Tuesday, October 28, 1997

Vanished - 42

A fully armed F14 disappeared in a storm in the Bermuda triangle with the pilot, Cdr. Douglas and his RIO. Chegwidden sent Harm, Mac & Bud to investigate. B ranted about the Bermuda triangle, aliens and UFO sightings through the whole episode along with the "Brain nuts" (doughnuts) he was eating with ginko biloba frosting. Aboard the Coral Sea they were experiencing severe stormy weather and electrical problems "ever since we entered the black water." They went to general quarters when a water spout was sighted. B ranted to much about it, H finally told him that the government was indeed experimenting with weather control. A top secret procedure was to have a "half dozen Sea Wolf class subs circle round and round until they created a coreolis vortex which could suck down either a ship or plane." "Are you mocking me, sir," B asked. H reviewed even the land based radar and found that the Tomcat had dropped below the storm, just at he had sent his wingman up above the storm, then flew north along the Florida coast for about 12 minutes when it flew in circles and went off the screen.

M & H had a talk about Dalton Lowne, of Lowell, Hanson, and Lowne law firm, who he had seen talking with M. She baited him with "are you jealous." He said that he just didn't like "breaking in new partners." "Dalton drives a Porsche," she said. "I fly a Tomcat," he retorted. So she exclaimed, "you are jealous." "When I was assigned to you," he said, "I thought a tattooed jarhead would be challenging me to an arm wrestle." She said, "I have a tattoo, I'm good at arm wrestling and technically they do call me a jarhead." Then H became obsessed with the fact she had a tattoo and where it was.

The F14's RIO stumbled, beat up, into a Florida campsite and collapsed. C interviewed him to find that he had passed out, awoken with a severe headache and people standing over him in bright lights, and passed out again when someone stuck him with a needle. He said that the pilot had acted strangely for a few days and had spent 2 hours trying to call his wife before their mission. C told him not to talk to any men in black suits with sunglasses. They found that the pilots wife and daughter were missing. B found the "Freedom Brethren" militia group's website bookmarked on the pilots computer and continued obsessing about UFO sightings all along the coast that night. He showed H a photo which was taken that H recognized immediately as Tomcat afterburners. B arranged a meeting with "oppenheimer and Einstein" who H had to promise a tour of the pentagon "including sub-level 2 beyond the purple water cooler" in order to get information. They traced the landing to the Percane valley where they arrived just after the Pilot had taken off to shoot down Arafat in a civilian plane; but, just in time to have a gun battle with Jack Lambert's Freedom Brethren and rescue Douglas' wife and daughter, Lee and Kim. Douglas had drugged his RIO, dropped below radar, and made it look like his RIO had punched out. The Coral Sea sent fighters to shoot down Douglas but he had already decided that he just couldn't pull the trigger on a civilian aircraft and broke off before they fired. H threw his match at Lambert as he lit up a cigar, and said "never underestimate the integrity of a naval aviator."

Tuesday, October 21, 1997

The King of the Fleas - 43

The wheelchair bound, accordion playing, ex POW, "King of the Fleas" (Roscoe Martin) spotted the Commanderr of his old Vietnamese prison camp on a US street, and killed him. He had been a captured deserter from his unit and was tortured, but when he gave in to the Viet Cong he was pronounced "king" over the other prisoners and was given special respect by the guards. He was used to get information about which prisoners were pilots and could be taken to Russia (it turns out that Harm's dad was one of them). He was then left untouched and had to watch as the commander had all the remainder of the POWs in the camp killed. A policeman (Costas) was outwitted by Bud, in taking custody of Martin, who turned himself in to Harm. Chegwidden started the interrogation but left. Martin was deliberately vague and rambling so, when Harm got anxious and "pushed" for information, Martin lied and told Harm that it had been his father who was the the informer. Harm finally gave up trying to make sense of Martin's ramblings and told him to leave, which made him finally admit that it had been him who was the weakest captive and made "king" by the dead Viet Cong CO. Harm promised to defend him during his trial. Dalton pursued Mac.

