Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
The first of March, 1955 I boarded the “Doodle Bug” which was a railroad engine and one passenger car that traveled from El Dorado, Kansas to Kansas City. There were five of us traveling to KC to join the Air Force, we were all from Butler County. Jerry Hayes of El Dorado, Gene Mauck from Douglass who I new from high school days, Wesley I can’t remember his last name from Augusta and a guy whose last name was George also from Augusta. My girlfriend Pat was there to send me off to Uncle Sam, I think she was the only one there as I did not see the other recruits have anyone there.
We arrived in KC and was taken to where we would be getting our medical exams and chow hall. They had two big rooms with cots for us. There were about two hundred plus recruits, and I was assigned to one room and the rest of my group was in the other room. After the exams, they were making three groups of 75 to 80 in each group and my Butler County group came and got me and the officer allowed me to be in their group, I sure was glad. We were then loaded in sleeper rail cars and shipped to San Antonio, Texas. That was the best sleep I have had, it was a steady rocking and rolling.
The next morning, we unloaded into Air Force buses and were driven to Lackland Air Force base, and unloaded at our home for the next eleven weeks. We were greeted by our Technical Instructor (TI), lined up into four lines, then marched (what a mesh) to our barracks. The barracks were two story. The bottom story had the showers/sinks and stools for the whole building, also the TI had his private room there. Then one big room with army steel cots stacked two high for about forty airmen. The top floor had a day room with tables for writing and studying. The top floor had a big room for forty cots like the bottom floor. We were assigned cots I was lucky to get a top bunk and we were each given a foot locker to keep our personal stuff and our socks and underwear. We had shaving and shower stuff as well as writing material and shoe polish. I was on the bottom floor and the other four Butler County guys was on the second floor but I didn’t mind as I made friends fairly easily. All seventy six of us were now called a flight.
Over the next few weeks, we learned how to march together, but there were a few guys that had to carry a rock in their left hand to remember left from right, thankfully not me. We marched to everything, pictures, barbershop for a buzz cut, clothes, classes and the firing range. The TI wanted to know if anyone could drive a truck while we were at the range and several hands went up and they left and I thought, SUCKERS. They came back in fifteen minutes pushing three wheel barrows full of ammo, never volunteer in basic training.
After being in basic for a few weeks, the weather started getting hot and not much shade was available. At times while we were standing at ease on the street waiting for an empty class room, some one would pass out and they would carry them to the shade and put some water on their head, they would come to and be okay.
There were three movie theaters on base and we could go on the last four weekends of basic. We also could get passes on these weekends to leave the base. I never had the desire to leave the base and a few of the others also stayed on base. Since I stayed on base, I didn’t spend much money and there were a few that spent their money and would come to me to borrow five bucks telling me they would pay me back double on pay day. Every one I loaned money to always paid me back. I would not loan over five dollars and would not loan to everyone.
We sure looked forward to mail call. The first ten days, the TI would have everyone stand around him and he would yell the name on the letter then pass it back to you. There was no mail for me for several days, what a downer — I thought Pat had moved on. Then, the next mail call, the TI called out Woodall, Woodall, Woodall, Woodall, damn Woodall you made out today (love you Pat).
We completed basic training — two of us from the 76 people of our flight are being sent to Kessler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi for radar training but first we can go home for a week.
Kessler AFB Biloxi, Mississippi
I arrived at Kessler in June of 1955 and started radar operator school. All air traffic that was with in 300 miles of the radar site would show on the radar screen. We were trained to write backwards and read what was on the radar screen then to plot this info onto a 8 ft x 8 ft clear plastic vertical board. This board had circles, mileage markers and lines like a compass. There were recorders putting the info from the board onto paper so if there was a need this info could be saved.
While at Kessler when we were not in class, a friend and I would go to the swimming pool or go to the Airman’s club and had hamburgers and beer. The club was not large and would hold about seventy people. Sometimes they would have singers booked in as there was a small stage for the entertainers. One evening my friend and I went there and some guy was singing and playing a guitar and shaking. There were about twenty people there and I asked “Who is that?” It was Elvis Presley and he was not well known yet but was getting popular, this was July, 1955.
One weekend four of us took the bus to New Orleans and down to Bourbon Street. Good music but crazy and odd people.
From Kessler AFB ten of us were sent by train to a radar site in northern New Mexico, this took place in August, 1955.