U.S. Air Force memories (mid 1960's)
Memories of my experiences in the U.S. Air Force in the mid 1960's
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(1) Air Force memories (mid 1960's)
1966 and 1967 | Lackland AFB, Texas; Chanute AFB, Illinois; Dyess AFB, Texas
Air Force memories (Part 1)
I was surprised the other day to find some negatives of photos taken when I was in the U.S. Air Force. I completely forgot about those photos. But it got me thinking about those days. Back in 1966, you had two choices if you weren't exempt from the draft. You could take your chances with the draft, or you could enlist. At that time I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Even if there wasn't a war, I had planned to enlist. But Vietnam was a place to be avoided. Every evening the news program gave the latest casualty totals. So when my graduation from Rutgers was near, I checked with the Selective Service Board in New Brunswick to get an idea of when I would probably be drafted. They told me that I would probably be drafted in July. On May 25 I went to the Air Force recruiter, filled out a form and took a test. My graduation was June 1, 1966. On June 2nd I was in Newark for my Physical Exam. June 3rd, the Air Force recruiter told me that there were no openings after June 9th. So I decided to go in on June 9th. On Thursday, June 9, 1966, Dad drove me to New Brunswick where I caught a train to Newark. In Newark I was sworn in along with a bunch of other guys. We were taken to Nick's Restaurant for dinner. Our flight to Texas was scheduled for 11:25pm on Eastern Airlines with arrival in San Antonio 4:01am. Since I was the oldest, I was put in charge of the recruits leaving on my flight. I was to be responsible for this group until we arrived at Lackland Air Force Base. We were bused from Newark to Newark Airport. Arriving very early, we sat around for hours waiting for our time to board our plane. That was the first time I was ever on a plane. When our flight landed in San Antonio a military bus took us to Lackland. There we were herded into our barracks. We were called "rainbows" because of the multi-colored civilian clothes. By this time it was around 4:30 or 5:30am. The were rows of bunk beds. I picked a top bunk. I was so tired that I conked out immediately. About one hour later a loud whistle and yelling woke us up. Some guys on the top bunk, thinking they were in a regular bed, fell to the floor. Some of them landed on top of the guy getting out of the bottom bunk. That's when our training began. I remember that our Tech Sergeant was showing us how to put our canteen on our pistol belt. I asked him to repeat the instructions. I got yelled at. I also remember having my finger prints taken later during processing. There was a container of soap the consistency of pudding for cleaning the ink off your fingers. I took too much soap. We got one paper towel to wipe our hands. I asked for another towel....and got yelled at. I still remember one day clearly. We were all through processing. Everyone was given a job to do that day. I was told to cut the grass. I remember pushing that lawnmower around while thinking to myself "What the heck (I used a different word) did I get myself into!" But it was a lot better than being in Vietnam. I kept hoping that the lawnmower wouldn't run out of gas. If that happened, I would have to ask someone for gas. By now I was a bit gun shy about asking any questions. Part of the processing in included immunization shots. We were told to line up and NOT MOVE when we got the shots. They had what looked like an air gun with a hose. The vaccine was injected into each recruit's arm under high pressure with this "gun". If you made the mistake of moving, you could end up with a serious cut. We got a lot of shots! Since it was so hot in Texas, we wore wide brimmed sun helmets in place of our fatigue hats to shade us when it was sunny. We carried canteens at all times, and were required to take salt tablets periodically to prevent heat stroke. I remember a paved asphalt area for marching. That pavement got very hot from the sun. When we stood at attention, the heat would go right through the soles of our shoes and give us a hot foot. At the end of a training day of physical exercise, we all lined up at the shower in our barracks. Each recruit was given 30 seconds or one minute ( can't remember which) to get done with his shower. I have a vivid memory of the shooting range. Using an M-16 rifle, we all had to fire a number of rounds at a silhouette target 50 or 100 yards away ( I can't remember which was the correct distance). Ten rounds were fired at each position. We all had head-sets for ear protection. All I remember is that the Tech Sergeant was hollering at me while I was firing. After firing the required rounds for that position, I lowered my ear protection to hear what he was saying. When it was time to fire the next 10 round session in a timed fast fire mode, I forgot to put my ear protection back on. An M-16 is pretty loud. Your ears hurt. Multiply that by about 50 M-16's, all firing at the same time, and it wasn't easy to concentrate. I eventually found out that I qualified for "Expert" marksman. I was flustered by all the noise and the Sergeant's yelling. So I assumed that some of the other recruits hit my target by mistake. But a year later I again scored 55 out of 60 (Expert). I didn't know it at the time, but that earned me the Small Arms Expert Ribbon. Early in boot camp I was sent over to a testing facility for an exam to qualify for Officer's Candidate School. If I became an officer, I would then face a 5 year enlistment compared to the 4 years I signed up for. Five years seemed like an eternity. So I purposely failed the test. My thinking was that if I changed my mind a year later, I could re-take the test.
