You know that line, from Rocky Horror… that opens Time Warp? “It’s astounding/Time is fleeting…”
Fifteen years ago, I was one of 300-odd Air Force ROTC cadets that were sent to Lackland AFB (San Antonio, TX) for Field Training. “Camp” for those in the program. It was the first session that summer (cunningly named “Lackland I”). At this time, all those years ago, we were about halfway through the experience, which for us was four weeks of immersion in a bubble with very little contact with the outside world.
Yes, we got occasional letters in, but that was it.
It was an up at 4:30a, go until 9:30p, non-stop, one activity to another, superman drills to change from one uniform to another as the schedule for the day dictated.
Looking back, it was a blur, but it was a rewarding experience.
When I first realized it’s been fifteen years, I had a rush of memories…
… Of meeting up with one of my friends from college that was assigned to the same session – both in the Charlotte airport, and then again at San Antonio. I arrived first and waited for her to arrive before reporting to the “Welcoming Committee.” We were on the last bus to the base, the last handful of cadets to arrive.
… Of the “Warrior Handbook” – information that we had to memorize (a new piece of information, daily, that we could be asked to repeat at any time).
… Of giant jackrabbits in the sand as we marched everywhere we went.
… Of Road Guards, and PT several times a day.
… Of “camp funk” when dozens of sweaty people (from the constant PT and San Antonio sun) are gathered in one room. Something that we couldn’t notice because we were part of it.
… Of always having to travel in pairs (at least).
… Of always having to wear (or carry, depending on the uniform) a canteen. And the handbook. And demerit slips.
… Of the time I had to have lunch with a Senior Master Sergeant. Not one of the happier memories. It stemmed from something that I had heard and copied down that I thought would be an interesting piece for a story… a jodie that a flight mate from Texas A&M had shared.
… Of the “night” of “survival training,” and learning that some ants taste like lemon drops, and grasshoppers are best eaten if you pull the legs off first.
… Of the trip to the firing range. Do you know how hot a spent casing can be? Do you know the kind of focus and presence of mind that it takes to be firing 9mm pistols and not react when a spent casing, ejected from the chamber, flies up and lands inside the collar of a BDU jacket, on the back of the neck?
… Of the trips to the Confidence Course, and the LTC (Leadership Training Course).
… Of finishing my full PFT, and still having the energy to run back and cheer and push other members of the flight that were still going.
… Of being relieved when it was over, and spending most of the next weeks recovering.
There were about 300 people assigned to the session. Ten Flights (Alpha through Juliet) of 28-30 people. Of the four people from my ROTC program assigned to that session, I was the only one in the top half of the alphabet (Charlie flight). There were 28 of us in Charlie Flight… I’ve tried finding them over the years, although it’s been a while since my last attempts. I’ve found a few, and we’ve connected through Facebook. (Hi, guys!)
28 of us shared in the experience. At the time, we were Coyotes. Coyotes on the prowl.
And we survived…