Inside cover page from the 3702 BMTS 1978 "Yearbook" documenting
life during Basic Training. We were Flight 483 - "Better than we need to be."
USAF BMTS Flight 483 yearbook photos. Most, if not all, of these
guys came from the Baltimore - Annapolis area
as did I.
Here are some photos that were taken of our flight during the
first day of processing at Lackland AFB.
Downstairs in the basement of the BX. Note the fine paint job
on the walls makes it look like a WWII bomb shelter. Left to right: TBD, TBD, AB
Alecia, AB Gainey, AB Hussey, AB Albers. Please contact me for edits.
Break area of the barracks. Left to right: AB Eckert, AB Albers,
AB TBD, AB Akin, AB Hussey. Please contact me for edits.
Link link to the
UASF Basic Military
Training website has group photos of decades of flights.
November 9, 1978,
a date which
will live in infamy - for me, anyway. That was the day I left my comfortable,
oblivious 20-year-old existence as an electrician in Mayo, Maryland, and boarded
a Delta Airlines flight to San Antonio, Texas. About six months earlier I had signed
up under the Delayed Enlistment program. I was on my way to becoming a fully trained
and qualified Weather Equipment Specialist, a career field chosen based on my keen
interest in weather phenomena, aviation, and aerospace (aka airplanes and rockets).
The plan was to survive six weeks of Basic Training (BT) at
Lackland Air Force
Base and then go on to technical school at
Chanute AFB in
Illinois. My first official act was to carry along with me a sealed envelope containing
the data of all enlistees boarding the flight from Baltimore-Washington International
to be surrendered to the sergeant who would ask for it upon arrival in San Antonio.
I was psyched.
Following deboarding at San Antonio International Airport (SAT),
a uniformed person directed our troupe to a staging area while awaiting a bus for
the ride to Lackland AFB. We were to stand quietly, looking forward. It was a small
sampling of what was to come. After what seemed like a long bus ride, we drove past
the guard house at the gate, rode to some building and were led into a dining hall
for grub. It was about 9:00 pm and none of us had had a meal since the noontime
flight down. Once fully nourished, we were ordered back onto the bus for a ride
to our assigned quarters at the 3702 Basic Military Training School (BMTS) barracks.
No sleep and a full belly makes one sleepy, so we were all looking forward to
a good night's sleep before beginning our first day of Basic Training. Our collective
drowsiness was suddenly cured when two sharply dressed, very mean-looking Training
Instructors (TI's, aka drill sergeants) stepped onto the bus and began walking up
and down the aisle letting us know that we were scum civilians and that their job
was to either convert us into well-heeled members of the U.S. Air Force or send
us packing back home as dishonored rejects who could not handle the military life.
One had in his hand a napkin ostensibly dropped on the ground by one of us cretins,
and he ripped us a new one for daring to litter his home grounds. I knew at that
point my stay at Lackland would not be as I imagined.
After assembling and standing in rank formation under the barracks foul weather
drill area, we underwent the time-honored routine of putting down and picking up
our baggage until we did it fast enough to please the TIs. A careful inspection
for contraband concealed on our persons was performed, and after what seemed like
an eternity, we finally marched upstairs to our barracks room. It was divided in
half by a block wall that did not go all the way to the ceiling. The TI's office
was toward the front, straddling the wall, with windows where a watchful eye could
be kept on us. Bunk and locker assignments were made in alphabetical order, and
the rules of the house were laid down to us in no uncertain terms. Master Sergeant
Blackwell - who could forget him - screamed the entire time while running up and
down between bunks, and even on top of them when the mood seemed right.
All civilian belongings except the clothes on our backs and the change of underwear
and towels we were instructed to bring along were inventoried, tagged, and locked
in a closet for retrieval upon leaving either via successful graduation or a you're-a-wuss-and-can't-take
it discharge. Tennis rackets, books, disco clothes (not from me), decks of
cards, packages of food, sunglasses, etc., all disappeared. While we were all
standing at attention at the ends of our bunks, the TI's raced up and down the
aisles warning us that full might of the UCMJ
would be brought down on anyone found to be holding back any form of
"contraband." One poor guy had purchased a couple "gentleman's" magazines at the
airport and feared disclosing them during the initial collection, and slid them
under the mattress of his bunk. He was so desperate that he was offering guys
near him money if one of them would take the magazines and claim ownership.
Nobody was that brave. The TI was sure to make a frightful example of him when
he finally, knees visibly shaking, 'fessed up to the crime. Slobs like me who
had no previous experience with any form of military discipline were eminently
convinced to never stray from that point on, lest we would surely die.
In those days, the Air Force had no problem with letting you know
how much of a worthless slug you were if an NCO or officer determined you needed
to be informed of it.
correctness, and feelings of entitlement had not been invented yet.
