These latest posted articles on active duty military and veterans suicide rates can also, I contend, be a function of the command structure and/or very poor field or “career” assignments.

When I joined the USAF, and after going through a technical training school, I was assigned to the nuclear weapons electronics field, which required a reasonable intelligence and a stable personality. After assignments in Missouri and Kansas, I was sent to Puerto Rico, considered as an “overseas” assignment.

Initially, it was fine, then a new senior master sergeant (msgt) was assigned to the weapons maintenance facility where I worked. However, after a period of adjustment for him, he began exercising his authority. His previous job title, before being somehow assigned to the nuclear weapons field, was in AIO, Area Improvement Organization, specifically, trained and working as a plumber, which experienced very little change over time. In this highly technical nuclear weapons field, there was a constant barrage of changes, typically worded at a fifth-year college level, for us high school graduates to interpret and implement. I suspect he couldn’t interpret them when they came in, because we were soon issued a maintenance facility-only edict of “no more tech reading in the break room” where we had often met to decipher and agree on what to do to comply with the changes. From that point, any technical reading had to be sneaked into the latrine to be read, without group discussion or agreement, the team leader alone doing any such reading and interpretation.

One notable incident (for me, at least) occurred when the msgt and I were the only ones left in the building and we were to clamp a MK28 weapon to a traveling cart, which required tightening a heavy tie-down strap over the weapon securing it to the cart with long-handled socket wrenches, one on each side of the weapon/cart, he on one side, me on the other. With him over 6 ft. and weighing about 230-250 pounds, to me at barely 5’8” and 140 pounds, I had to put everything I had to countering his casual effort. For some inexplicable reason, he suddenly let go of his wrench, resulting in me slamming my hand down on the weapon skin from the suddenly-loosened bolt assembly. Seeing an instantly resulting black finger nail from the impact, I ran into the latrine after picking up a small drill bit and manually drilled a hole in that fingernail, releasing the blood pressure and negating an emergency trip to the base hospital. He never explained why he had simply let loose of his wrench.

Since I was regularly knocking out college courses in an effort to qualify of the USAF education & commissioning program, it was common knowledge that I was following in the steps of a previous successful candidate from our squadron for that program, with an unexpected result on this msgt. By that time, I had made SSgt and was a maintenance Team Chief. But periodically, after apparently brooding about something in his office, that msgt would come into the bay where my team and I were working, to specifically address me with “come on, Chapin, let’s take our shirts off and have it out, out in back,” i.e., a no-rank fight.

HUH? To what end? What’s the contention?

I simply ignored him and kept working. In retrospect, now with tRump as an example, he was a classic sociopath, someone who should not have been allowed within a mile of a nuclear weapon, but apparently assigned by a personnel clerk that had no idea what he/she was doing. How common is this situation?

Quit? On a path ultimately to college and a commission (a situation that apparently irked this msgt because he called me into his office one day specifically to tell me he would NEVER salute me as an officer!). There IS NO quitting in the military! However, to those who can’t accept, integrate and carry on, there’s always suicide.




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