Posted by: Nazausgraben | June 18, 2011

THE TALE OF SWABO IN FALCONLAND


Throughout these many pages, I have been describing my life and times here in Pinswang, Austria and environs. Yet, dear reader, please forgive me a moment of fond nostalgia. I am brought to this state by a note of greetings received but a few days ago from colleagues at the United States Air Force Academy (hereafter, USAFA), where I had the privilege to serve my final (sunset) tour of active duty prior to my retirement from the Navy and move to Austria.

Having been afforded the opportunity to spend the remaining three years of my Navy career as a Military Instructor in Colorado Springs (a rather unlikely spot for a naval officer), I eagerly made my way westward. Having (at that time) spent more than 27-years proudly serving in the military, I believed it was now time to impart some of what I had learned to these very bright young’ns who would shortly be commissioned as Air Force Officers.  

I knew that my three-year tour as one of only seven Navy Officers assigned to teach (as part of an inter-service professional exchange program) at  the USAFA was going to be something of a cultural minefield. One of the most daunting challenges I had to face wearing Navy Blue amongst the masses sporting light blue was to be the Navy-Air Force football game, of 2006. Held on high-altitude home turf, the onslaught of verbal jabs, taunts and PowerPoint sabotage came fast and furiously; the paced quickened indeed as the day of the game approached.

During the week prior to the game, I made a gross tactical error whilst awaiting the start of my Thursday Human Factors class….I briefly left the classroom to fetch some books, leaving the laptop computer containing all of my course files unlocked and the PowerPoint brief that I was to present selected.

Upon my return, the room was filled with Cadets…my students…who snapped to attention in the most professional form. The class commenced. Immediately, I knew that I was in trouble, as my third PowerPoint slide proclaimed “SINK NAVY!” over a photo of an exploding warship. I smiled and let it pass, but the feeling of impending doom lurked within my sobering brow. Sure enough…another two slides later, “GO FALCONS!” (the Falcon being the USAFA mascot and symbol) with a periscope view of a torpedo headed toward an aircraft carrier. The chuckles from the peanut gallery grew louder as my visage turned from accepting to feigned annoyance. 

The Cadets didn’t miss a beat, “Sir, we’d like to make a bet with you!”

“What type of bet?”, came my hesitant reply.

“If we (the Air Force) win the game on Saturday, you will have to teach the first class thereafter wearing an Air Force uniform! We’ll supply the shirt and cover (cap), your other course section will give you the pants. Is it a deal?” The speaker was one of my brightest and best, and his sardonic smile suggested a devilish streak within that I had not heretofore observed.

“OK…it’s a deal, ” I replied, “However, if…no…WHEN the Navy wins the game this Saturday, all of you in both classes will have to submit to me one-page essays describing why you wish you had attended the United States Naval Academy instead of the USAFA. Is it a deal?”

After a few moments of thought and not being quite certain what to do, the class speaker replied in a no-longer-brash tone, “Sure”.  It was complete. Now we had to wait. I waded through the remainder of the brief, shaking my head in wonderment as to how the Cadets had managed to slip 20 more BEAT NAVY, GO FALCONS, crashed Navy aircraft and sunken Navy ship slides into my brief in the few minutes I was absent from the classroom.

Now, I was still not at ease, even after the class ended. Tension was mounting. Several visiting Navy Midshipmen…exchange students from the United States Naval Academy spending a year that the USAFA…had painted the open air stadium seats with the words ‘GO NAVY’  in huge bold white letters that could be seen from way across the interstate. Air Force Cadets were holding Navy uniforms hostage…as evidenced from some of the bizarre garb being worn by the Midshipmen during the day.

I had also heard the horror stories of decimated Navy faculty offices, furniture being moved elsewhere and substituted with plastic lining and real goats leaving their enduring marks in another Navy Officer’s academic digs. How to keep this happening to me…I had to think fast. I started dropping some not-so-subtle hints to all within hearing that my office contained invaluable…indeed, priceless relics that, if moved, would certainly result in the destruction of historically critical and irreplaceable artifacts…something about which my ‘uncle’, the Secretary of the Navy, would not be pleased when informed.

I was not convinced that my ruse would work and contemplated installing sensors in my office that, when activated by an intruder, would trip deafening alarms, blinding lights and assorted video cameras so as to catch the felon in the nasty act.

I worked very late that Thursday evening, and when I finally left my office, I was convinced that I had eluded a nasty attack. I went home, relaxed and complacent. Alas, tactical error number two.

The next morning, the Friday before the game, I went to my office very early…the sun was just showing itself over the rolling horizon to the east, turning the western front range a rich deep shadowed golden. I turned into the corridor leading into department spaces and headed for my office.

