November 11, 2003

Air Force Blue (part 2)

Part 1 is here.

Spork wants to hear about me losing my first 341 in basic training. For those who don’t know what he’s talking about, ‘341’ is the form number for a little slip of paper that all trainees are required to carry around and present on demand. They’re used to document minor offences and unmilitary stupidities committed by said winghead. When I went through basic, it was highly recommended that we carry two of them at all times, along with a pen. Not having the 341 or pen was itself punishable. Lose enough 341’s and the TI’s would whack your pee-pee or take away your birthday or something.

Sorry amigo, but I never lost a 341, a fact that I’m rather proud of. Unfortunately, my originals were ruined when a whole bunch of us went into the water during the confidence course. This isn’t to say that I was the perfect little recruit, because I did manage to get confined to the barracks during liberty weekend, as well as having one ‘conversation’ (translation: I got yelled at while I stood at attention) with the section superintendent. I just never did anything trivial enough to warrant a 341.

Instead, I present the continuing story of Airman Basic R T Phipps.

I survived basic training and moved on to the next phase of my training. My selected (not by me) career field was Security Police. Yep, Ted was gonna be a cop. SP’s do important work, and many of them are intelligent and dedicated. I hold all SP’s in high esteem because they do their thankless jobs in extreme conditions.

But to give you an idea of what it takes to be an Air Force Security Policeman, if you can’t make it through ‘cook’ school, they make you a cop. Too dumb to be a truck driver? Cop. I think you get the point. SP’s are the ‘grunts’ of the Air Force – cannon fodder infantry in blue.

So we did cop school, doing classroom work and learning cop things like riot control and search procedures and lots and lots of shooting of weapons (.38 pistol, M16, M204 grenade launcher and M60 machine gun), as well as more military things like the UCMJ. This part of training happened at the same base as basic training: Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas.

Part two of cop training was conducted at Camp Bullis, located in the hills overlooking San Antone. From civilization to Boy Scout camp - with automatic weapons. We lived in 12 man tents and ate C-rations and tromped through the hills and learned the skills called Air Base Ground Defense. More about that in another story.

To celebrate something (probably Friday), a whole bunch of us took the bus back to Lackland for an evening of drinking and hellraising. Once there, we went to a bar that someone knew of right outside one of the gates, and we settled in. I don’t remember much of the time at the bar, except for much flirting with the waitress and an unknown number of pitchers of beer.

This was my first real drunk. I’d been buzzed before, but remember I had turned 18 years old not long before this in basic training, so my opportunities had been limited.

I remember having some vague plan about spending the night on base in our old cop barracks, because the bus back to Camp Bullis didn’t run until the following day. I also remember leaving the bar with my buddies, and all of us staggering across an empty field (parade ground? football field?), falling-down drunk and singing loudly, all the while holding hands so nobody got lost.

I got lost.

At one point that night, I got pulled over by the base police. No surprise, since I could barely stay on the sidewalk, let alone walk a straight line. They asked to see my ID card, and after a minute of trying to figure out how my wallet worked, I just handed them the wallet and told them to pull it out themselves. No go. Another minute or two and I got it figured out and my ID card was handed over. One of the cops was a female, and she told me that there had been a rape (or rapes?) on base. I asked if she was accusing me or worried about me, which I thought was funny as hell. They asked where I was going and I told them I had a room that I was headed for, just down the road. They told me to be careful and drove off. I had no idea where I was nor where my room was.

I woke up under a tree next to the base swimming pool. The sun was up, and my eyes opened. I looked up into the branches of a tree, and I was lying on grass. Just realizing this much felt like a victory.

Some time later, it may have been minutes or weeks, I sat up and took stock. Alive? Check. Dressed? Check, sorta. I was in baby step mode. First things first, where were my shoes and socks? Looking around I realized that my glasses were gone. Shit. At least my jacket was there, I’d been using it as a pillow.

Under another tree I found my shoes, neatly placed side by side, with my socks stuffed inside. A third tree must have been my designated closet, because here I found the contents of my pockets including my wallet, a bag from the BX with some pictures I’d had developed and picked up the day before, and my glasses, all in a neat and orderly stack.

It took me about an hour to gather everything up and walk the block or two to the bus stop. I don’t think I’ve ever moved so slowly in my life. When I got there, I sat on the bench and took forever trying to put on my shoes. I still had a long wait for the bus, so I decided I should probably get some food. Coffee and breakfast passed in slooooow motion. Back at the bus stop, the other guys showed up and we exchanged stories. Only two guys actually found our room for the night, another guy also slept under the trees. I don’t remember what everyone else did.

I found out later that I’d asked the waitress for a date, and she’d accepted. I had absolutely no recollection of it, in fact I thought the guys were screwing with me. But I called her at work, we talked and I did take her out. We had a good time, but it was just one date.

Camp Bullis turned out to be a very interesting environment.

Posted by Ted at November 11, 2003 04:30 PM
Category: Boring Stories

Ted, How about medical waivers? Surely you got something cool somewhere along the way? I was at Lackland (BMTS 3706) in 1978, and the very first item in my medical record is a "chucka boot" waiver. Seriously those boots ate my feet up! But the waiver meant that I didn't have to wear them, and so wore combat boots most everywhere. The day after graduation the chuckas went in the dumpster. I know, I should have found somewhere to donate them, but I wasn't thinking.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Posted by: chris hall at November 13, 2003 08:35 AM

Man, this is a mirror of my experiences! Did 3706 BMTS Flt 080 Jan 1978. Did the Bullis thing, staggered drunk across the same field! Unreal!
Dan Petit

Posted by: Dan Petit at May 5, 2005 03:51 PM
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