Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Amarillo Air Force Base 1968....The Summer of Basic Training.

Schools in the area from Dayton to the south, to Putnam and Paulding Counties in the north, were shut down today...last nights rain didn't move out in time before the temperatures dropped well below freezing, and ice ended up being the culprit.  I arose early, scarped off the ice from the Jeep Wrangler, and headed the 20 miles south then east down highway 127 and State Route 119 to Minster, for my semi annual check-up.

The blood tests showed no worsening of my pre-Diabetes 2, and my BP was 124/68, heart rate of 63...not bad for someone who turns 62 in less than 8 weeks.  I still need, or at least would like, to lose 10 pounds, dropping down to 178 or so was the original goal when I started in September 2009.  I made 184, and now sit this morning at 188.  The 178-180 range on the 5' 10 1/2 inch frame(as of this morning, guess I've shrunk about an inch over the past few years?) is a reasonable goal.   Doc says I need to get my eyes checked, and he also recommends a pill for a minor toe nail infection...told him, no problem on testing the eyes for any diabetes related problems, but no to the "pill" for toe nails(I'll continue to see if the salve works for now), at least not until my next check up in 6 months, and no flu shots either, have not had one since 1976, and don't plan on getting one either.  But for now it looks like I'll live....unless a heavy rock or some angry fan takes me out.

First Air Force Stop_____

 My year in Vietnam, first at Nha Trang, then at Saigon, is usually the focus of any, or at least most, of my military memories on this blog.  However, my first Air Force year, June 68 thru June 1969, saw me at 3 different Bases before heading over the pond...Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle for Basic Training, Lackland in San Antonio two separate times for Security Police training, and Dover, Delaware, where I patrolled the Nuclear Storage Mounds in the middle of the of Winter 68-69.

When I left the Columbus, Ohio, Airport in late June 1968, for Amarillo, it marked my first time flying.  Many more have come and went since, both during and long after my Air Force days. That first flight however saw stops in Dallas-Fort Worth, then in the small airport at Lubbock, preceded my landing late in the evening at Amarillo that early Summer night of 1968.  The next six weeks would mark the indoctrination into the Air Force lifestyle...a lifestyle frankly, I was never able to embrace.  I wasn't then and never have been able to follow orders or walk the line that says this is the wrong way/this is the right way type of life.  Although I look back at those days as ones that gave me confidence to face the world, I still never could have survived a career of taking orders, I never would have wanted that life...3 years 10 1/2 months was more than enough of the military for me.

I arrived at Amarillo as they were winding down operations, most of the training centers and base operation segments had been moved elsewhere...the Basic Training would cease by the end of the 1968 calender year as well.  My training instructor, or TI as the Air Force called their basic leaders, was Joe Prokop, a burly Staff Sergent from Wisconsin.  As it turned out Joe's bark was much worse than his bite.  My roommates were a couple of hillbilly types, Carter Miller from Arkansas, and Bobby Joe Glover of Alabama.  The training period which lasted through mid August, saw mostly hot dry, days, and cool, cloudless nights.  Two other troops at Amarillo during my stay were the late Ed Bonifus from Coldwater, whom I joined with on the "Buddy System", and fellow Celina resident Chuck Long, a younger brother of one of my high school classmates.

As for Miller and Glover, I never saw them again after basic...Chuck and Ed, I ran into back home(still do in Chuck's case from time to time), and Sgt Prokop?  Well it seems Joe, who passed away a few years back, was a Air Force Security Policeman.  His last words to me before leaving Amarillo for Lakeland for Sky Cop training were, "Houseworth, you'll probably be walking a dog around the perimeter of Tan Son Nhut within the year, yep, you'll end up in Nam...you don't have the attitude to make it stateside for too long".  It turns out that Joe was pretty close...within that year I was in Vietnam, volunteered because I couldn't stand my NCOIC, a Tech Sarge named Jack Adkins, we called him "Smiling" Jack, and it wasn't a compliment.  I did end up at Tan Son Nhut, as Joe Prokop had predicted, but sans the dog...and one of the first guys I met at the Saigon Airport, there to pick me up, was Joe Prokop.  Joe had reverted back to the duties of a Security Policeman after his tour of duty as a TI, we both worked Security, Joe on A(day) Flight, which I worked over night(C flight)...we tossed down a few beers together before Joe was shipped back to the states in the spring of 1970.   Sadly I found Joe after my Air Force days, but only because I was informed he had passed away back in 2005...he was indeed a good guy.  A career Air Force type, much like Phil Lange, guys who gave their lives to their military careers, but didn't give their souls to the corp.

