Way back in the first Gulf War, I ended up on a "Desert Star" rotation. We were on C-141 Starlifters out of McGuire AFB, and forward based in Frankfurt am Main, and would fly a "milk run" down to Saudi and back twice a week. Usually with a stop-off somewhere on the way back for crew rest. Out on TDY's (Temporary Duty) we would spend time hanging around with the aircrews drinking beer and telling tales. (There I was..) When we could wrangle some time off, the crews would sign us onto a manifest as "mission essential ground personnel" (MEGP) so we couldn't get bumped by some overly officious supply clerk, and we would ride along on the milk runs. It was a win-win for everyone. The aircrews could relax and skip having to do their own pre- and post-flight inspections, they wouldn't have to refuel their own jet and the loadmasters were more than happy to have a few extra pallet-pushers around. We wrench benders got a little excitement out of the deal, and got to drink in exotic places all over Europe. (Priorities are a funny thing when you're in your early twenties.)
One particular run turned into a smashing success, and a tribute to the Joint Forces concept. Started out with a straight run down to Saudi, stopping just long enough to kick the pallets out the back, grab some gas and get back on the road. Next stop Aviano AB, Italy. We spent our time enroute planning a historic evening of drinking and debauching. In those days, (before the trouble in the Balkans) Aviano was a sleepy little town tucked in to the foothills of the Alps, where half the women looked like Swiss milkmaids. There was a small Navy detachment there, and one or two Air Force trash-haulers would come through every month. That was it.
The Nav was napping (What else are Navigators good for?) so I jumped in his seat and got a great view over the pilot's shoulder for approach and landing. Man, that place looked like a ghost town. Once on the ground, we followed some Italian guy in a beat-up little pickup truck because he waved his arm out the window for us to do so. Hey, whatever works...right? Once we had her parked, we scrambled into action. Seventeen hours ground time, and every minute spent prepping for the next day's takeoff was a minute without Swiss milkmaids (or Italian) There was cargo to be loaded, fuel to be pumped and inspections to be inspected.
We were already hard at work by the time the pilot climbed down out of the cockpit and stepped into the latrine off the cargo bay. Everyone was shocked into reverent silence as he slammed his way out of there cursing to beat the band.
Did I mention that there were fourteen guys on the plane?
Fourteen guys who had been flying all day.
Fourteen guys who had spent about the last month drinking good German Hefeweizen. That's wheat beer, kinda like a beer with an entire day's supply of fiber...in every single beer. Yeah, this is where the story gets ugly.
The pilot gathered up all his MEGP's (six of us) "YOU are a bunch of sick bastards!" "You will have that latrine emptied before you leave this jet!" "YOU will have that entire latrine hosed out!" (Apparently, his approach and landing were a little rougher than expected, and some interesting wave motion theories had played themselves out in there.) "If I get back on this jet, and that latrine doesn't smell like roses, YOU will be finding your own ride home!" At this point, the flight engineer's giggling fit was too much for him to control, and the pilot rounded on him next. "And YOU are in charge! You've been complaining about having the trots for three days now!" He stomped off the plane and was gone, taking the co-pilot with him. (Presumably to find a latrine at Base Ops.)
No sweat, MSgt B had everything under control. (Actually, I was just SrA B in those days.) I hopped up into the cockpit and tuned in Ground control.
SrA B - Aviano Ground, XYZ Heavy
AG - Go ahead, XYZ Heavy
SrA B - Ground, we need a fleet service vehicle. Thanks.(Fleet service vehicle is code for a 'turd-herder' truck. Just hook the hose up to the 4" poppet valve, yank the T-handle to open it up, and suck everything out of the latrine tank in about one minute. Easy peasy.)
AG - Uh..say again XYZ Heavy?
SrA B - A fleet service vehicle, you know...we need to get the latrine serviced
AG - (pregnant pause) Stand-by, XYZ Heavy(Crap, they're going to have to call someone in and it's going to take hours...)
AG - XYZ Heavy, Ground
SrA B - Go ahead, Ground
AG - We don't have one of those(Did he just say they didn't have one? WTF?) The flight engineer was up there with me, listening in. "Man, no way I'm telling the Maj they don't have a turd-herder. You're telling him."
I thought about that for a moment...
SrA B - Ground, this is XYZ Heavy again, we are really going to need to get this taken care of tonight...now.
AG - Sorry XYZ Heavy, wish I could help.
I thought about it some more...
SrA B - Aviano Ground. Could you just send out a fire truck? I can dump the contents on the ramp, and they can hose it off into the grass.
AG - (Pregnant pause...again) Standby XYZ Heavy, I'll check with Navy across the field and see what they have.
SrA B - Standing by. Thanks for your help.Now we're making some progress! Navy planes have latrines right? We'll be sitting pretty in just a moment.
AG - XYZ Heavy, Navy will be sending someone over shortly
SrA B saves the day! (Crowd cheering noise) Everyone got back to work, and we finished up in no time. Within a couple hours, we were all standing around the nose of the jet, smoking and joking, and waiting for the Navy turd-herder truck to show up.
It didn't show up. The Navy apparently doesn't have turd-herder trucks. (I guess their aircrews are specially trained to hold it for up to 12 hours or something.) What did show up was the beginning of a nightmare. We saw it coming for some time. A small tug trundling down the taxiway. None of us paid it any real attention until it pulled up to us at the nose of the jet.
Sitting in the driver's seat of the tug was a young female (Actually quite pretty, despite the fact she was wearing those gahdawful bell-bottom dungarees) and sitting on the back deck of the tug was a large 55-gallon rubber trash can, complete with garbage bag turned neatly over the rim, for effect. "They sent me over to help you guys get rid of some trash..."