Wednesday, December 12, 2007


A couple of months after reporting to Sewart AFB, unfinished business from Vietnam began catching up to me.

First off, I do not remember ever telling you about Master Sergeant Thomas, my Flight Commander at Da Nang, but we actually met on the Pan Am flight over. Neither of us knew then that we would have a year long association by being in the same outfit, but it turned out well. He was a great leader, and he must have remembered my loyalty to him. 

Not long after arriving at Sewart I was pleasantly surprised one day in the Squadron Meeting, where the entire group meets monthly to discuss the Provost Marshal’s visions, and where, from time-to-time, Airman were recognized for their performance. Suddenly my name was called and I went forward to meet the Colonel with a puzzled look on my face. 

He began reading from an official looking piece of paper about me what I had done in Vietnam, and something about how “The Air Force Commendation Medal" may be awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States below the grade of Brigadier General who, while serving in any capacity with the Air Force, distinguish themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement, or by meritorious service not of a sufficient nature to justify a higher award.”

The photo at the right does not show it, but inside my head I was thinking, “Wow! Wow, what the hell?

Then it hit me, Sgt. Thomas! Yep, he remembered me after all. 

Not long after that, the promotion I should have gotten with the rest of my buddies in Vietnam caught up with me. I became a “Buck Sergeant,” what was in the sixties the E-4 grade of Airman 1st Class. Today Airman 2nd Class is now Airman 1st Class with Senior Airman now being an E-4. Got that?

This makes the Air Force the only branch of service today not to have an NCO rank at the E-4 pay grade. What started for me in 1967 ended in 1991! Someone must have messed up badly, or they had too man NCO’s in their club!

Anyway, in 1967 that change made the Air Force begin treating E-4s like Sergeants, with all the privileges, including the NCO Club! I strode proudly into the club the same day I sewed on my three stripes and ordered a Jack and Coke! I really felt like somebody then…even more cocky on the walk!
The promotion also made it impossible for me to live in the open bay barracks with the “lowly” Airmen! I had to move into a hard-walled room with a door, and a refrigerator! How awful is that!

That is when I met Donald, a long time Airman 1st Class that had been freshly promoted Buck Sergeant. We shared this room for about twelve months, or until “the incident!” We’ll get to that soon.

Don and I quickly became close friends and we would talk (mostly me) to the wee hours, with the light off, and the stereo playing the Mystic Moods Orchestra’s “One Stormy Night” until we fell asleep to the sounds of distant trains, rain, and thunder. Each morning we got up, 20 minutes before work, grabbed a “tall boy” for breakfast, showered, and toddled off to meet the day.

Eventually I even asked Don to be the best man at my wedding, to which he agreed, but I am getting ahead of myself. There was a lot that had to happen first!

Little did I know how this meeting would impact our lives!


Sarge Charlie said...

My 1st NCO stripe was as an E-6 and that was a long time coming. Nice post mushey.

Jose said...

As usual another great post. Thanks for sharing.

Divalicious said...

I love reading this stuff!!! Too bad I'm lost this time with all the E goodies. I'll do my research now, thank you very much!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Very cool. I loved those khaki uniforms back then. Remember my dad wearin' his. Really sucked when they ditched them.

pat houseworth said...

Made Buck Sgt after 18 months in the AF, the month I arrived from Nha Trang to Tan Son the Hell I kept that rank for the next 2 1/2 years is still a mystery to all.

Buck Pennington said...

Being the type who is overly impressed with the last thing he read/heard... I have to comment on Jeff's "I loved those khaki uniforms ... Really sucked when they ditched them." comment.

I loved it when those danged 1505s went away. It was a miserable uniform, ugly... particularly the shirt collar... and hard to maintain as they weren't technically washable (although I threw 'em in the washing machine, anyway). Being khaki, they got dirty pretty quick and showed anything/everything dropped, spilled, or otherwise deposited on 'em. I hated 'em. The replacement uniform, a cotton/polyester blend blue (long or short sleeve) shirt and blue wool blend trousers combo, was SO much better!

I, too, was an "instant sergeant," Mushy, although I was wearing three stripes when the conversion from A1C to Sergeant happened. My first stop was at the NCO Club, as well. That was back in the day when The Club was still a desirable place to go and a viable institution. T'is another story, that.

Becky said...

I may be mis-reading what you meant, but I think you have to be an E-5 to be considered an NCO in the Army (definitely not as low as an E-4).

BRUNO said...

Bet it WAS a "bitch" having to live in a room with an actual DOOR, and a 'fridge to boot! Betcha wonder WHY you ever left, huh?

Naw---just kiddin'! I don't know about you, but I was glad to "get out of the game" a.s.a.p., after my obligation ceased. This lowly corporal had decided enough was enough...!

BRUNO said...

And after further review(I'm kinda SLOW these days, OK?), it seems as though a Corps corporal was the same "scale"---E4--- as an Air Force sergeant, or at least I THINK they were---which goes without saying, in MY case! Whatever! Don't matter---we were all "green",in the beginning!

NOW I feel 2-inches---TALLER!!!

Hammer said...

Good deal. I bet was nice to get into better accomodations.

Suldog said...


As usual, loving the story.

(I'm looking at it as one big story, rather than separate tales. It should be a book, you know.)

Suldog said...

Oh, interesting little story. This Thanksgiving, we're sitting around before dinner, and my stepfather starts telling us how he was getting some records from the VA, medical stuff, and he decided that he'd like to have his commendations, medals, whatever, he earned in WWII. So, he requests these things and he finds out that he won a Bronze Star!

He had no idea! Well, damn, that's fairly impressive - you could have knocked me over with a feather. I always liked him, but now I had a whole new level of respect. E$specially since he just sort of glossed over it in the story - we had to stop him and say, Bill! You won a BRONZE STAR?!?"

Mushy said...

Sul - You'll have to post that story some time!

Lin said...

Another wonderful story! AND you got a room with your own refrigerator?!? Wow!

Debbie Does Nothing said...

You're such a tease. I want to know what happened with Don.

Mel said...

Wow, I love posts like this and with pictures too :)