The days continued to pass slowly, with a constant dread of the unknown lingering over me like a cloud full of threatening rain.
You woke in the morning terrified, not just by the blaring of “The time now is 0530 hours…” but also by the knowledge that you had minutes to hit the “head,” shit, shave, shower, and shine! There were always the long lines in front of the toilet, urinals, and sinks. “Hurry, damnit!” you shouted inside as you waited, rocking back, and forth watching every move of the guy in front of you made.
Once the four S’s were behind you, there was the bunk to be made, nice and tight with “hospital corners,” dusting off everything in your area including under the bunk, top of the displayed shoes, the little dresser area above the four drawers that held your worldly possessions, and finally inside the wall locker, and lastly the bill of your dress hat - then, and only then, could you rush down the stairs and into your formation position!
But no…not me! I had to help Woody make his bunk! Woody, Tom, and I joined on the “buddy system.” We were supposed to experience the Air Force together. The truth, as we learned, was that we would go through basic training together and then off to our separate training schools or assigned bases for On the Job Training (OJT)!
It was years later, years after our four-year tour, that I saw either Woody or Tom again!
I would finish my area then swing up under Woody’s bunk and pull the G.I. blanket tight, then re-tuck the corners. It was hectic waiting on him, but he proved a liability to me. He had trouble marching and was always getting his ass kicked while in full step. The DI’s foot passed in front of me and I always jumped thinking it was for me!
Woody could not grasp the concept of knocking once on the DI’s door, waiting for his “Come in!” and then entering. He would knock twice or more and go right in! I shuddered at the constant “dressing down” and cussing he seemed to get. I found myself not wanting to be associated with him.
On the Physical Training (PT) Field the DIs gathered their “flights” in front of raised stands, some six to eight feet above the ground. From there they demonstrated and scrutinized your exercise efforts. There were a dozen or more “flights” of thirty to forty troops each spread out over the huge field, and the voices of the DIs echoed angrily back and forth across the field. You had to concentrate to obey only your drill sergeant’s orders, or suffer the consequences!
You were also constantly aware the DI’s eyes that were scanning your every move and you did not dare mess up the demonstrated exercise, or raise your hand to brush off a
There was poor old Woody, attempting to keep up with the push-up count when his knees sagged and touched the ground!
“Woody (in reality the DI screamed his last name), what the hell are you doing?”
“Nothing sir,” Woody replied between heavy breaths of air!
“If you do that one more time, I’m go’na jump off this thing right in the middle of your back! Do you understand me Airman?”
Woody was laboring and I was terrified for him. I did not want the DI on the ground to see me mess up too!
Before I could worry any longer, Woody suddenly yelled out, “I’m sick sir; I’m going to throw up!”
“If you throw up on my field, you’ll damn well eat it! Do you understand me?”
“Yes, sir, but I can’t help it!”
“Get off my field Airman…don’t you dare throw up here…run…you’ll eat it,” the DI screamed as he pointed and yelled at the running figure!
Woody ran for the edge of the field and no one dared look.
Me, well I took the opportunity to dig out another sandspur and kept on pumping, cussing Woody all the while under my breath for bringing the DI’s wrath down on the rest of us!