Friday, March 5, 2010

USAF~Looking Back 40 Years

Sitting here this morning with my first cup of coffee, I've already showered, and fed the outdoor birds and squirrels...the creatures last feeding before I head to Dayton and the Mini-Reunion of Air Force Security Police of the Vietnam War.

This is my second start of today's post...blogger or the Internet took a dump as I was about 3 paragraphs in....and failed to save anything, except the first half sentence, already pissing me here we go again.
The temperature was about 15 when I awoke at dawn....a sunny high near 40 for today, 45 or so in Dayton for tomorrow. Much better than when this group last met a year ago on January 31, 2009. Seldom does the normal temperatures for a date feel this warm. The average his is about 43, but February was so bitter cold with heavy snowfalls, 40 and sunny and seems pretty nice, despite the early morning cold.

US Air Force 1968-72_____

The group of Vietnam and Thailand Security Police that meet this weekend did not serve together as a squadron or group, some of us did served together, all of us served at the various bases and locations in Vietnam and Thailand. We did not travel from base to base that way during our tours of duty. Unlike the Army and Marines, the men of the US Air Force, for the most part, traveled from base to base as individuals, with orders to the various squadrons and bases.

I traveled from Lackland following SP School in the fall of 1968, my first stop was Dover Air Force Base in Delaware....I was a rather skinny 19 year old, not sure of my way in the world, when I hit Dover. Despite the time off I spent with my Uncle Bill and his wife Agnes, an hour or so north in Wilmington, I hated my time at Dover. Despised my NCOIC Jack Adkins, a Tech Sargent who thought he was a tough guy, he wasn't, he was was just a bitter a-hole that seemed to hate everybody around him, especially the younger Airman...he was a classic bully, Adkins is probably one guy that it is better off that we never met after my time served, it would not have been pretty.

I made few friends at Dover, one exception was my roommate Jack Gates, a country boy from Oklahoma, who was 4 years my senior...Jack Gates and I would hook up in Saigon one more time after our stint at Dover, he was on his in-Country R&R from Phu Cat, where he was stationed, while I was at my second base, Tan Son Nhut. Dover was not a favorite place, and I was more than happy to volunteer for Vietnam, just to get the Hell out of Delaware, and away from Adkins.

After AZR(the Air Force Security Police version of Combat Preparedness School) back at Lackland, I spent 30 days drinking and raising as much Hell as I could back home in Celina. Then is was off to Vietnam for the next year, beginning on June 30, 1969.

As I have stated before on this blog, Vietnam, war zone or not, was my favorite time in the Air Force...especially my first base at Nha Trang. Nha Trang, on the South China Sea, was a garden spot in Vietnam. Was there combat and rocket attacks lurking? Of course, but despite the few rockets tossed in at us, I never felt in danger, perhaps just being young and thinking I was indestructible. Growing in size and confidence, Nha Trang and then Tan Son Nhut at Saigon, were a year that I enjoyed....if I had known the duty I would have to see my final 21 months in the Air Force, I probably would have extended my tour in Vietnam....I know my Mom would have not been happy, so I took my orders for Griffiss AFB in Rome, New York, and headed home on June 29, 1970....once again, like my orders to Dover, Nha Trang, and Tan Son Nhut, I was shipping out alone, and would arrive at my next base, the same way.

Unlike at Dover, I made several lifetime friends in Vietnam....Harry Bevan, Bruce Thompson, Marcus Payen, Tony Niemokta, and my NCOICs, Melvin Sloan and the late Phil Lange....these guys were the anti-Jack Adkins. By the time I hit the main gate at Griffiss, I was not the same person that had entered the Air Force some 2 years before....21 compared to 19 might not seem like much, but 5' 11" 185 pounds compared to 5'9" 135, and those 2 years gave me all the confidence in the world to finish out my 4 years, and to take little BS from anybody.

Arriving at Griffiss, I was shipped off to Security duty....where I would spend the next 20 months or so, getting under the skin of as many senior NCOs as I could. I was a lowly Buck Sgt, but I had a small posse' of younger airman, serving at their first duty stations, who would follow my lead.....we were not well liked by the senior NCOs at all. However mid level Staff and Tech Sargent's, like Caroll Marcelle, seemed to enjoy our exploits. My best friend was the late Jack Friedl, from Moon Township(outside Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania. We moved off base to an apartment that we called "Party Central", and I would love to have invested the money we spent from the summer of 1970 through the spring of 1972, on booze, beer, and other party items.

My final stop at Griffiss was a time I found myself, drove the "lifers" nuts, and swore I would never revert to the kid that arrived at Dover almost 4 years earlier....I could look back, but I would never go back to being that person....I had done too much and seen too much of the real world to ever turn the other cheek again.

A Final Look Back_____

Some 40 years later, I look back on the Air Force days as something I wouldn't change for anything. I hated the orders, some senior NCOs and Officers, despised most of the boring duty as a "Sky Cop". But I grew more in those 4 years than any period of time before or since. From the skinny kid with little self confidence, to a 23 year old horse's ass, that vowed to not back down in the face of orders and and bosses that I thought wrong....I have tried to stay true to that creed since. Outspoken I have remained to this day.

Yes, I hated the Air Force while I I cherish it as one of the defining times of my life....and this weekend a few of us will get together to BS our way in stories and times.

Photos and stories from the Vietnam Security Police Reunion coming up next week...meanwhile, enjoy the weekend...back later.
Photos-Nha Trang August 1969/Dover AFB November 1968/and standing on a snow pile at Griffiss, AFB, NY, in December 1970...(double click)check out the hair...not exactly the short, clean cut style they wanted out of their Security Police Corps....and that's why I kept it long, just to rub guys like Joe Gomez and Jack Adkins the wrong way. Looking back through good, bad, and ugly, I wouldn't change a minute of my 4 year tour. Well except maybe walking around those B-52 at The Griff, in zero chill factor temps and a foot of snow.


Sarge Charlie said...

and once we were young....

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