My friend Phil, aka Grumpy Elder, proprietor of Grumpy Opinions, father, veteran, patriot, blogger extrordinaire, and not grumpy at all, died yesterday morning.
I’ve become acquainted with many good people in cyberspace. Phil was one of ’em. Although I never met him personally, turned out we were brothers. We’d both spent time at Fort Jackson during the miserable winter of ’66 after the first large draft call for the Vietnam war. By telephone, we reminisced about Tent City, about meningitis outbreaks in the barracks, about cold, dead-of-night fire watches, and about those endless slogs up and down sandy Carolina tank trails. Later, we’d both shipped out to Germany and spent time wallowing in the mud during NATO training exercises at Grafenwohr. We’d shared so much, I felt as if I’d known the man for 50 years — besides, he liked my cartoons.
When we last spoke a few weeks ago, Phil never mentioned being in ill health. We rapped about Hillary’s e-mails, among other things, and how in our day, such egregious security violations as those committed by Missus C. would have, without much ado, landed the offender in a military dungeon somewhere. Phil told me one of his stories. I told him one of mine. He said I should do a post about it. So here it is:
In the winter of ’67, I was part of the communications section of a field artillery unit. We were responsible for establishing encrypted com circuits between ourselves and headquarters during maneuvers, and for the receipt and decryption of classified and unclassified material both in the field and while ensconced on base. That the army took this task seriously was evidenced by the fact that our personnel were authorized to carry loaded sidearms, rifles, and thermite grenades (to be used to melt down our equipment in case of any untenable situations). Our field vehicle was a modified deuce and a half. Our classified commo gear was packed inside in padded boxes, also classified (shape reveals function). The interior of the van was classified. There was a lock on the inside and an Army Security Agency approved lock on the outside. There was an authorized entry list. Standing orders were to shoot anyone attempting to enter the van unless their name was on the list. America didn’t kid around much in those days.
We played a lot of tag with the Soviets back then. In the field, we often changed locations in order to elude any Russian spotters. After one such move, we pulled into a forest to bivouac, get the generators running and set up communications. The ASA approved lock on the crypto van had frozen solid. Since time was always of the essence, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for a thaw. I rustled up a bolt cutter and sheared that sucker off. Once we’d run com wire into the van and hooked up the field phone, I contacted headquarters and requested a replacement. Our S2 (intelligence/security section), in it’s infinite wisdom, had not seen fit to outfit us with a spare. Entered the call time and reason into my logbook. Unpacked the com gear, established an encrypted circuit, and settled in. Two days later, we received orders to move out. The new lock had still not arrived, so I used my own combination lock to secure the van. Back at the kaserne (barracks), I was summoned to the office of the S2 and informed that I was to be court-martialed for improper handling of classified material (negligence in securing the crypto van). My lock, you see, had not been authorized for use by the security mavens at the ASA. The notation in my logbook came to my rescue. Since the powers-that-be couldn’t court-martial me for their own incompetence, they decided to give me a commendation. For displaying initiative. I don’t know what the moral of this little tale is, other than to always take notes, but Grumpy seemed to enjoy it. I’m not sure that Hillary Clinton would.
I’m gonna miss Phil. A lot. Cyberspace is colder without him. So is the real world. Godspeed, my friend. I’ll see you when I see you.