Commander’s Policy Letter Implements Rule for Playing Eagles Song


If you’ve never been to Thule Air Base in Greenland, don’t go. It’s cold, desolate, and reminiscent of a Siberian prison colony.

But if you do go, make sure you have reliable transportation. You’ll want to leave as soon as you get there.

Which brings us to an entertaining chapter in the story of Gen. John Hyten, commander of US Air Force Space Command, who found himself stranded at the icy outpost for four extra days earlier this year after paying an official visit, his airlift plagued by a series of perfectly sequenced maintenance problems. Accompanied by his spouse and entourage, Hyten did what people stuck at Thule generally do … he turned up at the local watering hole to soak up whatever entertainment could be found. This is where the story gets interesting.

Apparently, something called the Blue Steel Band was also stuck at Thule and chose to while away the evening hours with, inter alia, recurring renditions of the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” 

By now, the more perceptive classic rock denizens among you have started to imagine where the song and the story intersect … at the song’s most enduring lyric:

you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

From this fact pattern sprung new lore and ultimately, a new policy as entertaining as it is advisable.

Read for yourself.

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However you feel about Thule, Gen. Hyten, Col. Shaw, or the Blue Steel Band, that’s just funny. Even if, like The Dude, you “hate the f***in’ Eagles, man” … you can’t help but laugh about this crescendo of musical-logistical pratfalls, and admire the command reaction to what had to be an excruciating four days of unplanned VIP entertaining — notwithstanding Hyten’s reputation as among the more approachable and affable of the Air Force’s senior officers.

Some leaders spend their dime stabbing at morale with their steely knives. Col. Shaw is obviously lighting a candle of levity and showing the way toward camaraderie, which more often than not comes from finding humor in things even when our heads grow heavy and our sights grow dim. Laughter is, after all, an important defense mechanism in a place that could be Heaven but is more like Hell.

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