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
“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.