Time To Shake Up The Command

, , , , , | Working | September 3, 2020

A few years back, a minor earthquake hit the military installation in the USA I was at. The epicenter was a considerable distance away, and all we felt was a one-time, minor jolt. This was not a typical earthquake area at all. I knew immediately what it was since I’d been stationed in Japan. I did not expect any damage, nor was there any at any location near us. I’ve felt worse jolts from controlled detonations, honestly. Unless a building was already falling down, there wasn’t going to be damage. Damage usually comes from back-and-forth or worse, waves in the earth.

I was not amused to see everyone doing everything you are not supposed to do in an earthquake: panicking, running outside, etc. I kept my people calm and collected and we went back to work. I was even less amused when we got an “emergency” call from the airfield control tower demanding we send out a structural engineer to certify that their building was safe after the quake. Now, I’ve seen fourteen-story control towers or temporary structures where that this might have been warranted but this one was maybe two stories tall and solidly built. My apartment block was higher.

We told them that we were not sending out damage assessment teams and asked if they could see any damage. Their response was to threaten to close down the airfield and that we could explain to the wing commander why his aircraft couldn’t land. We asked if they could see any damage. No, of course not.

Of course, the real explanation to the wing commander for that closure would be that his tower panicked, failed to follow any of the disaster checklists, and frankly needed to pull their heads out of their butts because such a reaction in combat will get you or others killed. The military trains for combat and other emergencies. Their reaction was not acceptable. And, if there hadn’t been planes on their way in, that is exactly the answer I would have happily given to them or the wing commander.

We didn’t have a structural engineer, and since our enlisted men and women whose jobs it was to do damage assessment and were extensively trained on that were plainly were not good enough, so we sent out our very-near-retirement mechanic. He was seventy-five if a day and used a walker. He showed up, eased out of his car, got his walker out, shuffled ten feet toward the building, and slowly looked it up and down. He told the evacuated personnel that he certified it was safe, shuffled back to his car, and left a pretty embarrassed-looking group to go back to work. 

I don’t know what happened to the lieutenant who was the shift lead and who made the call. I do know I never saw him again.

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