Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

The Night That Rapid Roger Died

by Mitch Cobeaga

To get a full flavor of the Rapid Roger fiasco, go to the 8th TFW "Wolfpack" website. There were three squadrons in the 8th TFW: the 555th (Triple Nickel), the 497th and the 433rd (Satan's Angels). The 555th flew days, while the 497th and 433rd alternated a month of days followed by a month of nights (primarily working the Ho Chi Min Trail). Some genius in Washington (not Werner von Braun) opined that since one squadron was flying days, and one nights, we could all just fly the same airplanes and send 20+ Phantoms off to where they could be better utilized. This noble experiment was called Rapid Roger. What this brilliant tactician failed to realize is that you still had to maintain, repair and inspect the remaining birds, that certain time was needed to do this, and that only one mechanic could put a screw driver in place at one time. The result was that we soon ran out of airplanes to fly, especially on the night shifts. We would frequently fly 4 to 6 out of 20 scheduled sorties, and we were all going crazy. On top of that, Rapid Roger required that each pilot fill out a daily computer sheet identifying everything he did-briefing, flying, recreating, sleeping, eating, etc. We spent more time filling out computer sheets than we did flying (understandable as we had more computer sheets than flyable Phantoms).

Robin Olds finally was able to bring a halt to this insanity and get us back to normal. To celebrate the demise of the program, we had one of the great wakes of all time to celebrate "The Night That Rapid Roger Died." We dug a grave at the TOC, filled a coffin with computer forms, then made a tour starting at the Officer's Club, then on the NCO and Airmen's Clubs, and finally the procession to the gravesite where Robin Olds drove silver spikes into the heart of the devil. Rapid Roger was officially dead.

Now, we needed a Phantom to lead the procession, so the call went out for a handsome, articulate, physical specimen to fill the role. Naturally, in the true Troll Tradition, I was selected for this important mission (probably the most significant contribution I made to the war effort). The attached photos speak for themselves. This "ceremony" is another testimonial to the leadership abilities of Robin Olds-he got rid of a terrible, morale busting program, and followed up with an event that brought it all back together again.




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