The adventure started in December of ’69, when the Selective Service folks announced my draft number (#121) on national television. I was a junior in college, with a student deferment, so wouldn’t be called up till the fall of ’71.
My immediate future pre-determined, I didn’t interview for a job after graduation, turned down a Navy commission and enlisted in the Air Force – after being promised that they would offer me a commission during Basic Training – sure!
Basic Training was an unforgettable experience – Flight #1461; formations, drills, exercise, a little shooting; it was all pretty routine for a country kid. Interestingly, my squad leader washed out the first week and I moved up, then our dorm chief left during the second week and I got his job; they must have liked my confidence in calling out drill commands. About half-way through Basic, they offered a bypass specialist test, which allowed for bypassing technical training school. I passed the Accounting test and then got the base of my choice – Blytheville AFB, Arkansas close to Brenda’s hometown, where she was still in college.
We could register a desired assignment with base personnel, so I immediately volunteered for Alaska; but
when the orders finally came I declined, as it would have required an extension.
In late 1973, the Air Force began to downsize. I could get out immediately, trading each remaining year of active duty for two years in the reserves. This seemed like a good deal, so I went to Personnel and signed up. However, the reserve unit was six hours away, Brenda’s teaching contract couldn’t be ended early and the accounting job I found locally paid less than I was making as an E-4. After gathering these facts, I didn’t like the deal; the orders were cancelled and I remained on active duty.
There was a direct commissioning program in Hospital Administration that I first applied for in the fall of '71. The first “decline” letter included a note that most of those chosen had masters degrees, so I enrolled in an on-base “Masters in Business Management” program – four nights a week from 6-9. In March of '74, as I was completing the program, the acceptance came through for the direct commission. On 19 July, 1974, I pinned on the bars and my enlisted years were over – 2 years and ten months – what an adventure!