Call Signs

Some people called Larry Floren "Bean"


On a bright Monday morning in June, in Washington D.C., the following order was generated and sent out to all active duty billets:

Date signed: 06/17/2000 JSFADMIN Number: 734/J021

R J021JSZ JUN 00 PENT

FM JSFCOM WASHINGTON DC//A//

TO JSFDMIN CONTACTS

BT

CLAS //55021//

JSFAMIN 734J

MSGID/JSFDMIN/PENT//

SUBJ/FY-01 TRANSITION CALL SIGN REVIEW BOARD FOR MARINE, NAVAL, USAF AVIATORS AND ALL// FLIGHT OFFICERS//

REF/A/DOC/JCS 4943.2J//

REF/B/DOC/NAM 003.1G//

NARR/REF A IS MCO 1331.2J, TRANSITION/REVIEW MARINE/NAVAL, USAF AVIATOR CALL SIGNS

NAPP/REF B IS NAM 003.1G, THE NAVAL AVIATOR MANAGEMENT PROGRAM PLUS INTERDEPARTMENTAL WORKING GROUP OF ALL RELATED FLIGHT OFFICERS.//

SPECIAL ADDENDUM: THIS INCLUDES ALL AVIATORS FLYING FOR US; INCLUDES ARMY, COAST GUARD AND SPECIAL OPS.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

RMKS/1: THE DEPUTY COMMANDANT FOR AVIATION IS COMMITTED TO AN EFFICIENT AVIATION TRANSITION/CONVERSION (T/C) PROGRAM. THIS JSFADMIN DIRECTS AND CONVERTS ALL CALL SIGN AWARD PROCESSES TO BE INTEGRATED INTO NEW CALL SIGN AWARD PROCESS [CALLPROPENT] AS JOINT STRIKE FORCE DESIRES TO STREAMLINE AND PROVIDE CONSISTENCY IN CALL SIGN AWARDS FOR ALL US AVIATORS.

RMKS/2: THE ASST JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF COMMISSION HAS DIRECTED ALL CURRENT DEPARTMENTAL COMMANDANTS FOR AVIATION TO COMMIT TO AN EFFICIENT AND INTEGRATED PROCESS TO FACILITATE THE INTERCHANGE OF PROFESSIONAL AND TACTICAL EXPERTISE WITHIN ALL AVIATION GROUPS, AS WELL AS ASSIST HQMC IN BALANCING CULTURAL AND COMMUNICATIVE PROCESS INVENTORIES IN ALL REFERENCED FIGHTER AIRCRAFT COMMUNITIES. RELATED TO/IN WHICH PERSONAL CALLSIGNS ARE AWARDED AND UTILIZED AS SOP REGARDING SHIP TO AIR, AIR TO AIR, GROUND TO AIR, AIR TO SHIP, AIR TO GROUND, AIR TO UNSPECIFIED AND UNSPECIFIED TO AIR COMMUNICATIONS.

RMKS/3: THE ASST JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF COMMISSION AND ASSIGNED DEPUTY AND/OR DEPARTMENTAL COMMANDANTS FOR AVIATION ARE COMMITTED TO AN EFFICIENT CONVERSION OF ALL SUSPECT CALLSIGNS.

1. SUSPECT CALLSIGNS ARE DEFINED AS, BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE EXISTING DEFINITIONS, ANY CALLSIGNS THAT IMPLY GENDER-SPECIFIC PROWESS, GASTRONOMICAL EXPERTISE, PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENT OR DYSFUNCTION, SUSPECT FAMILY GENEALOGY OR HERITAGE /ACTUAL OR ESTIMATED/.

2. SUSPECT CALLSIGNS ALSO INCLUDE ITERATIONS OF EXISTING CALLSIGNS WHICH MAY POTENTIALLY CONFUSE SQUADRONS WITH IDENTICAL OR SIMILAR CALLSIGNS. SPECIFIC REFERENCE MADE TO: 14TH TACTICAL AIR SQUADRON /GRAND FORKS/ND/ WHEN ALL FIGHTER PILOTS WERE NAMED /MAVERICK/.

3. DEVELOPMENT OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESS IN WHICH SIMILAR OR REDUNDANT CALL SIGNS MUST BE REVIEWED BY ESTABLISHED CRITERIA INCLUDING DOCUMENTED LENGTH OF TENURE, RANK OF INVOLVED PARTIES, ORIGINALITY AND PHONETIC VARIATIONS.

