De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


Further Into The Wild Blue Yonder

The trip from Lackland to Sheppard was so uneventful that the only thing I can remember is getting and extremely expensive lunch in the Dallas airport. And I have a vague memory of flying the puddle jumper from Dallas out to Wichita Falls.

The first couple of days, I got to stay in the regular VAQ (Visiting Airmen's Quarters). Then they figured me out and made me stay in the regular dorms with the rest ofthe "pipeline" students. It was only 10 weeks, so it wasn't really such a big deal, although I did get a bit tired of marching everywhere.

The school itself was actually rather enjoyable. Once again, I was on 'A' Flight, which meant I was in class from 0600 to noon, Monday thru Friday. After class, we formed up, got our afternoon assignments, then marched over to the "chow hall" for lunch. After lunch, those who had a "detail" (work assignment) took care of that; the rest of us were supposed to be studying until 1500, but I question how many actually did it. We didn't have much homework and what we did have was pretty easy.

The one thorn in my eye was those stupid details after lunch. If enough people didn't volunteer for it, some people "got volunteered". Mostly, it consisted of going over to the hangars and cleaning up. My thinking was that clean-up is part of any job and that, since I didn't dirty up the hangars, I should't have to clean them up. There were various dodges for getting out of details. One way was to have an appointment. I used that one myself a few times. Then I found out that if a person had a "permanent detail", that got him out of any others.

One afternoon, one of the Student Training Advisors (STA) found out that I had once worked in a sporting goods place and asked if I knew how to fix pool cues. Piece of cake, I told him. Would I be interested in a permanent detail? All it involved was checking the dayrooms in our six buildings and fixing any broken pool cues. I jumped all over that like a rooster on a june bug. After that, the roster was annotated so that I couldn't get volunteered.

Sometime after I arrived, someone noticed that I hadn't passed the annual aerobics test, which consisted of either running a mile and a half or walking three miles, each having its own time limit. For a 24-year-old, the running time was 16:30; the walk was 40:54. Being young and foolish, I opted for the run, just to get it over with. Bad choice. I managed to do it in 16:24, which was only 2 seconds faster than the sqadron "record" of 16:26. But I passed, and that's all that really mattered. Well, that and being able to recover from it.

After a while, the guy I was sharing the room with graduated, leaving me with the room all to myself. This was a real boon for me. He was a nice enough guy and all, but I never cared much for sharing a place with a stranger.

One of the benefits was that now I could stretch out on the empty bed and not mess up my own (just in case someone decided to come around and inspect). This worked fine for a while, until one day...

I came in really exhausted one afternoon and decided to take a nap before doing any homework. So, I went over and crashed on the empty bed. Suddenly, I woke up and looked around. The nap had done me a lot of good, but I was still a bit groggy. Thru the window, I noticed the sun just above the horizon. On the table under the window was my alarm clock, reading 7:25. Panic time! I was supposed to be in class at 6am.

With a sudden burst of adrenaline, I jumped out of the bed and got halfway across the room in one leap. I couldn't figure out how the alarm didn't wake me at 4. My mind raced to think of a way I could explain why I was late getting to class. Suddenly, it "dawned" on me -- my window faced west, not east. It was 7:25pm, not 7:25am.

It took a while to get my heartbeat down below hummingbird speed.

To this day, I'm still looking for a digital clock that shows 24-hour time.

The one bit of unpleasantness came when we changed to Daylight Savings Time. My roommate at the time had a quartz electric watch (rather new at that time, and quite expensive) that his parents had given him as a going-away present. It was guaranteed to neither gain nor lose more than 10 seconds a month. For some odd reason, he stayed up half the night on Saturday and when they gave the tone over the radio to signal that it was officially 0200, he reset his watch.

Come Monday morning, we went to breakfast, then reported for our 0530 formation for roll call and to march to class. We came out of the chow hall right around 0525 (confirmed on Tom's watch), but the squadron student leader was already calling the roll. Unfortunately, he had already passed "Jahn" but had not yet hit "Kemp" (my roommate's name). When he got done, as per usual, he asked if there were anyone whose name had not been called. My hand went up.

At this point, he decided to "get tough" with me (always a bad idea). He demanded to know where I had been for roll call. "Right here", of course. Then he tried to accuse me of being late. No, I pointed out, he had started early. Well, as happens so often with such people, that didn't sit well with him. The next afternoon, I had an appointment in the squadron commander's office. He, of course, was most unhappy with my little display of "insubordination". He did listen to me; he just chose not to believe me. Next afternoon (Wednesday), I had another appointment. This time, he had an official Letter of Reprimand ready for me.

Per the UCMJ, I had the right to submit any evidence to support my side, and had three business days to do so. That meant that I had until Monday afternoon. Offhandedly, he mentioned that the arrival of the new sqadron commander could not be counted on to change anything. Now, if he hadn't said anything, I probably would have come back on Thursday or Friday with my roomate to try to clear the whole thing up, and it probably would have been in vain.

That afternoon, I had a chat with my roomie and he agreed to go talk to the commander with me. The new one. On Monday. And we did. Major Freddie Winburn was one of those people one does not easily forget. He had already been briefed on my case, but he listened patiently as Tom and I explained what had really happened (i.e., I was early, not late; the guy had started way too early, and he had had an attitude about me from the get-go). When we finished, the Major said "You know, I like to think that I'm a pretty good judge of character, and I think you're being straight with me. So, I'm going to put this Letter in my desk, and we'll see if it dies there. If I'm right and it does, fine. But if I turn out to be wrong about you......" 'Nuff said. As you might expect, it died there. But I still have my unsigned copy.

In mid-May, we did the annual fathers-and-sons campout, but with a twist. We went over into Oklahoma and found a good place. The only event from that weekend that I remember was the bunch of us taking a hike and coming across a copperhead. Since others were coming up the trail behind us, we decided we had to eliminate any danger to them. So we did. I had no idea it too so many stones to kill a snake, but it did. I don't remember what we did with the carcass; maybe we left it there as a warning to other snakes. The next morning, at Church, we told everyone else about the incident. When it got down to the part about stoning the snake, the Chaplain said "It's true. I held their coats." OK, maybe you had to be there.

About a week or so before graduation, we received our assignments. As I had in the SP tech school, I had listed my preferences as Hill (Ogden, UT), Kirtland (Albuquerque), Lowry (Denver), Peterson (Colorado Springs), and Luke (Phoenix). Somewhere along the way, I must have really gotten on someone's bad side. Maxwell, just outside Montgomery, Alabama. I had to go find a map just to see where it was.



Post a Comment

<< Home