Bomb? What Bomb?

27 02 2012

Coast Guard C-130 crew dropping a dewatering pump

While stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City, aircrew members were required to stand duty every fifth day or something like that. This meant that on your duty day when you began your workday at 0800 (that’s military talk for 8 o’clock in the morning), you and others who comprised the duty-crew were going to be at the base, on call for the next 24 hours. If you were also on the ready crew and anything came up, say a ship sinking out in the Atlantic, you would respond in hurry-up fashion by jumping into your aircraft and heading out to the scene to save lives. So instead of going home at the end of the workday, we would sleep in the barracks on base.

There was a lower echelon officer on duty in charge of the barracks, known appropriately as the duty officer. Oh go ahead…let your mind dwell on that for a moment. Think of the possibilities. Duty officer. No, he wasn’t the officer in charge of duty. He wasn’t in charge of the latrine (That’s military talk for bathroom). The duty officer, or OD, was not much more than a baby-sitter in blue.

One Saturday, I had the duty and was also on the ready crew. It was a boring afternoon with very little going on. That evening, just after supper, I was up in the lounge in the barracks when I noticed a commotion outside the door in the hallway. The duty officer that day was a young lieutenant junior grade. Lieutenant j.g. is just one notch above ensign which is at the bottom of the food chain and viewed with the disdain of a Congressman who wins the lottery.

There had been a recent bomb threat called into the Air Station. In fact the bomb was said to be aboard an aircraft I was crewing-more about that in another post. Because of this recent threat some, not many, were more alert. The duty officer was told to be on his toes anyway. Apparently that’s all he was told because while his awareness was high, he turned out to be a little weak on procedure.

Someone coming up the stairs in the barracks had noticed a briefcase in the stairwell on third floor. The suspicious find was reported to the duty officer who fearlessly went to the stairwell to check it out. Then, with the confidence of a 16-year-old boy on his first date, the quick thinking JG instructed one of his underlings to go find some rope. The brave officer, not wanting to order anyone to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself, tied the rope to the briefcase handle and stretched the rope out as far down the stairwell as it would go. The rope was long enough to get the officer down to the second floor. Giving the rope a gentle tug, after all, this briefcase could be stuffed with high explosives; the briefcase began to move toward the stairs. With another tug, the briefcase fell off the first step-BUMP! Another tug and it began to roll-BUMPITY, BUMP, BUMP, BUMPITY, BUMP, BUMP…bump….bump, all the way to the landing between the second and third floors. His plan was working. A couple more tugs and he had the briefcase all the way down to the first floor.

I guess he figured if the case can take a bouncing like that and not blow up then it was probably safe to open it, so once he got it down stairs, he took it outside and opened it to find someone’s dirty skivvies (That’s military talk for underwear!) He must have missed Bomb Response 101 his freshman year at the academy.

Crew and me following a succesful Caribbean rescue.1976




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