4. INCOMPLIANCE OF RECENT USN TAILHOOK 91 INVESTIGATION, ALL CALLSIGNS THAT ARE DEEMED TO REPRESENT A HOSTILE /NON-WAR CATEGORY OF HOSTILITY/ OR UNCOMFORTABLE WORKING ENVIRONMENT NEEDS COMMITTEE REVIEW.

5. CURRENT SQUADRON NAMES /VF/ ARE CURRENTLY EXEMPT FROM REVIEW.

RMKS/4: THE TRANSITION/CONVERSION SELECTION BOARD WILL MEET ON OR ABOUT 23 MAR 01. THE COMMISSION WILL BE CHAIRED BY COL. HALLOWELL JAMES, COMMUNICATIONS ADJUTANT TO JSF STRIKE FORCE COMMAND, PENTAGON. HIS FINDINGS AND DECISIONS WILL DEEMED FINAL AND COMPLETE.

RMKS/5: THE TRANSITION/CONVERSION PROGRAM IS TO BE COORDINATED WITH PENTAGON, SUBPAC AND SUBATL LIAISON GROUPS TO ASSURE COMPLIANCE WITH JOINT STRIKE FORCE COMMUNICATIONS. ALL COMMUNIQUÉ MUST INCLUDE PHRASE /AS PART OF THE ARMED SERVICES INTEGRATION INITIATIVE HIGHLIGHTED WITH JOINT STRIKE FORCE PURCHASE OF NEW GENERATION FIGHTER DESIGNED TO KEEP THE WORLD FREE/.

    1. EXCEPTIONS TO ABOVE RULE MAY INCLUDE ANY ACTIVE DUTY NA/NFO, USFAA/USAFO, MA/MFO WITH A MINIMUM OF 10 YEARS TIME ON STATION AND NO MORE THAN 12 YEARS COMMISSIONED SERVICE AS OF 17 JUN01.
    2. IF SIMILARITIES EXIST, RANK IN GRADE WILL BE EXCLUSIVE DECIDING POINT. SAME TIME IN GRADE/RANK. COMMISSION DECISION WILL BE ISSUED BY COL. HALLOWELL JAMES, COMMUNICATIONS ADJUTANT TO JSF STRIKE FORCE COMMAND, PENTAGON. HIS FINDINGS AND DECISIONS WILL DEEMED FINAL AND COMPLETE.
    3. OTHER DETERMINING AND MUTUALLY/AGREED UPON RESOLUTION MUST HAVE PRIOR WRITTEN APPROVAL OF COL. HALLOWELL JAMES, COMMUNICATIONS ADJUTANT TO JSF STRIKE FORCE COMMAND, PENTAGON.

1. CALL SIGN/NAME CONVERSION TRAINING IS OFFERED TO ANY ACTIVE DUTY AVIATOR, CAPTAIN OR MAJOR WITH 2 TO 10 YEARS TIME ON STATION AND 8 TO 17 YEARS COMMISSIONED SERVICE AS OF 17 JUN 01.

2. IF APPLICABLE, CHANGING TO A FORMAL NEW CALL SIGN (FCS) CATEGORY IS AUTHORIZED UPON COMPLETION OF TRAINING AS DIRECTED BY PENTAGON LIAISON OFFICE, UNDER THE WRITTEN APPROVAL OF COL. HALLOWELL JAMES, COMMUNICATIONS ADJUTANT TO JSF STRIKE FORCE COMMAND, PENTAGON.

3. ALL NEW OPENINGS REFLECT THE NEEDS OF THE SERVICE AND WILL BE FILLED ON A COMPETITIVE/BEST QUALIFIED/NEEDS OF ALL BRANCHES ON BASIS. ANTICIPATE THAT AS FCS'S BECOME HEALTHIER, FUTURE BOARDS WILL HAVE A BROADER SELECTION OF OPENINGS AND LOCAL AND THEATER RESOLUTIONS. APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED FOR THE FOLLOWING OPENINGS: ALL MARINE/NAVAL, AIR FORCE AND ARMY AVIATORS (ALL CONVERSIONS) AND ALL FLIGHT OFFICERS IN TIME IN GRADE/RANK/COMMISSION.

4. APPLICATIONS ARE NOT SOLICITED FROM INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BEEN

PREVIOUSLY SELECTED FOR EARLIER FCS CONVERSION DUE TO COURT SETTLEMENT OR DUE TO ANY PREVIOUS BOARD NEGOTIATIONS. THIS IS WAIVED FOR C-9 T/C AND ALL ACTIVE AVIATORS INSTRUCTORS OF MIRAMAR.

