Ya gotta go with what ya got
During my first tour at Eglin AFB, I was a project engineer in the Armament laboratory, on a new chemical bomb, and was later the Division Chief of flame, incendiaries, flame, and fuel-air explosives in the Armament and Test Center. Three years later when I returned, I became comptroller of the Air to Surface (A/S) Guided Missiles. About six months later I found myself to be the DOD manager of the Modular A/S Weapons program.
In this new job, I was the supervisor of a bunch of very senior civilian engineers, aeronautical, mechanical and electrical and a few military personnel. My predecessor had also been an engineer and that was a problem. The civilian engineers were divided into two camps and my predecessor formed a third opinion on how to proceed with our programs. Our programs included our first guided bomb-a 1000 lb. bomb, with a TV camera in the nose, guidance package in the rear and strapped-on folding wings. Other projects were the Maverick laser guided bomb, modular bomb, and initially the prototype of the cruise missile.
Shortly after I took over the program, I was supposed to give a series of briefings to the Pentagon. In my previous comptroller job I had become very good friends with the senior engineers, and they put aside their differences to help me through the briefings. We worked on it several days, and late Saturday evening, someone brought in a six-pack of beer. We had just started on them when our new Center Commander, a general, entered. I was shocked and was sure I was in a heap of trouble. However, the general introduced himself and said he saw the light on and knew what we were working on. Then he opened his briefcase and brought out another six pack.
The General said he had just been transferred from the Pentagon and would go along so he could introduce me to the proper people. Then he asked me about my background. The room interrupted into laughter and I said “General-you don't wanna know”. - Another round of laughter- Then the General said I mean what type of engineering training. I told him, my graduate and undergraduate work was in ornithology (birds) and my post graduate work was in radiation biology. He said “Oh, I'll think of something.”
On the Southern Airways plane the next day, the captain announced there would be a contest for a bottle of champagne. He asked, “How many golf balls could you put in the belly of this aircraft?” He then gave the length and width of the aircraft and the size of a golf ball. Little slips of paper were passed out for each person's answer. The general and some of my engineers pulled out slide rules and the crude, but expensive portable computers of the 70's and went to work. I had neither, but just thought about it for a minute and wrote down my answer.
After I was announced as the winner, the captain came back to present me with the champagne. He said, “Colonel, I've played this champagne game a hundred times and nobody has come closer than 10,000 golf balls. You only missed it by 10 golf balls. How did you do it? I told him I was a golfer, and used to plan loads for C-130 aircraft, and you had to consider the cube. I subtracted 15 ft. from the length of the aircraft, for radar and other equipment in the nose and tail. Another 20 ft was subtracted for the area where the wing comes in to the fuselage where the heaters, air conditioning and hydraulics are located. I reduced the width by 10% to account for the curvature of the fuselage Now you didn't give us the height of the baggage compartment, but when we boarded, a man was standing, but stooped over loading baggage, so I estimated 5 ft high. That gave me the number of cubic feet. A large bucket of golf balls holds about 60 balls and I estimated 40 more would occupy 1 cubic foot. Putting the numbers together was easy.
The general reached over and patted me on the knee and said, “I won't worry about you any more”.