1960-1965

 1960 - 1965

 

Installment #6

1961  My next assignment following my Technical Schooling was to Edwards AFB, near Palmdale, California as a Radar and Tower Air Traffic Controller with the 1925th Air Traffic Control Squadron. We arrived there in January, 1961

Attempt #9 was a heartbreaker. When I submitted my paperwork at Edwards, I was advised that I had incurred a two year directed duty assignment, which no one had seen fit to warn me about. I was barred from applying. At this point, I was becoming somewhat discouraged, particularly since I was approaching the magic 26 year age limit which would forever bar me from Pilot School. 

   Thus, I began my tour as a Radar Traffic Controller, but later switched to Control Tower Operator. 

   After a period of time, our unit received a new Squadron Commander who promptly hauled me in to demand why I was spending my time in enlisted status when, as a college graduate, I could attend OTS. I explained my predicament with the directed duty assignment and the fact that the Air Force had once again dropped Pilot candidates from the OTS list. 

   He informed me that there was such a thing as a waiver to directed duty assignments and that I should worry first about becoming commissioned, then attending Pilot Training. Seeing the wisdom of his remarks, I applied for and received the waiver and signed up for OTS with Maintenance Officer as my career field (again, the closest I could get to aircraft with what was available at the time). 

Installment #7

Other events: Initially, at Edwards, we were unable to secure Base Housing, so we rented an apartment quite some distance from the base. One's status on the list depended on rank and time on the list. It seemed that each time I called to check, someone else who outranked me had bumped me down.

   I was working in the Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) facility, so I began to call to check on the list at precisely 10:00 am and 2:00 pm every day. After a few days of this, they would not answer the phone, knowing it was me. Finally, I made such a pest of myself we were magically bumped to the top of the list and were able to move on base. How wonderful!

   We had one of a row of tiny, single story apartments. Very small, but right on base and, best of all, cost us only our housing allowance. Our unit was on the end. Our next door neighbors were a wonderful couple from Louisiana.

   Payday was every two weeks. One day, about a week before payday, the couple next door visited us, which was not unusual in itself, but they seemed very nervous. Finally, after some chit-chat, they rose to go and sheepishly asked if they could borrow a dollar.

   We were somewhat stunned. I wasn't sure we had a spare dollar. We finally came up with one and gave it to them. On payday, they returned our dollar. Apparently that is all they had had to live on for the full week.

   For the rest of our time there, we would save out a dollar for them, knowing that, halfway between paydays, they would need it.

   Those tiny apartments, were for couples only, so after our first son, David, was born, we qualified for a real house on base. Much nicer than the apartment, but we missed the close companionship of our neighbors.

Installment #8

   Our parents lived less than 3 miles apart, just over the mountain ridge from the base. We would go down occasionally on weekends to visit them. We had a friend from the same town, who would ride with us. How he managed to jam himself and his bag of dirty laundry into that tiny hole behind the seats, I don't know.

   One Sunday, Kaye had decided to stay with her parents for a week and the friend and I were returning alone. As we were driving through the mountains, there was a sharp crack -- the car lurched to the right toward the edge of the cliff.

   I managed to get the car under control and we skidded to a stop perilously close to the drop-off, as we watched the right front wheel bounce over the edge. When we got out to check, we found the center portion of the wheel still attached to the car with the lug nuts. Tiny cracks I had not noticed between the lug nuts had finally given way and the rest of the wheel had broken off.

   We retrieved the wheel by climbing down the cliff side, then mounted the spare and gingerly, quite gingerly, drove on back to the base. Following this incident, I decided it was time for us to have other means of transport.

   I gave the Singer to my younger brother and purchased a used Triumph TR-3 sports car.

Installment #9

   Another interesting tidbit is that I was selected to be the tower controller for a U-2 base. At that time, the U-2 was a big deal. This secret reconnaissance aircraft's existence and activities had finally came to light when Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Russia in May, 1960, but the covert flights continued.

   Each day, I would drive to the base and was handed a script, which I followed closely. There  were times when absolutely nothing was happening and I would transmit taxi and takeoff instructions. Then, when a U-2 was taking off or landing, I was mute.

