Chapter Nineteen - Anniston Army Depot
Eleanor Rhodes My Secretary for twenty five years
Eleanor is originally from Maine and I owe a lot to the
circumstances that got her to Alabama as she was the finest Secretary in
the world and I was most fortunate to have her.
Eleanor was the fastest and most accurate typist ever, and did
the neatest job. She did this with hands that hurt her constantly. She
was also a good friend and avid supporter and if every employee I had
was just half as good at their jobs as Eleanor was, then I would still
Eleanor typed my Master's thesis and several more that I wrote
for other people. I could write a Master's thesis over a week-end and
Eleanor could type it faster than that. We could have easily turned out
two per week.
What can I say? Eleanor was my best employee and was more
professional at her job than anyone else I had. Our relationship was
purely professional and as friends. Long live Eleanor Rhodes.
Herman Tidmore Coker Computer Systems Analyst
Herman T. Coker was a long time friend of my wife and her family
and became one of my employees when I was selected as Director for Data
Systems. Herman was on temporary duty in Italy when I first went to Data
Processing. Herman was in demand everywhere and traveled frequently.
Herman knew every form used in the supply system by name and
number and knew what they were used for, how many copies there were,
who got each copy, and what they did with it. When procedures were
changed he could sit down and write a new manual without referring to
the old manual. He could write a new manual in a very short time frame.
The people responsible for system wide manuals often asked him to
rewrite a manual for them. He knew the supply system better than anyone
in the country.
Herman had a heart of gold. He was often suspected of being gay
but no one ever proved it. But gay or straight, he was worth his weight
in gold in any data processing organization. It was a blow when he
retired and we were always glad when he visited after retirement so we
could get answers to the questions we had saved up - as well as just
being glad to see him.
Herman died, apparently from cancer of the stomach, and many,
many of us attended his funeral in Collinsville, Alabama.
J.D. Brittain Director for Services
J.D. Brittain was promoted to GS-14 the same day I was. I think
J.D. knew his job better than anyone else on the depot knew theirs. He
was responsible for a wide range of highly technical activities but
always seemed to know the fine details of each one, whether it was
procurement, depot property, depot facilities, vehicle maintenance, or
J.D. did his job in a professional manner and was not afraid to
tell a commander, "You can't do that." He was not negative in his
attitude and was equally good at pointing out how something could be
I was truly sorry when J.D. retired as it took some of the fun
out of working when he left. I missed him shuffling paper in a notebook
at staff meetings to annoy the commander and I missed him butting in
with his, "I'd like to say this about that." I miss you pal.
I cannot call some commanders by name without fear of being
sued. I will use code names for those individuals. I served under
fifteen different commanders while I was at the Depot and at least five
of them were promoted to Brigadier General and I had some part in
effecting those promotions, as part of Depot management. I supported
each and every one of them and never did anything against any of them,
although one was convinced I did by his guilty conscience.
I will not speak of them in any particular order, just as they
come to mind.
Colonel Horace Mane
Colonel Mane was short. Too short. His lack of physical
stature clouded his judgement. He was a very intelligent man but his ego
was much too large. I was acting Chief of Internal Review when he came.
Colonel Mane operated basically by creating fear in his
subordinates, feeling they would be afraid not to do a good job. He
never felt that anything could be done well unless it was done his way
and he had no confidence in anyone. He had a plan to be promoted to
General and that plan was to show how poor the depot was when he arrived
and how good it was when he left.
He told me that a part of my job was to check up on all external
audit findings and see if corrective action had been taken and to report
to him when it had not been. I told him it was the job of his directors
to keep him informed on the status of audit finding corrective actions
and I would not be a spy for him. We had some bitter arguments on that
one point but I refused to budge.
It seemed that every audit I made I ran into something Col
Mane had done wrong. During a travel audit I found he was being paid
mileage for driving his personal car when he had actually used a
government sedan. The Finance and Accounting Officer refused to take him
a collection voucher and collect for the overpayment so every time I
found such a voucher I would have a clerk make a collection voucher and
I would go get him to write a check to The Treasurer of the US for it.
He finally demanded to know what percentage of his vouchers were being
checked and I told him all of them were. He glowered at me and finally
asked me to bring one collection voucher when I finished the audit.
I audited the Officer's Club and found where the Club Secretary
had given him an estimate for a party. He had marked all the prices down
fifty percent or more and told the Club Secretary to bill him for that
amount. I wrote the Secretary a note asking if all members could reduce
their prices. The Secretary took him the note and he called me in and
asked me if I thought he was dishonest. I told him I thought he was very
dishonest and if he had been six inches taller he would have come across
the desk at me. I laughed at him and he became furious. I gave him a
bill for the remainder of the charges for the party and he paid it.
