Saturday, August 11, 2018

Tout est Fini

What OTS thought they were doing to me...
(Source)
What it felt like to me...
(Source)
So the "big day" had arrived. The day before, The Departed (of whom I was one, no longer part of OTS, yet still at OTS) were instructed to move their automobiles from the OTS parking lot down to the parking lot at the main gate by such-and-such a time. A shuttle bus would bring us back to the Land of the Walking Dead. (Not part of, still there, a "dead man walking" kind of thing in the eyes of the OTS staff wienies.)

We were also instructed to be on the shuttle bus at 0800 (I think it was) the next day dressed in our uniforms, sans any sort of identifying insignia. Sort of a Branded scenario is what I think the imps of OTS had in mind.

Here's what those bastiges envisioned -



But here's what it felt like to me -



The night before the "walk of shame," I had sewn new staff sergeant stripes onto my shirt and made sure that my name tag and ribbons were all squared away. Over this I wore my uniform blouse, stripped of all identifying characteristics, as per orders. One thing though, which the OTS imps hadn't noticed, I wore an enlisted flight cap, not the officer cap the OTs normally wore.

I got on the bus with the rest of The Departed, and we road the bus down to the main gate. Where I disembarked and scurried to my waiting auto voiture. I was going to take off the blouse, then decided, "Fire truck it. The MFers wanna play games, let's play games!"

Off to Lackland I drove. At the gate not a word was said when I flashed my ID card. I found a parking space not too far from CBPO and dismounted. Off I went. The trip to the building was mobbed with basic trainees and instructors. Most of whom were chivvying the airmen in their tender care to and fro, back and forth, hither and yon.

As I strode manfully through this throng an instructor noticed me, I could see him glance at me, note the uniform and turn away. Immediately his head snapped back around as he sensed something not quite right with what he saw. It was then that I noticed the "you gotta be shitting me" look cross his face.

He nearly sprinted across the road to accost me. I had my trusty ID card ready.

"AIRMAN! What the Hell kind of uniform is that?!?!?!"

Calmly I turned to the young fellow, flashed my ID in his face and quietly said, "Good eyes Senior Airman. As you can see, I'm a staff sergeant and you are interfering in matters beyond your ken. Go back to your flight, there is nothing to see here."

"AIRMAN!  I don't know what kind of..."

 In my outdoor voice I responded, "ARE YOU FIRE TRUCKING DEAF AIRMAN? MOVE ALONG, RIGHT FIRE TRUCKING NOW!!!!!"

Startled him it did, before he could respond, I had dramatically pulled off my jacket to reveal my staff sergeant stripes in all their glory. Then I took one step towards Smokey Bear.

"Oh wow, sarge, sorry, I had no idea. Hope I didn't mess anything up. Some kinda exercise right?"

"Yes, yes indeed. Now carry on. We'll pretend this didn't happen."

Man, I had balls back then. Brazen I was.

Anyhoo...

I reported in to CBPO where I made contact with a Senior Airman (SrA) Weems, his real name, who took my orders. Noted that I had just bailed from OTS and he would start the process to send me off to Florida, where they still had a few F-4Ds in the inventory. (Might have been Tyndall AFB, it was a long time ago, so I wouldn't bet the mortgage on that.)

"So, Airman Weems, the Air Force just spent a crap ton of money to teach me all about computers. Wouldn't it make more sense to put me in a computer related field rather than go back to working Weapon Control Systems on an aircraft being phased out of the inventory?"

SrA Weems thought for a few seconds, then agreed with what I had to say, but, of course, it wasn't that easy. Paperwork was needed, I would need to "cross train" from my old specialty to the new. And, and, and...

"So you can't just give me orders to be a computer guy?"

"I know, I know, it makes no sense Sarge, but that's the way we do things. We don't get many former OTs here."

"I would imagine not." I said and SrA Weems made a few phone calls. Then we started the paperwork.

One could not just go from one specialty to another, one had to request it, and the request had to suggest three, not one, not two, but three specialties one wanted to cross train to. Rather than point out to SrA Weems, who was doing his job as he had been trained to do (whatever you do in life, never, ever be a "special case," systems can't handle "special cases"), I played along and filled out the cross training request.

My choices:
  • computer programmer
  • computer operator
  • air traffic controller
"Really, air traffic controller?"

"Hey, all the other choices sucked."

"Oh, okay."

Then it was off to check into the temporary quarters and report back to SrA Weems the next day. The ball was rolling, I was away from those imps at OTS and I felt like I was almost back in the real Air Force. SrA Weems, or "Weemsie" as I called him, did an outstanding job in the face of great idiocy and prevarication on the part of his idiot superiors. One of whom, a major, said not to work too hard helping out a "failed officer candidate."

