Few things are as weird as military logic and this is one example of that. I previously wrote about having been sent on temporary duty (TDY) from Offutt Air Force Base in the States to Hellenikon Air Base in Greece. I did not have room in that Tidbit to describe the trip home from that first TDY, but it too was a boondoggle of sorts.
Rather than keep me an extra week or so in Greece, it was decided that I should take a Military Airlift Command passenger plane to RAF Mildenhall just outside London in England to join one of our crews there and fly home on one of our mission aircraft in a week. Well, why not I thought.
The flight out of Hellenikon was okay but by the time we got to Germany, it was the end of the duty day, so I was forced (actually forced, I tell you!) to spend the night at Rhine-Main Air Base. The quarters there were nice but I thought that the Germans on base were very sour-looking – it seemed that no one ever smiled.
I had made a new buddy on that flight, and while I had planned to sleep in and maybe – just maybe – spend a day or so in Germany, he got up early the next morning and booked us up two seats on the next flight to Mildenhall. He was stationed at nearby RAF Lakenheath and hadn’t seen his wife for some weeks. Understandably, he was anxious to get home.
Once at Mildenhall, he caught a military bus home and I made my way to our crew’s barracks. I was shocked at the facilities at Mildenhall. Everything was so old – the buildings were straight out of the World War II movie Twelve O’Clock High. My room was about 10 feet by 6 feet (3 meters by 2 meters) jammed with a bed, an armoire, and a B&W TV on the wall. The Chow Hall was ancient – and so was the food!
To make matters worse, I barely knew anyone on the other crew – but they were busy flying every other day anyway, so it really didn’t matter. I was stuck in England mostly on my own for a whole bloody week. But then I remembered that a friend from Okinawa was in a one-year study abroad program in London. I telephoned her using one of those iconic red booths and made arrangements for us to meet.
After a taxi to the Ely train station by a surly driver and a clattering train ride into London, I met my friend at one of the Tube stations there (can’t recall whether it was Kings Cross or Victoria station ). One of the things on my mind was beverages because I had heard about Guinness, Half-and-Half, Bitters, and the like. I wanted to try them all.
Now, you have to keep in mind that I have tasted beer from all over Asia – plus a couple that were imported into Greece from Northern Europe. Some of them were quite good. However, there are no polite words to adequately render my opinion on British swill. For those of you who enjoy that sort of stuff, please have at it. As for me, I’d rather die of thirst!