The last two weeks moved on at a snail’s pace, or as I’ve described like being on a turtle’s back. However, these last two weeks were the most enjoyable, if you can find any joy in basic training.
The DI’s begin to treat us with a little respect and us them. There are quiet moments of rest, in our dayroom where they answered questions about their careers and about what we were to expect after leaving Lackland. I found that my anxiety level again rose, wondering where I would be stationed next and what I would be trained to do.
When I first took the test at the recruiter’s office in Harriman, I had every intention of being in the medical field, specifically “paramedics” – do not ask me why. I just thought I would like working in a hospital when I got out and drawing blood from patients and then performing all the required tests to determine their various illnesses.
After the test came back, the “General Field”, which included medics, cooks, and air police, came out slightly higher than the Electronics and Mechanical Fields. So, that is what I signed up for, not realizing that specifically getting a medical assignment was not a guaranteed thing!
The last weeks moved on with more M1, class, and obstacle course training, but all the time my next duty assignment was foremost on my mind.
I scored “expert” with the M1 and thoroughly enjoyed the classes on firing disciple and the mechanics of the weapon. The most fun was sitting beneath the targets downrange and listening the sonic pops the .30 caliber rounds made above my head before sinking themselves into the dirt breams, pulling the targets down, marking the hits, and pushing them back into view again. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and I frequent a range in
Then there was the obstacle course, which is nothing like the Army or Marines I’m sure, but tough nonetheless. There is the expected full-out run over logs, through creeks, under logs, through mud holes, and the tougher crawl over logs, swinging from ropes, climbing walls, jump off walls, and completely exhausting and pushing your body to the max as a DI screams insults in your ear and in your face!
I remember that we were all told to run into the “tear gas” shack, make a left, and straight out the other side. However, as my line approached the canvas flap that covered the doorway, I could see briefly inside and I saw daylight straight through and almost laughed as a guy a few steps in from of us make the instructed left and go down. You could hear him behind the canvas begin to cough and yell “I can’t see!”
The line I was in was halted as a DI near the door, wearing a gas mask, reached in and pulled the spitting and sputtering Airman outside and down on the ground. They then waved us forward and apparently the guys just in front of me saw the same thing I did. We all ran straight through the canvas and straight out the opposite side of the gas filled shack! We had no problems holding our breath that long and were soon on our way down the course to the finish.
With this last flurry of action, “Order Day” came soon enough and the DI’s called us into the dayroom. They began by telling us what a pleasure it had been to train us and that they wished us well. “Yeah, yeah, get on with the lottery,” we all thought!
We all sat on the floor, legs crossed with our feet in front of us, and our elbows propped upon our knees, and our hands on each side of our faces like kids waiting for the presents to be handed out. It was a sinking feeling to realize the military had your life in their hands and there was nothing you could do to change their decision.
Names were called and next duty assignments, or tech schools, were read with running plus and minus commentary from the DIs. “Oh,
For the most part, as each Airman’s orders were read, there were happy sounds and smiles, but for some there was shock and disappointment.
Most of the orders began, “…first you will go home for 10 (some as much as 30) days leave, then you will report to such-and-such-airbase for 10 to 18 weeks job specific technical school training.” Wow, I don’t think I realized you got to go home before being trained. I couldn’t wait for my name to be called.
“You will go home for 30 days leave, and then you’ll report to Keesler AFB in
“Thank YOU sir,” Woody nearly shouted as he looked satisfied into my eyes thinking about home!
Some thought of Woody and I getting to enjoy circling The Beacon one more time together fluttered through mine. It was going to be too cool! We would be wearing our dress blues and looking fine!
“Oh hell,” he said without finishing, but instead addressed the group, “Mushy is going to be a damn sky cop!” Everyone looked at me with that “first day of school” look and then laughed.
My heart, hopes, and dignity all sank to the floor and tried to crawl up under the dayroom couch, but they were now all too bloody and bare to hide.
“Mushy (not his real name), you will stay here at Lackland, transfer over to the Air Police Training School, and complete a 6 week (now 13 weeks) training course, after which you will be reassigned to a permanent party station somewhere in the world.”
“I, I don’t get to go home sir?”
“Oh, not until after you receive your next orders, and before reporting to your next station, I’m sure you’ll get a 30 day leave then.” He looked around and closed the session with, “Any other questions from anyone?”
The excited buzz continued as I walked back, head down, to my bunk and thoroughly read my orders over and over looking for a loop hole. “Damn…I hate this place!”
Woody and Tom came by my bunk and said “tough break” but could not contain their excitement. Who could blame them – they were going home.
I did not see Tom Hall again until years after our tour of duty ended. However, I would see Woody again 8 to 10 weeks later at Keesler.
I sat and sulked for some time thinking, “No Pararescue for me now…I’m going to be a dumb cop…a cop…what the hell?”
As it turned out, with
Next, 6 more weeks of hell!