A meeting with five 4-stars and one ‘horse-handler’

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Bern Zovistoski

By Bern Zovistoski

As my time at European Stars and Stripes ebbed, the draw-down of U.S. forces serving in Europe and the Pacific brought a harsh new reality to Stripes operations in both theaters: The need to cut costs.

Plans were underway to consolidate the editing staffs in a common office in Washington, D.C., with a limited number of staff members in the field.

In the course of things, someone came up with the idea that we could save money if we changed our press deadlines. The problem with that was it would mean our readers, who were already getting the breaking news a day late, would receive the news even later.

That idea was immediately and strongly opposed by the editors who were concerned about the readers losing the timeliness of the news.

What resulted was a very, very unusual meeting at U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart.

Attending the meeting to discuss the pros and cons of a deadline change were Col. Steven Hoffman, Stripes’ publisher, and me – and four generals and an admiral wearing a total of 20 stars. Oh, yeah, there was also a two-star general acting as “horse-holder” for the officers, making a total of 22 stars in the room.

The discussion was cordial, and the brass assembled came to see my point about serving the U.S. forces in the best way possible for as long as possible and they delayed the deadline change.

My duties as Stripes’ editor involved a lot of travel.

Two or three times a year there was a flight from Frankfurt to Washington to confer with the headquarters staff. The most memorable flight was the red-eye back to Frankfurt when we ran into some serious turbulence approaching the United Kingdom and the captain spoke over the PA system in an alarmed tone: “Flight attendants, sit down!”

There were quite a few shorter flights, to London and other places on business.

At one point I was tapped by Col. Townsend to attend a newspaper editors’ conference in Las Vegas.  As I approached the gate to board for the 10-hour connecting flight to Dallas, I told a young German woman checking tickets that I would be happy to fly first-class if there was a seat available.

She asked me to wait as boarding continued and finally it appeared that just about everyone had gotten on, so I approached the gate. She gave me a seat assignment in first-class, which was wonderful. That’s the only way to fly for 10 hours straight.

Much of my travel, though, was by car – or should I say my POV, personally owned vehicle.

On some of my business trips Paulette accompanied me, and we took many more together on our own time, from Portugal and Spain to Sweden and Norway, from Scotland to Poland, and virtually every place in between.

And there were some excursions through German travel agencies to places such as the Canary Islands.

At one point we decided to buy a Saab and the price included traveling to Sweden to pick it up at the factory. We boarded a train in Darmstadt and rode north to the coast, where we boarded an overnight ferry to Sweden.

When we picked up the car we drove to Norway the next day, just to be able to say we went there. Then we boarded the return ferry to Germany and drove home.

Bern Zovistoski is a journalist who practiced his trade in various capacities around the world for several decades. As a Granville native, he returned to his hometown to cap his career with extensive contributions to the betterment of The Granville Sentinel and The Whitehall Times. To respond to this column, go to pj.zovistoski@ gmail.com.