Inside cover page from the 3702 BMTS 1978 "Yearbook" documenting life during Basic Training. We were Flight 483 - "Better than we need to be."
USAF BMTS Flight 483 yearbook photos. Most, if not all, of these guys came from the Baltimore - Annapolis area as did I.
Here are some photos that were taken of our flight during the first day of processing at Lackland AFB.
Downstairs in the basement of the BX. Note the fine paint job on the walls makes it look like a WWII bomb shelter. Left to right: TBD, TBD, AB Alecia, AB Gainey, AB Hussey, AB Albers. Please contact me for edits.
Break area of the barracks. Left to right: AB Eckert, AB Albers, AB TBD, AB Akin, AB Hussey. Please contact me for edits.
November 9, 1978, a date which will live in infamy - for me, anyway. That was the day I left my comfortable, oblivious 20-year-old existence as an electrician in Mayo, Maryland, and boarded a Delta Airlines flight to San Antonio, Texas. About six months earlier I had signed up under the Delayed Enlistment program. I was on my way to becoming a fully trained and qualified Weather Equipment Specialist, a career field chosen based on my keen interest in weather phenomena, aviation, and aerospace (aka airplanes and rockets). The plan was to survive six weeks of Basic Training (BT) at Lackland Air Force Base and then go on to technical school at Chanute AFB in Illinois. My first assignment was to carry with me a sealed envelope containing the data of all enlistees boarding the flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), to be surrendered to the sergeant who would ask for it upon arrival in San Antonio. I was psyched.
Following deboarding at San Antonio International Airport (SAT), a uniformed person directed us all into a staging area while awaiting a bus for the ride to Lackland AFB. We were to stand quietly, looking forward. It was a small sampling of what was to come. After what seemed like a long bus ride,we drove past the guard house at the gate, rode to some building and were led into a dining hall for grub. It was about 9:00 pm and none of us had had a meal since the noontime flight down. Once fully nourished, we were ordered back onto the bus for a ride to our assigned quarters at the 3702 Basic Military Training School (BMTS) barracks.
No sleep and a full belly makes one sleepy, so we were all looking forward to a good night's sleep before beginning our first day of Basic Training. Our collective drowsiness was suddenly cured when two sharply dressed, very mean-looking Training Instructors (TIs, aka drill sergeants) stepped onto the bus and began walking up and down the aisle letting us know that we were scum civilians and that their job was to either convert us into well-heeled members of the U.S. Air Force or send us packing back home as dishonored rejects who could not handle the military life. One had in his hand a napkin ostensibly dropped on the ground by one of us cretins, and he ripped us a new one for daring to litter his home grounds. I knew at that point my stay at Lackland would not be as I imagined.
After assembling and standing in rank formation under the barracks foul weather drill area, we underwent the time-honored routine of putting down and picking up our baggage until we did it fast enough to please the TIs. A careful inspection for contraband concealed on our persons was performed, and after what seemed like an eternity, we finally marched upstairs to our barracks room. It was divided in half by a block wall that did not go all the way to the ceiling. The TI's office was toward the front, straddling the wall, with windows where a watchful eye could be kept on us. Bunk and locker assignments were made in alphabetical order, and the rules of the house were laid down to us in no uncertain terms. Master Sergeant Blackwell - who could forget him - screamed the entire time while running up and down between bunks, and even on top of them when the mood seemed right.
All civilian belongings except the clothes on our backs and the change of underwear and towels we were instructed to bring along were inventoried, tagged, and locked in a closet for retrieval upon leaving either via successful graduation or a you're-a-wuss-and-can't-take it discharge. In those days, the Air Force had no problem with letting you know how much of a worthless slug you were if necessary. Snowflakes, political correctness, and feelings of entitlement had not been invented yet.
To be continued...
Oh, before I forget, you need to know Airman Basic Hussey, who you will learn more about later. This guy, who was a hard-a** tough guy at first, turned out to be one of the funniest, nicest guys in the flight. I'll never forget the first time he told us about his three sisters - Shameless, Brazen, and Wanton. He cracked us up!
Things were proceeding well (enough) in BT, then sometime during the second week I received notice that my grandmother had died. I was offered the opportunity to attend her funeral, but would have to start over afterward. My family insisted that I continue, which I did. Then, at about the four week point I was told to report to an administrative NCO about my "Guaranteed Job" as a Weather Equipment Specialist. It seems there was a mix-up because in actuality there were no openings available. The Air Force had six months before I reported for duty to figure that out, but now they finally do. The big man with many stripes on his arm expressed his sorrow for the error and said I could choose another job. He shoved a 3-ring binder in front of me with many job titles and descriptions and told me to select from them. All were administrative (office), supply, food service (pot washer), truck mechanic, and other such things. When I asked about the availability of more technical jobs like jet engine mechanic, radio technician, navigation aids, and so forth, he responded that unfortunately there didn't seem to be any for me.
To this day I don't know how I managed the courage to mention my option to immediately separate from the USAF if my Guaranteed Job was denied through no fault of my own. His disposition turned unfriendly and he grabbed the binder from the desktop and reached into a drawer and pulled out another binder that had "real" jobs in them. I ended up selecting Air Traffic Control Radar Repairman - the guy who maintains the radar, not an air traffic controller.
I was unfortunate enough to have enlisted after December 31, 1976, when the very generous GI Bill from the World War II era was replaced with the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) which, rather than paying out a stipend for vocational school or college, paid out on a 2-for-1 basis on money paid in by the serviceman. You contribute $1 while in the service, and the VA gives you $2 back (one of which was your original dollar) once you separate from the service. GI Bill participants paid nothing in. I signed up for Delayed Enlistment in April of 1978 and reported for active duty on November 9, 1978. When I got out in 1982, I began taking classes toward an electrical engineering degree and applied for VEAP benefits. The VA rejected my claim and sent me a bill for $35 instead. I had to fight with them for nearly a year to clear their error and get my benefit. Even then, they only allocated a pittance for tuition and fees - not even books. At that point I said the heck with it and applied to just get my contributions back - without any interest of course. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Meanwhile, guys I worked with at Westinghouse who enlisted in time to get the GI Bill were receiving nice checks each month for taking the same classes I took. It really was insulting.
The USAF Basic Yearbook from 1978
These are the fine folks who made our 6-week stay at Lackland Air Force Base as enjoyable as possible (-not). November - December 1978
An aerial view of Lackland AFB - before the days of R/C drones
C-47 Skytrain on static display at Lackland AFB.
F-82 Twin Mustang at Lackland AFB, November 1979
The final moments of civilian life for "Rainbows" (prior to issuance of uniform green attire).
By some miracle, I, who had never shot anything other than a BB gun, got a Marksmanship medal.
Obstacle course day at BMTS.
I always though it odd that this ceremony was called "retreat."
B-17 Flying Fortress at Lackland AFB, November 1979
3702 BMTS Squadron barracks. That's an F-104 Starfighter on static display.
The Alamo, in downtown San Antonio. We got off the bus right in front of it, and didn't even recognize it because it was buried amongst a bunch of large commercial buildings. Davy Crockett was nowhere in sight, but then he died during the great battle.
The first full day of training at Lackland AFB Basic Military Training.
Posted August 12, 2014