April 27, 2004

Air Force Blue (part 12)

With all the current hoopla over military medals, I thought IÂ’d pass on a couple of quickie stories about awards and decorations. It involves a little tooting of my own horn, so just pretend IÂ’m suitably modest.

The first medal I ever received was for marksmanship. It was entirely expected since I was Security Police, and we practiced a lot. After qualifying ‘expert’ for the M16 rifle, I got the little doohickey for shooting ‘expert’ with the .38 pistol (standard SP sidearm of the day). The doohickey are called devices and you get them to indicate subsequent awards. For instance, when you get the Good Conduct medal you wear the plain ribbon, and after that each time you get it again you add a little bronze leaf to the ribbon. Back to the story, about 10 years later I got an ‘awards review’ printout listing all my known information, and looking it over I noticed that my marksman device wasn’t listed. I dug out my ancient range card showing the expert box was checked for both and took it in. The personnel people were kind of amazed that I had kept that card for that long. I never threw anything away in the military, and it saved my butt more than once.

Ok, so that one lived up to the category 'boring stories'. In the Air Force at the time, you got the Good Conduct medal every three years, assuming you didnÂ’t totally screw up. Believe me, you had to really try not to get the GC, because it was pretty much automatic. My first tour was... eventful. So when it was announced that I was getting the Good Conduct medal I was surprised and pleased. The shift commander came down the line, handing out the little medal cases and shaking hands, and when I got mine I opened it up and burst out laughing. The medallion part of my medal was broken. The shift commander said heÂ’d replace it, but there was no way I was giving it up. It was mine and it was perfect, almost custom made.

When we were transferred to Germany, I had been a computer programmer for five years. The very last project IÂ’d been involved in before getting orders was a high-pressure, high-profile job that weÂ’d busted our collective asses to accomplish. One guy had been hospitalized for exhaustion, and it was touch-and-go as to whether any of our marriages were going to survive. No exaggeration there, the hours and schedule had been that crazy for almost an entire year.

So at my new assignment, my first Commander’s Call (a monthly briefing), all the new people get introduced to the unit. When they got around to the awards and recognition portion of the brief, the usual letters of appreciation and commendation were read and handed out. Unexpectedly, the Colonel called me up and started to read a ‘thank you’ note to me for all the hard work our team had done on the last project. That was from the Captain who was our project leader. Next was a letter from the Colonel who commanded my last unit. After that were three letters from Generals, one was the Commander of Communications Command and two were from Generals in the Pentagon. The final letter was from an Undersecretary of Defense. These were totally unexpected and just those simple letters meant so much to me. It was kind of funny too, because everyone was looking at me like I was some kind of freak. They didn’t know me from Adam, and I received all these letters of appreciation from insanely high level people.

A couple of years later a friend of ours (Dave) was going to get a Good Conduct medal. The commander at this time would hold a little ceremony in his office, and theyÂ’d have a photographer and the recipient could invite a few friends and family. Being in Germany, we were the closest to family Dave had and my wife Liz and I were happy to be there for him.

We drove over to the commander’s office, and my wife was uncomfortable because it was hot and muggy and she was very pregnant. The commander ushered us all in and we lined the walls of his office, with Dave front and center and Liz and then I next to him. The ceremony began and as the Colonel was speaking it dawned on me that he thought Liz was Dave’s wife! This amused me no end, and when the Colonel said “and we’re so glad to share this proud moment with Mrs. M---“, I almost laughed out loud.

Dave hadn’t caught on before that, but when he realized what the Colonel had just said he blurted out “Sir, that isn’t my wife.” The Colonel stammered in confusion for a moment, and then I helpfully announced “But we thought it was important for the baby to see his daddy get a medal.”

Things went to hell in a hurry. The commander managed to make it through the rest of his presentation. Afterwards he apologized repeatedly to Liz and Dave and I, and we all just laughed it off as an honest mistake. I did get called in to my supervisorÂ’s office later for an official ass-chewing for my smart-mouth comment.

About a month later, after Mookie was born, the ColonelÂ’s wife stopped by the house to welcome the new baby. She told Liz about her husbandÂ’s reaction when he got home after the ceremony. The Colonel was so embarrassed by that little mix-up, and they had a good laugh together. He was definitely one of the better commanders IÂ’d served under.

Posted by: Ted at 07:41 AM | category: Boring Stories
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1 Yay Mookie!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 27, 2004 11:16 AM (+S1Ft)

2 LOL. I can just picture you at that ceremony, being a smartass. Glad to see not much has changed!

Posted by: Dawn at April 27, 2004 12:52 PM (Ev/7m)

3 I love your stories (even the boring ones!)...

Posted by: Susie at April 28, 2004 01:23 AM (CO8gV)

4 SHOW US YOUR RACK!

Wind Rider has.

I have.

Posted by: Rob @ L&R at April 29, 2004 04:27 PM (IBOkB)

5 All right Rob, I dug them out of my 'Memories' box last night. I'll get a picture taken and posted sometime in the next few days.

Posted by: Ted at April 30, 2004 07:27 AM (blNMI)

6 In the same vein... when I was 12, our next-door neighbour was the Exec of HMAS ........ His daughter was christened in the ship's bell (as is traditional), and later on the dignitaries and guests had a buffet in the ship's wardroom. Plenty of brass hats there, up to and including Admirals.

The toast for the day ( RAN follows RN custom - there's a specific toast for every day of the week, e.g. "A bloody war and a sickly season" ) was "Wives and Sweethearts".

As a 12-year old with far more knowledge of naval traditions than was healthy, I figured I could get away with the standard rejoinder on *INFORMAL* occasions:

"May they never meet!"

Those present who knew of the tradition wondered who'd put me up to it, the rest thought it was just childish precociousness. In fact, it was the result of a cold-blooded calculation, and taking an opportunity that would never come my way again.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at April 30, 2004 11:02 AM (nx3zl)

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