Air Force Days, Part 6: Life as a Combat Communicator in the First Combat Communications Squadron

November 30, 2015 by  

1stcomm [printready]

My time in the 1st Combat Communications Group was a life-changing experience for me. It was, in a word, people, who made all the difference. While I was but a cog in the wheel when assigned to other units, life in the 1st Comm was like being a member of a family. If some of the words of this section are interpreted as criticism, I’ll admit to that, but only in the context of wanting the people to be better and to behave with just a little more honor. Sometimes, boys will be boys just doesn’t cut it.

I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at the end of April, 1979. I was met at the airport and driven to Lindsey Air Station, a small facility located in the heart of Wiesbaden, Germany. At one time, right after WWII, Lindsey housed the headquarters for the US Air Forces in Europe, I think mainly because Wiesbaden emerged from the war virtually unscathed. This was a lovely facility, with buildings dating to the 1870s, with many of the older buildings evoking the castles found not far away along the Rhine River. My own dorm was a much uglier four story concrete box, but for the next three years, it was home.

The 1st Combat Communications Squadron (later becoming a Group, as the unit grew), which we all knew as simply the 1st Comm, had an interesting mission of providing near front-line communication support for battlefield commanders, with the keyword being mobility. We had to be able to pack up and move, at a moment’s notice, to anywhere in our regular field of operations, which encompassed Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This being peacetime, we didn’t have a lot of battlefield commanders to support (thank goodness!), but there were plenty of other missions to occupy our time. These included humanitarian missions such as the transition of power when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, the redeployment of peacekeeping forces in Zaïre back to their home countries, and so on. The First also supported numerous NATO exercises throughout Germany, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Turkey, and elsewhere. We also held our own “Healthy Strike” exercises when there weren’t enough other missions to help us maintain our proficiency. These exercises were usually held in Germany that we drove to convoy style.

gd4

1st Comm Dormitory, Bldg. A-28, Lindsey AS, Germany

gd154

Rocker Club (NCO Club), Lindsey AS Germany

Those who work hard, often play hard, and I can certainly attest to the 1st Comm’s ability to play hard. I can remember one training exercise, about 50 miles from Lindsey Air Station, where, after the site was set up, shifts established, tents occupied, and all running well, those who weren’t on duty hauled out our infamous AN/MBC-1 (mobile beer cooler – a galvanized steel garbage can with the coil from a refrigerator looped inside to keep the water and ice plenty cold) and lets just say, much booze, beer, and wine consumption ensued. Somewhere around 9 or 10PM, the guys got the idea to kidnap our site commander, a Captain of the female persuasion, who was strapped to a GI cot, and transported off-site to a local watering hole, where the cot was propped-up next to the entrance. The perpetrators came back about 15 minutes later and recovered the Captain. Fortunately no one got into a lot of trouble, though the 1st Comm commander, having heard of the activity, let it be known to his officer corps that this would NEVER happen again.

This was the late 1970s, and women were just beginning to enter traditionally male-only Air Force occupations in larger numbers, and there were, shall we say, some cases of male-dominated “misbehavior” that were completely over-the-top, and that today would be considered horrifying, offensive, disgusting, and any number of other adjectives (and were pretty bad even then). In deference to delicate eyes, I will not describe some of these less-than-professional activities. It was one of the few times my admiration of my co-workers flagged, and as a leader, I should have at least tried to stop to some of these activities. Maybe my wish to stop some of this adolescent behavior was because I had been to some of the early sensitivity training the Air Force offered, or more importantly, I’d like to think it was because of how I was brought up.

I bought a car when over there; a maroon 1973 BMW 2002. It overheated regularly, and I was always one step away from having the car forcibly scrapped due to rusting issues, but I loved it. Unfortunately (for the car), I soon discovered the local buses and trains, and realized with limited urban parking, how much better it was to leave the car parked at the dorm and use public transportation. When at home station, I’d take the bus to downtown Wiesbaden for shopping expeditions, and likewise take the train into Mainz and Frankfurt for the same reason. One of the movie theaters at the huge Frankfurt airport always played first-run English language features, often months before they were shown on-base. It was very convenient, as the suburban train line had a stop in the basement of the airport. When my parents and my aunt visited me while on their way to Spain to visit my older brother and his family, I demonstrated the superiority of taking the train rather than trying to cram 5 people and all of their luggage into my dinky BMW. Instead, with great suspicion on my Mother’s part, I told her we were taking the train, as my car was still on-base, about 30 miles away. She became an immediate convert to Germany’s efficient suburban and urban train system. We were quickly whisked to the downtown Frankfurt main train station (Hauptbahnhof), went to the taxi stand, and were at their hotel in just a few minutes.

