You can be morbidly obese and a G.I. Joe

I saw this variant cover to G.I. Joe #5 on Twitter. It shows a morbidly obese woman on a snowy mountaintop pointing to something in the far off distance.

As someone who has had his fair share of problems with their weight, this cover speaks to me. When I was in the Air Force, my weight had to be no more than 238 pounds. My weight was almost never 238 pounds. I was usually tipping the scales at 245.

That meant anytime there was going to be a scheduled weigh-in for the squadron I had to get over to the gym and sit in the sauna. That hot wooden box of cedar would be packed with other people in a similar situation. Men who had to make their weight. I wasn’t out of shape. Far from it. I was in excellent physical condition. I was a runner and ran five miles a day back then.

I always made my weight except for one time. I was stationed on Guam and had just come back from a 30 day leave in the states. As I was signing in, my asshole of a First Sergeant told me to get on the scale. Sure enough, I weighed something close to 250.

I hadn’t done a lot of running while on leave and had been eating a lot of restaurant food. Plus, my mother was always fixing food for me to eat. My mother makes the best apple pie in the world.

My First Sergeant finally got me. I think I was his white whale. I was a big white guy and he was a tiny black guy. Neither of us was named Moby, but one of us was often referred to as Dick.

I had to attend a 30-day fitness class held that the base gym. It was conducted by an airman who would benefit greatly from the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that would be enacted in a few short years. With her man-like haircut and the overly masculine way she conducted herself, I’m sure she was called into Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) all the time.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations. More like the office of anti-gay affairs.

When I was a kid, the OSI was cool. Major Steve Austin, the Bionic Man, was part of OSI. In real life, the OSI spent all its time trying to figure out if the females on base were gay. Not only would they call the women in question into their offices for questioning, they would call in their friends and coworkers.

Air Force remedial exercise class

The class was a joke. I was running five miles every evening on my own time. The exercises we had to do in the class were both embarrassing and ineffective. They were the type of exercises you’d expect to see a group of mentally challenged children do at a mainstream high school. I think the purpose of the class was to embarrass you so much that you would do what you had to do to make your weight.

And it worked. After 30-days, I weighed in and I was under my weight limit. My asshole of a First Sergeant still wrote up a letter of counseling or something for my record. He said because I was a sergeant, I was presenting a poor example to the people beneath me. Hey, as long as I don’t step on any of them, I think we’re okay. I never failed a fitness test. I was in trouble because at six foot six, the Air Force said I should never weigh over 238 pounds.

I used to think that First Sergeant just hated white people, but he treated my black squadron mates even worse. He hated everyone. He was just a tiny hateful man.

When it was announced the 43rd Bomb Wing was being shut down, people were being sent new assignments. I was already scheduled to rotate out, so the shutdown didn’t really affect me. I’ll never forget what happened to that asshole, First Sergeant. He was assigned to a dinky missile testing base in New Mexico. The base was so small and so far from any town or city, it was considered a remote overseas assignment. He had obviously pissed off someone who now was in a position of power over him, or at least, could make sure he was assigned to a base nobody would want to go to.

I sometimes wonder what happened to that First Sergeant. I hope he’s dead. I hope they found his dead body dressed in a leather gimp suit.

Here’s the full variant cover of G.I. Joe #5. Her cold winter jacket looks so small, I doubt it will even fully zipper up. That shiny belt buckle cutting into her gut has got to hurt. I’ll have to get a copy of this comic. Since it’s a variant, I might have to order it.

North Korea, Guam, and nuclear war

North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un has threatened to send four mid-range ballistic missiles over Japan and drop them within 18 to 24 miles of Guam. This development takes me back to the days of my youth.

After joining the Air Force at 19 and attending electronic warfare systems tech school, I was assigned to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. I spend three long years there. Our mission was North Korea. Everything we did was aimed at going to war against North Korea.

Our forward operating base was Osan Air Base in South Korea. If war kicked off with North Korea, we would deploy to Osan. We were required to have a mobility bag packed at all times containing four sets of uniforms. They would hold drills were we had to report to work with our mobility bag. They were supposed to inspect it to make sure it was actually packed, but I don’t think they always did.

We would also deploy to South Korea on a regular basis, usually once a year in February for Team Spirit. We would stay up to six weeks at a time living in tents. One year I remember going in October for ten or so days.

