Cadet HWCNBNBWFBR      Phil Irish

And so the inquiry began


“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, as much as you remember, so help you God?”  “I do” I replied. “I do, as best as I can remember.”


The interrogator started “We are here to ascertain the facts surrounding two unusual occurrences in your military career. One which transpired during your four year, all-expense-paid sojourn at the USAFA, and another while you were on active duty in the USAF. Do you understand these guidelines, Mr. Irish? ““Yes”, I replied, uncomfortable in my gray metal, GI issued, Cadet-in-Charge-of-Quarters chair.


“Then let us proceed to the first instance, which I believe occurred during the summer of 1973, did it not? “


“Yes, but it was such a long time ago. These are the facts as best I remember them to have occurred. But, over the years, some details may be somewhat apocryphal.”


“Please continue, Mr. Irish”.


“Well, we were participating in a summer navigation program, NAV 470 (AKA Booze Cruise) I believe it was called and we were practicing cross country navigation in the back of a rusty old T29 trainer (a zillion rivets flying in close-trail formation).”


“So, as it happens, after a long, long, LONG, mind-numbing leg out to Mather AFB CA, several of us cadets decided to go to the Mather O-club to have a libation or two before retiring for the evening. When we got to the club we discovered a casual bar replete with Army nurses! Yahoo!”


“So, applying our best savoir faire we descended upon said lovelies and began to nimbly cast our upper-class cadet magic upon them. However, despite displaying our best hypnotic suggestions, it turns out that these nurses were not as susceptible to our cadet charms as we had hoped and as the evening wore on and on (along with the ever increasing bar bill) it became more and more apparent that our hedonistic plans were becoming asymptotically less achievable.”  (CRASH: noun, a landing in which the vertical velocity….)


“Whereupon one of our all too soon to be forgotten ’74 classmates, Cadet HeWhoCanNotBeNamedButWillForeverBeRemembered (AKA Cadet HWCNBNBWFBR, normally pronounced HWIK-NIB-NIB-WIF-BUR), decided to adjourn the premises and take full advantage of our brief time at Mather.”  “Hey, any of you guys want to come with me down to the flight line and we can snap some pictures of the aircraft parked there?” 


“As tempting a professional development offer as that was to us, I was too determined (and perhaps slightly inebriated) to disengage with the young nubile nurses, and replied ‘No thanks, I am going to stay here and finish my beer with these lovely ladies.’  “Little was I to know until later that THAT precise moment would determine the fate of the rest of my time at the Academy.”


“Early the next morning we got up and headed out to the flight line and boarded ye olde T29 bucket of rivets and as I settled into my little practice navigation station way, way, way in the back, I looked around for Cadet HWCNBNBWFBR.  Lo and behold he was nowhere to be seen! I figured that the ever-present Gestapo, err Commandant’s air officers had done their obligatory head count and that there was some good reason why Cadet HWCNBNBWFBR was not present and accounted for. Plus my head was throbbing from the previous night’s drinking, and frankly, I just didn’t care.”


“After a day or two of more mind numbing ICE-T mental gyrations as we wound our way East, we were back at home-sweet-home USAFA and at that time I heard through unofficial channels that Cadet HWCNBNBWFBR was being severely punished!  For the life of me I could not imagine what HWCNBNBWFBR had done other than take some pictures of airplanes and so I pressed others for more information.”


“Well, I was told that Cadet HWCNBNBWFBR did indeed go to the Mather flight line that night and had taken some “pictures”. Unfortunately, HWCNBNBWFBR apparently decided to go to the ALERT pad and somehow, someway was able to E&E his way INTO an alert BUFF. Yikes!”


“Apparently the armed security guard and his trusty dog, Rin-Tin-Tin, caught him on the way OUT of the bird, spread eagled him on the tarmac, took his camera, exposed all his film and then proceeded to inform, in succession, the base commander, the wing commander, the group commander, SAC headquarters and oh-by-the-way the Superintendent of Cadets at Dear Old USAFA, Lt. Gen. Albert P. Clark (RIP).”


“It is my understanding to this day that HWCNBNBWFBR served the rest of his cadet time either in confinement or on the tour pad or both simultaneously.”


“However, for me, it was a great learning experience! I learned several invaluable lessons from this summer navigation cross-country experience which I used to great advantage in my future Air Force life:

1) E&E really does work!

2) Never, ever, trade potential pictures of airplanes for real, live Army nurses (or vice versa) and;

3) Always bring doggie treats wherever you go.”



“An interesting and unusual tale Mr. Irish, now what about your active duty experience?”


“Well, this particular experience is somewhat mysterious and unsettling for me even to this day.”


“In the summer of 1990 I was on TDY to Eglin AFB to give a briefing to the Munitions Systems Division senior staff about a new AFLC logistics program when I received an urgent call from my home outfit at Wright Patterson. I answered the phone and the colleague of mine on the other end said “Thank God you’re alive!” To which I responded, “What are you talking about?” Then I cleverly threw this old chestnut at him “the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated, bud.”


“No, you dope,” he continued, “there are news reports that you died in an aircraft accident in Fort Walton Beach.” “Are you serious” I exclaimed? “I ate a little too much seafood at the O Club tonight but I am not feeling morbid yet.” He said “Check the news, Irish, its being reported that you died.”


“So I got back to my tiny little non-VIP VOQ room and checked the news and sure enough they were reporting the accidental death in a private aircraft of, of, …me!”


“I began to wonder if I had finally entered the Twilight Zone or the “Lord, guard and guide world” and so I called the station and asked for more details. I did reach the news staff and was informed that, yes, indeed, Philip S. Irish recently died at a local airport in a private aircraft accident.”


“I silently noted to myself that my middle initial is A. and so I hoped that this must surely be a different person. (I was also wondering if I had remembered to sign up for SGLI.)”


“Doing a little more frantic digging alerted me to a mysterious fact: that Philip S. Irish was a USAFA Zoomie, a’78 grad (who until this point I had not known existed) and who had resigned as a Captain.”


“My snarky humor at this absurd situation turned immediately to profound sorrow at the loss of a fellow grad, one in fact sharing my name.”


“But then my sorrow turned to complete and utter shock when I learned that one of the participating investigators for the aircraft accident was Sheriff (Major) Phil Irish, of the Okaloosa County FL Sheriff’s department.”


“So there I was, and still am, saddened, bewildered and slightly freaked out that in June of 1990 Captain Phil Irish, Major Phil Irish and Lt. Col. Phil Irish were all at the same place and time eerily connected by a tragic aircraft accident.”


At this point the interrogator closed his legal notebook and said “Thank you Dr. Irish. That concludes our inquiry. These extremely unusual events shall be entered into the record.”


Bill Van Horn

9491 South Johnson Court 

Littleton, CO 80127


303-948-8435   work

303-596-3615   cell


USAFA Class of '74 - published a book of our experiences for our 40th reunion!



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