Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I took the oath and got on the plane 49 years ago today

lacklandcap2Forty-nine years ago today, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and flew to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.

We flew from Indianapolis to Shreveport, La., to Houston to San Antonio. (Changing planes in Houston, I ran into another Delphi boy – Ron Crumbo – who was already in the Air Force. Ron was married to my childhood friend Susan Kent for several years and became a pilot.) The last leg of the journey was in an old DC3 twin-prop job.

The photo is from one of those automated photo booths at the BX (Base Exchange).

I can still remember my serial number – an eight-digit number that was years before the military started using Social Security numbers as service member serial numbers.

I had a brilliant 41-day career in the 3703rd Basic Military Training Squadron before I was given a medical discharge for allergies.

During my time I was put in charge of the cleaning crew for the second floor latrine and shower area, did one night of KP (I hated the pots and pans detail) and pulled guard duty several times – in the barracks and outside in the squadron area.

I qualified as an expert with an M1 .30 carbine, earning a ribbon to prove it. The day we went through the obstacle course, the teargas building was out of order, so I missed out on that experience.

Besides teaching me the finer points of toilet cleaning, the Air Force turned me into a proficient shoe-polisher and bed-maker. I already knew how to march, thanks to four years in high school marching band, but it seemed like a real challenge to some of the guys. I learned not to carry stuff in my right hand while walking about, since one never knew when one would encounter an officer and be required to salute.

I had worked as a hand sander in the RCA television and stereo cabinet factor in Monticello, Ind., in the months before I enlisted. As a consequence, I had inadvertently sanded off my fingerprints. They brought me back multiple times for fingerprinting, but I don’t think they ever got a useable set.

flousafI have always been good at orienting myself to the points of the compass, but I never could get and keep my bearings while at Lackland AFB.

I suppose that qualifies me as a Vietnam-era veteran, but that’s a claim I will never make out of deference to the guys who really served and fought.

I came home in splendid physical condition with the shortest haircut I’d had since I was a little kid.

Here I am on my first day back in my hometown of Delphi. Mom photographed me in the back yard with Snoopy, the family dog.

No comments: