Breaking the Rules

            If you have not gotten the point by now, I will mention one more time that Air Force Tech School is a sadistic and soul crushing process meant to destroy the spirit so utterly that regular active duty is hippy freedom in comparison. In order to compensate, those of us who were a bit wilier in nature tended to find ways to break the sacred AF rules for no good reason but that it felt wonderful. I’ve already mentioned a few such as the impermissible smoking and sneaking back in after dark.

            I would like to point out that although these minor acts of rebellion may sound rather silly; the consequences of being caught were somewhat dire under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Penalties I personally witnessed being doled out for extraordinarily irrelevant things included formal reprimands, reduction in rank, large fines, restricted privileges, and even incarceration and being ousted from the service. It behooves me to provide an example that is as accurate and unexaggerated as I am capable of providing that the reader that they understand the full gravity of the shenanigans we so blithely engaged in with nary a care in the world.

            Diana was a decent Airman, perhaps a wee bit on the immature side and certainly with a level of physical motivation more leisurely than desirable; a trait not at all uncommon amongst the female airmen who were chauvinistically characterized as possessing “Air Force Ass” or AFA. She like many managed to escape the morning runs by claiming the condition of ‘shin splints’, a medically unverifiable condition in which the patient moans of sharp leg pains that possess no other physical symptoms. Getting out of the run was apparently not enough for her and she set her sights on one of the fabled bus passes that would allow her to bypass the tedious morning march to the school building. Unable to obtain one legitimately as broken bones were required, she settled on the simulated bus pass with the assumption that no one would really check.

            One day riding the bus back from school, a Lt Col, a fairly high ranking individual with a real pole up her ass about sneaky young airmen, boarded the bus and demanded passes. Diana, in a moment of panic, told the nosy Colonel that she had permission from her school instructor to ride the bus due to leg pains. Despite the extremely strong emphasis on integrity, it was generally assumed you were maliciously lying, so all claims including this one were thoroughly checked out. This one failed the test and Diana was in hot water.

            For the crime of riding the bus and then lying about it, she was fined $1000, reduced in rank from Airman (E-2) to Airman Basic (E-1) meaning a lasting reduction in pay, and remanded to Correctional Custody (CC) for a period of 30 days following graduation from school in place of receiving leave to return home like most everyone else.  CC was essentially a cross between prison and basic training wherein the incarcerated lived under strict conditions with days filled with labor and no contact with the outside world. As he was later stationed at Langley with me, I had the opportunity to ask her about it. Lots of screaming, short meal times, work from down to dusk, and no talking, reading, watching TV or really anything but thinking about the gravity of your crimes like riding the bus. Furthermore, the stigma of it remained in her personal record and eliminated her for consideration for early promotion to another rank 3 years later. Again, for riding the bus.

            None of this was a surprise; we all knew the rules and the consequences and chose to break them anyway with some more successful than others. Where I classify myself as one of successful chaps, others like Diana served as examples of what one little slip up could mean. I remember one fellow who was unceremoniously nailed for each and every tiny infraction. Being a bit late, oversleeping, being out of uniform (forgot a button), etc landed this poor goon in CC at least 3 times before they finally kicked him out as he was spending far more of his time in the klink than in school to the point that it was calculated his enlistment would be up before he graduated.

            The act of extreme risk was motivated by the usual culprit that stirs a young man into action after being cooped up with a bunch of men for months at a time. The promise of romance, or barring that, booty. Eric Wells, a close friend, had a fiancé in NY who was coming down to see him and she wanted to bring along a couple friends who happened to be single. As Forest and I were tight with him since Basic, we had the opportunity to court these ladies from afar using the art of our penmanship. Forest drew the long straw and got to woo Christina who was by far the hotter of the two, while I got Heather who was still fairly comely according to the pic she sent. A few exchanges and it looked like a promising weekend was ahead for us all. The catch in the plan was to get special leave approved by the MTMs that would allow us to both leave the base and not return at night for the weekend; not an easy thing to accomplish by any means.

            Close to a month in advance, we made separate requests all based on the lie that it was family coming to see us and received positive verbal approval. We followed up a week prior and were again given positive verbal approval. Finally the day before we brought our official paperwork down for signature and were denied across the board by the wicked spinster TSgt Prill the Thrill. After much begging, Eric got his approved with rock solid evidence that it was his fiancé coming, but Forest and I who were actually lying, were not believed. As usual, I had a plan. Once the Thrill departed the premises at 1700 on Friday, the Red Rope in charge had the authority to approve an emergency request to leave the base and have our names taken off the roster for night call. It just so happened, this individual often enjoyed the illicit smoking lounge in casa de Wolf from time to time and was persuaded to loan a signature with many admonitions that a claim of forgery would be made if caught.

