De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

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


Getting Acclimated

Actually, the first challenge for me in Albuquerque was getting accustomed to the altitude and the dryness. The dryness I loved right away, after having spent 5½ years in the humidity of Alabama (no, I never "got used to it", as they kept telling me I would). The altitude was a bit harder. And going on a honeymoon camping trip to the Fourth of July Campgrounds out near Tajique didn't help. I kept wondering why I had no energy until Virginia told me that we were up around 7,000 feet. Oh...

And even though I loved the food, it still took a while to get accustomed to how incredibly spicy it is. I learned that there are actually three things that are lumped together under the heading of "Mexican food". There's true Mexican food, the way it's done in Old Mexico. Good stuff, but not as hot as ours. Then there's "Tex-Mex", which is basically what you get at Taco Hell. Somewhat of a bastardization, I'd say. Then there's New Mexican food -- hot enough to take the enamel off your teeth. Anytime I'm back in town, I know right where to go to get the good stuff.

When Virginia and I first got married, we got a one-bedroom, third-floor apartment near Central and San Mateo. Even back then (1982), it wasn't a great neighborhood, but it was better than it is now. We only stayed there for 7 months and were glad to leave when we did. A few nights before we left, some guy got pulled out of his apartment and stabbed.

Setting up a household is rather interesting, as well as daunting. I hadn't had to do much housework in the 6½ years of active duty, so I didn't mind doing the dishes and the laundry. Virginia hated it, so that worked out quite well. The one incompatibility was that she's a night owl and I'm a morning person. That got rather interesting, since I was working nights a few times. I'd come in around 6 in the morning and try to wake her, but no luck. One day, I even sat on the bed and said "Are you awake?" Yes. "How do I know you're awake?" My mother eats.... "Dirty tennis shoes?" ...dirty tennis shoes. "OK, you're awake." Then I went out in the living room and read the morning paper. When she finally got up, she gave me heck for not waking her. Had no memory of our conversation. Scary.

Working as a security guard just wasn't doing it, so I found a part-time job repairing pallets at a local food distribution company. That helped out a lot, but after a while, I had enough of the security gig that I had to quit. Just too much aggravation. After that, the job search was just a constant hassle.

Before we moved, one of the irritants was that our neighbor kept stealing our paper. About once a week, I'd go out to get the paper and it wasn't there, necessitating a call to the carrier. Then, one day I had a flash of inspiration. I took the previous day's paper and taped a piece of writing paper over the headline. On that, I wrote "Please stop stealling our newspaper". The next morning, I was ready. When the carrier tossed the paper up onto the balcony, I quietly opened the door and switched papers. Later, I noticed the rigged one was gone. Problem solved; our paper was never stolen again.

That first (and only) Christmas together was rather interesting. We got invited to her family's celebration down in Socorro. The only part I really remember was that just before we went down there, Virginia's dad checked the road conditions, as there was some snow in the area. That's when I learned that if more than 20 flakes fall, all the roads are "snow-packed and icy". It wasn't until we were just outside Socorro that we actually saw real snowflakes. And there was a bit of snow in Socorro, but the streets were all clear. Go figure.


Go West, Young Man (Part III)

Happiness is seeing Alabama in your rear-view mirror. Part of my good mood was attributable to leaving Alabama for good; the other part was looing forward to what I knew awaited me in New Mexico. The first day, I made it to Barksdale AFB (near Shreveport, LA). I went to the Billeting Office to see about a room for the night, but they had none available. Then I got a flash of inspiration. I knew a chaplain who was stationed there and asked for him. I got him on the phone and told him who it was and asked if he knew any members who could put me up for the night. Sure, no problem; I could stay at his place. So I drove over and spent some time reminiscing before turning in for the night.

Bright and early the next morning, I had to do an oil change. I don't know why I hadn't taken care of that before leaving Maxwell; just pressed for time, I guess. So I drained the oil, changed the filter, and refilled the crankcase. Only one slight problem -- the filter wasn't on right, so all my oil wound up on his driveway. I had to go over to the BX Gas Station and get more oil, then I was finally on my way.

That day, I made it all the way to Dyess AFB (Abilene, TX), where again they had no rooms available. Again, I tried to see if I knew one of the chaplains, but no luck. So, I called the local Bishop and asked if there were a member who wouldn't mind letting me park in their driveway. He referred me to a very nice young couple who put me up for the night. Really nice.

Next morning, I got a bit of a late start, being tired from the last two days of driving. Somewhere after lunch, I pulled into Cannon AFB (Clovis, NM), where the gate guard pointed out that one of my rear tires was starting to come apart. Not surprising, since it was a retread. I pulled into the Billeting parking lot and changed the tire, but by then I was so pooped out, I didn't think I could finish the drive into Albuquerque. Luckily, they had a room available, so I spent the night.

