO MUNITIONS STORAGE IMMEDIATELY AND SHOOT SGT KOZLOWSKI.
I wish I’d kept a copy.