Call Signs

Call Signs

by Rich Dinkel


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In Call Signs, former naval aviator Rich Dinkel shares memories and personal stories of several of the brave men and women who shared the profession. These flyers must be able to execute their orders in any circumstance, time, or climate. They are sharply skilled professionals who train and retrain constantly. Each naval aviator has their own call sign-their personal pseudonym, to be used during their service and most likely for many years after their service has ended. Dinkel uses the call signs of his former colleagues as he tells their stories.

Tactical aviation is often described as a very risky business in the eyes of everyday people. Today's fighter and attack aircraft can take-off and land on a runway and shoot off the bow (front) of an aircraft carrier, and be recovered in the cross-deck pendants at the stern (rear) of the ship. In order to perform this sort of flying, a pilot must have steely eyes with perfect vision; quick, cat-like refl exes; and exceptional common sense-something that can occasionally be problematic. He or she must also have a deep and wide knowledge of every system in the aircraft, an equally in depth knowledge of the enemy, and the proper way to use his or her deadly weapons in combat.

Call Signs offers personal stories and a unique insider's view of tactical aviation and the challenges that each pilot must meet to succeed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475973914
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/08/2013
Pages: 170
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.36(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Rich Dinkel

iUniverse LLC

Copyright © 2013 Rich Dinkel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4759-7391-4



It was a beautiful, clear day in southern Texas when NOTSO passed his "Safe for Solo" flight check. He was thrilled to have passed that important test flight! To his surprise, he was immediately asked by his instructor if he would like to go for his first SOLO flight.... RIGHT NOW! He wasted no time, and immediately responded with a hearty "YES, SIR!"

In what took less than 45 minutes, Second Lieutenant Bright was taxing out of the chocks, heading for the runway to fly his first SOLO flight in a jet. He was immediately cleared for Take Off, and spent about 45 minutes just doing anything that HE wanted to do! He felt like he was the most "COOL" guy in the Cosmos! He wanted to get some more landing practice, so he decided to start heading home.

He chose to take just a little more time to simply enjoy himself, amidst the beautiful weather. He chuckled to himself when it popped into his head that this kind of weather is referred to by the "Weather Guessers" as CAVU (Clear And Visibility Unlimited), and he sure did have one that day.

As he scanned his gauges, he noticed that he had a little extra gas left, so he headed for home to do a few "Touch and Goes." (Meaning: Land, then add power, climb, call the Tower for permission, & turn down-wind, until at the 180 degree position, where he simultaneously let down and turned toward the runway, and land (for a Full Stop) or do another "Touch and Go," so as to repeat the cycle, again, depending upon his fuel state.

As he approached the field, he was advised by the Control Tower that a runway change was just beginning (due to a wind shift) and the Tower told him to "loiter" and circle at 5,000 feet (AGL), in a left-turn, and wait until they can finish the Runway Change. He appropriately said, "Roger," complied with his instructions, and took his position at the appropriate altitude. After an unusually long time, some other fliers arrived on the scene and joined him in "The Stack" at their appropriately assigned altitudes. When he checked his gauges, he noticed a "Red Light" on his fuel gauge, which was his signal that it was time for him to land—SOON—because he was just about out of fuel. His pesky little red light was doing its job, by bugging him, and reminding him that it's time to be on the ground. He started becoming a bit nervous, so he called the Tower, and declared "Low Fuel" (Which was exactly what he was supposed to do.)

The Tower came back, and asked, "Are you declaring an Emergency?"

Now, I have flown long enough to know that asking a "brand new" pilot if he/she wants to declare an Emergency, he/she should feel OBLIGATED to declare an Emergency because that is what he/she is SUPPOSED to do!

This controller, however, got his bowels in an uproar, and made a "big deal" about it! Well.... So, what do you think happens next?

The young lad was cleared to descend into the pattern and was Cleared To Land. He flew a a great pass and flew "The Ball right on "the rails." As he flew over the ramp he was having to "Ease Gun" (pull the throttle back) more than he ever had to before, and he then touched down on the centerline of the runway.... and immediately the all Hades broke loose!


He told me, years later, that he was, "Just along for the ride, after he realized what was happening!"

