Woody and Tom had been gone for over two days now and an even more lonely feeling crept through my stomach as I stood and walked off the bus. I cannot remember how I knew where to go or how I got signed into the Air Police Tech School, but I ended up in a room with two sets of bunk beds on opposite walls, four wall closets and drawers on another, and a row of large paned windows on another.
This is where I met Frank Boyce, a tall slender young man about twenty-three, from “up state
Frank was college educated and had washed out of Officer Training School (OCS) and, as a reward, assigned to spend his four-year enlistment as a lowly “sky cop.” Frank, as would be expected, hated the “stupidity” of the military mentality, but had long since resigned himself to ride it out and then get on with his life.
Frank, for some reason, out of pity I suppose, took me under his wing and over the next two and a half years, I learned a lot about how to function in an adult world – how to order food, fancy drinks, and even to assert myself in the world around me. Frank learned all this from being away from home since age eighteen attending college, and was more than willing to share his experiences with a “country bumpkin” like me.
I only remember one other of my new bunk mates; he was Frank Gordon (too many Franks, but worlds apart) from
Life in “tech school” was not much different from basic. There was still the necessity of cleaning the barracks for inspections, pulling KP duty, marching, firing range visits, physical exercising, and classroom instruction. However, everything had a more focused purpose in training you to be a military “cop!”
Some of the duties included cleaning the K-9 kennels, the study of military and civil law, the tactics of crowd control, law enforcement techniques, aircraft security guard responsibilities, and the terrifying judo training.
We all hated judo training with a “purple passion,” but did not dare voice any complaints. The two hours a day we spent were the longest hours of the day, spent in pure fear, often terror, of the instructors, who seemed to be there not to teach, but to inflict pain for their own amusement.
There was a least one broken arm while I was there, and a rumor of a leg being broken in the previous training Flight. You had to stay alert and watch the instructors without being seen looking!
Usually there is a ring formed around an area cushioned by blue exercise pads, with the center used for demonstrations. Circling the ring are three to four other instructors, wearing their professional looking gees, who watched your every move – get caught looking away from the demonstration, or at one of them, and your legs were immediately knocked out from under you! It must be the kind of anxiety animals on the plains feel as lions or wolves circle looking for the weakest. Pure fear enveloped each of us until that class ended.
You just lay there helpless, hurting, and embarrassed as the instructor, with his foot on your chest screamed, “You bett'a keep yo' eyes focused Airman! Do you understand?” Everyone looked straight ahead in empathy!
Once the demo is completed, you choose a partner and the two of you begin practicing the demonstrated move, repeatedly, until the instructors feel, you both are performing it properly. Do it wrong, do not apply enough torque, or pressure to a hold or throw, you then become the hapless dummy of demonstration – tossed about like a killer whale toying with a helpless seal.
Suffice it to say, I hated judo training, but I became pretty accomplished at it nonetheless.
The best part of Air Police Technical Training came along about the beginning of the third week, the instilment of pride in yourself, your appearance, the Air Force, and the pride of being a military policeman. Everyone begins to walk, talk, and look like a military person. The laundry shops in the area cater to troops wanting form-fitting uniforms. Everything in your wardrobe is tapered, press pelted, and starched. Your dress shoes and combat boots are highly “spit-shined.”
You spend hours melting your shoe polish, adding a little alcohol, and applying it hot with a cotton ball dipped in water (or spit) to your shoes, hat brim, belt, baton (billy club) holder, and .45 holster. You rub for hours in tight little clock-wise circles until layer upon layer of polish builds into a high-gloss shine – good enough to see your reflection!
When you wear the uniform of an Air Policeman, you strut, showing the world your confidence and pride. Even today, people tell me that I walk proudly, shoulders back (at least until my recent shoulder operations), and this could only come from my military police training.
I learned to enjoy the military during this time, often going to the Airmen’s Club with friends for 3.2 beer (4% or less alcohol), cigarettes, and often a “Tom Collins” a drink made of gin that Frank Boyce introduced me to as being “sophisticated.” “Something a southern gentleman would have,” he would say. We would have many more “Tom Collins” after our assignment to Keesler AFB,
However, I must first go back to dreamland, back to Harriman for a mandatory thirty-day leave!