ere's the picture. I'm the old Gunny who's smarter and better than any of them young pups working for me in the S-4, 4/12, Okinawa, Japan. We had a pretty tight ship, but never lost our sense of humor. That's the one thing you've got to have in Okinawa in 1989 in the dead of summer, in our old building, our office in the basement, and no air conditioning. So practical jokes were fairly commonplace. It wasn't unusual to have my red pen for correcting errors on correspondence suddenly turn blue, or black, or green, or have one of the Devil Dogs go to his "stash" of pogie bait and find nothing but wrappers, exactly like they were when there was food in them. Although things like that were pretty commonplace, they were starting to get out of hand. So the old gunny decided it's time to top it all and finish this once and for all.
I had the fortunate opportunity to ride aboard an Air Force KC-135 refueler out of Kadena AB because an acquaintance of mine was one of the pilots. It was a half day trip over Korea and we refueled a half dozen F-15 Eagles. If you haven't seen this before, it's an impressive sight of some of our military and technical achievements. I had talked about this trip many times to my crew and figured I could use this to my advantage. Since they all wanted a trip of their own, I figured I'd make one up for them. In actuality there was no flight scheduled or arranged for them. I simply wanted them to have to get up at oh-dark-thirty, drive over to Kadena, and then find out I'd pulled one over on them. Especially since our Battalion got up at 5 a.m. three times a week for PT and I was going to have them do this on one of the off days! So I tell them I've made arrangements for their flight, give them the time and location, and explain that I'll hold down the fort while their gone.
In order for them to get to Kadena, our boss, a major, was off island for a few days and wasn't due back until later that morning and had left his car to the crew to use. A fairly common practice for all the one-year tour folks who get one of Okinawa's rust buckets for the year. I knew they would be driving his car, so I contacted the military police at Kadena, and asked if they wanted to join in on the fun. I told them what I was doing and asked if they'd like to stop them and give 'em a hard time about "stealing" the boss's car! Unfortunately they couldn't do it and explained that they used to do things like this, but it got out of hand. And here I thought I was being original!
Regardless, on the day of the event, I headed to the office at the usual time; only I had a pretty big grin on my face. I knew they would be fuming once they figured out what happened to them. I couldn't wait to see the expressions on their faces when they did finally show up for work. Only...it didn't quite work out that way.
When the clock rolled past 8 a.m., I wasn't too worried. I figured they stopped someplace to have breakfast and since I'd pulled one over on 'em, they knew I wouldn't mind them being late. When 9 a.m. rolled past, I did get a little concerned. Oh, I knew I could handle the shop, but what was I gonna tell the boss if he came in now? By 10 I was really starting to worry. At 11 I started making phone calls. The boss showed up about 11:15 and inquired into the whereabouts of the crew. I had lots of answers ready for him, but it didn't settle the pit in my stomach any. Over the lunch hour I finally managed to track down a lieutenant colonel at the squadron who flew the refueling missions and had some information on my crew.
It seems they showed up on time at the designated place, but as I expected, there was no one there to meet them. They decided to wait a bit and see if maybe they were early and sure enough a major, who just happened to work in their Operations Section, comes along and inquires what they're doing. They explained that they were supposed to be on flight XX (I actually gave them a fictitious flight number) and were going to watch some aerial refueling. The major didn't have any idea what they were talking about but didn't want to disappoint these fine Marines, so he took them inside and checked his board. Sure enough, he had another flight that day that was refueling F4s over the Philippines, and he was sure he could get them on that flight! The major even felt bad that he wasn't as prepared for them as they usually are for guests, so he personally made arrangements for in-flight meals and had them escorted to the aircraft! My crew was flying over the Philippines! My plan had totally backfired.
To make matters worse, as the aircraft was approaching Okinawa on its return flight, it received an in-flight emergency from another fighter aircraft that needed fuel and the KC-135 would have to touch and go back out to take care of the emergency. It was decided that the Marines would have to be dumped off before they left again, so the COMMANDING OFFICER of the squadron, in his staff car, drove out on the runway to meet the aircraft and bring the Marines back to the hanger. Along the way he was apologizing to the Devil Dogs for not having been better prepared for them that day. The Marines, of course, were delighted in the special treatment they were getting and couldn't wait to get back to thank me for the hookup. Meantime, I'm still back at the office, dodging the boss, and covering the shop that's normally run by four or five guys! It's hard enough to do without all that egg on your face.
When 4 p.m. rolled around, I figured it was time to let the cat out of the bag and went to see the boss to tell him what had happened. Fortunately he had a pretty good sense of humor too and laughed about it pretty good. I think he's still laughing today. I also called the squadron the next day to explain to them what happened too, so they wouldn't go on thinking they blew it somehow, and the Executive Officer explained that the Commanding Officer had a sense of humor and would probably understand and not want to press charges against me. Whew!
Of course, when the crew did get back, I took it as best I could and immediately began plotting my revenge. You can bet that I wasn't going to send them anyplace though...maybe I'll just sabotage their chairs!