It is hard to believe, but recently, I recalled that it has been 44 years since I went through Basic Training in the Air Force. I consider this, along with my marriage to my wife, to be one of the most momentous events of my life. It brought me into adulthood in a hurry. There are images and sounds from that time that I can still recall. But not many. Drinking from a water fountain and running down the stairs are among them. The sound of the taps on the Training Instructors boots would still give me pause, if I were to hear them again.
Those were days when banks of phone booths in the training area would always have lines of airmen waiting to make a call home. This happened because all trainees would be given a break at the same time. There were, of course, no cellphones in those days.
There were smoke breaks for those who smoked; otherwise, you had to study your training manual. The chow hall provided us with three meals a day, eaten as fast as possible in the 15 minutes allotted. Sodas were available for breakfast, lunch and dinner back then. Although I would have milk for breakfast, it was soda the rest of the time. That is another change, there are no sodas allowed in basic training now.
Credit cards were unobtainable, debit cards did not exist. To make any kind of purchase we had to have cash. After a few weeks, we were paid twenty dollars to buy items we needed to replace, like soap and shaving cream. We would be required to write down the serial numbers of our paper money, just in case it went missing!
I remember running a 6:38 mile in combat boots. I have never forgotten that time. We needed to finish under 8 minutes. As one of the group that finished the run early, I went back to the slower trainees and “encouraged” them to pick up their pace by shouting inspiration at them. If anyone took more than 8 minutes to complete the run, we would all have to run again.
It seemed rough back then, but thinking of those days now gives me an appreciation for the simpler times of my life.