            The risk was not worth the weekend sadly to say; at least for me. Heather had arrived in a foul mood due to an ongoing fight with the other two and was in no mood to make nice with anyone. I found her thoroughly unpleasant and suspected that the picture provided in the post was of someone else entirely and Glamour shot at that. I made a few weak attempts to chat her up and improve her mood, but to no avail so I considered it a shot weekend. By Sat night several others had also bribed their way off base and we ended up having a fine hotel party that ended with an all night marathon of The Tick playing on the Cartoon Network. A typical Comstock ending way down in South Texas. It was the first time I felt at all at home in the anus of America.

            For the record, hotel parties of any kind were strictly forbidden and this was even more so when we shipped off to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls for the second half of tech school. There had been a few incidents of foolishness and worse, including a well known scandal that was wrapping up even as we arrived. A group of airmen rented a room for party purposes and when one of the females passed out drunk, one of the males took the liberty of feeling her up quite extensively. After that the admonition against such gatherings was dire indeed. In that particular case, all involved were punished, including the female who had been molested, but with the molester being discharged. A group of us, feeling we were not so likely to have any kind of incident went ahead and rented a huge suite at the Holiday Inn under the auspices that tragedy never strikes twice is a hard and fast rule. There were about 12 of us in attendance and we took over the indoor pool area with food, beer, and ourselves.

            We were having a fine time in the pool and engaged in a bit of chicken fighting when things suddenly went a bit off. Jones was a petite blond with AFA and my partner for the next battle. When I swam under her to pick her up, my foot slipped and her weight shifted oddly. The unfortunate shift was of just the right angle and torque to pop out the same shoulder that had been dislocated the time before and I rose to the surface surprising poor Jones with a mighty yell of pain. “I think I hurt my shoulder again!” They stared at me in disbelief and just like last time, the guys started to laugh as apparently the sight of a half naked man with his shoulder half down passed his nipple is quite a hoot.

            Although the pain was terrific, I wasn’t terribly worried about it as Forest was among the crowd and he had no problem getting it back in with one little twist the last time. His first unsuccessful attempt simply resulted in me inadvertently kicking him hard enough to generate some creative cursing. The second attempt yielded the same results except I almost passed out. Now the assemblage, including myself, was getting pretty worried. Involving the medical community, AF or otherwise meant an official report and investigation which would surely reveal the location of the incident. Discovery was death and the jovial mood changed to very worried and hushed conversation, some of which no doubt involved ditching me there and creating plausible deniability that they were ever present. I grew desperate as the pain steadily increased.

             Forest had one more trick up his sleeve though he doubted the efficacy as he had only heard of the technique second hand and never witnessed it. I was up for trying just about anything at that point and made that clear. With my good left arm I picked up my dangling limb and rested it on the side of the side of the pool that my distended armpit straddled the line between the concrete and the water. Without pausing to think, I raised my feet and dropped all my weight downward. The gross strafing of my nerve endings led me to believe I had either broken the limb or took it off all together and I prayed there would be enough sympathy generated by my deformity that the punishment would not be too severe. Sweating and shaking in the cool water I rose to my feet as steady as an Irishman in the Bushmill’s factory. My mood and that of the collective group improved by leaps and bounds at the discovery that my shoulder had returned to the correct configuration.

            Some whispering worry floated about for the next half hour as I walked off the slowly ebbing pain that I would want to be checked out at the base hospital or engage in some other activity that might implicate them. Once the fire had subsided enough for me to rejoin them with a beer in hand and suggestion of some volleyball later my status rapidly changed from potential liability to legend; a condition I was certainly unused to and thereby failed to parlay into a tryst with Jones who was giving me cow eyes thereafter. Overall, the party was a success and we escaped completely unscathed to the bitter envy of those who had tried and failed.

            There were of course, countless little incidents here and there that are barely worth mentioning but for the penalties they would incur. Recall that riding the bus got someone spanked by the hand of God; the tale itself of dubious story telling worth but for the consequence, so I won’t waste much time on gum chewing and other heinous acts. I would like to add that Dan was directly responsible for me retaining the illicit possession of forbidden material. I returned one day from mail call with a very thick envelope and noting the return address chose to take it to my room to open instead of the smoke pit as was my habit (at Sheppard smoking was legal, but only out of uniform). My instinct proved correct as I extracted several highly explicit magazines devoted to aficionados of women of extremely generous form. It then became my task to keep these items well hidden as disposal was difficult; the trash being routinely combed for evidence of contraband.

            Another, though minor but absolutely verboten, was cheating in the morning run. The presence of guards strategically positioned about made actually cutting the distance impossible as we ran from a starting point along a series of roads up to a car with flashing lights which we ran around. An early turn around would have been both very noticeable and mean instant death. While shortening the duration was impossible, finishing before the rest of your squadron (the unit of about 100 people in the same tech school as you who shared common dorm, chow hall, etc) was however very possible.