Air Force memories (Part 2)
It's funny the things that you remember, and the things you forget.
Haircuts We were required to get a haircut every 10 days. That I forgot, until I saw it in writing. Wearing the sun helmet protected the top half of your head. But the lower half of your face soon had a dark tan.
Physical training and the Obstacle course I don't remember much about the obstacle course, except for the 1 mile run. One of the requirements for graduation was to run a mile under 9 minutes. I had never run a mile in my life. My first attempt was over 9 minutes. I realized that I ran too fast in the beginning, and ran out of steam at the end. So I paced myself on the next attempt. This time I managed to make it under 9 minutes. That was the last time I ever tried to run a mile. If I remember correctly, they gave you two or three chances to qualify on the mile run. If you didn't make it, they put you back the next recruit class. Some of the overweight guys remained in boot camp until they lost weight. Of course we did a lot of exercising. But the one exercise I hated involved lying on your back and lifting your spread-eagled legs about 6 inches off the ground. We had to hold that position for a long time. Of course that was to strengthen our stomach muscles. We had to march all the time as a group. I enjoyed the marching, especially when there was a band playing music. We had to wear two pairs of socks to avoid foot blisters. Some guys just were not prepared for boot camp. I remember a few who broke down crying. I think they may have been given a medical discharge. Anyway, we never saw them again.
Meals I remember that I liked breakfast the best. How can you mess up eggs and bacon? As for the other meals, there are a few things I HATED: Liver, Salisbury steak and SOS. Liver: I've never liked liver. But when you are in boot camp, the hunger is so great that you'll try anything. Many times the only choice was liver. So I tried to eat it. I could only take a few bites before getting nauseous. So I would fill up on the vegetables.
Salisbury Steak: We soon learned that all the leftover bits and pieces of meat (including gristle) from previous meals were ground up and made into Salisbury steaks. It was like trying to eat a piece of rubber. To this day, I will not eat a Salisbury steak.
S.O.S: Which stands for "shit on a shingle". This is another casualty of leftover food. I don't know what was in it. All I know is that it looked like someone had vomited on a piece of toast. Yes, I think that describes it pretty well.
Milk and Chocolate Milk: When you are out in the hot sun exercising, you get mighty thirsty. The chow hall had these big 25 gallon dispensers of milk and chocolate milk. You lift up the handle and fill your glass as many times as you want. At first I was drinking milk. Then I tried the chocolate milk. It was ice cold, probably just a few degrees above freezing. I was hooked! I drank glass after glass of that stuff. I think the only reason I didn't gain weight was all the physical exercise.
Salt Tablets: We took so many of these that it seemed like a meal. We were required to take a minimum of 7 salt tablets a day, and a maximum of 11.
K.P. Beside the required cleaning of the barracks and waxing the floors, I only remember two times doing "K.P.". Once I had to scrub pots and pans in the Chow Hall. The other time I was assigned along with another guy to clean the office of Major General Mooney, Commander of Lackland Air Force Base. These jobs were not the result of punishment. We all had to do some sort of work at one time or other. "Policing the area" was something the recruits did on a regular basis. It involved forming a long line, and then walking the area side-by-side looking for discarded cigarette butts.