After being knocked around in the cockpit a bit, and hearing many very loud and foreign sounds, the machine very ungraciously came to a halt just off the left side of the runway. As he was shutting down and hastily evacuating from his jet (just as he had been taught), he noticed "about a hundred" pieces of what used to be his flying machine.... It was spread all over the runway, and out in the weeds, too!

He was out of and away from the jet in record time. When the Crash Crew and a Medical Van arrived at the scene, they quickly noted the Tower that airplane parts were, ah ...


Our pilot was put into the Medical Van immediately by the Corpsmen. The Flight Surgeon was waiting for him in the van, and, as soon as he sat down, he noticed a Sailor lying in the van with a very bloody bandage wrapped around his head. Well, our hero got a little panicky; because he immediately thought that he had landed on top of this guy!

What REALLY happened was that, when the "Meat Wagon" hurriedly left the parking lot for the runway with sirens blaring, the Sailor turned out to be a Corpsman who was racing to catch up with the Meat Wagon, who stumbled and fell on his head! Although he was bleeding profusely, the Meat Wagon guys pulled him in, and rapidly continued to the crash site.

On their way to the crash site, they discovered that he was not as bad as they had originally thought. Captain Bright later related that he thought that he had somehow landed on this guy on the runway, and injured him, and it worried him a lot more than landing with his landing gear up!

He also added, "As I was "cooling down, I soon realized that I now had to put on my "dancing shoes" because I am going to have a lot more to worry about back in the Squadron."

Our intrepid aviator, still in shock, was immediately taken to the Flight Surgeon's Dispensary, as required by regulations, although he kept telling them that he was just fine. When they finally released him, he went back to his Squadron Ready Room in the ambulance. He knew what was going to happen next, and he wanted to take his mind off that thought. A million thoughts were cycling around in his "Brain Housing Group" in an amazingly rapid rate!" Once in the Ready Room, everyone was very glad to see him. He was, in one piece, so everyone was thrilled.... EXCEPT ONE PERSON ... the Commanding Officer, who, not so politely "invited" him to his office, and told him to be sure to "Close the door as you come in." Needless to say, our intrepid aviator did not expect—nor did he get—to be offered any coffee or good will.

After the obligatory loudly spoken, fire from the nostrils, red faced, one-way "discussion" the CO calmed down a bit, took a deep breath, and said, "What you did today was NOT VERY BRIGHT, Captain," as the CO rudely ushered him out of his office.

Well, Captain Bright was very down-trodden. When he got down to the Ready Room, all the other pilots wanted to know what happened. By this time, our hero must have been quite embarrassed by the whole thing, so he just replied to his buddies that, "The Skipper told me that I was "not so bright."

And—in my professional opinion—THE GREATEST CALLSIGN OF ALL TIME WAS BORN! That is:


What a guy! He still acts just like he always did, back in his younger days. I proudly tell "Notso" stories to anyone who will listen!

A while ago, Colonel Notso asked me if I was planning to write about any of his "Bar Tricks." I had to fess up and tell him that I had forgotten about that "expertise" he used to have. Within a few seconds, it all came floating back to me, so, while I am at it, here is another (mostly true) story about my favorite Mentor.

I met Colonel Notso again in the Officers' Club at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro in Southern California, during a Friday night Happy Hour. As I walked in the door of the Club, I headed over toward the bar, and saw a balding little guy setting up drinks and making some deals with the many Officers at the Bar. I shied over toward the crowd, to see Colonel Notso doing a "Barker" routine, and Marines were putting money on the bar to bet that Colonel Notso "couldn't do IT. I was not sure or what they all were doing, until one of my buddies arrived, and proceeded to tell me that "Notso" is doing another one of his "things." Tonight, it looks like he's betting that he can drink a full Long Neck bottle of beer while hanging upside down on the bar, without using his hands, and drink all the beer with his teeth without spilling any of it. You will like it—it's really cool.

Well, we pushed and wiggled our way through the masses toward the bar, and by the time we worked ourselves into a spot where we could see, we (naturally) needed some beer, so we pushed further up the bar, joked with Colonel Notso, got our beer, and bet that he COULD do IT (whatever "IT" was), and then.... he was about ready to do ... ah, "IT" ... and, YES, I know what you are thinking, and yes, you are correct—I was young (and a bit gullible) in those days!

