Short-Timer's Ribbon

First a little background: As noted in the December newsletter (No. 012) John V. "Doc" Garrett, PhD, is on the cusp of retirement as the 17th Training Wing historian at Goodfellow. During his tour there Doc has been a good friend and great supporter of the EC-47 community. While thinking of a suitable means of recognizing Doc's good work and to salute his impending departure, visions of times past floated into Tom Nurre's head. Why not, thought Tom, have Doc display his short timer's status in the traditional USAF manner by sporting the ribbon from a bottle of Segram's VO?  Well, VO's a little harder to come by now than it was in those days, but that's another story. Meanwhile, Tom sent out an APB asking for recollections of this ritual. Here's some of what we got, slightly edited in a few cases.

Tom Helwick: I was in the 362nd TEWS from Dec '69 to Dec '70 in both Pleiku and DaNang as a pilot. The Pictures are from Da Nang at a hooch party thrown by Ron Sergot who's on the left. The other fellow is the brother of fellow pilot Dave Volin who was in the army at the time. The other picture is of Lt. Col. Bloomberg, whose first name I can't recall, who is receiving his VO Ribbon during our little get together.

[Editor's note: Looks like the colonel's name might actually be Bloomfield. We stuck a shot of a VO bottle and box in the middle.] 


Ed Johnson:
ore mine proudly Kimpo Korea 1957 and Phu Cat RVN 1970. Best part of wearing the ribbon was getting to share the VO with buddies. When I was in Japan and Korea in '56-'57, VO was a $1.50 for a fifth.

Trolling social media yielded more comments, a lot of them from ex-USAFSS troops who were stationed all over the world  "back in the day."

Brian K: At Goose Bay [Labrador] in the mid-60s we teamed up the ribbon from VO with a whistle found in Cracker Jack as our Short Timer symbol :-)

John P: I did - Tan Son Nhut. The Major frowned upon her [?] troops wearing it, but I worked night shift.

Jones D: You’re so much older than I am, so guess I didn’t have that opportunity. But we did have a short patch.

Peter C: I damn sure did! I was scheduled to return to the ZI from Da Nang on July 23, 1967; so, I dutifully donned the ribbon on June 24 [my 21st birthday] and proudly wore it. On July 15/16 we were attacked with devastating results. Bomb dump blew; new Ops Building (not yet occupied) was flattened; both runways and flightline severely damaged. I was thus 'involuntarily extended until the chaos could be contained. As I remember, after the dust settled, I threw that ribbon as far over the perimeter fence as I was physically able. (Thanks, Brother Tom Nurre for providing an opportunity for a "war story”!)

Earl F: For some reason I thought it was only those of us becoming short timers leaving VN. I wore mine proudly at the 16th USAF Clinic, Nha Trang.

Lawrence M: I had one of the "Short Timer" ribbons at Trabzon, Turkey in 1967. For a calendar I drew a picture of a girl in a bikini divided into sections. Each day I colored in a section. When the bikini was colored in, time for me to leave. Guess is was easier to color in a section each day rather than erase.

Walt R: Proudly wore one when departing from Misawa [Japan] in 1969 and again when I left DaNang Vietnam in 1970. Only time I drank VO was to get the ribbon. Was a fad for quite some time. Don't remember doing it when I left Misawa in 1976. Had a short time calendar in Vietnam but never at Misawa or Osan. Was in Korea '86-'88 and don't recall the ribbon during that time frame.

Peter D: It was a tradition at Camp Pieri [Germany] in 1963 when I left there. BTW, I have been looking for some of the guys who were at Camp Pieri from 1960 to 1963, but I never see their names on these posts.

Stanley S: You have chafed one of my sore spots. When I got to the 6927th at Onna Point Okinawa, it was standard to wear the "short ribbon" on the headsets. But then when Lt SBC took over and when he was aided by TSgt EF, the short ribbons were declared "unauthorized item on your uniform" and all were forbidden to wear them. I chuck that into the category of "How to win friends and influence people". Not! There were some equally asinine rules issued in about that same time frame.

Reagan C: Don't remember the short ribbons at Misawa (72-74) .... but I do remember these expressions: Short under 100 days; "He's so short, that he's a Double-Digit Midgit." Short under 10 days; "He's so short, he's a Single-Digit Midgit" and" He's so short, that he'd trip over a snake." Anyone remember any other such "short" sayings? .........

Jim H: Wore one at Misawa. No time at Darmstadt [Germany] as I was gone after early out announcement was made. We used to say we had so many days and a wake-up.

Bill B: I never saw them while in USAFSS, but the guys in Det. 6, 1099th SpecActySq HQ on Tan Son Nhut had a FIGMO calendar. It was a picture of a lovely lass divided up into 365 numbered sections. I am sure you all can guess where “1” was located!

Jim D: Part of the back to the ZI PCS processing at the 6924th SS Da Nang RVN back in 1968. If I recall correctly the booze cost about $2.50 a fifth at the NCO Club.

Ron F: Wore mine proudly on my Fatigues, last 30 days was the tradition. July 1962 at the 6901st SCG, Zweibrucken, W. Germany. That VO was good stuff! Also wore one leaving SLK Taiwan, and Yokota AB, Japan, in late 1962 and most of 1963.

Jay E: Seems to me that you were supposed to kill the fifth in one night. Does that sound right? I know in my case it took more than one night. It took me several nights, but I still wore the ribbon proudly.

Jim D: Being a good Irishman, I polished off the bottle the afternoon and night before I left Da Nang along with another old Mick. Didn't sober up till we landed in California.

