James E. Carter
Tulsa Post 308
“Let’s go, Rainbows!”
That was my official greeting into the U.S. Air Force. It was midnight in the San Antonio train depot and a drill sergeant had just arrived to drive us to Lackland Air Force Base to begin basic training.
We recruits (referred to as “Rainbows” because of the varied coloration of our civilian clothes) had just ended a two-day train trip from Kansas City.
Dog-tired, but unable to doze in the jouncing Dodge van, we watched the city lights clip by in the darkness. When our training was complete and we traveled this road in the opposite direction, we would be only months, some of us only weeks, away from Vietnam.
Upon entering the base, we were issued field jackets, flashlights, and padlocks. We were then taken to a 24-hour mess hall where we were served powdered eggs and hash browns... and coffee. It was ebony black and thick as syrup, but it was definitely coffee.
Our final stop that night was the barracks. Our home for the next eight weeks would be a World War II barracks which was seemingly held together only by military tradition and a reasonably fresh coat of paint. We would not begin actual training for several more days since our barracks was only half filled.
April is warm in south Texas. Even at night. Our air-conditioning consisted of having all the windows open to the night air. It was great! I slept like a baby… until 04:00. That is when I was awakened by strange sounds coming through the window.
Rubbing sleep from my scratchy eyes, I peered out into the pre-dawn darkness. There were people in the street! They were marching! With flashlights! As I watched those shadowy figures disappear around the corner, one thought kept echoing through my mind, “You big dummy! What have you gotten yourself into now?”