I sold the BMW after about two years to one of my co-workers for a 1972 Opel Rekord station wagon, but it didn’t get much more use than the BMW.

Lubumbashi, Zaïre

beer_13583

Simba Beer

My very first deployment as a member of the 1st Comm was to Lubumbashi, Zaïre, where a French-speaking African peacekeeping force was being sent back home after an 18-month deployment. Apparently, rebel forces from Zambia and Angola had designs on Zaïre’s mineral-rich Shaba Province and decided to take it. Zaïre’s president-for-life Mobutu Sese Seko called his buddy, President Jimmy Carter, who offered transport, as long as the US didn’t have to put combatant’s boots on the ground. That task was handed to the French Foreign Legion, who handily wrapped things up in two or three days. When I got there about a year later, there were still bullet holes in the bar, placed there by impatient Foreign Legionnaires who felt the bar service was too slow. I figure that got the staff’s attention, and from what I heard, there were no further lapses in table service for the rest of their stay. In any case, the King of Morocco needed his troops back home to fight an ongoing war in the former Spanish Sahara, which, if memory serves, had recently been given back to Morocco by Spain. Since his troops were going home, the governments of the other countries that provided peacekeeping troops wanted their troops to come home, too. This included representatives from Senegal, Togo, Ivory Coast, and others.

My flight to Zaïre was interesting. We loaded all of our gear onto a C-141 Starlifter and plopped down on the sideways-facing paratrooper seats (basically made of canvas and webbing), where we strapped in and headed for a refueling stop in Dakar, Senegal. We then flew the remaining 8-10 hours to Zaïre’s capital, Kinshasa, where the crew had a mandatory rest period. We were put up in the same compound that was used to house Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s entourage where they trained for the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” a few years previously.

The next morning, it was back to the Kinshasa Airport where we flew another six hours or so to Lubumbashi, where we set up a small expandable shelter, strung up some antennas, and waited for something to go wrong. Fortunately nothing did go wrong, and the operation was a cinch. The only interesting item was the arrival of a small plane with Zambian markings. The pilot pulled up right next to our site, got out, and approached me (I guess I was closest to the airplane at the time). He didn’t speak English, but motioned me to come closer. He pulled out a small item wrapped in aluminum foil, about the size of an Andes Mint serving, partially unwrapped it, and there it was, a small chunk of hashish. Horrified about the thought of spending the rest of my life in a Zaïrian prison, flashing back to images from the movie Midnight Express, and thinking the Turkish prison would probably be like a country club in comparison, I gestured to the gentleman that no, I didn’t want any hash, nor did anyone in my group, and please leave! He did, without protest, got back into his plane and immediately took off for points unknown. Why the Zaïran security folks didn’t immediately surround this lone Piper Cherokee (or equivalent) when the plane approached the American compound is anyone’s guess.

The Hotel Karavia was lovely. The bar had a seemingly never-ending supply of the local beer (Simba), which was quite refreshing. On my one day off, I spent it reading out by the pool, not paying attention to the sun, which rapidly turned me into a crispy critter. I got the worst case of sunburn ever, and the next day, it was time to tear down, pack up, and head for home. I was in agony, which caused no end of amusement to my co-worker, Erich Behrens (a fellow staff sergeant). Somehow, we made it back, me in excruciating pain, walking like a defective robot, crammed into that paratrooper seat, on the long flight to Frankfurt. Within a day or so of my return, almost the entire outer layer of skin peeled off. Well, on the brighter side, everyone on that deployment got an Air Force Commendation Medal.

Other deployments were enjoyable in their own ways.

Martina Franca, Italy

b-b-trulli-primicerio_357131

“Trulli” huts, near Martina Franca, Italy

My working partner, SSgt Sheryl Schmidt, and I were there to support a NATO exercise–in particular supporting the RF-4G Wild Weasel mission. I had the best food (other than my own mother’s or my older brother’s wife) I have ever eaten, and none cheaper. A three or four course dinner at my hotel was the equivalent of five or six dollars (with wine). At the Italian Air Force Non-commissioned Officer Mess (NCO Club), a similar meal at lunchtime was about two dollars (with wine). I had the dubious pleasure of being the driver of a Ford 5-ton stake-bed truck (our generator was lashed down on the bed) through the narrow streets of countless little towns between the airport in Brindisi and the operations area in Martina Franca. Some of the turns required me to back up and take a different angle to get through. It reminded me of tacking in a sailboat. I remember the beautiful Trulli homes (see left) and an amazing cavern.

