Friday, March 25, 2011

Hup! Twoop! Three! Four! - Part 1



A Tech Control mock-up at school, circa 1968.
  This series is a sequel, of sorts, to my September 23, 2010 entry: Good Morning Vietnam! 
  After I finished basic training at Lackland AFB (San Antonio, Texas) in the spring of 1968, the next stop was Keesler AFB (Biloxi, Mississippi) for technical training.  I was to be a Telecommunications Systems Controller.  My original hope was to be in radio maintenance, but it turned out that I enjoyed my designated career field.  Primarily, we were the telecommunications circuit managers and troubleshooters for Air Force Communications. For the time period I was in, the lion's share of the equipment we were trained on was still vacuum tube technology and the solid state stuff was relatively new on the scene.  Normally, the training, which included basic electronics, lasted 29 weeks, but because I had a talent for electronics, I was able to complete the course in 19 weeks.

3396 Squadron

  Keesler was a large base with two well defined areas.  The first being the main base, the second was called 'The Triangle' because it was in the shape of, well, a triangle.  It was primarily housing for most of the students in the form of barracks.  There were two to a room and it wasn't bad, considering it was all concrete and tile.
  I was in the 3396th squadron which was in a good location because it was close to a swimming pool and a little BX.  The down side was the necessity of marching to the main base for classes at Thompson Hall.  After awhile I figured out that if you were a 'Road Guard', you didn't have to march, just walk alongside the group and hold out a 'STOP' paddle at intersections.  Well, I found a 'STOP' paddle somewhere and designated myself a road guard for the rest of the time I was in school.

I am the geeky guy in glasses in the front row.

  There were a dozen in the class, as in any military group, a myriad of personalities.  The training itself wasn't too difficult and even interesting.  There was theory in antenna propagation, multiplexing, teletype (yup, archaic stuff), transmitters, receivers, etc.  There were patch panel procedures for managing circuits, as well as how to test circuits.   And of course there was the 'red tape' training that told us all about the dictates from our 'bible', the publication from the DCA (Defense Communication Administration) known as the
DCS 310-55-1, DCS being Defense Communication System.  The military loves it's acronyms! 

  We used what was called a Jack Field for each circuit, four jacks for DC circuits (teletype) and eight jacks for audio circuits.  A 'normal' circuit had no cables patched into it.  If we needed to patch the user to another circuit, we would plug into the user's Equipment jack and plug the other end into a Line of another circuit.  If the user's equipment was bad, we would plug into the user's Line jack and plug the other end into the Equipment jack of spare gear.  There was also a Monitor jack associated with each Equipment jack and each Line jack.  Pretty straight forward, but every move required an entry into the Station Log that was always in the typewriter (remember those?).

I am almost too embarrassed to
post this.....

  Eventually, training was completed and then I had to wait a couple weeks for orders.  They kept me busy, in the meantime, bossing around new troops, fresh out of basic, in the linen supply room.  I left with two stripes which translates to an Airman First Class.  When I was in basic training, they had us fill out a 'Dream Sheet' which asks us where we would like to be assigned after technical training.  It was called a Dream Sheet because it had the reputation of never sending you where you want to go.  I put down as my first choice, England, and as my second choice, Germany.  Well, as luck would have it, when my orders came, it was for England.

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