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Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Hup! Twoop! Three! Four! - Part 5
April of 1971 finds me at Tinker AFB, outside of Oklahoma City, OK. The local neighbourhood is Midwest City. Tinker is a large base and while I was there, it was referred to as OCAMA (Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area). I recollect that it was a major logistics center for aircraft engines and many other things. I also remember that, at the time, there were more civilians then military personnel on the base. I was in a tenant unit called the 3rd Mobile Comm. Group. It was different from the 2nd Mobile Comm. Group that I was a part of while I was in England. The comm. package for the 3rd Mob was transported overland by convoy while the 2nd Mob package was transported by C130 aircraft. The biggest difference for me, was not a good one. For some obscure reason, I was involuntarily cross-trained from tech control to an administrative specialist, a fancy term for a clerk. I was not happy about that because I enjoyed tech control. What added insult to injury, was one of my buddies, Rookie Ryan, was also transferred to the 3rd Mob but he was still a tech controller. A cruel joke, I thought.
Anyway, we all muddle through, don't we? The area was pleasant enough. Although the Oklahoma City area was isolated from the rest of the world, there were still plenty of resources available. At the beginning, I was housed in the barracks on base, two to a room. My room mate was Gary who continues to be a good friend to this day. A shortage developed for barracks space and a group of us was given the opportunity to move off base. We jumped at this idea and found an apartment at the Casa Cortez in Midwest City.
My first car, the 1949 MG, was left in England when I received news of my transfer to Turkey. Now, here at Tinker, I am getting the need for another car. It just so happened, Rookie Ryan's dad was a car dealer, so I saved up a down payment, got a loan from my hometown bank in Kennebunk, and ordered a car. I went from a very old car to a brand new car, which was a 1972 Dodge Dart. In retrospect, I should have chosen a cooler car. If I had it to do over again, it would have been a Dodge Charger.
One day I was making my rounds around the base picking up and dropping off correspondance for my unit. All part of the exciting life of a clerk, oops, administrative specialist. I always used a military jeep which was kind of fun to buzz around in. On this day, we had 'black' ice on the roads which was a very unsusual occurance for Oklahoma. The jeep sported 'mud' tires which are useless on ice. At one point, I went into a skid and managed to collide with a 'six-by' which is a large military truck. I wasn't much of a match against the truck and just bounced off it. There was little damage, but the incident prohibited vehicles moving about the base until the ice subsided.
During the hottest part of the summer, the commander decided it would be fun to have an exercise, so we deployed to the area alongside of an airstrip. It was dreadfully hot, but we soldiered on. Our water supply was from a water trailer that was towed behind a 'six-by'. Even though we were very parched, we could not drink the water because it tasted so bad. Saying it was brackish did not fully described how disgusting it tasted. The only other time I tasted water close to being that bad was in a little town in Idaho. Eventually the water trailer was taken away to another water source and refilled. So one problem solved.
We were living off 'C' rations which were better then 'K' rations but not as nice as 'I.F.' rations. 'C' rations were comprised of a canned muffin, a canned juice, and a canned 'entre' which was a spaghetti substance or a meat substance or some other things I don't recollect. It also included a mini pack of three cigarettes which I would barter for something else since I was a non-smoker. The can of juice tasted OK, but it would have been better if it was cold. Well, no refrigerators in the tent, so I had to apply some good ol' high school science. I set up a little cooling system which chilled the juice enough to make it more enjoyable. I hung my helmet upside down and filled it with water. Then I soaked a t-shirt in water and rolled the can of juice up in one end of it in such away that it would stay in place. Then I put the other end of the rolled up t-shirt into the helmet of water and drapped it over the edge of the helmet and let it dangle down. By capillary action, the water in the helmet would flow through the t-shirt, thereby staying wet. The wet t-shirt wrapped around the can would evaporate. Evaporation causes a natural cooling action, like sweat on your skin evaporates to help cool you. Voila! Chilled juice! Second problem solved. The only other problem was being there, but I couldn't do much about that.
During this time, I was starting to think about what I was going to do when I was finished with the Air Force. One summer job I had, was working for a 2-way radio company, taking care of taxi, police and public utility radios. I enjoyed that and thought I might pursue that by obtaining a commercial FCC license. With that, I could also get a job with a radio or TV station. So I studied and took the first of a series of exams to obtain the various classes of licenses. The test I took was in Oklahoma City in the Federal building. Little did I know that a few years later, that building would be blown up.
March 13, 1972, marked the end of my active duty in the Air Force. So with that, I packed up my stuff, loaded up my little Dodge Dart, and headed home, to Kennebunk, Maine.