General We had regular classes which included CPR procedures. You had to do the CPR in an exact sequence. An NCO tested the whole class on this. We were taught when to salute, to remove your hat indoors and how to recognize an officers car among a lot of other things. I remember walking near the Officer Candidate School while a group was marching. I wasn't sure if they were officers. I paused too long. I got yelled at for not saluting. In boot camp we were issued the following: 1 USAF service cap, 1 flight cap, 2 fatigue baseball type caps 1 dress blue uniform, 2 tan summer uniforms, 2 fatigue uniforms, 2 belts 1 pair of combat boots, 1 pair of dress shoes, 2 pairs of brogans 1 dress overcoat, 1 raincoat 1 pistol belt and canteen. Gloves, socks and underwear. I still have the combat boots and brogans. They were made to last a long time. Standard procedure was to get up at 4:45am. We had 15 minutes to shave and make our bed. While the rest of the guys were making their beds, I scooted into the bathroom and shaved when all the sinks were not being used. Then I would go out and make my bed. You learned to do everything fast. One trick I learned was to shave before going to bed. Because of this trick, it took less time to shave in the morning. It also didn't hurt to nick yourself with the razor. You were less likely to be yelled at for poor shaving if there was a little blood visible. Lights out was 2100 (9:00pm). Everyone had to do guard duty at the entrance to the barracks overnight. Two guys would do about a 3 hour shift each. You were not allowed to leave your post. However, in order to get the next guy on duty up, you had to run inside and wake him. I still remember running inside to wake my replacement one night. That didn't work. I had to go in a second time. This time I made sure he was up. I won't tell you how. I'll just say I yelled at him. Fire drills were conducted on a regular basis at night, usually just about the time you fall asleep. If you didn't get out within a specified time, there would be another fire drill about an hour later. The only day off we had was Sunday as well as July 4th. If you left the barracks, the summer uniform or fatigues were to be worn. On July 4th, a few of us visited the U.S. Air force Museum on base. This was also the first time I was able to call home since arriving at Lackland. One day we were allowed to take the bus into San Antonio to visit the Alamo. Since the United States was at war in Vietnam at that time, we all qualified for the National Defense Service Medal.
Air Force memories (Part 3)
After a while in boot camp you fall into a routine. You pretty much know what to expect most of the time. We did a lot of marching, which I enjoyed. In the barracks everything had to be arranged in an exact location. We would have periodic inspections. During a training day, we were given short breaks at designated locations for a smoke or a bottle of soda. At graduation a photograph was taken of our class in our tan summer uniforms. I have a copy of that photo, but haven't been able to find it. Upon graduation, everyone received a promotion from Airman Basic to Airman Third Class. There weren't enough graduates signed up for Weather Tech School, so I was assigned to another area of Lackland until a full class was assembled. Here, we were called "casuals". The area we were housed in consisted of very old barracks. It was a much more relaxed atmosphere there (fewer and less strict inspections). There wasn't much to do except read and go to the chow hall. However, whenever we went outside, we were required to march everywhere even if you are alone. Any turns had to be made in a drill-marching mode. No casual walking at all! If you stopped to cross a road, you had to stand "at ease" or at attention until the road was clear. Because there wasn't much to do, we were all bored. Sometimes we would purposely fail inspection with some minor infraction just to make things a little exciting. But the staff sergeants were lenient. If I remember correctly, I had to stay there for about two weeks before my orders came in.