5. CANDIDATE FOR CALL SIGN ADMINISTRATION MAY EITHER /TRANSITION/ THEIR CURRENT CALL SIGN TO A LESS OFFENSIVE/CONFUSING DERIVATE OR /CONVERT/ THEIR CALL SIGN TO ANOTHER APPROVED CALL SIGN.

6. "TRANSITION" SELECTEES MAY INCUR A FOUR-YEAR ADDITIONAL SERVICE OBLIGATION TO COMMENCE ON THE DATE TRAINING IS COMPLETED. IAW REF A, "CONVERSION" SELECTEES MAY INCUR A THREE-YEAR ADDITIONAL SERVICE OBLIGATION TO COMMENCE ON THE DATE TRAINING IS COMPLETED.

7. TO FACILITATE THE BOARD PROCESS, ALL APPLICANTS ARE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE A WRITTEN LETTER OF "INTENT TO APPLY" TO ASM-52, COL. HALLOWELL JAMES, COMMUNICATIONS ADJUTANT TO JSF STRIKE FORCE COMMAND, PENTAGON. BY 27 JUL FAX OR E-MAIL LETTERS ARE ACCEPTABLE.

8. ALL APPLICATIONS SHALL BE SUBMITTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH REF A AND MUST INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING: SUMMARY OF FLIGHT TIME (TOT TIME, TOT TIME BY TMS), INSTRUMENT TIME, DESIGNATIONS HELD, CURRENT MCC, DATE FIRST COMMISSIONED, YCS AS OF 31 MAY 01, TIME ON STATION, CURRENT WORK PHONE AND E-MAIL ADDRESS, CERTIFIED COPY OF MOST RECENT FLT PHYSICAL (TO INCLUDE ANTHROPOMETRIC MEASUREMENTS), AND CALL SIGN/S/.

9. APPLICANTS DESIRING TO BE CONSIDERED FOR MORE THAN ONE CATEGORY SHOULD SO INDICATE. APPLICANTS ARE REMINDED TO CONSIDER ALL CAREER IMPLICATIONS PRIOR TO APPLICATION SUBMISSION. SPECIFIC CRITERIA AND WAIVER INFORMATION IS FOUND IN REF B (PARA 9).

10. APPLICATIONS SHALL BE FORWARDED, VIA THE CHAIN OF COMMAND, TO COL. HALLOWELL JAMES, COMMUNICATIONS ADJUTANT TO JSF STRIKE FORCE COMMAND, PENTAGON. WASHINGTON DC, 20380-1775. THOSE INDIVIDUALS CURRENTLY ASSIGNED TO DIFDEN BILLETS (FAC, STAFF, B-BILLET, JOINT, ETC.) MUST INCLUDE A CURRENT LETTER ENDORSEMENT FROM THE COMMANDING OFFICER OF THEIR LAST FLYING ASSIGNMENT. LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATIONS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE HISTORICAL CONTEXT AND OVERALL RELEVANCE.

11. APPLICATIONS AND ENDORSEMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY CMC (ASM-52) NLT COB 4 JUL 02. THE BOARD WILL NOT CONSIDER LATE APPLICATIONS. THE BOARD WILL NOT CONSIDER FAX APPLICATIONS. THE BOARD FINDINGS, WHEN APPROVED BY DC AVN, WILL BE FORWARDED TO THE AVIATION OFFICER ASSIGNMENT SECTION (MMOA-2). SELECTION AND BOARD RESULTS WILL BE ANNOUNCED BY MCBUL (MARADMIN) APPROXIMATELY 14 DAYS AFTER THE CONCLUSION OF THE BOARD PROCEEDINGS. BOARD.

12. IN LIEU OF FURTHER ADDENDUMS/CLARIFICATION, COL. HALLOWELL JAMES, COMMUNICATIONS ADJUTANT TO JSF STRIKE FORCE COMMAND, PENTAGON, WILL HAVE FINAL AND COMPLETE AUTHORITY TO RESOLVE ALL CURRENT AND RELATED ISSUES THAT PERTAIN TO RESOLUTION OF THIS ORDER.

APOC: MAJ D. NMI KEHL; SFA 224-1556/1244, COMM (703) 614-3343 OR KEHLD_NMI@HQMC.USMC.MIL.

This order was distributed through the Armed Services but ironically, the copy that was sent to Colonel Hallowell James was misrouted to a Lt. James Hallowell based in Anchorage and the original recipient never saw it for three days.