Next morning, after a trip to the Commissary for some provisions, I hit the road. Cannon AFB is not that far into New Mexico, so I hadn't seen much yet. But the trip into Albuquerque was literally breathtaking. At one point, I actually had to pull of into a rest stop, just so I could look around without fear of running off the road. As I came down out of Tijeras Canyon into Albuquerque, I knew I was home. I found a storage place on Central Avenue and rented a locker. After unloading my stuff, I went to Kirtland AFB and rented a room in Billeting for the weekend. Then I crashed, big-time.

On Sunday, I drove up to Santa Fe for Church. I had actually been planning to move there, so I needed to check it out. It was nice, but it didn't feel like the right place. AFter Church, I drove back to Kirtland and spent the rest of the day relaxing. The following Sunday, I knew I had to give Santa Fe another chance. Once again, though, it just didn't feel right, so I left early and drove back to Albuquerque for Church. That felt right, as soon as I walked in the door. I knew I was in the right place.

That evening, they had a fireside for the singles, so I went to that. I wound up sitting next to a young lady named Virginia and, after being put on the spot by the Bishop's wife (who had a reputation for such things), I introduced myself. A few days later, I ran into her on the campus of the University of New Mexico ("Lo Gobos!"). She was at the library to do some research, but was having some difficulty, so I volunteered to help. A few nights later, we went roller skating, then drove up to Sandia Peak to see the city lights. In late May, we were married.

The big thing for me to get accustomed to in New Mexico was the culture. I don't speak Spanish, which is a bit of a handicap. But I loved the New Mexican food. My first encounter was a few days after I arrived. I went to the Student Union building for lunch. At the head of the cafeteria line, there was a sign announcing the day's special "Green Chile Stew". I thought to myself "Green chile stew??? What the...? It's not St. Patricks Day, what did they do... leave it out of the refrigerator too long?"

Being the adventurous sort, I tried a bowl. Fortunately for me, I also got a sandwich and a Pepsi. I sat down, opened up my copy of the Daily Lobo (a.k.a. the "Daily Lobotomy"), put my glasses on, and tried a spoonful of stew. That's when my glasses fogged up. No kidding. I had no idea it was going to be that hot. Nowadays, I won't touch it unless it's at least that hot, but it took a few months for me to get used to it.

Trying to find a decent job in Albuquerque is an exercise in frustration. The biggest problem is that no one wants to pay what the job is worth. All the illegals coming across the border keep wages depressed. Back then, the cost of living wasn't so bad, so one could keep the wolves from the door. It's all different now. But, I had to find a job so that Virginia and I could get married, so I finally wound up taking a job as a security guard. They love people with a military background.


Hanging In There

Sometimes, life is merely a matter of "enduring to the end". The rest of my stay at Maxwell was just more of the same, day in and day out. I did get to travel a bit, several times to Florida, which I really enjoyed. The one odd thing is that I kept wanting to make a trip up to Kentucky to see the Mammoth Caves, which I never did. Kind of like my Dad never going into Florida.

In June of 1979, I finally got my black belt, which was a major event. I never really thought I had the talent for it. In early '80, I took some classes at Troy State University/Montgomery. The Business Law class was the best, as it was taught by a retired judge who had been a Staff Judge Advocate in the AF and a judge. The guy really knew his stuff and knew how to make it interesting.

Somewhere along the way, the dentists talked me into getting my wisdom teeth removed. I don't know if it was really necessary or if they just needed the practice. It wasn't really all that unpleasant, but it might have save me a lot of aggravation later. On Friday before Memorial Day, 1981, I got my deviated septum fixed. It was a miserable weekend, but left me able to breathe much better than ever before.

During all this time, I also kept up my practice of Zen, and it showed. I got a couple more books, one of them ("The Way of Zen", by Alan Watts) was very informative.

Barb graduated from Auburn, but stayed in the area. I still got to visit her from time to time, but the relationship never recoverd. Still, she was a big comfort in my life. One incident I vividly recall was one evening when I had a very strong impression that something was amiss. It was too late in the evening to go driving out there, so I went the next evening. She was upset at me that I had driven all that way without clearing it with her first, but when I told her about my impression, she was very forgiving.

During our conversation, she told me that there had been a disturbance there at the apartment complex the night before. Her complaint was that she had called the police and it took them 20 minutes to get there. To emphasize her point, she noted that the police station was right across the street and that had been a major factor in taking that apartment. Ah, says I, that was her first mistake. If she had taken an apartment across the street from a donut shop, they'd have been there in a flash. She didn't find that all that amusing at the time, but later it brought a smile.