Before he left the depot he had a book prepared that was close
to a foot thick. Every supervisor on the depot was forced to write a
section stating how poorly they were operating when the Colonel arrived
and how good they had become under his guidance. I stated that Internal
Review was not operating as well and refused to write a section on
Internal Review. Ed Melton begged me to do it for him and I finally
wrote a brief section stating that before the Colonel arrived we needed
good professional auditors to audit the depot and we had received so
much practice from auditing him personally that now we could do the jobs
with monkeys from the zoo. I took it direct to the Colonel and he
made Ed write one for his book. His book had a fifteen page cover letter
stating basically that the depot had a good reputation when he arrived
but they gained it mainly because they had always had unlimited funds
and resources. He said those funds and resources were drying up at the
time of his arrival and his planning and forward thinking saved the
depot from disaster.
Just before the Colonel left he called all depot employees into
a warehouse and made a speech telling them all he had done for the
depot. Everyone on the depot was laughing at him. We later learned his
book was very popular in headquarters. It was the only thing heavy
enough to serve as door stops.
Colonel Tim Parson
Colonel Parson replaced Colonel Mane. This meant we had two in
a row bucking for Brigadier General.
Colonel Parson called me to his office shortly after arriving. He
pointed to a huge pile of my Internal Review audit reports and said he
had read every audit report I had issued since taking over Internal
Review and they all had one thing in common - they all stunk. He said he
had been a procurement officer in his last assignment and he hated all
auditors with a passion as they all criticized everyone except
themselves and they loved to step in right before you were ready to move
out on something and say they had heard you planned so and so and they
He said he was not going to argue with me as regulations
required he have an Internal Review function and there was no
requirement for an Internal Review Office. He said that for every audit
report I issued that he did not like I would lose one auditor space. He
said there were seven spaces and the seventh report he did not like
would cost me my job and he would then assign the function to the
Management Engineering Office.
I told him that was fine with me and all the time he was there
we just documented our findings in work papers and issued a report that
just said we had made a certain audit and no findings were being
reported. He finally called me in and said he did not understand why my
reports did not have more substance. I told him he had called the shots
and to just refer to his Internal Review by our new name, which was
Silent Service. He became very angry and tried to rewrite my job
description. His proposed job description mainly talked about how I had
to be courteous to everyone I audited and had to issue my reports
without upsetting anyone, etc. The personnel officer told him he had a
performance requirement instead of a job description and refused to
issue it. This argument ended when he was promoted to Brigadier General
Colonel Bob Baler
Colonel Baler was what the depot needed badly when he arrived. He
had visited the depot as project officer of a test track that was being
built for the depot and Charlie Heard had given him a tour of the depot.
Bob asked Charlie who the next depot commander would be and Charlie, as
was his way, said he did not know but he was sure he would be a son of a
bitch. Not too long after that, when Colonel Baler had left, we learned
the next commander would be Bob Baler. When Bob got there he looked for
Charlie and told him, "Here the son of a bitch is." Charlie thought he
was in for a lot of trouble but his fears were ungrounded.
Bob Baler got everyone together the next day and made a little
speech. He said, basically, the following: "Relax fellows. The last two
commanders damn near broke your back making general. I ain't bucking for
nothing. I was told fifteen years ago that I would never be anything but
a third rate ordnance officer. We ain't going to try to set no records
and we ain't going to try to make any improvements. We are going to have
some fun and try our best to hold what we got. If holding what we got
gets in the way of having some fun, then damn it we will just have to
slip a little. All you gotta do to get along with me is to just act like
you are trying to do your job. If somebody screws up once in awhile I
will take the blame."
Colonel Baler stuck to his promises and he was there five
delightful years. He might roar at you now and then but he would not
harm a fly and I loved the old man. Anyone on that depot would fight you
if you said anything bad about Bob Baler. Bob Baler was a true
When Ed Melton left the depot Woody Strange went in to see Bob
and asked him about getting the job of depot controller. Colonel Baler
jumped up laughing and left his office. He went down the hall, stopping
everyone he met and telling them old Woody wanted to be controller and
could not even keep a golf score. You had to know Woody to appreciate
the humor. Woody was a charming and gentle type and would have been
brutalized as controller.
Woody was in Bob's office on another occasion and Bob told him,
"I love you, Woody." Woody asked him why and Bob pointed at his twenty
year old dog snoozing in the corner and said, "You have eyes just like
my dog." Woody said he could never figure Bob.
Colonel Baler frequently loaded his old beat-up station wagon with
people from the depot and took off to his place in Florida. He had just
one rule and that was, no mention of the depot from the time they left
till the time they got back. On one trip, Roland McKendree, who ran most
of Maintenance at the time, had a problem on his mind and cornered Bob
and started talking depot talk. Bob interrupted him and told him if he
said one more word he would walk back to Anniston. Those trips did a lot
for the depot as Bob Baler was truly just another guy with no more
privileges than anyone else except the one reserved privilege to stop
any talk about the depot. On one trip he and Ken Baerwald, the Director
for Supply, got in a shouting contest on the way back and Ken completely
lost his cool. He challenged Bob to stop the car and get out and fight,
and that was totally out of character for Ken. Bob just wheeled over on
the shoulder of the road and stopped. Ken jumped out of the car and Bob
just sat there. Ken yelled for him to get out of the car. Bob gave Ken
his sweetest smile and said, "I'll hold your coat." Ken got back in the
car and they changed the subject.
