Thursday, August 28, 2008

Weirdness and a Milestone

I got a hit just after midnight today from a person in Kathmandu (yeah, that Kathmandu) who googled this:

Search Words: cumulative hearing and woman buttered syndrome provocation

OK, this may not be the strangest hit I’ve ever gotten but it’s damned close. This query beats all of the other strangeness that causes people to show up here, based on the sheer cryptic nature of the search words, alone. Therefore, it’s entirely natural and appropriate to wonder “What was this guy thinking?” and really mean it! Throw in this person’s rather exotic location and you get profound weirdness, from my point of view. Notice there’s no quotes, so one could come calling based upon a hit on one or more of the search words, in any combination. This is what the guy clicked through on… ten pages into his search:

· Exile in Portales: June 2007

Just to be visible in the back seat of a car with a woman offers provocation enough in many neighborhoods--Karima made the throat-cutting gesture as ...
exileinportales.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html - 343k –(सँग्रहित प्रतिलिपिहरू - यस्तै पृष्ठहरु

Thank God it wasn’t anything about buttered women. (Click the screen shot for larger, if you wish.)

―::―

Milestone: 45 years ago today I reported in at the Los Angeles induction center (there’s an official term for the place, like “Military Recruit Processing Center” or some such, but I can’t remember what it is) at the ungodly hour of 0530 for about five hours of poking, prodding, probing, and blood-letting… followed by the filling out of many forms, punctuated with long periods of inactivity (and thus: boredom), culminating in mid-afternoon when me and about 150 other guys were sworn in to the armed forces of these United States. Following the swearing-in ceremony the Army, Navy, and Marine recruits were immediately loaded on to buses and set off for their basic training bases, all in California. The Air Force inductees… about 20 of us, if I recall correctly… were bussed to LAX where we waited for an evening flight to San Antonio and Lackland Air Force Base.

My parents met me at the airport and we said our good-byes. Mom was pretty composed but she did shed a few tears. My father, ever the cynic, pulled me aside shortly before I boarded the plane and said, in all seriousness…

“I only have one piece of advice for you: Stay away from airplanes.”

Don’t forget, Gentle Reader, my father was a retired USAF Lt. Col, with more than a few missions over Deutschland during The Unpleasantness of 1939 - 1945. And, not to go on in any great detail, this bon mot was probably one of the best pieces of advice he ever gave me. In a nut shell: there’s no such thing as a comfortable or hospitable flight line. Every single one of them is either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, or otherwise inhospitable to human life, in general. Let alone someone whose primary job is to crawl in, on, or around very large, bright shiny aluminum tubes, aka aircraft. Or stand around guarding them. Or arming and fueling them. But, Hey! Some people like that sort of thing. I don’t think I would have. As luck would have it I never did go near airplanes, professionally speaking, during my entire career. I digress.

Anyhoo. We arrived in San Antonio sometime around midnight… the last flight in. We were herded on to a USAF bus and driven to Lackland where we disembarked to the screams of nasty little men in fatigues, otherwise known as “Military Training Instructors,” or MTIs. The TIs formed us up in ragged ranks and called roll. I got the shock of my young life when a wiry little TI walked directly up to me, put his face about 25 millimeters from mine and shouted “Are you a QUEER, Airman Pennington?” I froze, speechless. “I REPEAT! ARE YOU A QUEER, AIRMAN?” I mumbled something, anything, by way of negative reply and thoughtfully tacked on “sir” at the end. Which brought down even more vitriol on my poor head, something to the effect of “I WORK for a living! Don’t you EVER call me ‘sir!’” Followed with “You’re from CALIFORNIA, Pennington, so I think you’re a QUEER! I’m WATCHING you, Airman! Don’t you ever forget that!”


Wow. Welcome to Lackland!


We (about 100 of us, by this point) spent the next two hours in-processing. We were then assigned to Basic Military Training (BMT) flights, handed over to our TIs, and marched (such as we could) off to our barracks, where we bedded down just before 0300. I had been up for nearly 24 hours and was beginning to question the wisdom of joining the Air Force.


I really questioned my decision when we were gently awakened two and a half hours later at 0530 by loudspeakers right outside our windows blaring Reveille and our TIs (two of ‘em) stomping down the middle of the open bay barracks, shouting - no, screaming... and that was ALL they did, seemingly - obscenities at anyone and everyone, for no good or apparent reason, other than to make noise. We were rousted, showered, shaved, dressed, formed into yet another ragged formation (all in about ten to 15 minutes... the pace was “dead run") and marched off to the mess hall, about four blocks away. And so began my first full day in the US Air Force. Breakfast was the best part of that day... let me tell ya.


And so began my career, too, 22 years of it. But Hey! It was fun. Really. All's well that ends well.


―:
:―

Today’s Pic: An appropriate re-run. Me, following basic training… from a hometown news release Mom saved. 1963.

25 comments:

  1. Kathmandu and buttered women - I would think you would get a lot of those hits :) Are you buttering us up or just spreading butter all over us? Too funny!

