Shaun Illingworth: This begins our second oral history interview with Lieutenant Colonel Sally Stenton, on April 7, 2021, with Shaun Illingworth and …
Maria Marin: Maria Marin.
SI: Thank you very much for sitting down with us again.
Sally Stenton: Oh, gosh, this is my pleasure. Thank you for having me again. [laughter]
SI: We want to talk more about your career in the Air Force. We talked about McConnell Air Force Base and your time in the JAG Corps there. Your next assignment, beginning in '94, was to Osan Air Base in Korea. [Editor's Note: The Judge Advocate General's Corps, or JAG Corps, is the military justice branch or specialty in each branch of the U.S. military. Osan Air Base is a U.S. air base located in South Korea.]
SI: Can you tells us about that transition and getting deployed there?
SS: Actually, it's not a deployment. It's considered a remote tour.
SS: Yes. It's a one-year remote, meaning that you don't bring your family with you. Actually, people do bring their family with them, but they don't get it covered by the military. In a regular PCS assignment, a Permanent Change of Station, if you are married or you have children, the military pays the cost to have them move with you. In a remote assignment, like I said, you can bring your family with you; you just don't get that paid for by the military.
I was divorced two weeks when I went to Korea, so I went on my own. It was interesting. It was a great tour. I took a little leave in between, went to see my family, and then I think I flew out of Baltimore, BWI [Baltimore/Washington International Airport], over to Osan Air Base, Korea. [Editor's Note: Sally Stenton's cat is meowing.] I guess a charter [plane] they did then, and I flew right into Osan. It was probably the beginning of one of the best years of my life, militarily and personally. I had not been in a good marriage. Osan had quite the reputation, especially if you were single and especially if you were single woman. Yes, I got there July of '94, and I was there for a year, until July of '95. It was a very work hard-play hard atmosphere. I always said it was a cross between Sodom and Gomorrah and The Harrad Experiment, which Maria may have heard of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Bible, but I don't know if you've ever heard of the book The Harrad Experiment. Shaun, have you ever heard of The Harrad Experiment? [Editor's Note: Sodom and Gomorrah were two biblical cities that were destroyed by God because of their wickedness. The Harrad Experiment is a 1966 book written by Robert H. Rimmer about the fictional Harrad College.]
SI: No, I have not, but you will have to explain that more.
SS: Okay. The Harrad Experiment was a book about a college. It's before college dorms were coed. It was a guy in college, and I think the college dorms were coed for the first time. It was about basically notching conquests on his bedpost in college. Like I said, this came out before college dorms were coed, and I think in his book, the college dorms were coed by room. So, you had a male and female college roommate, which back at that time, I think it was like the '60s or early '70s, was quite radical. [laughter] Even in my college days in the late '70s, having a coed dorm--even if it was by floor, let alone if you had a male room and a female room--was a really big deal. Yes, so, Korea was a lot of fun, especially for a newly single woman.
It was very work hard as well. We were what they called the "tip of the spear," and Osan was probably about thirty-five miles from Seoul. I did go to what they call the DMZ, which is the Demilitarized Zone, the border between North and South Korea, a couple times, and you literally get to walk into North Korea. There is a building, and you may have seen it on TV when sometimes the presidents go there. I know Trump did during his administration. There is literally a building--it's a rectangular building--and half of it is in South Korea and half of it is in North Korea. You walk into it. There's a table in the middle of the building, and the center of the table is right on the line for the countries. Half of it sits in South Korea and half of it sits in North Korea, and that's where they do their diplomatic talks. When you go on a tour of the DMZ, they let you walk around the table, so that you can actually say that you set foot in North Korea. Yes, it's very interesting. [Editor's Note: The Korean Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, acts as the border and buffer zone between North and South Korea. It was established in 1953 and loosely follows the 38th parallel. Lieutenant Colonel Stenton above describes the Joint Security Area within the DMZ, where soldiers from North Korea and South Korea stand guard. President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Joint Security Area in 2019.]
I really liked my tour in Osan. I was in charge of the military justice section. I got to do a lot of trials that year. You had what they called additional duties, but it was fun because the vast majority of people were there without their families and so it's a type of assignment where you get really close to people. There was a girl there named Libby, who I had come into the military with. I'd gone through what's called JASOC, Judge Advocate Staff Officer's Course, which is our introduction to the JAG Corps. In fact, the person who I just got off the meeting with is my best friend from the military, pretty much my best friend overall. Her name is Trisha, and we met there. We both got there in July. We are not just sisters in arms, we are like sisters. When I went on vacation, that's who I went to go see in Florida a couple weeks ago. Some of my best friends from the military are from that assignment.
You lived in dorms. It was so interesting. I always said it was like getting to relive your youth with the wisdom of your age. [laughter] As they say, youth is wasted on the young. We did a lot of exercises over there, military exercises. We did a lot of work there, a lot of twelve-hour days. We had a very interesting wing commander there named General Foglesong, who was my commander two other times during my military career. [Editor's Note: Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong is a retired Air Force general who served from 1972 to 2006.]
I traveled some while I was there. I did what's called your mid-tour. When you're on a remote tour, you get what's called a mid-tour. I think I told you last time, you get thirty days of leave a year. When you're on a remote tour, you can take them all at once. My friend Trish that I was just speaking about, she and I and our friends--they were married at the time, Helen and Dale--we took our mid-tour. We went to Australia and New Zealand, which was just the trip of a lifetime. Korea was great. I did a lot of dating, a lot of partying.
At the time, they were doing a thing called Reunion in Korea, where the Korean government and the U.S. government got together, and they sponsored trips to Korea for people in the military. When they say they sponsored them, they covered a lot of the cost, and you could be in Korea for two weeks, fourteen days, without a visa. So, my mom, my--I have a lot of best friends--my best friend Linda, who I'd known since junior high and is still a very good friend of mine to this day, so my mom, my friend Linda, and my sister Dee came over. I think it was April or May. I think it was in May of '95. They came over for two weeks. The Reunion in Korea is a weeklong event, where they take you to several different places in Korea. It's like a bus tour. I had been to the DMZ before, but they do a tour of the DMZ. They take you to Seoul for a couple days. They take you to different places in Korea, so you get to see a lot of the Korean culture. They came a few days before, ahead of time, and we did some things around Osan. Then, we did the whole week trip, and then they were there for a few days afterwards. That was really nice. It was really nice to have my family and friends come. They have a drink in Korea called soju, which is like our version of grain alcohol but much stronger. [laughter] It tastes, when you're drinking it, like Hawaiian punch, which is really, really dangerous because it is incredibly strong. When you drink stuff that tastes like Hawaiian punch, you have no concept of how powerful it is. They call it the soju experience for your initial shock of having it.
