Alaska Air Command Patch
Alaska Air Command Patch




The first unusual incident I can remember from Elmendorf was our Army neighbor at the first apartment we rented (who could afford to buy a house in Alaska?). I can't even remember the rank of this dude only that he invited me over to get acquainted. During his get acquainted tour he opened his closet door, pulled out a package and handed it to me. He told me that his job was a munitions expert with E.O.D. On the package was a label that said C-4 EXPLOSIVES...Handle with care. This guy had about 20 similar packages in his closet. As soon as I returned to our apartment I said to Iz "I do believe it's time to look for a new place to live". Shortly after that we decided it was time to move on base.


Hank and Liz with Reiner & Bobby Ortlinghaus...Their living room in California 1996

The next strange occurence happened about a week later at work. I made a call to the Wing Command Post that was answered by Sergeant Ortlinghaus. We had been good friends with an Ortlinghaus five years before in Arizona and had lost track of them. I said "Is this Reiner Ortlinghaus?" knowing that there wasn't much chance of being another Sgt. Ortlinghaus in the Air Force. From that point on we resumed our friendship and were even stationed in Germany at the same time. We also visited them in California a couple of years ago. The irony of the story is that we were introduced to Ross and Lorrie Hodsdon by Reiner and his wife Bobby. They are our best friends now and the reason that we ended up in Maine. The photo below shows Ross and I several years down the road but it appears we are the same size. I'm standing a step above and Ross is actually about 8 inches taller.

Hank with Ross at Son Doug's Wedding Reception in 1989


We had our own personal ice skating and hockey rink every winter that we lived in Alaska. Our back yard in Base Housing sloped down a few feet and back up on the other side to the next apartments. It was very easy to build a small ice dam and turn on the water. By morning we had a skating surface of around 100 x 200 feet. That was the only easy part though. After the initial building it had to be kept clear of snow after snow storms (we didn't have a snow blower in Alaska) and a light layer of fresh water sprayed down every couple nights to keep a smooth surface. I played hockey out there many times with the neighborhood kids who would always lend a hand with the shoveling. It was also where our three kids learned to skate.


During the winter months there was only so much skiing that you could do and to pass the time I recorded music on my reel to reel quadraphonic tape deck. I even had quadraphonic headsets (to play into my four ears I suppose). Great Sound...But did not become a music industry standard...Anyway we had become good friends with our neighbors, the Hallers, Tim was a fishing buddy and his wife Mary was into religious matters. One night I was listinging to some 70's music (current hits at the time) with the headsets on while I was lying on the floor. I looked up and thought I saw God. Turned out it was the Catholic priest visiting our neighbor and she had brought him over for an introduction. I didn't have C-4 to show him but we did have a Silver Bullet. Yes Albert, even then they had Coors Light.

E3 & F15 Aircraft Flying By Mount McKinley


Elmendorf had its own lighted ski facility on the back side of the base and we skiied quite often. We had arranged a ski party one February evening several weeks in advance. The weather does not always cooperate and this particular night when we all hit the slopes the actual temperature was 30 degrees below zero with a wind chill of -65 degrees. Ended up being 50 below that night. Almost enough to make you give up skiing. One of the members of the party was named Dallas (real name, I suppose his dumb parents liked the Cowboys) and Dallas didn't know nor want to learn how to change dirction on skis. He would always go in a straight line from top to bottom. I would imagine that the wind chill around him reached over 100 below.


We went on a family outing with Dallas and his girl friend whose name I don't remember (read here fishing trip as most family outings included fishing). Dallas didn't think to bring a fishing pole for her so she took a stick off the ground and tied some line to it. We were all amazed by how many fish she had caught (more than the rest of us combined) when a warden from Alaska Fish and Game came by and asked to check our fishing licenses (it was the only time in four years in Alaska that I had my license checked). Of course every one had a license except "Newfie" Dallas' girl friend. She didn't need one as she was from Newfoundland and considered a native. She had been fishing with bamboo poles and string for 15 years. Her parents taught her this way when she was five.

Headquarters Building Alaska


My last year at Elmendorf I was transferred from Base Operations to 21st Composite Wing, Standardization/Evaluation Division as part of the Wing Staff Assistance team (at this time I was now a TSgt). My office was in the building pictured above. My primary job was to inspect other units on the base and identify problem areas. It was my least favorite job during my Air Force Career but someone had to do it. Prior to leaving Base Ops we held a going away party for myself and two others who were being reassigned. I was in charge of securing the location and arranged to rent one of the squadron recreation buildings. It was a really nice place and the party went along fine (only a couple of fights and drunks). About two in the morning I locked up and went home. At eight in the morning I got a call to report to the Commander immediately. It seems that the building burned to the ground during the night and I was being held responsible and would have to pay for damages. I drove out to look and the only thing recognizable was a blackened refrigerator. Subsequent investigation by the fire marshall's office exhonorated me from blame. I don't know how they determined it but somehow they found out that a BarBQ Grill had a rusted bottom and a piece of charcoal fell through onto a piece of wood unnoticed and ignited the building.


Hank holding 22-inch rainbow trout caught at Ptarmigan Creek, Alaska

There are so many stories I could write about Elmendorf as it was a great assignment (Tied with Hahn for being my favorites) but I don't want to write a book. Often we went to a place called Ptarmigan Creek for our outings. It was a beautiful camping area and not crowded like some places. Plus the fishing was always good there. This particular weekend was raining and our friends Ross and Lorrie were at each others throats (Four kids in a Winnebago). Lorrie was pissed because Ross was having such a good time fishing and she was stuck inside with the kids. When I suggested she lighten up and go fishing she threw me out the door on my butt. Shortly after that I floated Ross' tackle box and net down the creek to get even. I don't know why I took it out on him instead of the witch. It turned out to be a stroke of genius though. While attempting to retrieve the net I spotted what I thought at first was a log sitting in a deep hole. Logs usually don't move though and I saw some movement. On the first cast I was lucky enough to hook on and bring in this spectacular 22 inch rainbow trout (Ross had to go further downstream and get his net after he recovered the tackle box, by the way). It was such an outstanding fish that I wanted to have it mounted for display until I found out that it would cost $150.00 (in 1976). In the meantime I put it on a chain and walked it upstream back to the campground, me and my new pet.


One more story...One day Lorrie was driving onto the base with a car full of women including my wife. Whenever you approach the gate you are required to stop unless the Security Policeman waves you on. Well as usual, Lorrie was busy yakking away and not paying any attention and drive past the guard until you realized what she had done. She then stopped about two car lengths past the gate shack. The next thing she knew the SP was standing by her window with his gun drawn. One of the other women said "Oh my God, he's got a gun!" and the rest started laughing until they all saw he had the gun ponted at them. After he holstered his gun he told Lorrie that he was going to give her a ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign. The next thing you heard was my wife saying "What's Your Quota Today?" Ever since then Lorrie has been looking for a way to get even. Like the tackle box story it doesn't matter whether its me or Liz. I think she got hauled off to the pokey. If she didn't, she should have been.


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