Three days later, Colonel Hallowell James wandered through the cavernous hallways of the Pentagon and settled into his basement office. As a communication liaison and career officer, he usually had easy days in front of him. He was in the Air Force for twenty years and was extremely comfortable with his position. He grabbed the latest version of the Stars and Stripes, scanning both the obituary and promotion lists to see friends and acquaintances of the last few decades. He reviewed the lead story about the Joint Attack (or Strike) Force (JAF) aircraft that was recently sold to the Department of Defense by Lockheed Martin. The announced goal was to use the latest technology in a common family of aircraft. This goal was to meet the requirements of all service branches and US allies was startling enough but its other purpose was far more interesting: there was going to be an integration of all aviators to a common platform. The idea had merit but when one dealt with warriors, things needed more than a good idea, it needed internal juice.

Usually, all the service branches would contract separately with individual companies to develop their own pet weapons. The Marines loved the idea of a supersonic short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft as a replacement for the AV-8B Harrier. At about the same time, the Navy's Advanced Attack/Fighter (A/F-X) was being studied to fill the void left after the cancellation of the A-12 Avenger II carrier aircraft being designed for the U.S. Navy. The US Air Force was also busy looking at both long-range bombers and their own F-22 and F/A-18E/F fighter jet programs but all of a sudden, a new message came out of the Pentagon. When the smoke cleared, the tri-service family would entail a "single basic airframe design" with three distinct variants. The Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) for the U.S. Air Force, the Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing (STOVL) for the U.S. Marine Corps and a Carrier (CV) variant for the U.S. Navy to complement the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.

Finally, the roughly two hundred U.S. Army Aviators, long the three-legged dogs of U.S. aviation, would take anything they could get their hands on but their collective opinion was never considered with a straight face. Even once in awhile, some MILSPEC generated out of Army Air Corps would be routed through a multi-branch service review to the complete hysterics of the non-Army aviators. The specifications would be routed to other groups, for such pleasure of causing fits of laughter, spreading out like a pebble dropped in the middle of a pond. In so many words, Army Air guys were constantly berated and mocked by all services, even the Canadians.

Senior leadership at the Pentagon suggested a Joint Attack (or Strike) Fighter (JAF) to replace the all the programs with a use of a common airframe suitable to the three services. It was believed that such an aircraft would herald significant manufacturing and operational cost savings. Much of the philosophy incorporated single-engine design and its unprecedented level of commonality. This idea made sense and Colonel Hallowell James, Top Gun desk jockey and the world's most mediocre fighter pilot, thought it was innovative enough to consider but a lifetime in the service pretty much beat all his common sense out of him when he was Lieutenant. 

Colonel Hallowell James career was richly adequate in aviation experience and formal education. As a child, he had an above-average interest in flying which eventually led this Oklahoman native into the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs , where in 1979 he barely graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering. Eventually, he received a Master's Degree in Physics from University of Northern Michigan when he was billeted at K.I. Sawyer AFB in Marquette, Michigan . He always enjoyed flying but didn't like the idea of either getting shot at or being placed in any situation where he would crash due to an enemy's efforts. He was not thrilled at any type of crash but preferred a simple mechanical malfunction while flying over a flat piece of American soil versus landing in some jungle thousands of miles from home in which he would likely become prey to some khat-addled preteen with no education and several hundred dollars worth of ordinance hanging off his burka.

As a rule, Air Force pilots are not the same breed of fighter pilots as seen in the movies. Their role was to concentrate on all aircraft; on larger bombers and transport planes, in addition to jet fighters. On the other hand, Naval aviators were legendary for their swagger and testosterone saturated adventures that all come with being a fighter pilot. Most of the Naval and Marine Aviators used their assigned call signs, instead of their real names, to refer to each other, especially on assignment or at social situations. Hallowell thought it somewhat stupid that call signs were used in lieu of formal names and ranks but since most Air Force pilots didn’t use them outside the cockpit, he viewed it as an odd little idiosyncrasy of most carrier-based fighter pilots.

He did his tours of duty and for the last ten years, he had a sweet desk job in the bowels of the Pentagon and made a point of staying current in several aging planes, knowing full well that if and when the US went to war, it wouldn't rely on the stick of a forty-four year old career soldier with basic proficiency in clunky old trainer. His hours were blissfully predicatable, the wife rarely barked at him for his schedule and things were quietly winding down for him. Either way, the day looked clear when the telephone rang and woke him from his distant preoccupation of the new Joint Strike Fighter.

"Colonel James?"

"Yes, this is James. May I help you?"

"Yes, sir," said the voice, "I am Lt. Eric Pierce, calling you from Kimpo."

"Kimpo? Korea ?"

