David vs. Goliath

(Me vs.The Airlift Service Industrial Fund)

Richard Franklin Bishop

© Copyright 2017 by Richard Franklin  Bishop  
My Military Life Series (Without Deadly Force)
Part One - Enjoying Asia
Part Three - My Life As A Non-Combatant
Part Four - A Mysterious Disappearance
Part Five - Controlling An English Disaster
                       (Of American Origin)   
Part Six - Well, Major, What Do You Know?  
Part Seven - David vs. Goliath   

Photo of C-5A with smaller aircraft.


On 21 June 1957, after graduation from USAF Officer Candidate School (O.C.S.), I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant (a Gold Bar) in the United States Air Force at the ripe old age of 26 ½. I had been admitted to the program bumping hard against the upper age limit.

Since most newly Commissioned Air Force Officers came from College ROTC Programs, they were usually in their early twenties. Now you have to know that 2nd Lieutenants have it pretty tough while accumulating experience and during that time are endowed with such sobriquets as “greenhorns” and “wet behind the ears” by both other Officer ranks and Enlisted personnel; not to their face, of course! My Father, a Veteran of World War I, told me that back then they were called “90-Day Wonders”.

One look at me and I was, ostensibly, spared all such treatment — they walked away “scratching their heads” over how I got my Commission so late in life. While I could not actually claim the title as: “the oldest 2nd Lt. in the US Air Force”, I came pretty close to that honor.

One important Command of the United States Air Force was MATS (Military Air Transport Service) and their World-wide Headquarters was located at Scott Field, Illinois. There, they were in charge of operating global aerial routes for air transportation for the U.S. Department of Defense and other Governmental agencies (the Command is now designated simply as MAC — Military Airlift Command).

After completing Officer Budget & Accounting School at Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado, my first assignment was to MATS Continental Division (CNTLD), Kelly AFB, San Antonio, Texas, to serve as an Accounting & Finance Officer on their Comptroller staff. Via an annual budget, we were responsible for monitoring the use of Appropriated Funds furnished by Congress — all the while keeping a tight fist on the financial costs of operating air routes throughout the continental United States and to Embassies in Central and South America.

Then (eureka !) the idea came along to Congress that Airlift was a commodity that could be sold and should be paid for by a customer. It could be modeled in the same fashion that U. S. Postal Services were recently converted; i.e., financed by an initial lump sum of money appropriated by Congress (the Corpus) and forever-after kept “up and running” by billing customers for whatever services they had ordered. The rationale of Congress was: making the U. S. Post Office a separate entity and removing it from the Congressional Budget Cycle had worked just fine — so why not Airlift ?

And so, The Airlift Service Industrial Fund (ASIF) was born. And MATS, was the Department of Defense (DOD) agency designated to operate it.

The processing of billing data was to be done simply in single-entry form (contrasted to complicated double-entry bookkeeping as Certified Public Accountants — CPAs — know it) and the heavy load of processing hundreds of thousands of entries in such detail as: passengers by name, cargo by item, or Special Missions for Military exercises, was laid onto the MATS Traffic Offices and their Air Terminals using aircraft traffic manifests as input documents. Comptroller Statistical Services Departments collected and electronically documented these mountains of data using I.B.M. punch-cards for the purpose. The Comptroller Accounting & Finance function was tasked to write and maintain (update) the control Manuals for the system – and they were also to maintain the ledgers which would show the overall summary information that Statistical Services provided to management over time — such as a calendar year. No longer being a part of the Congressional Budget Cycle, we usually ceased referring to a Fiscal Year.

This concept was a dizzying “new one” and had all DOD personnel “alarmed” over these “far-out” new developments at all levels of the Military whatever their job or rank (General Officers as well as Enlisted Privates). More than half of my time was spent in educating and “spreading the word” about how this would affect each unit in MATS (and the rest of DOD).

A formal Briefing Team was formed at CNTLD using representatives of MATS Traffic, Statistical Services and Accounting. Every couple of weeks, this Team “hit the road” and visited Army, Navy, and Marine Corps “Customers”. Many in the audiences consisted of unit Commanders who were Senior Pilots, experienced Crew members, and other flying types. They were definitely not “paper-pushers” or “desk jockies”. And usually, these so-called Customers (representing all the Military Services) hadn’t a clue about the heavy Documentation and Accounting workload that would produce the fat bills to be paid by them (for the very first time in History their units were going to have to Budget and actually pay for Airlift).

