Wednesday, November 7, 2007

From One Command To Another

A news junkie’s disadvantage is that reading a headline in the morning newspaper seldom elicits surprise.

Not today. I was amazed Sarno beat Mayor Ryan in Springfield. And apparently the venerable Springfield Republican was too as the headline used the appropriate term “stunning upset.”

But the other one was a pleasant surprise: Michael Boulanger becoming Mayor of Westfield.

I first met the Colonel at a Memorial Day ceremony in Southwick, Donna’s hometown, when he was still commander of Barnes Air National Guard 104’th Fighter Wing. We have one of those husband/wife deals where we spend July 4’th in Amherst and Memorial Day in Southwick.

It was one of those numerous picture perfect days of 2001; and I remember thinking, “who is this guy”? Probably a pencil-pushing military bureaucrat who will give the stock, monotone speech that I endure all too often on the floor of Amherst Town Meeting (except never having to do with patriotism of course).

The person who introduced him at the microphone briefly ran down his accomplishments--not just as base commander--but as a fighter pilot and all the conflicts (some recent) he had served in; not too mention being one of the first to test night vision goggles, and survive.

He gave a heartfelt speech. I’m not sure if I was more impressed with his resume or that speech. Three and half months later, on another picture perfect day, the world changed.

The Amherst Veterans Agent planned a Veteran’s Day ceremony (2001) on the town common for the first time in memory, so I contacted the Colonel and requested a fly-over. He said he would love to, as his son was attending Umass at the time and he often buzzed Amherst.

Naturally, this being the People’s Republic of Amherst, peace protestors (the US had just begun the bombing of Afghanistan after they refused to give up Bin Laden) crashed the solemn event and the arguments got so heated that I thought for the first time ever I would have to physically intervene between two opposing participants.

Just then a pair of those gorgeously ugly A-10’s came SCREAMING up South Pleasant Street directly overhead, flying wicked low and wicked fast with their wingtips almost touching. The entire dumbfounded crowd went silent. War averted by fighter jets.

The Colonel retired just before the A-10s were retired and Barnes now has F-15’s out of Otis Air Force Base, probably including the very same two who scrambled that awful morning and chased the wayward commercial jets all the way to New York.

If Colonel Boulanger runs Westfield half as well as he ran his command (and I’m sure he will) those folks are in very good hands. I only wish he had became Amherst’s Mayor.


O'Reilly said...

You're right about leadership. It is an all too rare characteristic and essential for any successful organization.

A friend of mine was a naval aviator who flew A-10s, War Hoover, in San Diego and became an instructor at navy flight school. His leadership skills were as apparent as your friend's.

I wish more people understood that our military is under civilian rule in the United States. That they take orders from the decider-in-chief (a man remarkably lacking in leadership skills - he thinks he's job is to decide and not to lead) and that the military's job is to secure the objective, not decide the goal.

Gerat post today. Thanks.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, lack of leadership is the main problem in Amherst government for the past 25 years or so.

These kinds of posts write themselves. Glad you liked it.