"Yes, sir. I am Lt. Eric Pierce, a member of VF-143, the"

"I know, son," interrupted Colonel James, "the Pukin' Dogs." He was careful to drop the "g" from the word "Pukin," as it was the only acceptable way to use the word.

"Yes, sir. The reason I am calling is to find out if I can keep my call sign."

"What is your call sign?"

"TUNAFISH."

"And that stands for?"

"The Ugliest Naval Aviator and I added the ‘fish’ part myself."

Colonel Hallowell James paused and throught "Why was some kid calling me from Kimpo and asking me if he could keep his stupid call sign?" However, twenty years in the service taught him something about rushing into logic traps, so he paused again.

"Okay, but send me a written request. I don't think I have a problem with it."

The kid hooted and promised him a written request as soon as possible but his complete rapture of happiness took Hallowell by surprise. Why did he call him? There were no other clues and he was looking forward to Pierce's written request to provide him some clues but he knew the Pentagon was an odd place so there was no sense in solving this mystery all at once.

When he returned from lunch, there was over a dozen messages waiting for him from another the world from scared fighter pilots needing to talk to him. He knew there must have been some directive from someplace so he spent the rest of the day, searching the Pentagon database for his name and department. Finally, he read the entire flash note and decided to make a copy of this. It was an internal masterpiece of uneven detail and mind-numbing military verbiage. Somehow, for some reason, he was arbiter of all call signs and he still had no idea who gave him this new opportunity nor the adventures that lay ahead.

He contacted the associate point of contact and asked for some detail and he next day, waiting for him on his desk was a four-inch developmental plan, reflecting the new JSF-related responsibilities for the renaming of all US Aviator call signs. He had developed an ability to read military plans and after a full day, seemed to see how he fit into the big picture: the aviators were coming together and someone had to sort out the call sign morass. He was an aviator, albeit old and barely adequate, and he wasn't viewed as a hard ass or someone looking out for his service branch. Finally, he directly reported to the Assistant Chairman of the Joint Strike Force and Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This gig was a media target and a hot potato, so the whole thing was dropped unceremoniously on his desk.

"When I first came into the fighter community, I received the call sign, Beanhead," he reminisced with the Assigned Point of Contact (APOC). "Because of the similarity of my head to a pinto bean, it stuck."

"Nice name," said the APOC. "Your squadron probably had a Blackjack, Viper, Snowman and "

"And a Beanhead," said Hallowell. "I think we had two snowmen because Smokey and the Bandit was the big movie at the time. We had to emphasize different syllables with Snow-man and Snow-man."

"What was your last squadron?"

Again embarrassed, Colonel James said, "VF-101 Grim Reapers. It had a nice logo."

The second most embarrassing feature of air squadrons, next to Tailhook-related stories, is the names of the fighter squadrons, or VF's which stood for "Squadron Designator." ("VF"). The Navy uses a rather dull alphanumeric naming system for its aircraft squadrons. The first letter represents the aircraft type: V for fixed-wing and H for helicopters. The next few letters represent the mission of the squadron: 'F' for fighter; 'A' for attack; 'FA' for strike fighter; 'AW' for airborne early warning; 'AQ' for electronic warfare; and 'S' for antisubmarine. An 'M' denotes a Marine squadron attached to the air wing and as a result of this naming convention, squadrons took it upon themselves to add some pizzazz by adding a name after some generic sounding VF number designation. The VF's names range from battle-oriented names (Grim Reapers, Fighting Renegades, and Proud Warriors) to uniquely labeled (Pukin' Dogs, Fighting Omars, Flying Aardvarks).

Hallowell spent two years with the Fighting Renegades but never broke or bruised a rule dutifully complied with every regulation in the military. The irony of a shoulder patch declaring an airborne desire to buck all known rules was not lost of him especially during his tour of duty, he served as assistant operations, administrative and maintenance officer. During the last six months with the Renegades, he gamely participated in Operation Desert Shield, deployed aboard both the USS Enterprise and USS Theodore Roosevelt but never fired a shot or was even fired upon (even out of his alleged enemy's boredom). He had his call sign, Beanhead, stenciled to his plane but never really understood why he was Beanhead and why the pilot with a head exactly proportionate to a large turnip had the call sign of Firecat. He would have loved a name like that but he was saddled with Beanhead for the rest of his flying days. When he finally moved to VF-101, his name had preceded him. When he reported for duty, he walked by a line of fighters and saw his name and call sign prominently displayed on the side of his ride and realized it was too late to request or concoct a new call sign. It was yet again, Beanhead. The flying, freaking Beanhead of the 101st.

