Originally published February 1997
Fate suddenly took a turn for the worse for one unsuspecting Project Police member seventeen months ago...
The night was humid. I had flown 12 successful recce flights in my combat proven F/A-28-140 Fighting Cherokee over the hostile territory between Baghdad and Zuni before commencing my fateful 13th mission in October 1995. I should have guessed that lucky number 13 would have been the one that would get me, but I've never been superstitious. Besides, after flying 12 successful Project Police missions for the purpose of spotting airshows, flying events, and uncovering a few homebuilts in hidden places, why should I suspect that this mission would go any differently?
As I approached the Zuni waypoint, I figured half of this thirteenth mission was already over. All that remained was a course reversal and a return flight to California. Suddenly, my mag compass started swinging wildly side to side. I checked my chart to verify my position and again noted the small print that says "SUBSTANTIAL MAGNETIC DISTURBANCES HAVE BEEN REPORTED AT 4000 AGL IN THIS VICINITY." Still, during the 12 previous missions, I had not encountered variations to this extreme. Maybe today, the moon was in the 8th house and Jupiter was nowhere near Mars. I don't know, but probably nothing to worry about. As long as I've got a solid lock on the Zuni TACAN station, I could fly a perfect outbound 261° Radial and not get lost in the abyss on either side of my course. Unfortunately, I was being tracked by unfriendly radar and my NARC AT-150 Radar Warning Receiver was flashing every few seconds. Things were getting interesting.
Suddenly, the airplane shuddered! I'd been hit by a SAM! I never saw it coming! Four and a half years in this assignment probably led to some complacency and certainly a lack of vigilance. Still, the swiftness of the strike and lack of warning indicated that this SAM must've been one of the stealthy Uncle SAM variety, and being this close to the New Mexican border meant I was going to end up a prisoner at some Albuquerque Air Force Base for sure. I certainly didn't volunteer for this...Darn. Before I knew it, I was on the ground, captured, and brought roughly to an interrogation room in a ramshackle building in the desert. A voice spoke.
"Velcome to ze Roswell Ramada, Cap'n Bob. You zee, ve already know who you are und ve haf been expecting you for some time now. Ve understand you've flown twelve missions zo far und ve also know, from reliable sources, that you are a member of ze Project Police."
Wow, I was stunned at how much they knew about me. Still, I wasn't about to volunteer any exploitable information. "I'm not from around here, you know!"
"You haf no idea how often ve've heard that at the Roswell Ramada." My captors laughed, "Heh, heh. Nobody iz from around here." Then he straightened up and looked real serious. "Ve vill interrogate you later. Get used to your new home." He snapped his fingers and two of his comrades took me to my new office.
"Hey, you can't do this to me. I mean, hard labor is against the Geneva convention."
"Take him avay!" he ordered.
They forced me to march across the street and shoved me inside another building. I wasn't sure what to expect and I was clearly not in control of my own destiny. However, I went inside with few apprehensions. I followed the code of conduct to the letter: "Members of the Project Police will go where no one has gone before...," (EAA CH1000 Project Police Manual, para 5.2b). "Hey, this is nice!" I said out loud.
"Uff course it iz. Ve vant our prisoners to be very comfortable. That vay ze interrogation iz zat much more unpleasant."
Then, with one last look from those big black bug-like eyes of theirs, they pushed me into my new office and put me to work. You know, the work environment wasn't all that bad. Most military offices that I've seen in the past are dark, poorly maintained with low ceilings and ugly carpeting. My office turned out to be well lit with three windows letting in plenty of southern sunshine. I had new furniture and a decent computer system. What more could I ask for? This won't be so bad, I thought to myself. Then I remembered my captor's words: "...That vay the interrogation iz zat much more unpleasant..." I began to wonder what hell awaited me. I was determined not to stay at Kirtland AFB for very long.
There was no time to waste. I had to find out if I had any allies in this place. I grabbed a government issue ball point pen and at every meeting or briefing I attended during my inprocessing, I frantically clicked out secret messages to anyone within earshot. I was using an old POW code I learned during my Project Police survival training and the idea caught on rather quickly. Before long, everyone was clicking out secret messages. (Unfortunately, nobody could decipher anyone else's code and all the messages still remain secret to this day.) However, all the clicking really drove those bug-eyed space cadets crazy, so we derived some pleasure from this retaliatory technique. Unfortunately, I never did find out if there were other Project Police members held captive there.
"Vell, Cap'n Bob, are you now ready for your interrogation?"
"I guess so. This isn't going to hurt, is it?"
"That iz entirely up to you. Tell us all you know about Operation Rubidoux Sundown."
He grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from the serving tray on his desk between us and took a bite as I pondered a response to his question. I was the one who planned and executed the most violent raid on Rubidoux in 1994 along with my strike force of fighters and bombers. We beat the hell out of that airfield, but I didn't want to reveal all the sensitive planning information that went into the mission. "It was nothing," I said, "Just a little airshow."
"How did you penetrate ze airspace around Rubidoux?", he asked as he took another bite.
"It was easy! We had all the airspace in that region charted 6 months before we planned the mission. It's all public knowledge, you know. And GPS makes precision strikes a piece of cake!"
He sounded surprised, almost amused at how easy he had gotten the answers he was looking for. I, on the other hand, was surprised that he was pleased with my answers because I hadn't told him anything of value...or had I?
"Look, I don't know what you want from me, but unless you give me one of those cookies, I haven't got anything else to say."
"You haf already told me everything I vant to know."
I had no idea what information I had unintentionally given him or what information he considered valuable. "Look," I said, trying to buy time as if my life depended on it, "brutalizing a POW is illegal according to the Geneva Convention and so is withholding food. Failure to provide refreshments to a Project Police member is a major offense punishable by severe retribution in the EAA Chapter 1000 Newsletter."
"You don't scare me, Cap'n Bob!"
I could tell by the look in his eyes that I'd struck a nerve, however. "Ok, maybe I can't scare you, but I can send in my Project Police report detailing your lack of aptitude in flying saucer maintenance. I mean, yesterday I took a good long look at your project in the back corner of the hangar and I found numerous squawks against the repulsorlift coils--one of which has an outstanding Spaceworthiness Directive against it. And then there's that anti-proton injection unit you're using--that thing's so overdue for an overhaul you and your favorite asteroid should've been sucked into the last black hole you passed on your way here. I think our readers are gonna be real interested in what I found out here."
"Ok, ok, Haf a cookie!" He shoved the tray in my direction. "Und there's nothing wrong with my spacecraft," he smiled.
Ahah, I now had him on the defensive. This was the break I was looking for. "Well maybe so, but our readers still like to read the interesting stuff even if we have to make it up." I looked over the remaining cookies on the tray before making another selection. "By the way....got milk?"
I took a good long draw on the preferred moo-juice, and stared directly at my captor before delivering the checkmate. "Look, how 'bout we take your flying saucer out for a spin...maybe go to California? I'm sure the Project Police flight test report will be much more favorable that way!"
"OK, OK, Enough already!! You are free to go."
And that's how I got back to California! (That's also why my Cherokee is still in New Mexico!) It even looks like I made it back just in time for Operation Rubidoux Sundown V! Ain't life just grand?
Contents of The Leading Edge and these web pages are the viewpoints of the authors. No claim is made and no liability is assumed, expressed or implied as to the technical accuracy or safety of the material presented. The viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of Chapter 1000 or the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Revised -- 11 August 1997