"THE NIGHT BEFORE CHANGEOVER" by Greg Ogletree

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"THE NIGHT BEFORE CHANGEOVER" by Greg Ogletree

Postby AE on Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:47 am

I composed this one while in the passenger seat during the 2-hour drives to Kilo in December, 1984. (I think it actually took two or three of those drives before I put the finishing touches on it.) On Christmas Eve, I pounded it out on the SACCS keyboard (Kilo was the wing's ACP in those days) and sent it to the other capsules in the 341st. Imagine my shock--and trepidation--when I received a reply back from 15 AF! (After all, there are a few things mentioned in the verses that were in direct violation of tech data!) I had no idea all message traffic was routed through HHQs. Fortunately, their message was something to the effect of "Cool poem!" The poem that inspired this one should be obvious to everyone.


THE NIGHT BEFORE CHANGEOVER

'Twas the night before changeover and down in our cave
Were two tired faces in need of a shave.
Our sidearms were hung on the blastdoor with care,
And our crew blues were stowed to guard them from wear.

My deputy was nestled, all snug in the bed,
While echoes of Skybirds rang through his head.
And I in my sweatshirt and frayed tennis shoes
Was preparing for battle...against boredom and blues.

So with overheads dimmed I sat back in my chair,
Commanding the flight with professional flair,
When out at the fence there arose such a clatter,
The FSC called me to relate the matter.

"Sir, there's a team at the gate and it really looks queer;
The team chief's in red...and he's driving eight deer!"
I asked for the dispatch, but he said there was none,
So I told him "Standby" as I reached for my gun.

"I'm scared," cried the cop, as he shoved home his clip;
"He has a strange package and he's cracking a whip!"
I told him "Be cool," not to sound the alarm;
"It could be duress," I suggested, "not harm."

But all hope was gone when I heard next report,
For the team chief was driving right into our fort.
Up over the fence he came in a flash,
This midnight intruder all covered with ash.

I awakened my deputy and yelled "Find your T.O.!"
We called a two-bravo and prepared for the foe.
With blast valves now closed and emergency air,
We relayed our status to all those who care.

The next thing that happened really rattled my knees:
The blast door swung open with magical ease.
With gun drawn and ready as it continued its glide,
I glanced at my deputy, mouth agape and wide-eyed.

And then, in a twinkling, I saw in the shaft
A rather plump fellow acting jolly and daft.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all covered with ashes and soot.

"No need for those guns," he said with a smile
As he entered the capsule and walked up the aisle,
His laugh was enchanting, his manner quite free,
And I felt very at ease as he approached me.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
A bundle of gifts he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

He reached down inside and pulled out a rope;
Said "I've got some gifts here that will help you to cope."
The TV door open, now secured with precision,
I could watch the whole screen with a clear field of vision.

Next out of the bag came a small heater.
"Not hardened," he chuckled, "but for warmth ya can't beat 'er."
He reached down again and, to my great surprise,
Pulled out a razor blade of typical size.

I blushed just a little as I began to explain
Why a shave on alert is just too mundane.
He laughed again, loudly, as he moved to the front
Where he did perform the most wonderful stunt:

He took careful aim and then, with great zeal,
Beneath Alarm One he buried that steel.
Oh joy and delight, my dream's become real;
I can now have some quiet in spite of that seal!

I stated right then it would be really nice
To have total silence from every device.
"I've got just the thing for you poor tired chaps,"
And then he drew out two small plastic caps.

"You place this right here and you place that right there,
And this silver utensil is not dinnerware!"
The jovial old man had pulled from his pack
A piece of flatware with its handle bent back.

"In the proper position and with tension quite tight,
This handy 'SACCS Spoon' is a crew dog's delight."
He placed all our gifts in all the right places,
And when he was done we were two smiling faces.

"And last," he stated, after scanning our home,
"I have a neat gadget that I picked up in Nome."
He pulled out a mess of metal and twine,
And he looked like an angler as he strung out the line.

It hung from the rafters with a handle and all,
And it stretched to the printer through the racks by the wall.
"This special invention as a rule ain't half bad;
It'll save you much travel--they call it a 'RAD.'"

"My work's now complete," he said; "Time to go!
I've still more crews to visit in this strange world below."
So he gathered his bundle and, as he turned to depart,
I thanked the ol' saint from the depths of my heart.

And then, in a twinkling, he was gone up the shaft.
I looked at my deputy; he looked back and we laughed.
At the top of the shaft they all shouted and waved;
He was gone in an instant 'cause his road was unpaved.
And they heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all SILENT night!"