There were so many aggravations with the Air Force, it would be useless to list them all. The only real problem with my job was that I had assisted in a complete re-write of the program that computed all the statistics for the SRSS. Most of the people were on board with it, but I was still having trouble with some of the people up at AFIT, especially a 70-year-old military retiree. I kept trying to make a trip up there, but my request kept getting shot down. The Colonel just wouldn't allow it. He probably thought that I just wanted to boondogle.

One day in September, I was picking up our mail from the mailroom and noticed a form that showed he had an approved retirement for 31 December 1981. I was scheduled to be discharged in October, 1981. So I went over to Personnel and got my enlistment extended to April of 1982. As soon as he was gone, I again made the request to go to AFIT, and the new guy approved it. So, in late January, I made the trip, cleared up all the problems, and returned to Maxwell. No more problems. And a few weeks later, I packed my bags and left Maxwell for good.

The night before I left, I stayed with John and Marlene out in Prattville. The only thing I would miss would be the friends I had made during my stay. The next morning was typical Alabama winter weather -- cold, grey and miserable. But my spirits were high, because I knew already a bit of what awaited me in Albuquerque.



A Slight Improvement

The days were still blending into one another as 1978 began. Everything had settled into a bland, boring routine. I had gotten more active at Church, which helped a bit. Some of the people I had gotten to know lived on Base, so at least I had people to visit from time to time -- the Tureks, the Gunnels, the Fites and the Kenneys. In early February, I actually got a date with Barb. It's a pity that I wasn't keeping a journal then so that I could record the exact date. Best first date I've ever had.

We arranged to meet at the Auburn chapel, so she had to give me directions. This involved the old standby of "if you pass a house with a white fence, you've gone too far". Sure enough, I pulled off of I-85 onto the secondary road and headed for the chapel. Straining my eyes in the darkness, I passed a house with a white fence and realize I'd gone too far. When I went in and found her, we had a good laugh.

It's intriguing, what we remember about incidents in our lives, and what we forget. Barb and I went to see a movie, but I have no idea what it was. I do remember walking over to the theatre and back to her dorm, and I remember sitting in the parlor with her. But the movie is a blank. On the drive back to Maxwell, I knew I had been in the presence of someone extraordinary.

It's also rather sad how some things turn out. I remember a Church meeting to plan activities for the singles, and although I had no official calling to be there, I was invited in at the last minute. Unfortunately, I demurred, thinking that I had no place being there. Big mistake. Sometime during that meeting, someone said something to Barb that they had no business saying. It wasn't mean; it wasn't mean to be harmful. It was thoughtless, and it made her feel very defensive about our budding relationship. As soon as I saw her come out of the meeting, I knew something had happened. And our relationship was never the same afterwards.

Somehow, we managed to remain friends, although she was always a bit distant and reserved. My suspicions weren't confirmed until many years later.

It must have been in '78 that the Kenney's came to Maxwell, and Jim and I wound up doing a good deal of deer hunting together. Considering the time and money we put into the effort, we paid a lot of money for the meat we brought back. I only shot one deer; Jim got two -- a good-sized doe and a barely legal spiked fawn. But we had fun.

It was in late '78 that our office at the Wing level merged with its counterpart at Air University when AU ceased to be a Major Command and became a subordinate unit to Air Training Command. This was a very unpopular -- not to mention uninspired -- move. What they should have done is simply make it a Separate Operating Agency, but it wasn't my decision. At any rate, we had to pack up the entire office and move it across base. This threw things into a state of chaos for several weeks, but we did survive.

Shortly after the reorganization, I was assigned responsibility for running the Student Statistical Reporting System, which tracked all the students in the various classes at Maxwell, Gunter (across town) and also at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) up at Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, Ohio. This was my introduction to the world of computers. It was also about this time that a family by the name of Lucas came to Maxwell. They had an Apple II, which I learned to use a bit. By comparison to today's PCs, it was pretty primitive. Back then, though, it was like something out of "Star Trek".

Another family that moved into the area about this time was the Stevens family. In the beginning, they annoyed me to no end about the fact that I was single, but eventually the light went on and they became a lot more sympathetic. Not only did I wind up having Thanksgiving dinner with them for the rest of my time at Maxwell, I stayed with them the night before I departed the area for New Mexico. And we've kept in touch over the years.


The Misadventure Continues

January is probably the coldest month of the year in Alabama, but that's not saying much. There are many days of mild weather, but it's often overcast and grey, which is almost suicidally depressing. The bicentenniel hype was finally over with, but now we had Peanut Man in the White House. You'd think that a veteran would have been a bit more sympathetic toward the military, but that turned out not to be the case. Most of 1977 was pretty unremarkable, except for a few incidents.

