Back in 1975 when I arrived in San Antonio for Basic Training, I was accompanied by forty other recruits from all parts of the country. It was my first ever airplane flight.
As i recall, even though it was mid-September and late at night, around 8:00 P.M., it was quite warm, or at least warmer than I was used to for that time of the year.
Coming off the airplane into the terminal, we were met by an Air Force sergeant who directed us to a waiting blue bus. You’ve seen these buses on the freeway, haven’t you? Dark blue with white letters that read “U.S. Air Force.” Every seat was taken by two anxious trainees wondering what they had gotten themselves into.
Everyone was in street clothes and with differing lengths of hair, from afros to ROTC regulation to Roger Daltrey wannabees with hair past their shoulders. I, myself, had received a trim from my sister a week before, so that i wouldn’t attract too much attention from the T.I.’s (Training Instructors).
The bus left the airport and proceeded towards Lackland Air Force Base. When we arrived, the bus came to a stop in front of a large building. Suddenly, from out of the darkness, the loudest voice i had ever heard (up to that point) boomed out, “Get the f*#k off my bus!!!” We exited at a run and made our way to a black top covered area. We formed up in lines and rows, soon to be known as rank and file.
At this time, a tall and rather large T.I. strode into view. I still remember the “click, click, click” sound of the metal taps on his combat boots. He looked us over with an air of disgust and yelled out ‘Don’t be eyeballing me! I see you doing that!” He gave out the command to pick up our bag, and then to put it down. I had brought a small gym bag, others had come with hard sided luggage. We spent what seemed like an eternity picking them up and putting them down, over and over again, until he was tired of that.
Next, he looked around for someone to target. Spotting a tall, lanky fellow in the next row, he came up to him. “I bet you think you’re a badass, don’t you? ” The hapless recruit replied “no, sir” as loud as he could. “NO, i’m sure you think you’re a real badass. Jump up!” The kid jumped up. The T.I. snarled, “Now I know you think you’re a badass. I told you to jump up. I never said for you to come down!”
That night, we were able to find our bunks and get some sleep. We went to bed at 2:00 A.M. exhausted, from the flight, the bus ride, and the encounter with the T.I. We were actually allowed to sleep until 7 AM, the last time that would happen for over six weeks.
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