Monday, August 27, 2007


The Franks and I reported the Provost Marshal’s office at 0800 hours Monday morning. He was a short man with short black wavy hair and a kind face, which put us at ease, even if he was a “Light” Colonel. We reported with a two other Airmen who had arrived on Sunday. They came to the Air Police Squadron at Keesler straight out of Basic Training to learn how to be “sky cops” through OJT (on the job training).

Our tech school training afforded us the privilege of performing duties on our own sooner than they were, but it was still some time before we did actual law enforcement patrol. Until then we would stand seemingly endless days and nights on “gate duty!”

A lieutenant, an adjutant to the Provo, assigned Frank Boyce and I to “A Flight” and told us to report to Sergeant Webb, at 3 PM that same afternoon, in our blue heavyweight winter uniforms, ready for work. Naturally, we were relieved that we would be on the same Flight. Frank Gordon went to another Flight, but we often had the same days off, so he would sometimes hang with us.

As soon as we got back to the barracks and told someone about our assignment to “A Flight,” the rumors started about Sgt. Webb.

“Wooo, damn,” someone said shaking his head. “That mean sombitch eats new recruits for breakfast!”

“Yeah,” another said, “ya’ll should see ‘bout gettin’ on another flight!”

Something with spindly legs crept up spine and when it got between my shoulder blades, it exploded into a hair raising cold shiver that I could not hide from the others. “Ah, hell, it can’t be that bad…” I looked at Frank and finished, “…can it?”

Frank Gordon grinned a devilish smile, like he always did when he thought he had something over you.

That evening at “guard mount,” we met the infamous Sgt. Webb. He was not the slight built “Joe Friday” (Jack Webb) of “Dragnet” fame! This Sgt. Webb was 6’ 5”, about 275, a huge barrel-chested man, with a face that appeared as though it had caught fire and been beat out with the bottom of a golf shoe! I am talking mean looking here. The kind of guy you really would not want to meet in the light of day, let alone a dark alley!

There was no smile on the pockmarked face, no hint of welcome in his voice as he introduced us to the “Flight” and asked us to give our names and a little background information. The others were too busy watching Webb’s reaction to our stories to listen.

For the first two weeks, either we rode with a seasoned AP or stood, wondering, “What the hell?” we had gotten ourselves into, on the various gates and intersections around the base.

Several months later, I was standing gate duty on the “back gate,” which, as you remember, was in sight and smell of the little café we frequented. The smell drove me crazy all day and once, since the restaurant was only steps outside the base fence, our “waitress friend” brought me a cold fountain drink. Getting the refreshing drink, plus watching people walk up and down the strip, helped pass the time, but I soon became bored.

A stupid little song, by Freddie and the Dreamers, had just become popular and I started to play it in my head. Soon, when I thought no one was watching, I began “The Freddie!” (Go ahead, click on the link and let it play while you finish reading!) It looked something like a “jumping jack” exercise and I am quite sure I looked ridiculous in full AP gear jumping around in front of the gate shack. However, gate guards often do stupid things to occupy their alone time.

I had no idea anyone had seen me until the next guard mount, when Sgt. Webb told me to stand up and said, “Do the Freddie for the Flight!” I was shocked and embarrassed, but, as I am prone to do, I covered my embarrassment with comedy!

“Sure,” I said as I stood up, “but you’ll have to hum a few bars!”

There was almost a smile, but it was quickly extinguished and replaced with gritted teeth and “DO IT,” was forced from behind them!

I did a couple of jumping jack moves while saying, “Do the Freddie,” but then sat down quickly, having learned a hard lesson.

It would be some time before I began to admire Sgt. Webb, but as I soon learned, those that worked for him, and worked hard for him, grew to love him. He was always ready to defend his “sky cops,” and no one reprimanded them but him, and that included the officers. We were his, and we grew to like it that way.

Moreover, I made it my mission to get smiles from him! It took a while, but I often got those little hints of a smile that came quickly between the movements of his chin as he chewed his Spearmint gum.