Jim K: VO ribbon and PCS [orders ?] with "FIGMO" in Magic Marker scrawled across it hung on your barracks room door or bunk.

Ron T: I had a VO short-timer's ribbon for Clark in the P.I. in '70 but in '72 I was so in love with Crete that I didn't make one for the 6931st at Iraklion Air Station. And that was for discharge, and not just change of station.

Mike B: I wore the short-timer’s ribbon at SLK Taiwan in '66 from my headset.

Robert T: I wore one at Johnston Island back in 1968. I’m sure I drank the whole bottle because that was all we did on our off time.

Chuck M: I wore one in Scotland in 63 - didn't drink any VO, probably because of my 20th birthday in 60 where I had 10 shots of cognac before heading into Edinburgh on a double decker bus. Arriving in Edinburgh I immediately tumbled down the stairs into the street and was placed in a taxi by 3 buddies and sent back to RAF Kirknewton [Scotland] where I nursed a massive hangover for my 4-day break. Ever since, I'm a beer man except for the annual toast on New Year’s Eve.

◊      ◊      ◊

Now, for you civilians who may not be familiar with the term, FIGMO stands for "Forget It [well, sorta ...] — Got My Orders!" So there ya have it, folks. If you can add to the knowledge base, jump in below and share!

Comments (10)

  • Tom Nurre Mon, 31 Dec 2018 at 10:23 AM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    The comments above cover the short-timers ribbon the same as I remember. I wore one in 1963 when leaving PCS from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, to Peshawar, Pakistan. I also had a ribbon and short-timer calendar when PCSing from Pakistan to Texas in 1965. I can't remember how many times I enjoyed using the wide black magic marker to write FIGMO on the top copy of the pack of orders we always received for out-processing...but it was common practice into the 1970s for sure.  I have heard about guys using the VO ribbon to fashion an actual "ribbon" that fit on the standard uniform ribbon rack. Joe also mentioned knowing of some use of the Crown Royal bag draw-string as a short-timers item. 
    We appreciate all who sent in their recollections...I will present all of this (along with a vintage bottle of unopened VO and ribbon) and calendar to Doc Garrett at a January 10th gala in San Angelo. Happy New Year.
  • John P: Mon, 31 Dec 2018 at 11:34 AM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    Regarding the "her" in my previous posting - the OIC at the 12TRS PPIF was Major Marie Guiterrez (sp?) Found the comments interesting. First time I've seen Camp Pieri mentioned in a long, long time. I was billeted at Camp Pieri when I arrived in Germany in 1967. The antenna farm was in the back yard behind our barracks, but the USAFSS folks lived across the street. We worked down the road (Schierstein Compound). Happy New Year, Tom
  • Kimberlee S. Mon, 31 Dec 2018 at 03:44 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    When at Osan, we had an outline of the peninsula divided into 50 squares and we would color one in on each of our last 50 days. And we also had the copy of our orders with ‘FIGMO’ written on them posted on our cubicle, which quickly got outlawed by the CC...
  • George M. Mon, 31 Dec 2018 at 03:52 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    I served (50’s and early 60’s, not later) in many units that had this custom but I was a scotch drinker.
  • Steve T. Mon, 31 Dec 2018 at 04:00 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    How about the short timers over-sized safety pin?  At the 6981st 59-61?
    The safety pin was about 6 inches long with the top of it wide enuff to start at 99 and begin countdown to your of rotation...same as being a 2 digit midget.
  • William "Bill" D: Mon, 31 Dec 2018 at 06:57 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    The ribbons were popular at Wakkanai when I was there in 1962-64.
  • Cris S: (CT-29 ARDF) Tue, 01 Jan 2019 at 05:53 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    While with Skivvy Nine (Osan, Korea) on a 13 month tour in 1969, local tailors had a free “short” sheet that featured a naked lady. It had 390 squares, triangles, spots etc, representing each day to count down from 390 to 1, with the 3-2-1 spots very strategically located...filling the last 3 in with red. It was taped to the inside of the wall locker door.  Some bolder, irreverent airmen taped it to the front their last 30 days there. (We never had inspections.) In my haste and excitement to depart and go “ back to the world “, I forgot to take it with me. Houseboy probably took it down...those were the days!!!
  • Bob K: Thu, 03 Jan 2019 at 02:24 AM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    That creatively constructed short sheet that Cris refers to above was still around in '72 at Osan. Not really sure where people got them, but knowing our Orderly Room Admin NCO, Rolly Burns, he might have had something to do with it. Remember seeing them on quite a few open bay lockers throughout my stay at the 03rd.
  • Cris S: (CT-29 ARDF) Thu, 03 Jan 2019 at 02:25 AM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    Bob Keating - I got my short sheet from Prince Custom Tailor, main drag of beautiful downtown Chicol Village aka Song Tan...Free advertising for them, free short sheet for us. By the way, had 7 suits made, pretty good quality, went out of style before they wore out. On another note, is it possible that the “ politically correct” movement started st Skivvy Nine? Yet another innovative “first” for S9....YAH!!!
  • Robert Benzon Wed, 10 Apr 2019 at 03:58 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    I was a copilot with the 362nd TEWS.  We closed down the Da Nang unit in the spring of 1973.    During my year at Da Nang the VO ribbon was worn on our watch bands, only after we got short...perhaps two weeks or so prior to DEROS.  I still have a bit of a headache from my bout with my  shared VO bottle.

    Bob Benzon

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