Last week I told you that back in 1957 I and an Air Force buddy named James D. Conyers — Condo for short — were Air Force tactical instructors, or basic training instructors, on Sheppard AFB.
We had both been TIs for less than a year, 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. However, one day someone quite different showed up. His name was O’Brian, and he was a 25-year-old Irishman, straight over from the “auld country” with red hair, blue eyes, and a thick Irish brogue.
One 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 say what he wanted.
“Have a seat,” he told us.
Then followed a group of insanely humorous questions about doing hilariously stupid things to basic trainees, but when I finally grew tired of them and asked the commander why he was asking us such crazy questions, his reply was:
“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 was the Office of Special Investigation, the Air Force equivalent of the FBI. Well, we knew we were innocent, but ...
We were called up to the OSI office and separately questioned for an hour or two, but other than doing that we spent three gloomy weeks waiting for we-knew-not-what. We killed time in the barracks talking, worrying, and wondering when — and more importantly how! — the mess we were in would end. Those were three terrible weeks.
One day, after all the waiting, we finally received an order to report to the orderly room. Hoping for some news, we scurried right over there, but the first sergeant just eyed us, pointed at two nearby chairs and said, “Sit.”
A few minutes later Airman O’Brian came in and was also told to sit.
Ten minutes later, in strolled the OSI man who had questioned us. He strode up to O’Brian and asked, “Are you Airman O’Brian?”
“Cletus J. O’Brian?
“From County Cork, Ireland?”
“Stick out your hands.”
Click, click, and ba–zip! On went a pair of handcuffs. Out the door went the OSI man and O’Brian.
An hour later, Condo and I were in the OSI office listening.
“... and was an avowed Communist. He was sent here by them to create some kind of ugly training incident, which would make our military look bad. He chose his victims and got eight foolish basics to sign a letter full of lies. It was sent to a lieutenant colonel assigned to Air Force headquarters, the uncle of one of the trainees. We got the job of investigating. It was pure BS. You two are totally cleared.”
Oh, man! What a relief!
What happened to O’Brian and the eight basics?
Beats me. They just disappeared off the base.
Frankly, I didn’t worry about it much as I sewed on my third stripe.