Hand Picked!!
Jim Traywick

Crew Chiefs at Takhli came in all sizes, shapes and colors!!  AND an ego or two!!  Normally everyone worked so damn hard together that trying to put one's self above the group was unheard of for the most part. But there was always an exception! And our boy in this story was a boaster!! Quite full of himself and he showed us no mercy in making sure we knew how good he was at crewing the F-105.

The F-105 was a good aircraft to crew. As I recall all that we needed for the most part was a C-1 stand and a common screwdriver. Not a lot of special tools, just a good knowledge of the aircraft and a willingness to bust ass to produce safe reliable airframes for combat sorties. The population of crew chiefs had to be composed of at least 99.5% team players in the 355 Tactical Fighter Wing.  This guy represented the .5% of self serving individuals who had only their own personal interests upper most in their mind. He plagued us constantly with his egotistical mouth.  And we had to do something - mean. And soon.

One particular day he met morning roll call with the rest of us and was talking about himself as always. His Thud had just come out of an in depth inspection in Taiwan called IRAN - and it had a beautiful paint job. Why it went to him was a mystery. But he felt he knew.

"I'm HAND PICKED to be the Squadron Commander's Crew Chief. I know more about the Thud than any man here. I'm telling you I'm hand picked to be the commanders crew chief because I'm the best there is out here."

Everyone in the flight was offended by his constant bragging! Even the flight chief.

The flight chief was an incredibly skinny man I'll call Jack. He had the Abraham Lincoln look, but not as tall. Dried out and very dark skinned, tanned in the Thailand sun as it cooked the flightline every day. It cooked him, too. He had a passion for the brew! Night was always Hamms or Olympia time for Jack, and it didn't always end with the evening, but could go on until just before time to go to work. We sometimes hid him out behind the revetment walls to allow him to rest and feel better. We all liked Jack and made sure he was taken care of in one way or another. Sometimes we brought sandwiches back from the chow hall for him. He was someone all of us appreciated working for when the days were long and hard. He worked as hard as we did.

In the next revetment to my own was a Cajun named Travis. A dedicated and good Thud crew chief. He was everything our braggart claimed to be, but he never so much as mentioned his years on the Thud or how good he was. He proved it every day. He was also an artist. He could take a piece of stencil paper and a razor blade and produce an amazing piece of work.  We all depended on Travis for the stencils we used to put the names of our jets on the intakes. His own jet was the "Rajun Cajun."  Travis too was an evening drowner of sorrows and often drank with Jack in the hooch bar until the wee hours. His opinion of our egomaniac hand picked crew chief was quite low and he was silently plotting the demise of this pain in everyone’s day.  His opportunity was just around the corner.

On this particular evening it was raining quite hard and I went into the hooch bar.  Jack and Travis were there as always, but they were talking between themselves in a quiet way so that no one could hear them. When I came into the room they motioned me to their table and bought me the first of many that evening. They immediately brought me into their scheme.

They were going to get even.  They were going to take the wind out of the braggarts sails! Travis asked me to go with him to his room in the hooch. As we entered the door he had a stencil on his bed. It was beautiful! It was huge! A master piece of detailed cuts and letters. I liked it. I wanted to be part of this in the worst way. We returned to the hooch bar and Jack was sitting there nursing a cold Olympia. Two more came over as we sat back down. Jack asked me if I was impressed. And did I want to be part of this scheme. It was an absolute yes and sealed with a click of three cold cans in salute to a great plan. But when was it to be done?

Tonight!

It was raining like hell outside. We would have to wait until the rain stopped.  I thought. But Jack wasn't going to wait, it was going to happen in the next couple of hours. So I hung with them and became about as overindulged as they were. When Jack finally felt like the time was right, Travis went to the room and brought his stencils out rolled and in a plastic bag to keep them from getting wet.  We walked slowly to the blue Air Force pick up and Jack jumped into the drivers seat. It wasn't a matter of his being drunk - we all were. So no one argued right then about Jack driving. Each of us was totally capable of killing all of us in the shape we were in.

Travis began to squirm around in the seat next to the door, digging in his jungle fatigue pockets.  He pulled out several cans of spray paint. Two cans of red, one can of green and one can of white and placed them on the dashboard.

Jack was having trouble navigating in the rain and wasn't always on the solid part of the road.  We did some maneuvers into and out of ditches that would make a professional race driver blush in envy. Jack pressed on through the rain.

As we pulled up to the flight shack Jack parked the truck and we walked in the dark areas behind the revetments until we were directly behind the squadron commanders airplane. All the activity was concentrated on the far end of the line at that time and we weren't noticed as we walked into the revetment. We just looked like any other maintenance toads anyway so no big deal. The rain had stopped for a few minutes. It was almost as if it had done so just to help us get the job we had to do finished.

Travis mounted the aft section and went up onto the backbone next to the vertical stab. Just above the tail number he quickly taped the first segment of the stencil as I crawled up with the cans of paint. He quickly sprayed the first color and changed stencil sections and applied the second color.  The third piece of the stencil was hand held because it was small. This job took no more than five minutes on this one side of the tail.  We quickly moved to the opposite side and did it again.  Jack supervised from the ground. It was a lot safer that way.  The last thing we needed was a blood curdling scream of a drunk old man as he was falling off the aircraft to give us away. Attention at that moment we didn't need.

It was done!  We stood back and admired our handy work. Then quickly departed the ramp for the hooches. As we returned we decided to go to bed and be ready for the next morning. We wanted to enjoy this prank without a hangover.

The next morning we were at roll call just before sunrise. It was still cloudy and dismal looking.  The light wasn't great but it began to become daybreak as we all assembled for Jack's roll call.  He went over the days flying schedule, a couple of QC reports and a couple of admin notes. The light was getting brighter.

Our squadron commander super crew chief was his usual self and quite proud that Jack had just told him the commander was going to be flying the first sortie this morning in his aircraft. The bragging started, then slowed down and then stopped. He was looking toward the tall tail of his Thud sticking up above the revetment walls. The light was now bright enough that he could see something on the tail of his aircraft.

"What's that?"  He kept looking and Jack finally released us from roll call to go out to the aircraft.

Travis and I walked behind super crew chief as he hurried to his revetment. We followed close.  The squadron commander was also making his way to the revetment at the same time. The collision course with destiny was nearing. Even Jack was high stepping in the same direction.

As Travis and I walked around the corner of the revetment where the squadron commander and his crew chief had just met, we beheld a sight which gladdened our hearts.  There stood the squadron commander and his crew chief staring at the tail of the Thud. There high on the tail was a huge tomato painted with an inscription across the middle. HAND PICKED



Jim Traywick
traywick@ite.net

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created 17 March 1999
update  15 nov 01