Sunday, January 1, 2012
Photo of the Week #35 - Basic Training Barracks at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas
This photo brings back some memories of a very different time in my life. This is the barracks I spent my first six weeks in the active U.S. Air Force 42 years ago. All Air Force basic training takes place at Lackland Air Force Base just outside San Antonio, Texas. It was August 19, 1969 when I reported for active duty to this base and was assigned to a Basic Military Training Flight (the same as a platoon in the Army). I remember it all, too well. After being sworn in I was flown from Newark Airport in NJ on, the now defunct, Braniff Airlines to San Antonio International Airport then transported by Air Force bus to the base. We received our first Air Force meal at a 24-hour dining hall called Hell’s Kitchen. Actually, the food was quite good. Then we were marched to our new home, our barracks.
Each of these barracks was three-stories. These barracks were relatively new, probably only a few years old and, they were air-conditioned and of brick and masonry construction. There were a lot of older, not air-conditioned, wooden barracks on the base used to house basic trainees and permanent party. I was lucky enough to be assigned to one of the new barracks. The first floor was administrative offices, classrooms and a dining hall. Each of the upper two floors in each building housed a BMT flight. I was on the third floor of the building in this photo. From this “base of operations” we went through classroom training on required subjects, physical fitness, drill and endurance training on a tarmac pad across the road from the barracks and went off to the obstacle course, the firing range, the dispensary for physicals and inoculations and other requirements. Air Force basic training, at least when I was there, was six weeks in duration and, while we may have thought it was grueling and demeaning, was actually more like Boy Scout camp when compared to the Marine Corps basic training. Today the basic training program is about eight or nine weeks in duration.
We entered basic training as an unlikely rag-tag bunch of strangers from all over the U.S. and six weeks later we graduated as a tight-knit working unit. It seemed like it was taking forever, but it really went very fast. Yes indeed, this building was the place I started my nearly four-year Air Force career during the Vietnam era. If I weren’t in the process of being drafted into the Army, I wouldn’t have enlisted. But, honestly, I not only don’t regret enlisting, I gained much for my future and I’m proud to have served my country. This photo was taken on a rainy day in September 2003 while I was exploring Texas.