~ Greg Ogletree
ILCS Class 31 / ALCS Class 90-2
490 SMS - 341 SMW/DOTI - 4315 CCTS - 4 ACCS - 2 ACCS
... and damned proud of every single one of my 476 nuclear alerts in SAC!
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Re: "THE NIGHT BEFORE CHANGEOVER" by Greg Ogletree

Postby Tim on Thu Dec 27, 2007 8:59 am

Greg, I don't know if you post here anymore, but I believe I read your poem in the Kilo Captain's Log. You and I were never crewed together but we changed over many a time. You were the "Bard" of the 490th!

For others, Greg's poem captures the total essence and spirit of pulling alerts in the 490th SMS during the early 1980s

Thanks for rekindling the memories with this "cool" poem.

Tim H. 490th SMS, MMII ILCS-26
1981-1985
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Re: "THE NIGHT BEFORE CHANGEOVER" by Greg Ogletree

Postby AE on Wed Jan 02, 2008 4:16 am

Thanks for the kind words Tim! Yep, I remember you, and all of my other 490th comrades as well. If I recall correctly, wasn't your wife military also? (Memory's all there, things just get a little jumbled up sometimes, so perhaps I'm confusing you with someone else in Squad 3.) Best of the New Year to you and yours! AE
ILCS Class 31 / ALCS Class 90-2
490 SMS - 341 SMW/DOTI - 4315 CCTS - 4 ACCS - 2 ACCS
... and damned proud of every single one of my 476 nuclear alerts in SAC!
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Re: "THE NIGHT BEFORE CHANGEOVER" by Greg Ogletree

Postby Tim on Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:43 am

That's correct Greg, my wife was a mnx officer. Wish you and your family a very happy new year!

Tim Hebert, 490SMS, 1981-1985
295 alerts, balked at pulling 5 more!
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Re: "THE NIGHT BEFORE CHANGEOVER" by Greg Ogletree

Postby Irishmccc on Wed Mar 05, 2008 12:54 am

Here is one in a similar tone, written by Capt Ray Carpenter, 509SMS, in the mid 70's.
A SAC Christmas
"Twas the night before Christmas and all o'er the earth
the sorties of SAC were strategic alert
The sentinel missiles in hardened silos
the bombers like eagles, row upon row.
Their crews vigil keeping from season to season
from hour to hour each day without ceasing.
Security forces were making their rounds
keeping them safe 'till the klaxon might sound.
Should attack be detected by remote radar station
and the crews must respond in defense of our nation
And execute orders as signals are flashed
from underground bunker at Headquarters SAC
Because of their mission throughout the command
the crews will be there with Christmas at hand.
And this is the prayer our forces assert
Lord Grant us peace this Christmas alert.

When I think of the crews I remember with ease
one special time on alert Christmas eve.
As I sat in my chair with naught on my mind
my thoughts took a turn to an earlier time
A scene slowly formed of an age long ago
with a star overhead and a stable below
A vision appeared, twas one world renowned
that first Christmas night in Bethlehem town.
There were the shepherds and animals mild
in the stable where lay the first Christmas child
The wise men were there who had come from the east
to honor the first, born one of the least.
And as I was musing, as though in a dream,
a change had appeared in that first Christmas scene.
Instead of the wise men who had traveled afar
Three crewmen from SAC stood under that star.
One dressed in green for the bombers he flew
Two dressed in blue of a missile launch crew.
Each in his turn stepped up to the babe,
dropped to his knees and an offering he made.

The first was the pilot with mission to fly
He held the lightning that fell from the sky.
The next was from missiles, hid deep 'neath the land
his gift was armored and shaped like a hand.
The last, with the second, a missile launch crew,
held out a garland--from the olive it grew.
How foolish thought I, this endless procession.
What gifts are these? What regal possession.
Then one with the other combined in succession
a symbol became of our honored profession.
No gold or rich ointment or incense had they,
Only a miracle, earned day by day.
The gift then was peace, bought by their command,
and what better gift for God's Son of Man.
The vision had faded and I had come back
to a capsule of steel and electronic rack.
I was back on alert with my fine deputy
as the hours dragged on until home we could be.
Now when Yuletide approaches with Christmas at hand
I remember the men watching over this land.
As shepherds before them kept their watch by night
They too are watching with nuclear might.
And this is the prayer of the crews in each flight,
Lord grant us peace on this Christmas night.
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