By Robert (Bob) W. Barkalow, Jr., Master Sgt. (Retired)
/ Published November 26, 2014
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Our numbers appear to be up for our Luncheon attendance. That's good, keep up the good work. Just remember if the numbers (attendance) go down for the Luncheons, it's like being a football coach, you are gone! There is only one difference; football coaches get paid a whole lot more than I do monetarily? But then I get paid handsomely otherwise, which in the long run is more important than gold and silver pieces.
So we had around 55-60 folks at our November Luncheon, and we had a remarkable four first timers! They were Leonard Gregerson and his wife from Winnsboro, Fred Saverance from Lamar, George Poepping and his wife, and Curtis Lever. Everyone enjoyed seeing them.
Our McEntire representative was Lt. Col. Terry Hedley, who stated to me he wasn't a good speaker. Well now I beg to differ with him, he updated us gloriously. Also, we had mid-term elections that day as well. My sense was a lot of people voted beforehand, and some of us voted afterwards. All in all, it was a good gathering of McEntire folks. The room was very tastefully decorated and the food was good.
McEntire History: Congaree/McEntire's 68th Anniversary is soon celebrated from the first day on December 9, 1946. We all know about the 50 men who showed up for the 'First Muster', 14 officers and 36 enlisted. However, there were many who came subsequently after that in the late 40's who helped shape and mold the McEntire aura that still permeates today. To name some who came in the late 40's; Jack Moak, Harry Milford, Francis Christmus, John Mills, Clemence Turbeville, Will Wright, Ferrell and Bill Horton, John Motley, Pete Palmer, Jim Hatchell, Jimmy Young, Bernie Daetwyler, Jim Tuten, Orville Fetterly, Homer Keisler, and Edward R. Armstrong. This is certainly not all of them.
So along with the original 50, these folks scraped and molded their way into forming up one of the top fighter wings in the country and the world. Since then, generations to follow have felt compelled to keep the tradition set up by these collective individuals. It was a different era back then. There was hardly any budget or money to go around. People had to be innovative and maneuver around those hardscrabble times. Now it is much different. Politics are involved, and he who has the best politics and lobbies... wins. A much more intense environment and completely different to some degree.
Anyway, I digress. I saw James F. (Willie) Williams the other day in the commissary. It was good to see him.
Willie has to use a cane now. I got to reminiscing after seeing Willie about the many deployments and exercises the 240th ritually performed to make us one of the best Combat Comm units in the country. Hence our entrance into the RDF (Rapid Deployment Force). We practiced packing our gear, and there was a lot of it, plus our communication vans, hooking them up to the different trucks to be towed and convoyed.
Hugh 'Square' Turner overseeing everything to the finest detail, instructing us how to convoy, keep proper distances while driving, checking out the vehicles and instructing us how to properly rig up the towed packages. And then after we got where we were got to, we had to unload and disengage all the equipment, and set up our generators. Willie and his crew taught us how to set up the different generators, crank them up, and regulate them, and keep them regulated.
There was a lot to learn and know, and we were a proud group for working like 'workers in the vineyards.' I always felt we had a certain swagger to have men like Willie, Square, Paul Bell, Tim Treaster, Jim Connelly, EJ Johnson and others to guide us through those moments. We also had great leadership to complement our trainers.
So the 240th's motto was work hard, play hard! I saw a wonderful collage in the halls of the South Carolina National Guard Association of the Desert Storm 240th. It showed Richard Piucci shaking hands with General 'Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf and many others, including most of the Air Traffic Controllers. I was standing in our Ops tent when General Schwarzkopf made the statement, "I know you are Guard, and we want to get you home to your families as soon as possible." We were the last to leave.
One of the greatest backhand compliments that I received was one day as the war was winding down. I was working the Communication Focal Point (CFP) and talking on the secured line with the distant end (Riyadh). The controller there asked where we were from? I told him, and he was incredulous that we were Guard. I'll never forget that. You could tell he was shocked to find out we weren't one of the active numbered Communications Groups.
You know something, it is almost Christmas time again. Perhaps I am becoming a curmudgeon in my 'old' age? All I can say is the days, weeks and months are whizzing by at warp speed. Anyway I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a great upcoming New Year. The holidays are all about family, so let's get our McEntire family together for our December Luncheon. It will be held on December 2nd at the Fort Jackson NCO Club, beginning at 1200.
Come early to interact with your buddies before the program starts. Some stay afterwards, but most of the action is beforehand. My wife and I try to bring pictures and other things that people can look through during the Luncheon.
I hope to see many of you there on the 2nd!