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.

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