Also, my cousin Rick was stationed there at the same time, and he was what's called a gunner on the Pave Low helicopters. They're a big helicopter that are gunships. My mom and my sister got to visit with him while we were there. While we were there--not while my mom and sister were--he was actually in a helicopter when it crashed, and luckily, no one was seriously injured. That was a very scary event.
The other big thing that happened while I was there, very near the end of my tour, I got very sick. I developed pancreatitis, which is a very, very painful disease, and I ended up in the hospital for a week. A guy had gotten it about a month before I did, and he was actually in my cousin Rick's squadron. He got it, they ended up flying him to Tripler--well, Tripler is a hospital--Hickam Air Force Base [in Hawaii], and he ended up dying of it. I mean, it's a very serious disease. When I came down with it--which there's several different causes of it--one has to do with excessive drinking, which I don't know if that was the cause of mine. It may well have been, since I had been there for eleven months at that time, and I couldn't tell you the last time I had gone a day without drinking something. The night before I got sick, I'd gone to a goodbye party for one of the officers from a nearby base and had done several shots of tequila. Yes, it was incredibly painful. I don't know if you've ever heard of it, but the pancreas produces the acid that goes into your stomach to digest your food. When you have pancreatitis, it just continues to constantly produce the acid, and it doesn't go into your stomach; it just goes into your system. Why it can be deadly is it just disintegrates all of your other organs. That happened, like I said, about a month, maybe three weeks before I was leaving. So, I ended up actually probably leaving a week ahead of when I was supposed to come back, and I went to Hurlburt.
SI: Were you doing prosecutions and defense?
SI: Were there any aspects of the cases you ran into in Korea that were different than what you had seen at McConnell, like different types of cases just based on the fact that it was overseas?
SS: We probably saw more alcohol-related cases, honestly, and more officer-involved cases. I probably did eight to ten court-martials while I was there. I'm trying to think. I hate to say they were like run of the mill, but usually, you didn't prosecute for alcohol-involved cases unless they were serious or if they involved an officer, because drinking was so prevalent over there. You had officers that would get DUIs or maybe involved a Korean, if there was a car accident involving a Korean. Over there, you do things called solatium payments. We would keep jurisdiction of the case, but if there was injury or damage to a person or property, we would do what's called a solatium payment, where the U.S. government, U.S. military, would pay the Korean family or person money from the military to settle basically a claim. They wouldn't bring a claim against the military or the government; you would just pay them this payment to settle the debt. Then, we would prosecute the airman--when I say Airman, Airman like Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman. Then, we had some theft, more like theft of government property types of crime, which we didn't have a lot of at McConnell. It may have been easier over there, or we had a lot more government property coming in over there. It's a different system. Not because Koreans were involved in it, but I think it was just easier to get around the system because we had Korean civilians working on base and there is a language barrier, and I think it was just easier to get things past them. So, we didn't have--probably because there weren't families there--hardly any domestic violence issues, sexual assault issues, as far as child sexual assaults. We did have a couple serious sexual assaults of military members on Korean women but fewer than Stateside. Like I said, we didn't have those kind of issues over there.
SI: What were some of the other duties that you mentioned that you would have from time to time?
SS: Interesting you should ask that. General Foglesong had these different programs, like base beautification programs. I was his commissary JAG. So, if they would run out of things at the commissary, like they ran out of turkeys at Thanksgiving, and he wanted to know why that was, why there wasn't enough turkeys. Was it an issue of they didn't order enough, or were people coming in and buying too many? Black-marketing is what it came out to be. There were certainly a number of airmen on the base that were married to Koreans. Again, this was an area where there was very few female airmen. The vast majority of airmen there were male, and many of them were married to Korean women or got engaged. That was an area that I did an additional duty, was I worked with--we had a Korean liaison. When guys would come in, and they'd want to marry Korean women, we would counsel them. We had, sometimes, airmen that would want to get divorced, but there is a process to go through, and for adoptions as well. We had several couples that were a Korean and an American that wanted to adopt Korean children, and so that was an additional duty.
The commissary JAG, we found there are certain foods in Korean culture that are very popular, so they would be stocked at the commissary. I'm trying to think what one of them would be, but, say, for example, ox tongues, and I can't remember if that was exactly one. They'd get a shipment in, and they'd be gone in one day. There would be complaints, and I would go over. Believe me, this had nothing to do with being a JAG, but General Foglesong would contact me. His office was literally right next door to the JAG's office, and this is how I got to be the commissary JAG. I was the first JAG office in the JAG office. So, he just walked in one day when he first took over, he walked in, and there I was sitting. [laughter] That's how I got to be his commissary JAG. Anytime there was an issue with the commissary, he would call me, and I would go investigate it. That's how I found out that there was a lot of black-marketing going on. The ox tongues would come in and there was a network of Korean women, and, man, they would be gone in a couple hours. So, we had to start limiting one person could buy two ox tongues or three ox tongues, or whatever the item might be. We had to start rationing because if they would come in on a Friday or a Saturday, you'd go down to the market the next day, and there it would all be. It might be not just commissary items but our base exchange. It could be jeans; it could be Nike shoes, whatever it was. So, there were some interesting things that we dealt with.
SI: Regarding General Foglesong, you just happened to be assigned to him a few different times. It does not seem like he was associated with the JAG Corps particularly.
SS: No, he was our wing commander.
SI: Okay, yes.
SS: He was the head of everybody.
SI: Yes, okay.
SS: He liked his JAGS, and if he liked you and you were loyal to him, he would go to the ends of the Earth for you. His call sign was "Doc" because he was a rocket scientist. He was an F-16 pilot, but he had a Ph.D. in rocket science. That's how he got his call sign. In fact, he did end up marrying one of his professors. [laughter] They've been married forever. I did end up working for him when I was stationed at 12th Air Force at Davis-Monthan in Arizona and then when I was at Ramstein at USAFE. So, he was my wing commander, he was my numbered Air Force commander, and he was my major command commander. I was really lucky to have him as a commander three times. He was not popular among a lot of people, but I really liked working for him because if you were on his staff and you did a good job for him, he was very, very good to you. He would take care of you, and he did. [Editor's Note: USAFE is the United States Air Forces in Europe, headquartered at Ramstein Air Force Base. General Foglesong commanded USAFE from August 2003 to December 2005.]
There were really interesting things. I would go on night patrol, because for the military justice, that was my job. I would go on night patrol every once in a while with the Security Force guys and just really interesting stuff. Like I said, that was a really good job professionally, personally. I had a good Staff Judge Advocate, Jim Wise, and he was Staff Judge Advocate of mine again when I was at USAFE for my second tour. JAG is a small community. You end up running into people over and over. So, it was a good year.
