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Let’s put the blind to work . . .

Listen up, Homeland Security!

Listen up, Janet Napolitano!

Listen up, Barack Obama!

I have a suggestion that will provide work opportunities for a group of our citizens that is in far too many instances overlooked for employment, and in too many instances are limited to stringing beads for costume jewelry or similar work. There is a niche in our federal government that can utilize the blind. Our nation’s Department of Homeland Security can provide well-paying jobs and economic security for such people, jobs that will produce immediate results by helping protect the traveling public from harm.

I propose hiring those in our society that are blind—not just legally blind, able to distinguish form and function but completely blind, or perhaps able only to distinguish light from darkness. Such persons can contribute significantly to the security of the United States of America.

First, as is necessary in public speaking, let me establish my right to speak. I am a retired U. S. Customs inspector, having worked on the Texas-Mexico border for twelve years as an inspector trainee, journeyman and first-level and second-level supervisor, at Customs’ Headquarters in Washington DC as a Program Officer and Program Manager, at Customs’ Regional Headquarters in Houston TX, and finally as Chief Inspector at one of our nation’s top-20 international airports. During my 26-year career with Customs I conducted and supervised and observed countless personal searches. I therefore feel that I am qualified to speak on that subject—nay, not simply qualified—I am eminently qualified—I am in fact damn well qualified, so to speak.

Under current procedures used for pat-down personal searches at our airports no searcher, whether male or female, will ever find anything by wearing plastic gloves and using the backs of their hands in an effort to detect something that may compromise the safety of an aircraft and its occupants. I realize that the searches have been modified to include using the fronts of their hands, but you may be assured that most will not do that except when the search is being observed by a supervisor—in all the searches I conducted and witnessed in my years on the border, not once did I see the searcher use the crotch-crunch technique mandated by Customs’ Headquarters. As for my own searches I tried it once, didn’t like it and didn’t do it again—at least I’m honest about it—most inspectors aren’t!

That mandate is a hard one to follow, so to speak, for any self-respecting male officer searching another male. Female searchers can detect the presence of bras and breasts on females (depending on dimensions, of course)  and male searchers can detect testicles and penises on males (again depending on dimensions), and not much of anything else. Any squeeze of a woman’s breasts by a female searcher will generate a complaint, and any squeeze of a man’s private part or parts by a male will do the same.

I doubt seriously that a sighted searcher, blindfolded and wearing plastic gloves and using the back of the hands can even distinguish whether the suspect is male or female (again depending on dimensions of certain body parts). The person being patted down may be a man posing as a woman or vice versa, a ruse that is used frequently in Middle Eastern countries by would-be suicide bombers.

You don’t believe it? Please consider Braille, the contact alphabet of raised dots representing letters and numbers that enables the blind to read texts and operate elevators. Take any blind person, male or female and ask that person to don plastic gloves and then read a sentence printed in Braille using the back of the hands. Better yet, have them use the back of the gloved hands to read Braille numbers on an elevator. Unless the elevator is in a two-story building with no basement, they are likely to stop at the wrong floor. Use the same experiment on a sighted but blindfolded person and that person will wind up on the wrong floor also.

Get the picture?

If blind people can read text and numbers with their fingers, then they can conduct pat-down searches effectively if allowed to use their fingers. Their touch is so sensitive that even wearing the required plastic gloves they will detect any anomaly. Hell, they may even find an unevenly shaped mole and by calling it to the suspect’s attention they may even save a life!

Think about it—the sex of the person being searched and the sex of the searcher should not be a factor. The blind searcher could be searching his own wife or her own husband, and it is unlikely that they would know it. And it should make no difference to the person being searched, because the blind person, regardless of what the search may reveal, could never identify that person.

That’s it—that’s my suggestion. I could ramble on indefinitely on the ramifications and possibilities  should my suggestion be adopted but that should not be necessary. The proof will be in the pudding—my suggestion to use blind people to conduct pat-down searches at airports will produce positive results, reduce complaints from the traveling public, protect our pilots, flight attendants and passengers from harm by keeping aircraft airborne and safe from actions of would-be terrorists. The benefits are many and obvious, and more discussion should be unnecessary.