Call signs are similar to professional sports teams' numbers in squadrons that forbid redundant call signs. If you are currently using a number (or call sign) that a new player (aviator) used to have at his previous team (squadron), you are under no obligation to surrender it. The new player (aviator) is well within his rights to offer to buy or barter the number (call sign) but the legacy player (pilot) is perfectly within his rights to decline. This same issue is exacerbated can happen when two pilots converge with the same call sign and there is no standing order about call sign ownership. This happened once during the heights of Top Gun when the over a third of the entire Air Force squadron in Grand Forks insisted on changing or keeping their call sign as Maverick. Not only did it cause mass confusion; the sheer volume of Mavericks kept the controversy going for several months. Since it wasn't just an issue between two aviators, no one was going to be the first one to surrender it, as it would look like a sign of weakness, collectively or individually. In fact, as time went on, the growing number of North Dakota Mavericks caused the original order placing James in charge of this adventure.

It was also widely known with the aviator community that formal call sign aren't usually cool names like the aforementioned "Maverick" or his protagonist competitor "Ice Man" in the movie Top Gun. They're often derogatory and cruel approximations of physical limitations or sexual inadequacies. Hallowell had another friend that served with in the Army Air Corps who also had an unusually shaped head and everyone called him "Bullet Head." No one could ever accuse the Army of being overly cerebral or subtle with the name but the name could have sufficed as "Bullet." But it was evidentially deemed necessary in some squad room that it needed to be more cruelly specific. And for everyone lucky to have the call sign of "Jester" or "Viper," there were a dozen poor schmucks with names such as Flatow ["Face like a Turd Only Worse"], Short Round, Smofib, Poindexter, Mongo, Lardo, or my personal favorite, Crapcake.

As most people realize, the cute as a species, do not age well and eventually, as aviators age, their call signs gather verbal dust in conversations just as old high school nicknames would fade. It really isn't cool to refer to grown adult as Crapcake and once a wife enters the picture, she will usually either hate the name because it attracts women or she will hate the name because her husband is constantly referred to as "Cheeseface" or "Tuna." However, call signs are a real issue with aviators and it was evidentially time to jump in the fray to sort them out.

The news of this new initiative seeped out to the media and Hallowell successfully downplayed the initiative to the press. The multi-Maverick squadron issue was luckily not brought up and he wasn't going to cite that example of military insanity at its worst. He emphasized the importance the bright new future as the different branches began to work together and the opportunity to compliment the JSF initiative. Down deep, he knew there was no way in Hell that the branches would cooperate but he felt he could at least have some fun getting them to at least comply with this order in the most liberal manner possible.

The first step was to inventory what was currently in use and begin to determine some level of review and priority. Not all pilots would be affected and there was no need to make this any more complicated than it already was currently. So, under the pen of the Joint Strike Force, he ordered the following information from all active base commands: name and rank of all fighter pilots assigned to a specific aircraft, the type of aircraft, the tenure as a fighter pilot, the tenure as any type of pilot (if applicable), their VF name and their current call sign.

The directive also stated that all other pilots, especially reservists, would not have a call sign but rather be referenced by the tail mark of their aircraft. Hallowell thought if you weren't good enough to have your own ride, you would be SOL and the days of air crews constantly stenciling and re-stenciling of names and call signs on shared aircraft would be over. That would be an easy part to draw the first line and he knew the ground crews around the world were celebrating that rule change due to its ever-changing and thankless nature. He also reasoned that if you weren't a current fighter pilot and there was no chance of you ever flying in combat again, it was time to grow up and abandon your call sign. The little fantasy of having the call sign of "Moo Cow" or "Spigot" while flying fuel tankers or keeping the occupational handle of "Choo Choo" or "Caboose" while flying supply transports were coming to an end. And if you hadn't flown since the Starfighter, stop kidding yourself and dump the cutesy handle.

The other issue that this directive resolved was that it kept all the Helicopter Pilots out of the call sign business. The collective opinion of fighter pilots concerning helicopter pilots is that they are one league below the non-fighter pilots and two steps below them, the professional. All the Helicopter pilots had inferiority complexes and a day didn't go by when someone would make a disparaging remark about their inadequacy. He and the APOC always swapping stories about Helicopter pilots and of course, they were usually the butt of whatever joke was within proximity.

"There was only one thing more frightening than a Helicopter pilot that didn't want to be there," said Hallowell.

"What is that?" asked the APOC.

"One that wanted to be there."