I asked Weemsie for the fellow's name. He declined to give it to me, can't say I blame him, I'd be gone in a short while, he had to stay and work for the prick.

Anyhoo.

Tests had to be taken as the personnel pukes didn't believe my college transcript. So I took their tests.

Computer programming aptitude test - nailed it.

Computer programmer's school bypass test (so I didn't have to attend the tech school) - nailed it.

Then it was sit and wait. For like two months while the Air Force "processed" my paperwork.

I worked in the airmen records section over at Basic Training, where I had a great deal of fun. Met some great people, including a female tech sergeant who restored my faith in Air Force women. After the two complete idiots at OTS, this lady was a squared away professional. Not bad looking either, but I digress.

Where I worked was crawling with brand new, been in the Air Force maybe a week, baby airmen. They were so damned young and so damned scared of their own shadows. When I had to leave the work area to go elsewhere in the building, I felt like a great white shark swimming through schools of bait fish. The kids would scurry out of my way with panicky, jerky movements, until one day I told them to "knock it off."

"Airmen, no instructor badge, no problem. I am not a TI, some day, you'll be just like me. Act human for God's sake!"

But they'd still duck and cover when I moved through them. Ah, I vaguely remember being that way. Well, no, not ever really. Well, maybe the first day of high school, maybe.

I tried to go easy on 'em, they got enough grief from their instructors, who were paid to do that. Not my job to harass the kinder, as fun as that might seem.

One day at work I saw one of the airmen in the office reading the riot act to a small group of basic trainees. So, naturally curious and hating that sort of crap, I went over to see what was going on. Seems the airman two-striper was giving the trainees the business. I had that done to me in basic, and didn't care for it. No Smokey Bear hat, you do what the Air Force pays you to do, and that doesn't include belittling the new recruits.

"What do you airmen need?" I spoke up.

The airman who worked there full time, turned to me and said, "I'm handling this, go do something else."

Rather taken aback, I collected myself, took a deep breath then looked at the kid, then got right in his face.

"Give me your ID, then go sit at your desk. And yes, that's an order. If you refuse to do so, I will call the Security Police to come and take you into custody. Your move, do I read you your rights and make a phone call? Or do you go sit down?"

He went and sat down.

I helped the trainees get what they needed. When their instructor showed up, I gave him the airman's ID and told him what had happened. He went over and had a talk with the kid from my office. The kid didn't look happy.

When they were done I went over to the kid's desk.

"D'ya know what you did wrong?"

"Yes, Staff Sergeant."

"When did you finish Basic Training? Last year maybe?"

"Yes, last summer."

"Did you like the non-instructor staff giving you crap?"

"No, but I just thought that that was the way things were."

"Not anymore. Not while I'm here."

Kid behaved himself after that. In the meantime, The Missus Herself and the progeny were sitting up in Colorado, wondering when I was coming home. I was starting to wonder myself. So it was off to see Weemsie.

"Paperwork is in Sarge, all we're waiting for is approval for the cross training."

"What's their phone number?"

"I can call them..."

"Nope. I want to talk to them, personally."

With the phone number in hand, I called them. Asked for the guy Weems gave me the name of...

"Oh, he's on leave, started today."

"When is he coming back?"

"Thirty days."

"Harrumph, well let me talk to the person handling this while he's gone."

"There is no one else."

"What? Do you mean to tell me there is no one else in all of the Air Training Command who can do this? Everything comes to a screeching halt while he's on leave?"

"Uh, yes, I guess so."

"What's your name?"

"Uhh..."

"Look kid, I know where your office is, don't make me come over there. And what's your boss's name?"

He gave me his name, which I confirmed in the directory, and his boss's name. My next call was to the Inspector General (IG), I was done screwing around with these nitwits.

The next day Weems called me up, not long after the IG had called to tell me that I could expect action to be taken on my paperwork that very day. That if it did not I should call the IG back, they'd light some fires under selected butts until things started to move. The Master Sergeant I talked to at the IG's office had sounded pissed. And not at me.

"Weemsie, what's up?"

"Great news Sarge! Your cross training has been approved, but..."

"But? Weemsie, I don't like the sounds of that."

"You've also got a slot at the tech school for computer programming down in Biloxi, Keesler AFB."

"So, I have a degree in computer science, and some dumb ass thinks I need to go to tech school?"

"I know, but I can clear that up, shouldn't take more that a couple of days, but then it will take a week or so to get you an assignment and..."

"So Weemsie, what if I just say the Hell with it and take the slot at Keesler, when can I get those orders in hand?"

"This afternoon."