Tuesday, October 14, 1997

Blind Side - 41

Harm's old flight instructor and mentor, Capt. Gary Hockhausen, was out for a six month "checkout" of one of his junior flight instructors, Lt Peter Judd, when Judd hit a pole and had to eject. The loose jet crashed into Melanie and Joshua Lanier's car killing them both. H and Bud were sent to investigate and were sheparded around by a sort of "motor-mouth, air-head" from New York, Lt Schiparelli, was a former cab driver and extremely loyal to Hockhausen. Judd's RIO, Lt. Gerter, blew his knee and would never fly again. He revealed that they had been "pulling a hell of a lot of Gs" and almost blacked out when they had to bail. Mac was called in to represent Judd even before H had completed his investigation. The maneuver scorekeeper said that Judd had "an aggressive style of flying" and had previously cut a phone line with his tail fin (upside down at 30 feet and 500 knot's). H saw Schiparelli hustling two marines at pool in a bar and joined her playing doubles. The marines wanted Hs fancy boots and Schiparelli's bra so he demanded their pants. While celebrating their victory later in their car, Schiparelli kissed H just at M pulled up. M bristled and derisively asked her if she spent her spare time hustling marines. Not to be out done, Schiparelli sarcastically retorted "no, I usually like a challenge." H quickly jumped between them. Both Hockhausen and Judd claimed that a "severe down draft" had slammed him into the telephone pole; and, when H acted incredulous, Hockhausen reminded H of when he had almost lost flight status for shooting out of bounds during a High noon gunnery competition. H countered that the judges had decided he was really inside bounds and Hockhausen claimed that it was he who had "convinced them that it didn't matter," and that he had "saved your windswept butt." He opinioned that he had seen good men "skewered by rule book barons and ignorant COs. "If you don't give a man room to make mistakes," he said, "you take away his ability to learn from them." He tried to intimidate H by saying he resented "not being believed," but H recounted that pilots needed to learn consequences of their actions and take responsibility for them.

Bud, doing his "routine library reading," discovered that the wind was on the other side of the ridge so there would have been UP drafts not DOWN drafts. He also had to remind H that there were statistical accelerometers on board. Judd's plane had pulled 7 Gs at the accident. M wanted to know what Hockhausen's showed but it was found to be "missing." H believed that he had stolen his own device in order to protect his wingman so decided he had to "prove it" by "recreating" the incident. Hockhausen used his own RIO and H took M in his back seat - and she got sick and vomited. After the run, and during the climb over the ridge, they nearly hit a phone pole, so H was convinced that a down draft right then would have caused them to hit the pole. However during landing Hockhausen pulled a rookie mistake and misjudged his landing distance which allowed H to see another rationale. When Schiparelli apologized for the kiss, H just told her that she had "seized the moment" which is why she was an officer. Then he twisted her arm into revealing that she had overheard Hockhausen on the phone with some other pilot trading ideas on how to pass eye tests. He then interviewed Retired Admiral James Dawkins, who seemed to know H and his father. Dawkins had flown into his 50's and told H that he had never falsified his eye tests but that he knew it had been done and briefed H on how. H then confronted Hockhausen and offered to let him resign, but he flew in Hs face to the point that H had to tell him "not to exploit my loyalty, I'm not Lt. Judd." H met Judd in a bar and told him the story about loyalty but Judd wouldn't budge in his lie. H then told M about Schiparelli's information and had to tell her that there was a "difference between loyalty and being indebted to someone."

On the stand, Hockhausen denied any culpability or knowledge of how to falsify eye tests, then grinned like he had gotten the best of H. M called Schiparelli, and when H saw the reluctant look on her face, he seemed to change his mind about something. He then continued and manipulated Hockhausen into reading a "standard" eye chart from a line that the base optometrist had placed on the courtroom floor. Hockhausen "read" the chart (apparently from memory) and missed the 20/20 line on which H had substituted the letters "I FLY NAVY." H claimed that Hockhausen had been "unable to adequately determine the accurate range of the oncoming ridge endangering his wingman in the process." Outside the courtroom Hockhausen told H that "at least I went down in a dog fight." H said that it didn't mean that "one day we couldn't mend fences." Hockhausen replied "yes it does." Judd was disciplined for lying.