   The control tower was a small wooden box on stilts, quite a change from the modern, multi-story tower I had become used to at Edwards.

   My next assignment was at Medina Base, outside of San Antonio, Texas for Officers Training School in an Aircraft Maintenance position.

Installment #10

1962  Attempt #10  was made after arriving at OTS at Medina Base and was a joke. I was advised that as a student, I had to wait until I was posted to my next duty station.

Other events: Although I was allowed to be married while in OTS, Kaye was not allowed to accompany me. Thus she and our son, David, moved back in with her parents for the 3 months I would be in training.

   This arrangement had its ups and downs. Although wonderful people, her parents could not get used to the fact that Kaye was now an independent adult. They still thought of her as their minor child.

   Just days before I was due to graduate from OTS, I received a call from my mother. My older brother, who had been battling cancer for quite some time was near death and she wanted me to come home immediately so I could attend the funeral.

   I applied for an emergency leave and was told to come back that afternoon. When I arrived, I was ushered into a room to find five officers seated behind a table. In rather blunt terms, they told me that I could not leave so close to the end of my training. 

   They advised me that, provided I did well on my final tests, I was slated to finish 5th in a class of 360, and would be a 'Distinguished Graduate', which meant I would be awarded a Regular, instead of a Reserve Commission. 

   Obviously, they could not legally refuse my request for emergency leave, but they told me if I persisted, I would be washed out of OTS and discharged from the Air Force. 

   Oh boy -- that meant the end of all my dreams. I asked if I could have some time to consider this, and they said, "Yes, 5 minutes", and set a timer. 

   When the bell rang, I told them I would stay and was ordered back to training. That night I called my mother and advised her of my situation and that I would not be coming home. She said she understood, but I do not believe she ever completely forgave me. My brother died (at age 29) and I missed his funeral.

Installment #11

   I finished OTS ad was assigned to Chanute AFB, near Rantoul, Illinois for Aircraft Maintenance Officer School. I picked up Kaye and David, in California and we drove to Chanute.

   What a change it was, moving from enlisted to Officer status! Not the least was finances. We went from making $100 to $220 a month, over a 100% increase.

   Seemingly flush with money, we disposed of the Triumph and purchased a brand new, 1962, Austin-Healey Mk 2, sports car. This was a premium car for its time. It had everything -- a straight six engine, triple carburetors, electric overdrive and speed, speed, speed. My Mother thought it scandalous that we paid $3,200 for it when a new Ford or Chevy sedan could be had for $2,000.

   Knowing that the Illinois winters could be bad, we purchased a removable hardtop for the Austin-Healey.

Attempt #11 at Chanute, was a replay of the others. No applications could be accepted while I was in student status. 

Other events: On arrival in Illinois, we stayed for a few days with Kaye's relatives who lived some distance away. Finding that impractical, we checked into a hotel in Rantoul. Finally, we found a house to rent in town.

   Although quite small, it was a comfortable place to live. Later, we were able to move into quarters on the base.

Installment #12

Attempt #12 was equally disappointing. Following my schooling, I was assigned to the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at George AFB, near Victorville, California. We drove back across the United States, arriving in the desert in October, 1962.

   Upon arrival, I discovered that I had acquired a three-year directed duty assignment following the Maintenance schooling. I did not have three years left. 1963 was fast approaching. In December, 1964, I would pass the 26 year age limit. 

Other events: I served as the Wing Standardization and Training Officer and finally as a Flight Line Maintenance Officer. Our second son, Craig was born at George. 

1963  Attempt #13 Remembering the waiver business, I went through the usual flight physical and the ton of paperwork to apply for flight training, this time submitting my request for a waiver of my directed duty assignment. 

For the first time in many years, I felt I was actually getting close to my elusive goal. Then disaster struck again. 

My high hopes were dashed when, several weeks later, I received a curt letter from Headquarters, Air Force, rejecting my application and advising me that, in the future, I should go through channels when making an application. The CBPO (Central Base Personnel Office) at George had sent my application direct to Washington without going through channels!

Installment #13

Attempt #14 I was irritated at this goof, but secure in the knowledge that it was not of my making, so I trotted down to CBPO to apply again. I was ushered into the presence of a very irate Lt Col who began yelling at me because his people had messed up. 

