Famous Callsigns of the Fighting 511th

Over the 3.5 years that I spent in the Fulda Gap with the 511th MI Company, I collected and saved a lot of the stories and lists that the EW and TCAE teams put together. All of this nostalgic trivia is twenty years old now, but it still makes me laugh when I think about the people and times that it represents. Of course, this is mostly a collection of inside jokes with the people that were there.

So this will be part one of a series, and I should point out that I did not create this information - I just took the time to write it down. ;-]

  • Bleu Cheese - Steve Terry
  • Red Chief - Chief Klebo
  • Red Stool - Alvin Heggie (With a case of local sickness in Turkey)
  • White Spank - Lt. McNiel
  • Blue Babs - Lt. Babakan
  • Blue Lips - Dan Nadalalicea (aka Davy Crockett)
  • Blue Popeye - David Alexander
  • Snow White - Dave Paski
  • Black Sheep, Blue Honk, or Blue Mustang - D.A. Morris
  • The D.J. - Mike Tabbert
  • Blue Grimmace - Bryant Whitfield
  • Blue Shag - J.J. Simmons
  • White Duke - Danny Browning
  • Blue Ears - Dave Degrood
  • Blue Alf - Rich Aylward
  • Blue Geek - Bob "Fred" McMurray
  • White Whine - Scott Smith
  • Red Whine - Jeff Norris
  • The Wacky World of Cartoon Characters - The 511th Jammers
  • Blue Bahn - Johan Hoff
  • Blue Beaver - 1LT Innocenti

UPDATE: While these were not entirely unique, we often used the following color-coded generic callsigns when we were on recon assignments where only one radio entity was present from each of the different platoons:

  • Whitesnake
  • Black Sabbath
  • Red Rider
  • Blue Oyster Cult

Replacing a Military Radio - The Hard Way

Many years ago - more years than I would care to admit - I spent eight years in the Army as a 98G Voice Intercept Operator, which is a long title for someone that spends a lot of time listening to what other people are saying, taking notes, and then telling someone else what was being said. I won't go into any more details about what I did for a living, but for several years I was stationed in Fulda, Germany, where I was a member of the 511th Military Intelligence Company, which was attached to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

My fellow soldiers and I spent a lot of time hiding in the forests along what was then the border between East and West Germany, which is where the conditions were generally the best for our line of work. During the day we used an AN/TRQ-32(V) Radio Receiving Set, which we affectionately called the "Turkey 32."

The Turkey 32 was my favorite piece of equipment, and it's primarily used for direction finding operations. (Which means "locating the bad guys.") The only trouble with the Turkey 32 was - it used a great deal of fuel, and its generator was horribly loud, so at night we would shut down the Turkey 32 and use our AN/TRQ-30 Manpack Radio Receiving Set to continue our listening activities... which we called the "Turkey 30."

These radios were left over from a bygone era in the distant past - like the Korean War, or maybe the Civil War - so they were really starting to show their age. One of our radios was falling apart - literally. The knobs on the face panel kept falling off, the reception was terrible, the tuner barely moved, etc. I knew that my Turkey 30 was on its last legs and was in dire need of some kind of emergency maintenance, so one day I hauled my Turkey 30 to our Circuits & Electronics (C&E) office to see what my options were. (I was secretly hoping that C&E would replace the radio, but I was almost certain that it would simply spend a few weeks in the shop for repairs.) I had a good friend who was working in C&E that day, SP4 Villarreal, and he replied that as long as the radio was working, there was nothing that he could do about it.

So I started to pack up the radio, and I was probably muttering something about the fact that I had no idea how long it would take for the radio to eventually die, when Villarreal stopped me and said, "Perhaps you weren't paying attention, so listen to me very closely this time - we can't fix it, but if it doesn't work then we can replace it."

And suddenly - the light bulb turned on.