I was still trying to get myself in good physical condition, and decided to do some more walking. Out on the Perimeter Road, there was a route marked out to do the 3-mile aerobics walk. I figured if I used my PT time to go to Tang Soo Do classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and walked the 3 miles on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, that would help. And it did. At first, I bumped the time limit a lot, but since I had been walking so much since such an early age, it didn't take long to get back into it.

In early Spring, we did the annual aerobics testing and I wound up being stupid again. The oval track for the 1½ run was right across the street from my dorm, the the Perimeter Road was over on the southwest side of the base. I was all geared up to do the walk, but on the way out the door, I thought to myself that I could get it over and done with a lot faster if I simply walked across the street and did the run. Bad move. I think it took three days for the shin splints to heal. After that, I never did the run again for my entire career.

Somewhere around June, Master Yu left town and turned the school over to Master Chung from Iowa, who taught Tae Kwon Do. We had had a student transfer in from Mobile, and he had studied TKD, but I didn't like the looks of it. The way Paul did it, it just didn't look as graceful and fluid as Tang Soo Do. After a while, I discovered that it was simply because he wasn't all that good at it yet. We kept our rank (I was a green belt by that time) and just learned the routines for the lower ranks on a catch-as-catch-can basis. In time, I grew to actually like the routines for TKD.

It wasn't long after Master Chung arrived that things took a strange turn. One afternoon, as I was changing in the back, I noticed a book ("Zen Combat") on a shelf. I picked it up and look at it, and was quite intrigued by it. (It's been out of print for a lot of years, but is now back in print. I highly recommend it for anyone curious about pure Zen, as opposed to Zen Buddhism.) Book in hand, I went out front and asked whose it was. One woman said it was hers, and agreed to let me borrow it. I managed to read most of it over the next couple of days, and was fascinated by it. It verified a lot of things that I had long suspected.

Sometime the next week, I sustained one of those inevitable injuries. Master Chung and I were on the floor, helping each other stretch, when I tore a muscle. I wasn't a severe injury, but enough to keep me out of class for about two weeks. During that time, I finished reading "Zen Combat" and then re-read it. Then I started doing some of the exercises in it. By the time I started back at school, I was really starting to get into it.

On my first day back at class, we were doing our usual free sparring and I wound up opposite Master Chung, which is always intimidating. Here I was, a mere green belt, up against a 5th degree black belt Master Instructor. Oddly enough, it didn't seem all that bad. After a couple of rotations, I wound up opposite Jerri, who had loaned me the book. When we stopped, she asked me what I had been doing lately, commenting that my free sparring had really improved. I was completely non-plussed, especially when Master Chung chimed in and said he had noticed a marked improvement. I just kind of gave Jerri a blank stare and said all that I had done was read "Zen Combat" a couple of times.

Over Columbus Day weekend, I decided to take a little trip to a place where my Dad had lived -- Silver Lake, New Hampshire. I booked a flight thru Atlanta and Boston to Portland, Maine and planned to ride a bus over into Vermont, with a stopover in New Hampshire to visit Silver Lake. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men.....

Somewhere out of Atlanta, I realized that I had my checkbook with me with plenty of money in my account, but only a few dollars cash in my pocket. This did not bode well. During my layover in Boston, I called Traveler's Aid (do they even still exist?) to see if they could help me cash a check. No dice. The best thing they could do for me would be to call a hotel and talk them into taking my check. So, I continued to Portland and tried the same thing, with the same results. I managed to get a room in a nearby hotel, and they accepted my check.

The next morning, I went to a nearby bank and explained my situation. No dice. Despite the fact that I was on active duty in the military and could be court-martialed for writing a bad check, they wouldn't even cash a lousy $30 check for me. Such wonderful people. Then I had a brainstorm. I looked up the Church in the phone book and called the local Bishop and explained my situation. He was willing to help me, but wondered if I'd mind him checking me out first. No problem. I gave him the number for a guy in Montgomery and waited. Later, his wife met me at the bank. I wrote the check for $40 and told her I only needed $30. I figured they'd been stiffed before and that was my way of partially making up for it.

Saturday was shot by now, so I couldn't take the trip over into Vermont. I wish I could remember the family's name, but it's been too many years. I wound up going back to their place and helping them harvest beans, then had dinner with them and learned to play Uno. Great evening. During dinner, the Bishop told me about the phone call to Montgomery. He said that Ed (the guy he talked with) seemed rather hesitant until finally he said "Well, this guy says you know him". Ed's reply was "Yeah, I know a guy named Jahn, I just can't believe he's in Portland, Maine!"

On Sunday morning, I caught the bus to Vermont, but couldn't do the side trip to Silver Lake. Still, the trip was nice and I got some great pictures. On Monday, I flew back to Montgomery, where I checked in with Ed Turek, who had put in a good word for me. We had a good laugh, and I promised that if I ever left town again, I'd let him know where I was going. And I'd be sure to take plenty of cash with me.