SI: I have heard a lot about drug cases from other JAGs that I have interviewed. You have spent a good amount of time overseas, as well as around the United States. Is it more of a problem overseas? Are there any patterns that you have seen over the course of your career?
SS: Not so much in Korea. I think it was more of a problem in Europe. I hate to say that drugs are a problem in the military compared to the civilian community, but I really don't remember drugs at Osan Airbase. In the Pacific AOR [Area of Responsibility], overall, it might be different. In the European Theater, when I was the Chief Circuit Trial Counsel in Ramstein and I was doing cases all over Europe, I certainly did more drug cases, but I was at all the different bases. When I was the chief of military justice for Air Combat Command, which is a major command and I had all the Air Combat Command bases underneath me, which were many, I certainly saw a lot of drug cases throughout the United States. Like I said, Osan, we didn't have a lot of drug cases.
SI: Yes, just to qualify why I am asking that question, most of the JAGs I interviewed were in service during wartime, particularly Vietnam.
SS: Oh, yes. That was a way different time. I do remember my ex deceased husband, Vietnam, I think, was really riddled with drug use, and he would tell me that you'd get an Article 15 for heroin use. I think the only people [that] can survive a drug charge--at least when I was in the military--would be a young airman, not an NCO and not an officer, and only if it was marijuana. An officer who had any sort of drug use was going to be prosecuted, even if it was marijuana. Now, I don't know if it's still the same today. They might just want to give them an administrative separation. If you were an officer and you got caught with drugs, came up positive on a drug test, had drug paraphernalia in your room, whatever, and you were an officer, you were going to get a court-martial. If you were an NCO and you came up positive on a random urinalysis and you came up positive for marijuana, maybe depending on if you'd just come back from a deployment or whatever and you had this outstanding record, you might get an Article 15 and get an administrative discharge. But anything other than marijuana, you're going to get a court-martial. [Editor's Note: Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a form of non-judicial punishment, meaning that it is not considered a judicial proceeding. Non-judicial punishment is a military justice option available to commanders that permits them to resolve allegations of minor misconduct against a service member without resorting to higher forms of discipline, such as a court-martial. Punishment may include reduction in rank, being fined through loss of pay, reprimand, or extra duty.]
Now, having said that, I currently have a client who was deployed to Afghanistan and got caught using steroids. He was probably only in about seven years, but a stellar, stellar troop. It was on like his third deployment. He was what's called a PJ--well, a CRO, a Combat Rescue Officer. So, he really rescued a lot of people, had really been in the shit, as we say, a lot of combat time, and he wasn't using the steroids for recreational purposes. They did end up giving him a 15 and administratively separating him and he got an honorable discharge, but those are really rare cases, really rare cases. That was while I was still in. He's my client now for a different reason. I'd say ninety-eight percent of the time, officers got court-martialed for any type of recreational drug especially, cocaine, heroin, misuse of narcotics, like if you'd gotten Percocet or something, say, you had a tooth extracted, and you held on to them, and any type of dealing, if you were dealing drugs. [Editor's Note: Pararescuemen, nicknamed PJs, are enlisted members of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command. They are tasked with rescue missions and provide medical treatment to those in need. Combat Rescue Officers, or CROs, are similar to pararescuemen but hold an officer rank.]
SI: You came back to Florida and were there for a little while.
SS: Yes, I was in Florida for two years. I left Korea in July of '95 and went to Hurlburt. So, I was in Hurlburt from '95 to '97, and again, that was nice. I got there; I was living in the "Q" [short for BOQ, Bachelor Officer Quarters]. I hadn't found a place to live. I think I was in the Q about two weeks--no, maybe not even that long. I had just signed the lease on a place that was just being renovated. The people had just moved out and the owners were fixing it up, and I signed the lease. I was going to move in, in about three days, when Hurricane Erin hit. [laughter] I watched it from my Q room. It was a category one, but it did a lot of damage. I actually could not move into my place for like two months, so they let me stay in the Q for as long as possible. I ended up living with my landlords, in their place, for a week or so until my place [was ready]. They had just finished fixing it up, and then there was a lot more damage. Then, I moved in to my place, which I ended up buying, which was great. I loved it. I lived right on the water. It was a beautiful townhouse; it was a duplex. I was chief of military justice there as well, but you always do other jobs. You always do what they call legal assistance. Being the chief of military justice is not the only thing you do, and doing that, you run all the court-martials. I did them as well, but other people do court-martials. [Editor's Note: Hurricane Erin was a Category 1 hurricane that made landfall over the Florida Panhandle in August of 1995.]
Three months to the day after Hurricane Erin hit, Hurricane Opal hit. That was a high Category 3, and that really did a lot of damage to the base. So, probably the next eighteen months--of course, the next two months after it hit, well, at least a month--they brought in people from other bases because we have a chief of claims, and there were hundreds and hundreds of claims. We had on-base housing. We had dorms. If you were in the Q during that time and your car was damaged. Plus all the buildings and everything. They brought a lot of people in from other bases, and at times, it was twenty-four/seven. Everybody, regardless of what you did in the JAG office, you were working claims as well as your regular job. When I say for eighteen months, at least, we were working all the claims. The first month or two was all claims. I mean, everything else was put on hold. Two back-to-back hurricanes was really devastating. The only good thing about Hurricane Erin, even though it was pretty devastating as a Category 1, it really had cleared out a lot of the stuff that would have been even worse for a high Category 3 when Opal hit. [Editor's Note: Hurricane Opal was a Category 4 hurricane that weakened to a Category 3 when it made landfall over the Florida Panhandle in October 1995.]
Hurlburt was fun. That's a special ops base. When I was at Osan, we had a special ops squadron, but Hurlburt, the whole base is special operations. Everything you dealt with was having to do with special operations. It was a normal base. You had your normal everyday activities. You had your legal assistance, you had your contract law, your environmental law, operations law. It was really interesting getting to work with the special operations squadrons, which is really different than anything I had ever worked with before. We did some really interesting court-martials. I did discharge boards there as well, which I don't think I had done any discharge boards before that. We had them, but I don't think I had ever personally done them before then. The difference between a discharge board and a court-martial is a discharge board is non-criminal, but you still have what's called--it's not a judge. It can be presided over by a judge, but they're the--oh my God--I want to say the investigating--no, no, not the investigating officer. It's held in the courtroom, and it has a panel. They decide if you're going to be administratively separated and, if you are, what your characterization's going to be. It's still pretty significant, but they were interesting. I had one involving a female that had to do with homosexual conduct. It was, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" but somebody told. That was hard because I always felt that you should be able to serve your country regardless of your sexual orientation, but that wasn't the law of the time. [Editor's Note: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) refers to the former U.S. policy (1993-2011) regarding the service of homosexuals in the military. While the policy intended to allow gay and lesbian service members to continue to serve in the military as long as they did not openly declare their sexuality, in practice the policy led to many gay and lesbian service members to be discharged from the service. In 2011, during the Barack Obama Administration, DADT was formally repealed, allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly in the armed forces.]
