December 16, 2021 By R.A. Jones

The BIG Foxhole

A half century ago the infantry pejorative for the next higher headquarters was “The Big Foxhole.” The biggest foxhole of all was the Pentagon. And there sat I for three years, first on the Department of the Army Unconventional Warfare staff and then in the Joint Chiefs of Staff Special Warfare section.

The chiefs of the fighting services called the big shots. Lieutenant colonels, of whom I was one, could maybe on their own change “fast” to “quickly” in some mox nix low-priority working draft. But any change bigger than that needed some real horsepower behind it.

Me, I was only a lowly Army Staff action officer and a new one at that. At the start I was blind to the usual pecking order. So, I waded right in with a proposed action which would require the Air Force to retain in its force structure two old C-47 transport planes left over from WWII. That raised some eyebrows and was judged pretty nervy.

Why keep two ancient planes? Because many remote and underdeveloped countries relied on such old demilitarized “tramp” aircraft to keep commerce flowing. Old war birds landed and unloaded into rattling trucks, and no one thought to ask any questions.

But what if conflict arose there? In that age of hijacked airliners and coups de main such challenges sometimes reared up. Travelers were marooned. Reaction time could be fleeting. To meet such a crisis our first move might be to seize an airfield. That would require overpowering the control tower staff and rerouting further traffic.

I posited our first unmarked and dusty old C-47 making a routine landing and taxiing up to the tower as usual. But then out would storm a team of Rangers to force their way into the control tower and order the controllers to reroute inbound traffic to a neighboring field. Rangers in our second C-47 would hot wire parking lot motor vehicles and race to the presidential palace to rip out communications.

Surprisingly, mine was rated a good plan and it survived as presented. For the record, though, I don’t believe the U.S. ever executed any such plan. Others may have.

But nothing was forever. When I had left the Army staff, my new JCS staff chief called me in. “Jones, somehow we’ve been saddled with two ancient old birds. The logistics are too tough, and the execution plan is a long shot. Dump those two old C-47s.” So, I grit my teeth and went about axing the birds that had been the backbone of my takedown plan. In such ways passed three years.

Were three Pentagon years worth it? Well, yes. I was finally together with my faithful bride who had raised our sons alone through two Vietnam years. Then, we bought our first home. The Pentagon gave us back our lives together.

And in Virginia I became a PTA president. Geez! PTA? And I had thought The Big Foxhole was a snake pit.


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