Weather Tech School, Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois
I remember flying on a commercial airline to O'Hare Airport in Chicago. I arrived with a few other guys in the middle of the night. It turned out that the guy that processed us in was from Highland Park, New Jersey. I believe his name was Sheehan. I always wondered if he was the son of Patricia Sheehan, who later became mayor of New Brunswick, New Jersey. Since I was the new guy in the barracks, I was assigned to clean the latrine (bathroom). Everything had to be spotless. I had to pee. So I picked the first toilet and did my business. When flushed, it promptly overflowed. It turned out that of the three toilets in the latrine, I happened to pick the "inspection" toilet. This toilet was for inspection only, and was never to be used. Of course no one told me this. I had to mop everything up. Cleaning the latrine meant scrubbing everything including the inside of the toilet bowel. I soon got used to sticking my hand inside the toilet bowels to make sure it was thoroughly scrubbed clean. I was also assigned guard duty at the front entrance to the barracks. It didn't take long for a staff sergeant to enter. He "scolded" me, and said "Don't you know the procedure when a higher ranking NCO or officer enters the barracks?". I said "No one told me about it". He pointed out the protocol which was posted on the bulletin board next to me. The staff sergeants were to be addressed as if they were an officer. Also each barracks was assigned a barracks chief who wore a green rope at the shoulder. A student was also made "student squadron commander", and wore a yellow rope at the shoulder. The yellow rope and green ropes were to be addressed as if they were officers. That meant if an NCO, officer, yellow rope or green rope entered the barracks, I was to immediately snap to attention and say "Sir! Airman Third Class Kover AF1277____ reporting. Barracks is secure, sir!" There was a lot more to it than that. After over 40 years, I just can't remember the rest. Any way I wasted no time in memorizing every word. Well, about an hour after the Staff Sergeant scolded me for not knowing the guard duty protocol, he showed up at the barracks entrance again. I jumped to attention and spouted out the required words. He was satisfied and left. It got so I could rattle off those words at the speed of a machine gun. The yellow rope would periodically check each barracks just to see if the airman on guard duty would make a mistake. I had fun practicing saying it faster and faster. After a while the yellow rope got tired of my rapid word response. It got to the point that when the yellow rope would enter, he would say "Okay Kover, all right, all right shut up!". My first few days there included an overnight session at squadron headquarters. I was there all by myself. I used the time to spit shine my brogans. Requirements in our squadron included spit shined shoes and crisp starched fatigues. So I put shoe horns in the first set of brogans and spent a long time getting the shine just right. One of the guys gave me the tip to mix the shoe polish with water and Glocoat floor wax. That did the trick. When the pair of shoes was done, I removed the shoe horns to start on the second pair. As soon as the shoe horns were removed, that polish on that part of the shoe that bends crumbled and fell off. I had to start all over again. From then on I always spit shined my shoes without the shoe horns. The master sergeant in charge of our squadron was the one responsible for requiring spit shined shoes and starched fatigues. However, he did not set a good example. He was overweight with a big pot belly. His fatigues were always wrinkled. Worst of all, his fatigue hat (pillbox shaped with a baseball hat type brim) had a distinctive white band of dried sweat around the bottom. All the guys thought he was a slob, and a disgrace to the Air Force uniform. In the barracks, everyone wore just their underwear. When the starched fatigues were put on for inspection, everyone walked like robots trying not to bend their knees and create wrinkles. I got pretty good at washing clothes and ironing. The yellow rope would conduct the morning inspection. I remember once being sent back into the barracks because I didn't shave close enough. I didn't have much in the way of whiskers back then. So I made sure that I nicked myself with the razor. A little bit of blood on my chin satisfied the yellow rope. We had to be outside for inspection every morning (except Sunday) at about 5:00 or 5:30am. It got pretty cold sometimes. I remember that the dark sky was so clear you could see all the stars. One morning we saw a meteor shower.
Air Force memories (Part 4)
Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois
Each morning after formation and inspection, we would march to the chow hall for breakfast. Afterwards we would assemble for the march over to the classroom building. All student squadrons had to pass by a reviewing stand, and be graded on their performance. Each squadron was identified by a flag carried by one of the students. Our flag had an eagle with "Tech School" above and "57th" below. Our squadron was officially designated "3357th Student Squadron". However, since all the squadron numbers started with "33", just the last two numbers were shown on the flag. There were a lot of student squadrons. So coming in first each day was not easy. I believe that during the 17 weeks of training, we only came in first once. There was a reward for first place. I don't remember what it was, probably being allowed to sleep late. We were graded on the alignment of the formation, how well everyone was in step and the general appearance of the student squadron among other things. It was difficult keeping lined up because you had to face forward, and rely on looking out the corner of your eye while trying to keep in step with the others. I always enjoyed this part of the march to class because a band would be playing. As we approached the reviewing stand, everyone would "dress-up" (straighten) each line in formation. It was much more relaxed marching back to the barracks. There were a number of cadences that we learned to call out as we marched. If you remember, our shoes had to be spit shined and uniforms starched with crisp creases. Even after class you can see almost everyone kept their legs straight to avoid wrinkles. I'll never forget an incident that happened near the end of the 17 week training period. It was raining pretty hard. We had our raincoats on as we marched back to the barracks. The yellow rope was leading us in a cadence song. This particular cadence song involved raising your feet high and stomping hard on the pavement. The yellow rope waited until we got to a deep puddle before starting the cadence. The result was a lot of splashing. Everyone of us got our beautifully starched pants and shined shoes soaking wet. We laughed our heads off.
