Handwringing over Hickham

By lex, on May 15th, 2007

There used to be a story going around in Navy circles – probably apocryphal – that when the Air Force built a base, they built the housing facilities, commissary and golf course first. That way, if money ran short in future budgets – or worse yet, ran out – Congress would have to appropriate some more: Without an airfield, the whole project would have been a waste.

I don’t really think that’s true. But it is instructive that we’d listen to it, nodding. Seemed possible.

What was not in dispute was the fact that of the all the armed services, the USAF treated their people best – the “quality of life” programs (QOL for short) were simply top notch, as were the facilities. You could feel like quite the king of the universe in your FA-18 at 30,000 feet, but once you landed at an Air Force base, the feeling was one of country cousins come to town, and mind your manners.

Maybe your standards of comfort change based on what you get used to: If you’re accustomed to exposed piping, tubing and electrical wiring running through the overheads and passageways, bells and alarms going off day and night, drinking water that smells like jet fuel, milk that comes in little boxes (and comes out of those boxes in clumps), something brown on rice three to four times a week for supper, a laundry “service” seemingly dedicated to the passionate mutilation of whatever articles of clothing could not be lost outright, spending many months at a time in a dangerous industrial environment that included tremendous forces acting in noisy and consequential opposition to each other just over your head while in close proximity to five thousand people (at least five hundred of whom you might not normally choose to associate with) who in turn are watching five-year old B-movies that you none of you would have watched on a bet for entertainment ashore, interspersed with all-too-infrequent runs on the beach for liberty in fly-speck dustholes, only to return home on the last launch with a 19-year old throwing up on your shoes, well: The Howard Johnson’s can feel downright luxurious.

You can’t drown. And they’ve got cable.

First time I ran up to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio on a cross country I parked the jet on the transient line, pulled off my harness and g-suit and hung them on the wing tip-tank with my helmet before walking over to base ops to check on the weather and verify that they had my further flight plan on file.

I hadn’t gotten more than a few steps away from the jet when a big, blue van pulled up and screeched to a halt beside me. “Where to?” the driver asked, and when I replied “Base ops,” he thumbed me into the back.

Good thing, I thought to myself – I’d have walked over to that building over there, 50 yards away. Thought that was base ops. Would’ve felt foolish.

About 10 seconds and 45 yards later he dropped me off at the entrance to base ops.

Now let me just state for the record that 50 yards or 500, if you park on a Navy base and expect a van to come pick you up and carry you to base ops and you will grow old, wither and die right where you are standing. We don’t do that.

Don’t get me started on the wood paneling at the O’Club.

Which is why I read this article with a certain wry amusement:

Defense officials are refereeing a control-and-culture clash between the Air Force and its sister services over a requirement to create 12 “joint bases” out of 25.

The 25 bases, it seems, already are run by their favorite service

(T)he Air Force, which for decades has spent more proportionally on quality-of-life programs and facilities, is wringing its hands and, critics contend, dragging its feet over the prospect of giving the Navy control of Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, Bolling Air Force Base near Washington D.C., and Andersen Air Force Base on Guam…

Air Force officials argue that their bases alone are “fighting platforms” for their aircraft and thus must be maintained in top form as the Navy strives to maintain its ships and the Army and Marine Corps sustain deployed ground forces…

Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., a joint-basing advocate, is losing patience with the Air Force and warns that Congress might have to intervene. Saxton pressed William C. Anderson, an assistant secretary of the Air Force, to explain his service’s resistance to joint basing during a recent hearing of the House armed services subcommittee on readiness.

The Air Force supports joint basing and knows it can produce efficiencies, Anderson said. But it wants joint basing tested first at two or three sites.

And I’m guessing the base at Hickam – a “crown jewel of the Pacific”, and hard by the much dowdier Naval Base Pearl Harbor – is probably not one of their preferred first candidates for testing purposes. If only for the golf course alone.

Every time I mentioned to an Air Force officer that it seemed just possible that they were being profligate with the national fisc, what with all the bells and whistles that were in it on base, he’d reply that is wasn’t his fault that the Navy had to buy ships. Ships were expensive.

Which, while that was undeniably true, didn’t quite seem to answer the objection: After all, it wasn’t like we got loaded on a three-day bender in Vegas and blew all of our money on a bunch of aircraft carriers before waking up sheepish with a CVN ring on our finger. We are the Navy, after all. Ships are what we do.

And airfields in Oahu, it soon seems.

So: Welcome aboard, shipmates! Officer’s Call at 0700, quarters at 0715, breakfast at 0730 and don’t be late, because cleaning stations are at 0800 – mops and foxtails are in the ready service locker. GQ is at 1000 (don’t forget your MOPP gear), lunch at 1200, sweepers at 1400 and liberty call at 1630 for all personnel not actually on watch.

Like you’re going to be.

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1 Comment

Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Lex, Uncategorized

One response to “Handwringing over Hickham

  1. Pingback: Index – The Best of Neptunus Lex | The Lexicans

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