My 60th day of basic training came up. Yea! I was going to be an Air Force pilot! The U.S. Air Force recruiter had told me to go to the orderly room and tell them that I wanted to go to flight school. I believed him.
I went, and I thought the clerk would never stop laughing. The first sergeant came out of his office, and he laughed too. He said, “Son, your recruiter lied to you. You have to be a college graduate to go to flight school. Get out of here and let these men go back to work.”
I was so mad I wanted to wring that recruiter’s neck in Whitesburg.
We were split up and given guard duty all over the base. I had to walk around the stockade with a piece of broomstick in my hand, looking for escapees. It was full. They yelled out the window, and cursed me out because I would give them a cigarette. A second lieutenant decided to sneak behind one of our men who was guarding the bank and take his unloaded rifle away from him. The young man broke his jaw with the butt of the rifle.
There was a thief in the barracks. We kept our billfolds inside our pillowcases at night. Someone with a razorblade had robbed several men. We had to write down the serial numbers of the money we had and lock it up. I always had extra money because I didn’t drink. Some men accused me of stealing. I had to go to the training instructor’s room and account for every bill I had.
I was a trusting soul, and started loaning money. Those guys from New York were always broke. “I’ll pay you back next payday.” They signed an IOU, so I just knew they would pay me back. When I left Sampson Air Force Base, I had $105 in IOUs in my pocket. “Give me your address and I’ll send you the money next payday.” I’m still waiting for them to pay me back.
We finally got a weekend pass. I hitchhiked to the nearby town of Glens Falls. I walked around town and saw the sights. I got a hotel room and stayed Saturday night. My hotel bill was $1.50. I went girl watching until noon on Sunday, then with nothing else to do and no car, I went back to the base. Some of the men from New York City and Pennsylvania went home for the weekend.
At the firing range, I scored a 300, which was a perfect score. I had been shooting a rifle since the age of seven. They awarded me the Expert Rifleman Ribbon.
We had combat training, then the obstacle course. That was easy. It was like getting on top of the mountain back home, and running all the way to the bottom. A boy from West Virginia and I were the first ones through the course, even though about 200 started before us. All those city boys were last.
The inspector found four buttons loose on my shirt, and I was punished for that. I had to clean the steps with my toothbrush, then brush my teeth with it.