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OTS HeaderI was sworn into USAF on 24 May 1967 at 100 Whitehall Street, as my brother and father looked on. The old building, which had been a military recruiting center since before the civil war, was being picketed by the Catholic Mothers for Peace who were protesting outside. I took it personally and on the way out bumped into a few of them.
 
I was given until 27 May 67 to report to USAF Officer Training School atOT Medina Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. Medina was the annex base to the well known Lackland Air Force Base where about everyone in USAF went through basic training. They called us the "Medina Marines" as our facilities were pretty sparse and Spartan.

 I drove the MGB down to Texas with Eileen and Little Bit coming along until Tulsa when Eileen took Little Bit and head back to the City. I continued on to OTS and nearly disqualified myself on the way down.

I was driving on what I think was a beltway around Dallas, getting a little late and really poured it on. I got pulled over by a local sheriff and he told me I was going in excess of 105MPH and he had to take me to the station, which was the second floor of the firehouse.

I believe my license plates were more the cause of the problem, as I had New York plates in the deep south of Texas during the days of civil rights. Well, they fined me $125 and cut me loose as if they had charged me I would have been disqualified for USAF OTS. I stressed the OTS to these Texas sheriffs, but they really couldn't give a damn about that. So much for Texas patriotism, or at least for that particular Dallas suburb sheriff.

I got to Medina and was surprised that from the beginning everyone called me "sir." It seemed strange, maybe I was instantly commissioned? Perhaps they understood that being a New Yorker I was naturally of a higher order?  No, everyone called everyone "sir," I was still low man on the totem pole.

We wore pith helmets and I joked, Who had the lisp? Nobody found that funny but me. Our boots - later to be Mailflying boots -were called "brogans." In the morning they would announce the uniform of the day, usually it was, "The uniform of the day is pith helmets and brogans."
One morning close to graduation the OT (Officer Trainee) Group Staff, of which I was a member, fell in wearing underwear, pith helmets and brogans. We would have dispensed with the underwear except that there was a flight of WAF across the quadrangle and we did not want to get court martialled before we were commissioned.

It was the summer of 1967, and the big news was the Six Day War in which Israel beat the crap out of all its Arab neighbors. Before that the general slur was "Jews can't fight." After, there was no slur. In fact, the Israelis captured several Russian SAM 5 missiles that had been knocking our aircraft down in Vietnam and they sent one to us. So the Israelis were big heroes, which worked in my favor. Being, at the time, Jewish, I remember when my class was promoted to the upper classmen and as they were picking the Group Staff, I recall Major Odland saying something about the great fighters in Israel, and we had our own Jewish warrior here. He was talking about me and they made me OT Chapel Representative, which was like being the chaplain, which was like having nothing to do except wear shoulder boards with lots of crosses on them.

I think that upset my mother, but it didn't bother me who was used to getting blessed by Monsignor Melton with the Meadow Brook Hounds.

It was hot during OTS, from May to August; likely no worse time to be in Texas, although I cannot thing of a good time to be in Texas.

We had to run a mile every morning, and I was never a runner. The best I ever did was sprint the 100 yard dash. Well that track seemed awfully long and I never would finish if Roy Crabbe did not run behind me with a stick, whacking me on the ass when I wanted to stop. There are 8 furlongs in a mile, and we found out when it was time to run the mile for graduation, which they did as a cross-country mile, that the regular track was 9 furlongs, a mile and an eighth.

After we became upperclassmen, if we kept out of trouble, we got to have weekend leave in San Antonio. We stayed at the El Tropicana Motel whose French toast I still remember. They had started building the River Walk back then, and although it was not complete, it was still nice.

I only remember hanging around the pool and walking along the San Antonio River. Although I remember oneEl Tropicana incident well. One of the guys was the head of the OT band, a great musician whose name was Rudy Valentino (really). So we, I do not remember who, but it was me, Rudy and a few other guys were checking into a motel and Rudy gives the elderly woman his name, "Rudolph Valentino."

The woman is shocked, puts her hand to her mouth and says with tragedy in her voice, "Oh no! The Sheik is dead, the Sheik is dead."

Rudy's band played as we marched in OTS, never could figure out how they would wash a guy out of USAF OTS for problems marching, but we lost about 30-40%. Rudy had orchestrated the theme from the Mickey Mouse Club to what is called a maxixe rhythm, and he would play it as we drilled.

Finally he was told not to play it any more. After that we just sang it as we marched. Days it was too hot to go out and do our marching they hung up a red flag and we sweated it out in the non-air conditioned barracks.

Cannot remember much about OTS, except that we got about three minutes for breakfast and we spent the time cramming as much food into our mouths as possible, looking like a pack of squirrels. I remember when we were forming up outside the barracks one day, there was a bush right behind me, touching me and that is when I got bitten on the ass by a scorpion. I think they said it was a "vinegaroon," but I cannot remember.

By the way, each of these pictures is linked to a slide show of the pictures I have from OTS.

We graduated on 21 August 1967 and that became my date of rank. My parents were there for the graduation, Eileen was there too, we drove back home for leave together.

At Pool
One of the reasons I went into USAF was because Eileen and I thought we wanted to get married and there was not a whole lot of acceptance for religious intermarriage, so we thought we should get independent. Of course the marriage never happened, but USAF did; likely the best days I ever had.


I liked the khaki 1505 uniform; USAF dumped it in favor of a light blue shirt and dark blue pants, they should have stayed with the 1505s, they had character.

I remember when I went to Sydney on R & R to ruin my life. I was wearing 1505s and jungle boots (shoes had rotted away). I was given a nice woolen crew neck sweater to wear because it was winter there. So we went to her father's "club," which is what they called saloons down there. I order a beer and I lift the sweater to get into my left-hand breast pocket, where I kept my money.

The barman, who looks like he is part bear, is watching me and he says, "Here, you can't buy anything in here."

So I figured, Shit, they hate us here too?

Then the barman tells the guy next to me, "He's a Yank pilot," he saw my wings on the 1505 shirt.

I got mobbed. They meant I could not pay for anything there, as they all bought drinks for me. The Aussies did appreciate us, must have been the 1505s.

Got drunk enough to marry an orangutan, let alone my former #1 spouse. Great days, huh? Right.
El Tropicana Also





©Steve Sohn