We were housed in the barracks four men to a room with two bunk beds and lockers. Inspections came often. It took a while, but we learned how to clean and dust our room while avoiding the mistake of missing a spot. We would start at one corner of the room, and working in a clockwise manner, clean from top to bottom. To this day, that is how I clean at home. One of our room mates apparently never had to do any cleaning at home. He would avoid doing any work. The other three of us had to do the cleaning. We all gave him aggravation in return for his laziness. Of course the beds had to be tight enough to bounce a quarter on. We soon learned the trick of using safety pins to attach each end of the blanket to the springs underneath. There was a popular guy who would show up on a regular basis. He was called "Pizza Pop". He had pepperoni pizzas in his truck that sold for $1.00 each. When he showed up, everyone would yell "Pizza Pop!". If you wanted a pizza, you had to get down there fast because the supply was limited.
Air Force memories (part 5)
Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois July - November 1966
I don't have any memories of home sickness until near the end of boot camp. That was about the time I realized I would not be going home for at least another 17 weeks. Up until then I had assumed that I would go home on leave when boot camp ended. I still remember the first time I heard the song "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" by Dusty Springfield. It was a Sunday. I walked in a small place on base and ordered a hamburger. That song was playing over the sound system. It made me feel sad and lonely.
"You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" by Dusty Springfield
But the song that really broke my heart whenever I heard it was "Green Green Grass of Home" by Tom Jones.
"Green Green Grass of Home" by Tom Jones
Getting mail was always a way of feeling better. So I wrote lots of letters, hoping that I would get lots of mail about home. Later when I finally came home on leave, I took photos. If I got a little home sick, I could pull out the photos from home. I even left a black & white camera (that I bought at Lackland AFB) at home with instructions to take photos and mail them to me.
I didn't have much trouble with class work. In college I had taken Meteorology, Climatology and Microclimatology. So I was already aware of the subject matter. But then it got technical. One of the jobs in the weather station was to take weather observations from all over the country, decode then and then plot them on a map using symbols. The forecaster could then look at the map and formulate his forecast. The problem is that there are a lot of observations, and they had to be plotted with an ink drafting pen in a short amount of time. My first exam with plotting didn't go well. I went for speed. However, speed breeds mistakes. Mistakes count as deductions in your exam score. I flunked my first exam. But the next time, I concentrated on accuracy rather than speed. This time I "aced" the exam. The teletype transmissions from all over the country received in a coded format. The time is converted to Central time (Texas). They are posted for the forecaster. However, at a certain time of day these observations had to be plotted on the map and given to the forecaster. Current observations were always available. It was nice to be to see what the current weather in New Jersey was. We had quizzes or tests almost every day. They told us that if anyone can achieve a certain grade level, they would be designated "honor student". That meant he could skip morning formation/inspection and sleep later. That was enough incentive for me. By now, we considered sleeping late a total luxury. So I worked my butt off. Eventually I made honor student, and got some extra sleep. Some of the classrooms were set up like a typical weather station.
We had heard that at graduation, every other class goes overseas (Europe, Japan, etc.). Otherwise it would be a stateside assignment. We were all hoping for someplace like Europe. There was no choice in the matter. The way it worked, a "bad" assignment like Thailand would be for one year. Places like Europe were a minimum of three years. So if we started out with a stateside assignment, we wouldn't have enough years left on our enlistment to qualify for a good assignment like Europe. As it turned out, I was assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas, the home of the B-52 bomber. After Dyess AFB I could pretty much expect to be sent to Thailand....or maybe even Vietnam.