As for Amarillo_____

When I flew out for Lackland I didn't see Amarillo for a number of years....the base had been long closed by the time I rolled my delivery RV through the Panhandle and into Amarillo in 2003, on the way to San Diego.  I passed and even stopped many times in the next five years...but the Amarillo I knew, the Air Force Base, was only a memory...one of the first of my four year AF stint.  Most of the people I met there are nameless faces locked away deep in my memory banks.

No games on schedule tonight, but some snow in the forecast for tomorrow...back later>>>>

Photos-Our Flight just before Graduation in August 1968...Joe Prokop is seen Kneeling 3rd from left in the front row...I'm near the top fifth row, first on left, with one roommate Bobby Joe Glover, over my left shoulder in the back row.  (2)  Me in front of our barracks, with the painted salute to Joe Prokop...and his Prokop's Pups as his flight students were called.  (3) Entry control point at Amarillo, maned by 2 Air Police, which switched to be Security Police a month before I joined the ranks, and now in today's Air Force are called Security Forces, a much more "war trained" group than we could ever hope to be....but we were sent off to defend our bases in Southeast Asia anyhow, with little war training(a couple of weeks at Lackland if we were lucky), and weapons that were good, but hardly heavy enough for what we sometimes faced.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Pat, I'm one the guys in that Amarillo AFB picture. Just surfin the web today and came across it. Blew my mind! Jim Walker from Cleveland. Ended up at Nellis AFB as a crew chief on a F111A. Lotta memories. Great airplane and great friendships. Hang my hat in Cambridge Ohio now. Take Care. Jim jimandrobie@hotmail.com

Jim Walker said...

Hey Pat, I'm one of the guys in that Amarillo AFB picture. Was surfin the web today and saw the picture. Blew my mind! Jim Walker from Cleveland Ohio. Ended up at Nellis AFB, Nevada as a crew chief on a F111A. Lotta great memories and friendships. Jim jimandrobie@hotmail.com

Lowell said...

Hey Pat thanks for serving. I was a SAC Guard (CDS) at Amarillo '62-'64. I also served in Alaska. Later in Civilian life worked with some guy named Hitchcock who was at Nha Trang too. I also helped build F-111s at the Fort Worth plant...ooorrah to all you guys out there from Amarillo Air Base! lowell@xdesign.ws

PRH....... said...

Jim and Lowell...thanks for stopping by, and Welcome Home!

treefrogdk said...

hi pat... i was at amarillo for basic beginning june 19, '68. loved it! haha. went to lackland for security police training and shipped to naha ab okinawa in november. those were some days, eh? dave... treefrogdk@yahoo.com

PRH....... said...

Hey Treefrog...glad you stopped by. You must have froze in that West Texas Winter in those old barracks...? Who was your TI?

Where else were you stationed as a Sky Cop?

Anonymous said...

I went through basic at Amarillo in Dec. and Jan.of 67/68. Went to Lowry (another closed base) and on to Luke for my first 12 months in the AF. The next 19 months were in Viet Nam, Phu Cat and Phan Rang. Then it was off to Japan with TDY stints to Korea. The last three months of my enlistment were on Okinawa. The Air Force did not consider Japan an overseas assignment, go figure.

Don Moates said...

Got to Amarillo in Aug 1966. Hot-
a new experience for a small town East Tennessee boy. My friend Harold Curtis and I took a western tour to Poyladura Canyon. He went to Turkey and I ended up at Orlando, FL AFB (it was turned over to the Navy later) and I was sent to Charleston SC. Served 4 years down to the minute. Don Moates, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Good times, especially the 3 years in Orlando before Walt D. got there.

bulldog 2150 said...

I took basis at AAFB Jul/Aug 1968. Anyone in my BMT Flt wit TI A1c/Sgt Vargas?

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, I had basic at Amarillo from 23JAN67 to 08MAR67. Flight 029 with SSG Joseph Prokop - wow, 45 years ago! Hell of a guy!

There was a RIF of E5's over 20 years service in 1971 - did he leave the USAF at that time?

Hope all is well with you all.

John Walsh
john2129@aol.com

josullivanjr said...

Just stumbled onto your blog. I did my basic training Amarillo AFG Oct/Novembe 1968. Marched in the Veterans day parade downtown. Base was all but deserted. Absolutely nothing lonelier than being away from New England home (Boston) for first time and standing all night guard duty in October in the Texas panhandle on a nearly deserted base. Favorite T.I. quote "At this point they could make me stand on my head in the corner and stack B.B's and I wouldn't care".

Russ Dee said...

Pat, saw your blog and it reminds me of my time in the USAF. Amarillo, jan.'68 Lackland march '68. Pease AFB '68-69 Bien Hoa, RVN '70. We probably crossed paths somewhere. Welcome home, Brother.

