Monday, August 18, 2008

The Reluctant Sky Cop

40 years ago this week, I finished up Air Force Basic Training at Amarillo AFB, Texas. In the weeks leading up to "graduation", we recruits were all given "Dream Sheets", a list of what career field we would like to pursue while serving our country. I can't remember what I picked, but it wasn't the Air Force Security Police(nee Air Police) field....

I can still remember to this day a letter I had received from older brother Mike. He was stationed in Thailand nearing the end of this Air Force days as a Fire Protection Specialist. I had written him, telling him that I had decided not to join the Navy with several of my buddies, and Ed Bonifus and I had instead taken the AF route. Although I don't have the letter, I can still remember what it said.

"I wouldn't give a dime for any of the goddamn military service(he had joined the Air Force at 17 right out of High School), but if you must go in(no number system back then, you went or dodged), the Air Force is the way to go. However, stay the Hell out of the General Field, you'll end up a Cook, Cop, Grass Cutter, or some other of a number of assorted Dip Shits"

Ah yes, Mike was always and still is, right to the point. I had scored well in 3 of the 4 tested categories, Mechanical was the exception, the very one brother had done well in. Fire Protection was part of the Mechanical field. For me, it came down to Math or General, the problem was, all the mathematical stuff required you to attend a long school session(say radar or Control and Warning), usually about a year in length....well Hell, if I had wanted to go to school, I would have headed off to college, the old man(a WW2 Army Air Force guy himself) had offered to help fund my way...but college was not in my plans, at least not for a few more years, either was being a draft dodger....So here I was, looking down the barrel of the General Field.

The orders came a few days before Basic ended....they put us in a room and handed out our assignments, I grabbed my papers and read:

Houseworth, Patrick R.
81110 Security Police Sentry
6 Weeks Training
Lackland AFB, Texas

Here I was, one of the other "assorted dip shits" as Mike had called the career choices. Well I guess it was better than being a Cook, Grass Cutter, or worse yet, stuck in Supply. SSgt Joe Prokop, my main TI and a SP when not a Technical Instructor, looked at me and says, "Houseworth, welcome to the Air Police, or I guess we call it Security Police these days, chances are you will be walking a dog around the perimeter of Tan Son Nhut in about a year, you may see me there" Now what are the odds? I would indeed make it to TSN outside of Saigon, about 18 months later, transferring down from Nha Trang, and in fact did get to see Joe Prokop, who was working B Flight Security....I went to C Flight(overnights), but did not choose to be a dog handler.

I had no desire then, before, or after my Air Force days to be a cop. I did pass my Civil Service test when I got out and was offered jobs, two times, in Dayton and Cincinnati, to be a Postal Security Officer, working at the post office locations in those cities. The benefits and money were pretty good, but, no way was I interested. I served my 4 years, and some how managed to get out with an honorable discharge, with the stipulation that I not re-enlist(that's another story). I sure the Hell wasn't going to be spit and polish in my civilian life.

Most of my 4 years were spent on the Security side of being an SP, the only exception was my 6 months at Nha Trang, where I pulled day shift Law Enforcement duty. Those 6 months were my favorite, and probably why I remember those guys I served with even though it was for just a short time. Bevan, Thompson, Claflin, Sloan, Payan, Nieomoka, my NCOIC Phil Lange, and a dozen or so more I can remember these 40 years later, like it was yesterday.

As I have explained before, I did not like the Air Force, didn't like many of the supervisors I served under, however, time moves on, I have hooked up with some of those I was stationed with in Vietnam, and enjoy renewing old times with many of those guys. I have also met some new friends along the way in our association, The Vietnam Security Police Association:

Many of those guys went on to become cops in the civilian world, and I respect them for that....however, It was not my choice. The disciplined 'yes sir' world of the Military was not for me, neither then or now. That does not mean I don't have the highest regard for those I served with, and those that volunteer to serve today. However, I have the utmost dislike of those that chose to dodge the draft, or those like John 'Hanoi' Kerry, Chuck Hagle, Jim Webb, or John Murtha, that spit on the very ones they served with. They are in my mind, the lowest of the lowlife. The only "salute" I would give one of them, is that infamous "middle finger" kind.

Football scrimmage at Spencerville this afternoon, feels like summer out again after a few early fall-like days.

Back Later>>>>>>>>>>>>
photo-September 1968/Cop School Mug Shot taken in downtown San Antonio


Buck said...

I trundled off to basic 45 years ago this month, and find myself thinking "Has it really been THAT long?" The answer, unfortunately, is "yes."

I think ya did the right thing by choosing the AF, Pat. But then again... I would, wouldn't I? ;-)

Mushy said...

It's been 42 years for me and I wanted to be a slots so I got to be a Sky Cop too. I would probably have been dead had I go my wish, but came close anyway at Da Nang.

Never wanted to be a cop when I got out...standing gate and post was enough for me, but the office work was fun my last 18 months.

Sarge Charlie said...

40 years ago this week, I would have been in Chu Li, I have no regrets.

The Lonely Conservative said...

Thanks to all of you for your service! If not for guys like you I probably couldn't do what I do!

david mcmahon said...

There's salutes -- and then there's salutes!!

Anonymous said...

" I heard the feet on the gravel,the feet of the men what drill.. and I said to my fluttering heart strings, I said to them "peace, be still!"

Kipling- The Old Soldier

Strange, isn't it. This many years on, and still that period of your life keeps popping into your head. I never knew a veteran who didn't feel that way one time or other.

Grandpa-Old Soldier said...

I left the Canal Zone and went into the USAF in Sept 1966, three months after high school graduation. Wanted to be a combat photographer, but ended up a sky cop, for 21.6 years. Loved every minute of it,, except for the 11 months spent in Platsburgh NY. Would do it over again in a minute.

Akelamalu said...

I popped across from Authorblog to read your 'post of the day'. I guess you didn't get much choice really did you, but you did your bit! :)

imbeingheldhostage said...

My Hubby's in the AF, and got the same advice your brother gave you! Thank you for your service :-)

Sandi McBride said...

My hubby did 30 in the Navy...his BIL started out in Army, went to the Navy and then reupped in the Air Force...confused fella...I admire our Vets with all my heart and you left out that bitch jane fonda...I refuse to capitalize her name.
ps David sent me...congrats on POTD

~Fathairybastard~ said...

That was fun to read! I love reading these memory posts, by you and Mushy and the others. It kills me to think that I was still a baby when you were off having these adventures. Six years old, on the way to live in England.

I did two years of ROTC in the early 80s, thinking that maybe I'd follow in my dads footsteps. But I guess it wasn't to be. I couldn't live my dad's life, any more than I could live anone elses. Gotta do my own thing, make all my pown mistakes, and learn all my own lessons. Sucks, but there's nothin' else that feels right.

Anyway, I love reading this stuff, so keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I am a little upset with you using skycop as a nickname. I was a 81130 in 1967 and became a A29350 in 1968 thus all of my counter parts nicknamed me skycop. That stayed with me thru out 864 combat flying hours and the 86 combat missions I did over SEA, in recon. Check out BATCAT. I was one.