May, 2003 Newsletter - Section I

By Gene Sloat (83-86)

Unlike most of you folks who spent the majority of your career with USAFSS/ESC, my tenure with the Command didn’t begin until Jul 77.  For 9 years I was a First Sergeant with the Command and enjoyed every minute of it.  I spent the first 2 years with the 6922nd ESS at Clark AB, the next 4 years at the Headquarters (1 year with AFCSC & SPs, and 3 years with the ESC IG Team), and my last 3 years with the 6912th  in Berlin.

I can truthfully say my assignment with the 6922nd and the opportunity to travel to all of our Command locations with the ESC IG Team, provided me with the knowledge and experience needed to be successful at the 6912th.  As you well know, the 12th’s mission was diversified (Marienfelde, T-Berg, TCA, and Det 1 in Berlin and an Operating Location at Helmstedt – 20 enlisted LG types).  In my opinion, without that prior USAFSS/ESC experience, I would have been totally lost and behind the power curve upon my arrival at the 6912th in Jul 83.  I never put on a headset or fixed a piece of equipment, but thanks to a lot of super NCOs and Officers who took me under their wing, I became aware of just what, why, and how we accomplished our mission.  Hitching on to the coattails of people like Okey Warden, Buddy McGuire, Paul Weyant, Dave Domyancic, Mark Brantley, Bob Molsted, Barnie Gavin, Mike & Judy Bushnell, Bill Mock, Charlie Bishop, Jay Jaynes, Jerry Wucher, Robbie Robinson, Oliver Kendall, Dave Hunt, Ike Eisenhower, Ed Yadon, Regan Springs, Ed Spate, Bob Harder, Earl McDonald, Scott Custer, Bob Crick, Steve Dillon, Larry Munns, Chuck Smits, Tom Echols, and Dave Sullivan made me a much better First Sergeant.

One of the benefits (unwritten policy) of being on the IG Team was getting your pick of assignments when it came time to get off the team.  I had no problems in selecting Berlin since I had been to the 12th twice with the IG Team and I knew what to expect.  My immediate job was trying to remember the route between TCA – Marienfelde – T-Berg (I’m not going to tell you how many times I got lost, but I do remember ending up at Tegal Airport on at least one occasion – don’t ask me how).

I was very fortunate to work for super commanders, Col Jerry Wucher and Col Jay Jaynes.  Both of these officers had a tremendous amount of respect for the enlisted force and appreciated the dedicated work our men and women did to accomplish the mission.  One of the bennies of working for the commander was that if you had their trust, you always knew what was going on in the unit and what plans were in the future for the unit.

I knew from experience that a First Sergeant couldn’t set on his butt all day in an office and expect to know what’s going on in the unit.  One of my priorities was to get out and talk to the 580 people assigned to the 12th.  I set out to meet everyone and remember their first and last name and hopefully match that name to a face.  This definitely didn’t happen overnight, but I believe by the end of my first 6 months, I knew most everyone.  I wanted to find out what they perceived as good about the unit, as well as, what was perceived as bad.  At the same time asking them what suggestions they may have to resolve some of the perceived problems.  Keeping the Commander up to date on the health, welfare, and morale of our people was my primary goal.

During the period 83 – 86, approximately 28% of our enlisted force was female.  Now I’m sure that some of you old troops from the 50s, 60, and 70s would have considered this to be a problem.  Believe me; I’ve heard it all (they don’t hold their end up, always on the phone, guy crazy, etc).  I’m here to tell you that these women were extremely dependable, hard workers, very smart, and could keep up with the men any day of the week.  Sure we had a few problems, but nothing that would over shadow their overall capability.

One of the problems we faced was that each site had a different shift schedule.  All sites had 4 flights, but different rotation schedules and shift hours.  Consequently, on any given dayshift, Able Flight may have been working at Marienfelde, Baker Flight at T-Berg, while Charlie Flight was at TCA.  This was a nightmare to manage, especially if you wanted to locate someone.  After a lot of debate and numerous meetings between the Command Section and the Ops folks, Col Wucher made the decision that all sites would work the same shift hours and the same flights would be working at all 3 locations.  Management, control, and access to people became much easier.

