Have you wondered why some people can pack themselves into a cockpit the size of a piano crate, cruise above Baghdad at night, drop bombs and dodge flak, while others can't take the shuttle to La Guardia without experiencing paralyzing anxiety?
Ego. Strong egos tend to translate into low anxiety levels.
Fighter pilots, says Washington psychologist Samuel Karson, are "generally high on ego strength." They are also high on something he calls The Errol Flynn Factor. WAR ALMANAC
"They love challenge, risk and danger," says Karson, who specializes in personality assessment and stress and was once psychologist to the Federal Aviation Administration. "They relish it, and look forward to it." Watching the pilot interviews, Karson says: "They talk about fearfulness, about the mission, but say they can't wait until the next one."
According to Karson, everybody's a little neurotic. "We all operate with a certain level of anxiety, but we handle it differently. ... some of us just have thicker tread on our tires," he says. "And it takes more to get to you, to move you. To get through."
The downside: This can get out of hand.
"Take the perfect air traffic controller, for instance," says Karson. "This person is like Mr. Spock on 'Star Trek.' Not very emotional. Not lots of fun. It's self-protection, really. The price you pay for this is that you become less open. You lose spontaneity and humor and some enjoyment of life. But, to some extent, all of us make that compromise. How much defense shall we have? How much openness and fun?"
Phoning Home Each American in Saudi Arabia is making an average of only one phone call home every six weeks.
AT&T installed a total of 1,000 telephones in the various desert encampments in November -- and created the most extensive phone service ever placed in a combat zone. Our 500,000-odd troops are averaging 13,000 phone calls a day. No, they're not free. They have to charge them to their individual AT&T accounts.
Words and Wisdom If you tuned in to Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf's briefing from Central Command yesterday afternoon, you might have found yourself needing some basic linguistic interpretational assistance (BLIA). His language -- a blend of common military acronyms and his own creative expressions -- can be inscrutable.
Frog sites: Points from which the Iraqis are launching Free-Rocket-Over-Ground missiles.
Hardened aircraft shelters: Bunkers for planes.
Interdicting his supplies: Bombing, blockading, strafing or any other hostile action to cut off all the stuff coming to Saddam Hussein's army.
WIA: Wounded in action.
KIA: Killed in action.
Leadership target: Since we are not supposed to be targeting individuals, this is a euphemism meaning Saddam and his top commanders. Technically, these are Iraqi "command and control" stations.
Low attrition rate of coalition aircraft: Allied planes aren't going down as fast as we thought they might.
Militarily insignificant targets: Politically significant targets. Something hit by an Iraqi bomb that has no military value but is meant to demoralize the enemy.
Revetments: Sandbags. Cement walls.
Scud bodies: The tubular part of a Scud missile -- before or after it's fired.
Secondary explosions: Unexpected result of a bombing hit. The bomb is the primary explosion. Anything after that is secondary, and probably caused by combustion.
Bovine Scatology: Bullflop. (Used to characterize a front-page article in Monday's Washington Times, claiming that Schwarzkopf canceled plans for a risky maneuver by the Navy SEALs and the Army's Delta Force to destroy Kuwaiti oil manifolds. Test Birds
In coal mines, they use canaries. In Saudi Arabia, at command center, they use a chicken. His name is Buford -- not Chicken Little -- but he can tell them if there's something falling from the sky. Set up in a cage next to a gas monitoring machine, Buford's duty is to die first in a gas attack.
Going by the Book It's one of those things. You've known about Jane's all along, or you've just started hearing about Jane's and now you hear it everywhere. There's Jane's Soviet Intelligence or Jane's Infantry Weapons or Jane's Battlefield Surveillance Systems. The list goes on and on and on.
The first edition was called Jane's Fighting Ships, published in 1898 by a Fleet Street correspondent named Frederick T. Jane. He stumbled upon a brilliant idea that would take him out of the wretched daily grind of journalism forever: a book with diagrams and names and tallies of all the world's war ships.
This wishbook-and-catalogue came at a time when navies were turning from sail to steam, when Britain still ruled the waves but was fighting a desperate war in Africa, when the United States had entered the Spanish-American War, and when sea power was the key to national supremacy. It went into four reprints the first year, and was updated annually forever after. In 1909, Jane published Jane's Aircraft and Dirigibles.
By the time of his death in 1916, Jane's publishing empire was sealed in resin and well-ballasted. It had instantly become an important reference, especially in the United States when Alfred Thayer Mahan's book "Influence of Sea Power Upon History" (1890), argued persuasively for a stronger navy.
And now more than 20 books and catalogues are published annually by Jane's in London -- along with the legendary Fighting Ships. The subjects cover the wide range of military weapons, equipment, transports
and intelligence technology. "It's compiled from public documents item by item," says Keith Faulkner, managing editor of Jane's Defense Data. "But all together, a number of governments think the information in the books should be classified."
Getting details on Soviet equipment, says Faulkner, takes a little more time. "We have sources and contacts on Soviet technology that we've had for many years," the editor says. "It's the sort of stuff, usually, that would be available to Soviet press. There's nothing clandestine about any of this ... it just takes time to gather it all, and to verify it all. People make wild claims about their equipment."
Defense contractors and libraries around the world subscribe to Jane's, and the U.S. Department of Defense purchases volumes and volumes every year, according to Faulkner, at about $250 a pop.
Poetic License When he left Baltimore for Saudi Arabia, Navy Warrant Officer William Racz left behind a poem. Now put to lite-rock music, it's being described by Baltimore radio station WCAO as a "war love song."
The U.S. said she needed help
to keep our country free
She called up all our military
and then she called up me.
At song's end, a children's choir sings "God Bless America," then there's a voice-over of George Bush giving an address to troops. The title of this piece is "Line Carved in the Sand" but it shouldn't be confused with "Lines in the Sand," a considerably less patriotic number by songwriter Randy Newman:
Deep in the desert evening draws nigh
Brave sons and daughters look to the sky
Blood of these children, a stain on the land,
If they die to defend some lines in the sand.