It was common knowledge that pound for pound, there was not a bigger goofball in the flying ranks than a chopper pilot. Usually completely jazzed from adrenaline buzzes that grew by flying ten feet above tree level, there was absolutely nothing a chopper pilot wouldn't try at least once. Their occupational equivalents included hockey goalies, emergency room doctors, rock drummers, stuntmen and other misfits that literally live life on the sharpest and nastiest edge possible.

The original directive caused little anguish so he felt he was off to a good start. Over the next month, every active squadron dutifully sent in their roster of aviators. This list was classified as Top Secret due to the fascinating fact that for the first time, ever, a comprehensive list of their general readiness history and US aviators was being accumulated in one spot. The roster list counted five thousand and nine aviators that were dedicated combat aviators that were assigned their own planes. The list was nicely balanced with Navy and Air Force pilots making up approximately eighty percent of the group with Marine and Army with fifteen and five percent, respectively.

Hallowell began to sort through the list, making notes on the names and requesting in certain situations, explanations of fascinating acronyms and researching some call signs that appeared to make no sense whatsoever. He would contact the base commander who was charged with removing any of the local obstacles and would have the right leverage to expedite his inquiry.

To seek some wisdom, he looked at current best practices and determined that only the clown community and the actor's unions could teach him a thing or two about an enlightened process. The sports teams had the number issue but the concerned wasn't to deal with compensation of redundant numbers, the issue was to manage and maintain some exclusivity with single call signs. Through some formal and informal channels, he contacted the head of the national clown union, Jerome McGovern, who enlightened Hallowell about working in the clown business. Under the big top, there is hierarchy established and clown names (and personas) were guarded and fiercely protected by an ironically non-humorous code of honor. Clowns took special care to find an identity to develop and their style became internally copyrighted with the clown community. If you worked for one of the big shows, you complied with the rules and any one that decided to steal or plagiarize another clown's shtick would be dealt by their community.

"Let me tell you something," said Jerome "Binky" McGovern as he waved an oversized pair of sunglasses around and around, "You don't want three dozen clowns mussing you up. You walk into Clown Alley and they smell disrespect, watch out."

"Of course," said Hallowell; "I wouldn't want that." Hallowell wrote on his pad of paper in large block letters, "NO MAD CLOWNS."

He took copious notes with his visit and saw many parallels between the two issues and the need for these fighter jocks to police themselves. If he could instill a sense of ownership in a name, the community of fighter pilots might be the best way to maintain compliance. His telephone interview with the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) was less fruitful; their only mechanism was to deny a SAG card to anyone who wished to work under a name that was already taken. However, iterations of the name such as "Bobby Johnson" or "Rob Johnson" instead of "Bob Johnson" were tolerated but that inexactitude wasn't good enough especially when the call sign had to been easily distinguished from another. He needed to take the central command component of SAG and marry it with clown underground policing plus fold in a creative naming convention to eliminate as much confusion as possible. He reluctantly decided that the next step was upon him: he had to write a formal Department of Defense Regulation (DoDR) to synchronize up with the original flash message. It was a tedious adventure to write a formal DoDR but nothing would work right without it. He decided to start right after lunch and when he was finished, he went home for the night.

He continued to ponder the issue of portable name ownership. By only having a single call sign, the chance of two aviators competing for the same one was all but eliminated. But could an aviator sell or lay claim to a retired call sign? As he followed the logic paths of ownership within other world, the major sports worlds of football, baseball and basketball has always been unique in the management and resolution of player's numbers. Whoever was currently on a team had primary rights to their number. Even if a bone fide superstar joined a team, he would have to barter his preferred number from the current holder of it. The current holder was not under any obligation to surrender it and there was no retribution if the deal couldn't be made. He made some additional notes about the bartering, the ownership rights and a few other wrinkles that continued to loom in his thought process but didn’t want to get into the seedy side of call sign acquisition.

The next day he sent the message out to the entire world to galvanize his vision. He had to begin reviewing the call signs and sort them out. Of the five thousand and nine names, there were clumps of wildly popular names including over two hundred Mavericks and 100 Vipers. The names read like a bad movie ranging from the pedestrian to the peculiar. He knew many of them were acronyms for filthy phrases (he finally figured out "MONFAF, ”although it took two weeks), but inside jokes were not his issue, stupid and overused calls signs were. He sorted the names in several ways and began to award the unique and original ones. Their names would become operational immediately and any call signs that potentially call a problem would be addressed in a squadron wide switchover. Several call signs were awarded early to aviators that had documented and measurable tenure of the name while others were given just because he thought the addition of the name would be amusing. After this work, Hallowell was exhausted and decided to take the rest of the day off.