It was a bit later in October when I met someone who would turn out to have a profound effect on my life. The younger singles of the Church had planted sweet potatoes on the Church grounds, and it was time to harvest them. The morning dawned all grey and overcast, not unusual in October. I was really tempted to just roll over and pull the covers back over me, but I had said I'd be there, and I tend to keep my word.

As I pulled up on my motorcycle, I spotted her. She was kneeling down, dressed in old jeans and a sweatshirt, with a scarf tied around her head to keep her hair in place. What I noticed about her was not physical beauty, as she hardly looked like the most glamorous creature I had ever seen. It was something metaphysical. As things turned out, I got assigned to work right next to her, so we had a chance to chat and get acquainted. It turned out that she was a student out at Auburn University, about 60 miles east of Montgomery. When we finished and she left, I had the distinct impression that she was going to have a profound influence in my life. LIttle did I know...

Later, at one of our monthly Sunday evening get-togethers, I met her again and learned that her name was Barbara. I'm not good with names, so she might have told me at the service project. This time, I decided I'd better make a note of it and remember it.

Christmas 1977 was also nothing memorable.


Oh, I Wish I Weren't In Dixie....

After graduation, I went back to Utah for 10 days so I could arrange to have my belongings shipped to Maxwell and also enjoy some leave. The odd thing is that I can't even remember where I stayed. I do remember traveling down to Nephi and doing some target shooting with some guys, but the rest is lost to my memory. Unfortunately. I really wish I had some picture from that time. For all its flaws, Utah is still a nice place to live.

Despite that fact that layovers in Atlanta are supposed to be hellish, I don't remember anything of the trip from Utah to Montgomery except the actual arrival. As soon as I stepped off that plane, it felt like someone had taken one of those woolen Army blankets, dipped it in hot water, and draped it over me. I knew I was in trouble. I checked in at Billeting, and they put me up in the VAQ for a couple of nights. The next morning, I found my way over to the office (not a difficult task at all, given the size of Maxwell.

The didn't really know quite when to expect me, so when I walked in and introduced myself, they were rather surprised. My sponsor took me over to the Orderly Room and got me processed in. I was able to stay in the VAQ until Monday, but then they assigned me a room in the dorm, which was in the same building as the Orderly Room.

It's hard for me to believe that Someone Up There likes me. The rule on bachelor housing is that NCOs get their own room. Based on availabliity, the more senior airmen might get a room alone. Fortunately for me, there were enough rooms available that senior E-3s could get their own room. Better yet, I was senior enough that I got a room to myself. By the time things changed and there weren't enough rooms, I had been promoted to E-4 and still qualified for my own room. And when things changed yet again, I was on the promotion list for E-5 and still had my own room.

All in all, in 5½ years at Maxwell, I had a roommate for a total of about two weeks. Several times, they tried to put someone in with me, but it was always a smoker, and AF regulations do not allow for smokers to be roomed with non-smokers if the non-smoker objects to it. Not that I'm the sort to go objecting or anything. -)

The first thing I noticed about Montgomery is that very few people speak English. And I don't speak Southern. So, communication was problematic. What really bothered me was when I would use a 50-cent word -- because it was exactly the right word -- and people would look at me funny. I never did get used to that horrible southern twang, or the mush-mouth way some people talked.

Our local unit of the Church met in an old storefront out in Prattville, which was about 10 miles from the base. I got a ride out there my first Sunday, but quickly realize I'd need wheels. My first order of business was to start an account at the Base credit union. Then I got a loan and bought my first and only motorcycle. I figured, what the heck? It's the South, right? Mild weather, right? Yeah. Right. That first winter ('76-'77) was one of the coldest on record.

For years, I had had a desire to study martial arts. And this was long before Bruce Lee came on the scene. Partly, I wanted to be able to defend myself, since I grew up as the proverbial 98-pound weakling. And partly, it was the "art" part that appealed to me. So, as soon as I got my motorcycle, I started looking around. There was a guy who taught on Base, but I wasn't impressed by him. But there was another guy, Master Yu Ki Yol, who taught Tang Soo Do off-Base. So I enrolled with him.

My first lesson taught me that I had learned nothing from my experience with the aerobics run at Sheppard. I was reasonably familiar with the general idea of martial arts, but this was only my second actual experience. (My first one was at BYU, but that was a Japanese style taught be a guy with attitude to spare.) I gave it all I had. During the session, Master Yu took me aside for a bit of individual instruction, as happens with all newbies. All these years later, I'm still impressed with the man's humility. Partway thru the session, seeing how hard I was trying, he stopped. Looking up at me with those smiling eyes of his, he said "Take it easy. No can be Master first day." That was the most important part of that lesson and I've never forgotten it.