I went from being terrified when he would pull up to my post, to looking forward to the challenge. “Oops,” I wanted to say aloud, “there it was! I gotcha…you smiled!” However, you only went so far with Sergeant Webb.


Hammer said...

Next blog meet you'll have to show us the Freddy!

Sarge Charlie said...

I got into youtube and forgot what I was reading, doing the Freddy....

BRUNO said...

You "doin' the Freddie" on-watch might've been to your advantage---I mean, who in their right mind would challenge a sentry that appeared to have a case of an incurable, possibly contagious, form of convulsions?

Especially if it made Sgt. Webb show even the tiniest hint of a smile! If it could get to HIM, well, what about the rest of the world....???

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Hilarious. I can see you, skinny, 98 lbs soaking wet, terrified of that big dude. I can imagine you winning him over, with humor and professionalism. I bet that got you through a LOT of shit in your life. It's cool to watch you grow in these posts. Love reading them.

Les Becker said...

I wish you'd put up your own Youtube version of "The Freddie", Mushy!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

I'm still waiting for the video of Maxixmum Clearance. Perhaps, when the context of the life story demands it.

GUYK said...

You were lucky to get a good Non Com
first rattle out of the box. I didn't and it was a couple of years before I did. I learned from the bad ones how a good Non Com is supposed to act and when I got my non com stripes I tried to remember how I hated the "do as I say not as I do" types that made life miserable for the troops.

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Aw Mushy, what pictures you paint, the description of that big guy's face just nailed it for me. I LOVE these posts, keep 'em coming, please. ((x))

Jose said...

While in high school I enrolled in the graphic arts class and the teacher was the meanest Tejano living in the West Coast. I went into that class knowing that he didn't like Mexicans. I too pulled many little smiles out of his face, to make a long story short I had his class the three years and I was also his teacher's ait. Go figure.
Your stories always send me back to a place and a time in my own life.

pat houseworth said...

"The Freddy" was indeed lame....looking back a lot of the "British Invasion" stuff was lame....but we couldn't get enough of it back then.

As for Sarge thing....loved some of them, hated some, some indifferent....(L)(H)

(L) Staff Melvin Sloan, Nha Trang, Staff Joe Prokop, my TI at Amarillo, and later a Sky Cop with me at Tan Son Nhut, Staff Carroll Marcelle at Griffiss.

(H) Tech, Smiling Jack Adkins, Dover, first rate A-Hole, A Chief at slips me, but needless to say, I would not be kind to him if we met today.

(I) Phil Lange at Nha we are both members in the VSPA...great guy who I just didn't know that well in Vietnam.

pat houseworth

david mcmahon said...

This might be a daft question, but what's a ``light'' colonel?

Mushy said...

A Lieutenant Colonel in the American military is sometimes referred to as a "light" colonel, as apposed to a FULL BIRD Colonel!

The "light" has silver oak leaves, while a "full bird" has a silver eagle to signify the difference in their ranks.

Kevin said...

Great memoirs, Mushy... always a pleasure to come here.

Suzi said...

Great story, Mushy! I'm going to send my retired military uncles over here to read.

Suldog said...

Man, I am loving these stories. It's too bad you don't have a picture of Sgt. Webb to post. However, you certainly painted a good enough one of him.

By the way, have you ever seen the Jack Webb movie "The D.I."? Scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a little kid.

Buck Pennington said...

Way late to this party, but just had to thank you for the pics, Mushy. I "did time" at Keesler on four occasions during my 22-year career, in '63 - '64, '67 - '68, '72, and finally in 1980. I have very mixed emotions about that base...on the one hand it was great fun (mostly...especially jaunts down Hiway 90 to N'Awlins), but on the other? Nasty weather in the summer (no AC in my Triangle barracks, the first go-round) and some world-class yahoos off-base...just to name two.

Oh...and didja ever hear light colonels referred to as "telephone colonels?" As in (on the phone) "This is COLONEL Smith, and I wanna know...." Quite the difference between 0-5s and O-6s, there is!