SOF Duty

Mike Novack

I was based at McChord from 1973 until 1978, when I got out of the AF after 7 years on active duty. This was a strange time for MAC .. the Viet Nam conflict was nearly 100% wound down, there was a surplus of pilots (many were offered early outs) and generally there just didn't seem to be much going on in the world that needed the urgent attention of MAC. It was tough to meet your monthly minimum flying our requirements and very few pilots ever came close to reaching the max hours limits.

To keep us all busy most young officers were required to do some office job such as crew scheduling, training office work, and periodic stints at the command post, and also as the SOF (Supervisor of Flying). I don't know if they still have SOF's or not as it has been almost 30 years since I got out.

What SOF duty entailed, for the most part, was riding around in a pickup or 'staff' car, checking on the departing and arriving MAC aircraft, and trying to assist them with anything standing in the way of a smoothly operating flight line operation. Since the prevailing theory back at the command post was that nobody was telling the truth about anything (e.g., fleet services was 'on the way', maintenance was 'at the aircraft now', the cargo was 'waiting to be loaded or unload', etc., one of the SOF's main jobs was to use the walkie-talkie to tell command post who was being truthful (or lying) as the case may be. From time to time you'd also taking crew members to the snack bar or command post for weather updates, bring out missing in-flight lunches, and in rare instances dealing with actual emergency situations.

For example, I had SOF duty at Clark for about one month and actually had to call the command post about an APU fire on a C-5, since no one else had bothered to do it before evacuating the aircraft.

As I recall, the duty was a 9 day stint: 8 hours shifts, rotating from day to swing to graveyard after three days each, which can be as tough on your sleep cycle as major jet-lag. They actually gave us crew-rest for a few days following one of these SOF duty shifts.

At McChord we had one of those big green bound log books that the AF is so fond of and we were supposed to note anything in there that was unusual and record the routine information like when things happened (crew bus shows up with crew, aircraft blocks in or out, etc. Very little of this made its way into the log book if things were running smoothly. If things were all messed up there was usually little time to play diary queen and make the notes you were supposed to make so somebody's ass could get chewed later based on your accounting of the facts, which was just fine with all concerned (except the ass-chewers).

However, as noted earlier, SOF duty MOSTLY entailed incredibly boring stretches when absolutely NOTHING was going on at all. Sometimes you ended up in the car for a few hours trying to figure out ways to pass the time. (This was before cell-phones for you youngsters so you couldn't talk to anyone but the command post via the walkie-talkie.)

After a few hours of updating your Dash-1 and other pubs with the latest information, reading a book, listening to the radio and so on you would sometimes go a bit batty from boredom. So you'd pick up the green logbook and glance through the pages. Some of the best porn I've ever read was in there! These young officers and gentlemen (all pilots were male then) had some pretty good creative writing skills. But this is not the place to publish these wanna-be porn writers. (If they still have SOF's today, and if the female pilots manage to pull their share of the duty, I would love to read their porn-contest entries.)

We also had 'SOF Reports' similar to the sheet you see below:

McChord SOF Report Form, Circa mid-70's

If you look at this form you can there is something on the back side. At the time (1977) it seemed to most of us flying the line that MAC was sometimes a little bit too eager to issue waivers for just about anything .. malfunctioning equipment, crew duty day limits, crew rest limits .. you name it .. to get the mission done. There was no war raging at the time, no national emergency to deal with, so sometimes these waivers didn't seem like they really needed to be handed down as often as they were.

On one of my long, boring stints as SOF I took a SOF Report form (the very one above) and started doodling. This is the result.

Waiver Certificate, version 1

Since I also had an additional duty job working in the training office, I had pretty ready access to the 8th MAS copier. I made up about 50 of these and on my next trip around the Pacific we dropped off a few copies at the various command posts we visited. By some strange coincidence they seemed to be hit and found their way 'under the plexi-glass' at each of the command post windows for quite a few months afterwards.

With more SOF duty to complete, I created refined versions of the Waiver Certificates. Here's two more.

Waiver Certificate, version 2

Waiver Certificate, version 3

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