Just as an aside, I seek no remuneration should my suggestion be adopted. A simple Nobel Peace Prize will do, and it should be considered. Our system will work so well that other nations will follow by utilizing their blind people to conduct pat-downs. In that event I will of course donate the monetary award to my favorite charity. Other than the Nobel Peace Prize I would consider the award of a Congressional Gold Medal, to be presented by our president, but the presentation would have to be at my home rather than the White House—I’ve been there and was not impressed, and I have no desire to return.

Of course the Nobel Peace Prize or the Congressional Gold Medal could be, and probably would be, handed over to UPS for delivery by the driver to my home just as the plaque, the one given in recognition of my 48 years of dedicated federal service that included 22 years of military service during which I helped our nation lose two wars (Korea and Viet Nam). The plaque was delivered soon after I retired—the driver placed it, gently of course, on my porch, rang the doorbell and hotfooted it back to his truck—such adulation! Such personal recognition! I teared up!

That’s my suggestion and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Mistaken identification—in the Twilight Zone . . .

In 1955 I was a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force, stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. I was an aircraft electrician and a jet aircraft and engine mechanic. That was my third year at Maxwell, having reenlisted there after my discharge from service in December 1952. It took me just thirty days to realize that I had made a mistake in not reenlisting—you see, I had met this girl in Georgia and—well, click here to see her picture. and then you’ll know the rest of that story. The photo was taken some thirty years after our marriage in 1952. I reenlisted in order to get married, and I kept reenlisting in order to stay married and retired for length of service after 22 years of military life. Oh, and the title of the posting with the picture is Peaches, Cadillacs, Convertibles, Cows and Combat. That should pique your interest a bit!

My reenlistment and the physical I tolerated in Atlanta, Georgia on a very cold winter day in 1952 are featured in one of my early bloggings. Click here to read Turn around and bend over . . . I promise you that it’s well worth the visit!

During my three years at Maxwell Air Force Base I was assigned to the Transient Alert Section, a maintenance unit charged with meeting aircraft not based at Maxwell but transiting the base, including Marine and Navy aircraft as well as US Air Force planes. Our duties were to meet aircraft on landing, escort them to the proper parking place, secure the aircraft and then escort the crew and passengers to various places. We drove the yellow pickup trucks with the huge FOLLOW ME signs on the back end. While their flight plans were being filed for the next leg of their flight we serviced the plane with oil and fuel and performed any required inspections and maintenance as necessary.

We had a special parking place for VIPs—Very Important Persons—any member of Congress, any high-level member of the current administration, and any aircraft carrying a Code Five person or a general officer. We parked them immediately adjacent to Base Operations, and at the entrance to Base Ops, there was a small office that we shared with the AOD, the Airdrome Officer of the Day. The mistaken identification, the one interesting enough and strange enough to be featured in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, a popular television show that ran for five years and 156 episodes—it began in 1959 and continued until 1964.

On a special day in 1955, the FOLLOW ME driver led a B-25, a World War II bomber configured for passengers. The B-25 was a favorite for senior military officers to flit around the country in, supposedly on official business. I suspect that some of its use was comparable to that of certain members of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, for example. I can remember a five-star general that came to Montgomery frequently to visit old friends. Oh, I’m sure he delved into something official while there, but I doubt that the results justified the cost of the trip—but, of course, I could be wrong.

On that day the B-25 carried a Code Five, a number corresponding to a full colonel, the one that wears silver eagles on collars and shoulders. After the aircraft was parked and chocked and the passenger off-loaded, the flight crew chief stepped into my office to discuss fuel and maintenance needs and departure schedules. When he entered he smiled broadly, shook hands with me, said “Hi, Dyer. I have to go into Base Ops but I’ll see you before we leave.” I didn’t know him, but I said something to the effect that, okay, I’ll be here.

The crew chief returned an hour or so later, he entered smiling and asked, “How long have you been here?” I told him I had been there almost three years.

He was still smiling when he said,”No, really, when did you get here?” I told him I got there Maxwell three years before, in 1952. The smile vanished and he became visibly angry. He said that he didn’t know what kind of game I was playing, but he knew that I had not been at Maxwell three years. He said that he had seen me just before he left his assigned station at Randolph Air Force Base at San Antonio, Texas, that my name was Dyer and that I was a crew chief on a B-25 in his squadron.