Naples, Italy

I returned to Italy two years later to again support the Wild Weasel during a NATO exercise. As before, the food was simply beyond incredible. And cheap, too! Naples was where I first discovered calzone pizzas. So simple in ingredients, and so tasty. American pizzerias tend to embellish the calzones with additional ingredients, and are just not as enjoyable. To me, a calzone is elemental: salted bread dough, ham, mozzarella, and ricotta cheeses, with maybe a sprinkle of olive oil on top of the folded crust, just before going into a brick domed oven, fired up with large olive tree (or similar) branches. These ovens are extremely hot, and the calzones are done in a matter of just a few minutes, if memory serves.

My hotel in Pozzuoli had the best cappuccino I had ever had (or have had since).

Bodø, Norway

baker

Chet Baker and Doug Raney album, The Touch of Your Lips

Cold. Nope—I take that back. Damned cold! We were there in March or April for the big Reforger NATO exercises (REturn of FORces to GERmany). Now I know why my Norwegian ancestors left to come to America! Two of my big memories have to do with jazz music of all things. On my first trip, I was on a chartered bus that took us from our work location to the Norwegian Air Force dormitory. The bus had the local radio station playing over its speakers and I heard a really fine trumpeter I had not heard before, or so I thought, playing with a guitarist, whom I thought I did know: Jimmy Raney. I got to the dorm, rushed to my room, and found the radio station as the tune was finishing. It turned out to be trumpeter Chet Baker with guitarist Doug Raney (Jimmy’s son—a fine player in his own right) playing the Gershwin tune “But Not For Me.” The next day, when I had a few hours on my own, I discovered a small record store in downtown Bodø, which actually had the record! How I got it back to Germany in one piece was nothing short of a miracle. I still listen to that record (on a reissued CD) regularly.

 

Andøya, Norway

This location was even further north—about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle, where we were supporting a large NATO exercise, a component of ReForGer. I saw the Northern Lights for the first time. Our Norwegian host invited us to his home on several occasions. I brought a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label as a gift to my liaison officer, which was truly appreciated, as booze is heavily taxed over there. Often, in the more rural parts of Norway, neighbors share a still and make pure grain alcohol, which they cut to 80 proof or so. Flavorings (scotch, bourbon, rye, etc.) were sold at the local drug store, so it’s obvious this was a regular thing, so we enjoyed our host’s homemade hooch.

Ålborg, Denmark

We convoyed up there in late summer 1981, and remained for two months to participate in back-to-back NATO exercises. It was a wonderful trip. Ålborg is a beautiful city, close to the ocean. Many of the locals speak excellent English. I had arranged to get a tourist amateur radio license, and met up with the local amateur radio club, who treated me like a long-lost cousin. I’d take the bus downtown to go to the meetings, though I didn’t sit in on the actual proceedings, which were all in Danish, but I did socialize with them afterward. The club members all but fought over who was going to drive me back to the air base at meeting’s end. I also had many dinner invitations. Ålborg also had a very fine modern art museum that I frequented often on days off. This was one of my favorite deployments.

Moron AB, Spain

Moron

Entrance to Moron AB, Spain

I had several deployments to Moron AB. Not coincidentally, as it turned out, my brother, Norman, was base commander of this former SAC base, then in caretaker status with only a small cadre of Air Force folks, some Navy folks running some of their own communications equipment there, and a large group of civilian contractors that ran the flight line, and the remaining facilities, including the very fine visiting airman’s quarters, and one of the finest dining halls I have ever had the pleasure of eating in.

It was always a blast to visit the Grinnells in Spain, which I also did for one Christmas when they were stationed at Zaragoza, Air Base. Marisa’s parents were also visiting. Now, they didn’t speak a word of English, and my Spanish, for one who was raised in South Florida, was incredibly poor, but it never seemed to matter. I do remember Marisa’s mother taking my baggage away from me, knowing I was a single man who probably needed to have many of his clothes repaired. She was right, and I returned to Germany with the equivalent of a fresh, new wardrobe.

Norm was (and is) always a wonderful host and tourguide. He loved discovering interesting new places wherever he, Marisa, and daughters Raquel and Michelle were stationed.