MM: How often were you around women, in terms of your co-workers, when you were in places like Korea? I know you said that usually there were men, but there were not a lot of airwomen, I guess.
SS: No. I know, I wish we were called airwomen.
MM: Oh, you are not?
SS: We are female airmen.
MM: Oh, okay.
SS: It's interesting because as few women as there were in Korea, as few female airmen, the JAG office, the Staff Judge Advocate and the deputy Staff Judge Advocate were both men, and then all the other JAGs were female. So, it was interesting. There was Lorraine, myself, Jane, Libby--I can't remember if there were four--oh, Robin. I think there were the Staff Judge Advocate and the deputy, and then there were five assistant Staff Judge Advocates and they were five females, which was unheard of. [laughter] So, it was great because I really liked all but this woman Robin. Being the feminist that I am, I really should have accepted this, but Robin--her name was Robin--and her card said her name and her rank. She'd titled herself Dixie because she was southern, which is interesting how her accent came and went, came when there were men around. She titled herself, "Dixie's Darrow," and I was like, "Oh, please." She used to tell people that she went to law school and became a JAG until she could find a fighter pilot to marry. I was like, "Oh God." That was such a disgrace, but then I thought later, "Well, I'm a feminist; what do I care? If that's what her goal is, oh well." She never did find her fighter pilot to marry.
When I was at McConnell, I was the only female JAG in the office. When I was in Hurlburt, Jennifer and I--she's now a judge out in California. Again, still a good friend. She only did one tour. It's interesting because Hurlburt, our SJA [Staff Judge Advocate], he was horrible, terrible. So, Jennifer was there and then Dawn. Three of us overlapped, females, and Jennifer became the Area Defense Counsel. So, we had more female paralegals than male paralegals but definitely more male JAGS. The SJA and the deputy SJA were male, and then we had more male JAGs than female JAGS. I'm trying to think, I don't think I ever had a female SJA. When I was the defense counsel, the Chief Circuit Defense Counsel, for a time, was a female. So, I did have, I think, a couple female supervisors, but I'll have to think about it, I never had a female SJA.
At Hurlburt, there were definitely more male SJAs, and the leadership was male. The women, we always got along. I liked my male counterparts as well, for the most part. I mean, there's always people that you like and get along with and those that you don't like and don't get along with. It's like any profession. We were all pretty much the same rank when you're Assistant Staff Judge Advocates.
I'm trying to think if there was anything significant, because I was at Hurlburt for two years, '95 to '97. I was supposed to be there for three, but I got what's called a short notice assignment to Davis-Monthan. The hurricanes were a big deal, but yes, it was great to live on the water. I liked my job. I liked the people I worked with. Florida's a nice place to be. I'm a hot-weather person.
SI: You mentioned last time that Davis-Monthan was one of your best assignments.
SS: Yes, yes, I loved it. I loved it.
SI: What made it so nice?
SS: It's interesting because I had never lived in the Southwest or actually really been to the Southwest. I drove out there. That was my only back-to-back U.S. assignments. I went from Kansas to Korea, Korea to Hurlburt, and then I went Hurlburt to Davis-Monthan, so Florida to Arizona. I remember when I got out there, it's the desert. I kept looking for sand. I kept looking for the Sahara. I was with somebody that I met from another duty station, and we were driving through the Sonoran Desert. I'm like, "Okay, so where's the desert?" I was seeing all this flora and fauna and cactus and plants, and they're like, "Well, we're in it." I was like, "It's just beautiful." The Sonoran Desert is actually the wettest desert in the world, and I immediately learned to love it. Although it is hot in the summer, it is a dry heat, which really does make a difference, and it isn't a sandy desert. It's got a lot of plant life there and palm trees. I love a place where you can pretty much eat outside ten months out of the year, and there's very little humidity and not a lot of bugs. Like I said, I'm a hot-weather person.
I really liked my office. Again, I worked with great people. When I first went there, myself and Jerri, Jerri Brewer I think was her last name, she was a female. Again, we had probably more female paralegals there than male and definitely more male Staff Judge Advocates. The Staff Judge Advocate of that office was a man named Michael McDonald. Michael McDonald actually interviewed me to come into the Air Force. I remember getting a call from him. This is before I was in the Air Force. He had been a Staff Judge Advocate at McGuire, which was where I was doing my interview, long before cell phones. He called, and there were phone message machines, and I called him back. I remember he got on the phone, and I'm like, "Hey, Michael McDonald, are you a Doobie Brother?" and he's like, "No, no." He was very gracious, and I think appreciated my sense of humor. I had been in the Guard by this time. I should have had a little more respect since he was a colonel, and when I met him, clearly not Michael McDonald, a very, very attractive Black man. [laughter] I just remember he was incredibly nice. I still remember meeting with him in his office at McGuire, and that meeting probably took place in, gosh, 1989, because I interviewed with the Air Force when I was still in law school and you had to be accepted in. I was still in the middle of my lawsuit. We get through the whole interview, long like this, probably like an hour and a half, two hours, and nothing's come up about the lawsuit, anything like that. The last question he asks me is he said, "Is there anything else you think I should know?" and I'm like, "Well, yes." There was another hour-long discussion about the lawsuit, and I did. I was very honest with him, and I told him. I said, "Sir, to be honest, I'm sure, as a Black man, you've experienced discrimination in your life, and I, as a woman, have experienced discrimination," and we just went from there.
Here it is now, 1997, and he is my SJA. I go in, and I'm meeting him. I go by Sally, but my name is Sarajane. I said, "Hi, Sally Stenton," and he says, "Sarajane, I remember you." [laughter] I'm like, "Oh my God, this is from eight years before." I'm like, "I don't know if that's good or bad," but it ended up being great. He was a wonderful, wonderful SJA and [has a] lovely wife. I'm friends with him on Facebook. Every once in a while, I'll talk to them. They live out in the Atlanta area. I've spent time visiting with them, just great people.