I was dressed in white one-piece coveralls. My name was stamped in blue above a pocket on my the left side of my chest, and I pointed to that and asked him if his Dyer wore white coveralls. Then I turned around and showed him the back of my coveralls, with the large blue letters proclaiming Maxwell AFB.

None of this impressed the B-25 crew chief. He cursed and stomped out of the office, escorted the pilots and the passengers to the aircraft and in a very few minutes the aircraft was just a faint dot gaining altitude for the next leg of its planned flight. I never saw the crew chief again, and I never made my way to Randolph to meet my twin, the other Dyer in this version of the twilight zone.

The Airdrome Officer of the Day, a young first lieutenant, was a witness to our conversation, and after the plane left he asked some pointed questions. I could only tell him what I had told the crew chief, that I had never been to Randolph and that I had been stationed at Maxwell for almost three years.

Hey, Dyer, if you’re out there somewhere and you read this, please get in touch. You can contact me through this blog, or you can contact me on Facebook.com. There are thousands of Dyers on facebook, but only one named Hershel. I assure you that I will respond. And if anyone out there has ever known a crew chief named Dyer that was stationed in the 1950s at Randolph Air Force Base and would want to help me solve this puzzle, you can contact me through the same venues and I will definitely respond. Oh, and I’ll accept and acknowledge any e-mail sent to bdcooper@aol.com.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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The Korean War—please remember it . . .

As a retired military person I subscribe to the Air Force Retiree web site at www.retirees.af.mil. I received the following e-mail on Friday, June 25, 2010 at 11:27 AM. I am posting the e-mail in its entirety—the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War highlights a significant milepost in my life and I wanted to share it with any viewers that may pass this way–if the posting strikes a positive chord in only one viewer it will be justified.

When the Korean War began I was stationed at Yakota Air Force Base in northern Japan and had been there for three months when the North Koreans invaded South Korea. Soon after the war began I was sent to Itazuke Air Force Base on the southern island of Kyushu. I celebrated my eighteenth birthday at Itazuke, then on to South Korea for an additional 15 months before rotation back to the states. I celebrated my nineteenth birthday in Korea at Kimpo Air Force Base near Seoul and arrived back in the states eight months before my twentieth birthday.

I mention all the above dates simply to show that my latter teen years do not reflect the usual rite of passage enjoyed by most young men in the US, and because of that I do not need a reminder of the Korean War—my experiences during those years are indelibly stamped in my phyche, and I will take them with me when I depart this vale of tears.

The Korean War claimed the lives of almost 40,000 of America’s best and brightest, yet the war has been forgotten by many and is unknown to a host of others—I’m posting this item as a gentle reminder—nay, a stern reminder for those that fail to remember, and a strong admonition for those that have never known to learn about the war—it is vital history.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Postcript: Viewers will find numerous posts on my blog that deal directly or indirectly with Japan and Korea—I find them well-written and well-worth the time required for reading (nothing strange about that, right?). Below are several on which you might like to pass some of your leisure time—one involves a tattooed lady, another a salute to drive-in theaters, and one concerns the Dixie Division and the Mississippi Army National Guard. Others include my first airplane ride, and a three-day R & R pass that lasted seven days—enjoy!

This is the e-mail, exactly as I received it:

Nation marks Korean War’s 60th anniversary

By Donna Miles

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (AFRNS) — Sixty years ago this week, North Korean troops stormed across the 38th parallel into South Korea, launching a three-year conflict that culminated in an armistice in 1953, but never officially ended.

The North Koreans launched a massive, coordinated air-land invasion in the early-morning hours of June 25, 1950, with more than 230,000 troops, fighter jets, attack bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, tanks and artillery.

The ferocity of the offensive caught the South Korean army by surprise. With fewer than 100,000 troops, no tanks and limited aircraft, they were unprepared to halt the invasion force.

Seoul, the South Korean capital, fell June 28. Then-President Harry S. Truman, concerned after World War II about the spread of communism, recognized the importance of repelling military aggression on the Korean peninsula.

“I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, communist leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to our own shores,” Truman wrote in his autobiography. “If the communists were permitted to force their way into the Republic of Korea without opposition from the free world, no small nation would have the courage to resist threat and aggression by stronger communist neighbors.”

