Last week I told you that I and an Air Force buddy named James D. Conyers, Condo for short, were Air Force tactical instructors, or basic training instructors, back in the days when TI was a career field, just like — say — jet engine mechanic. In fact, some men spent their entire careers as TIs.
On Sheppard AFB, Texas, to which we were assigned, Condo and I spent our days teaching young men the ins and outs of military life. We were both very happy with what we were doing because we knew that when a man truly understands what military life is all about he is headed for happy and successful years.
We had each become TIs about a year earlier, were already wearing two stripes, and were up for promotion. Condo was really something when he drilled the troops. His “command voice” was so good that when he gave a command it sounded like the crack of a rifle.
Roughly 95% of the basics we worked with were in the 18- to 20-year-old range; so they were young, flexible, and ready to learn, which made our job easier. However, someone very different showed up one day. His name was O’Brian, and he was a 25-year-old Irishman, straight from the “auld country” with red hair, blue eyes, and a thick Irish brogue.
Condo and I were each about 25, so O’Brian was more our age, but he tried to get too friendly, often strolling into the small office we shared and trying to become a “handy dandy little helper.” Because he was a foreigner, we treated him with respect, but discouraged the brown-nosing.
One sunny summer morning Condo and I were called over to the orderly room and told to report to the commander, a first lieutenant. We entered his office, saluted and reported, and waited for him to tell us why he had called us.
“Have a seat,” he told us.
As soon as we were seated, he looked up and asked me, “Airman Garrett, have you ever made a basic do pushups until he passed out?”
It being a laughably ridiculous question, I smiled as I said no.
He then turned to Condo and asked, “Airmen Conyers, have you ever had a man kneel behind a trainee so that you could push the trainee and make him fall backward over the man?”
“No, sir,” Condo replied, grinning from ear to ear.
Questions like that kept coming, and Condo and I were both grinning and waiting for the punch line when I noticed that the lieutenant was reading off some kind of official looking paper. “Excuse me, Sir,” I said, “but would you mind telling us why you are asking us all these odd questions?”
Astonishingly enough, he replied, “Well, this document says you two have been doing such things, and as of right now you are both relieved of duty. The OSI will no doubt soon contact you. Be available when needed.”
Other than that, we could get nothing whatsoever out of him or anyone else. The OSI being the Office of Special Investigation, or the Air Force equivalent of the FBI, we knew we were in trouble, but the whole thing seemed like some kind of insane nightmare.
We were called up to the OSI office and separately questioned for an hour or two, but other than that we spent the next three weeks in our barracks waiting for we knew not what. Trust me, it was not fun!
Next week: The ax falls.