• BUFF driver and an…ostrich?

    Posted on April 11th, 2009 Pete Drahn No comments

    Main gate, Travis AFB, CALt. Pete Drahn (left) with his crew, 1966

    I flew BUFFS before and after my year as a FAC in SEA. In about 1966, as a young copilot, myfirst operational assignment was to Travis AFB, where we had a wing vice-commander who was a terror.

    Colonel King would usually officiate over the crew changeovers in the alert shack after each seven day alert cycle. Being the grand leader that he thought he was, he would present an award to the crew that screwed up the most during the previous week. The award was a 3-foot tall statue of a crow, a former advertisement for Old Crow bourbon. He had the crow painted with white jailbird stripes and a plaque around his neck announcing “Awarded to the Worst Air Crew of the Week”, or some such language.

    After a half-year of this arrogant and sorry display of leadership and enough beers between us, another copilot, Todd Jagerson, who was a talented artist, and I built a paper mâche model of our own. It depicted an ostrich bending over with its long neck going between his legs and the head shoved up where the colonel’s was at that time. The sign announced “Awarded to the Worst Staff Officer of the Week,” or some such wording.

    Lt. Pete Drahn (left) with his crew, 1966

    The day of reckoning arrived with Todd and me on alert. We sneaked into the large briefing room after we saw the Colonel’s staff drop off the “jailbird” and retreat to the alert shack mess hall to await “The King’s” arrival. We deposited the “Staff Ostrich” right next to the “Old Crow” and beat tracks out of there.

    The briefing room was packed with around 16 tanker and bomber crews (both coming on and going off alert) 10 minutes before Col. King made hisgrand entrance. Todd and I were tucked fairly well back in the room, but sweating bullets; seeing our careers fly out the window if we got caught.

    The Old Man arrived, gave his usual glare at the assembled troops and proceeded to the stage. He stopped dead cold about 4-feet way from the Crow and Ostrich. He studied it for what seemed like 5 minutes, turned around, and departed the room. We never did get caught, but the old buzzard never hauled out that award again, and actually became a lot more respectful.

    Of course, we never told anyone and just hope the statute of limitations has run out.

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