Click logo for Home Page"
One for All
It was early fall in 1974, I was a young SSgt flight
engineer student. We
were on a '509' training mission to the Pacific, and
started at Travis, flew to
Hilo for a bunch of touch-and-gos, then on to Hickam
for crew rest. The next
day we were scheduled to go to Guam for more
touch-and-gos, fuel and a grease
burger, then to Clark for crew rest.
Just before landing at Anderson, my examiner, MSgt. John Olson, informed me that it was my duty to purchase a 'crew bottle' to be shared by the boys upon the unlikely event that I passed my initial FE check ride. I informed him that I wasn't 'legal' due to the short time since I'd been through customs on my 'recommend' ride a couple of weeks earlier. He told me not to worry because the bottle wouldn't last long enough to see customs at Elmendorf anyway. Upon arrival at Clark (and supposedly the end of my check ride), we were told by the Command Post that a typhoon was on its way and we were going to have to press on to Yokota. The check ride continued, of course.
After refueling and another grease burger, we finally made it to Yokota. Were were all so dead tired that we went directly to the 'Q' for a night of much needed sleep. The next day we headed off to Shemya for touch-and-gos, and finally arrived at Elmendorf.
I still had the unopened bottle of Jim Beam in my book bag and was worried about getting it through Customs. We must have had 8 pilots, 5 engineers, 3 or 4 navs, and at least 3 loads on the trip and none of them would help me out and claim the bottle on their decs so I had to pay the duty myself. It was $5.00 duty on my $3.00 bottle of whiskey. When we were all back on the crew bus, John asked if he could take a closer look at that bottle of Beam and, and being the trusting new guy that I was, I gave it to him.
He promptly twisted the cap off, threw it out the window, and then took a long pull from the bottle. He handed it to the guy sitting next to him, he says 'This don't taste like $8.00 whiskey, what do you think?' The bottle traveled around the bus from one guy to the next and they all agreed that I got ripped off by the customs guy. Just as the bottle got back to me, the last guy said 'Wait a minute, I think this tastes pretty darn good, you better try it again!' and started it back the way it came. Just as it got back to John, he drained the last drop and handed me the empty bottle.
I started to protest. With a grin on his face, he proclaimed that I was now a 'real' flight engineer and this was the price of my initiation.
Many years later I ran into John at the crew hotel in Riyadh, both of us Chiefs (he from AWACS and me from KC-10s). We enjoyed an afternoon sipping Pepsi and talking over old times in the C-141. Both of us remembered (fondly) my first check ride and that bottle of Jim Beam. Too bad I didn't get as good a taste as he did.