Tales From My Youth – Part 1


The following story came from one of the Lexicans on the Facebook page – known as AtlanticCoast. He was a Sgt in an elite branch of the US Air Force – Strategic Air Command – tasked with a very serious duty – the safeguarding of our nuclear weapons. I thought his story was so good  that Lex had to have been laughing somewhere.

With his permission here it is – the first of 3 parts. 

With Friends Like These…

Jacked up (jakt uhp): v., pop. 1: To be arrested, detained, or otherwise taken into custody by United States Air Force Security Police, usually in connection with a violation of nuclear security rules and standards. 2: Something you never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever want to happen to you. 3: Ever.”

Saying that Strategic Air Command was serious about security is a lot like saying Curtis LeMay (Peace Be His Profession Unto Him) was strict – it gets the point across, but unless you were there, you really can’t appreciate it. As it turns out, I was there for six years and believe me…I still appreciate it.

This was the thing: since there were never enough SPs to handle everything that needed their august, dignified, and noble presence on a SAC base, the 461s – the most daring, dashing, dauntless, and frankly damned hottest souls to ever put on Air Force blue, and don’t argue with me, as I’d hate to have to get upset about this – were pressed into service to assist when it came to matters nuclear. This was apparently on the reasoning that since we were responsible for storing, inspecting, and transporting ammunition, we knew how to use a firearm. Admittedly, logic was never the USAF’s strong point, but there you are.

Myself, I rather liked the idea. I did know my way around a firearm – I qualified expert on the M-16 the first time out (I had no choice – my father, a Marine who was not only Expert by USMC standards but also sniper quale’d with a BAR, f’r God’s sake, would never have let me hear the end of it) and did so every time I ever fired. I figured it would be me versus the Godless Whatevers when they tried to take the weapons that had been entrusted to my care, and I would knock them down with all the skill, style, aplomb and accuracy that Ralphie Parker showed while defending his family’s homestead. And, as with so many things in my life, the reality turned out to be just the tiniest bit different. We used M-16s for the first year or so I was in, then someone decided that what the job really called for was a shotgun.

No, really. Their reasoning was that in case of an attack on a weapons convoy – the best and most realistic chance anybody would ever have to snatch a weapon – we should not defend our charges, and ourselves but instead, shoot the tires on the weapons trailers so they couldn’t be hauled away.

No, really. Keep in mind that the tire pressure on these beasts was – to be sure – considerably higher than what you maintain in your family drudgemobile, and any urge we would have had to make rude faces at the now-foiled terrorists would have been cancelled out by the fact that the exploding tires and rims would have killed us. Or, quite possibly, the terrorists would have been completely non-plussed by the fact that instead of shooting them, we were shooting our tires. I know my non would never have been so plussed, so there’s that. But whatever the result, the fact was that we were issued Remington 1100 12-gauge shotguns and told to do our duty.

Now, convoy duty would have only happened once a quarter when SAC would wind up an ORI to see if we were actually capable of moving the darn things from point A to point B without hurting someone and/or embarrassing Our Beloved Service. Mag guard – keeping an eye on things when moving or working on the packages in the mags – was a lot more common, as in pretty much daily. There were only a couple of real requirements for pulling mag guard – a valid card, goes without saying, the ability to remain reasonably conscious and alert while the other guys on the crew did all the interesting stuff, and your job was to simply stand outside the mag door so the guys in Whiskey Tango – the giant guard tower that stood sentinel over our firepower – could see you and know that we were alert. Given that we were talking about shotguns here, marksmanship wasn’t quite as important.

Now, there were a few minor caveats to that. First, you HAD to be out in the weather, you couldn’t sit in a nice, comfy and reasonably warm truck no matter how well you could see what was going on, nor could you stand inside the mag. Secondly – and this is perhaps somewhat more important, in light of future events – mag guard was almost universally performed by the lower enlisted ranks of Airman, Airman First Class and Senior Airman. NCOs could and did do it, but only in extremis.

This, in turn, led to a problem – and, Gentle Reader, you knew there had to be a problem in here somewhere, didn’t you?

The difficulty was that as the junior enlisted sorted themselves out through experience and performance, some tended to be left behind. Most of those still became reliable, if unspectacular workers. They were the folks who provided the foundation labor for what we did every day. The others, a very small minority, but known to everyone who ever supervised others in a military situation, were the Problem Children.

