The Day I Joined the Air Force – Part Two

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Our lives and destinies revolve around the choices and decisions that we make.  I had already made one of the three most important decisions that would change my life forever.  In Part 1, I described my decision to join the United States Air Force.  Some might argue, that it was fate that made my decision and that I really had no choice.  Others would argue, my decision was more reactive than proactive and thus was not really a choice.  I will not defend myself.  Like an artist who refuses to describe their painting, I will let you decide if I chose or did not choose in each of these decisions.

In Part 2, I will describe the second decision that changed my life.   But let’s go back to my plane trip first.

lackland tiUpon landing at Lackland AFB in Texas, I along with all the other new recruits was ushered off the plane where our T.I. or Training Instructor was waiting for us.  After telling us that we would address him as Sir, he ordered, screamed, yelled and instructed us until we were able to get into some type of formation.  You can imagine the chaos that ensued when a bunch of green rookie “boots” tried to form into a military squadron.  It was early morning and I was dead tired.  I had not been able to sleep at all on the plane.  I presume many of the other “boots” were similarly exhausted.  Nevertheless, it was going to be many hours before we would meet our cots and be able to get to sleep.  In the interim, we would march all over the base getting haircuts, clothes, food and taunts (known as Jody Calls in the military) from other squadrons that often went like this:

Rainbow, Rainbow, don’t be blue

Our recruiter screwed us too

Sound off – One Two,

Sound off – Three Four

new rainbows

The term “rainbows” was applied to new recruits who had not yet received their uniforms or haircuts and were marching in civilian clothes.  Our civilian “uniforms” made us stand out like sore thumbs, much to the delight of the more “advanced” squadrons.  Their pointing and taunts made us wonder what was in store for us.

Basic training lasted 12 weeks.  It did not take long for me to develop friendships with the same type of guys that I did in high school.  This was generally guys who had little or no respect for laws, traditions, rules or anything getting in the way of a good time.  Needless, to say, one would quickly realize that guys like this (myself included) would not be a good fit for the military.

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Hanging out with my new friends, I soon became involved in a few minor infractions which broke rules and traditions.  Air Force basic training had many rules and my motto had always been that: “rules are made to be broken.”  My friends agreed with this motto and it seemed like we were on a collision course with the military.  My one saving grace was that I did not really find the physical aspects of the military very difficult to deal with.  I had always been athletic and drills and PT (Physical Training) were easy for me.  I even found them kind of fun.  Nevertheless, I was not sure of many of the other restrictions that chafed at my sense of independence.

Then it happened.  One night after lights were out and I was sound asleep, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice saying, “Wake up, Wake up.”  I am a pretty light sleeper and I sat up and saw one of my three “good” buddies who was standing next to my cot.  Roger whispered, “get dressed, we are leaving.”  “Where are we going?” I asked.  He replied, “We are going to rob the BX (Base Exchange) and go to Mexico.  We can have a great time.”

A jumble of thoughts went through my head.   I had previously been arrested for breaking and entering.  The idea of getting away with a base robbery sounded like a stretch.  I was tired and it was late at night.  I responded with “Have a good time, I am going back to sleep.”  That was the end of that.  I did not see my three friends for another six or seven weeks.  I made the second major decision of my life, but I am still not sure what the deciding factors were.

Several weeks later, an officer requested that my T.I. send me to his office.  My T.I. told me to report to the JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corp office and to see Lieutenant Perry. I went to the JAG office and reported to the officer who requested to see me.  “Airman Persico,” he started.  “Do you know Roger” and he named the other two of my former friends.  “Yes, sir” I replied.  “Well, they have requested you as a character witness in their upcoming trial.  Seems like you were their only friend on base.  You are hereby ordered to report to this office in two weeks.  (I do not remember the date).  I am representing them at their court martial trial for theft and going AWOL (Absence without official leave).  Dismissed!”

Two weeks went by and I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to say.  I would wow the court with my elocution and polemics.  In no time at all, I would have the charges against my friends dismissed.  I was confident in my ability to persuade the court.  I left my barracks at the appointed time and found my way to the courtroom where the trial for my friends was being held.  I gave my name upon entering and took a seat that was assigned to me.  I was soon called to the stand and told to swear that I would tell the whole truth etc.

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An officer, I would never know if he was the defense or prosecuting attorney asked me my name and if I had any knowledge of the three men on trial.  I replied that I did and then I started in on my rehearsed defense.  I was quickly told to be quiet and to only answer a question when asked or I would be held in contempt and find myself in the brig along with my three buddies.  My questioning went on for five minutes or so and it seemed like everything I said only dug a deeper hole for the defendants.  When they were through with my testimony, I was dismissed and told to report back to my squadron.  I felt like a total failure.

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My friends all received time in jail and a dishonorable discharge.

I soon left Lackland AFB for my training assignment in Biloxi, Mississippi AFB as a Radar Technician.  I would never see or hear from my former friends again.  I often think back upon the decision that I made and the impact that a different choice would have had on my life.   Did I make a choice or was it destiny?

In Part 3, I will describe the third of my 3 most important life decisions and the impact that it has had on my life.

“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.”  — Ken Levine

 

 

 

 

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Fritz
    Nov 24, 2019 @ 18:53:10

    Sounds like the beginning of wisdom emerged when you decided staying asleep was the better plan, John! Talk about there but for the grace of God; but it wasn’t the grace of God, it was your own good decision. 😊

    Reply

    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Nov 25, 2019 @ 07:18:36

      Thanks Jane, I would like to think. I always appreciate your comments. I gather we grew up very differently in terms of parents and experiences.

      Reply

      • Jane Fritz
        Nov 25, 2019 @ 07:44:12

        You are not kidding! Supportive, encouraging, you can be whatever you want to be, Easter Break trip’s to visit different schools, you name it. I was in a bubble and didn’t even know it.

  2. jennygirl1278
    Nov 24, 2019 @ 23:00:33

    I believe that it was your choice and an excellent one at that, but I also believe that nothing happens by chance and there is a reason for everything under the sun. Were your actions that night not contrary to your nature back then, as I tend to believe that it was divine intervention. Only one thing wrong with this blog, it was too short. 🙂 I enjoyed it very much, and cannot wait to read Part III. Very interesting!!!!

    Reply

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