President Truman ordered U.S. air and naval forces to defend South Korea, and committed ground troops as part of a combined United Nations effort. The 16-member coalition formed under the auspices of the U.S.-led United Nations Command, with President Truman naming Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur as its commander.

The 24th Infantry Division, part of the U.S. occupation forces in Japan under General MacArthur’s command following World War II, deployed the first U.S. troops to Korea. Advanced elements of the 24th Infantry Division rushed to Korea on transport planes to block the enemy advance.

As they awaited follow-on deployments, the 24th Infantry Division troops, known as Task Force Smith, suffered heavy losses and ultimately, defeat during their first significant engagement of the war, the Battle of Osan.

Outgunned and overpowered, the division ultimately lost more than 3,600 dead and wounded and almost 3,000 captured as the North Korean progressed south.

By September, the U.N. Command controlled only about 10 percent of Korea in a small southeastern corner of the country around Pusan.

The Battle of Pusan Perimeter raged from August to September 1950, with the U.S. Air Force and Navy air forces attacking North Korean logistics operations and transportation hubs. Meanwhile, troops from the 7th Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division and other 8th Army supporting units poured into South Korea.

The Inchon Landing, a massive amphibious landing in September 1950, ultimately turned the tide in the fighting by breaking the North Korean army’s supply lines. This prompted China to enter the war on North Korea’s behalf, ending hope, as General MacArthur had predicted, that the war would end soon and the troops would be home for Christmas.

The conflict raged for three more Christmases, with neither side achieving a decisive military victory.

Ultimately, two years of negotiations led to an armistice agreement signed July 27, 1953. Representatives of the North Korean army, the Chinese volunteers and the U.N. Command signed the agreement, but South Korea refused to participate.

The United States lost more than 36,000 servicemembers during the Korean War, with more than 92,000 wounded, more than 8,000 missing in action and more than 7,000 taken prisoner of war.

Since the signing of the armistice, South Korea has emerged as an economic powerhouse, with the world’s 11th-largest economy and a gross domestic product approaching $1 trillion. North Korea, in contrast, remains militarily powerful, but economically isolated.

In its most recent act of provocation, North Korea sank the frigate Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

Related Sites:  Remembering the Korean War

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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My first airplane ride . . .

Picture this:

The year was 1950, I was 17 years old, the season was autumn, the month was September and the place was Itazuke Air Base located a few miles from Fukuoka, a metropolitan Japanese city on the southern island of Kyushu. A twin engine US Air Force aircraft, one shaped vaguely on the order of a bumblebee, rumbled down the runway and lifted off on its flight to Taegue Air Base in South Korea. The C-119 was heavily loaded with spare aircraft parts, maintenance equipment, ground power equipment and a cadre of aircraft maintenance technicians that included electricians, aircraft and engine mechanics, instrument specialists, radio, sheet metal workers and hydraulic Flying Boxcarspecialists. My specialties were those of aircraft electrician and aircraft mechanic, and I was on that flight. To read about events leading up to the flight, click here. And for even more exciting events related to my 23-month vacation in the Far East, click here.

Dubbed The Flying Boxcar, the aircraft was configured for cargo, and the addition of passengers was secondary to its mission. It sported no frills such as sound proofing. Until the aircraft leveled off at its cruising altitude, the noise of the two engines at full throttle were deafening, with every rivet in its aluminum skin singing its own tune. The noise made it difficult to converse with others, but after cruising altitude was reached, the engines were throttled back and the aircraft became relatively quiet.

Prior to boarding the loadmaster called us together, briefed us on the flight and fitted us with backpack parachutes. Yes, Virginia—in the old days every person on a military flight was required to have a parachute. Passenger seating consisted of metal racks with canvas webbing, lashed to the side to provide room for cargo and dropped down to provide seating for passengers. The loadmaster told us that seating was available for everyone, but one of the seats was behind the cargo, in a crowded space that challenged one’s entry and egress. He asked for a volunteer to fill that seat—there were no volunteers so he selected one based on size—he assigned the seat to the  one that needed the least space.

Can you guess who that was? Right! It was my mother’s youngest son, and since I had no choice I accepted the assignment—I scrambled up and over the cargo and dropped down to the seat. I was isolated from all the other passengers but I had a window for light and viewing, with a good view of the #2 engine.

