When I first joined the A.F. I went through basic. I just got under the wire for age back then, and obviously I was the oldest in my basic flight. The training instructors (TI) told me I would be the flight leader (FL), and I flat out told him no. Now when you go into basic, you don’t ever say no to your TI. You get yelled and screamed at, do a lot of running and basically keep your head down. I don’t know why, but my TI didn’t go off on me and said OK. So he picked one of the other guys out of the flight.
The guy he picked thought he was a TI also and did nothing but yell at everyone. I had seen this before in where someone suddenly thrust into a position of power just went crazy with it. But these were a bunch of kids who had never left home and were in a very alien and hostile environment. So I just went with the flow and tried to keep my head down.
There’re different things besides your training that have to been done during that time. I lucked out and got the laundry detail. While everyone was stuck in the barracks constantly cleaning the bathroom and anything else they could find, I got to go outside to the laundry room and be free for a certain length on time. One day I came back from laundry detail and see that the FL had everyone get their toothbrushes out and started cleaning the floor with them. I couldn’t believe it. I realized this guy was young and inexperienced in leading people, but this was over the edge. I went to him and asked what the hell was going on. He told me we were cleaning the floor and to get my toothbrush. I asked him to come with me and I showed him the floor cleaner/buffer. I plugged it up, got the cleaning pad under it and started cleaning the floor. I showed a couple of other guys how to do it and the whole things went pretty fast. The TI came in later and a few guys told him they needed new toothbrushes. He found out why and shortly we had a new guy as the FL. The new FL was a case unto himself.
As I said these were a bunch of kids. While there I had more than a few I had to help a lot just to get through. My TI called me in again and pointed out one guy that was definitely having a hard time. He told me to watch out for the guy and help him as much as I could. Now I don’t want to sound uncaring, but I was having a hard enough time just getting through this stuff myself. But I did help the guy out, and I can say I went through many a time with him crying his eyes out, and him saying he would never get through this. Well there were a lot of guys that got put out of basic, but he wasn’t one of them. You’ve got to remember that back then the military wasn’t hurting for people, and it was very easy to be put out. Everyone left basic and I found out later that the guy I helped so much had been made a FL at his school. I couldn’t believe it, but I was proud of him.
After this I went to my school. I ended up getting there three weeks before it started and I had a blast. I was put on what was called the Casual Squad. In other words any job that needed to be done, they would have us do it. It really wasn’t too bad, plus after 5:00 p.m. your time was your own. I wasn’t one to sit in a dorm room with nothing to do, so I would head to the club on base. It was a nice little club that had two pool tables. As I mentioned before I used to love to play pool and spent many hours in the local pool hall as a teenager. I would be in there every night talking to people and shooting pool. I got to know a few people who would be teaching me. I’m not trying to brag, but I used to be pretty good at shooting pool. When the tables were taken over by people playing doubles (partners playing against each other), I would always be picked to be someone’s partner. About two days before we started school, one of the guys I knew would be one of my teachers asked me to be his partner in a doubles game. We were playing two other guys he knew, but I hadn’t seen before. Now as I’ve always said when playing any game, if you win you tell everybody how good you are, but if you loose, then it’s only a game. My partner and I were beating them a good bit and they were friendly guys and I have to admit I did a fair amount of ragging on them. The best shot I had ever done in my life, up to that point, was during the last game that we played them. I was shooting the 8 ball (black) to win the game, but their 2 ball (blue) had the pocket blocked. If I didn’t make the 8 ball, just about no matter where I left them on the table, they would be able to make the 2 ball and then the 8 ball to win.
So I called the shot and made it. The guys we were playing against were amazed (I was too), and I just let it go with “Damn that was a great shot. How could anyone be that skillful.” A lot of trash talk like that.
Two days later I start my class and in the first hour the teacher and different people connected with the school come in and introduce themselves and tell us what they expected. The last person to come in was one of the guys I had ragged on so hard during my great shot, and he’s the top guy for our school, he’s the whole enchilada, ever teacher and student there answered to him. I was thinking OMG as I sank lower into my seat. When he got through and was leaving the classroom he saw me and gave me a nod. I knew at that point, I was out of that school. To my surprise he turned out to be a nice guy and I told him later that when I saw him the first day, I had expected to be kicked out of school. He laughed and told me no, he didn’t work that way and that I did shoot a hell of a game of pool.
There are a couple of more stories I have to tell about being in school there. But this is getting a little long right now. I will say that I really enjoyed my time there, and I did learn a lot. That is between all the partying.