Curt M. sends an email that's been flying around the internet for about six months from an Air Force Officer that took Senator John Kerry to Cambodia and Vietnam.
But first, Curt wanted to put a little context around what the email from the USAF pilot really means. I'll put Curt's story first and the pilot's story in the Extended Section.
Once more, it's the "when you think no one is looking" stories that tell your heart...
Before I begin, let me say something I learned about leadership. My twenty years in the Navy began aboard a replenishment oiler out of Norfolk. As an Ensign, I was a Division Officer, fresh out of several professional schools and college, but with no hands on experience in leadership of any significance beyond Boy Scouts and "playing Army" at The Citadel. OSC Michael P. MacCaffrey, USN, began the age old duty of making something out of the know nothing that just became his "boss." For at least the next six months (and I didn't realize what this was until about 4 years later), the Chief would ask me if I'd like a cup of coffee. I'd say "yes," and we'd head off to the "Goat Locker" (what a Chief's Mess is called). Chief Mac
would regal me with all sorts of stories, interspersed with questions, as we drank coffee, surrounded by the Backbone of the Fleet, the senior enlisted men. These stories were in the best fashion of parables. He slowly injected principles of leadership learned over centuries of human interaction, yet rasied to a fine art in modern western society, into my consciousneess, and sub-consciousness. That's the ground work, for the
point of one of these coffee induced meetings (read "disguised lectures").
The discussion went something like this:
Chief Mac: "Sir, if were at GQ (General Quarters) and we have to do Battle Messing (boxed meals delivered to yout combat stations, since you can't leave during heavy fighting), if we come up one ration short, who doesn't eat?"
Me: (Sort of knowing there was a key lesson here, and pondering the answer) "Me." (I really had to think to come up with this answer, so I noticably hesitated before answering)
CM: "Right! What if we're short two rations?
Me: (I answered quicker now, as I was finally catching up mentally) "You and I!"
CM: "You got it! What if we're short three?"
Me: "You, I and the Leading Petty Officer!"
CM: "Right again. Sir, the other thing is before you open yours, you make the rounds of every man in the watch station area and make sure he has a proper meal and don't you dare open yours up and start to eat, until they are ALL taken care of. Do this and these men will follow you anywhere."
Over the next 19 years from that tour of duty, that simple leadership principle served me well, and the great leaders I worked for and with all had that as a part of their core beliefs. I was blessed by compentent
people believing in me and together my units routinely stood out at the top of the heap, whether a Division, Department, Section, or a Ship, or Inspection or Training Team. It was more than about Battle Messing, it's
all about the highest duty of a leader is to make sure his people are cared for before him or herself. Think about that for a moment, and consider those you have worked with whom you hold in highest esteem, and know they demonstrated that over and over to you.
John Kerry grabbing the pizza in the story below is a statement not on his hunger, but his character. Thank God I had many Michael P. MacCafferys in my life as a leader. I'm saddened that John Kerry did not.
And now the real message, a first person story, forwarded for your consideration:
I don't know the veracity of the following email. A few google checks come up with three or four web sites that have published it. Snopes can't really verify it, either; however, Snopes has something to discuss about reports of John Kerry's arrogant behavior.
I would like to add my two cents about my John Kerry experience. During my career as an Air Force pilot, I spent two years flying a small twin engine prop plane around the Pacific from my base in Okinawa, Japan.[edit. note: originally, I attributed the front Chief Mac piece to the wrong person. My apologies to Curt for the misunderstanding.]
On one trip we had to fly Senator Kerry, his congressional aide, and a Navy Captain (Vietnam, A-4 fighter pilot) who was also in Kerry's party to various locations in Vietnam and Cambodia as part of the MIA/POW talks.
When I met him, he was wearing a shirt with a picture of his sailboat on it. I told him I had a small 27 foot sailboat in Okinawa, he remarked "Oh I never sail on anything less than 135 feet."
When we first flew him into Phnom Penh, he went to the back of the airplane and grabbed the pizza that was put aside for the crew and passed it around to his staff. He was never offered any pizza because they were supposed to have lunch with the Cambodian government once we landed. The pizza would have been our only meal that day. When we picked him up in Cambodia, he was an hour late getting to the airport. We could not start the engines and therefore the air conditioning until he arrived. Phnom Penh at that time was over 100 degrees with 95% humidity and we were basically sitting in a greenhouse behind the cockpit windows.
When he finally did arrive, we were wringing out our clothes from the perspiration. He walked out of the air conditioned car, into the airplane and asks us "Could you guys get the air conditioning running, I'm a little warm?" The other pilot had to physically restrain me from going back there and picking a fight.
Then we took him into Noi Bai airfield in Hanoi. After we picked him up the next day (he stayed the night in Vietnam, we stayed in Bangkok) we taxied out, ran up the engines for takeoff, and noticed that our prop was vibrating all over the place. We taxied off to the side to look at it, but there was a good possibility that there was an engine malfunction and the engine may fail if we took off with it. Well, Mr. Senator sticks his head up in the cockpit and says "This plane WILL take off, I have a press conference in Bangkok in three hours!" (Maybe this is an indication of how he will run the FAA).
We ran the engines again, and did not have the problem, so we took off and made it back. During the flight, he told everyone how he had taken a Cessna (a small General aviation plane) up with a fighter pilot, and the fighter pilot remarked that Kerry was one of the best pilots he had ever seen. I don't know about other pilots out there, but it's hard to imagine a little, single-engine prop plane pilot being able to show the "right stuff."
After Kerry left the plane, the Navy Captain came up to us, apologized and said basically that "he knows Kerry is a jerk" and that we should be glad we don't have to deal with him every day.