"Well, start printing them up son! I guess I'm going to Keesler."

"But you have a degree in that, and..."

"So the school should be pretty fire trucking easy, shouldn't it?"

"Well, if you're sure?"

"I am, print my ticket out of this zoo. I'll stop by this afternoon and be on the road tomorrow morning."

"I can probably get you out of here today."

"Nah, I need a good night's sleep first and leaving tomorrow seems pretty damned fitting."

"Why's that?"

"Dude, tomorrow is April 1st."

"Ah, April Fool's Day."

"Roger that."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I'm going to do the epilogue thing tomorrow. Keesler was alright except for one thing...



But it wasn't the heat, it was the humidity.

Stay tuned!



42 comments:

  1. You had a fair amount of patience there Sarge until you didn't.........(chuckle)

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    1. Yeah, my BS Tolerance Indicator (BSTI) pegged. Decided that it was time to bite back, hard.

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  2. Ain't it funny how time makes these stories entertainment? I bet it wasn't a fun row to hoe when you were in it. But I'm getting a kick out of it! Thanks for remembering...

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    1. Time is the thing. What is humorous now, wasn't so much back then.

      Thanks!

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  3. It appears that at OTS it wasn't the heat, it was the stupidity.

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  4. I do understand, and chuckled out loud at the appropriate places. I vaguely (okay, clearly) recall getting in an Ensign's face when he asked me, a lowly E-5, to provide some info that my dept hadn't tracked since the Navy changed things 3 years previously. He wanted to get horsey about it, and I wasn't having it. The other senior petty officers looked appropriately horrified during the event, and then rolled on the floor after said Ensign slinked away. That's when I got horrified, in fear of repercussions. (There weren't any.)

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    1. Heh, got horsey about it, I like that turn of phrase, a lot.

      Lowly E-5? Backbone of the services they are. (I'd know, I was one long enough!)

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  5. "Really, air traffic controller?"

    When I was working in base operations, I would go up to the tower when things were slow, air traffic controller was a pretty nice gig.

    As to Keesler AFB, my father was on the team that selected the site for that base.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Well, it had nothing to do with computer programming, which is what surprised Weemsie I think. Not sure I would enjoy the stress of the job.

      Keesler is well placed for what they do there I suppose. Yes, it was awful damned hot there, but I enjoyed my time on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A lot.

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    2. Did you do any deep sea fishing?

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    3. I don't, never tried it, I might some day.

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  6. Wow, what a bunch of petty sons (and daughters)-a-biotches to drum you out with a rankles uniform. What a pack of rabid dildos. Jerks.

    Sounds like Weems had his stuff straight. Hope he made good with his career in the AF. You have to have paper-pushers, and good paper-pushers are a rare find.

    As to invoking the IG, brilliant. Totally brilliant. Only thing better would have been to bring the wrath of the IG down on the whole sorrid lousy corrupt OT system, or at least Captain Ahab and her pack of village idiots. To separate a servicemember from his family, bad enough, to purposely make said servicemember suffer for their own faults, criminal.

    Good for you for not letting this pulsing pile of puss and corruption get to you, and to try to make the world a better place even as it was still holding you bent down over the table, so to speak. Showing lowly Airmen that NCOs aren't all a combo of Gunny Hartman and Vlad the Impaler.

    Sorry your wife and children had to suffer under these lackwits at Lackland. Spending time away doing something important is bad enough. Spending time away playing petty tyrant games and administrative obfuscation exercises is just too much.

    No wonder why this stuck in your craw for so long, festering like a a a 'Tumah' (as Arnold would say it ("Kindergarten Kop" reference.)

    Biloxi, well, the weather at Biloxi is bad, but must have felt like a cool wind of clarity NOT blowing over a stockyard, if you know what I mean.

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    1. Ah yes, such is life at times. Gotta stand on one's hind legs every now and again and bark back at the system.

      Not enough of that these days, more's the pity.

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    2. Now that I think about it, sending a computer science major graduate to Tech School to learn computer programing the Air Force Way!!! makes some sense. Most graduates wouldn't ever have seen some of the antiquated equipment the military is stuck with still supporting.

      Have an acquaintance who worked at NASA. He was a total jerk, a complete anal sphincter of a person, but he was one of the few village idiots who could actually work on the Space Shuttle computer systems, as antiquated as they were. As soon as NASA could, after they finally upgraded the SS systems (because they had to, lack of parts, techs, programming, et al forced NASA's hands, otherwise they would have flown early 70's tech up to the day they stopped flying the SS) they booted his sorry arse out. He ended up working for the FAA on their legacy ATC systems.