The DoD regulation was posted and Hallowell's life was busy but it didn't get any more complicated. With the regulation in place, all questions were automatically routed to the regulation and a vast majority of the questions and the noise stopped. The regulations were a self-contained authority of answers and the military ran on them exclusively. If your specific issue was not addressed directly, your interpretation of that issue was found within the existing information. In other words, there was no more information forthcoming so you had better find your answer within the existing rules. That approach to internal processes wasn't without its flaws, but a lot of time was saved.

Hallowell was concentrating on a few special issues that were not normally thought of by the authorities. Using what he learned from the clowns; he wanted to show respect for fallen heroes. He determined that any aviator that died doing his or her job would have their call sign retired. A lot like sports, he wanted to retire call signs as a small tribute to aviators who had given their lives for their country. He decided that upon the tragedy of an aviator death, he would retain sole authority to determine the appropriateness of retiring or releasing the call sign to the aviator community.  And to stem the tide of new generations of Mavericks, he mandated that all new aviators would be issued their call signs upon completion of their fighter school.

In addition to retiring numbers, he realized that he needed some creative naming convention to satisfy the approximately four thousand aviators that were losing their call sign due to over-exposure, troubling references or any name that fell outside of Hallowell's framework of names. He determined he would shelve a retired aviator's name for five years until it was able to be released for general usage. Out of common courtesy, once someone leaves the cockpit, he didn't want the cannibals to strip everything off the old coot. However, that put the pressure on him to develop a large inventory of names to pick and four thousand one would take some time.

Undaunted, he started as organically as possible by visiting the animal kingdom. There was a neutral hierarchy of names combined with a strange set of equalities between all the mammals and vertebrates. He needed many names that could work together (or not in conflict), offended or confused no one and still provide him with a humorous past time. To test his new ideas, he started with the group that caused a majority of the mess: the 14th Tactical Air Group, based out of Grand Forks , ND . The group was small, only three dozen aviators that flew jets so this allowed him to sample his new theory while at the same time, quell one of the stupidest processes active in the service today. No only did fourteen pilots refuse to change their call sign from Maverick, a vast majority of them were still teammates in their groups. It was common for a six-plane sortie to begin and five of the six pilots were named Maverick. In this case however, he knew he didn't have six syllables to use up on the name so it was time to put an end to the foolishness.

Hallowell decided to grab the next plane to Grand Forks and distribute the call signs individually. This was a stubborn crowd due to their distance to the Pentagon but he was taking no chances with compliance. He still had some juice and combining that with the growing legend associated with his final and absolute authority in resolving call signs, he felt moderately safe with his visit. There were thirty-six aviators and only eighteen were going to feel his creative wrath. He had the Base Commander assemble the eighteen aviators in a nearby hangar and when he walked in there, the eighteen snapped to attention.

"At ease, gentleman,” said Colonel James without looking up, "and take a seat."

Almost at the same time, the aviators sat down in an almost coordinated manner. Colonel James, Communications Adjutant to JSF Strike Force Command, Pentagon, looked around the group and saw mainly twenty-five year old pilots with little fear or facial hair.

"How many of you are Mavericks?" asked Hallowell.

Fourteen hands shot up.

"How many of you are willing to lose your ride over a stupid call sign?

No hand moved from the group.

"Good," said Hallowell. "Effectively immediately, there are no Mavericks in Grand Forks, and in fact, that stupid name is forever taken off the shelf. Any questions?"

There were none and Hallowell continued.

"Where are Humper, Fartboy, Monfaf and Boner?"

Four aviators stood up and looked straight ahead.

"Do you like your rides?"

"Yes, sir!" came the response.

"Ready to lose the goofball call signs?"

Yes, sir!" came the response again.

"Good," said Colonel Hallowell James, Communications Adjutant to JSF Strike Force Command, Pentagon, "Here are your new names, pick one and sit down."

He walked over to a nearby bulletin board, tacked it to the cork and went back to the podium. The group strained to see the new names but wanted to maintain some level of aviator coolness. The names ranged from Vervet to Capchin; from Rondele to Mandrill. They had no meaning but could be pronounced with a minimum of practice and as such, fit the bill.

He said, "I don't care how you assign them, via lottery or by rank, but these will be the ones you choose from going forward. The ones that aren't used are going back into my bag and will be distributed at the next air base. Any questions?"

There were none but a former Zoology student smiled as Col. Hallowell James, Communications Adjutant to JSF Strike Force Command, Pentagon, headed for the door. On the way back to Washington, Hallowell began to sketch out a variety of mammals and their corresponding taxonomy of family and species names. It was going to be a long summer but at least he was out of the office.

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