Again, that was my second time working for General Foglesong. Obviously, at a numbered Air Force, you do not get to do court-martials or anything like that. I was the chief of military justice at the numbered Air Force level. So, you're more of a manager, an administrator, over in the bases under your numbered Air Force. So, you do a little more traveling. We had exercises. I got to deploy; that was my first deployment. I went to Kuwait for four months, got promoted to major when I was there. Like I said, that was a good office. I love Tucson; I love the area. I always said it had all the benefits of a big city without all the problems. I don't know if you've ever been out there, but it's a beautiful, beautiful area.
SI: Well, tell us about Kuwait. Do you know why you were sent there?
SS: Yes, I volunteered.
SI: Okay, all right.
SS: Jerri Brewer had deployed and come back, and I don't know if she was in Kuwait or one of the other Middle East countries. This was after Desert Storm. We were in Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch. They were doing the no-fly zones [in Iraq]. She had said what a great experience it was. You're in the military, and granted, I was a JAG and I loved what I did, but the purpose of being in the military is to serve your country, not that we weren't in active fighting, but we're in Operation Northern Watch, Southern Watch, and to me, that's why I joined. I wanted to participate. If you're in peacetime, it's one thing, but I came on active duty in March of '91, and Desert Storm was basically over. You blinked your eyes, and it was over. Not that people didn't serve and there were people that were certainly killed and injured in Desert Storm, so I don't want to diminish anybody's role in that. I have met and was friendly with Rhonda Cornum, who was one of the two female POWs during Desert Storm. But it was a very short war. I've just always felt if you're serving your country, then serve it in the combat zone, if you have the opportunity. [Editor's Note: On August 2, 1990, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait. On August 8, U.S. forces began the defense of Saudi Arabia, known as Operation Desert Shield. On January 17, 1991, the U.S. launched Operation Desert Storm, which was a U.S.-led air offensive against Iraq's air defenses and infrastructure. The ground war phase of the Persian Gulf War lasted for one hundred hours, from February 24, when international coalition forces liberated Kuwait and invaded Iraq, until February 28, when a cease-fire was declared. After the war, Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch were enacted by the United States and coalition forces to enforce no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq. Rhonda Cornum, an Army flight surgeon, was taken as a prisoner of war (POW) by the Iraqi Army in the Gulf War after the Blackhawk helicopter she was in was shot down while attempting a rescue mission. She was released after eight days of captivity.]
Jerri came back, and she talked about what a great experience it was. Basically, she's like, "Hey, this is why I joined the Air Force, and it was probably the best experience I've had, getting to be a JAG in the combat zone." So, I volunteered for it, and a few months later, it came down. Again, Colonel McDonald was very supportive of my going. It does put a strain on the office when you have one of your JAGs out. Everybody else picks up their work for them. We did that for Jerri, and other people had deployed. It was great that way because we did have a good office and people were happy. Nobody wanted anybody to get hurt, obviously, but for people to have this opportunity. We wanted to do it for these reasons, but also it looks really good on your resume.
I went in February of '99 and came back in June, and I actually pinned on major while I was there. To that point, it was probably one of the best experiences--well, certainly the most educational experience and the most military experience I'd had in the Air Force. We lived basically--well, there was tents and then what we called Harvest Falcon. They were like hard-sided tents. They're sort of accordion type, and I shared mine. I had mine to myself for a while, and then I shared with OSI [Office of Special Investigations]--I can picture her. Her name just went out of my head. She was a civilian but worked for OSI. I had my own office. I shared the building with the chaplains, no paralegal or anything, but it was just all very makeshift. These were just plywood buildings. I was at Ali Al Salem Airbase, and we called it the "Rock" because there was literally a big rock that sat in the center and there was a sword in it. [laughter] We had a dining facility that was like a big temporary building, and then you walked in and there was like gravel and a hard floor on it. These were all very temporary buildings.
I remember, if you went from the furthest point--if point A was the furthest point and then point B was the other furthest point on a base, it was five minutes' walk. Ali Al Salem was a Kuwaiti Airbase before the war that had been bombed and everything by the Iraqis, and the actual airbase itself was the Brits. The Brits had that part of it. So, we got to hang out with the Brits every once in a while, which was nice because we did joint stuff with them. I got to go down and work with the flight crews. I got some what they call incentive rides. One of the coolest things I ever did in the Air Force was I got to ride on a Chinook and do a shipboard landing. I never got an incentive ride in a jet or anything like that, but I did actually get to land on a deck. It's called the USS Cleveland. It's not an aircraft carrier or anything, but yes, flying out over the Persian Gulf and landing on the deck of a ship in a helicopter was really neat.
What I did there was I was the deployed Staff Judge Advocate for the wing. It's like being at a regular base, just much smaller. Everybody has their same issues. I would do legal assistance. When the wing commander had disciplinary issues, which we did, he had a staff meeting I think two or three times a week, so whatever the wing commander needed from me, there was always legal issues coming up. This was operations law when you had international stuff. I did a lot of stuff with the PJs because they were out doing rescue missions. Yes, it was very busy and very exciting.
SI: Well, can you give us an example of what you would do with the pararescue jumpers? What was that like?
SS: I would go out with them when they would do their exercises. We'd go out into the desert. They would go out, and they'd do their jumping. I'd go out with a couple other people to their jump sites and we'd do the four-wheelers, and they'd go around and do their practices. A couple of us, myself included, would pretend to be the victims. They had narcotics as part of their kits for the injured and stuff. I think every two weeks they had to have a log. Luckily, they didn't have--while I was there--any actual missions, but I'd go through and they needed a witness who wasn't part of their team to go through, count everything--like in a hospital--do that.
Our base was very secure. We had bunkers. We'd do exercises, I hate to say fake air raids, but morning, night, middle of the night, the alarms would go off. We were fortunate in that we could get off base. I mean, you had to go in a convoy, you had to sign up, you had to wear civilian clothes. I remember going to--I don't know if I told you about this the other day--the camel races, which is their version of Little League--oh, when we were talking about the difference between males and females. We went to the camel races once. There was a couple of other bases nearby that we could go to that were bigger and more permanent, where you could go on a Sunday afternoon when we would have off like a half a day, go use their pool and stuff. I'm trying to think what else I would do with the PJs.
I do remember, they had the same general order, even back in '99, where you couldn't be, basically, in the sleeping quarters of a member of the opposite sex unless it was for business purposes. I only had sleeping quarters, but the PJs actually had a living section separate from their sleeping section because I think there were six of them. So, they had this tent complex, where they had couches and a TV and a refrigerator. I mean, it's the Air Force; we have all that stuff. [laughter] Then, they had a different section that was their beds, and they had that all sectioned off, so they had privacy. So, I would go there--the PJs were all males--and I watched TV. I remember watching TV one night, and it's ironic, they broke into the news, and it was Columbine. They were talking about Columbine. One of the PJs had a cousin that was a high schooler at Columbine, and he was calling back to his family. Now, his cousin was not killed or injured, but there's things that stick out in your memory. I just remember we were all sitting around until very early morning hours because of the time difference. Yes, we had been watching like a movie on TV or something, and they cut in about Columbine and the massacre and watching it on TV. [Editor's Note: On April 20, 1999, two students at Columbine High School shot and killed twelve other students and one teacher before committing suicide. The shooters injured an additional twenty-one people with gunshots.]
