Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Car 54, where are you?

If you are old enough to remember that phrase, or watched any other good police movie or TV show, you know that a “Desk Sergeant” makes such calls out over the police radio. The person doing the dispatching duty may not actually have the rank of sergeant, but the position is normally given this title, mostly because he or she works directly for the Duty or Flight Sergeant and issues tasks/orders over the radio on the responsible Sergeant’s behalf.

After many months of walking and standing duties, I moved up to motor patrol, and apparently distinguished myself as a good Sky Cop. It could also have been partially because of the high school typing experience I had!

The Desk Sergeant keep the Flight’s shift Desk Blotter – a kind of running chronological incident log of the night’s happenings, arrest, alarms, accidents, open buildings, thefts reported, domestic altercations in the housing area, etc.

The Desk Sergeant issued standard procedures to the patrols that deployed to accidents, car chases, break-ins, and routine Flight Line incidents and practices. One such routine practice was to provide security to a plane that was either being up or downloaded with an atomic weapon. Fake accidents, complete with colored smoke depicting a crashed aircraft were performed at least once quarterly at Keesler, even though there were no nuclear weapons at the site. These exercises were called “Broken Arrows!”

The Desk Sergeant was expected to know the operating procedures for all exercises and ensured that Air Policemen were dispatched to the proper positions around the perimeter of the incident. He also kept a running log of events until the exercise was declared completed. These “exercises” really kept you on your toes!

Underneath the Desk Sergeant’s desk, which usually sat high above the floor of the Air Police Headquarters, to look down on anyone entering, was a foot pedal about the size of a clutch pedal in a car. This pedal was to be used when the office area was “under duress.” A large amount of cash was kept in several safes around the room, where the Base Exchange and other businesses dropped their nightly receipts. The money was then picked up the following morning, by the specific managers, and taken to the Base Bank for proper deposit.

It was conceivable that this money could be a target, therefore, a procedure was written to cover the situation. AP HQ was the perfect place to keep an eye on the money, and if someone got the drop on the Desk Sergeant, he was to step discretely on this pedal. This action turned off the radio so no one in the office could hear the patrols being dispatched by the Base Command Post.

Yes, I had been briefed, and had even watched a “duress” exercise being played out before, but while using the push broom one evening to clean up before shift change, I inadvertently hit the pedal with the broom!

I had no idea what had happened, but at that very moment, inside every patrol vehicle was being heard “Keesler Police, Keesler Command. Keesler Police HQ is under duress! Please deploy as to procedure and standby for instructions!”

As I was “whistling while I worked,” the front and side doors burst open! At the main entrance stood Sgt. Webb with his .38 (a recent change from the .45) pointing directly at me!

Instantly I knew what had happened and glanced down at the pedal under the radio console, and back up at Sgt. Webb. A little smile attempted to turn up one corner or his mouth, but he fought it. He gave me a “you screwed up” look, holstered his weapon, and immediately squeezed the microphone on his left lapel.

Keesler Command, this is Alpha One.”

“Go ahead Alpha One.”

Keesler Police is clear. There has been an unintentional activation of the duress alarm.”

“Ten four Alpha One, Keesler Command is clear.”

The radio console again began to squawk and squelch normally. The A Flight Patrols returned to normal operation, and I was left alone with Sgt. Webb for the remainder of the shift. Write it up Mushy (not his real name)!”

It was about thirty minutes after normal quitting time before I completed the Desk Blotter entries. My backside hurt the rest of the night from the butt chewing I received.

I could not, at one point, resist saying, “Ah, it keeps’em on their toes!”

Suppose a patrol had gotten hurt rushing over here?” Webb said looking sternly over the top of his glasses, waiting for the rational to dawn on me.

Well, yeah, there’s that! Won’t happen again, sir.”

Better not…I stuck my neck out putting you on the desk. You know what goes before my neck don’t ya?”

My ass,” I said.

The regular Desk Sergeant was a Staff Sergeant (four stripes) who was on 30-day leave. When he returned, and because he loved patrol, I continued to alternate with him during my remaining time at Keesler.


Alex said...

This is another reason I need a maid - cleaning causes too much trouble!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Hilarious. Were you ever on a SAC base with real nukes? And did you ever have the chance to work with a dog?

My dad used to have a deal going with the APs that ran the kennel at Carswell. Folks would hit their golf balls into the dog yard, and these guys would collect them and sell them back cheap. Dad got a lot of his balls that way, as well as diggin' them out of the creeks with a special tool. He's a scrounger.

Anyway, I got to go with him a few times into the kennel and thought it would be cool as hell to be an MP/AP if I got to work with a dog.

Mushy said...

If you have ever visited the VSPA site from my sidebar, you will note that the majority of it is devoted to K-9 handlers. They were a special breed of guys who worked only at night...didn't come on duty until after sundown.