When the mission planners at the 1st Comm discovered my relationship with Moron’s base commander, they made sure that I was included on every 1st Comm deployment to Moron. Of course, this was a great boondoggle for me, even though Norm was probably horrified that my unit kept sending me on these trips. I stayed in the base commander’s house, ate with the base commander’s family, and rode the base commander’s moped to my work site. It was a pretty good deal for me. Most of my deployments were appropriate to my job functions, and a lot of hard work was performed, especially for one big exercise, where antennas had to be run for buildings not facilitized for them. We had to punch holes through several thick concrete walls in order to fish the antenna cabling outside. At one point, I had to call back to home base for more antenna cable, because I had not brought enough. Much of that blame can be placed on the mission planner who was supposed to specify such things, but in the end, I was the guy in the field who had to get ‘er done, and was very embarrassed for not being sufficiently prepared. In the end, the cable was shipped to me, everything was set up per the mission requirements, and what could have been a black eye for the 1st Comm (and myself), was merely a slight discoloration.

When my brother took the visiting Air Force flyers out to a fabulous dinner at one of the many beautiful castles in the area, I usually tagged along, but at the same time, I knew without anyone telling me how I needed to behave in what could be a very confusing situation. It worked like this: When Norm and I were both in uniform, I saluted him when required, called him “Sir,” and afforded him all the military courtesies he was due—likewise with the folks he was entertaining, both American and Spanish military officers. If either of us were in civilian garb, it kind of depended upon who else was with us.

I was sent on a few missions where individuals from my shop were not normally deployed, including one where I arrived virtually unannounced. Fortunately for me, on at least one of those trips where folks from my shop would not have gone, I was able to repair a few radios and do a few things to show my worth. Even so, Norm was probably grumbling about my mission planners who were more motivated by keeping the base commander happy than getting the job done in a most efficient manner.

Mojacar, Spain

d_mojacar_almeria_t0400220_02.jpg_369272544

Mojacar, Spain

I did make one trip to Spain that did not involve my brother. The US Government and NATO were trying to get more closely into bed with Spain. One of these efforts was a joint US/Spanish exercise, called Crisex 80. The 1st Comm brought in a lot of gear, including a large amount of our favorite beverages and the aforementioned AN/MBC-1 (mobile beer cooler), which we set up in our recreation tent. The facilities were about as primitive as they possibly could have been, with slit trenches dug for dealing with bodily functions. Someone came around a couple of times a day to spread lime powder over the “leavings” to quell the stench (somewhat).

Our big shock, after working our tails off setting up our operations was that the US Army commander, the one in overall charge of the American forces, dictated that we were not to consume alcoholic beverages in the cantonment or dining areas. First, the Army never did so, and he wanted to set an example for the Spanish forces. As an example, in the Spanish non-commissioned officer’s dining area, wine was available at the table. We were under orders not to touch it, which amused and equally saddened our Spanish hosts, who felt that wine was a very important part of enjoying your meal.

In the evenings, we walked into the nearby town of Mojacar, which is largely populated by British expatriates who enjoy the simple life on Spain’s Costa del Sol. We found a great little bar that we decided to call our home away from home, where we enjoyed the local beer and bocadillos (a sandwich made of uncooked, cured ham on a piece of Spanish bread).

Showers, due to the poor condition of the Spanish Army’s water heaters, were hard to come by and gladly grabbed when available. I turned down an opportunity to meet Spain’s King Juan Carlos to instead get my first shower after two or three days. Later that afternoon, as I walked through the 1st Comm’s cantonment area, a group of Spanish and American officers were walking along the main walkway. A young boy, about 12, broke from the group and approached me, with his hand outstretched. It turned out that this was Spain’s Crown Prince (and currently King). I didn’t know what to do, as no one had briefed us. In the end, I said a few pleasantries, shook his hand, and by that time, the party he was with had walked up. I saluted the bunch and moved on while another of our guys demonstrated the mobile beer cooler.