Stopping at the door…something was amiss…no light was streaming out from the windows atop the wall between my office and the corridor. They were ‘blackened out’ by…something. I knew that an attack had occurred…but how? When? I opened the door into my office very…very slowly, expecting a pail of something liquid to tip and cover me in Air Force Blue goo of some sort. Nothing happened. I carefully switched on the light. It was only then that the dastardly handiwork became clear.

My office walls and windows were covered in USAFA stickers, magnets, posters…a sliver or two of morning sunlight broke through the cracks between Air Force Academy calendars and recruiting posters taped to the huge glass windows overlooking the Aeronautics Laboratory building and valley below. My desk, bookcases and files were happily still in place, but covered with Air Force paraphernalia of all types. In place of the two chairs and the couch usually occupied by students and guests, there was now a large children’s plastic swimming pool, inflated and filled with water. A plastic model of an aircraft carrier, a Navy diver and some other related times were submerged…sunken in the foot or so of water that sloshed about with each step as I entered my office.

A Pod of Cephalopod Mollusci Attack Defenseless Navy Ships and Personnel at the USAF Academy

Hanging from the ceiling above the pool was a small model of an F-15 look alike, dropping paper cutout bomb on the unfortunate sunken inhabitants of the pool. Attached to the bomb was the inevitable ‘SINK NAVY’ scribbled on a small piece of paper.

Adding Insult to Injury: "Go Air Force, Bomb Navy" Could be Seen Written on the Side of the Huge Bomb as it Fell onto the Already Decimated Naval Forces

Yet, this was not the worst part of this treachery. For the moment I opened the door into my office, I was beaten into submission by a veritable wall of rotting something smell. It was as if I had just fallen head first into a pool of 2-day old dead squids. And you know what…..I wasn’t far off. There ‘lolling about’ in the undulating plastic pool of death were five large decomposing octopi, their tentacles lapping in the waves, intelligence long lost from their tiny sightless eyes.

Now, I do love the smell of fresh fish…the harbor markets in Seattle or Monterey suggest that delicious morsels from the sea will soon be gracing my dinner plate. Not so with this stench…it was toxic, a superb weapon of mass destruction that wafted through my open door, polluting the entire 5th floor. My best laid plans to protect the Navy oasis had failed; the enemy had succeeded. There was nothing more to do than accept my fate and proceed with head held high. Yet, even in defeat, there can be small triumphs.

I left the door to my office opened all day that Friday. My colleagues were none too pleased with the miscreant perfume that would just not weaken.  Word about the attack on the Navy spread as quickly as the smell. Curious Instructors were bringing entire classes past my office, gazing in at me as I attempted to work, scanning my digs as if seeking out a stuffed extinct curiosity behind museum glass…holding their noses against the ever-faster rotting tentacle flesh…commenting, smiling and some showing abit of pity. Such circumstances can be little different for denizens of the local zoo, whose sad eyes and melancholic demeanor suggest despair at unjust incarceration to those with a bent toward anthropomorphism.

Finally, about midday, a colleague (I’ll call him ‘Mit’ to protect the guilty) suddenly appeared at my portal, his visage reflecting a mixture of surprised glee tinged at the edges with a pinch of guilt. Indeed, I no longer wondered about the locus of the attack…the mastermind behind this infamy. It was an inside job…the absolute worst kind of treachery!! 

Mit could not hold his secret any longer, and admitted all. He and his kids had invaded my office late on Thursday night and set their plan of defending the Air Force’s good name into play.

But where did he find the octopi, here in the middle of the land-locked American southwest?  Mit revealed that he had purchased the octopi the day before, arranging to secretly meet a restaurant supply truck at a rest stop somewhere along the interstate near the Academy. I wish I had a photo of the exchange; Mit giving the driver a wad of money and in return receiving a large brown trash bag filled with what later was identified as thawing octopi. What a sight that must have been.

Mit and I were soon laughing about the entire operation and quickly took pity on our colleagues occupying nearby offices. We placed the very nasty carcasses into Bio Hazmat bags and left them for disposal. Mit and I then dumped the water from the pool, inflated it and restored my office to nearly its original state.

That evening, only the glue from the tape holding the posters and calendars on the windows gave evidence that something quite remarkable indeed had happened. The stench eventually disappeared. My colleagues were happy. Mit and his kids were happy. The Air Force was happy…oh yes, except for my students.

You might recall the bet they made with me mentioned earlier? Well, Navy won that game. The next Tuesday, there were almost 35 “Why I Should Have Gone to Annapolis” essays on my desk.

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Responses

  1. Quite clever AF cadets, I’d say. Thanks for sharing this funny story!


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