Tail hook actually, but in the way of military folks, it gets shortened. So it's Hook.
Most folks know about the scandal of Hook 1991. After, The Tailhook Convention was sentenced to death and executed. It stayed in its grave for a time, then crept back out, tentatively, and with a considerably cleaned up approach to business. I would never have gone to Hook 2013 but a friend invited my One and Only Squeeze and me. We went. After, I wrote a story about it. I'm going to roll the story out in parts over the next several days. Here goes.
Let me tell you about the first time I attended the annual Tailhook Convention.
The year, 1978. I was a lieutenant commander, married, and stationed at China Lake, California. Our sixth child, five months old. A couple of g’s pulled at me from home. Nothing attracted me to Hook, to the “convention.” It may have been billed as one, but more than most things so labeled, it shook out as a forty-eight hour howl at the moon booze- and carouse-a-thon. I’d never been to Hook, but that’s what I knew it to be.
The US Navy and I had just celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of our marriage to my One and Only Squeeze. Over that time, I’d abandoned her with an escalating number of children for cruises, schools, and business. I imagined asking her for my liberty card to go to Hook.
“You want to howl at the moon?” she asks, as she changes a diaper with one hand, sorts socks with the other, and hollers at Number Three to stop eating peanut butter out of the jar. “Drive five miles out into the Mohave Desert so you don’t bother the neighbors.”
Some of the guys from my squadron, VX-5, were attending Hook ‘78. Me, nuh uh. Not even going to ask the boss lady.
Three weeks before the grand event, my skipper called me to his office.
“I’m going to Tailhook,” he said. “I’d like you to come along.”
“I don’t have money to spend on something like that.”
“Listen, have I got a deal for you!”
He smiled like a TV-used-car salesman when he comes on screen just after the catchy jingle ends.
That got me moon-walking in reverse for the door.
“Get the hell back in here. The admiral over at Lemoore has ten sets of TDY (Temporary Duty) orders for people to go to Tailhook. I got one of them for you. The aviation navy is trying to improve the professionalism of the conference. The orders are for mature, responsible lieutenants and lieutenant commanders with families.”
“Ten married guys with kids are going to change it from debauchery to professional? Jesus, Skipper, if you bring the entire convent of Little Sisters of The Poor from back home in St. Louis to Tailhook, it’s still going to be Sodom and Gomorrah.”
“Damnit, Swede, you have temp. duty orders and per diem. Guys would kill for a deal like this. You’re going.”
I shook my head.
“You’re going!” He smacked his desk, probably thinking I was still refusing. My head wobbled over: how am I going to tell my wife?