Of those PJs, there's a guy named Disney, who's actually related to the Disneys of Walt Disney--I think he was like an E-5 then or an E-6, he's now a retired E-9 Purple Heart recipient--he was shot, actually, basically through the face on a deployment to Afghanistan. Then, the senior PJ during Kuwait was a guy named Mike Maltz, who was a great guy, he was killed in action in 2002. They were doing a rescue mission. They were going after, I think, some sick Iraqi children, and the weather was bad. They had originally cancelled the mission. Then, the children were deteriorating, and they went out again. They had just refueled, and when they came off the refueler, they flew into a mountain. The whole crew, everybody on the helicopter was killed. It turned out that a very good friend of mine who's a JAG, his daughter went to the Air Force Academy, and the pilot or co-pilot was her roommate at the academy. I think eight were killed in that. Yes, the PJs were a lot of fun. [Editor's Note: Robert L. Disney, Jr. received the Purple Heart after being hit by enemy fire on April 18, 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Air Force Master Sergeant Michael Maltz, a pararescueman, was killed on March 23, 2003, when the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter he was in crashed in Afghanistan.]
I did have some disciplinary issues there. Kuwait is very strict on what it considers pornography, so anything above the knee or inside the shoulders is considered pornography. I remember there was a big issue when the Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue came out, because they would check the mail. So, we had a big issue with magazines, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated, things that you would think would be not a problem. We did have a couple guys that--computers were big then, and guys were gamers. They could play all over base. Child pornography, we had some issues with child pornography. I remember a big issue, which is sort of surprising, and it was really split on the base. I got information, a complaint actually, that they were selling--we had a little BX [base exchange] on base--this little one-room building--that they were selling Cuban cigars. I brought it to the wing commander, and he said, "Well, I want you to do a brief on it and tell me if it's legal or not." We also had a bazaar every Saturday afternoon, and there were Cuban cigars there. Ironically enough, that was probably the biggest controversy that split the base during the four months I was there, people wanting them and people who were totally against them because of the sanctions on Cuba. My research was like, "No, can't sell them at the BX. They can sell them at the bazaar, but they can't bring them on to base," which there was no place else to have them. That was really interesting.
It was at a point in time which, like I said, we could get off base. We could go downtown into Kuwait City and go out and have a nice dinner and do some shopping. So, the threat level--none of us had weapons. I mean, Security Forces did, but the threat level was very low at the time. That was a good four months. Like I said, I got promoted. [laughter] Well, I pinned on. I was promoted; I pinned on.
SI: Just to jump ahead a little bit, you were later deployed to Ramstein in Germany.
SS: I was at Ramstein, and I did a six-month deployment to EUCOM, which is in Stuttgart … [Editor's Note: EUCOM is the United States European Command.]
SS: … At Patch Barracks. I know, it sounds crazy, but I know people that were deployed to MacDill, which is CENTCOM headquarters, in the United States. Yes, I was stationed at USAFE, which is Ramstein, a major command, and I did six months. That was during my second tour, so I was in between doing my legislative liaison and going to the MAJCOM JA office at USAFE. They were looking for somebody to do six months at EUCOM, and they didn't really need me at the legal office at the time and they're like, "Okay, we'll send Sally." So, they sent me to Stuttgart, which it's hard to say you're deployed to Germany, when you're in Germany, but I was. I was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for six months. [Editor's Note: CENTCOM is the United States Central Command. The United States Air Force is organized into nine major commands, or MAJCOMS, that report to Headquarters, United States Air Force. Operation Enduring Freedom was the name used by the U.S. government for the Global War on Terrorism after the September 11th attacks and primarily refers to the War in Afghanistan.]
SI: That was before 9/11?
SS: No, no, that was in 2006.
SI: Okay, all right, but you were there earlier.
SS: Yes. Okay, so, I did '95 to '97 at Hurlburt, and then, '97, I arrived at Davis-Monthan on the day Princess Diana died. Then, I left there in 2000. [I] left there in July of 2000 and went to Ramstein for my first tour as the Chief Circuit Trial Counsel, which is a two-year tour. So, I was there from July of 2000 to July/August of 2002, and that, like I said, was probably my favorite job. It was a great tour because, like I said, I got to travel all over Europe, all the different bases, and my whole job was doing court-martials. I was telling you that at Spangdahlem was my lesbian love triangle case, which was probably my most--not notable, but probably my most covered by the media there, Stars and Stripes or Air Force Times. That had a lot of publicity. I did a lot of trials during that time and discharge review boards. I did a lot of traveling. I would do a lot of training. We did circuit trial workshops every year. In fact, I had done an eleven-day bank robbery, armed robbery, and conspiracy trial. I wasn't too far into my tour there--I think it was like October of 2002--and I came home. I had already missed one day of the circuit trial workshop. I came home, and my house had been burglarized. [laughter] That was not fun. Yes, that was a really--one, I loved Germany, I got to travel a lot, I love trial work, and I also belonged at Ramstein--it was called the Tannenbaum Ski Club. So, we did a lot of skiing, but we also did other trips. I got to go to Ireland for Saint Patrick's Day, got to do a lot of the wine festivals. Yes, that was a great tour. [Editor's Note: Diana, Princess of Wales lived from July 1, 1961 to August 31, 1997. She died in a car accident while being pursued by paparazzi. Spangdahlem Air Base is a NATO air base located in Spangdahlem, Germany.]
SI: Were you at Ramstein when September 11th happened?
SS: Where was I September of 2001? Yes, oh, yes. I was actually preparing for a trial; I was at Spangdahlem. Spangdahlem is also in Germany. It's about two hours from Ramstein. It's another airbase, obviously. We were preparing basically a sentencing case. I forget what we were prosecuting the guy for, honestly, an airman or NCO. He was pleading guilty, and my co-counsel was a woman named Nicole Skippers, a great co-counsel. We were working with the defense counsel, hammering out what's called the pre-trial agreement. They had evacuated the law office. There was an unidentified package, which turned out to be somebody's backpack.