Berlin, Germany

article-1299426-0A996A31000005DC-787_634x406

Berlin-Tempelhof AIrport Terminal, Berlin, Germany

P0000130345S0003T2

Solid Gold Mask of King Tutankhamen

I was deployed to Berlin to participate in the annual open house at Tempelhof Air Base, the main airfield in Berlin involved in the famous 1948 Airlift. The 1st Comm brought a collapsible shelter loaded with weather forecasting equipment, called a TWAC (no, not a speech impediment, it was Tactical Weather somethingorother). I was brought, I believe, because I could speak a little high school German, which turned out to be very helpful to feebly attempt to translate some of the features of our equipment to the non-English speaking Berliners. The evenings were our own, and we discovered many Berlin nightspots, consuming vast quantities of our favorite beverages. I think the first night, I didn’t get back to my hotel until just before dawn. The second night wasn’t much better. I was hoping to visit East Berlin, and had brought my “Class A” blue “bus driver” uniform (which was required for such visits), but the folks I were going with either chickened out, or were too hung over. I did get a chance to wander around the city a bit on my own and fell in love with its charm, and the plucky spirit of the West Berliners who lived, completely surrounded by “the wall,” and all the wall stood for.

On my last evening in Berlin, I had the opportunity to see the traveling King Tutankhamen exhibition. What beauty and magnificence. The iconic solid gold mask was simply indescribable. This was truly the highlight of my trip to Berlin, and perhaps one of the top two or three highlights of my time living in Germany.

Wadi abu Shihat, Egypt

Screen shot 2015-11-30 at 1.47.57 PM

Wadi Abu Shihat Air Base, Egypt

The 1st Comm had an ongoing mission sending people to a classified location somewhere in the middle east, simply known to us as USAFE Forward Operating Location Alpha, or simply Site Alpha. As it turns out, this was the forward base that launched the rescue attempt to bring back the American hostages in Iran, taken when the US Embassy was invaded in 1979. The rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, failed completely due to many factors that are probably still being discussed today. No one was supposed to know where it was until they were under way, unless they had the appropriate clearances and need to know. I had none of those. I was loaded onto a C-141B Starlifter, heading to points unknown—at least until I asked my Chief of Maintenance, who was making the trip to Site Alpha with us. Gee, I thought, just having seen King Tut’s riches, this was pretty amazing to be going to the country where he came from. We finally touched down, after going around three times due to difficult weather at the site, and when I got to the open doorway, my heart sunk. There it was. Miles and miles of miles and miles. This was a real desert with basically nothing.

I quickly found out that Site Alpha was a former Soviet air base, built in the days when the Soviets and the Egyptians were fast friends. The sleeping quarters were partially underground with air conditioning ducted in during evening hours only. The main power system was holding on for dear life, with a required watering of the electrical grounding system every few hours to ensure everyone’s safety. As you might expect, we all had our own name for this facility, and rather than go into an elaborate warning about offensive language to come, I’ll edit a little. Officially, it was known as Wadi Qena or Wadi Kena. We called it Bum F**k Egypt (BFE for short). Along with Thule, Greenland and Minot, North Dakota, BFE was an often mythical place that military training instructors threatened to send you if you didn’t get with the program. I think we even had a sign outside Base Operations that said “Welcome to BFE,” but when local Egyptian military folks and civilian dignitaries visited, the true meaning of BFE was masked with the acronym “Beautiful, Friendly Egypt.” I don’t think anyone was fooled, but we did at least try to play the game.

I was there to keep our radio gear up and running, which was a skate job at its finest. Our short haul HF radios, basically overengineered amateur radio gear, made by Collins Radio of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, were very reliable, and all I had to do, for the most part, was perform occasional preventive maintenance inspections, and certify the destruction of our radio operators’ classified documents (mainly callsigns and authentication information). Other than that, my main job was to look busy when officers and senior non-comms came around. The penalty for not looking busy was being required to perform additional duties, cleaning details, etc.

tomb-of-tutankhamun-photo_1435747-770tall-e1443003627217

Entrance to King Tutankhamen’s Tomb, Valley of the Kings, Egypt

One highlight of the trip was a visit to Luxor, Egypt, about 100 miles from Site Alpha. Usually about 20-25 folks, dressed in their “civvies,” were transported to Luxor in a dark blue International Harvester Air Force Bus. The yellow Air Force and registration markings were inexpertly pained over so they could still be seen in relief. The license plate was replaced with an Egyptian one. I don’t think we were fooling anyone. That said, we toured through the little shops and other tourist trap places until we were herded together for a short boat trip across the Nile River. Here, we visited the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the Valley of the Queens, and then the biggie, the tombs of Ramses VI and King Tutankhamen himself. Tut’s tomb was normally closed to tourists due to the damage that can result from simply the moisture exuding from all those bodies, but the Egyptians wanted to show what good friends they were, so I got a tour. Like many previous authors have described, the tomb was quite small. It was amazing how much stuff they crammed in there. Archaeologists have surmised that because Tut had died so young, the tomb he was supposed to have wasn’t even close to being ready, so he supposedly received the tomb of a lesser individual, but was still loaded with all the stuff a King was expected to be buried with.

