“Someday, this war is gonna end.”
Sore and groggy, hands hurting and calloused, I bring myself back to the front of 3011 G72 – the ‘rig’ is still apart and on several glaring red X status conditions. My inner drill sergeant is ripping me a new one. This shit is taking way too long.
P: “Sir, the private is present and reporting for duty.”
Sgt: “What time did you get up?”
P: “1000, sir”
Sgt: “And here you are, two and a half sweet hours later, having not shaved. Where’s your tool #1?” (Retractable razor, the Stanley E9 or equivalent)
P: “Not accounted for presently, sir.”
Sgt: “Well, you better go get it. What did you get accomplished yesterday? Almost nothing, from the look of this mess.”
P: “It took me a very long time to get the timing cover on, I had the wrong rubber gasket and kept trying it the wrong way.”
Sgt: “Well are you going to do it the right way from now on?”
P: “Sir, the private needs to go to the Auto Parts supply first. I need two more gaskets”
Sgt: “Really…. AGAIN! JESUS CHRIST you’re the chief of maintenance and you STILL AIN’T GOT ALL THE SHIT YOU NEED. AND IT’S 12 GOD DAMNED THIRTY, YOU’RE ENGINE IS STILL OPEN. JUST GET ON YOUR BIKE. GO!”
A dog ambles up, wearing a silver bar on his collar. He is known as LtJG Lance.
Ten-hut is called, and the young lieutenant is saluted casually.
Lt: Wag wag, sniff. “As you were, now. Is there some reason you are abusing this mechanic, Sergeant?”
P: “Sir, Is the private dismissed?”
Lt: “Negative, chief. I’m coming with you to Napa.”
P: “We depart immediately, sir. Here is your leash.”
[25 minutes later]
Sgt: “Well well. Are you ready for the brief, Mr. ‘I need coffee’?”
P: “Ready now, Sergeant.”
Sgt: “That’s good. At ease, down on one.” I drop to one knee, with a clipboard ready. The sunglasses come off. A luxury it is, to have them.
“Locate the temp sending unit and put in the new gauge. Connect the oil pressure sender and figure out where all those vacuum lines go. Use the tech data, wear your gloves.”
A light breeze picks up as a large cloud moves to obscure the sun. “Get that fuel line finished and torque down the intake manifold bolts TO THE CORRECT TORQUE!”
Sgt: “And for the second time, install the exhaust manifold. Have that done, as in, pull your pants up done. And, where is the radiator and all the water lines.”
P: “Not yet installed, sir.” The sergeant does not respond in words, only stares and looks back down at his shit list.
P: “Is that all sir.”
Sgt: “Fuhuhuuuuuck no, Private.” He leans in, the nauseating smell of wintergreen chew wafting from his mouth.
“Just for fun and recreation, when that list of pro-jects is complied with; set the timing, turn the crankshaft around a few times, put them dandy new spark plugs in, and the wires, figure out the seat belt problem….”
Someone had asked: “What is maintenance camp?” It is (was) a flight of very few airmen dedicated to what is termed as heavy maintenance, but it also involved very long, interesting visits to back shop places on the base (DM, East Tucson) and difficult part sourcing missions. The flight chief himself was great at ‘disappearing’ for long periods.
Maintenance camp’s call sign in 358 FS was “Maintenance One.” and the best part of it was, it was run by an overweight guy that was simply called Goob, a 20 year lifer that did not make it past E5 because of his girth, but this man could run out, take over a launch emergency, and get a jet ready to taxi like nothing you’ve ever seen. He was god. He was Goob.
I wrote a story about it, and can send it to someone if asked – a true story of when we drove an EZ cart for miles, and went to the expansive boneyard for aircraft parts.
Maintenance camp can fell like a never ending <i>world of shit</i>or it can be a virtual heaven of accomplishment and joyous tinkering. Love it. Hate it. Live it, then end it.