March 27, 2008

Story from my military days.....

Back in ’96 I was a young Air Force Enlisted Terminal Attack Controller (ETAC) who made rank and needed to go to Airman Leadership School (ALS) before he got deployed to Bosnia. Normally this isn’t a big deal, but as an ETAC I was stationed on an Army installation. A “drop of blue in a sea of green” that seemed stuck in between services. Normally our guys went to ALS at Ramstein AFB, but they didn’t have any open slots. I was able to get in to the ALS at Spangdahlem Air Base, and it ends up I was the first ROMAD (an older generic term for my specialty 1C4X0…formerly 275X0) to ever attend this school.

We were all in for a bit of culture shock…..

My 6 week ALS started out great when the Commandant of the school dressed me down in front of all of his instructors, informing me I was out of uniform for having bloused pants over combat boots while in my blues. Fortunately I was prepared for this and when I had a chance to meet with him in private I produced the appropriate page form the Air Force Instruction that stated, quite clearly, that I was in proper uniform. I guess I handled this the right way because the instructors cut me some slack and I got a bit of rep.

Class instruction lasted for 50 minutes every hour, with a 10 minute break. Quite often the flight (we were broken up into 2, 30 person flights) would be a little…rambunctious upon return from break. On one such occasion I was speaking when I shouldn’t and the instructor called me out, telling me to stand in front of his office door until he could deal with me on the next break….about 45 minutes away.

Great…now I’m stuck at parade rest in front of a door for 45 fricken minutes! Time passes quite slowly until my flight is sent on break. Much snickering and taunting from my classmates ensues. Eventually the instructor shows up and with much bravado commands me to follow him into the office.
“Airman Dipshit (names changed to protect the guilty), what do you have to say for yourself.” I snap to attention and reply, “Welcome to the 52nd Air Wing Airman Pitsenbarger Leadership School. SMSgt Old Guy, Commanding. Thank you and have a nice day!”

My instructor gives me a puzzled look and I take the opportunity to step aside and open the door. The only thing viewable in the hallway is an oversized letterboard that reads what I had just said. That gets me a laugh. The instructor explains I’m not in any trouble, but he wanted to make an example for the class and figured I could take it.

He then proceeds to pull a rubber dog bone out of his desk drawer, which he tosses to me. He explains that I’m to start some sort of tradition. Next time someone does something “bone-headed” I’m to stop the class, make up some story and formally present the dog bone as some sort of traveling trophy. Ends up I’ve been pegged as some sort of leader, which is probably just because I’m one of only 6 people attending the course TDY. Two of the six are lame and the other three ride in to class with me everyday and we hand out. I guess the old high school adage still rings true: the guy with the wheels is kind of the leader of the group.

On the way back to billeting the other guys give me a lot of crap (three out of four of us are in Alpha Flight) and we spend the 45 minute drive BSing. There is this one girl in our flight that none of us liked much and so we’re often ragging on her during the drive. She did one thing that I joking remarked “made me hard”.

Fast forward another 18 hours or so and the opportunity arises to off-load the dog bone. I give my speil and afterward I sit back down my buddy spouts off “That isn’t the only bone he got yesterday.” We’re good on time and the instructor asks for an explaination. Before anyone else speaks I interrupt that if Airman Retard tells the story I’m getting kicked out of school. Now everyone’s interest is piqued and I backpedal a bit explaining that if Airman Retard tells the story I will get kick out of school because I swear to God I will jump across the table and kill him. Anyone not interested before sure is now.

I backpedal just a bit more. Normally the guys (our small group of four) goes out every Thursday night and get hammered at the NCO club. Even though we reek of alcohol the next day the instructors eat this up because “we’re bonding”. Being a Thursday, I invite everyone to the NCO club where I will tell the tale at 8 pm.

Most of my flight shows up, as well as a couple of instructors. 8 PM rolls around and I get up to tell my tale. I regale the group (remember, I’ve been drinking) with a tale of how I noticed that a woman in our class has been sucking on her highlighter during class. Did I say sucking, I meant blowing….really she was working this highlighter so much she had taken the writing right off the pen! Now two women from my flight are at this tale and the guilty party is shooting daggers at the other woman. You can practically read “you dirty slut” in her expression.

I get done with the story…by now I’m behind the guilty girl. When I’m done with the fabulous tale I simply put my hand on her shoulder, look into her eyes, and say….you’re the one I’m talking about.

The whole group about busts a gut, but she takes it well.

Later I catch her doing it again and manage to take a picture. We hold our graduation ceremony at essentially a sports bar on base (due to a field exercise) and we use the places many wall-mounted TVs to project pictures from our class while we eat. This girl, trying to horn brownie points for Honor Graduate, volunteered to be the first speaker after lunch. Of course she was a terrible speaker. It probably didn’t help that I was the one who put the TV presentation together and that the last picture showing as she approached the stage was the one of her blowing her orange highlighter.

Yes….I can be a bastard.

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