I will take a moment for all of the NCOs and Officers reading this to nod sagely, stroke their chins, and say, “Oh yeah….”

Even as elite an organization as the Strategic Air Command – Peace Was Our Profession, Nuclear War but a Hobby – had Problem Children, people who had somehow made it past all the screenings and evaluations only to get to their first base and say, “BOO!!” There was one – a Loader if memory serves, and it figured – who took three underage girls, a case of beer, and a black ’59 Caddy and turned it into a truly memorable occasion. Another – sadly, my sponsor when I got to Wurtsmith – who one night grabbed his BB pistol and his iguana and proceeded to crater in a fashion that can, to this day, be spoken of in tones of hushed sadness and awe. They were extreme examples, but they will suffice. In Munitions Storage, we had three.

They could be relied on to open a mag door and hold a trailer drawbar, but not much more than that – essentially, human chocks. But they were basically decent people, trapped in a world they never made and unable to adapt to its more advanced standards, and hoping – nay, praying with vigor of a Roman augur that somehow the Gods of Assignments would reach down their hands and whisk them off to Somewhere Else AB in that magical world known as the Overseas Tour, where SAC was a dirty word, the beer flowed 24/7 and the women would love you a long time.

Which leads us to a lad whose name is lost to my memory, but who shall be called here Airman First Class Dumbjohn, a name long known and revered in the USAF for signifying an individual who should never have even been allowed to see the parade ground at Lackland, much less graduate upon it. Dumbjohn had gotten to Wurtsmith with two stripes – a common recruiting lure – and had been expecting, nay, salivating over the likelihood of going to one of those wonderful overseas vacation spots with their many pleasures of the flesh and id.

Instead, he got Wurtsmith, and spent just about every minute thereafter bemoaning his fate to just about anyone who would listen, then demonstrating with his performance exactly what he thought of the misfortune that sent him there.

Needless to say, A1C Dumbjohn pulled mag guard. A lot. And upon reflection, I honestly can not remember him doing much of anything else other than standing morosely in the sun and the snow and the rain and the mosquitoes, with his trusty 1100 slung over one shoulder and wondering what if anything he had done to deserve this, and then reassuring himself that he was simply the victim of Blind Injustice, and someday, his turn would come. And that it did, one chilly November morning thirty years ago this week…..

To Be Continued

Tales of My Youth – Part 2


Filed under USAF

11 responses to “Tales From My Youth – Part 1

  1. msgtbuck

    Oh, Boy. We’re waiting for the next installment with bated breath. I had some experience with SAC back in the day, albeit second-hand as a member of a tenant unit on Vandenberg AFB. SAC was truly “ate up” with it, as we used to say.

  2. NaCly Dog

    Great set-up. Looking forward to part 2. Nodding my head sagely and saying “Ah yes”. If I may ask a favor, could you also tell the story of the guy with the Bb gun and iguana?

    My saying in the Navy was “Even in the most elite outfit, there is a finite amount of stupidity.”

    • NaCly Dog,

      I would be happy to relate the story – there are some aspects of it that are, however….squickish – and I’ve gotta figure out how best to get them across.

      Best Regards,

  3. Pingback: Tales From My Youth – Part 2 | The Lexicans

  4. Pingback: Tales From My Youth –Final Installment | The Lexicans

  5. virgil xenophon

    BTW, when did the AF change from “Air Police” (otherwise known as APES) to Security Police?

    • Late 60s. The were still APES when my father left Adair for Ramstein in 66 and, I think, they changed just after my father was sent from Ramstein to Echterdingen near Stuttgart (Patch Barracks plane patch which had Army security, mostly Army aircraft – AF had a couple of corp jets and and a C-9 based there). When we got to Lackland in ’69, many of the vehicles were still painted AP, but the change was obvious as the brassards were SP instead of AP.

  6. While some regarded SAC as elite, it came to be regarded as the armpit of USAF. My father traveled from Hunter AFB, to Asheville, NC to reenlist as that was the only way to get out of SAC at the time, and he truly wanted out of SAC. LeMay was CG SAC at the time, and he still remembered LeMay with a great deal of annoyance in the early 80s.

    He got into ADC instead, and loved it. Germany and Lackland, his last station, were the only exceptions for the rest of his career.

  7. Pingback: Tales From My Youth – Part 2 | The Lexicans

  8. Pingback: Tales From My Youth –Final Installment | The Lexicans

  9. Pingback: Index – The Rest of Neptunus Lex | The Lexicans

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