It was not a question - I intended to enlist in the USAF after having such a great senior year in High School ROTC. Myself and at least 30 others who had lived and grown up in the Panama Canal Zone felt the same way - and Albrook AFB in the Canal Zone was the place to be. I enlisted on 27 April 1951 and along with many others during that summer - we were told that we would not be sent to the ZI for our Basic - as the 5700th Air Base Group intended to have "basic" sent to us at Albrook. Our class consisted of about 25 that enlisted there and were active duty at Albrook and another 20-30 that were Air Force Reserve, and all of us would make up the first and only ever Basic Training Class officially conducted overseas.
SSgt Simpson was in charge and we were all quartered in one barracks and along with the syllabus provided by Hq ATC, we were provided all of the subject matter by "experts" there in the command that were in charge of such areas as, Legal, Medical,Military Justice,Historical, and each of those teaching the classes were in most cases, Commissioned officers assigned
The OIC of the Training Division at HQ(Major Thomas S. Simpson)decided that I would be the Flight Leader since I had recently been very involved with drill and ceremonies at high school, and that I did. Our classes and the dining hall were located some distance from our barracks and plenty of drill was the order of the day.
Our three week class was soon over and we went back to work within the Command. I requested I be transferred from the 3rd Crash Rescue Boat Sq, to the Operations and Training Office of the Group as the experience I had just had with the training and education of my fellow airmen seemed like a better career field than the Marine Engineering. I became a "General Military Training" instructor and stayed in that same field for the next thirty years, retiring at Tyndall AFB, Fl as the Base Sergeant Major in May 1981.
I have included a photograph of the entire basic training flight as I was conducting drill and ceremonies instruction outside of the Caribbean Air Command HQ building. You can easily recognize those "Basics" as having no chevrons.
Many of us continued on with an Air Force career and several went into commissioned programs and then on flight training. Since most of our class were born and raised there - we continue to maintain in contact.
In 2005, I contacted the Command Historian at Hq Air Training Command and provided copies of the Special Orders that constituted the establishing of the Basic training course of instruction at Albrook. It was soon found to be very much a surprise. No one at ATC did not know of such an event, but I assure you that all of us in that class were very much aware that we were undergoing Basic Military Training, at Albrook AFB, CZ in 1951.
CMSgt John E Schmidt Jr