At most units whenever a member of the unit is apprehended by the Security Police, the First Sergeant is called (day or night) and he is expected to immediately pick up the prisoner.  I did this faithfully for about 5 months – averaging about 3 calls each week, normally in the middle of the night.  After picking the prisoner up, I’d put them in a dorm room, restrict them until the next morning, and order them to report to me at 0800 hours the next duty day.  Most of the time when I notified their supervisor, they would just laugh and then say, “I’m glad you got the call instead of me.”  After a long discussion with Col Wucher, an immediate change in policy went into effect.  Although I was still the Security Police primary point-of-contact, I now had the authority to call the OIC/NCOIC of the person apprehended and tell them to go pick up prisoner and for both of them to see me at 0800 hours the next duty day.  Within a week after this policy change, I got my first call at 0300 hours.  I called his Flight Commander (a 1/LT who will remain nameless) who informed me that it was “not his job.”  After exchanging a few nice words, I finally got his attention when I gave him the Commanders home telephone number and told him to call the Commander and tell him the same thing he just told me.  Bottom line, the Flight Commander picked up the prisoner.  I did mention my conversation with the Flight Commander to Col Wucher the next morning -- needless to say, I got no more bullshit from that Flight Commander.  When it came to picking up a prisoner, things worked smoothly for the next 2 ˝ years.

I also remember butting heads several times with the Senior Enlisted Advisor (SEA) of our host the 7350th Air Base Group.  Now we all know that 7350th wouldn’t have had a mission if it hadn’t been for the 12th being in Berlin.  I got a call one morning from the SEA telling me he was just notified that a group of 30 U.S. Senators and Congressmen would be visiting and touring the 7350th the next day and would be staying overnight.  The 12th was tasked to provide 15 people to offload baggage from the plane and take the bags to their overnight quarters.  When I ask if the 12th was on their itinerary, the answer was, “No.”  I told him I’d get back with him.  I told Col Jaynes that since our unit wasn’t being visited, we shouldn’t provide any support.  I thought this would set a bad precedent – Col Jaynes agreed.  I could always find a way to be diplomatic, but at the same time politely tell someone to “stick it in your ear.”  The SEA didn’t speak to me for at least 2 weeks – hurt my feelings!

Since we had the largest unit at TCA, we also occupied more than 70% of the dorm rooms (male and female).  I’m having one of my “senior moments” right now and can’t remember just how many dorm rooms we did have, but I can tell you that it took me over 3 days to inspect them.  Now my opinion on inspecting dorm rooms was totally different then the other 3 First Sergeants at TCA.  They had surprise inspections on a monthly basis.  Now I realized that rooms should be neat, clean, and orderly, but let’s face it, how would you like it if someone came into your quarters each month to inspect them?  I believe we would all agree that dorm living was sometimes the pits.  I had a meeting with all dorm residents and told them my views on dorm living.  I started by telling them I had often heard dorm occupants make the statement, “Why don’t they treat me like an adult?”  As much as we would like to believe it, all people over 18 cannot be classified as “adults.”  They look like adults, but looks can be deceiving because under that debonair, suave appearance could be an “adolescent.”  I told them that I didn’t like inspecting their rooms anymore then they liked being inspected.   So effective immediately I would be treating them as adults.  Instead of monthly inspections like the rest of TCA, I’d inspect them quarterly and would let them know when they would be inspected.  If their rooms were neat, clean, and orderly, I’d leave them alone for the next 90 days.  If their rooms failed, then I would have a long discussion with the occupants.  In addition, 8 “outstanding” rooms were selected each quarter and 3-day passes were awarded to room occupants.  As we all know, the Air Force had a policy that members of the opposite sex could not sleep over.  I’m telling you right now that I only took care of their “morale,” not their “morals”.  If you think for one moment you are going to stop dorm occupants from having sex, you are living in a fantasyland – don’t even go there!