Bob Baler selected me for Director for Data Systems, knowing I had
never even seen a computer. He said they had plenty of people that knew
about computers and what they needed was someone who knew about people.
He said he would guarantee I would know all there was to know about
computers in nothing flat. About three weeks after I went on the job I
called Bob and said, "Hey, Bob, I now know all there is to know about
this damn thing." He cheered and said he had told me I would know all
there was to know about computers in nothing flat. I said, "Hey, hold on
man, I ain't talking about computers. I mean I know all there is to know
about this damn push button phone. I ain't had time to look at the
computer yet." He got a real charge out of that.
Colonel Baler was not allowed to accept a gift when he left the
depot and no one would have embarrassed him by offering him one. The
huge color television set and two lounge chairs that showed up in his
van when he got to Minnesota must have been a real surprise to him. If
we had our way we would have bought him a home anywhere he wanted it to
match the home he had in all our hearts.
Bob Baler visited the depot a few years after he had retired and
we had a secret party for him. I knew when I saw him that he had had a
stroke since he retired. I spoke to him and knew that he knew who I was
but he pretended not to even know me. Charlie Heard started trying to
explain who I was and Bob grinned at him and said, "I know the son of a
bitch. He called my general a liar." I decided I would needle him back.
He obviously had lost control of one side when he had his stroke because
he had one hand tucked under his belt. I said, "What's wrong with your
damn hand?" Bob just looked at me and said, "You are the only one that
noticed so keep your big mouth shut." Bob died a few months later and
there went the country's last big hope for a great president in my time.
Colonel Stan Bell Depot Commander
One commander arrived at the depot and remained five long and
miserable years. He was the personification of evil itself and I shall
refer to him as Colonel Stan Bell. Colonel Bell was a penny pinching,
crooked, thieving, conniving and manipulating character who did much
harm to many people. His arrival was a sad day for the depot and for me
in particular. He disliked me more than any other person on the depot
and I was his favorite target while he was there.
We had an annual fund drive due shortly after his arrival and he
appointed me as fund drive coordinator. It was the first year we could
use pledges and payroll deductions and we had the largest amount pledged
and contributed in the history of the depot. I always knew it was due to
the new payroll deduction plan more than anything I did and I did not
ever attempt to get a lot of credit for it. Colonel Bell had not
contributed and I made him aware of it and finally he made a monthly
pledge and then attempted to say he contributed the same amount as
Charlie Heard. I reminded him that his contribution was monthly and Mr.
Heards contribution was bi-weekly and for every dollar he gave, Mr Heard
was giving a little more than twice as much. This infuriated him and he
ordered me to state in the fund drive report that the Commander and CEO
gave the same amount. I refused to make that comment as it was not true.
He then invited the community civic leaders to the depot and introduced
Mr Holman, Director for Administration, as the fund drive coordinator.
The civic leaders presented him with a letter of commendation. They had
his middle initial wrong and he went into a rage about it. They
apologized and offered to correct it and he told them he would have his
secretary make the correction and send it to them for signatures as most
of them might be able to spell their own names correctly. I had been
working with them and they asked that I be called in to the meeting. I
was called in and when I saw what Colonel Bell was doing I told them I
would just let Mr Holman and Colonel Bell explain how they had handled
the drive, and I left. Colonel Bell told me to stay and I told him I
obviously had no business at a meeting where they were discussing their
great success and I left.
Colonel Bell called me in after the group left and told me I was
to never walk out of his office like that again. I told him he made me
sick and leaving was preferable to vomiting on his carpet.
That was the beginning of five years of harrassment by Colonel
Bell. He took every opportunity after that to do anything to me he
thought he could get away with. However, I had an ace in the hole. I
knew by that time that he was a crook and I had the evidence to prove it
anytime I needed to. I let him know he was my boss and I would support
him anytime it was legal and ethical to do so but if he ever made an
attempt to fire me, he would get more than he bargained for.
Not too much later, I made a speech at the depot that was
reported in a national publication that went to everyone in congress and
in the pentagon. I was critical of the computer selection process that
resulted in selection of an inferior computer system for every depot in
the country. A GS-17 in our Washington headquarters and a GS-15 at the
Logistics System Support Agency were on the phone almost immediately
demanding that the Colonel fire me. The Colonel directed that a panel be
set up to review my actions and recommend appropriate action. The panel
called me to testify and I refused on the basis they were not
established in accordance with Army regulations. Regulations required
that I be given a written document and that the panel be established by
a command general order. The Colonel kept trying to comply with
regulations without giving me my rights, so I just kept refusing to talk
to the panel. Mr Heard asked me to meet with the panel and at least
explain my position. I did that and the panel voted to make a finding
that I had done nothing wrong and dissolve the panel. Charlie Heard then
wrote a performance rating and rated me as outstanding and recommended a
cash award. He went to Colonel Bell's office with it and did not come
back until Colonel Bell agreed to sign it. I owe Charlie Heard a lot as
you do not win battles like this without a friend and Charlie was a true
Return to Fireclay Menu
Continue Chapter Nineteen
Back to Chapter Eighteen