Sohn.Org


USAF

I was sworn into USAF on 24 May 67, at historic 100 Whitehall Street, andOTS had a reporting date on 27 May 67 at Medina AFB annex to Lackland AFB in San Antonio. My OTS class graduated 21 August 1967, my date of rank. Because the Israelis achieved their brilliant victory in the 1967 War primarily based on their Air Force, and since I was the only Jew in Officer Training School, I was promoted to OT Captain/Chapel Rep when we became upperclassmen. Go figure. However, I do recall how I came to be the Chapel Rep. During my time in OTS - May - August 1967, the Israelis were fighting the Six Day War and winning it by airpower. They were also giving us important intelligence on Russian SAM 6, which was shooting down a lot of our aircraft in Vietnam. Well, we had these assemblies in which we were briefed on the war and saw gun camera footage. Then, when it came time to assume the upper class ranks, Major Odham told the assembled Officer Trainees that we had "our own Israeli," that was me, being Jewish back then, and how I was going to be Chapel Rep. That was before I found what I was looing for in Jesus. Now I'm Lutheran. Like I said, go figure.

Looking at that watch I am wearing: it is a Bulova Accutron Astronaut. I  still have it, and  it was overhauled a couple of years ago. Now it runs great and that watch has all my worthwhile history in it; its hours minutes & seconds are all the  best parts of my life. I believe it is still the only watch that "hums" when you listen to it, and the seconds hand moves smoothly, no incremental movement. I went into the Air Force with a LeCoultre Memovox watch that broke. I sent it home to get it fixed and it was stolen in a robbery of my father's office, so my brother asked me which watch I wanted. At that time Bulova was providing the Accutron Astronaut watches to the Spring Valley Hounds Horse Show Outside CourseAstronauts, so there was no decision to be made. What a beautiful watch! The guy who overhauled it also repainted - or replaced - the face and it is really a striking watch. It went through OTS, UPT SEA & SAC with me - that's a lot of acronyms, huh? Then it went through all the marital crap. Yep, the watch is me, has all my history worth remembering, except horses, I guess. Oops, horses on the USAF page ... Well, they did have horses at Laughlin in Del Rio. Oh, yeah, that is me on Mandingo, what a great horse he was. This was taken about a year before I entered OTS, so it fits. Besides, Mandingo really flew over the fences, so of the few pictures I have of me and Mandingo I made a short picture show... Okay, back to USAF.

After Officer Training School I took a 155 mile trip, due west, to Del Rio, Texas, "The Crown City of the Rio Grande." That is where Laughlin AFB is. Laughlin used to be a B-25 training base during War2, legend has that the pilots of the relatively unstable B-25 had a sit-down strike because there were so many fatalities in training. Later, Laughlin became a top secret U-2 training base, that is how isolated it is. Del Rio, the county seat of Val Verde county, was also the home of the U. S. Army's Camel Corps. Apparently in 1873 the Cavalry was experimenting with camels for desert campaigns against the various local tribes. Camels did not work since U.S. Army Cavalry troopers were not enthusiastic about sitting cross-legged on a camel's hump, hitting it with a stick and saying, "Hut, hut!" to get it going. Legend has it - once again, lots of legends in a place where there is little else - that the Army turned the camels loose in the south western desert and you canHigh Flight see one once in a while. Yeah, right.

We flew T-41s - Cessna 172s - to see who was grossly out of place in the UPT program, then it was subsonic T-37, nicknamed "Tweets" because their engines had such a horrible high pitched wine. Those engines are probably why we all have tinnitus. After Tweets we spent 6 months in the "Sports Car of the Air Force and NASA" the T-38 Talon. It is supposedly one of the most highly performing fighter-type aircraft below 20,000 feet. That's what they said back then, NASA still plays with them - one of the perks of the astronaut program. Click the link above in the menu to: 69-03 UPT Site, just click here, and you will go to the Web site I made up for our Pilot Training Class. (It used to be on its own server, but I re-allocated that to our church, Trinity Evangelical of Flatbush.) I took all the flying pictures and most of the other ones, too, and they are really pretty good photos, although nobody has yet told me that other than me, and my IP (Instructor Pilot) when I first took the Ektachrome slides in 1968. (Had a bunch of night flying scenes, too, but I have no idea what happened to those.)

Thinking about my USAF service, and the time from then to now makes me feel unhappy that I did not stay for a 69-03 Placquecareer. But that had so much to do with the times, my first wife pissing every higher ranking officer's wife off, and my own stupidity. As I get older, I see how much I was right for a military career, but, as I remember thinking back then, I would get out and the only way I could was to "burn my bridges" so I could not go back. Stupid me. Had a Congressional Investigation of my squadron in Vietnam. Want to piss off your commanding officer? Just ask me how. Well, we are all back in the same place now, anyhow. The 69-03 Site has some really good video shot by Jon Gard back in 68 on Super 8 movie film. Check the "Video" link, it is really worth looking at; and yes, we did fly that close that fast. I will never forget the sweat-drenched flight suits after a solo flying four-ship.

One of the "dog-people" in the park said to me a few months ago, or years, or who cares: "Well, you never talk about anything but the Air Force,  why didn't you stay in? Hasn't anything happened since then?" Well, the answer to the first is I was stupid. Wendy told me if I did  not leave USAF she would take Allison and return to Australia -- a friend's wife, told him the same thing (without the Australia), and he told her he would pack her bags for her, and he was a Rhodes Scholar and was a StanBoard pilot at the 509th. Well, I was a jerk. Answer to second question: Didn't anything happen since then: I dunno, I haven't been watching, I don't think so.

Most people do not know how demanding it was and is to be an Air Force or Navy or Marines Pilot, Army too, 'cept they fly choppers. Like one of the only teachers I liked when I did that said to me once: "Wow, I saw a show on ----- channel, about Air Force pilot training; you guys really are the best of the best." Yeah, I guess; I am one of those guys we used to say "... could f-ck up a wet dream."

As regards the plaque the guys presented to me at our reunion, Rog Weller and I designed the Flight Patch, based onAwarded My Wings Al Capp's cartoon character, Moonbeam McSwine, and the motto was originally, "WINGS OR TITS" but we modified it for good taste. HAH! Good taste is the last thing any of us had, except regarding cars, I think. I am proud that my brothers from the Flight gave me this plaque, very proud. Sometimes I feel very alone, and in fact I am, but I know I have some of the best guys in the world as my friends; so when somebody asks if I have any friends as I am usually alone, I do not need to even answer that.

We got our wings on 15 November 1968, and it was off to more training in our assigned aircraft, survival training and the rest. Again, the pictures are on the 69-03 Site. Have a look.

I was ever that young, huh?















 
 

Tiger Shot

©Steve Sohn