      Really liking this series. Sorry you had to go through all this bullscat, but sounds like you scored some windmills while tilting against 'The Man.'

      Looking forward to hearing about your 'fun in the Sun' in Biloxi.

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    3. Pretty sure there was no "logic" in the decision to send me to tech school.

      Then again, might have been some sort of perverse logic behind it.

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    4. Ah yes. Biloxi in July/August. Skeeters needed clearance on final.

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    5. May, June, July, and half of August.

      And I thought the Philippines was hot.

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    6. And where it's surprisingly cold during the winter. Something about wet and cold makes for miserable weather. Having it snow would actually be a blessing, as near freezing weather and high humidity, combined with wind, just cuts through any protective clothing like a knife, unless you go all Nanook. But then everyone has their heat turned up to what feels like 90 degrees and super dry, so you go from freezing cold Dagoba to Tatooine. Seriously, everyone bitches about it being hot during the summer and turns on the AC to frigid, but as soon as it gets below 60, suddenly everyone cranks up the heat so much you can crack a sinus passage from the instant drying.

      And skeeters are a thing until there's a hard freeze. Damned bloodsucking demons.

      I just dress for inside and suffer the cold weather if I am going someplace. Car has heat, and it's just not worth it lugging snivel gear on and off and around for 4-5 minutes of uncomfortableness. Now, if for some reason I have to stay out in that swampish freezer, it's full shoes and socks (not sandals,) pants (not shorts,) layers of shirts and jackets and scarves and watch-caps and gloves.

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    7. Beans, I was born, and spent 3/4 or so of my time growing up, in TN (hence the name). On my first ship, I had a good buddy, Hugh (Huge) Johnson, who was from Jackson, TN. Huge had done a tour at Adak, Alaska, and he swore he'd rather be at Adak in the winter than in TN. I didn't believe him, not entirely, but you're just one of the folks from whom I've heard similar things since.
      Sarge, I've enjoyed this story immensely. Sailors tend to make fun of the USAF, but this isn't the first time I've thought that I'd have enjoyed having a beer or twelve with you at an E-club somewhere.
      --Tennessee Budd

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    8. Why thanks Tennessee, high praise indeed!

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    9. Beans - I laughed at the Okinawans wearing heavy winter clothing when I got there in February (from Vermont). The next winter I had my field jacket, with liner, on when it dropped below 65.

      It's a different cold, like you say.

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    10. Tennessee Budd - I live in a college town - Gainesville, FL, and it is amusing watching all the young children who didn't pack their winter woolies go running to the nearest stores to buy cold weather gear, as OAFSarge says, below 65. And here I am in my t-shirt, cargo shorts and sandals (w/o socks) in anything above 40.

      Tennessee, the eastern part, gets downright cold/damp during winter. One year Mrs. Andrew and I rented a cabin on the NW side of the Smokie Mtn Nat Park for a week in January. It was quite enjoyable to soak in the hot-tub and then go cool off on the front porch, as long as the wind wasn't blowing. Wind blowing? Inside, fireplace roaring, huddled under blankets. Brrrrrr..

      It's like the opposite of Arizona, being in the South(east) during winter. Cold and Damp, with whipping winds.

      I have lived in Gainesville since 85, and have yet to turn on the heat. Only thing I really regret moving from a house to an apartment is not being able to open the windows during the cold.

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    11. Apartments = something breaks, landlord fixes it.

      Homeownership = something breaks, you fix it, or pay to have it fixed.

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    12. "Apartments = something breaks, landlord fixes it." Rental houses too. The landlord was over yesterday, painting on some parts that needed it. The a/c repair guys showed up to see what was wrong with the a/c and when he was done, he asked who got the bill. I just looked on while the landlord took care of it. Beats homeownership hands down.

      Paul


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    13. Sorry 'bout that, I don't know what happened.

      PLQ

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    14. Paul - Of the long March comment, yup, someone else paying for it is always good. But...

      I prefer owning property.

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    15. Yeah, that's weird. It's like a great field of snow, then, voila! A comment.

      ;)

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  7. Great stories, Sarge. They remind me a lot of some of the stories my Navy friends told me on the Iowa, so at least it's not branch-specific!

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  8. Replies
    1. A destiny I was most happy with.

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    2. In my rather limited experience, but based on actual meetings with many active and retired military, Senior NCO's basically run whatever branch they're in.

      Thank God they do.......

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    3. A good senior NCO will make a unit better. A bad one can destroy it all by his/her lonesome.

      DAMHIK

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  9. I am coming to think of you sort of as Ulysses! On to Ithica!

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  10. Here's another reason it was a good decision- you probably wouldn't have this blog and all these great employees!

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)