Tuesday, October 7, 1997

The Good of the Service - 38

A band of rebels kidnapped and held hostage five marines who were distributing food to Haiti civilians. Admiral Colter of COMCARIB ordered Lt Col John Farrow to prepare his recon unit to extract the captives; but, 10 min before launch ordered him to stand down because "the state department wanted another crack at 'talking' to the rebels. Capt Barnes brought Farrow intel that the rebels had killed another man and drug his body through the streets; then pressured Farrow into launching the operation, which he then did. During the rescue one of Barnes' men began shooting and gave away their presence which started a gunfight. A rebel took up a small boy as a shield until the child was killed along with 20 other villagers. An Australian photographer was in the camp, giving the rebels publicity, and caught a photograph of a weeping mother holding her dead child. Chegwidden sent Harm and Mac to investigate and Harm found out that Farrow was Mac's old mentor. "He's the reason I'm a lawyer," M told H, "the corps paid law school based on his recommendation." The SECAV acted his usual "arrogant ass" and said he had ordered Admiral Coulter to file charges against Farrow then told C that he had to defend, counting that C would loose because of being out of practice. Farrow was upset with M over her "filing charges" until she said that they hadn't. Then she got mad at H for sending in his report without discussing it with her. H told her that she wasn't "unbiased" and recommended her dismissal from the case; but, C wouldn't do it.

Bud assisted C with research. He and Harriet decided to "get tested" before they had a relationship. It was Bud's idea but Harriet said that "she had better do it too," because she "had a life" before they met. Coulter testified that Farrow had disobeyed orders. The photographer said he was there to photograph the "freedom fighters" which "you blokes support." C objected to any tricky "tactic" H used; then, got the photographer to admit he couldn't tell who had shot the boy. H rested his case but before C could rise Farrow got up and said he wanted to change his plea to guilty. In chambers the judge listened to C and H bicker about an extension until she asked H if he wanted his objection to be on the record which backed him down to saying no. C witnessed the SECNAV 'gloating' and realized that "you expected me to loose." The SECNAV said "that was a pointless question," and C shot back "not to me it isn't." SECNAV smugly said that he wanted to give a fair hearing "which you’ve don’t." C pointedly said "no I haven't, but I will." C went to Farrow's home for a discussion and was able to remind him of his original reason for wanting to tell his story in court. "They've taken military bashing to an art form in this country." Farrow said that it was a "circus" and he should "go gently, for the good of the service." C responded that "for the sake of the service, you need to stay and fight." The next day Farrow withdrew his plea telling the judge that he "lost the bubble for a moment, but my attorney has squared me away." On the stand Farrow told H "no" that he didn't disregard Coulters order. "I regarded it very closely and chose to disobey it. If I had complied I would be failing in my duty to my country and the corps." "While they talked," he said, "marines were being butchered. If I did nothing, how would I ever lead again. Leaders put political self interest above what's right. We used to love our heroes in this country - people of integrity - acted without waiting for permission from a dozen committees. The bureaucrats bring you down and the media pick you clean." He said he was forced to make a decision. H asked directly if he disobeyed. Farrow said "I've obeyed orders all my life; but, if I'd obey that one then I would be guilty." H then just let it go.

Admiral C called H into his office and read him the riot act for letting up in his prosecution. H said he didn't want to kick him while he was down. "You think he's a hero don't you," C asked. H replied that "the jury knew he was guilty." "You don't get it," C yelled at his face, "it’s the public that is judging this case. The press is circling like vultures waiting for a chance to scream whitewash. I don't want to give them that chance." He told H to either "do your job or step down" into his face. H asked to see the photographers other photos and realized that the woman had been in a position to actually see who had shot her son. He pressured the photographer to take him back to Haiti in order to get the woman to testify. They found Antoinette Malidor, teaching English to her school class and brought her back. C objected but H and M double-teamed him and got the judge to allow her testimony. When H wasn't allowed to ask her directly who had killed her son, he asked if she blamed Col Farrow. She said "yes," then went on to embellish that she also blamed H, and C and the jury. "All of you, because you stand by and do nothing. The soldiers come, rape murder, take children and train them to kill - and you do nothing. You give food, shovels but you don't protect us. Even when YOUR OWN PEOPLE are killed - YOU DO NOTHING. Finally this one sends in soldiers to fight and you want to punish him!" "I don't understand your country," she said through tears, "DO YOU?" M chastised H again for leaving her out of the prosecution. H merely said that he knew she was friends with Farrow. H said "I'd rather have you ON my team than oppose me"! She asked, "is that an apology"? He responded, "I consider it more of an acknowledgement." General Parham, president of the jury, announced the verdict that they found Farrow guilty of disobeying orders; but, then announced that the jury awarded "No punishment." Farrow asked C "what does that mean"? C answered "they heard you. Public opinion changed. You're a hero. Then, talking with M and watching H leave the courtroom, C told her that H had made a "1st year law student mistake. You never call a witness unless you know what they are going to say." M told him: "oh, he knew."