Saturday, August 28, 2010

Judy's In The Air Force Now! cont'd Part 2

Airman Class 1968

Everyday Fatigues

As I mentioned in my post on Wednesday, the 25th, it was cold when I arrived in San Antonio, but thankfully I was given a uniform the next day.  The "Everyday Fatigues" uniform you see in the above picture, was worn in our daily routine.  You can see how windy it was, yet the hat stayed on.  The "purse" in my hand was called a "ditty bag", easy to carry while marching, plus easy to lay down in classes or hold behind the back when at rest (standing in a semi- relaxed position on the parade field).   The top picture is an example of the summer dress uniform.

You notice that the hair is above the collar, as required.  The hair length caused a problem with one of the newbies.  The arrival at Lackland A.F.B, San Antonio, Texas was the beginning of basic training. There are a lot of rules to follow, plus one has to earn rewards to do basic tasks, such as call home or go to the movies.  While these rules seem silly, they are important.  There might be a situation where you're given an order, but because of your rank and security clearance, you're not given all the facts, yet many lives depend on the order being carried out.  Rebellion isn't something you want to do, especially when you're an airman, or private or any enlisted personnel in any branch of the military.

As I said, hair length caused a problem, the rule was "hair couldn't be below the collar", that didn't mean you had to cut your hair. You could pin it up under your cap or wear it in a French Twist, a popular style at that time.  Regrettably, one of the newbies (not what we were called, but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was), didn't completely understand this rule, all she heard was "couldn't be below". Here she was, an only child, away from home for the first time, not allowed to talk with her mom and dad when she wanted nor for very long. Plus you had to talk in a phone booth, with a line of girls standing outside waiting for their turn.  In addition, her religion prohibited women from cutting their hair.  "Lights Out", had been called for quite a while, and most of us were sound asleep, when suddenly a door slammed, and I heard someone running down the hall. By that time my roommate and I were awake, lying there raised on our arms looking at the door, me on the bottom bunk and she on the top one.  As we waited we heard raised voices, but not loud enough to understand what they were saying. We jumped out of our bunks, rushed over and looked out into the hallway, just like the other girls along the hallway.

There were several people standing outside the "newbies" room, and as we watched two medics bringing a stretcher rushed down the hallway, when our barracks officer turned around and saw all the heads sticking out their doors, she yelled, "Get back inside, close your doors and go to sleep!"

We did jerk our heads back and closed our doors, but go to sleep, no way.  The next morning the "newbie" didn't "fall out" (get in line) when we headed to breakfast.  Our class schedules were rearranged to be able to substitute a new subject "How to commit Suicide!"

The newbie couldn't deal with all the stress of being away from home and learning a new lifestyle, keep in mind the ages of most of the girls were between eighteen and nineteen.  Thankfully, she only tried to commit suicide, but wasn't successful.  But it did enable us to hear an unusual speech from our TI (training instructor). Not "Don't commit suicide, but How to".  The part that remains with me is that "swallowing chlorox won't do the job, and 9 times out of 10, neither will cutting your wrists ( which is what the newbie tried). No, what you want to do is go into the shower stall, so that the blood can be washed down the drain, don't use your bed because that will be too messy, and then take a razor blade and cut your jugular! Do it right the first time! Of course, I would prefer you come and talk to me or one of your other instructors before you make this kind of decision. Talking with us would be a much better way!"

Now I know this seems like a strange speech, but it worked. It cleared the air, not sure why, but it did.  I never heard of anyone else trying to commit suicide among the people I served with. I wonder if they still give this speech in the Air Force?


arlee bird said...

It's usually been so hot in San Antonio when I've been there, but I have been there when it was cold a couple of times-- cold just seems out of place for me when it comes to San Antonio.

Are the newbies called plebes? I've heard that term used in some context.

Going into the military has to be a really big adjustment for some young people. I guess the guys in charge just have to jolt them into the real world to show them that they aren't with mommy and daddy any more.

Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

JUDY!(3) ~
I like how in the "Everyday Fatigues" photo, you're posing next to the one "outstanding" landmark in the entire area - that lone shrub growing in the middle of nothin'. Ha!

"Hmmm... Where should we take this picture? I know! Over there, in the forest."

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Judy Harper said...

Lee-No, I think plebes are military schools/colleges, after I posted I remembered it was new enlistees. Too simple, huh.
Stephen-Too funny! I never really paid attention to the bush. I believe I stood there because it was near the front door and once the picture was taken, we made a mad dash for inside! There really wasn't much greenery in the area.

Journaling Woman said...

Oh my what a speech. I guess if it help....

I love your photos. How cute you are in those photos and how serious.


Brian said...

Thanks for sharing those pictures. I don't think I've seen pictures of you from that time.

Judy Harper said...

Brian-Really, I never really thought about that.

MrsDoF said...

I heard that speech about suicide methods when I was taking EMT training in the late 1970s. Had not thought about it until you wrote here.
A blog is quite a thing with communication :)

There was a suicide here in town a few years ago... a school principal, if I remember correctly.
He left a note saying he was going to go out into the yard to do the deed (he shot himself) so that his daughter would not have to put up new wallpaper, and the hose or next rain would wash away the mess.

I remember thinking if he were so considerate, he would have waited until "death by natural causes" moved him into the next world.