'No, This Isn't the Air Force. It's Darryl, and I Was Navy.'

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, September 3, 2006

or at least another week, the West Ranch Town Council escapes my pen. I did read that Paul Ash has resigned from the council. He will be sorely missed, but I'm sure his community activism is only on hold until he finds another venue. Thanks for your service, Paul. I know we've had our differences of opinion, but it was, from both of us, in hope that the SCV will remain a great place to live.
    I'm not even going to harangue Mr. Antonovich, Sheriff Baca, the kingdom — er, county — of Los Angeles or the Santa Clarita City Council. No, all y'all get a Labor Day reprieve from my pen, too.
    This week's target is none other than the United States Air Force. You know those folks. The ones with fewer planes than the Army and take at least two miles of runway to take off or land a plane when the Navy can take off and land in a total of about 200 feet ... at night ... on a moving airstrip ... in rain and wind ... you get the picture.
    Technology is a wonderful thing. In a long past column, I wrote about the telephone system in the SCV when we had party lines and operators who asked you what number you wanted.
    In the scant 40 years since then, we've come to enjoy the convenience of computers, Web cams, cell phones, Blackberrys, beepers, personal GPS and fax machines.
    Wow! I just wrote "enjoy." I am getting a little more daft.
    Now the Department of Defense has a worldwide telephone network with the acronym of DSN. It used to be called "AUTOVON". It was originally a way for DoD to avoid huge long-distance telephone bills by having its own very costly telephone system.
    I really wonder what "DSN" means? Maybe, "Dollars Still Needed" or "Dumb Stupid Network"?
    Nevertheless, it appears that the DSN prefix for a local Air Force Base is the same as the civilian prefix for my cell phone.
    DSN does not have an area code. So if someone wants to call on DSN from a military base and uses my area code thinking they're calling the local Air Force Base, they get my cell phone instead. Only I never talk to a person. You see, the number they are calling is to a fax machine in the financial office at the base.
    They are trying to fax via a DSN number using an area code that they had to look up, and they're getting my cell phone. They don't need an area code for DSN. When they use "757" they get me and my poor little cell phone.
    My cell phone is technologically challenged. It can't forward numbers or accept faxes. It can't take or send pictures. It is just a small device that allows folks to catch me whenever I don't want to be caught. How did we ever live without them? Very well, thank you.
    But more to the point, I don't want to get faxes from folks who want the Air Force.
    A couple of days ago I got one of those fax calls, and after a couple of fax beeps there was a voice: "This is Captain (name withheld) and I want to know why your fax machine won't accept my faxes or I'm going to speak directly with your commanding officer!"
    I asked him just where he wanted to fax and thanked him for his time and hung up. A quick check with the computer and I found the office he was trying to reach. I called the voice number and talked with the airman on duty. I said, "I'm having trouble with getting your faxes." He replied, "Sir, our fax machine is working fine. It can accept multiple faxes from multiple callers at the same time. We've never had a complaint."
    "I don't want to fax you, I want to stop folks from trying to fax my cell phone," I gently replied.
    "Sir, if you're having problems faxing, just try again. The number is (757) XXX-XXXX."
    He had just given out my cell phone number. I asked to speak to his officer in charge.
    She gave me the same answer and hung up.
    So I sent them a fax, now that I knew the correct commercial telephone prefix number. I wrote:
    "Some folks just never learn, like young naval officers trying to understand how to read the dial of a 24-hour clock. I suspect you folks in the Air Force are just slightly more savvy in the mysteries of DSN and commercial phone systems — but I might be wrong."
    I went on to explain the problem and how this old Navy sailor type would love to help the Air Force but...
    I ended with: "By the way, many of the calls come from the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk. Maybe Air Force officers aren't that unlike their counterparts in the Navy."
    I still get the fax calls. Three times today. I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to fax them a bill for my cell phone usage. I'll bet that stops it.
    If not, I'll not cash but rather frame the check. That will cause them as many problems as I've had answering their fax machine. Government financial types hate it when you don't cash the checks they send. Drives 'em crazy.
    That's my point.

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley and eventually relocated to Boulder City, Nev. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].