As mentioned earlier, that first winter was pretty bad. I do remember the temperature getting down as low as 7, which is pretty brutal when you're riding a motorcycle. On one particular day, I rode down to class and no one else showed up. I'm standing outside the Dojang thinking "WTH???". I had ridden all the way down there in the freezing cold on my bike, and none of these tough guys showed up. Hmph...

The first thing I wanted to do once I arrived in Alabama was leave. This was easy to do, but not for long. Since Florida was close by -- and since that was the one state out of all the Lower 48 that my Dad had never been to -- that was high on my list. One weekend, I simply got on a Greyhond bus and road down to Tyndall AFB, stayed the night, then rode back. Someone Up There was looking out for me, since I had no way of knowing in advance whether or not I could get a room in the VAQ, but I was able to.

By about that time, though, I had stopped going to Church, since all anyone had to talk about was when I'd be getting married. Yeah, right. Like there was anyone in Alabama who would be compatible with me. This lasted for a year before I finally decided I'd rather fight than switch. More on that later.

My first Christmas at Maxwell was so unremarkable, I can't even remember it. Pathetic.



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.



Into The Wild Blue Yonder

As if it weren't bad enough that the recruiter was *ahem* less than honest with me about what career field(s) I could get into in the Air Force, it was somehow arranged that I had to depart for Basic Training on 10 October. Actually, I travelled from Provo up to Salt Lake on the afternoon of the 9th so I could be at the processing station bright and early on the 10th. The really bad part about that was that this particular weekend marked the Centennial of the founding of Brigham Young University. The whole weekend was to be one big celebration. And I missed it. Never did really get over that one.

The morning's events are a blur, as I couldn't eat until they were done with me and I was tired anyway. The one thing I do remember was the doctor lining us up, telling us to drop our shorts, and then walking down the line behind us with a light, no doubt checking for hemorrhoids. When he got to the end, he said "OK, your class pictures will be ready in a week". That was the only laugh I had that day.

The flight was pretty uneventful. The only part I really remember was a stop-over in Albuquerque. The flight attendant allowed me to walk down the stairs to the tarmac and back up again so I could say I had "boots on the ground" in New Mexico. The view of the Sandias and Manzanos was breath-taking. Even better than Utah.

We got to San Antonio late in the evening and didn't get out to Lackland AFB until somewhere around 10:00pm. By then, I was exhausted. The arrival was one of those unforgettable events. The bus pulled up in front of the "Jolly Green Giant" -- a.k.a. the reception center, which was painted a hideous shade of green. We were all just sitting there, chatting. Then the door opened, and a large round hat with a mouth under it got on and bellowed "SHUT UP!!!". I thought to myself "And a very good evening to you, too, sir". Great way to start Basic Training.

One of the misunderstandings about AF Basic Training is that it's "six weeks" long. Fortunately, the recruiter had at least explained the truth to me. AF Basic Training consists of 30 "training days", excluding weekends and holidays. Great. So here we are at Lackland on Friday night before a 3-day weekend. I lose my whole weekend in Utah and it doesn't even count. Why couldn't I have started on Tuesday? Yeah, I was really happy.

Lovely, boring weekend. The only bright spot was going to Church. At least that got me back on familiar territory. The one memorable moment was that the open song was "We Are All Enlisted ('Til The Conflict Is O'er)". Someone certainly has a sense of humor.

Anyway, Monday passed in the same boring way. So boring that I can't even remember any of it. On Tuesday, though, things began in earnest. First came the haircut. Mind you, I have nothing against short hair. I've worn my hair short all my life. But taking away what little I had was rubbing salt in the wounds. It was worse for other guys, though. Some of these guys had pretty long hair. To this day, I don't understand why a guy headed for Basic Training wouldn't spend a couple of bucks to get a decent haircut so he doesn't show up looking like a hippie. I mean, why antagonize the guys who are already set to make your life miserable for the next six weeks? One tall black guy even had a huge Afro. The barber got particularly mean with him. Managed to take the whole thing off in one piece and set it down in his lap. Looked like a motorcycle helmet. The guy almost cried. Serves him right.

After the haircuts came the uniforms. Having spent 12 years in Catholic schools, I have mixed feelings about wearing a uniform. But, what the heck? The stupid thing was that they had a guy there who would look us over and tell us what size shirt to get. Then we were to put it on and button the collar and the right cuff. Why we couldn't just go and get whatever size we normally wear is beyond me, especially when I used to work in the Men's Department at Stewart's. Anyway, this little airman no-class tells me to get a size 15x33. I'm thinking to myself "What's this guy been smoking?". But I went and got one and buttoned the cuff. As he came down the line to check us out, he looked at me and said "I told you to button the collar". "I can't", I replied, "I'll choke." Then he asked me what size the shirt was, and I told him. "What size do you think you wear?", he asked (notice the snide wording). So I say "I wear a 16«x34". And he tells me to go get one, which -- wonder of wonders! -- actually fits. I don't think I made his Christmas card list.