Since I worked so hard to get close enough to see what was really going on, I grabbed another two beers for us with which to watch the show properly—whatever "it" was. Well, I got my wish in short order, because I heard the shout, "All Bets In!"

The money was then passed to the Bar Tender for safe-keeping, and Notso pushed back the crowd, put the full long neck beer bottle on the floor right next to the bar's foot rail. He then jumped up, hung by this calves on the bar, and facing away from the bar, did a "reverse push-up," and grabbed the beer bottle with his teeth, turned it skyward, chugged all the beer in the bottle (while he was up-side down), placed the bottle where he had picked it up (with his teeth), and when it was empty, asked folks to give him some room, and—when they cleared the way—he did a backward flip to his feet. It was absolutely amazing! To say that I was impressed would have been WAY under-stated!

What a guy!!

From that day on, he became my favorite Devil Dog, Full Bird Colonel!

Semper Fi, Sir

I believe.



In the mid-60s, I learned to always "assume" that the "Animal" was pulling another of his "tricks" on me with all his stories! He can make up a story ... himself ... right out of thin air, down to the smallest detail, and then, five or ten years later, also remember (what I assumed was BS) that he fed to us, down to those SAME smallest details! The "Animal"—AKA Al Ransom—has been kind enough through the years to give me some of his historical savvy, and, most importantly, his friendship in helping me in pulling this book together, as well. "Thanks for your help, Big Guy!"

In the early '60s, there was no such thing as a personal "Tactical Call Sign." Every fast-moving "Naval Aviator" (Yes, Marines fall into that category), in any given Squadron, pilots/RIOs used their assigned Squadron Call Sign (Such as: Bugger, Huh?, Blade, Dixieland, for example). Back in the "Good Ole Days" when men were men, and sheep were afraid, and a Lineal Number in that specific Squadron was assigned, from top to bottom. For example, the Squadron Commander's Call Sign would/could be "Blade One," and his Executive Officer would be assigned "Blade Two," and so on, down the lineal list. That system worked pretty well in the days when the aviators were sent to a Squadron, and then stayed in that unit for a long time, normally deploying en-mass, as a singular unit.

Well "Someone" decided (Pause: Did anybody ever figure out who "Someone" WAS?) that the system was not working terribly well, however, at about that time, "Someone" decided that Squadrons should train, then send individuals—one by one—for Off-Shore assignments. In a few years, that methodology was discarded, in favor of unit rotations ... again.

The historically significant advent of encrypted communication capabilities has greatly enabled the war fighter to communicate with almost anyone in the world. Some other cultural things, however, remain the same. By that, I mean, things such as the famous and infamous "3-Man Lift."

I have absolutely no idea who invented the 3-Man Lift, nor do I know when it was debuted.... I have been told, however, that it was a Navy or a Marine Fighter Pilot on a very long voyage (or deployment) who had absolutely nothing better to do than to think this one up. But, I digress....

The 3-Man Lift usually takes place in some sort of saloon, bar, picnic, or whatever—just use your imagination. (I saw one "performed" on the Beach on the Jersey Shore. Yup—I will always remember that one.... I was the "Lucky One" who was targeted, but I digress....)

The 3-Man Lift has been known to occur at a Squadron Party, Officers' Club (well, maybe NOT these days), a Private Party, or just about anywhere else where there is copious quantities of beer (or other beverages) available. (PS: Urine, in any manner, shape, or form is NOT allowed to be inside of 100 feet from the actual "lift." That would be a severe "Domi Domi"—meaning "A VERY BAD THING" in Japanese. The "Lift" is usually associated with a "special" event (.... be it a good event, or yet another super stupid, reckless, &/or REALLY DUMB action), or—frankly—just acting like a big, red, flaming, ahh, animal that might be taken for a donkey!

This is how the 3-Man Lift is supposed to be done.

For starters, it begins by 2 or more guys loudly arguing about something semi-believable such as:

- "Ya know, I can dead lift half a TON"

- "Can YOU lift 3 men by yourself? No?? Well, I can."

- "Well, I can lift three men ... all by myself!

- Or feel free to pick your own BS....