I got into scuba diving while stationed in the Philippines. There were some really fantastic dive spots in the Philippines, but they were far from Clark Air Base. It meant I could only dive on three-day weekends. I wished I could dive more often. Ideally, I wanted to be able to dive every day. It was then that I began thinking about Guam. If I were stationed on Guam, I could theoretically go diving every day.  Being that I was stationed overseas, if I volunteered to go to another overseas assignment, I would get rewarded with 30 days paid leave to use between assignments. Plus, if I volunteered for Guam after the Philippines, I would supposedly get higher priority with my assignment after Guam.

I changed my dream sheet, the Air Force document on file that listed our preferences on assignments, for duty on Guam.

I got my wish. My “dream” was fulfilled. I finally left the Philippines in 1988. I was assigned to the 43rd Bomb Wing at Andersen Air Force Base. I was stationed there for over two years and I loved every minute of it. I got to work on the B-52, something I loved. When I was stationed at Clark Air Base, I worked on the F-4E and the F-4G Wild Weasel. The F-4 was a pain in the ass to work on. If anyone ever tells you they loved working on the F-4, they are lying. I hated the Philippines and I hated working on the F-4.

I loved Guam and I loved working on the B-52.

Guam was fantastic. Not only was the scuba diving better than the Philippines, it was a lot more accessible. I didn’t have to wait for 3-day weekends to go diving. I could go every day. Sometimes I did. I worked the flightline until midnight and would often go diving after work with some of the guys I worked with. Once you get into night diving, it’s hard to get back into daytime diving. In the pitch black with a high-intensity dive light, the colors really pop.

The Philippines was a third-world cesspool. Guam is the United States.

It makes me angry to hear Kim Jong Un threaten Guam. I’m tired of North Korea being a thing. It should have ceased to exist when the Soviet Union fell. It’s 2017. We shouldn’t still be burning calories dealing with North Korea. If North Korea launches missiles towards Guam, we should just nuke it from orbit and be done with it. Should we first wait for North Korea to use one of its nukes on us? To destroy an American city?

No thanks.

The Maryland summer is hotter than Satan’s armpit

Why do I live somewhere that gets so unbearably hot? I’ve lived here in Maryland for 22 years. Summers in western Maryland are sweltering. It’ a point of fact I’m more than acutely aware of, yet I choose to live here.

I don’t get it. I don’t like being hot. If I had to make a choice between extreme hot or extreme cold, I’d gladly take the extreme cold. With that said, I’ve lived most of my life in places that got ridiculously hot.

I grew up in the California Mojave desert. It routinely got over 100 in the summer. Later, when I joined the Air Force, I spent a year in Biloxi, Mississippi for training. In the 1988 movie Biloxi Blues, Matthew Broderick’s character accurately described Biloxi as being “Africa hot.”

I’ve never been to Africa, but I’ve experienced a summer in Biloxi. I don’t recommend it.

I followed up my stay in Mississippi with three years in the Philippines.

3rd CRS dormitory, Clark Air Base, Philippines (photo: Tim Tuttle)
3rd CRS dormitory, Clark Air Base, Philippines (photo: Tim Tuttle)

There were two seasons in the Philippines, the wet season and the dry season. Both were sweltering. One just had a lot more rain than the other.

I then spent another two years on the island of Guam. The weather was a lot like the Phillippines, hot and muggy. One of the officers in my squadron died from heat stroke while jogging.

After Guam, I spent four years in upstate New York. Although it got extremely cold in the winter, the summers were brutal.

It's more hot than Satan's armpit - Bent Corner
Feels hotter than Satan’s armpit

I then got out of the Air Force and moved to Maryland for a job. I’ve been here ever since. Unlike the other hot places I’ve lived, I chose to live here in Maryland, where the summers are Satan’s armpit hot.

I wish I lived somewhere that remained cool year round. I’d love to live somewhere where the temperature didn’t get higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Does such a place even exist?

B-52 getting fuel on the way to Australia

I was going through some photos this weekend and found some pics I took during a deployment to Australia, back when I was in the Air Force. It was from when I was stationed on Guam at Andersen Air Force Base. I was assigned to the 43rd OMS squadron.

