Why did I join the Air Force? Like a couple of hundred thousand other high school grads, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I figured joining up would give me time to dwell on this all important subject. I had no idea it would lead me down the path it did.
I joined right out of high school, allowing for a bit of summer to bleed through before closing freedom down. Plus, I had to put on some weight, as I was one skinny little dude. I left for Lackland AFB via plane out of Los Angeles, and arrived in San Antonio, Texas late in the day. A bus was waiting to transfer us to the air base and the start of basic training. We arrived, stepped off the bus and were greeted by our instructor saying, “I ain’t your mama, get in line and shut the fuck up.” A rude slap in the face the first day. The Playboy mag my sister gave me at the airport was confiscated by the same instructor, who promptly informed me I wouldn’t know what to do with any of the playmates anyway. I politely informed him that being from SoCal, the beach babes outclassed any of the playmates. That cost me fifty pushups. Hmmmm…..so this is the way it is.
I made it, somehow, through basic, and was sent by train to Canute AFB, IL, for tech training: Aircraft Pneudraulics Specialist. Look up the word pneudraulics, and you wont find it: invented and used by the military only. The train ride was something else. My first ever, and I loved it. You see parts of the country you will never see from a car. While me and a couple of buds were exploring the train, we ran into a couple of Colonels headed in the same direction. One of them ask me where I was going. Being all scared to death of officers due to the fact it was drilled into us we should be, I stated, “No where in particular, sir.” Took me a week to figure out why they were cracking up so much; nothing like being wet behind the ears.
I made it through tech training, and graduated head of my class, even after spending a week in the hospital with pneumonia. Not bad for a greeny from the beach, huh? I got sent to March AFB, Riverside CA, and from there where I worked on B-52s; the planes, not the group. I spent many weekends with old high school buds, and really liked it. Then a Captain and a sergeant popped into the pneudralics shop and said, “We need two volunteers . . . you and you”, pointing to me and one of the other dudes. We asked them what we volunteered for, and they said, Vietnam . . .and you will be cross training into munitions. Boy howdy! Nothing I could think of I wanted to do than be dropped into a war zone with a bunch of bombs.
Anyhow, a crash six week course in munitions, what they did and how they worked. Yep, I was even more excited to get over there and blow up things, with myself at the center of the explosions. The saving grace (?) of the school being in Denver, CO was the girls outnumbered the guys three to one, 3.2 bars and plenty of time off. I loved Denver, and it loved me back 🙂 But sadly it only lasted those short six weeks. Then on to Nam.
We flew to Saigon on military transport, which, for those who ever endured it, know what a hemorrhoid inducing trip that is. We checked in, and were dispersed to whatever hole we were assigned to. I happened to get DaNang AFB. I actually like it after being there for a month. Town was open, China beach was a bike ride away, and, despite being told not to eat the food, I chowed down. No way was I going to be stationed in some foreign country without sampling the foods. I used to eat at a little place called the World restaurant on LeDo street. The same girl waited on me every time I ate there. I would point to something on the menu (Vietnamese) and she would either shake her head yes or no. I never had a bad meal there, and ate things I sometimes didn’t want to know what it was.
I drove for the dump after being there for a couple of months. I’d drive a diesel rig or a deuce and a half, either moving ordinance from the base to the docks or visa-versa. I came back from the docks one night loaded with munitions and got stopped by the MPs at the gate, which was strange: they usually just waved me through. The MP told me to look at the outside of my door. There was a spear sticking out of it. Laundry time reared its ugly head right then and there.
I had a girl friend in DaNang, She was French Chinese and beautiful. Her name was Donna, or at least that’s what she told me. She was killed in a grenade explosion at the restaurant she worked at. I went to her funeral, but her parents wouldn’t let me in; they thought I was the reason for the attack, and I couldn’t blame them. I didn’t like Viet Nam after that much. The town was closed to G Is not long after, but I really didn’t want to go there anymore anyway .
I left there in June of ’66, and since then have always wanted to revisit the country under different circumstances. I don’t see that happening anymore. Anyway, that’s my Air Force life until after Viet Nam. I did four more years service and maybe I’ll write about that sometime. Right now, memories of things I haven’t thought about in years need to be sorted. Later, friends.