BEE Shop Files: The equipment that went to heaven…

Mark Conley

Active member
Sometimes we get too attached to our equipment, no matter how old it gets. I learned a lesson about why you shouldn’t get too attached to anything in the air Force, from a very savvy major.

I was responsible for a 1950s type fluoride meter, which we used to measure the fluoride levels in the water for the base. This old meter required 3 reagents, a thermometer, and so much set up time and probe calibration, it was miserable to operate. Sad to say, when I got the responsibility for the meter, it was grouted up and dirty and electrolytes was spilling out of it, and the electronics hadn’t been cleaned in ages, but it was my first piece of equipment I was responsible for, and I went downtown with it.

Well, I got it cleaned up and working just fine. For the next three years, I used that meter not only to read fluorides, but other items as well. I wrote the different bases, asking if they had spare parts or difficult to find support items for it; in short, I took care of it like a girlfriend, which didn’t do much for me with the rest of the guys, who never seemed to be able to get it to work right.

One day, we got a new Major in the shop. He was a pretty good man, being prior enlisted and all. One of the first things he did was to tour the shop, including the laboratory and equipment rooms. One of the first things he asked about was our water analysis capability. I showed him the items we had in the lab, which really peaked his interest, as he had not seen some of these items in a shop’s inventory in a long time. He asked why we did not have the newer equipment. The NCO said that as long as we could perform the mission with what we had, we would keep the same old equipment.

The major thanked him for his honesty, and called me into his office. He asked me to go to the hospital maintenance section, and get a hammer, pliers and some other tools. I complied with the request. He took the tools from me, thanked me, and asked me to go on another errand across base.

The rest of this story is second hand, from the shop NCOIC. He said that once I left the building, the officer entered the laboratory and afterwards there was much crashing and smashing sounds that proceeded from the room. He then exited, handed the hammer to the NCOIC, and told him to contact headquarters to see if there was some emergency money to provide for a modern water analysis kit suitable for field use, as the present shops equipment had taken a definite turn for the worst. The NCOIC knew about the way I had cared for the equipment, and he had a few of the other people clean the debris up before I got back from the errand.

The Major called me into his office when I got back. He explained to me something I have always remembered: sometimes, even when you do the best job with what you have, there is a limit to where you have to bow to the inevitable and adapt new ways.

I went to the garbage to see what had become of my friends. It was horrible to say the least. I rounded up some of the larger pieces, put them in a box, and took them out to local bridge with a few of the more wilder airmen from the dormitory. After consuming quite a few beers in their memory, we committed their shattered little equipment corpses to the deep, using the US Navy’s flag and board technique to do it.

This was all fine and dandy…right up to the time the local highway patrolman saw the four of us dumping something off the bridge with a flag and a platform. It took about four hours of talking to the local magistrate to convince him we really were burying some old crashed junk and not some person in the briny waters off the bridge.

Just another day at the BEE office…. :D