Pat Houseworth said...

Thanks for stopping by Russ Dee....were you a SP or what career field?

Anonymous said...

I took basic at Amarillo started August 6th 1968 . Jim M from cleveland OH . Had tSgt. Walter Piganoski .I thought I had met Satan himself. Met him a year or so later in Okinawa . He was a nice guy . It is all an act I guess . He was one he'll of an actor!

Anonymous said...

I took basic at Amarillo started August 6th 1968 . Jim M from cleveland OH . Had tSgt. Walter Piganoski .I thought I had met Satan himself. Met him a year or so later in Okinawa . He was a nice guy . It is all an act I guess . He was one he'll of an actor!

Pat Houseworth said...

Thanks for stopping by Jim....we are still kicking, and that says a lot. :)

Anonymous said...

Jim M.again . I just wanted to mention one guy in my flight was going to be a sky cop . His name was Michael Antanopolis . He always seemed to be the sharpest dresser in the bunch . I just thought it would be a mighty small world if you had run into him somewhere .

Anonymous said...

Jim M.again . I just wanted to mention one guy in my flight was going to be a sky cop . His name was Michael Antanopolis . He always seemed to be the sharpest dresser in the bunch . I just thought it would be a mighty small world if you had run into him somewhere .

Pat Houseworth said...

Name I don't recognize Jim...but we were such a large and diverse bunch, the largest career field in today's Air Force and back then, even more so....have a great winter in the cold white north{of Ohio} :}

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat
I arrived at Amarillo on 30 Sept 1968 and vaguely remember a sign outside of an Admin bldg we did some quick processing-in at on that night.
There was a sign with the words 'Amarillo AFB- Gateway to The Stars' or something like that.
Do you remember that sign ?
The AF was the best deicision that I ever made and I am glad that I joined.
Was stationed at Sheppard, Perrin and later RAF Bentwaters, England
John Dorry

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat
I went through basic at Amarillo in late Sept 1968
Remember arriving at about midnight and doing some preliminery paperwork in a bldg with a sign outside with the term "Gateway To The Stars" or something like that
Do you happen to remember that sign ?
Many years ago and my memory is a little foggy LOL
All the best
John Dorry

marvin roy said...

hi pat .. I was at Amarillo for basic training .. graduated in april,1968 ..
I remember drill instructors Vezaldenus, Johnson, Smith, and Hope ..I was part
of flight 062 ... 3300 squadron..

Anonymous said...

I WENT THROUGH BASIC TRAINING AT AMARILLO AFB FEB , MARCH , APRIL 1968 ..
I HAD SGTS . VEZELDEANUS , HOPE , SMITH , AND JOHNSON ..3333 BMS .. MY NAME IS
MARVIN ROY..I CAN'T RECALL WHICH FLIGHT .. MAYBE FLIGHT 061 OR 062 ..

Christopher Boles said...

Bulldog wanted to know in his post about having Sgt. Vargas as a TI/DI. I arrived in April of 68. Sgt. Vargas was one short Mexican from Texas that could whip your ass if you got out of line. He turned out after training to be a really great guy to talk with. His other half was Sgt. Williams in the other half of the building (2 flights to a barracks, 4 barracks to a quad) So much of what happened there is still is locked like cement in my memories, from 1st night processing to tornado warnings where we piled into the hallway with our mattresses. I often wondered what happened to all those guys we trained with. I served as a combat photographer in VN in 1969 and spent the rest of my enlistment at Vandenberg AFB, photographing missile launches. Christopher Boles

doc welker said...

ANYONE REMEBER OLE PIGANOSKI AND SLCOM, AND FARMER , BK IN 68...MET PIJ, BRIEFLY AT KIRTLAND...THINK HE WAS HEADED FOR JAPAN...VRY NICE FELLER....BUT I SWEAR...WANTED TO WUP HIM WHEN AT AMARILLO...BUT HE IS COOL DUDE...ANYONE REMEMBER PIJ?




DOC551

doc welker said...

HAS ANYONE HEARD OF OLE PETE CIRISSI, OR PETER PTAK...WENT THRU TRAINING WITH THEM....JUST LOST TRACK...68


doc welker said...

I LATER HEARD PIJ, WUS IN LAW ENFOREMENT OVER IN NEW ORLEANS, OR SOMEWHERE....THINK HE HAS PASSED...SRI ABT TT...JUST WONDERING IF ANYONE REMEMBERS SLOCUM IN 68....HE COST ME JAIL TIME...CALLED ME SOB....GESS WAS JUST KID