During one of my inspections, I remember leaving a note in one of the female dorm rooms telling her that her room was outstanding.  At the same time I noticed that on her nightstand was a book titled:  “The Joys of Sex.”  Having seen the book, I added a comment to my note saying, “good book, my wife and I have read it.”  About a week later a young female Airman came into my office because she had written a bad check.  After our counseling session and as she was leaving, she thanked me for the note I had left in her room during my dorm inspection.  I had no idea what she was talking about until she mentioned my comment about the, The Joys of Sex.  Her next comment was, “she had read it twice and was now looking for someone to experiment with.”  Was I speechless?  Maybe!  But you can bet your ass that I never left a note like that again.

The enlisted folks in the 12th worked hard and played hard.  I can’t recall the number of flight parties I went to after a last day shift was completed.  Parties in dorm with 40 or more people, was not uncommon.  More food then you could eat, with 5 or 6 blenders making your favorite daiquiri (strawberry, peach, and even cucumbers when the fruit ran out).  Now who could turn down a party like that?  Christmas and New Years was no different, 15 or more parties during the holidays were not uncommon.  My one regret is that I didn’t go on any of the trips that the flights took into West Germany.  My wife and I were invited numerous times, but we just never took advantage of it.

We didn’t stand short on military functions either.  I convinced the Commander that we should have an all ranks “Dining-In.”  The Top 4 Association supplemented the cost of the tickets for the enlisted folks and we sold out within 14 days.  It was a smashing success with a lot of young airmen attending for the first time.  Over the next 2 years, we put on another 2 Dining-Ins and 1 Dining-Out (all were sold out).

Mentioning parties, who could ever forget those infamous British/American picnics.  I helped in the planning of 3 of those picnics and all of them were a blast.  The 12th supplied the food and the Brits the beer and wine.  Those Brits could definitely drink!  Also, the TCA Open House would be hard to forget.  Our Top 4 Association had one of the ice cream booths.  In 2 days we sold over $5,000 worth of ice cream -- that’s a lot of ice cream.  What impressed me most about the TCA Open House was when it was time to close.  The German police would line up on one end of the tarmac, sound a big horn, and start walking towards everyone.  No one gave those police a hard time – everyone simply turned around and started walking to the exits.  Do you think that would happen in America?

During my 3 years with the 12th we were inspected by the ESC IG Team twice and received an “excellent rating” both times.  Our dorm rooms were also inspected once by the USAFE IG Team during a 7350th Air Base Group inspection – our dorm rooms received an “excellent rating.”  The 12th also received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and the NSA Travis Trophy during this period.  We also had a number of enlisted folks selected as the ESC Europe Outstanding Senior NCO, NCO, and Airman of the Year.  Because of the great support I received from the 12th, I was even selected as the ESC Europe First Sergeant of the Year in 84 and 85.

The friends I made while in USAFSS/ESC have been long lasting and will be a part of my memory for the rest of my life.  I have many people to thank for my career and many things to be thankful for.  When I look back on my 31 years in the Air Force, I can truthfully say that Berlin and the 12th were my most satisfying.  If I could be granted one wish, I would love to have my SCI clearance for one week so I could go back into the Headquarters to find out who, what, when, and how we do things today – would anyone like to join me?

Gene Sloat, CMSgt (Ret)
First Sergeant – 6912ESG (83 – 86)

Ed’s Reminder Sheet
LG – Logistics folks at Helmstedt at the Eastern end of the Autobahn.
AFCSC – Air Force Cryptologic
Support Center
ESC – Electronic Security Command, replaced Security Service
SP – Security Police
Top 4 Association – Technical Sergeant through Chief Master Sergeant
Det 1 – A secret unit in a secret place doing secret things secretly
Sex – Unknown activity frequently referred to in the literature

                        © 2002, The Berlin Island Association

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