Wednesday, April 28, 2010
May 19, 1962. That was THE day. I was joining the Air Force. I was following in the footsteps of my elders; I was 'going in the service'. It started early in the morning when the recruiter came by and picked me up about 5 AM. We traveled to Boston to hook up with the other 103 patriotic souls who had committed four years of their lives to the U. S. Air Force. We were part of an Armed Forces day celebration. We took the oath of enlistment at the Boston Navy Yard in Boston, MA. We came from all over New England and we were named the 'Falcon Flight' to commemorate the occasion. There were several events that day, but what I remember was the oath at the navy yard, a banquet lunch at a fancy Boston hotel (complete with big Buxom, blond women as mascots), retaking the oath on live television on the infield at Fenway park prior to a Boston Red Sox baseball game. The culmination of the day's activities was the splitting of the group into two flights and boarding separate airplanes at Logan Airport for transport to basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. After stops in New York and Houston, we arrived in San Antonio at 3 AM the following day. It was then that all hell broke loose; reality set in. In Boston, we had Officers fetchin' and carryin' for us. Mail this for me; my glass is empty; would you see that this happens; etc... When the bus doors opened when we got to Lackland, we were greeted by our drill sargeant. I don't remember his name, but I certainly remember him. It happened just like you see in the movies; yelling and screaming to get us all shook up. Every male member of my family had served in the military so I had some inkling of what was going to happen. The DI's would push you to do what was clearly impossible, but all you had to do to succeed was to give it your best effort. The first thing we did was go to the chow hall for breakfast. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but military breakfasts were the best meals in the world. Creamed Beef on toast (affectionately called SOS--S___ on a shingle), eggs any way you wanted them, potatoes, bacon, sausage--as much as you wanted. The only rule was 'Take all you want, but eat all you take'. For three days we learned the basics of military training--how to stand at attention, how to march, how to salute, who to salute, etc... We did all of this in the clothes we wore on the day we enlisted. Hence the term 'Rainbow Flight'. Everyone knew who the newest recruits were. It was pretty hard for me, because I had dressed for the occasion of my enlistment. I had my best suit, new shoes, shirt and tie. I had even gone to the barber shop the day before enlistment so I would look good when I went away. The shoes I wore really needed a shoe horn to get on my feet, but I didn't have one when the fire alarm went off at 3 in the morning. We were supposed to slip on our shoes and wrap up in a blanket and get out of the building. I couldn't get my shoes on. I failed that test, so I suffered the wrath of the DI for a while. I was so glad when we finally got our uniforms. Another time I gave the DI something to chuckle about. We had bunk beds. I was a squad leader because I was one of the tallest people in the flight. I slept in the first bunk. It was difficult to learn how to make a military bed with 45 degree hospital corners and such. So once my bed got made to the DI's satisfaction, I didn't want to mess it up. I slept on the empty top bunk. You didn't want to get caught doing that. If you did, the DI would mess up the bed for spite. The dorm guard would turn on the lights each morning at 5 AM. Just turning on the lights was enough to get everyone up. Since I slept near the light switch, I could 'hear' the lights coming on. Usually. One morning, I was still sleeping when the DI came by the window near my bunk. Weston, Get your butt out of bed!! I jumped up and blurted out--Sorry, I didn't hear the lights come on. He cracked up; that's OK, he said; I don't usually hear the lights come on either. Some folks found the tasks levied on us to be impossible and they failed out. I didn't have any great difficulty with anything that was asked of me. My uncle George reminded me before I left--they can't kill you and they can't put their hands on you. Just try hard to do what they tell you to do. That's all there was to it. I got a lot of good advice from my uncle George. He died while I was in basic training. He was 29 years old.