Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Screwing With The Lifers' Minds

One thing that those of us on the first (and usually only enlistment) liked to do was screw with the minds of lifers. It was fairly easy most of time, or so we thought at the time. One day at Otis while standing around and bullshitting, me and a buddy decided to mess with the shop supervisor's mind. We went into his office and announced we were going to let our hair grow long and grow beards. After he picked himself up off the floor (figuratively), he asked why we thought we could get away with letting our hair grow long and growing beards. My buddy said he was Irish and the Irish used to have long hair and beards. I said I was Scandihoovian and the Vikings had long hair and beards and those funny hats with the horns on them. ( My cousin was in the Navy at the same time and after I told him about this, he would threaten his supervisors that he would start wearing a funny hat with horns on it like the Vikings had.) We said since the blacks could grow Afros because it was part of their ethnic heritage, we thought it would only be fair for us to be allowed to follow our ethnic heritage. In truth I was a little pissed at the hair policy because if my hair started to creep over my ears, I'd get told to get a haircut, but blacks could have an Afro that stuck out an inch.

Now we really didn't mean to grow our hair or beards, but somebody took us seriously. It was either later that day or the next day we had to go see the zebra (lots of stripes E-7,E-8, or E-9) who was the supervisor over all the shops in field maintenance. He chewed us out and told us that there was no way we could grow our hair or have beards. We told him we thought we were being discriminated against and he kinda agreed but said there was nothing anybody could do about it.

Looking back, this may explain why I had to get a haircut in order to process out of the squadron when I was discharged. I probably would have fought more if I hadn't been getting an early out. Tricky Dicky cut the budget and they couldn't afford to pay me so they kicked me out almost 4 months early, but that's another story for another time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


One of my fond memories of Iceland is when some guys from my unit went and added airplanes to the Marine Corps Globe and Anchor on the Marine barracks. Someone cut out a stencil silhouette of the Super Connie (See pic in last post below) and used it to paint blue planes on the globe on both sides of North America. The emblem was on the end of the barracks next to a second floor window and they wondered how it got painted. We had vans like bread trucks and they backed it up to the building, got on top of the truck and did the deed, dropped down and drove away!! Afterwards, they posted an armed guard to prevent it happening again. Jarheads have no sense of humor!! I got a chuckle seeing the bright yellow places where they painted over the planes.

Below is a picture of two radar planes showing the before and after. The Connie is in the foreground and the AWACS is in the background. I used to say the Super Connie had a million dollars worth of electronics in a two-bit airplane. They were all built in the 50's and while searching the Intratubes I found out they didn't get replaced by the AWACS planes until '78!!

Below is a picture of the base at Keflavik, Iceland. Another thing I learned while looking for pictures of Keflavik was that the base closed in 2006. There is no active base left that I was at while on active duty. This picture is probably a fairly recent picture as it looks like there is an airline terminal in the foreground. When I was there the airport terminal for the airlines was in the middle of the base which is in the background of the picture. There is a large building on the center left of the background that might be the hanger I worked in.

One of my souvenirs of Iceland is a transistor radio. It's about the size of a paperback book and has two bands labeled LW (am band) and MW. There was Armed Forces Radio and TV on the base with a radio station on the AM band. There was an Icelandic station on the MW band. One day I had it on the Icelandic station and left the room to go take a shower. When I came back the radio had English coming out of it. I asked my roommate if he had changed the radio to the American station and he said no. Turned out the Icelandic station would alternate between speaking in Icelandic and English. The music was music which is why I had it on the Icelandic station. As for the MW band, after I got back to the states, the only thing I could get on that band was weather.
Armed Forces Radio and TV also had a TV Station. It would come on late in the afternoon and be on all evening. Some of the shows I remember were the original "Lassie" show (where Timmy didn't have a father) and others from the 50's.
When I did Spell-Check it wanted to replace Keflavik with cleavage, but that would be another story!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

New Orders

I had been at K.I.Sawyer less than a year when one day I got a call from the orderly (never could figure out why it was called that) room and told to go there. When I got there,they said there was a new set of orders for me. The orders were for Otis AFB, MA. I was asked if I would except the orders or was there some reason why I would turn them down. I did some quick mental arithmetic (I still could do that then as I was still young) and figured out that I had a little over a year left on my enlistment and with a minimum of 6 months on a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) I would have less than a year left on my enlistment and no long have enough time left to be eligible for a tour in 'Nam. So of course I said, "I don't see any reason why I could turn down these orders."

