I drove from the Pentagon to the island; Vicky was hitting me with one question after another. She did not understand all the military jargon that went on at the table with the Generals.
We were on the Bay Bridge when I took another call on the Suburban’s On-star connect system that I had paired with my phone. The more I used it the more I loved the hands-free conversations. The down side was that sometimes the thing answered calls if I was close to the outside of the truck because of the time delay.
The call was from General McVee responding to my questions that I had left on his cell phone inbox.
“Good afternoon Ambassador, I see you are one of those people that when you fight, you fight to win; my kind of people.”
“I hate to lose if that is what you mean,” I replied.
“So do I,” he replied.
“To cut to the grit of the matter I was wondering if your men needed flight hours again this year?”
“It’s interesting that you called at this time because we are reviewing options on that. The governor had to call out the guard for the spring floods for 12 weeks so funding was redirected. Materials Transport command came up on the short stick again. ”
“The governor promised that more funding was coming in the new budget and it did not happen; then there was hope that the reserve units would get more money from the Army in the Federal appropriations bill. The bill is still in limbo and there are no additional funds in it. We have been doing the absolute bare minimum to keep the pilots qualified. What do you have in mind?”
“How many C130 crews do you have that need time?” I asked.
“All of them.”
“OK, here is what JBG is up against. I’m sure you know about our expanded embassy contracts; we have 39 Black Hawks, 39 Suburbans and upgraded staff for those 39 embassies. October 1 is the target date but we have until the 31st to be in full compliance.”
“We could end up making 39 trips from Maryland to Africa and the Middle East. That would be very costly and time consuming if we have to do it that way.”
“The other thing I am working on is an air freighter that can carry multiple units in one flight. If that comes through then I would have the units delivered to central locations in Africa and use your men and planes to disperse them; either way there will be a lot of flying for your men on my nickel.”
“As we did the last time, JGB will pick up fuel cost, room, meals and incidentals. Maintenance costs run 100 dollars per flight hour on our C130s and we would be willing to pay the same. We will need both of your extended C130s,” I said.
“You would need to make sure that all their shots are up to date as well as their passports. I am assuming that each group would be able to do a two week cycle.”
“I will run it by the Governor. I can support your proposal; it worked out great for us last year and sounds like it will help us this year. The 100 per flight hour should seal the deal,” the General replied.
“How long before you know for sure about the air freighter?” he asked.
“Ten days or less,” I replied.
“I have a meeting with the Governor tomorrow. I will let you know as soon as I know.” Click ended the call.
“Now for the bad part of the day,” I said.
“What do you mean?” Vicky asked.
“We have to tell Lorrie about the people she is losing; she may not take that well,”
“I had forgotten about Lorrie. Are we going to Morton or going to wait until tonight’s meeting?” Vicky replied.
“The meeting is in an hour, we just as well wait; that will give us some time to do some more planning. We need to look at the map that Mary Ann put together for me and wrap our heads round where the central locations need to be.”
I called Lorrie on the hands free and asked her to have Robbie come to our meeting for a few minutes.
Vicky and I looked at the map of Africa that Mary Ann had made behind the closed door of my office. Bamako Mali, Kampala Uganda, Lusaka, Zambia, Cairo Egypt and possibly a stop at Rabat Morocco looked good for central points.
The meeting today was informative from many angles; the crash pad was done. All the furnishings were in and the place was ready. Forty rooms with twin queen beds, two dressers, one closet. Two occupants would share each room.
The Holiday East that we had been using was losing 40 room rentals a night from us starting Monday, saving JBG $2000 a night.
Laurie Crafton was put in charge of the rooms; Laurie had been handling the motel room scheduling for a while she was working with Ching Lee and Vicky when both of them were in charge of the training.
A cleaning crew had been hired to clean the rooms, do laundry and make the beds. Two more commercial wash machines and four driers had been bought to be split between Horsey house and the Crash pad.
The truckload of linens arrived today giving the cleaning crew several days to get all the rooms made up and find out what was lacking. Marcy had ordered the better grade of towels and cloths; I was sure the men and ladies would love that. I know I hated the cheap crap that most hotels furnished.
Richard Bozman sent a text to Vicky that the furnishings and linens for the Horsey house expansion could be ordered and scheduled for delivery in two weeks and we could schedule the rooms for use in three weeks. The Holiday East was going to feel real financial pain with the loss of more rooms.
It would not hurt my feelings; they had gotten complacent in the last few months. Our people were complaining more and more about the lack of towels, no soap, rooms not being clean and minor issues being ignored.
When Robbie arrived we changed the discussion to the logistics for embassy contract.
“Yesterday I made a couple of calls to see if I could get us any help with moving the Black Hawks and the Suburbans to Africa; two things are in the works.”
“The first one is that we going to do a pilot project with the Air Force Materials Command. We need to send Adam Elliott, Sam Walls, Preston Jacobs and Vincent Holly to Dover AFB at 0800 Monday. They may be there up to a week completing simulator flight review for a C5.”
“If they complete the review satisfactorily, on the following Monday we fly them to Travis Air Force base along with John Bishop, Matt Phillips, Dale Smith and Terry Louis. If the maintenance skills of those four meet the expectations of the chief of maintenance they will return with a C5B for us to use for 90 days.”
“There will be an Air Force officer accompanying the flights to evaluate the crew’s performance and has the authority to cancel the project if crew performance is not up to expectations.”
“The second part is that the Iowa Air National Guard is looking for flight time again. What I am thinking is that we use the C5 to put choppers and Suburbans at central locations and let the guard deliver them where they need to go.”
“I told them that we needed the extended C130 planes. If the UPS loads get smaller we could use one of their regular C130s to do the Charlotte flights and shift ours to Africa for a bit,” I said.
“The four mechanics are assigned primarily to the C130 maintenance group and then the general fixed wing shop. I can work around them being gone for a few days at a time,” Robbie said.
“On a different note we will have nine Black Hawks ready to be shipped out by the weekend. I have guys in the chopper shop who will work a couple hours overtime weekdays and Saturday if you will approve it. That would possibly bring output up to four a week,” Robbie added.
“Authorize the overtime,” I replied.
“The four pilots are in the C130 and Bombardier pilot group. If the Iowa pilots show up I can use them so there will be no problems,” Lorrie added.
“Where are you going to send the 40 men who will finish up Friday? We need them sent somewhere to begin billing the State department. We do not need them sitting around here for several weeks being paid for nothing,” Marcy stated.
“I have a list of places Victor wants brought up to full staff ASAP. Thankfully, they are the sites where we now have SUVs and choppers. We need to call the major airlines to see who will give us the best contract price to the African airports,” I replied.
“I can do that; how many seats?” Lorrie asked.
“For now leverage them up to 40 at a time and put 1000 a year as a possibility, if we have to swap out everyone,” I replied to Lorrie.
“Shop all the airlines for the best price,” Marcy said then added, “If you want, I can sit in on those conversations.”
“I will get the list of airlines and you can make the calls,” Lorrie came back at her with.
Lorrie knew just how much time would be consumed with those kinds of calls. I winked at Lorrie just to let her know I knew what she was doing.
That ended the meeting, and I asked the girls to stay; I had one more topic for them.
“My contract with KCC ends December 31 and I have decided not to extend it. The business has grown so much I belong here with you. I am going to inform Bob Jackson on Monday.”
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.