Air Force Days, Part 4: Homestead AFB, or Gee But It’s Great to Be Back Home

November 30, 2015 by  

migkill463hsAfter spending Christmas with my family, I made the drive down to Homestead Air Force Base, located in a small town south of Miami, and checked into my unit. I was assigned a room, with roommate, in the dorm, and began to settle in.

My job at Homestead AFB was to maintain equipment that supported the air traffic control mission, which included radios, tape recorders, communications consoles, weather facsimile machines, and even the amplified podium used by the base commander, wing commander, and other dignitaries for special events. First and foremost, though, was the mission to support the regular comings and goings of the President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, who had a vacation home on Miami’s Key Biscayne.

When Nixon came to town, we had to man the various sites and be at the ready to repair or substitute other equipment so that his arrivals and departures were flawless. It’s also why I got a Secret security clearance.

Otherwise, it was a great, if boring, assignment. Nothing much happened, other than the time when I totaled an Air Force pickup truck for driving too fast on a dirt road. The unfortunate part of that was that I had two passengers. No major injuries other than a small cut from the broken glass suffered by one of my passengers. It was a stupid kid stunt, and I learned a lot about myself, and about how others, who believed in me, went the distance to ensure that the punishment I ultimately received fit the “crime.” Apparently, my squadron commander risked the ire of the base commander who wanted me to be an “example” to others by reducing me in rank and doing other distasteful things. My squadron commander ensured he was the first person to get what was called the “report of survey” (basically, the report of the accident and the investigator’s findings). Because he got his copy first, I was immediately called to his office so he could hand out what he felt was appropriate punishment – a letter of reprimand. The base commander was furious, but I believe this was my squadron commander’s final assignment before his retirement, so I guess he figured no real harm could come to his career. The base commander couldn’t do anything because, although members of the US military do not have the normal protections of the US Constitution (they come under a different document, called the Uniform Code of Military Justice), they do have many of those protections, including the protection from double jeopardy. I could not be punished twice for the same infraction.

Later, I was able to attend the Air Force Communications Service Non-Commissioned Officer Leadership School at Richards-Gebaur AFB, near Kansas City, Missouri, along with two trips back to Keesler AFB for training on some new gear.

During this time I had a brief flirtation with Citizen’s Band Radio, which was all the rage in the mid-1970s. Because I drove a bright red Volkswagen, my CB handle was Redbug.

By now, I had rid myself of the Valiant, replacing it with a VW Bug, (its sad tale was recounted elsewhere on this site). The Bug was replaced by a Firecracker Red (it was the Bicentennial year, after all…) AMC Pacer (yeah, yeah, I know), my first new car. I bought the Pacer because I couldn’t trust the Bug anymore,  I had just reenlisted, and I had an assignment to the 1827th Engineering and Installation Squadron, Kelly AFB, in San Antonio, Texas. I was even wearing my new Staff Sergeant stripes. I knew I would be traveling a great deal, so wanted a nice, reliable American car. Turns out, the Pacer was just that.