Air Force memories (Part 6)
Tech School Graduation
Prior to graduation I had my one and only official photograph taken of me in my dress blue uniform. If I remember correctly, it cost me $5.00. On November 4,1966, all 47 graduates in my class received orders for Stateside assignments. I was assigned to 26th Weather Squadron, Detachment 34 at Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas. I had to report there no later than December 7, 1966. Until then I was on leave to go home. I don't have any memory of graduation. As far as I know there was no photograph taken of the class. On November 29, 1966 notification was received that I was given a security clearance of Secret. Also while I was on leave, a letter was sent to the 26th Weather Squadron headquartered at Barksdale AFB, as well as my commanding officer at Dyess AFB, informing them of my graduation as an honor student. I finished number 2 in my class. This was credited towards the possible award of the Air Force Good Conduct Medal sometime in the future. I remember flying home on a commercial airline out of O'Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois. It was November 19, 1966. While in the air, "The Game of the Century" was being played, and I was missing it. Michigan State, 9-0 and ranked #2 in the nation, was playing Notre Dame, 8-0 and ranked #1 in the nation. The pilot of our plane was nice enough to announce the final score over the intercom. The game ended in a 10-10 tie. I was wearing my dress blue uniform when I arrived at Newark Airport. Back then the Vietnam War was not popular. No one patted you on the back or applauded while walking through the airport. You were ignored, or occasionally given a dirty look. I was anxious to get home. I could have taken a taxi to the train station. But I paid a taxi driver $20 to drive me all the way home from Newark to Edison, New Jersey. That was a lot of money. After all, my monthly pay was only about $95. I had the taxi driver drop me off a block from home. I wanted to surprise everyone. By this time, it was dark out. The porch lights were on. Dad was doing some work on the interior portion of the enclosed porch. He was the first to see me. It was good to be home, especially since my twin brother, Bob, would also be home on leave from the Navy. I hadn't seen my brother in a long time.
Air Force memories (Part 7)
Once I was home, the reunions started with everybody. We took more than the usual number of photos. When my leave time was up, I had to catch a plane out of Newark Airport to Texas. I believe Braniff Airlines was the airline I used to get to Dallas. I was a little nervous about my first Air Force assignment. I didn't know what to expect. In Dallas I had to switch to a shuttle that would take me the last leg into Abilene, Texas. I bumped into John Boros, a Tech School classmate, who also was assigned to Dyess AFB. We flew on Trans Texas Airline. The plane was a twin engine turbo prop. Everyone called it "Tree Top Airlines". It was a short shuttle flight. So a small cabin and low altitudes were the norm. The airport at Abilene was small. The terminal wasn't very big either. To get off the plane, they wheeled a movable set of stairs to the cabin door. I think the luggage was all stored in the nose cone of the plane. Once inside the terminal, Boros called the weather station at Dyess. One of the airman, Tony Franklin from Huntsville, Alabama, picked us up. There was a processing-in period. I was assigned a barracks room and issued a heavier fatigue coat.
Impressions of Dyess Air Force Base
Of course, being an Air Force Base, the area is very flat. Trees were almost nonexistent. The "grass" was brown. Actually, it wasn't what we would consider grass. You couldn't walk barefoot on it because of tiny thorns mixed in with the grass. After a while, I noticed tiny paths in the grass. Those paths were made by ants. There were small ant hills scattered across the landscape. Also, when walking across this grass, I kept noticing movement out of the corner of my eye. All I could see were these small holes in the ground. I asked one of the guys about it. He picked up a twig and stuck it in one of the holes. Out jumped this big spider. The movement I was seeing was the spider jumping into its hole when I approached. Every once in a while, I would find a spider in our shower stall at the barracks. I never saw a rattle snake. But there were enough to warrant rattlesnake hunts periodically. There were also jackrabbit hunts. It wasn't uncommon to kick up a jackrabbit while walking to the Base Weather Station. These rabbits are huge. They are about the size of a German Shepard with long legs, and ears about a foot long. It is very dry and dusty there. Every so often we would get hit with a dust storm. Gale force winds would roll in and kick up the dust. Even with all the windows and doors shut tight, dust would migrate into the barracks. During dust storms we stayed indoors. I was to find out soon enough about the type of severe weather that is common in the area of Texas. There was also a UFO incident during one of my shifts that I will talk about later. Every once in a while, there would be a practice "Red Alert". A simulated national emergency situation. We would be issued K rations. The B-52 bombers and KC-135 tanker planes would all start their engines, and run them for what seemed like hours. The ground would shake. The noise was so deafening, we couldn't hear each other talk even several miles away. There were barriers behind the planes to divert the jet engine exhaust.
