One of my most prized posessions is a retired Aircraft seat. This seat flew on literally thousands of sorties, carrying dozens of my friends at various times during its active use career. It's a bit tough to decorate around, but it works. Aluminum sheet metal and rivets, with red flame retardent fabric covering the foam cushions that fit in where the parachute and seat kit were designed to go. Unfortunately, the 4-inch wide lap belt and 2 inch wide shoulder harnesses are long gone, but the take up reel for the shoulder harness is still there, and works.
The seat was one of 10 used in a palletized system flown aboard C-130s. When that system was replaced, the only unit using the system, in Panama, asked Lockheed Martin if they could keep the seats. Since they were going for scrap, LM handed them over.
The seats were used in the lobby/waiting area of the Squadron's Orderly Room, the admin area where the Commander and First Sergeant maintained their offices. They sat there for a number of years, until the Squadron had to give up the office spaces as Howard became host to more and more of the US activities that were previously located at bases we began to shut down in preparation for the handover of the Canal in 99. So the seats had to go.
The Commander ordered the Unit Supply NCO to research the paperwork and determine the proper method for disposing of the seats - everyone figured they'd be turned over to the Defense Re-utilization and Marketting Organization and sold for scrap. Turns out, however, that there was absolutely no paper trail whatsoever on the seats. They officially did not exist. I was the second person in the unit to learn this tidbit (when the Supply NCO, my wife at the time, told me).
Several other people got word of the situation, and some folks began to voice the intention of laying claim or just plain making off with the seats in the dead of night. Seemed like a good plan to me at the time. But why sneak around about it? So I borrowed a friends pickup truck the next day, and drove over to the Orderly House. I surveyed the seats, and picked out the one that was in the best condition. They don't weigh that much, but they're pretty bulky, so I was going to need some help. I immediately discarded asking the admin folks, they'd probably start asking a lot of ridiculous questions, such as 'are you supposed to be taking this?'. Like I said, utterly ridiculous.
I spotted the newest member of the unit - a freshly minted 2nd Lieutenant, who'd just arrived the week before. Young, bright, full of energy, and ready to jump in and help with anything and everything.
"Hey, El-Tee, can you give me a hand with this?"
"Sure, where are we going"
"Just out to the truck"
He's actually a really great fella, still in, with a line for LtCol at this point, and I think I saw his name come up on the list for potential Squadron Commanders -and he'll make a good one, but he had no clue he was participating in grand theft chair. I thanked the Lt, then headed on over to the house, and to much consternation and a 'you ARE NOT putting that thing in the living room' joint decorating discussion.
The next day the poop hit the propellor - but not over the missing seat; the Commander knew I had it, and was ok with that. The bruhaha was over the second wave of folks to find out learning that the first wave of folks that knew were calling dibs on the chairs. General pandemonium, heated words, and a few near fistfights ensued. Fortunately, word had not leaked out that one of the chairs had already been snagged...
The solution was to hold a raffle. Everyone that wanted a seat put their name on a slip that went into a coffee can. The winners would be announced at the Squadron monthly hail and farewell picnic, in a week or so.
In the meantime, I was getting ready to leave the Squadron and rotate back to the 'Land of the Big BX' (stateside). We had our moving day scheduled, and in fact had the crew of Panamanian workers in packing up all of our stuff, loading it into big shipping crates, so it could disappear for several months, then re-appear magically at our new house, with all the carefully arranged stuff inside completely out of whack as if the Jolly Green Giant had picked it up and shook it like someone trying to figure out what's inside a Christmas present.
The phone rings. It's one of the admin types from the Orderly House.
"The commander says you have to bring the seat back"
"Bring the seat back? I can't bring the seat back! The movers are here! I can't leave them alone with my stuff!"
"Um, er, hang on (hand over reciever, muffled discussion)...ok, well, don't let them pack the seat, we'll give you a call back when he decides what to do."
Great. So out to the truck, and I have the Panamanians unload the chair, which was already buried deep in one of the crates. It made a nice seat to observe all the rest of the goings on, and the movers were all informed that it would be staying, for now. This was necessary, cause these guys don't make a single decision about what goes or what stays - if they can get their hands on it, it goes in the truck. I've heard tales of people unloading their household goods after a move, and finding the kitchen trash can, with trash still in it, all nice and bundled and taped up with butcher paper and masking tape.
Finally gets to the point of absolutely nada in the house, except the stuff we were keeping for the last week or so in country, our personal items, and the chair. No phone call.
The next day, at the picnic, everone was abuzz about 'The Chairs'. I talked for a bit with the Commander, and he didn't mention a thing. The drawing was held, and one of the winners was sitting at our picnic table. Sue had put her name in, cause she thought it was a good idea at the time, but she'd thought more about it in the interim.
"Oh damn, now what am I going to do with it? Hey, you guys want a chair?"
I looked at her with a straight face - "Thanks, but Deb says I can't put it in the living room, and besides, the movers already came to get our stuff."
Well, it was true!
Now, when the military moves you, if you're married, you actually have two bunches of stuff. Your household goods (which the Panamanian crew had packed up already) and something called your 'Hold Baggage'. This is what most single military folks get - it's a small weight allowance for the things that someone will accumulate - stereos, CD's, TV, professional gear, etc. Usually about 500lbs of stuff is the limit. And they're usually somewhat picky about what they will or will not take.
The next day, a couple of Panamanians show up to collect my 'Hold Baggage'. They are shown the chair. The two guys could care less, but the supervisor, a somewhat meticulous sort, is a bit concerned. He mentions that it's rather large, and he starts to wonder if it is really 'professional gear'. A quick trip to the closet, and a short fashion demonstration of the latest in USAF Nomex Flight Suit attire, and he reluctantly caves in.
And that's how I got the chair, which now sits in the corner of the dining room, with my helmet hanging off the top edge.
Deb never did let me put it in the living room.