We went down the street to the base chapel, where the chaplain had his offices. Other people were just watching TV in the chaplain's office, and somebody came in and said that a plane had flown into the Twin Towers. We're half a world away, and we're six hours ahead over there. We were in the early afternoon, and we're like, "Oh gosh." We're thinking it's a small plane, the weather must be bad, that's really sad, just thinking it's somebody's little personal plane. Then, like a half an hour later--it wasn't even about the second plane--they thought it was a helicopter, that a helicopter flew into the Pentagon, and immediately, we're like, "Oh, this is terrorism." Then, we're thinking, "Oh, my God, was it really somebody's backpack in our building? Is this like a worldwide attack?" Within minutes, the sirens are going off, and we're in THREATCON. They open our building back up--it just turned out somebody left their backpack--but we go back to the legal office. I remember returning a call, and I said, "We're going to THREATCON DELTA." She said, "Do you think?" because then we had heard about the second plane, and I said, "Yes." Then, we got back to our building, and we went upstairs because there was some other office. We were watching TV, and we watched the second tower fall. We didn't know how many people had been evacuated. I was just thinking, "Oh, my God, that's like fifty thousand people." It was awful. It was like dead silence. Like I said, they locked the base down. Nobody could come in; nobody could go out. We started doing security checks. I mean, we're all in uniform. Nobody has weapons. We're in our dress uniform because we're preparing for this trial, but every like thirty minutes, people took turns going around the building, making sure everything was locked and there's only one exit in, one exit out. I don't think they let us leave base that night until maybe eight o'clock.
It was the only time ever--I usually stayed on Spangdahlem, and they had no billeting. About two miles away is Bitburg, and I was billeted over at Bitburg. I waited over an hour, and every car was doing a full inspection, inside, outside, trunk open, hood open, "What's your business here? Why are you here?" I remember, I finally got back to my Q room, and I just couldn't even stay there. I went home to my home in Ramstein. A guy I was seeing at the time came over, and all we did was just listen to the news. I went and got up very early. I had to be back at Spangdahlem the next morning for the court-martial, and I just remember they did a minute of silence on base; everybody was outside. Obviously, they had a better handle on what happened.
It's my generation's Pearl Harbor. I mean, the death toll wasn't as bad. I can still picture, it was a beautiful day at Ramstein. The sun was shining. It was really hard because I remember sitting in the office trying to call home, not that I had relatives in New York or anything like that, but being from South Jersey, I just wanted to talk to people, and you could not get a line out. I sent a lot of emails; I did get emails back. I think I told you I found out later that my friend from college was the co-pilot on the second plane. Yes, that's where I was on 9/11.
SI: Did you notice any change in the tenor of the service after that?
SS: Oh, yes, absolutely. A lot more heightened security. Things were much more locked down. People were much more proud of their service, although we were not allowed to travel in uniform anywhere. It was an interesting dichotomy of the heightened security everywhere you went, on base, off base, where you were allowed to go, what you were allowed to wear. They didn't want you using your ID for travel. Like I said, people's pride in their service, not that people in the military aren't proud to begin with, and how people reacted to you when they knew you were in the service, it was like they were reverent. I remember Columbus Day weekend, which is mid-October, I went with some friends to France. We were going to Normandy, and we stayed in a little town in this little beautiful bed and breakfast. Oh, my God, the people, when we told them we were American and we were American military, they could not have been kinder. One, the people of Normandy love Americans. To this day, they fly the American flag because of what happened. [Editor's Note: Sally Stenton begins to cry.] I just remember they hugged us, they cried, they were so sad about what happened. I mean, we all were. But a lot of times Americans are like, "Ugh, France, the French, they're horrible," and they aren't. They're wonderful. I just remember, especially in that area of France, they love to say they owe America everything and how much they love Americans and American military. It was really overwhelming how we were treated. [Editor's Note: On June 6, 1944, American and Allied forces invaded the beaches of German-occupied Normandy to enter mainland Europe in World War II. The invasion is known as D-Day.]
SI: You said you came back to Washington for year.
SI: You were a legislative liaison?
SS: Yes, I was a legislative liaison. Oh, no, no--in D.C., I worked for tort claims, which, as much as I liked D.C., that was my least favorite assignment. I knew nothing about it. [laughter] I knew nothing about tort claims. In fact, they sent me to school--it's a week-long class--for tort claims, and I was the player-manager. I took the class, and I actually spoke at the class. I was like, "Okay, this is good." So, I got back, I PCS'd [permanent change of station] in July of '02, and I took leave. I started in August of '02 and went back to Germany in August of '03. So, I was there a year, which is unheard of, and it doesn't happen unless you have someone who is the Vice Chief of Staff at the Air Force--also known as General Foglesong--who wants you to work for him.
What had happened is I had gotten passed over. I was a major; I had gotten passed over for lieutenant colonel. I don't know why; I guess my record wasn't strong enough. It had been very upsetting. So, I went, and they stuck me in tort claims. I liked the people I worked with. I was working in Rosslyn because there wasn't enough room in the Pentagon, which was good because as cool as the Pentagon is, it's a nice place to visit, but you don't want to work there. [laughter] I lived in a great place. I lived in this townhouse in Alexandria. I lived there during the year that the sniper was there; that was scary. Every place I went, there was natural disasters or terrible crime or whatever. Anyway, so, I was plugging along, and friends of mine, who had also worked for General Foglesong at Osan and at Davis-Monthan, were working on his staff, and they're like--oh, I'm sorry, can you hold on for one second? [laughter] I have to get the squirrel. [Editor's Note: The D.C. sniper attacks, or the Beltway sniper attacks, was a shooting spree in the Washington, D.C. area that killed ten people and injured three over a three-week period in October of 2002.]
SI: Go ahead, yes. You were talking about D.C.
SS: I was in D.C., and I was doing the tort claims, which I can't, even to this day, really explain to you what it is. Tort claims, you can't sue the military; you have to sue the United States government. There was like medical malpractice and stuff like that. I didn't work that. The one case I remember really well was one airman killed another airman, and his family was suing for wrongful death, which the U.S. has to give you permission to sue them. So, I worked those kind of claims, and like I said, I still don't even really understand them. The other types of claims I worked were like somebody slipped in the commissary and broke their leg. That's a tort.
