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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 6:57 am | Fair 43º


Ron Fink: Politics is a Drag — So Let’s Have Breakfast

In a week, the election season will be over; it only took two years of nonstop commentary and gobbled up untold hours of discussion in coffee shops and around the kitchen table but we have finally arrived at the end of the tunnel.
So when an old buddy showed up in town, seven of us got together for breakfast at a popular local eatery. Five old men and two of their wives; we had a great time.
To set the stage for this discussion we should examine what these guys did. All five served more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and spent 30 more working on defense related contracts; that’s over 250 years of combined experience serving our nation.
Our military experiences were varied; one had been involved with the ballistic missile program, another was a refueling specialist, the next was a space complex facility manager and another flew on Spooky gunships.

My role was that of a military firefighter; if some like my pals screwed something up, it was my job to put out the fire.
I only served with one of these guys while in the Air Force but each of us had similar stories. We went where they told us to go and figured out how to get the job done. Some assignments were in relatively nice places, others were in remote locations where our families couldn’t go.

We had served on the far corners of the earth.
Our civilian roles were different; two were quality control specialists, one was an operations supervisor and two of us were occupational safety and health specialists.  
We all met when the Space Shuttle program was activated at Vandenberg in the early 1980s — this is where we all came to know each other. We all worked long hours, most of us worked 12-hour night shifts, six and seven days a week, for months on end.

When the program was canceled, we moved to other space programs and once again we traveled to faraway places when the mission demanded it.
Whether it was on active duty or while performing contract work, we all took pride in overcoming many challenges in all kinds of weather, day or night, to successfully compete the mission.  
These were no 8-5 jobs and while in uniform as noncommissioned officers we were expected to achieve results under adverse conditions and as both uniformed and as contractors we were expected to overcome challenges and get the job done no matter what.

If we encountered a problem, we stayed on the job until it was resolved.
Recently, I heard a young man complain about a travel assignment he had been given; his complaint “what will I do while I am there? All my friends are here.”

Our youth have been coddled to the point that they have little appreciation for the word “dedication” as it is applied to the work place. They also balk at working overtime or split shifts — it interferes with their leisure time.
They have no idea what it took to build our nation.
But now we were just five old guys sitting having breakfast. In our previous get-togethers, the talk was of days past and what we had encountered in foreign countries and all 50 states, the people we served with and what were now humorous tales of the situations we found ourselves in.
But this time the talk was of medical tests, insurance coverage and wonder medications. I guess we were getting old. If we were used cars, we'd all need some new or reconditioned parts, an engine overhaul, and some of our tires would be flat.
Unlike the bravado of the past, we reflected on the losses our men and women in uniform have suffered to carry out the orders of feckless politicians who are far away from the dangers they subject our troops to.

The privileged in Washington have little idea what it takes to serve on a remote Alaskan radar site, launch and recover aircraft 24-hours a day, or be away from your family for several months with the only form of communication being the sporadic delivery of the U.S. Mail.
One fellow said he was doing fine in his new role of being retired until his son asked him to take him to the base so he could apply for a retired-military ID card. Where did those 20-years go?
Next the talk briefly turned to national politics; all of us had been through many elections and seen and heard all the promises made and seen most of them broken over the years.

The consensus was that the nation has reached a turning point and the national debate has deteriorated to a competition between two people about who is more ethically challenged than the other.
In elections past, it always was about policies and plans; not this time, and we all thought the nation will suffer as a result. But, we will leave that to future generations to deal with.
As I left, I wondered if five old men would all be having breakfast together next year to talk of medical tests, insurance coverage and wonder medications.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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