I blissfully carried the Turkey 30 back to our platoon office in the 511th building and announced to everyone, "Gentlemen, this radio has to die - today." So we spent the next hour or so having a contest to see who could throw the Turkey 30 the furthest from the 2nd-story window where our platoon office was located. After everyone had made their share of attempts at breaking the previous distance record, we declared the contest winners with the usual pomp and circumstance that is called for in such occasions - which means that several people were undoubtedly punched a few times before heading back to work.

Once that was taken care of, I packed up the Turkey 30 and strolled back to the C&E office, where I announced to Villarreal that, "For some reason my Turkey 30 has stopped working." Villarreal didn't blink as he overlooked the massive dents and broken glass and replied, "Well, we'll just have to order you a replacement."

It's times like that when it's great to have friends in the right places. Smile

In Honor of Veteran's Day

The Soldier

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the soldier, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier,
who salutes the flag,
who serves under the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who allows the protester to burn the flag. 

--By Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

Misadventures with Foreign Languages

I served in the Army for 8 years as a Russian translator. When I was still in Russian school, we were required to attend "conversation" class, where a group of students would sit down and discuss various topics with one of the instructors.

One day the instructor asked me what I had been doing the previous evening, and I said that I had played soccer. She asked what position I played, and since I didn't know the Russian noun for a goal keeper, I took a chance and replied in Russian that "I played goalie." She looked surprised, and asked if I was often goalie when playing soccer, and I replied yes - I usually play goalie. After that we chatted back and forth about how I preferred to play goalie, why I preferred to play goalie, etc. This conversation continued for about a minute, when she switched to English and informed me that in Russian "goalie" (голый) is the adjective for "naked".

So I had spent the last part of the conversation waxing poetic about my preference for playing soccer... well... you know. ;-)

And the walls came tumbling down...

Today is November 9th - which marks the 20-year anniversary of the re-opening of the borders in Germany, which ultimately resulted in the fall of Soviet Communism. While most of us remember where we were on 9/11/2001, I also remember where I was on 11/9/1989 - I was on the East German border, helping to keep the Russian 8th Guards Army at bay...

For all the hype about the Cold War, Nuclear Proliferation, and Mutually-Assured Destruction that we had way back when, at least we knew who they bad guys were and where they were hiding. I have often said that I loved what I did back then, and that’s still a true statement. That being said, I must admit that I have enough memories to last a dozen lifetimes of sleepless nights in sub-zero temperatures chasing signals through the RF spectrum or standing guard duty in some dark corner of the world where even the evil empire had the good sense to avoid. But the simple fact is - business was good during the Cold War, right up to the time when peace broke out and ruined my life and I had to get a real job. ;-)

In any case, I tip my hat to my fellow members of the Fulda Fighting 511th and the Bat Cave Dwellers of Fort Huachuca. Even though it’s grammatically incorrect to express it this way, it seems appropriate for me to say: "We did good."

Domestic Terrorists Come in Many Forms

As an honorably-discharged veteran, it should come as no surprise that an opinion piece with a title of "Why America needs to be Defeated in Iraq" would catch my attention. When I first read this ludicrous pile of drivel from a gentleman whom I shall henceforth refer to as "Mr. Whit," I was merely offended. His errant ramblings seemed to be another entry in a long line of deranged brain dumps from scores of deranged imbeciles that I seemed to discover whenever I ventured into another dark corner within the vast wastelands of west coast propaganda. I lived in Seattle for a decade or so, and I've seen this type of close-minded lunacy before. To paraphrase the Bard, the author of that particular op-ed, Mr. Whit, has no more intelligence in him than in a stewed prune. (Methinks he doth possess a great deal less.)

After a bit of time had passed, I pondered more about the context of Mr. Whit's article, and I was appalled by the abhorrent vulgarity of what his brief manifesto actually represents: Mr. Whit is a US Citizen who is outspoken and unapologetic about his desire that some form of harm should come to other US citizens. That admission makes him, using today's parlance, a domestic terrorist. Plain and simple. When one American's wish is that other Americans must suffer in order to make a political point, then that American is no better than the abomination that was Timothy McVeigh. After all, the late Mr. McVeigh only wanted to make a political statement when he and his accomplice bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, right?