Air Force memories (Part 8)
Aircraft assigned to Dyess AFB
The KC-135's carries fuel and are used to refuel the B-52 bombers on long range flights. I didn't realize this at the time, but the B-52 Stratofortress was relatively new when I was stationed at Dyess. "The B-52A first flew in 1954, and the B model entered service in 1955. A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. Only the H model is still in the Air Force inventory and is assigned to Air Combat Command and the Air Force Reserves.
The first of 102 B-52Hs was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H model can carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles. In addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile that was launched from B-52G models during Desert Storm. During the Cold War, Dyess Air Force Base was constantly on alert in case of nuclear attack. There were even signs in the base's movie theater that would instantly alert pilots in the scenario that the U.S.S.R. would initiate a nuclear attack during a movie." Also stationed at Dyess was the C-130 Hercules aircraft. The C-130's were painted camouflage back in 1967. When I was stationed there, it was common to see C-130's practicing touch-and-goes day and night. We also saw on a regular basis the F-4 Phantom fighter jet. This was one of the fighter jets used during the Vietnam War. The Phantoms were also painted camouflage at that time. The main Weather Station was located on the ground floor of the control tower. A forecaster and airman were assigned there as well as an airman up in the control tower 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Air Force memories (Part 9)
The Weather Observer duty station was in the tower below the air traffic controllers. Two airman would be on duty each shift, one upstairs in the tower and one downstairs in the weather station with the forecaster. The two airman on duty would switch stations halfway through the shift. My room was on the third floor of the barracks. The barracks were located about a half mile from the weather station. If I couldn't get a ride, I had to walk to work. Walking across that field at night (to begin the night shift) occasionally resulted in a sudden noise from a jack rabbit running away. My OJT (On the job training) started not long after arriving on base. I was required to go through several months of OJT before I would be officially certified to work on my own. I was teamed with an airman from Seattle, Washington, who started training me. I can't recall his name. It didn't seem at first that we would get along. He was a bit wild in many ways. He was a ladies man. He had a girlfriend off base that he visited regularly. But we gradually became good friends. Eventually he got orders to ship out to Thailand. His girlfriend called the base Weather Station one day crying. Everyone was on a rotating shift basis, which we all hated. Two days on day shift 0730 to 1600(7:30am to 4:00pm), two days on swing shift 1600 to 0000(4:00pm to midnight) and and two days on mid shift 0000 to 0730(midnight to 7:30am). We got one day off unless we were understaffed. There was a lot to do on each shift. To keep things organized, I wrote down the schedule for each shift. I don't remember doing so much map plotting. The Weather Station on the first floor had one forecaster on duty for the swing and mid shifts, and two forecasters on duty during the day shift. Also on duty during the day were the weather station commander Lt. Col. James Davis, his clerk, and the Chief Observer, SSgt. Richard Rablin. It was SSgt Rablin's job to evaluate your performance every day. His desk was up in the control tower duty station. In the rear of the weather station were the teletype machines (weather observations form all over) and weather chart facsimile machines. That's where the airman on duty would be most of the time. In a side room was the radar for tracking thunderstorms. The other duty station was upstairs in the control tower just below the air traffic controllers. When making an observation, it was logged on a chart on the desk top. One of the phones was used by us to record the current weather and forecast. Anyone on base or off base could call that number for the recorded information. When an observation was made, it had to be typed using the teletype. Holes would be punched in a paper strip representing the typed letters. The paper strip would then be fed through the teletype and transmitted all over the country. If you made a typing mistake, you couldn't correct it. You had to start over again with a new paper strip.
To be continued in next story blog.....