originally posted by: manuelram16
a reply to: wantsome
I started learning to fly at 17, planned on joining the Air Force before I got drafted for Nam, got my private pilot rating at 18.....but war ended
I got an earlier start. Since my family had 7 kids, we had no spare money, so at age 13 I got a job at the local airport sweeping hangar floors,
washing airplanes, pumping fuel, etc. I earned $1.00/hour, half in cash, half in flying lessons. So at 14 I soloed gliders, soloed power (7AC Champ)
at 16, Private at 17. So, when I was drafted in 1968, I had about 2000 hours flying time, a Commercial, Flight Instructor (single and multi engine)
Instrument, Instrument Instructor ratings and certificates. I was approached by an Air Force Major with an offer. The result was that I was discharged
from the Army "for the good of the service" and immediately brought into the Air Force as a direct commission candidate for employment as a pilot. It
was the same thing they did with doctors and lawyers. I had to finish basic training at Ft. Knox. I was then sent, without the leave every other basic
graduate got, to "Officer Indoctrination School to teach when to salute, what courts martials were all about and other stuff they deemed essential. I
graduated and got a set of golden railroad tracks to pin on my uniform as a 2nd Leutenant. I also got an airline ticket to Seattle where I got on a
Saturn Airlines charter flight to Tan Son Nhut airbase just outside Saigon. I then caught a Huey to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Udon Thani,
Thailand. It was a severe culture shock for a kid from redneck Kentucky. Initially, I was to teach Thai pilots to fly T-28s, It eventually became
apparent that these Thai kids just didn't have the background to use the technology. Hell, some of the Hmong cadets had been running around the
mountainous jungle in the Highlands in loincloths not too long before they were expected to do time/speed/distance calculations in their head. They
were great kids who really tried but just simply couldn't do it. So the first thing I learned in the military is that skin color has no bearing on
value as a human. Anyway, TPTB decided that we would have to do the job and made us a part of the 602nd Special Operations Squadron, assigned to he
1st Fighter Wing - Air Commando. They gave us Douglas A-1 Skyraiders, a wonderful brute of a single engine attack/fighter aircraft. We could carry
more ordinance than a WWII B-17 4 engine bomber - 250 and 500 pound dumb bombs, napalm, rockets, incendiaries, cluster bombs and 20 mm cannons. One
Stars and Stripes reporter said we carried everything but a kitchen sink, so some of our guys talked a mechanic into rigging a kitchen sink to an
underwing hardpoint. The engine was a Wright R-3350, 18 cylinder, supercharged radial putting out over 2000 horsepower from its 55 liter displacement.
If the Industrial Revolution had a sound, it would be that of a 3350 starting.
We did combat search and rescue of downed aircrews and close air support for ground units. The next thing I learned is that, notwithstanding what
the politicians and wannabes and people who never fought said, we were not fighting for country or flag or any of those other faux reasons people harp
on, we were fighting for the poor guy who had been shot down and the mud marines and army guys about to be overrun. We were not some kind of
uberpatriot. We were simply warfighters trying to survive. I learned other lessons. Killing people isn't glorious. Fear can be ignored or overcome.
When they moved us into Phantoms (F-4 Phantom II) I flew with a backseater who was the weapons/radar operator, I was paired with an African-American,
who also happened to be gay. I learned that we were much more alike than different. There is not a lick of difference between "soul" food and
hillbilly food. The military, and particularly the military in a combat era will mature you. You will learn what is really important and that you can
easily overcome petty inconveniences. I don't particularly look back on that time with fondness, but I'm glad I went through it. It paid for a law
degree and provided the experience necessary for a career flying 550 ton jets around the world. And my housegirl taught me how to cook Thai food.
By the way, your results may vary.