    I have seen lots of photos of you as a young man, but I would not have recognized that airman photo, but it is cool that your mom saved it.

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  2. I don't know...something about buttered women and queer airmen. Maybe I need another cup of coffee.

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  3. Wow! Look how young you were! I wouldn't have recognized you either.

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  4. I've never been asked that question by a drill instructor, but the one time a guy who fancied himself to be impressive and imposing asked me such a question, I grinned and said, "Why? Are you looking for a date?"

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  5. Those Air Force "School" photos are freaking hilarious....nobody would guess you, or me, or Mushy, are the same guys we were back then. And again, maybe we are not?

    ;)

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  6. Lou sez: Are you buttering us up or just spreading butter all over us?

    More the former than the latter, I would think! ;-)

    Amy sez: Maybe I need another cup of coffee.

    I probably could have used one when I wrote this, eh? Late night, and all that.

    Jenny sez: Wow! Look how young you were!

    Amazin', ain't it? ;-)

    Barry sez: I grinned and said, "Why? Are you looking for a date?"

    Excellent response, Barry! If I'd said something like that at that time I'd probably have gotten my ass kicked around the block, twice. You simply cannot believe how shocked I was. I'd NEVER heard language like that before, ever. My father and all his friends... being the officers and gentlemen they were... might have dropped an occasional f-bomb in conversation (by mistake), but I'd never been exposed to such language, not to mention other forms of verbal abuse, as I experienced over my six weeks of basic. That TI would be court-martialed today for using language like that.

    I'm fond of saying things like "this ain't your father's Air Force" in a rather disparaging manner about the AF today. But in this particular case, getting rid of this sort of abuse is a change for the better.

    Pat sez: nobody would guess you, or me, or Mushy, are the same guys we were back then. And again, maybe we are not?

    I'm most definitely not the young, naïve, starry-eyed kid I was back then... far, far from it, LOL! You, OTOH, seem to have preserved all YOUR innocence, Pat. ;-)

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  7. That photo so reminds me of a similar one of my uncle, from his days in the Air Force. He was stationed mostly in Montana, as I recall, during the mid 1950's. Anyway, similar look, same hat :-)

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  8. All I can say is "What Amy said!" I definitely need more sleep.

    Great picture, though. I wouldn't have recognized you either.

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  9. Buttered women?

    Maybe it's just some sort of cultural "thang" in Katmandu. LOL

    Loved the Air Force pic, Buck. Looks so much like my husband's Lackland picture from 1969.

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  10. See right there is why I would never make it ...I don't care who you are, if you are going to treat me like that you will be getting it right back! I would have been kicked out or shot or something for telling that D**k head where to go and how to get there!
    On another note ..you were kinda cute in your picture !
    Then again there is just something about a man in uniform.......I'll leave it at that!
    I'm so glad I made my hubby wear his when we got married ,so I will always have those pictures !

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  11. Jim: We ALL pretty much looked the same in those pictures. The classic "deer in the headlights" look, I believe it's called.

    Becky: Thank ya, Ma'am!

    Sharon: Lord only knows what sort of cultural differences there are in Katmandu, eh? And... based on this particular query, I'm not sure I wanna know what they are...

    Jenn sez: See right there is why I would never make it ...I don't care who you are, if you are going to treat me like that you will be getting it right back!

    With ALL due respect, that's easy to say from the comfort of your home. I literally saw six-foot-something, 250-lb guys reduced to tears after an intensive ass-chewing by those TIs. They were/are pros at this, believe me. And if you DID have the temerity to "come back," well... there were many ways of dealing with that, like the stockade, among others. You learned to conform, but quick. Or you were out on your butt, and that's NOT a good thing to have happen to you.

    Then again there is just something about a man in uniform.......I'll leave it at that!

    Ummm... I know. And I played it for all it was worth, too! And then some. ;-)

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Ummm... Jenn. Just askin', but why didja delete these? I thought ya made good points, and I took care to say "with ALL due respect" in my original answer. Which is to say: I wasn't getting down on ya.

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  15. Don't they put yak butter in their tea? Well, apparently they put the butter to other uses, too...

    And I think you look like a baby in that picture!

    Pat Houseworth said: Those Air Force "School" photos are freaking hilarious....nobody would guess you, or me, or Mushy, are the same guys we were back then.

    I, on the other hand, still look exactly like my basic training photo.

    Yeah, right. If you believe that, I have some beachfront property for sale, right here in Lost Wages.

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  16. "I'm fond of saying things like "this ain't your father's Air Force" in a rather disparaging manner about the AF today. But in this particular case, getting rid of this sort of abuse is a change for the better."