The "Barker" (who runs the show) initially begins by saying something to the tune of: "OK, then, let's just find out how strong you Marines REALLY are! I am looking for his two more—ah—"participants." I want an average weight of about (Pick a number)"

Now, this is the "gaming" part.... TWO of the three folks who will be" lifted" are In On The Game. So, they will be placed in the front and the rear as the "human weight." When the Barker says sit down on the floor, the "Target" is then strategically positioned between the two big guys who are "in on" what's REALLY going to happen.

When they get the three people they want, the Lifter then warms up by doing some calisthenics, and "participants" slither over to the bar for all/any kind of liquid (beer, booze, water, etc.), and are returning back to the "lift" area (which is preferably tile or cement).

As the three men are being tightly positioned together—interlocked like a 3-Man "sled," the Barker is ensuring that the "Target" is between the two people who know what is going to happen, and what their roles are. When the Barker sees that all the other people/bystanders have gathered their "liquid of choice," he positions the three participants appropriately, checks that all bets are in, and encourages that the people move in as tightly together as possible—so that the "Lifter" can have enough room to actually lift these guys up. (Yeah.... Right).

When all is ready, the "Barker" slowly barks: 1.... 2.... and on 2 the front guy rolls out forward, the back guy rolls backward, and everybody else pours their liquids on top of the "Target."

I have to tell you.... a well-orchestrated "Three Man Lift" is a thing of BEAUTY!

Mister "Lucky One" then gets dry.... at least a little bit.... and he also gets a free cold beer slapped in his hand!

I personally met The Animal early in my Marine Corps career, and had the pleasure of learning many "good" as well as "other" things from him. Although he tells his many stories best while sitting on a bar stool for several hours, I was able to pin him down long enough to get his stories into this book.

Note: I had to kill a lot of brain cells during my quest to quantify what you are reading at this very instant! No sane guy should ever go "bar hopping" with the Animal, unless he can drink as much as The Animal can.

The precise origin of Al's "Animal" Call Sign is unknown, however, it can be simplified by one lady's response to some of his antics, by saying, "Oh, Al.... You are SUCH an ANIMAL!" So many people were calling him an animal, he just accepted "Animal" as a Call Sign. In addition, "Animal Al," has a nice "ring" to it." (Think they will buy any of this, Animal?)

Well, I can tell story upon story regarding my wildest and craziest mentor," Animal Al. He has been called a LOT of things, and most of them were actually really GOOD things.

So, when he went back to the States, the Blue Angels were just gearing-up to fly F-11F Tigers. Whoever was trying out for The Blues would have to get checked out in the Tiger, and they all would do it at NAS Beeville, in The Animal's Squadron. The Animal was assigned to be their personal Instructor, and "Beans," Craig (USMC), was one of those guys who was in the squadron. He had been touted as a really good "stick."

"Bean's" specific training was to get spooled up to become the Solo Pilot for the Blue Angels (Navy Demonstration Team), ASAP! The Animal was assigned to check out all the new guys in the F-11. Beans assured The Animal that they would have fun doing this.

As they launched and climbed, The Animal was pointing out.... SILENCE! Whoops!

The Animal just had a "Flame Out"!

With a bit of "pucker factor" (with his butt securely sucked down on the seat of his jet), he went through his formal Re-Light procedures. Pause. Pause. Pause.... and the Boooorrr sound indicated that the engine was spooling up, and everything was coming back on-line, albeit slowly. He never said a word to his wingman, (who was glued to the Dog's right wing), and as the engine spooled up, he gave him the head nod for a "power up," and they continued the mission. JUST LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED!

Excerpted from CALL SIGNS by Rich Dinkel. Copyright © 2013 Rich Dinkel. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction....................     ix     

Chapter 1. Notso....................     1     

Chapter 2. Animal....................     9     

Chapter 3. Dragon....................     22     

Chapter 4. Easy....................     32     

Chapter 5. Whizzer....................     40     

Chapter 6. Stick....................     48     

Chapter 7. Boomer....................     55     

Chapter 8. Mad Dog....................     63     

Chapter 9. The Bear....................     74     

Chapter 10. Hound Dog....................     85     

Chapter 11. Mini....................     89     

Chapter 12. Sonny....................     102     

Chapter 13. Benjo....................     106     

Chapter 14. Puker....................     111     

Chapter 15. Lancer....................     117     

Chapter 16. Gerber to Magic....................     124     

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