I recently came across a chronology I’d created years ago, documenting my assignments and temporary duty (TDY) assignments. In the process of converting it into a more up-to-date document format, I found myself going back to some of my old journals to confirm and clarify certain memories associated with those trips.
While I have fond memories of the first half of my military, career, my journals only go back to 1985 and there are many gaps. It turns out that around 1985 there was a turning point in how I felt about my role and my purpose as an NCO in the Air Force.
Until I was involuntarily transferred to Brooks in 1985, it wasn’t bad and, for the most part I enjoyed what I did or at least didn’t mind too much. Then, at ’06th, the general incompetence and complacency that I saw all around me really began to eat at me. My missions invariably had problems due to inadequate coordination, support, and equipment. The disruption training missions almost never included the people I was supposed to be training in that role. I was deployed a portion of every month I was there, to include the month I left. I saw my year there as a complete cluster-fuck.
I thought returning to the ’18th at Sembach would be a good move but in many ways it was just as bad but in a different way. At least they still seemed to be competent in performing their mission. The three months or so that I was unaccompanied was hellish. A few of the old crew were still there but the overall personality of the unit had changed radically and not necessarily for the better.
There were some enjoyable periods in the almost five years I was there and some good memories. The day we took a couple of jeeps out to the French training area by Site 1 was a day that will be forever embedded in my memory. The month I did swings and mids doing site security after we moved to Mehlingen was good too. It was good to be doing something different and not being on the road.
There were some good missions too. The trip to Norway was quite a unique adventure and I postponed a planned leave to do it. I enjoyed supporting that Colorado Air National Guard unit in Central Enterprise 88. The trip to Denmark was fun and going to Berlin was definitely a high point. Even the trips to Belgium were interesting, despite the numerous problems I encountered. There were a lot of problems with the mission to Spain but I enjoyed my free time and the day I spent watching the A-10’s in action at the range was exhilarating.
However, most of the missions were tedious and often plagued with problems. There was one period where I seemed to be on the road on a different mission. I’d be back long enough to do laundry, repack, file my travel voucher, and pick up a new set of orders. That sucked. Toward the end of the tour I found it hard to keep from openly expressing my dissatisfaction and frustration. Soon after I got promoted to E-7, my attitude started to show itself more. The promotion further removed me into more managerial duties and away from the parts of the job I used to enjoy. I’ve always enjoyed being a technician; I sucked at management.
The promotion did have a silver lining in that I had more of a voice in where I’d go next. I knew who was due to move and I could more or less pick my next assignment. I thought Hawaii would be a good place for a final assignment. At first the ’24th was great and it was great to reconnect with people from the old 6905th and to get involved in new up and coming missions. It was there that I found that I enjoyed working with computers.
But eventually the festering dissatisfaction and frustration with other parts of the mission caught up with me and eventually I was asked to retire which had been my plan anyway. It was pretty much a mutual agreement. Outside of my official duties, I enjoyed my tour in Hawaii.
Overall, I don’t miss really the military. I have many good memories of certain places and of the people I worked with. Just the same, I have many memories that aren’t so good. And it seemed that there were many radical changes in the Air Force to which I probably would have not adapted well.
There seemed to be damned few times that I really felt that I was contributing to something greater or a part of something historical. The monitor of the evacuation of Saigon stands out. Being in Berlin during the same month as the Wall was coming down was memorable too. The disruption training mission, when it first started, was fun and interesting but it began to lose its allure after a few years and I eventually lost nearly all interest in doing it.
That 20 years was just another chapter in my life. I’m grateful for the memories. lessons, and friendships it provided but that chapter is behind me and an entirely new chapter has been written as I embark on yet another chapter.