Then came the shots. Oh, yeah, that's a load of fun. Been on the go all morning, it's getting close to lunch, we're exhausted, and they want to inject us with germs. Really smart. Fortunately, no one passed out. Why they couldn't give us the shots at the processing station before ever even departing for Basic, is beyond me.

The the only good thing happened. I wish I could remember this guy's name, although I'd probably recognize him if he passed me on the street, even after all these years. He was soliciting volunteers for the Drum & Bugle Corps, which provides music for all the Basic Training parades, including graduation. The hook is that it gets you out of all Base details, as it itself is considered a detail. That means no KP, no CQ, no nothing. The only possible downside is that they recruit for three days and the people recruited during the first two days lose one or two days of training, as the entire flight has to be on the same day of training. He was on Day 3 of recruitment. I couldn't sign up fast enough. That was probably the first smart thing I did.

Over the weekend, we had had plenty of time to compare notes, and found out that 48 or 49 of the 50-man flight had been recruited as SPs (Security Police). And almost all of us had heard something slightly less than the truth about the situation. Several people decided to raise a fuss, but nothing came of it for them. I bided my time and waited for a more opportune moment.

One one of the first few days -- before I reported to the D&B -- we were out on the Physical Training pad. The Training Instructors (TIs) never passed up a chance to harass us, so ours took the opportunity to tell us "You people do not think. I will do your thinking for you.". This didn't sit too well with me, and I vividly remember standing there thinking "No, I've been doing my own thinking for most of the last 23« years, and I think I'll keep on doing it. Just tell me what you want done, and I'll do my best to comply." Discretion being the better part of valor, though, I kept my mouth shut. It was nice to get away from him.

D&B was not as bad as a "regular" flight would have been. We were billeted in one of the old WWII barracks, which probably isn't still standing, although I do have a picture somewhere that I should scan in and post. The one major problem was that the nights were getting cold and they had not yet turned the heat on. The first couple of nights, I slept in my field jacket under both blankets. Not good. I started developing bronchitis. For this, they gave me a pharmacy full of drugs, including codeine, which kind of took the pain out of Basic. Unfortunately, they took me off of it cold turkey, and I went into an almost suicidal depression. I had never been homesick in my life. Until they took away the codeine. Fortunately, the doctor told me that the effect would only last a day or two, and that's all it lasted.

The nice part about being in those old WWII barracks is that you're totally in touch with your environment. Whatever it is outside, it's not much different inside. It was a two-story affair, and I was assigned upstairs. At least it was a degree or two warmer up there at night.

After a few days of training, the TIs figure out who they need to hassle and who they don't. Mostly, it's the older ones they don't have to hassle, as we already have some discipline. I say "we" because I was the second-oldest person in the flight. I even got on quite well with the TIs after a while. In fact, I'd love to meet both of them and see how their careers turned out.

On the day after the last day of Basic, we depart for our assignments or to tech school. Once again, we wound up over at the "Jolly Green Giant" to pick up our orders and board the bus. My original flight was there, but we couldn't communicate with each other. Still, it was nice to see them. One guy left his portfolio on the ground when he went in to pick up his orders. The TI picked it up, looked at it, and called out the guy's name. He came back with a very sheepish look on his face and retrieved it from the TI, who said "Say 'Thank You', dummy". My heart stopped beating while I waited for him to say "Thank you, dummy", but he didn't have the guts. I wonder if I would have?

The Security Police tech school is right there at Lackland, so I didn't really have to go anywhere. I don't even remember how I got over there. There's something about that kind of career field that makes people go insane. It's hard to describe, but they act like they think they're Really Something. One of the more hilarious things was that they march like the British. At that time, there were a lot of Middle Eastern troops at Lackland for training (we never did find out exactly what the deal was with that, though). Having been ruled by the British for so long, they also march like the British. But the moron who was giving us our orientation either didn't know that, or chose to overlook it. As he explained our "unique" way of marching (stomping on the left foot for the first two steps), he remarked that the "camel jocks" did the same thing, but that "we didn't get that from them, they got it from us". Yeah, right. The hardest training I did at Lackland was training myself to keep a straight face at such moments.

After a while, things came to a head. My sinus infection really got to me during the first week of SP training, since we were outside from around 0500 until early afternoon. I'd last a couple of days, then be so sick that they'd put me in the "Intermediate Care Facility" (ICF), which was for people too sick to be around other trainees, but not sick enough to be in the hospital. It was there that I read the books by James Herriott, a British veterinarian who got drafted during WWII.

