The Tactical Air Navigation system – or TACAN – was used by military aircraft to navigate during my career as a Marine Corps pilot. TACAN provides distance measuring as well as azimuth indications in the cockpit. Depending on the altitude of the aircraft and the TACAN station and its location, aircraft can receive TACAN signals up to about 400 miles away.
Not that long ago when it was all men serving in Marine aviation, a minority (but a notable one) used to joke, as men have a tendency to do, that when they were two TACAN stations away from home base that meant the wedding ring would come off. Eight hundred miles from home became a “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” opportunity. It was “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” kind of aviator ready room (or locker room) talk.
Based on what I knew for certain, only a few married guys would actually act upon their bravado, finding willing but temporary female “friends” two TACANs away or more from home base during overnight cross-country flights. Most of my squadron mates complied with his wedding vows regardless of his womanizing man-talk.
When I was a commanding officer of a Marine helicopter squadron and preparing to deploy aboard an aircraft carrier to exotic places like Singapore and Thailand, I gathered all my officers together and we had a “come to Jesus meeting.” I wasn’t very popular. But commanding officers serve to lead and successfully accomplish missions, not win popularity contests.
I told my officers that loyalty, which at that time was evaluated on military officers’ fitness (or performance) reports, would NOT be separated between home and work. If an officer was disloyal to his spouse, he could also not be counted upon to be loyal to his comrades in the squadron.
In other words, if I, as commanding officer, discovered one of my officers being disloyal to his spouse by actually applying the “Two TACAN Rule” – and it was admitted or proven – then that officer would not receive a passing fitness report grade on loyalty. If he couldn’t be loyal and honest to his wife, how could he be loyal to his Marine Corps and his fellow Marines?
Loyalty is loyalty. There can’t be a loyalty firewall between home and work. Loyalty is rooted in one’s conscience, one’s scruples, one’s ethics, one’s honesty, one’s sense of right and wrong. It can’t be disconnected at home and then reconnected on the job. Loyalty doesn’t work that way.
Loyalty is one thing, a vital thing in those we trust to lead us. But stupidity is another. In today’s technical jungle, one of the surest ways to get stalked and eaten by an electronic tiger is to email or text someone something you would be embarrassed to have posted on the front page of the Washington Post. It’s so obviously a brainless act that it’s laughable it still happens and happens all the time.
Some might say it’s men (and it is mostly men) who are just … not … thinking. Oh, they’re thinking all right. But it’s wrong-headed “thinking.” Dishonestly plotting, scheming and conniving, it’s stinking thinking.
Can we or should we continue to trust dishonest people with leading us regardless of their disloyalty and their stupidity? I didn’t think so as a commanding officer. And I still don’t think so as a civilian.
The website Thoughtco.com (https://www.thoughtco.com/the-bible-belt-1434529) posts, “Studies of religious identity in the United States continually point to the southern states as an enduring ‘Bible Belt’ (high rates of religious belief and attendance at church).
According to a 2011 survey by Gallup, with the exception of Utah, all of the states identified as being part of the Bible Belt are southern, including North Carolina.”
As the nation’s conscience, we Bible Belt southerners won’t – and shouldn’t – accept Two TACAN disloyalty in our leaders.
This may still be, 30 years after I first took it, a very unpopular position for me to continue to take. “Who are you,” you might ask, “to judge?” Well, as a commanding officer I was my squadron’s judge, jury and executioner. Today, I’m not a judge and will not judge. But I am a voter.
Perhaps we should have our own “come to Jesus meeting.” Let’s call it a Piggly Wiggly Epiphany here in the Bible Belt. In coming to that Epiphany we will not accept in our leaders foolish, moronic acts at home any more than we would accept them on the job. And we’ll agree that dishonesty demonstrated in applying the Two TACAN Rule in their life disqualifies that person from leading us. Loyalty is too important and vital a trait in our leaders to turn a blind eye to the abject failure of it.
Newspaper columnist Barry Fetzer writes from his home on Queens Creek.