While I was there, my friends that I knew from Osan and Davis-Monthan now worked on General Foglesong's staff. At the time, General Foglesong was the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, so second in command of the entire Air Force in D.C. They were like, "Hey, you should come up and get on his calendar and say hello." I'm like, "Okay." So, I did. I made a couple appointments, and it kept getting pushed back, which actually ended up being a good thing, because by the time I actually went up to see him, I had been passed over. When I was first supposed to visit him, I didn't even know. I went up, I visited him, we talked about what was going on. It had just come out that he was going to be the USAFE commander, which stands for United States Air Forces in Europe, so he was going back to be the Major Command commander, which is located at Ramstein Airbase. We were talking, and he was asking me about when I was going to pin on lieutenant colonel. I said, "I got passed over," and he was shocked. I said, "Well, I'm shocked too, Sir." I literally said, "Sir, if you ever want a passed-over major, I'd love to work for you again. I've always enjoyed working for you." He was like, "Well, I will keep that in mind," or, "You'll be hearing from me. You'll get a phone call," or something. This was like maybe June or July, and it was the next day or two, I got a call directly from him. He said, "I want you to come to USAFE and be my legislative liaison," and I'm like, "Great." I didn't even ask; I had no idea what it was. [laughter] He did ask me about it, and I said, "Sir, if you tell me what it is, I can do the job." [laughter] He said, "We're going to get you promoted," and I said, "Sounds good to me." He said, "I will talk with the TJAG," which is The Judge Advocate General, "and we'll get you your orders." I'm like, "Okay, great."
It did start a bit of a controversy because that's not how the JAG Corps works, not in the Air Force. One, they have their little kingdom and they make all the plans and you don't go outside of the JAG Corps. I do remember getting a call from a woman named Christie, who did all the assignments at that time, and she was very upset. She's like, "General …" the Judge Advocate General, whose name escapes me right now, but he is infamous. He, eventually, was forcibly retired for a sex scandal, which was sort of a beautiful thing in the end. She was really angry with me. I'm like, "What are you angry with me for?" I remember General Foglesong told me, he's like, "You are not to talk to anybody about this." He's a four-star general. When a four-star general tells you not to say anything to anybody, I didn't say anything to anybody. I remember she just bitched me out, and I said, "Well, Christie, General Foglesong told me not to say anything." I remember she said, "Well, did he order you?" I said, "Well, he didn't have to. When he says don't say anything, I take that as an order," which killed her because my four-star outranks your two-star. At the time, the judge advocate--it's now three-star--but it was a two-star position then. At the time, I really didn't have any issues with her, but she just thought he was her two-star and that she had say over anything that any JAG wanted to do. I was her rank. I had been passed over, and she had been promoted. Needless to say, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force won that battle. I ended up going over to USAFE and later getting promoted to lieutenant colonel, which is a story for the next time. [laughter] [Editor's Note: In 2005, General Thomas J. Fiscus, who served as Judge Advocate General of the Air Force from 2002 to 2004, was demoted to colonel and forced to retire after it was discovered that he had engaged in improper relationships with more than a dozen women.]
SI: Well, I have a few more questions.
SI: We can do probably five more minutes.
SI: I am curious, what does a legislative liaison entail on that level?
SS: It's very interesting. I used to call myself Julie the cruise director, which is a reference you might get, Shaun. Maria, I'm sure you don't get it. There was a show called The Love Boat back in the--what was it, the '80s? [laughter] [Editor's Note: The Love Boat was a sitcom that aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986. In the show, Lauren Tewes played Julie McCoy, the cruise director.]
SI: It might be the late '70s.
SS: The Love Boat was about a cruise ship. It was this big cruise ship, and there was Gopher, and the captain, Captain Stubing, and Julie was the cruise director. If you've ever been on a cruise--or I'm sure you see Carnival Cruise and Norwegian Cruise and Royal Caribbean--the cruise director sets out all these fun things for the passengers to do. The legislative liaison actually is much more than Julie the cruise director. What the legislative liaison is--we had what were called CODELs, which is congressional delegations, and STAFFDELs, which is staff delegations. We had many more CODELs that would come over to the European Theater or the Middle East, and they would be going to Iraq or Afghanistan, or back from Iraq or Afghanistan, and they would come and they would specifically stop at Ramstein. They would visit our base, and they would go to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which is where when the wounded leave theater, depending on how serious their injuries are, they are taken to Landstuhl. It's everybody who's been blown up, burned, shot, in car accidents, heart attacks, whatever. There is a partial medical center at Ramstein and then Landstuhl, so, like I said, these are the really seriously wounded. They go to Landstuhl, some of them stay for a couple days, some of them stay longer. Then, they're either taken back to the States, or some of them would come to Ramstein. They would come to Ramstein, and they would tour our base. They would go to Landstuhl. They got briefings from General Foglesong, if he was available. If he was not there, they'd get it from the vice USAFE commander. These were everybody from--at the time, Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker of the House. I mean, she is now again. We would have senators come through. The delegations would range anywhere from three reps and staff members, we could have upwards of eight congressional representatives. If you had eight representatives, their party probably had twenty-five or thirty people, which is a huge amount of people. What I did was arrange their whole entire itinerary. If they were getting briefings by General Fogelsong, what did they want to be briefed on? Are we briefing them on a multi-million-dollar project? We're taking them to the hospital. We're bringing them through our medical center. When are they getting in? Are they having lunch with their constituents? So, we'd find airmen. We put out a notice, "Airmen, enlisted, NCO, officers: the congressional representative from the 5th District in Georgia, from the 9th District in Maine, from the 21st District in California. They're going to be here this date. They want to have lunch with their constituents." We'd get the names, and you do a security check, not that we're really worried, but you know. We'd set up the lunches, and then we'd have to set up these dinners. It's just the senior leadership that would go to these dinners, and they'd have meetings and briefings. Do they have to be in what's called a SCIF--which was S-C-I-F--which is a secure facility? It's like literally a giant vault. I'd have to put together briefing packages. I might have to put together PowerPoints, and I'd have meetings from General Foglesong down to squadron commanders. I mean, who's going to be in on these? A couple times we had to have General Jones, who's a four-star Marine, who at the time was the EUCOM commander. I remember when Speaker Pelosi came, he flew in to do a briefing at like nine o'clock at night. Then, you have to get all the accommodations for them and their staff. It was very interesting. [Editor's Note: General James L. Jones is a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general who served as the EUCOM commander from 2003 to 2006.]
I was the legislative liaison for eighteen months. So, it was myself and my NCO, and of course, we'd work with protocol. I averaged one CODEL a week, and sometimes, I literally would have them overlapping. One would be coming in, one would be going out, and we'd have them in at the same time. It was very, very high speed and very high stress, but it was a great, great job.
SI: Well, thank you very much. I'm sorry I cannot stay longer, but I look forward to continuing our conversation and talking about some of your other deployments, particularly your time in Afghanistan.
SS: Yes. Do you want to set it up now, or do you just want to email me?
SI: Let me see if I can find something real quick.
SI: Thank you very much.
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Transcribed by Jesse Braddell 8/7/2021
Reviewed by Zach Batista 9/8/2020
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 5/6/2022
Reviewed by Sarajane (Sally) Stenton, Esq. 7/18/2022