I took some leave and then headed for Cape Cod. When I got to the base and turned into the Main Gate, I got a surprise. Instead of a Sky Cop in the shack guarding the base, there was a huge sign on the building saying incoming personal report to building number.... I thought this is great, how in the hell am I supposed to know where this building is?? I drove on to the base down a divided highway for a ways and came to a traffic circle (my welcome to Cape Cod was a traffic circle [or is it a roundabout] at the foot of the bridge on to Cape Cod) and looked around and headed for the nearest building with a flag pole in front. In the building, after looking at my orders, they called the shop where I would be working and someone came to lead me to the shop.

At the Sheetmetal Shop I got introduced to everybody there at the time. When talking to the supervisor, one of the first things he asked me was, "How would you like to go to Iceland next month??" I said, "Not really." He said, "Well, you don't have a choice. Everybody has already been up there and now it's your turn." Turned out 'Everybody' was all the white guys, the black guys got sent to Thailand for their TDY. Since the big one, WWII, Iceland wouldn't let blacks in the country because of something that happened during the war. The guy that was up in Iceland decided to stay another month to get some more per diem (at the time only a couple bucks a day), so I had a little more time to get settled in before leaving.

When I was to fly up to Iceland, we got delayed by fog. I noticed that a guy going up from the Avionics Shop was black. I walked over to the shop and told my supervisor that there was a black guy going up from the EM Squadron. He said they would send him back on the return flight. Well, he flew up with me and flew back with me 30 days later. NATO had pressured Iceland and they were finally allowing blacks in the country. When I told my supervisor that on my return, his reply was that our squadron still wouldn't send blacks up there.

Iceland was interesting, I was there from the first week in May until the first week in June and I wore my parka everyday except the day I got there. There were no trees within sight. Everyday we had to sweep the lava dust out of the hanger. We worked 12 hour days, six days a week. We had EC-121 Super Constellations that were the predecessors of AWACS. We would send them out to patrol the North Atlantic using its radar to keep track of the Russian planes.
Once the plane was launched we didn't have much to do other than the daily sweeping of the hanger. I learned many different types of solitaire and worked on a lot of jigsaw puzzles. After the plane came back we would go out and service it. That included wiping off all the oil from the engines, (I used to say they didn't fly, they slid thru the air on their own oil slick) filling the gas tanks and of course pumping the oil tank full. On an eight hour flight it could use about 40 gallons of oil.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More K.I.

I would have liked to post some pictures from my time at K.I.Sawyer, but at this time I don't know where they would be if I still have any pictures left of that period in time. I'm pretty sure that at one time I took a picture of my little white Corvair buried in a snowdrift with just the orange ball on the antenna sticking out. There would be times when the base would be shut down because of snow. I would bust my ass getting my car out of the snow where it was parked and leave the base so I wouldn't get shanghaied into shoveling snow on base. Looking back on it, I probably worked harder at getting my car unstuck than I would have if I had stayed in the barracks. (Sometimes people work harder at getting out of work than they would if they just did the job.)

During times like that (base closed because of snowstorms) driving past the end of the runway to get to the main gate would involve driving in 'White Out' conditions. Once while riding with someone else, I got to witness an accident. The guy rear-ended another car in the white out. If memory serves me correctly, it was the guy whose radiator sprung a leak it the 'radio move' and the repaired radiator sprung a leak again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


After I got to my first permanent base (Dow) I was allowed to grow a moustache if I kept it within the limits set in the regulations. As I was only shaving once a week at the time it took awhile to grow enough fuzz on my upper lip to have a moustache. When I first grew a moustache it was so blond that the picture on my ID looked like I had a fat lip. One of the black guys I worked with once suggested I use mascara on my moustache to make it show up better. I never put anything on it, just kept it trimmed according to the regs, although at times I pushed the envelope by letting it extend past the corners of my mouth.

As for the shaving bit, there were times when by Friday it would look like maybe I forgot to shave that morning. It took five days to get a Five-O-Clock shadow!! Sunday night I would shave and be good for another week.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Fangled Tire Repair

One day I got a flat tire on my car. I took the flat to the base gas station on K.I. They said they had a new way to patch flat tires. I don't remember if it was a nail or a stone that poked a hole in the tire, but anywho, they reamed out the hole and glued a plug in the hole. The spare tire on my Corvair sat above the engine in back. I guess the heat from the engine was too much for the repair on the tire as after awhile (I don't remember how many days it was) the plug blew out of the tire and it was flat again. I took it back and they put a patch on the inside of the tire and I didn't have a problem with it again.
One of my cousins said that at about the same time period he had a flat tire and took it to a gas station. The owner of the station says "I got a new way to fix flats. I don't have to take the tire off the rim to repair it." He proceeded to ream out the hole and install a plug. After that my cousin told him, "But that tire has a tube in it."