This was my first airplane ride—the first of many, of course, because I kept reenlisting until I retired from the Air Force after 22 years. I spent a lot of time in the air during those 22 years, but this is the flight I remember best.

A special note: I reenlisted the first time in order to get married, and I continued to reenlist in order to stay married. My actions may have involved patriotism, but if so it was a very minor factor. The reason I strove mightily to remain gainfully employed is pictured here.

My ears became plugged before we reached cruising altitude, but I could still hear the muted sound of the engines. However, when the pilot reduced engine power to cruising speed, all noise ceased. The quiet was eerie, and I began to have misgivings—misgivings, hell! I thought both engines had stopped. I looked up at #2, the starboard engine—the  props were still spinning but I decided they were simply windmilling, continuing to turn only because of our speed.

Yep, you guessed correctly again—I panicked. Filled with fear and the certainty that with both engines out we would have to ditch or bail out, I tightened the straps on my chute and scrambled up to the top of the cargo that isolated me from the other passengers. I was presented with a scene that could only be labeled serene—some of the men were sleeping, some were playing cards and some  were reading—none wore parachutes. I swallowed hard several times and my hearing returned, along with the noise of the engines, both operating quiet efficiently.

Other than my panic attack—a secret that I did not share with anyone, at least not until now—the flight was routine, and we landed at Taegue to begin, what was for me, a really long fifteen months in Korea. When the Chinese overran Taegue early in 1951 my outfit was evacuated and—but that’s fodder for another post.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2010 in foreign travel, Humor, Military, wartime

 

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My 7-day Military R & R 3-day pass, Korea & Japan, 1951

I spent 15 months in South Korea during the Korean conflict, from October 1950 through December 1951. US Air Force personnel serving in South Korea during the Korean War were authorized an occasional 3-day pass to Japan, for the dual purposes of R&R (variously referred to as rest and recuperation, rest and relaxation, rest and recreation and other variations, some naughty, of the letters R & R).

This is the story of how I extended an R&R pass from three days to seven days. We were authorized multiple passes depending on mission requirements, but I was restricted to only one—my first was also my last.

The reason for that restriction was as follows:

My request for an R&R in the summer of 1951 was approved. My unit had a vintage (early 1930s) C-47 cargo plane which was used for a daily “milk run” between Taegu, South Korea and Itazuke Air Base near the southern city of Fukuoka, Japan. The aircraft was used to move supplies and personnel, including round-trip flights for those who were authorized a 3-day pass for R&R.

The C-47 was configured to carry 15 passengers in addition to crew and cargo—it departed Taegu in late afternoon daily, remained at Itazuke overnight and departed early the next day for the return flight to Taegu. Persons needing transportation to Korea were required to report no later than 0700 to sign up for the trip. Those who, luckily, were among the first 15 persons in line returned to Korea—those who needed the flight and were not among the first 15 in line were unlucky—their orders were stamped TNA (Transportation Not Available) and they were told to try again the following morning. It was a popular flight, and people were turned away every day because of the 15-passenger limitation.

The reader can probably see this one coming—if any person, reasonably
intelligent and perceptive (there were a few of us), had no burning desire to return to Korea, for whatever reason, that person simply waited, watched and counted until 15 others were in the line before joining it, and then had their orders stamped TNA, thereby legitimately gaining an additional day to be spent in “shopping and sight-seeing” in one of Japan’s largest cities during the post-World War II period of occupation by US military forces.

There were two of us on R&R from my unit, and through manipulation of the sign-up line we extended our stay in Japan—we were still there on the seventh day. However, seven was not our lucky number—when we presented our papers to be stamped NTA on the seventh day, we were told that our commanding officer had called—his orders were: Do not leave the terminal—remain there all day and overnight. Being model members of the US military, we followed his orders and languished in the terminal throughout a long day and an even longer night, and we were, predictably, the first two people in line the next day—we made the flight. On our return to Taegu we were verbally censured and threatened with every punitive action conceivable—except another R&R.

Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted.

I’ll get back to you later with more details on the subject of post-war military-occupied Japan.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2009 in Humor, Military, Travel

 

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