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My First Pair of Combat Boots (technical training, draft)

November 29, 2017

Goodfellow Air Force Base, 1989

For military linguists, technical school is at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. San Angelo, Texas is a small town, dusty, in the middle of nowhere Central Texas.

During my technical training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, I became friends with Airman Hall. Airman Hall and I were roommates.  She was tall as me, but she had pinched-off limbs and a southern peach complexion like a perpetually day drunk flamingo. Airman Hall and I were similar in enough ways to be friends, and she was pregnant.

It was at Goodfellow Air Force Base where we learned how to use the basic equipment and technology for spying. We also got introduced to a range of potential “bad guys” we would later be assigned to target.

Our training happened in around-the-clock shifts to assimilate us into what would eventually be our erratic work schedules. Our classroom was underground in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) aka as in, and pronounced, “skiff.”

Our classroom was cold and cavernous, all 70s-blinky lights and such. Everyone was jacked into a console and listening to old recordings of the Cuban Air Force doing routine fly-overs. We trained using neck-breaking Cold War era headphones. The headphones were gray with a 10 foot vinyl-covered, twisty cord like that handheld telephone receiver from the telephonic party line days. Our screens were dark green-black, like the sky over an unused port. Our keyboards were heavy and looked magical because they were covered with rainbow colored keys and nobs. The keys were one knuckle deep and you had to really pound them to get any action.

Pounding, tacking, plasting, blamming on each each one, blam blam blam plast plast, heavy heavy, the size of two Now And Laters candies stacked atop each other, TACK, PLAST BLAMM BLAMM, TACK.

During training, you either heard the bad guys or the fans. The fans, located inside the electronic equipment stacks, kept the fury of us nubile, alert, and gung-ho military linguists cool. That night that started like any other night.  I was cool. Airman Hall was cool. That short, red haired, blued-eyed Howdy Doody-Marine that I’d end up seducing? Cool.

[DM: HALL TO GARCIA]

“My water just broke.”

I rolled my chair back away from my position to the length the headphone cord would allow and looked sideways, down the isle toward her. Airman Hall rolled out too. She was sodden and afraid. I got up and grabbed my USAF-issued trench coat and gave it to her to put on. When Airman Hall got up, everyone saw that her rolling chair was soaked with embryonic fluid, her waters.

The instructors, both female Air Force Sergeants, didn’t make a fuss. Airman Hall was embarrassed. An ambulance was called. It arrived. Airman Hall and I hugged, and I told her she could keep my coat. We had a good laugh. I went back inside and finished my shift.

The next day while I was out of our room someone came and collected all of her belongings. We never saw each other again.

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