I was so naive about what Basic Training would entail that I wondered how I'd
kill time a couple day later on Veteran's Day, as well as on Thanksgiving Day.
Suffice it to say that was not a problem since we quickly learned that even on
holidays there were brass doorknobs needing polishing, trash needing to be
picked up, dishes needing washing, barracks needing guarding, etc. One of the
recruitment brochures showed a picture of guys sitting in the break around a TV
with the caption, "This isn't your uncle Eddie's military anymore." I can tell
you our break room did indeed have a TV - just like the photo - but it was never
once turned on.
Oh, before I forget, you need to know Airman Basic Hussey, who you will learn
more about later. This guy, who was a hard-a** tough guy at first, turned out to
be one of the funniest, nicest guys in the flight. I'll never forget the first time
he told us about his three sisters - Shameless, Brazen, and Wanton. He cracked us
Things were proceeding well (enough) at BMTS, then sometime during the second week
I received notice that my grandmother had died. I was offered the opportunity to
attend her funeral, but would have to start over afterward. My family insisted that
I continue, which I did. Then, at about the four week point I was told to report
to an administrative NCO about my "Guaranteed Job" as a Weather Equipment Specialist.
It seems there was a mix-up because in actuality there were no openings available.
The Air Force had six months before I reported for duty to figure that out, but
now they finally do. The big man with many stripes on his arm expressed his sorrow
for the error and said I could choose another job. He shoved a 3-ring binder in
front of me with many job titles and descriptions and told me to select from them.
All were administrative (office), supply, food service (pot washer), truck mechanic,
and other such things. When I asked about the availability of more technical jobs
like jet engine mechanic, radio technician, navigation aids, and so forth, he responded
that unfortunately there didn't seem to be any for me.
To this day I don't know how I managed the courage to mention my option to immediately
separate from the USAF if my Guaranteed Job was denied through no fault of my own.
His disposition turned unfriendly and he grabbed the binder from the desktop and
reached into a drawer and pulled out another binder that had "real" jobs in them.
I ended up selecting Air Traffic Control Radar Repairman - the guy who maintains
the radar, not an air traffic controller.
By my "civilian" counting of weeks, my six-week term at Lackland AFB would
have ended on December 22nd, just in time to get out of there for Christmas.
Around week five, I learned our final day would be December 26th because of the
"non-training days" around Thanksgiving and Christmas. That sucked. Christmas
Day was spent sitting in the barracks and making multiple trips to the dining
hall, since no TI's were around to regiment our movements. TI's and base
outprocessing personnel begrudgingly showed up the day after Christmas to see to
our disposition. On the other hand, it was a very joyful day for our group.
I've got some other experiences at USAF BMTS to add some other time.
I was unfortunate enough to have enlisted after December 31, 1976, when the very
generous GI Bill from the World War II era was replaced with the
Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) which, rather than paying out
a stipend for vocational school or college, paid out on a 2-for-1 basis on money
paid in by the serviceman. You contribute $1 while in the service, and the VA gives
you $2 back (one of which was your original dollar) once you separate from the service.
GI Bill participants paid nothing in. I signed up for Delayed Enlistment in
April of 1978 and reported for active duty on November 9, 1978. When I got out in
1982, I began taking classes toward an electrical engineering degree and applied
for VEAP benefits. The VA rejected my claim and sent me a bill for $35 instead.
I had to fight with them for nearly a year to clear their error and get my benefit.
Even then, they only allocated a pittance for tuition and fees - not even books.
At that point I said the heck with it and applied to just get my contributions back
- without any interest of course. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Meanwhile,
guys I worked with at Westinghouse who enlisted in time to get the GI Bill
were receiving nice checks each month for taking the same classes I took. It really
The USAF Basic Yearbook from 1978
These are the fine folks who made our 6-week stay at Lackland
Air Force Base as enjoyable as possible (-not). November - December 1978
An aerial view of Lackland AFB - before the days of R/C drones
C-47 Skytrain on static display at Lackland AFB.
F-82 Twin Mustang at Lackland AFB, November 1979
The final moments of civilian life for "Rainbows" (prior to issuance
of uniform green attire).
By some miracle, I, who had never shot anything other than a
BB gun, got a Marksmanship medal.
Obstacle course day at BMTS.
I always though it odd that this ceremony was called "retreat."
B-17 Flying Fortress at Lackland AFB, November 1979
3702 BMTS Squadron barracks. That's an F-104 Starfighter on static
Alamo, in downtown San Antonio. We got off the bus right in front of it, and
didn't even recognize it because it was buried amongst a bunch of large commercial
buildings. Davy Crockett
was nowhere in sight, but then he died during the great battle.
The first full day of training at Lackland AFB Basic Military
Posted December 14, 2022
(updated from original
post on 8/12/2014)