            Each run morning we formed up in a large gaggle with the other squadrons; I think 8 or 9 in total. The runs were staged as such that the first squadron would get the call to being and start off. A five minute delay was instituted for some reason until the next squadron got the call to start. As my squadron was pathetically slow at getting over to the run area, we were usually one of the last to start meaning a good half hour of wait time before even beginning the run, which took about a half hour itself (3 miles). After the run there was a mad scramble to get to the showers and chow hall before it was time for school. Dilly dallying meant waiting for the showers and the possibility of there not being enough time to eat before school, much less grab a smoke. I felt this was bullshit and aimed to do something about it.

            What made it easy was that we all wore the same thing for the run – uniform grey shorts and tee with ‘Air Force’ written on them. My MO was to first edge my way up to the front of my squadron group, and then engage someone from the next squadron up in conversation as I slowly integrated myself into that group. When the run began, I would just start out with them giving me the edge to get to the showers first and by default, the chow hall. I was a greedy man though and this was just not quite enough for me; I wanted time to have a smoke between the shower and chow, and later on, one after chow as well. By the time we left Sheppard I was sneaking up though 3 to 4 squadrons each time giving me a glorious amount of extra free time that was strangely never questioned. I was, however, regarded by all as the fastest mo-fo they had ever seen and caused wonder when I would seemingly tank the sporadic two mile qualifiers. My excuse was that I abhorred such trivial nonsense and deliberately withheld the awesome power of my speed. I was regarded as a quirky man, so this also went unquestioned.

            The final near miss worthy of discussion took place on one of the beer nights with Hahn. Twice a week, usually on Wednesday’s and Sundays, Bryan Bray, Jason Hahn and I would sneak off base for a little relaxation. Hahn had on base an old brown POS Isuzu P’up which he was allowed to keep there for reasons that his wife and child lived in Texas and it was reasonable to have means to go see them on weekends. During the week I don’t believe he had authorization to drive it. Since it was there though, we naturally took advantage and with Bray in front and me tucked inside the camper in back would sneak off base when none of the MTMs were around. We’d hit up a local convenience store and purchase a forty or two each and head off to the car wash.

            While generally it is deemed more socially acceptable to do illicit drinking at a bar, we worried that the MTMs might frequent the local holes like the Lonesome Dove, so elected to be craftier about it. We chose a car wash a few blocks from the gate in a bad part of town and parked the truck in one of the berths and spent the time drinking, smoking and bitching about the Air Force while occasionally taking turns washing the truck for show. Hahn generally had the cleanest vehicle on base by a long shot and a good time was had by all most of the time with the exception of two occasions.

            Trouble usually manifested when we found the car wash full of legitimate customers as we were forced to find new haunts. Once we somehow ended up on a long, lonely country road out in the middle of nowhere where the deer and the antelope play. We were parked along the side of the road enjoying ourselves and as beer has its usual effect on the old kidneys; Bryan and I found ourselves having to pee at the same time and strode off into shoulder high grass in opposite directions. Coming back after I took keen notice of the presence of flashing lights atop a car parked directly behind Hahn. I crouched down, seeing no added value of making my presence known and moments later watched in dismay as Hahn got inside his vehicle and drove off with the cop car following after. Bryan and I emerged onto the road at the same time and could see the two vehicles in the far, far distance riding off into the sunset. “Dude, what the fuck are we going to do?” Bryan wondered as did I. We were in butt fuck nowhere with night approaching and at least 10 miles from anything resembling a phone and as far as we knew, Hahn was being escorted to the hoosegow for loitering and driving while intoxicated. To our relief he returned about a half hour later and explained that the cop merely chased him off and it took going to a Whataburger before the tail ended and he could double back for us. We got back to base just in time.

            The second time we decided to stick closer to civilization and took our suds behind an abandoned factory where we expected to sit unmolested. We had just finished up and dumped the bottles outside the window when flashing lights appeared behind us. These officers were not content to just shoo us away but instead engaged us in some heavy questioning regarding our presence, intentions and extent of consumption. We sweat bullets as it was becoming increasingly likely that they intended to either escort us directly back to the MTMs themselves or take us in or call them. Both would have meant the end of us, reducing us to much begging and pleading. By some miracle they were finally moved by our pleas and probably more so that we had a genuine Texan in our group and let us go with a stern warning.

Our behavior, however, went undeterred until the end with a BB pistol being added as well to enhance the level of entertainment which broke I’m sure countless statutes and regulations. Despite our best attempts, no one shot their eye out.

           

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4 Responses

  1. We have said it many times before, F*cking Dan! I know he is very proud of himself for sending you those magazines.

    Mike chooses not to run! I applaud your social engineering.

    Hahn Wednesday/Sunday sounds like our “Paul, can you drive up to get beer?” Goodyear runs.

    This all confirms my suspicion that all uniformed youngsters are just being punks. Way to ruin it for future generations of airmen.

  2. Funny story! 🙂

  3. Welcome back Anna! We missed you here.

  4. busy studying my arse off. going back to school for physical therapy. summer accelerated course with massive amounts of homework.

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