Friday, January 16, 2009


My name is Toad, and I'm a lurker.

One site I lurk fairly regularly is Mossback Meadow, which I would describe as something like reading a small town newspaper, in a town you enjoy being in. Written by a woman who stops here periodically. She has a son who recently joined the Army and another child due in a couple of months. I cry reading many of her posts.

This story is for her.

I suspect all branches of the military have a similar practice. They may call it something different, but when I was in the Mo. Air Force National Guard, the most important status you could be was "Short".

Short was a nickname for a short timer. You were soon to be finished training, or about to be redeployed, or get out . You get the picture.

Back during the dark days of December 1970 and January 1971 I fought the battle of Lackland AFB in San Antonio Texas. Others called it basic training. After about 6 weeks they told us that if we could sew stripes on all our uniforms they would let us out the next day. Ever watch boys sew?

So they put us on a bus and chauffeured us to Keesler AFB in Biloxi Miss, to attend technical school. In typical Air Force fashion, we got there mid Friday evening, were shown to our rooms, and told to report at 9 am Monday. Not knowing anyone in town, and with a couple of friends from home in my unit, we tried to get the lay of the land. We found it in about 5 minutes. There were soda machines everywhere and they all sold beer, at a dime a can. Weather was better than we left too.

Monday morning was awful.

Whoever was in charge took roll and asked the new boys what class they were in. Once recorded, on a large bulletin board was written your name, class, expected graduation date, and short date. We hadn't a clue what short was, so they explained as such.

Every weekday, until you were short you were expected to show up at roll call and afterwards you were assigned some stupid clean up project, until noon. When you were short you were excused from this drivel. You became short when you had the same number of days left in class, that you originally had weeks.

In my case I would be short 20 days before the end of class.

Four days there and already I'm having trouble with my room mate. Poor kid's regular AF from upstate NY, homesick as hell and 10 weeks into a year long program, after which he could look forward to a year in Thule, Greenland.

Over and over he played the same gawd awful Joni Mitchell album, then cried himself to sleep. Knowing I was out in 20 weeks did not endear me to him. But I was young and figured I could live with it.

So we did our grunt work, had lunch and went to class.. Next day same thing, except. Towards the end of class the instructor, said, "Gents, I've got news for you. In its infinite wisdom the AF sees no need for you to learn the last 2/3 of the material presented, so you will be out of here in 3 weeks... 21 days". On our second day we were SHORT.

No more getting up early. No more floor polishing, window washing, trash hauling. We were kings. God, were we hated. You would have thought we invented stink. Never again did morning roll include us.

Just to prove that good things happen to idiots, in 3 weeks I was sent to do battle at Jefferson Barracks, in suburban St. Louis, which is the oldest military base west of the Mississippi River. After a couple of days bothering people they had enough of us and sent us home. Told us to come back the second weekend of every month, for another 5 1/2 years.

Only problem was and it wasn't discovered until very much later, with our very little active duty time, we were not eligible for most of the GI benefits, and me a Viet Nam era veteran. (which I would never disgrace the honorable men and women who were there, by admitting.)


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