Friday, January 11, 2013

The Air Force Days 1968-72 pt 2

The solid cover of snow we had has been reduced to dirty piles that have been pushed by plow and blown by snow machine....the temperatures, rising to near 50 overnight, were accompanied by heavy amounts of rain during the early morning hours...it is quite the mess outside...the temperatures will climb to the low 60s tomorrow, then the colder weather will come roaring back late in the weekend and into next week.....the January thaw won't last long.

I worked locally last night at the Celina Intermediate School, the local Freshman boy are a team that has not tasted many defeats over their years together, and last night was no exception, they handled visiting Elida 70-35...and with the school just 4 blocks away, I was home by 6:20pm...tonight and tomorrow will be a bit more active.  JV Boys at Delphos Jefferson and then tomorrow a Girls JH double header at Convoy Crestview, then back to Van Wert County with a JV Boys game at Lincolnview...my neck, back, and feet will feel the effects for sure....the basketball season has 6 weeks to go for me....I will be glad to see it end.

Amarillo and a Texas Summer 1968....

After getting the call from the recruiter in Lima, I had but a couple of days to get ready for my entry into the Air Force....back in those days here in rural western Ohio, we had "Going Away Parties" just about every weekend.  It was a chance to rent one of the local abandoned school houses from yesteryear, get a garage band booked and celebrate the leaving of one or a half dozen guys for the military....Eddie and my party was scheduled for the old Carthagena School that next weekend...Ed made it to the party, I was already in Texas...the price for getting that early call.

The night before final induction in Columbus, I took another bus to the Capital City...Eddie Bonifas stayed behind for another couple of weeks.  One other guy from Celina, Doug Giesige, who had graduated from Celina IC, the Catholic school in town, and was heading for the Army, and I spent the night before induction hitting the pool halls and bars of Columbus...I was pretty hung over by the time my flight headed out of C~Bus for Dallas, then on to Lubbock and finally Amarillo, both in the Texas Panhandle.  It was my first time flying....I would do that many more times over the next 45 years.

Landing in Amarillo, those of us arriving for Air Force Basic Training, were greeted and loaded on a Blue Bus...and hauled into the induction area of the base...it is all kind of a blur even these days nearly 45 years later.  The usual yelling and intimidation from those in charge...it seems comical looking back, but at the time, being a 19 year old small town boy, it was anything but....I just wanted to finish the 6 weeks or so that I faced at Amarillo without getting "Set Back"{where if you screwed up, you went back to a place where you would endure more weeks of basic}...moving on to my chosen career field and a permanent base is what I wanted...that and to avoid Vietnam.  After all that is why I joined the Air Force and took four years, rather than the draft and only two.

Six weeks seemed like an eternity back then...today that is just a drop in the bucket.  The blur continued for the first few days...lots of yelling, intimidation, a Sarge in Charge named Joe Prokop, as our T.I.  aka Technical Instructor, as opposed to the other branches of service, like the Marines, where they called them Drill Instructors...Joe was more like the latter, he was an intimidator, at least in the early days of our 6 weeks...he would take a leave early on, then by the time he returned, we had become used to him and the Air Force game of Basic Training.  Things were getting easier, as for Joe?  He and I would meet up in Vietnam some 18 months later.

Marching,  Spit Polish, 3 square meals a day, and a few barracks inspections later, we were ready to fill out our "Dream Sheets"...we had taken the tests back at the recruiting stations...General, Mechanical, Electronic, and Administrative....I had scored highest in the Administrative, but was slotted in General, my second highest score...that in retrospect was a set up for becoming, as my brother Mike{a Air Force Fire Fighter} described it..."General, code word for becoming a Cook, Cop, Grass Cutter, or some other Assorted Dip Shit"...My dream sheet went up in smoke and I was assigned to become one of the "other assorted dip shits"...a Security Policeman, nee Air Police, or as Joe Prokop told me when he saw my assignment..."Lots of luck Houseworth, you'll likely be walking a God Damn dog around the perimeter of Tan Son Nhut this time next year....."  Joe was a smart man...he was also a SP when he wasn't being a T.I./that career field of leading a group of recruits, was just a two year tour, Joe would soon enough be  back to the life of a Sky Cop, and heading for Tan Son Nhut himself...we would meet at the Saigon Airport 18 months later.

Amarillo, Texas, itself was different than anything I had experienced...at least weather-wise.  We got a day pass one time to go downtown...drinking near beer at the local pups or taking in "skin flicks" for whatever reason...Amarillo
wasn't much in my mind.  I have traveled through there many times in this new century, thanks to RV runs through the panhandle taking rigs west and on return trips, RV, Jeep, and occasionally on a Greyhound Bus{hate that mode for sure}...the thing I remember best about Amarillo, it was hot and dry during the day, and cool in the desert type setting at night.


Other than Joe Prokop, I don't recall ever meeting another guy I was in basic with, although a couple of them have stopped by this blog, when seeing the photo of our squad of "Prokop's Pups' you see posted...Hell I may have been the only one assigned to SP school, but I really can't say that for sure...a little fuzzy on that one.  The one thing I was sure of was, I would be staying in Texas....I may have missed the big base at San Antonio, Lackland, for Basic Training, I would spend six weeks there in the late summer and early fall of 1968...learning how to become a Air
Force Security Police guy.....


San Antonio and Lackland are up next>>>>

back later>>>>

Photos-Top Left...shortly after Basic Training at Amarillo, I was getting my mug shot taken for Cop School...in reality, I never wore a White Hat in my duties...it ended up I only worked Law Enforcement for six months at Nha Trang in Vietnam, where we wore Dark Blue Piss Pots as we called them.  Propkop's Pups were what we were called...me in front of our aging baracks and then our entire training squadron, I am the second guy from left in the second row from top.  The main gate at Amarillo AFB in the 1960s...and a mid 1960s Newspaper with headlines about the coming closure of the base...but with Vietnam in full force, the base stayed open for a while past the mid-1968 date...the last Basic Training Class graduated in December of 68....some four months after I departed in August of that year.

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