Celtic Illumination, part 243, Dickie Dive Bomb.
Despite the fact that I had decided to leave the air force I still had to perform my duties. I began to dump my secondary duties and I have to admit that it was nice to have a bit of time to myself. One secondary duty I kept was trade training. I know; the fellow who loved air traffic so much he had to be tricked into passing out of basic trade training was now an instructor. I had been teaching the young airmen and preparing them for their promotion exams. I liked them all and wanted them to succeed so I wanted to see it through. Before I took over it had been quite formal, where they had to attend certain sessions, at a specific time, on certain days during the week. This wasn’t very fair on the shift workers, so I encouraged them to come to me at a time that suited them. It seemed to work and the guys were making good progress.
I went away on some leave for a fortnight but when I came back found that my deputy had reverted back to the old system and was making the guys attend specific sessions at a time that suited him. He was also being a bit of an arse and wouldn’t meet up with me to bring me up to date with what the guys were doing, so that I could take over again. It soon became clear that he wanted to take over as trade training coordinator as a secondary duty. Had he come to me and explained himself, I might have given him the position, as long as I could have continued mentoring the guys in my own way. I managed to get a hold of him one day and we had words in my office. It was one of those conversations where voices are raised, expletives exchanged and the problem usually gets sorted out in a brief affair behind the bike sheds. And by affair I don’t mean soft lights, red wine and lots of roses.
Unfortunately the exchange was overheard by Dickie Dive Bomb. Dickie Dive Bomb was an ancient Squadron Leader, the sort of fellow who would often be told that when he joined the air force Pontius was still a trainee pilot. Dickie was a lovely old fellow and came in explaining that he couldn’t help but overhear what had happened. He then told me that if I was serious, I had accused the other fellow of only being interested in himself and not the airmen he was supposed to be teaching, Dickie told me that I should put my concerns in a memo to O C Operations. The pair of us got together and constructed a memo which I went upstairs and dropped in O C Operations correspondence tray.
This was the sort of memo where you withdrew to a safe distance, took cover and put your fingers in your ears. Before long Dickie Dive Bomb came to me and said that I was wanted in O C Operations office and that he was to accompany me. We went in and my deputy was there with the SATCO. We faced each other and O C Operations explained that he had read the memo and was aware of the situation. He then went on to explain that my deputy felt I had damaged his professional reputation and if I did not apologise, there and then, he would initiate disciplinary action against me. He was an air traffic arse so I knew he wouldn’t have been capable of dreaming that up himself, I could sense the SATCO’s hand in the affair.
I stood my ground and as with the SIB refused to speak. Before the situation could turn into farce, O C Operations asked Dickie Dive Bomb and myself to leave. We did and when we were far enough away from the office Dickie clapped his hands around my shoulders stating that he was so proud of me for having the bottle to face them off. Full control of trade training came back to me and I reverted to having the guys come in as an when it suited them and I was seriously pleased when they all passed, which could have been a little bit tricky for me if they hadn’t. Another use for the flight planning section was to host station briefings. Usually this would be for visiting squadrons of air cadets but at least once a week a large group, of an average thirty people, would come in and be given a station briefing. This would be a slide show accompanied by a talk explaining the history and function of the base.
My job was to set the whole affair up and one of the Squadron Leaders from operations would actually give the briefing. One day I was at the rear of the room waiting for everyone to sit down when Dickie Dive Bomb came wandering over. I asked if he was giving the brief and he said ‘Yes’ so I relaxed a little as I now knew everything was in place. That’s when Dickie turns around and says, “You know what? I think I’ll give it a miss this week. Why don’t you give the station brief?” With which he wandered off. I had no choice but to take to the stage and give the brief. I was quite surprised that I was able to waffle my way through it and even field most of the questions I was asked afterwards. As the crowd emptied out of the briefing room Dickie came back down and informed me that I had done such a good job that I could do the station briefing from then on.
I didn’t mind, it wasn’t that difficult. I also had to set up the briefing room in station headquarters for the Station Commander who would brief visiting dignitaries. Unfortunately I would have to report to the Station Warrant Officer and get the keys for the briefing room in station headquarters which would result in me being told to smarten myself up and get a haircut on every visit. We had been given a new operations building, purpose built, but the exercises and bull shit continued. If we were on exercise then the Station Commander would run station operations during the day. At night time O C Operations would take over and as the deputy in charge of operations I would assist him. Being a Wing Commander at about midnight he would usually slide off to a dark corner and get his head down and I would be left in charge, running the station.
I was often tempted to hit the main hooter and launch the wing, but I don’t think I would ever have been forgiven for that. Not only did I control both phantom squadrons but all the ground defences as well, it was like a huge interactive board game, but better. I do remember one night it was very quiet and the whole of the United Kingdom air defence network was on exercise. We recently had a computer installed in operations. This was quite a big thing if you think that this was about the same time as Alan Sugar’s Commodore 64 was becoming popular. Most of the airmen had been trained up on the computer but I hadn’t a clue how to use it so I wandered over.
I asked the fellow operating the computer if he would explain it to me and show me how it worked, but he apologised and asked if I could come back later as he was quite busy. I would never have to actually use the computer but I felt that I should know how it worked and what it did, at least. I couldn’t see how he was busy as nothing was flying so I asked what he was doing. He explained that he was playing dungeons and dragons against someone in Scotland. I may have been leaving the air force but it was nice to see that the tradition that state of the art equipment, resulting from the investment of millions upon millions of Great British English Sterling pounds every year, would continue to be treated with the utmost respect and be used exactly as intended.