Around once a month, they would send three B-52’s to the land down under so aircrews could practice their terrain avoiding, low-level flying skills, something they couldn’t really do on Guam. As fate would have it, Australia’s Northern Territory had lots and lots of low-level terrain. Go figure. The deployment, known as a TDY for “temporary duty”, lasted only a few days and from my prospective, was a complete waste of money.

For one thing, I was an electronic countermeasures technician. I worked on the radar detectors and radar jammers used on the B-52. These systems would not even be turned on, let alone used during the four-day deployment. There was absolutely no reason for someone in the ECM shop to go. I remember asking my supervisor why they even send someone from our shop when they don’t use our systems. He told me it was just a perk of the job, every time there was a deployment to Australia, one of us got to go. The fact that we weren’t needed was irrelevant.

The other reason the TDY was a waste of money was because Australia wasn’t all that far from Guam, relatively speaking. The B-52 is meant for long-range attack missions. Case in point, the first shot fired in Desert Storm, also known as the Iraq War 1.0, was from a B-52 that took off from a base in Louisiana. There was absolutely no need to deploy to Australia’s Northern Territory so crews could practice flying at 50-feet above the outback. They could just fly the five hours it took to travel from Guam to Australia, practice not crashing into the ground, and then fly back to Guam.

We flew down to Australia in KC-135 cargo tankers. The boom operator was nice enough to let me lay next to him and watch while he refueled the B-52’s. It’s how I took the above picture.

The TDY lasted all of four days. We settled in on the first day, flew training missions all day the second, had the day off on the third, and on the fourth, we flew back to Guam. On the one day dedicated to the reason for the trip, I sat around and played chess with all the other people there with nothing to do.

As far as Australia goes, I wasn’t really that impressed. We were in Darwin and it reminded me of Oklahoma, only better because it didn’t have any Oklahomans. When I travel to a foreign country, I like to experience something different from the culture I’m familiar with. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Korea and Japan so much. The best part of Australia was by far the people. Australians have to be the nicest, friendliest people in the world. They also have the best accent in the world.

The English language sounds no greater to the human ear than when it’s spoken by an Australian. That’s just a fact.

In Harms Way

This is an illustration of aircraft B-52G 0248. It’s too small to see, but the nose art shows that this aircraft had the nickname of “In Harms Way”. There is a story that goes along with the nickname. Then again, don’t most nicknames have a story?

This is the B-52G that was accidentally hit with an AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile fired from an F-4G Wild Weasel on the first night of operation DESERT STORM. The B-52’s tail gunner mistakenly locked his anti-aircraft radar on the Wild Weasel thinking it was an Iraqi MIG. The Wild Weasel immediately detected the B-52 tail gun radar locking on to him and misidentified the radar signature as that of an Iraqi anti aircraft artillery (AAA) site. The Wild Weasel crew fired a HARM missile and watched in horror as it headed not towards the non existent Iraqi AAA site, but to the very B-52 is was trying to protect.

Luckily the missile failed to hit the plane, but instead detonated directly behind the bomber. These missiles are designed to hit non-moving ground targets, not moving airplanes. The resulting shrapnel and missile debris caused an excessive amount of damage to the tail section of the B-52. It ripped off everything aft of the vertical stabilizer. This included much of the tail gun system, the aft electronic warfare suite, and the drag chute. The B-52 was able to land safely on the island of Diego Garcia at Jedda, Saudi Arabia.

I don’t know who took this awful photo of aircraft 0248, but it wasn’t me. I’m the guy on the far right.

It was then sent to Anderson Air Force Base on Guam for repair. I was in on the repair of this aircraft shortly after is was damaged. During the first Iraqi war, I was assigned to a squadron that was responsible for repairing B-52’s being used in Iraq being flown from Diego Garcia. I spent four months back on Guam. I had been stationed there prior for almost three years. I could have been sent to places far worse then Guam. I could have gone to Saudi. I could have spent four months on Diego Garcia. I spent two weeks there once and that was long enough for me. As it was, I loved Guam.

UPDATE: Bob Deasy, the Radar Nav on board this aircraft the night it took a missile was kind enough to stop buy and correct me on some some of the things I got wrong about this story in the comment section. Specifically, that the gunner had locked onto the Wild Weasel.

He did not do that.