When I got out and went back to my squadron, it was a few days before Christmas and they asked me if I wanted to go on leave since there was nothing going on over the holidays. I jumped at the chance to get away from Lackland, even if for only a few days. There was a plane leaving Kelly for Peterson (Colorado), and I could catch a flight from there to Salt Lake and then ride the bus down to Provo.

Anyway, after a very long flight and a bus ride that I don't even remember, I arrived at the bus station, which is located around Second or Third South and about Second or Third West in Provo. The apartment where I had been living is at Seventh North and Fourth East. At seven blocks to the mile, you can see I had a ways to walk. It was around 2:00 in the morning and nothing was moving, and I had no money for a cab. (Starting to sound familiar?)

At any rate, while I was pondering my situation, I remembered a similary situation that Dr Herriot recounted in his book. Although the Air Force hadn't taught me to march (the Boy Scouts had done that years before), they had given me a lot of practice. So, I set off at a good pace and in no time I was standing in front of my old apartment. As early as it was, I dared not wake anyone, so I crashed on a sofa in the day room until people started waking up.

While I was on leave, the recruiter contacted me (I don't know how) and took me up to Salt Lake to meet his boss, who was investigating my charge of recruiter malpractice. They got me to write up a statement, then turned everything inside out and used it against me. My first experience with a whitewash.

When I got back to Lackland, things finally came to a head. I had an interview with the Squadron Commander, who listened to my story and then placed me on Admin Hold, meaning I didn't have to participate in training until the matter was resolved. Finally, thanks to the Commandant of the SP school, I was removed from the career field and reassigned to the one I had wanted to enter -- Management Analysis (which no longer existst). I still had to stay at Lackland until my slot in the tech school at Sheppard came open, but it was all different.

For one thing, I was reassigned to a "holding" squadron referred to as "Casual". It got that name from the fact that we were used as casual labor around the base. We had a regular rotation of CQ (Charge of Quarters), which was nothing more than being a glorified babysitter. There were other details we were sent on, but I only remember one.

One morning, I was sent over to another building and told to report to a Chief Bean, who had some work for me to do, after which I was dismissed for the day and could go where I wanted and do what I wanted. I arrived at Chief Bean's office and all he really needed was the trash cans emptied and the floor swept and mopped, after which I would be free to go.

As I was working, he got a phone call. I could only hear his part of the conversation, but he told me about it when he hung up. It seems that Pres. and Mrs. Ford had traveled to some AF base, where they were met by General David C. Jones, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As the First Couple came down the stairs from the plane, Gen. Jones saluted the Commander in Chief and then turned to Mrs. Ford and greeted her, tipping his hat in the process. Someone with way too much time on his/her hands noticed that and decided to make a fuss. Since Chief Bean's office is the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR) for the manual on customs and courtesies, he's the one who got the call.

He looked it up in the manual and sure enough, the manual says that a man in uniform does not tip his hat to a woman. Reaching into a drawer, the Chief pulled out a red pen, made a big X thru the paragraph and said "It won't be there in the next edition". Nice to watch history in the making.

One evening, I got the bright idea that I ought to get myself in better shape, since I had finally pretty much gotten over the sinus problems. I had Dorm Guard one night from 10 to midnight, and had hired out for another guy's shift from midnight to 2:00. Bored out of my gourd, I tried to keep myself awake. Finally, I figured that if I did 10 push-ups every half-hour, I could do about 70 before my shift ended. So I did. By the time my shift ended, my arms were so tired, I could barely get up into my top bunk. The next morning.... let's just say I explored some whole new frontiers in pain. Stupidity should be painful.

Once a week, we had a squadron "gripe session" with whoever was available. The commander or the executive officer was always on hand, as well as a couple of NCOs. This one particular evening, one of the airmen was griping about how the TIs were forever getting in our business and ragging on use for things that would be infractions if done by Basic Trainees, but not the rest of us.

One of the things I've learned in life is that when a person begins by saying "Well, you know....", whatever comes next is going to be pretty much worthless. Sure enough, this tired-a** NCO starts off "Well, you know... Lackland is a different kind of base. We don't even have a runway. But we do have these TIs." From the back of the room, a voice said "We'd rather have a runway."

Shortly after that, I shipped out to Sheppard AFB, near Wichita Falls, for my Management Analysis tech school. And haven't been back to Lackland since. Although I wouldn't mind going back to have a look at the place.

The Women's Club of Catonsville. Posted by Hello

Christmas in Albuquerque Posted by Hello

Druid Hill Park, a.k.a. "Droodle" Park Posted by Hello

Mt Olivet Cemetery, where we lived '65-'75. Posted by Hello

Cardinal Gibbons High School, seen from Mt Olivet Cemetery Posted by Hello