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Pissed Off

Mike Novack

This is a true story. Sometime in 1976 or 1977 I made a trip to Diego Garcia, in the middle of the Indian Ocean way down there south of India. At that time, the quarters were pretty sparse, and non-A was out of the question, of course.

Honest. This is what they looked like on one of my last trips to Diego Garcia (photo by Mike Novack) about 1976 or 1977.

While there (as did just about every other MAC puke who'd ever been there) I did my "Kilroy Was Here" routine. While standing at the urinal in the VIP quarters, I wrote

"Took a Wrong Turn in a T-38 at Vance, Ended Up Here! - Mike Novack, 8th MAS."

At the time, I didn't know the USAF policy on graffitti, as documented in the DG NOTAMS and various AF regulations. In case you don't know the rule either: Never include your name!!

There were constant complaints about these quarters from visiting prima-donna MAC crew members. We were not Navy Seals or Army Rangers. We expected clean sheets and maid service. These places were noisy, dirty, and hot. The rusty plumbing leaked and there were "Navy showers" (well, OK, the Navy doesn't even know what a shower is!!). It was down right uncivilized.

So, a few months later, the DG base commander or some visiting admiral was touring the facilities in response to these issues and saw my words of wisdom (along with my name, of course). Rather than provide decent quarters for the men (at the time) who brought just about everything fresh that they needed in his personal tropical paradise, he got pissed off that we would deface the filthy plywood bulkhead (navy talk for wall).

Being Navy through and through, he probably expected that my little signature should have perhaps looked something like "Mike Novack, COMMACPLACTOMSUPNVAPILOTLOADENG", and of course he would have instantly known how to reach me. But plain old "8TH MAS" was far too simple for him to decode. Not having any idea what the 8th MAS was, he called the Pentagon, who called MAC HQ at Scott, who called 22nd AF at Travis, who called the 62nd MAW Wing Commander at McChord, who called the 8th MAS Squadron Commander, who called the squadron chief pilot, who called ME.

It's every young officer's goal to rise far and fast, and here I was, getting my name in front of nearly ALL the movers and shakers in my direct chain of command, and the Navy's top brass as well. In Hollywood they have a saying: "Any publicity is good publicity."

The Air Force never heard of that. No, the military has an entirely different saying: "Shit flows down hill". Being just a Captain, I was almost at the very bottom of the hill (for all practical purposes, I was at the bottom, since I had no "direct reports" to yell at). As the avalanche flowed in my direction, each of the participants added a good steaming, heaping pile more of it for good measure.

As a way of making it up to the commander back at DG, somebody along the way down the hill decided it would be a great idea if I 'volunteered' to go back there and paint the latrine. Before doing so, I and my crew of misfits had to meet with the wing commander (I can't remember if he was a General or Full Bird) so, of course, we did that. The entire crew showed up in his office in Dress Blues for the pre-mission pep-talk. It wasn't exactly a pep-talk. He told us what he expected. We all nodded our heads up and down (to scared to actually speak) to show we understood. Then, he dismissed everyone...but me.

He told me to stay for a few extra minutes ... and then asked me about my uniform. The only set of dress blues I owned were purchased from some salesman that showed up at my ROTC detachment BEFORE I had graduated from college, about 5 years before. He convinced us all that we really needed a uniform made by his company ... he was as good a salesman as they get.. sort of like those cute girls that come around to your college dorm and convince you to buy magazines. We all bought a nice new uniform that fit our college senior bodies just perfectly.

In seven years of active duty, this was the only time, (except for graduation from UPT), that I ever had to wear my dress blues. Ever. After 5 years of flying the system, I had "gained a few pounds", if you know what I mean.

My dress blue pants didn't fit any more, and the 'blouse' had a few bulges here and there and the buttons were straining valiantly to hold the front together, too. Any reasonable person would understand...but he was the Wing Commander and not at all sympathetic to my plight.

Because the pants didn't fit I was wearing a pair of summer uniform blue pants that didn't match the exact color or fabric of the jacket. He didn't like that. He did not like my haircut either, which I had just gotten at the McChord O'Club about an hour before this meeting. I got special counseling about setting an example for the crew. This was not a good meeting for me.

Meeting over. I saluted smartly and he sent me down to to the local hardware store to buy a few gallons of paint.

Off we went into the Wild Blue Yonder. We might have had some cargo on the trip, but the REAL REASON we were going 10,000 miles around the world was to paint the latrine.

As we arrived in DG, the base commander met the plane. He had a big grin from ear to ear, and was especially happy to see us. Of course, as the official diplomatic emissaries from MAC and the USAF, we were very happy to see him as well. He took us over to the latrine and with a very long, bony finger (that he obviously normally kept up his or some other sailor's ass), he pointed to my name. "Make it go away", he said.

So we did. Here's the proof:

I had not bothered to write on the walls in the hallway, but they made us paint that too. This is MAC's finest NAV, Pat Stegman. I'm sure that's a Coke in his left hand.

More hallway painting. This is one of the engineers. I'm sorry I can't remember his name. The way he's looking at me (with the camera in hand) I'm sure he remembers mine. He's drinking a Coke also.

This is my co-pilot, Joe Zamora. He dripped a bit of paint on the deck (Navy talk for floor) as you can see. I made him lick it off before we left.

Unfortunately, the graffitti I put on the wall (the ENTIRE REASON FOR OUR TRIP) was not memorialized with a photo before we painted over it. But, wouldn't you know it, it was written in ball point pen. Once the wall was painted pure white, the ink bled through the paint and now the writing (mine and that of dozens more of MAC's finest poets) bled through and showed up worse than it did on the dirty plywood walls. It took about 4 coats of paint, which didn't dry very fast in the humid tropical air of Diego Garcia.

The NAVY has a different view of the relationship between officers and enlisted men, especially when it comes to painting, which of course, the NAVY really knows how to do, better than anybody. During our labors, a fairly high-ranking navy officer (I never could figure out those silly stripes, but he had a lot of 'em) stopped by. He was SHOCKED to see the ENTIRE CREW, officers and enlisted, side-by-side, painting. In his world, officers watched, enlisted crew worked. That's not the Air Force way - (unless the officers could figure out how to be "filing a flight plan" or "checking the weather" at the command post when the bag-drag happened).

Trying to make lemonade out of lemons, we had stopped at Clark on the way to DG to pick up some food for a big cookout on the beach. We got a few cases of beer and a bunch of steaks to cook. After the painting party was done, we found an old rusted-out half-barrel type bar-b-que on the beach and proceeded to try and light a fire with the charcoal we bought back at Clark. Being complete idiots we had forgotten lighter fluid. I sent one of the engineers back to the aircraft with an empty paint bucket and he filled it with JP-4. We dumped it on the coals and dropped a match on the whole mess. Guess what! JP-4 doesn't burn very well. It took us about two hours to get the fire lit and cook our steaks. By then, all our beer was gone.

This photo was not taken on the painting trip but it's still that 3rd World Outpost called Diego Garcia in the late 1970's, near the BBQ pit. That's either the O'Club or base commander's quarters there behind us.

I'm the one closest to the camera, with the cigar. Note that we are drinking Olympia beer...which means we probably brought it with us from McChord. Don't remember that they sold it at Clark (I could be wrong on that.)

The guy in the blue shirt behind me opening a beer is Dick Swetnam (copilot). To my left is Vic Fukai (nav). Not sure about the one in the white T-Shirt.

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