Almost_Assignments
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I didn't like the "peacetime" Air Force.

Training, Testing, Exercises, Operational Readiness Inspections, Arguments about the meanings
of regulations, Bureaucracy, One-Upmanship, Career-builders and Managers instead of Leaders.

The first thing I did at personnel when I arrived at my base in the states was to volunteer to return
to Southeast Asia. I felt that the war was still going on and I could contribute something to it. I had
nothing holding me in the states because my fiancÚ had died while I was in Vietnam, and I still was
not done grieving for her.

 

Summer 1971

Intelligence was a critical field in the war, so the Air force was happy to accommodate volunteers.
Six months after my return I had orders to the 7th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, I was
going to be one of the intelligence officers flying around in the back of the EC-130 "Airborne
Battlefield Command and Control Center" (ABCCC) over Laos coordinating air strikes and
assigning fighters to the FACS who had good targets lined up for them.

I ran around base processing out, with great joy, - a flying assignment - wow! I was ready for this!
One of the last stops was to take all my medical records and report up to Carswell AFB to go
through altitude chamber testing/training. The technician there broke my heart when he found
the papers that had been inserted in my medical records when I was washed out of pilot training
with a "history of unconsciousness" after an auto-accident put me in a coma for a week. The papers
 forbade me from all phases and positions of flight in USAF aircraft. - I couldn't even be the intelligence
weenie in the back of the plane.

 

I went back to my base and processed back in. By now I was minus my new car which I had
sold when I got my orders, so I borrowed a bicycle, and bummed rides for a month and then
bought a 12 year old Volkswagen for $90 and fixed it up a little.

It was definitely a slow-mover, 40 knots max speed with a tail wind. I Think it had bad rings and
valves. I was collecting things that were falling off of it. I invested in 4 new tires and seat belts,
and a little paint. I had thought of equipping it with a drag chute, but figured the top speed didn't
warrant one and it would get tedious repacking it at every stop sign. The car was 12 years old,
had a 6 volt electrical system, no gas gauge, and the heater didn't work. The front lid didn't close
all the way, I had it tied down with an old spark plug cable, and the cold wind used to whistle through
the hole in the dashboard where the radio was supposed to be. After I replaced the spark plugs and
cables and the ignition coil, it quit stalling every few miles and eventually took me to Arizona and back.

 

 

 

 

Winter 1971

Intelligence was still a critical specialty, and I was still a volunteer for the war, so I soon had
another assignment pop out of personnel. This one was kind of "spooky" (literally) I've forgotten
the name of the organization, which is just as well, as something might happen to me if I
mentioned it. It was in Saigon and involved "Human Intelligence" (or HUMINT) the gathering
of intelligence information from cooperative or uncooperative human sources through overt
or covert means. There were no uniforms to be worn - we had a special clothing allowance
to keep us supplied with black trousers and white shirts. - This was long before the movie
"Men in Black" came out, but there it was...

 

My orders specified that I was to stop enroute to San Francisco at Fort Huachuca, AZ
where the US Army had an Intel training school. Presumably, I would have learned many
useful techniques for collecting information from people who do not wish to give up their
information.

I never did attend any classes because when I reported to the USAF orderly room to
sign in, the First Sergeant greeted me with: "Oh, you're the guy who had his orders
cancelled." - Seems that there was a reduction in manning at the place I was going,
and one of the eliminated positions was me.

Fortunately, I never burn bridges behind me, I called my boss who I had recently left,
and asked if I could have my job back. He said okay, so I fired up the 40 knot wonder
and headed East.

 

 

 

Summer 1972

Intelligence remained a critical skill and I remained a volunteer to get out of the peacetime
Air Force. Five months later personnel popped out a beautiful set of orders to go work at
the 56th Special Operations Wing at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AFB, Thailand. This outfit
had just been in the intel message traffic when their rescue helicopters and escort fighters
pulled a downed pilot out of the Hanoi suburbs despite defenses that included artillery, missiles,
small arms, machine guns and MiGs. This was my kind of outfit. I wanted to work with people
who got things done. I wanted to work with heroes.

I kept my fingers crossed all the way to Thailand. This assignment didn't get cancelled and it was
the best assignment of my entire Air Force Career.