I'll tell a few stories about a few later, but no, I did not and did not want to work with dogs. The dogs used overseas never return home (at least this is true with Vietnam). They were all killed. Saying goodbye would have killed me.

And no, never on a SAC base...only TAC and MAC bases. SAC really sucked, or would have to me. Lots of flight line duty, cold nights, and hot days on the ramp.

pat houseworth said...

SAC did SUCK.....spent my last 20 months at "The Griff"(Griffis AFB, Rome< NY)....I was supposed to got the the AFC part of the base in LE, but for some reason they moved my sorry butt to the SAC side...If I had known that, I would have stayed at Tan Son fact, Vietnam, especially Nha Trang, was my favortie duty station....

"Car 54, Where are you?"...who of us 50+ can forget Toody(Joe E. Ross) and Muldoon(Fred "Herman Munster" Gwynn)?....OOH-OOH!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

My dad always dreaded working with SAC, but I think he had to a lot of the time. Tells stories about Bermuda, where I was born, and the B47s going off one every few minutes, and sweating it out because if one of his guys in the tower screwed up it was his ass.

And yep, I heard that too about the dogs in Nam. Very sad.

Sarge Charlie said...

I don't know much about you fly boys but us ground pounders had some birds to, I worked on a Nike site in Korea, security was something else. Yes I am old enough to remember Car 54.

*Goddess* said...

"You know what goes before my neck don’t ya?”

“My ass,” I said.


david mcmahon said...

My kids wouldn't know what a desk blotter is! I remember 'em well!

Am going to include a reference to your screenplay query in my next Telling Write From Wrong post - hope that's OK with you ....

BRUNO said...

These "returns" are getting to be quite educational, to say nothing of entertaining! And those dogs were LIFESAVERS! Shame they had to be put-down afterwards, guess it was a case of who the enemy was AFTER their in-country service---not unlike some of their human counterparts.(I shouldn't have "said" that, should I?)

I liked that line, too: "What goes before my neck?" YOUR ass! (I'll have to file that one in my memory bank, a.k.a., my HEAD---even if it IS full of viruses!)

Now---gimme another one!!!

GUYK said...

My first AFSC was POL and of course we had to have a dispactcher. It was a coveted job and usually assigned to a newly promoted E-5..but then the war started and the experience was going to SE Asia.

I was the NCOIC of the mobile refueling section at a base in Turkey..fifty percent manned and over half were Direct duty assigments..I wound up having to put an E-2 on the desk..hell, a kid from NY City who had never learned to drive and I didn't have the time to teach him. He learned and did a decent job but it was a snafu for a while

Kevin said...

Changed from .45s to .38s? Does that also mean from autos to revolvers?

Mushy said...

Yes. I'm sure they've moved to 9mm or .40 cal. by now like most police forces in America.

Of course, they could have changed back to .45s too. There is nothing with as much stopping power as a .45 in a compact weapon. It took us a long time to remember that, and to follow Jeff Cooper's advise.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

The gate guards on Ft. Hood, like the airport security folks, all carry 9mm Glocks. We hear rumors that the Army is going back to .45s, but not sure.

Suldog said...

Great, as usual.

Man, I loved "Car 54". I wish they'd put it back on the air somewhere. Great cast. Not just Joe E. Ross and Gwynn, but also Al Lewis and (I think) Nipsey Russell and the one who played Toody's wife - what was her name? She was hilarious!

Jose said...

I rmemeber "Super Cop" with Terrence Hill more than "Car 54". I have a mental picture of you as being that kind of super cop.

I also remember Terrence Hill from "They Call Me Trinity" and "Trinity is still my name" your version would be "The call me Mushy" (not his real name) and "Mushy is still my name".

Mushy said...

"They call me Mushy!" I love it Jose.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

I love that (not his name) shit. Hilarious. And you know, they never show those Terrence Hill movies any more. I had a special affinity for the large hairy dude that was always his buddy/antagonist, if memory serves.

GUYK said...

yeah, instead of the old.45 automatics I had me a ,38 Combat Masterpiece, six shot revolver..pretty good little hand gun. At least I could qualify with it..I couldn't hit the side of a barn if I was inside of it with that damn .45 auto..piece of junk I thought..although I would like to have one of them now..

Mushy said...

Yeah, the old 1911s were pretty worn and inaccurate, but I now carry a .45 that I wished I had then. They are so much better today - dot some I's with them today.

Hammer said...

I worked at a convenience store once with emergency alarm buttons under the counter. I always wondered what would happen if I accidentally pushed it. :)

Lin said...

Yessiree, I remember Tootey and Muldoon!
SAC probably wasn't so bad if the base CO wasn't a complete JO - but that was might have been a rarity.

Mushy said...

Sounds like the voice of experience!