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The lightning strike

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While I was stationed at Naval Air Force (NAF) Detroit, I was assigned to the Reserve Aircraft Intermediary Maintenance Department (RAIMD) where I was the Assistant Work Center Supervisor of the mechanic shop. I eventually became the supervisor of the shop because the fellow in charge at the time had to go off for back surgery. He really suffered right up until they sent him to Bethesda, MD.

I hated that job. The Production Control Chief really gave me fits because I am a Christian. One day, I was out in the local K-Mart and ran into a Senior Chief I knew in Glenview, Illinois. We got to talking and I made the statement that I wished I was back in VR.

He responded, “You really want to be in VR?”

I said, “Yes, I really miss it.”

He made some calls and the most amazing thing happened; I was getting a set of temporary additional duty (TAD) orders to VR, which in itself is weird because nobody gets TAD to a squadron. It’s always the other way around. So, I’m in VR awaiting orders and I have a new job similar to my last job. I was assistant supervisor in the mechanic shop and it wasn’t long until I became the supervisor of the shop. I had been a second-class petty officer for years. I took the test every time it was offered and I always did well on the exam, but for one reason or another, somebody else seemed to always pick up the few slots at E-6. Imagine my surprise when I came into work one day and some of my friends came running up to me.

“Hey Fosse, you made it! You’re a new first class.”

I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and then I ran topside to the personnel office to get confirmation. I was ecstatic. With the promotion came a new job. Actually, several new jobs. The first and most important was that I became the night shift Maintenance Control supervisor. No more greasy hands and dirty uniforms; now I might get ink stains or paper cuts. I was also put in charge of the Squadron Coffee Mess, a snack bar manned by a lower enlisted guy or gal hocking everything from snacks, sandwiches and drinks to Coffee Mugs, Jackets and pen/pencil sets.

During one of our long nights, a thunderstorm came up. The men and women were working on the aircraft out on the flight line and fortunately they were all but through by the time the storm came up. They were just short of buttoning up the plane for the night. That means closing all the hatches and putting the plugs in the engine. There was a second Class Petty Officer from the Metal Smith shop finishing that job. I realized after a bit that she should have been inside by this time so I went to check on her.

I found her wandering around the ramp area aimlessly. I called her to me and realized quickly that she was in trouble. We got her helmet off and she had a wound on the right side of her head. I figured what had happened is she must have been on the ladder, putting in the front engine plug, when the lightning struck the ground near her. It probably traveled up the ladder and out of her head through her helmet. We got an ambulance for her and off to the local hospital she went. She spent the night in observation, but was ultimately released and eventually came back to work. She made sure that she stayed off metal ladders in thunderstorms though.

I’ve seen my share of storms, and even after seeing the worst, they didn’t make me afraid. I used to stand on the porch waiting for the tornadoes while my family took shelter in the cellar or basement, depending where we were living at the time. A few years after retirement, I was living in Arkansas working at a feed store when the only word of a tornado we received was the tornado itself bearing down on us. I just had time to get the customers and the other employees down into the hole in the floor before it was on top of us. I had just dropped into the hole myself and shut the door when I looked up and all I saw was sky.

The tornado had taken the entire building just that quick. My truck was on one side before the tornado, and afterwards, it was on top of the rubble of the store and the building was across the field. But you know? That truck started right up and I drove it off the debris to make room for the clean up efforts and drove it across the lot after everyone told me there was no way that truck would start, much less drive.

There’s a reason they say Ford is built tough.

That wouldn’t be the last time I would be in the midst of a tornado.

Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.

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Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.

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