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.
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
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
B-17 Flying Fortress at Lackland AFB, November 1979
3702 BMTS Squadron barracks. That's an F-104 Starfighter on static
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.
was nowhere in sight, but then he died during the great battle.
The first full day of training at Lackland AFB Basic Military
Posted August 12, 2014