- TURN AROUND
It was May 1958 and I was attending Preflight Training at Lackland
AFB in San Antonio, Texas. Preflight Training involved orientation
programs that were designed to prepare us for our responsibilities in
the Air Force. We were all student officers, graduates of Air Force
ROTC; Second Lieutenants, green as grass "Butter Bars",
in the military.
Lackland provided a diverse look at the Air Force for the recent
college graduate. One of these exposures was to interact with the
troops. Now there wasn't much opportunity for that in the
and physical fitness programs that filled our days. Some bright sole
came up with the idea that we could pay the recruits who were
attending basic training at Lackland. Consequently, each student
officer was assigned to pay a flight of basic trainees. This was our
first "job" in the Air Force we were Class "A"
This was in the days before computers. Key punch cards were in common
use. They gave us a small suitcase that had four detachable legs that
screwed into the bottom of the case to form a small table. The
suitcase had a drawer in it that made it a portable cash box. The pay
for each basic trainee was in an envelope in the drawer. The
envelopes matched the alphabetically stacked IBM punch cards.
They gave us a folding chair and told us to set up our table in the
field in front of the assembled flight of about 100 recruits; have
their Drill Sergeant line them up alphabetically in front of the
table, set the alphabetized IBM cards on the table, and then have
each man sign their IBM card as they received their pay envelope. The
airmen in line were free to leave for the weekend after they were
So off I went to "interact" with the troops; the cash box
one hand and the folding chair in the other. As instructed, I set up
the table and chair and watched as their Drill Sergeant lined the men
up alphabetically in front of my table. The IBM cards were stacked as
instructed. The cash draw waited to dispense the first envelope. The
first man in line was a guy with a big smirk on his face. I think his
name was Aaronson he may have had three A's in the front of
name. He was going to be paid first, and he would be the first man to
depart for weekend "liberty".
Now, with my name starting with the letter "V", I had stood
end of too many alphabetical lines. Something about this smug kid
annoyed me. Without hesitation, I stood up and shouted.
"ABOUT FACE". The line was now facing in the opposite
picked up the IBM cards with one hand and the suitcase table with the
other. I asked the Sergeant to carry my chair and we proceeded to the
opposite end of the line where I reset my table in front of Airman
Basic "Zimmerman". He looked confused.
I then turned the alphabetized stack of IBM cards face down on the
table and proceeded to pay the troops from that end of the line.
Zimmerman was delighted so were Ziegler and Voght. About thirty
minutes later Airman Basic "Aaaronson" arrived at the table
smiled as I paid him. His smirk was gone, and he was not a very happy
I, to the contrary, was quite pleased with my first leadership
experience in Uncle Sam's Air Force and I might add
exert similar fairness and concern regarding enlisted troops for the
next thirty years.
- In a message dated 9/30/2005 9:24:19 AM Eastern Daylight Time, vonbargenr@... writes:
Posting of memoirs read at B &N was discussed at a recent meeting to make them available to members who were unable to get to the meeting. I have posted mine in recent months. I think it is a good idea that will help in assembling material for the proposed book.
Good Idea. This is mine for September:
MY TURN (FIRST DAY OF COLLEGE)
Barnes & Nobles
Senior Memoir Writing
September 21, 2005
It seems that I have been waiting for this day for most of my adult life. Here I am, at age 65, going to my very first class as a college student. I remember when I was a senior at Collingswood High School and I had turned in my English Term Paper. My teacher was very pleased with it. She gave me an "A" and then she asked me if I was going on to college. I still remember her exact words. She said "you deserve it as well as anyone else." But, I shook my head and said that "no, I had no plans for college." I always did well in school. Well actually, I did fail one subject in High School. But that is a story in itself for another time.
I started my working career but the thought of college never really left my mind. I did take some work related courses in Insurance and in Law and got good grades in them. But these were just reading the books and taking the tests. I never actually attended any classes. And as my hearing loss went from bad to worst, I gave up all hope of going.
But now, I am retired with the time and freedom to do anything I want. I had been aware that Camden County College had free courses for people age 65 and over and I thought, just maybe, I would try it. So, when I reached age 65 in May, I looked into signing up for a course. I was told that if I wanted to enroll under the free program, I had to wait for the last day of registration and then only if there were openings in the class I wanted. I found that my first choice was full but my second choice had vacancies and I enrolled as a student in Psychology 101-41.
So here I am sitting in a classroom for the first time in 47 years. I looked around at my fellow classmates and was relieved to find that I was not the only mature person there. True, I seemed to be the oldest but I found out later that there were some others who were grandparents. I found it amusing to study the different personalities, especially of the very young. Most of the young, especially the men, felt they had to act like they were doing us a favor by being there. When the teacher asked each of us to tell something about ourselves, and why we were there, most of these youngsters, refused to say anything. Or they just said, they were there because they had to be.
When the teacher had announced that she would call our name and we were all to say something about ourselves, I did something I would never have done in the first half of my life. I raised my hand, asked for permission to speak and I explained that I am deaf and depend on lip reading and it would be helpful if the person speaking could come up to the front or make sure that I could see them. I find it really interesting the way we change from our youth to our mature years. I wish I had the maturity I have now, in my younger years. I would not have wasted so much of my life.
None of the students actually came up to the front to speak. But each time the teacher called a name, she would point at the student so I knew where they were. And I would turn around to look at them and say hello. And, it amused me that even the students who refused to smile, would smile at me. When it was my turn to be called, I decided to go up to the front of the room to speak. The main reason, which I mentioned to the class, was that my squeaky bones were getting tired and I needed a chance to stretch. I told them, quite honestly, that I had graduated high school in 1958 and was enjoying this opportunity to go back to school.
I am happy that I am finally getting a chance to have my turn at an experience that was denied to me while I was young. It should be interesting. I don't remember the names of anyone but I bet most of them remember my name. And, as I was leaving the building, some of the students had already gotten into their cars and waved at me as they were going by.