About 4 months into the “new” Airlift Service Industrial Fund operations, I was tasked to provide a half-hour briefing about “the Industrial Fund” to a Special Staff meeting being held at MATS Continental Division (CNTLD) Headquarters at Kelly AFB, San Antonio, Texas.

The main purpose of the conference was to discuss a reorganization within MATS; i.e., the impending disbanding of MATS Headquarters, Continental Division (CNTLD) and the division and separation of the domestic U.S.A. MATS units into EASTAF and WESTAF Commands, each with a two-Star General in charge.

There would be at least six General Officers present, more than twenty full Colonels, and other various ranks adding up to some 45 attendees. I should add that the high-ranking persons in this audience had not yet received any formal briefings or otherwise any details about how the Airlift Service Industrial Fund was to actually work.

My part of the “On The Road” briefings was usually about 15 minutes long. It started out with the role of Congress and DOD’s responsibilities to “break-even” and how the interesting Corpus was formed. The description of the paperwork involved was kept to a minimum (on purpose — so as not to sound like we were complaining about an unaccustomed giant workload !). It ended complete with charts and graphs showing the pricing-out of a typical load of Passengers on a MATS C-118 Aircraft and other familiar MATS airframes on fixed air routes. The same was shown for cargo flights. I might add that we Briefing Team members had no complaints about these trips because we often got really juicy commendation letters placed into our personnel files — usually signed by four-star Generals or Admirals.

Now all-of-a-sudden I was in a quandary on how to expand my standard briefing to 30 minutes for this important group. A light bulb flashed-on and I thought of hitting the Special Missions with heavy emphasis on these unique & non-standard flights. These calculations were more involved than those for fixed air routes and were complicated by varying distances and fuel requirements — but could be priced-out in an understandable fashion. Because the calculations covered a more dramatic form of airlift, I planned that it would be shown last in my briefing.

The day of the conference and the waiting to “go on” were the longest I had ever experienced in my Military career, so far. My College classes in PUBLIC SPEAKING 101 hadn’t prepared me for this motley crew jam-packed into a normal staff meeting room. But, when my turn came, I gave it “the old college try” and finished up my “lil’ ole junior Officer dog & pony show” with the newly added Special Missions section. Wow — it was quiet as a mouse and you could have heard a pin drop after the first twenty minutes but I must have struck a nerve during the ending presentation of the calculations for interesting Special Missions (such as an air-drop of paratroopers in a tactical exercise) because my briefing ended abruptly when all forty-five people burst-out talking at once to each other. I had to laugh later (and my Superiors were also amused) because the audience were all so busy discussing and wrangling with each other they didn’t even see me leave ! I needn’t have worried — sometimes the topic carries the day and the messenger is forgotten.

Within the year, I was posted to the newly formed Hq WESTAF, located at Travis AFB, California, to serve as an Accounting & Finance Officer on the Comptroller staff of that organization — now one of two giant subdivisions of World-wide MATS whose mission was providing Military airlift to connect Military units all around the Pacific area; Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan (formerly Formosa), The Philippine Islands and the famous “MATS Embassy Run” (Manila, Saigon, Bangkok, New Delhi, Karachi and ending at Beirut, Lebanon and return). And WESTAF had a big piece of the Industrial Fund action. As a Second Lieutenant, and due to my recent experience with the Airlift Service Industrial Fund Briefing Team, I became known at Travis AFB to one and all as: Mr. Industrial Fund for the “Far-East” half of the World !

Well, that’s the new scenario I was dropped into and I lived with the ASIF again and again for the next several years. Being promoted to First Lieutenant on 21 December 1958 (within 18 months) didn’t help much in solving the myriad problems caused by lost manifests, mildew and moisture in the tropic areas, and Special Missions being cancelled or re-routed somewhere else (individually being paid for in thousands of Dollars and all requiring re-documentation).

During this time, I was offered (and I accepted) a REGULAR Commission — offering a full professional career with no worries about a RIF (Reduction in Force). My rank almost began matching my rather “mature” appearance but was still startling to those who didn’t know me. Later on, after a three-year tour of duty in Japan where I was promoted to Captain on 1 October 1962, the strange looks aimed at me ceased.

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