21) Sergeant Stanley – United States Air Force Screw-Up

In the last post you read about the role my friend Thom played in helping me develop self-confidence, during and right after high school. In this post you will read about my pitiful performance in junior college then enlisting in the Air Force right before I received my draft notice into the Army.

Skipping over the basement parties, irresponsible driving of 1960’s muscle cars and the pathological womanizing of 1968 and 1969, I arrive at a point in my autobiography when I succumb to forces in life that are bigger than Oliver M. Stanley – the most pressing being the United States military draft.

My college grades at North Hennepin State Community College (and a one semester appearance at The University of Minnesota) were so ridiculous as to dare the army to draft me – which they  did. Luckily, I was able to enlist in the U.S. Air Force just weeks before being drafted. So on March 9, 1970, I shipped off to Lackland AFB to undergo basic training.

Ground Radio Operator

During basic training I took some tests to uncover what Air Force career might suit me and provide the best use of my keen intellect in the service of our country. Well someone determined that I would make an ideal Ground Radio Operator – you know the kind of radio that is portable and  made to be set-up for field operations. I  disputed this finding with the  argument that it was my belief that most Air  Force personnel worked in offices, where there was little need for a portable radio (or tents for that matter). Unimpressed with this argument, at least in the eyes of the U.S. Air Force, I remained a Ground Radio Operator.

Keesler Air Force Base – Biloxi, Mississippi

Just to prove their point, the Air Force then sent me to Keesler Air Force Base to learn the craft of ground radio operations – which I did. If the writer skips ahead and leaves out his tour of the devastation of hurricane Camille, his walks along the beach with his friend Brian Raymer (a remarkable companion from Syracuse and singer of awesome 60’s songs and saves his description of Miami Beach, Florida for another post, he can tell you here he is then shipped to Minot Air Force  Base in North Dakota.

Ah, Minot. “A girl behind every tree,” That was our saying in 1970 at Minot AFB, “but no trees.”

These days, in the year 2013, we tend to honor our military veterans, their mission, their sacrifices and the cool technology they develop. Here is a link below that talks about the battle against sexual assaults. From battling the Viet Cong to battling gender discrimination. How times have changed. I decided to paste it in here for you just in case you are too young or were too smart and avoided Minot Air Force Base and have no idea what you are reading here.

http://www.dvidshub.net/news/103053/team-minot-fights-battle-sexual-assault#.UUhhJhzrym0

An Important but Seemingly Obscure Job

Anyway, my real job at Minot Air Force  Base was supporting the communications of the B-52 bomber pilots with little pieces of paper that they used to authenticate their identity while flying around over North Dakota and Montana.  Each calendar day, every mission (sortie) called for a different little piece of paper containing a different code. Although the date was clearly marked on each little piece of paper, more than once, I provided a crew member with the wrong piece of paper. And boy, did folks get upset.

My military career was undistinguished,  and since all parties recognized this, I was given my honorable discharge in 1972, nearly two years early.  This was another clear sign that I had done nothing remarkable in my life to this point – and at age 22 – was not very comfortable conforming to any system that prioritized the goals of the group. Like high school, college and Minneapolis, I just wasn’t fitting in. But I didn’t have the awareness or self-confidence yet to recognize this something that could be a virtue.

What was your job in the military?

Next: Hide Your Daughters

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