   He had received a letter similar to mine, rebuking him for this mistake. The man was impossible to talk to. He kept saying that this was the first black mark he had received in a long career and that as long as he was in charge, there would be no application submitted in my name. 

   I found out that he had plans to retire the following year, but I did not have enough time left to wait him out. After considering the matter for some time, I reported to the JAG’s (Judge Advocate Generals’) office and filed a complaint alleging that this refusal to submit my application was illegal and requesting assistance.  

   To this day I do not know if this fellow had had previous problems or not, but in a very short time, an investigation was launched and he was taking an early retirement in lieu of disciplinary action. Saddened at this turn of events, but now free to make my application, I returned to the CBPO to face a new Officer in Charge.

 

Installment #14

1964  Attempt #15 was rather startling. Upon arrival at the CBPO, I found that I was just days over the one year limit and would have to retake the test and physical

   No sweat. I had done this so many times by now that I could practically run the operation myself. I took the test and showed up at the base hospital ready to breeze through the physical. 

   We went through the motions. Everything was fine until the last step, when I was to be interviewed by a Flight Surgeon. I was shown into the Chief Flight Surgeon’s office, which I thought was a little odd, since the man was a full Colonel, and I had always been seen in the past by someone of lesser rank, usually a Captain. However, I thought nothing of it, assuming everyone else was busy.

   The Colonel stared grimly at my papers for a few moments before stamping ‘rejected’ on them and telling me I was medically unfit for flying. I was aghast. How could this be? When I asked for clarification, he was rather cross and said that my nose passage was crooked and I would never be able to breathe through an oxygen mask at high altitude. 

   Now, as it happened, I had recently been in the altitude chamber and had experienced no difficulty breathing at simulated altitudes of 43,000 feet. When I pointed this out, I was ordered out of his office with ‘medically unfit’ still stamped on my records. 

 

Installment #15

   Well, that was it. After years of dreaming and scheming, my hopes of becoming an Air Force pilot seemed at an end. I must have looked rather miserable standing out in the back yard of our Base Housing unit, because our neighbor, who was a Captain and a Flight Surgeon asked what was the matter. When I told him my story, he just shook his head and asked why I had not requested to be interviewed by him rather than the Colonel. 

   When I told him I didn’t ask for anyone in particular, but just happened to get the Colonel, he laughed and said I was rather stupid. It seems that the Chief Fight Surgeon was a good golfing buddy of the Lt Col I had gotten fired at CBPO. The whole thing had been a set up. The Captain looked at my nose and confirmed there was nothing wrong with it.

   I was elated. I wasn’t medically unfit! My hopes were promptly dashed when the Captain quickly told me the Colonel was his boss and there was no way he was going to contradict the man who wrote his OER (Officers Evaluation Report). 

   What to do? The Captain suggested applying for a Medical Review Board at Brooks AFB, near San Antonio, Texas, to review my situation. Unfortunately, that process could take as long as eight months, if it ever took place at all. I didn’t have that much time left before I hit the age limit.

 

Installment #16

   His only other thought was the laughing suggestion that I could have my nose operated on. I pounced on the idea. Although he thought I was crazy, he helped me with the paperwork. Soon I received orders to report to the Naval Hospital in San Diego for the operation. 

   The whole trip was a fiasco. Once seated in the chair for the pre-operation examination, the surgeon, a Navy Captain (equivalent to an Air Force Colonel), began yelling about the Air Force wasting valuable Navy time with bogus requests for unnecessary medical work. My nose was fine and he refused to operate. 

   I explained my situation to him and urged him to note in my medical records that I was fit for flying duty. He did so and I returned to George AFB blissfully unaware that he also sent a scathing letter through channels castigating the Chief Flight Surgeon at George. 

   The upshot of all this was that while I was allowed to submit my application, the Chief Flight Surgeon suffered the same fate as the CBPO Colonel, choosing early retirement in lieu of official action. 

   George was a rather small fighter base, and I had now acquired quite a bad reputation, although my only thought had been to apply for Pilot Training, and I had intended no harm to anyone.

 

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