    Probably, but I think we've swung waaaay too far in the other direction, at least on the officer training side of the house. The amount of stress you can impart on officer candidates is a joke (because of "anti-hazing" regs), and the fact that AFROTC's month long intensive training (Field Training) puts cadets who are just a year senior in a position of power and responsibility instead of using professionals really isn't a good thing. Being made to cry by a professional MTI? Fine, expected. Getting overly stressed because you're being yelled at by some ninny who is a year older than you and in three years will be the EXACT same rank as you (and probably just as clueless)? Not so cool. Yet I still saw it happen, several times. How you're planning on being an effective officer when you can't even deal with that level of stress is beyond me.

    You are right about breakfast being the best meal of the day, though. I usually ate moderately (relatively speaking) at the other meals of the day, but at breakfast I went to town. As many strips of bacon as they would give me (usually 5-6, unless Mrs. Johnson was serving me, in which case I could get as many as I wanted), 6 pieces of bread, a large amount of scrambled eggs, two big hashbrown patties, a banana, and three glasses of water and/or powerade, all downed in 5-6 minutes. I had 10 minutes, but that's more time I could be chilling on the drill pad in formation, writing a letter relatively safe from hassling. That's probably the only actual change I took away from FT: I'm much more of a breakfast guy now.

    Your story about the first morning brought back some good memories though...on the E side of things, you're assumed to know absolutely nothing when you start off, so the MTIs can push you and lead you around as they see fit. On the O side of things (at FT anyway...I suspect it's a little different at OTS, and I'm not even going to try to comment on the Colorado Cuckoos), you're expected to know what the hell you're doing from day 1. Of course, no one rarely does, so that leads to some rather comical instances of trying to transit to the various areas of the training area, like the one flight I heard about that only managed to transit ~80 yards in the space of an hour and a half.

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  17. Should add that the 80 yards wasn't even in the right direction, the total distance they had to go was probably 200 yards, and that by the end of FT my flight could've accomplished that task starting from a dead sleep in about 5 minutes.

    So yeah, they were definitely doing it wrong.

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  18. Christina sez: Don't they put yak butter in their tea? Well, apparently they put the butter to other uses, too...

    I've read that, too! The butter in the tea bit, anyway. Not so sure about their women... ;-)

    As for me looking like a baby... well, I WAS, for all intents and purposes. Young, dumb, and full of...ummm... you fill in the blank.

    I, on the other hand, still look exactly like my basic training photo.

    Of that I have little doubt, Christina, your disclaimer aside!

    Mike: Excellent points. I, too, believe the pendulum has swung waaay too far in the other direction, which is a manifestation of one of my favorite bugaboos: Political Correctness. I thought the military might be our last great hope in avoiding PC-thought, but things aren't turning out that way. Then again, I can only speak for what I see and hear about the Air Force... the other services may or may not be in this shape. Kinda lends credence to that ol' insult we've always gotten: "There's the military, and then there's the Air Force."

    Interesting you should mention FT... Earlier this evening (morning?) I was reading some comments you left last year (in July) about FT. You and SN1 had an interesting exchange on the subject.

    And you've made me think... perhaps I should go back to eating breakfast. I'm having weight issues of late (as in "can't gain any"), and a big-ass breakfast might solve... or at least mitigate... that problem. Food for thought (ahem).

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  19. I'm glad you did get to read them before I deleted them. I just wanted you to get where I was comming from and what I meant and then I thought...Nobody else really needs to ,so I deleted them.
    That's all I need some crazy Buck followers comming over to my blog telling me off ,because they took it the wrong way and thought I was being nasty or something.
    So I chose to not show that I said anything back and people can think whatever they want,because they don't know me.

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  20. I'm glad you did get to read them before I deleted them.

    You deleted them before I read them... on the blog. But we all get our comments in e-mail, right? So... I still have 'em. Want me to put 'em back? (I jest, of course!) :-)

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  21. What,you get them in email ? I don't and please don't do that. What did you do to get them in email?

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  22. Blogger has three tabs: "Posting," "Settings," and "Layout." Click on "Settings," and then click on the "Comments" link. Scroll down to the bottom of that page and you'll see a box ("Comment Notification Email") where you can type in your e-mail addy. And Walla! Comments in e-mail!

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  23. Ok ,thanks I just thought you got a mail saying you had a new comment, but not what it was.

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  24. Well, I can't speak to the E side of things, or to either OTS/OCS/etc. or the academies on the O side of the house, but Army kids spend 30 days actually out in the field, where the stress comes not so much from the fact that someone is yelling at you so much as it does from the fact that you are being forced to make a decision in a simulated fire fight right the f**k now and if you make the wrong one people from your team "die." The Navy kids go out to the fleet on a ship in the real Navy...if the junior officers can't straighten then out, I'm sure some time spent with the residents of the Goat Locker will solve that problem. The Marine guys do some time at Quantico while they're still cadets, and then obviously all of them go to The Basic School as soon as they commission.

    Point being, I don't think it really matters what the "intensity level" is of the USAF compared to the other services, their training is just structured inherently better, at least on the ROTC side of things.

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  25. Point being, I don't think it really matters what the "intensity level" is of the USAF compared to the other services, their training is just structured inherently better, at least on the ROTC side of things.

    I don't disagree. At all.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask.