J and D's Corner

Our Photo Attic - Stuff from Here & There

Early Military - 1957 to '62

 Not having produced a very impressive academic performance during my high school years, I determined that enlisting in the Air Force might be a better bet than trying for Harvard Law, so in August of '57 I headed to Lackland AFB for basic training. 

After only 4 weeks of Basic I was sent directly to the electronics training center at Scott AFB in Illinois, just across the river from Saint Louis MO. This was the result of an annoying program called "integrated Basic" which featured half day in tech school and half day finishing basic training, stretching my period as a basic trainee out to nearly twice its normal duration and putting me one promotion cycle behind my contemporaries.  However, the tech school environment was better and the tech training great fun.

Following tech training, in the spring of '58 I was transferred to Pope AFB, adjacent to the 101st Airborne's main base at Fort Bragg NC.  We were grossly over-staffed there, which none of us could quite fathom at the time but enjoyed via frequent "3-day pass" summer weekends which I mostly spent at Carolina Beach NC in the company of D, who had procured a summer job there as a waitress. 

The reason for the over-staffing became clear in late summer when most of us were transferred en masse to Shaw AFB in Sumter, SC, as components of the newly reorganized 507th Communications & Control Group.  The Air Force's Tactical Air Command, pressed to integrate more closely with the Army, was implementing the ground-based "forward air controller" concept that would put Air Force pilots right up with forward Army elements to coordinate air support. Our function was to be the communications, command & control element of the concept.  The pilots thus assigned were, just as an aside, initially not overly enamored of this concept.

I spent the entire remainder of my first enlistment operating out of Shaw, during which time period there was a fascinating evolution in both operational tactics and the equipment that supported it.  The equipment we initially used was Korean War vintage, large truck-mounted vacuum tube type systems that still used AM voice transmission, teletype and even Morse code, and had to be augmented with portable Army gear if talking directly with the "grunts" was necessary.  Gradually the transistor started to appear and by the time I left in early 1962 a full forward air control system that could talk with everyone involved fit in a Jeep.  Today, as you see on TV, a man-portable radio not only can bring in the Air Force but connect you directly to Washington (not necessarily a good thing, BTW).

Those years at Shaw AFB were a pivotal period in our lives, as during that time we were married and had our first two children.  The decision to re-enlist for the first time, which was essentially the decision to make the Air Force a career, was also made there.

Click the thumbnails for full-size pictures.


Basic Training

Well, we looked the part...sort of

Waiting for Shots

At the "sharp": end of this line, you got it in both arms simultaneously from two medics who were VERY good at their job, holding two or three hypos in one hand and hitting you so fast you hardly felt it.

Barracks (Tech School)

The old WW-II open bay barracks were condusive to impromptu gatherings. Fun unless you wanted to sleep.

Tech School Class

You went through the whole school period as a group. A few of these guys I still have (tenuous) contact with.

More Barracks Time

I built a small AM "carrier current" transmitter that we'd broadcast from the barracks with. Set to the frequency of a popular rock & roll station that went off at sundown, if we timed it right we'd pick up all their listeners in the area.

Thin and With Hair

Definitely an early picture. Hadn't gotten into beer as a food group yet.

Home Sweet Home

The barracks was immediately adjacent to the runway end, jets from the alert hangar would hit afterburners just a few hundred feet away, dropping dust & bits of what-not from the ceiling.

Early "Cold War" Deployment

When we went off to somewhere or other to show the flag (or intimidate some recalcitrant regime), the bulky gear meant transport was a major operation.

ASOC (Air Support Operations Center)

The forward controllers relayed requests back to this type of center set-up, from which the actual missions were directed. As well as communications (my job) we fielded virtually everything from radar to telephone.

Comm & Encription Vans

Our 2nd generation gear, with capabilities considerably advanced over the Korean War stuff but still bulky as hell compared to todays super-minaturized everything. If anything needed to be encripted it had to go via teletype transmission.