The Goodie Wagon



Mike Novack




The C-141 was sometimes referred to as the "Goodie Wagon" by the crews that flew it, especially in the Pacific theater.

From time to time, as a way to relax, I liked to do a little woodworking at the very nicely equipped base hobby shop at McChord AFB (Tacoma, WA). So when I found myself at Clark AB in the Philippines (later evactuated due to a volcano) once in early December, with a little time to spare, I hired a jeepney and had him drive right by the FIRE EMPIRE (without even slowing down) and straight to a local lumberyard where I bought 100 board feet of "narra" wood. Narra is a very dense (read HEAVY) Philippine hardwood that sort of looks like rosewood, but it's even more beautiful. It was ten 1 x 12 rough-sawn boards; maybe 200 or 300 pounds of it (well under the maximum allowable cargo capacity of the mighty Starlifter, although perhaps not in recent years).

Not my wood, but similar

Somehow I managed (definition: "managed" = 1 case, San Miguel) to get the Clark flight line cops to let the lumberyard truck out on the flight line and they delivered the wood right to the back of the plane. Now that's customer service!! Then we carted it across the pacific through Kadena (Okinawa) or Guam (can't remember the route) to Hickam AFB in Hawaii.

We landed at Hickam for crew-rest and fuel, and as we were loading our bags on the crew bus for the trip to the command post, the cargo guys asked if we wanted to have them "dump that crappy looking shoring" that they saw stacked in, under, and around whatever else we had in the plane. In addition to my "shoring", the rest of the crew had a few things, if you know what I mean. Our "cargo" included two or three sets of papa-san and mamma-san chairs, couches, tables, hibachi pots, the biggest stereo receivers you could buy at Pony's, big 15" TEAC reel-to-reel tape decks, speakers (in those days, bigger speakers were better, so we had a few sets of REALLY BIG ones), bikes from Japan, etc. You get the idea. And oh, yeah, there was a small amount of official military cargo, but quite frankly it just got our way, and we always worried about a chain breaking and pallet sliding into and crushing our stuff, so we had double the normal chains on the pallets to keep this from happening.

Military Cargo? What a ridiculous way to fill an empty C-141 on the way home at Christmas time! We never minded hauling anything, anywhere, anytime, but when you are on the way home, especially at Christmas time ... well, I think we can all just stipulate that all that space no longer belonged to the American Taxpayer: It belonged to the CREW!

I told the ground crew at Hickem: "If you touch that 'shoring', or any of the other stuff on the plane, you will be summarily executed by my loadmaster when we come back in the morning." I considered ordering the load to sleep with our loot on the plane while the rest of us went downtown on Non-A (always a pleasure). It would have been a very hard concept to sell to him and I could not bring my self to do it (and after all, he was the one packing heat, not me). So I graciously let him come and we all went downtown.

Once we got to the hotel, the worrying started. Each beer....another scenario: Maybe it would get offloaded for us. Maybe the 'ag' guy would find it full of some weird Filipino bugs. Maybe the plane would get picked up by another crew who'd fly it back to where we just came from, or on to somewhere else. Maybe the plane will explode during refueling and burn all our stuff. How would we ever find a way to put the full value of all that stuff on our per-diem? Hell we didn't know for sure what was going to happen.

After the 5th beer, we suddenly didn't care any more about all of our stuff sitting out there, unguarded, all night long. If anything was gone in the morning, we all (except for one of us) agreed : It was the load's problem! He's the one responsible for the cargo, and he had the option to stay there and guard it, and he decided to come downtown with the rest of us.

Lucky for us, it was a McChord plane and we were scheduled to take it the following day. All our stuff was in tact when we got back to the plane. The next leg was straight home and when we got there it took 30 seconds to slide the cargo pallets out the back and then about 40 minutes and three crew busses to get us all out to our cars with all the loot the "C-141 goodie wagon" could hold. Fortunately it was dark by then (do you EVER remember taking off, flying, or landing in the day time?) and we were able to sneak it past the jealous flight-line-dwelling piss-ants who constantly complained about how the air crews abused their priveleges by bringing back all this stuff that they could not buy at the McChord BX.

"It's just not fair!!", they whined.

Well, we thought it was fair; a very small compensation for the time spent away from home and family. But our real motivation, of course, was that we viewed it as a form of diplomacy and a way to "help the economies of developing countries".


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