At any rate, it was an amazing experience to see the real tomb after reading so much about it over the years. As a child, I wanted to be an archaeologist, but after reading James Michener’s book “The Source” when I was about 12, I realized what an unsatisfying, low-paying job it was, and gave up on that dream.

karnak

Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt

I was there for three months, just before Summer hit with a vengeance. I returned some time later for about two months, just before leaving the Air Force. The main highlight of the second trip, aside from another visit to Luxor, including a full tour of the Luxor Temple and seeing the amazing Sound and Light Show at the Karnak Temple, was a trip on an Air Force E3 AWACS airplane. The AWACS plane was a modified Boeing 707 with a large rotating radome mounted to the top of the aircraft. Very impressive. The only downside was that no one had told me it was a 12-hour flight. I ran out of reading material, and almost ran out of cigarettes (I was smoking 2-3 packs of unfiltered Pall Mall Reds per day at the time). My duties were somewhat different, as there was a shortage of radio operators, and one of the officers, making the great stretch that if I can fix radios, I can talk on them, enlisted me as a regular radio operator. I got a quick briefing from one of the other operators how to read the classified documents to know what the callsign was, what the frequencies were, and most important, how to use the authentication codes. I was really happy to wrap up that trip!

Other Fun in Germany

I was probably the most active in my amateur radio hobby while stationed at Lindsey. I even took a trip with them to Liechtenstein in 1981 over the Memorial Day weekend to operate in what is known in ham radio circles as a DXpedition. Liechtenstein at the time only had two licensed amateur radio operators, meaning it was a rare catch to find one of the two operators, who were probably very selective in their operations as every time they got on the air, they were likely overwhelmed with people trying to contact them. Our little DXpedition, co-sponsored by the Wiesbaden Amateur Radio Club, and the local DARC (Deutsche Amateur Radio Club) chapter, F20 (Fox 20) set up in a small valley at a ski lift. We set up a number of antennas, and operated around the clock for three or four days. I can personally attest to the frantic attempts, especially by American amateur radio operators, to make contact with our operations. As a very inexperienced operator, I was often forced to move to some of the more restricted portions of the radio bands, reserved for amateurs with higher-grade licenses, if only to try to work with people who knew what they were doing. All in all, a lot of fun, lots of camaraderie, great food, and great friends, some of whom have passed on since I was last in Germany.

And in the End…

After the second Site Alpha trip, I did one more training exercise in the field (tents, mud, etc.). I think they sent me on that one to show their displeasure at my choosing to leave the Air Force and make some real money. The final indignity was having to run my annual aerobics (1.5 miles at a run, or 3 miles at a walk, within a proscribed time). The First Sergeant, who administered such things, would not give me a pass on my aerobics requirement. So, seething with rage, I walked 1.5 miles, called it a run, and of course that meant that I failed. I knew that it would take over a month to put me on remedial, and I knew I’d be back home in Oakland Park, Florida within two weeks. I think I probably went above and beyond in my snarky attitude toward the end, which did not exactly endear me to several of my co-workers. I was called into my Chief of Maintenance’s office, for a final interview. He tried everything he could to convince me to change my mind, saying that if I so chose, I could be walking onto the airplane that was taking me home and still change my mind, that a car would be sent, and I’d be welcomed back with open arms. When that didn’t work, he tried the “bad cop” approach, questioning my loyalty to my country, and blah, blah, blah. I felt nine years was enough, and that if I wanted to do something with my life as a civilian, I needed to do it now. Besides, there was a very good chance of a job waiting for me at about twice what I was making as a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force.

I arrived at Charleston AFB, South Carolina on April 28, 1982. The next morning, I went through all the briefings and outprocessing. I changed to my civilian clothes, went to the on-base travel agency and unfortunately (for my pocket), I had to buy a first-class ticket to get out that evening, but I did so, happily. I called my folks with the arrival information, and was met later that evening at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and began my new life as an electronics engineering technician with Motorola.

As I reflect about my time in the Air Force, I can safely say that even with all the B.S. and craziness that come from living the military life, I wouldn’t have given back a moment of it.