Mr. McVeigh's vicious manifestation of domestic terrorism was responsible for the deaths of 168 innocent men, women, and children. However, for Mr. McVeigh, those people's fates were secondary to his cause. He believed that his principles were more important than his victims' lives. In the same way, Mr. Whit regards his self-appointed role as an oracle of truth as more beneficial to society than the meager value of average peasants, and therefore he believes that he has the right to condemn other lives to death in order to satisfy his misguided philosophies. The fates of those whom Mr. Whit would send to their graves are secondary to his gargantuan ego, and their lives are worth less than his sanctimonious convictions.

On the one hand, Mr. Whit accuses the US government of believing that "might is right" when it decides who gets to live or die, while on the other hand he freely chooses (from the sanctity of his word-processor) who else gets to live or die. Like Mr. McVeigh before him, Mr. Whit's deplorable appetite for others to suffer for his wretched aberration of morality is fully-vindicated within the boundaries of his twisted, little worldview. I am sure that somewhere inside his hollow, rat-infested cranium, Mr. Whit believes that the "ends justify the means." However, Mr. Whit doesn't have to face the consequences of his brain-dead decrees, whereas the innocent lives that he has condemned to death and their unfortunate families are left to suffer.

History has had more than its fair share of sociopaths who fail to take responsibility for their murderous actions, and Mr. Whit follows their example to the letter when he wishes death upon US troops while skirting away from any personal culpability by laying the blame for their deaths on the government. What Mr. Whit does not realize is that he doesn't get to have it both ways; he cannot pronounce a death sentence on others without being found guilty for his own crimes. He cannot claim that our government is guilty of terrorism, then advocate for the deaths of other US citizens and not be found guilty of his own brand of repugnant and unctuous terrorism. His self-righteous delusions do not grant him the title of judge, jury, or executioner.

It is ironic that short-sighted morons like Mr. Whit are quick to exercise their first amendment right to freedom of speech, while overlooking the sacrifices that were made on his behalf in order to guarantee his right to speak his mind without fear of reprisal. Long before Mr. Whit's feckless mortal coil ventured forth upon the country that he despises and condemns, the same sort of men and women on whom he passes his misguided judgment fought and died so that he might one day have the freedom to spit on their collective memories. Liberals like Mr. Whit never seem to realize that no one can have freedom in this world unless someone is willing to fight for it. It is clear that Mr. Whit will never personally fight for his freedom; he will continue to sit in the shadows and dispatch his putrid, little missives whenever a contrary wind ruffles his delicate feathers.

To be clear, I do not mind when someone exercises their freedom of speech. I do not mind when someone protests the war. (I have my own misgivings about the directions we are taking - or not taking.) I do not mind when someone calls the President a "war-monger." I do not mind when someone wants our troops out of the Middle East, and organizes a "million-man-march" on the capitol to demand that Congress should bring our brave men and women home. When you get right down to it, I do not mind when someone informs me that something I believe to be right or wrong might be true or false.

However, I damn sure mind when some hypocritical, warthog-faced buffoon signs a death warrant for members of our country's armed forces from the safe haven of his computer keyboard, tucked safely away in an office where no harm will come to him. And yet, despite my personal loathing for Mr. Whit, and in deference to my belief that simpletons like Mr. Whit are utterly useless to society, I do not wish that any harm should come to him. I served in our nation's armed forces so that even a miserable, vomitus mass like Mr. Whit has the right to share his pathetic sentiments in a public forum. And to be honest, if push came to shove, I would do so again. And this is the paradox that makes our country great: the strong and the brave will thanklessly sacrifice their personal safety to fight and defend the rights of the weak and ungrateful cowards who condemn them.

I'll get off my soapbox now.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."