Whispers From the Past

Isn’t it interesting, how long lost memories seem to bubble up from somewhere in the subconscious sometimes. Perhaps it was triggered by an approaching high school reunion, that memories, not of high school, but of my experience in the military surfaced.

It has been nearly 40 years (holy crap! Am I THAT old?) since I was in the US Air Force. Fresh out of high school, with no marketable skills, absolutely no inclination to attend college, and hell bent on avoiding being someone’s wife, the military seemed like the answer to a prayer. Travel, discipline, free room and board, valuable training; it was a no-brainer for me.

I made it through basic training thanks to the advise of my wonderful recruiter, “There is going to be yelling, but they won’t be yelling at you personally. They will be yelling at your performance.”

And he was right. Each time our tech sergeant got in someone’s face and started screaming, I worked harder to improve whatever drill we were working on. Almost every night, as I lay drifting off to sleep, I could hear one or more of my fellow airmen softly sobbing into her pillow. Some I’m sure were homesick, I know I had my share of that, for others they were tears for battered egos.

The Jet Shopblytheville_afb_001

After basic training and tech school, I was stationed at what used to be Blytheville Air Force Base, in Blytheville Arkansas. In 1988, the base was renamed Eaker Air Force Base. It eventually succumb to budget cuts and was closed as a military installation in December 1992.

I love to play this game with people, take a wild guess what my technical training was for in the Air Force. Go ahead, guess. Alright, I’ll tell you. I was trained to be a jet engine mechanic. Mind you, this was in the mid 1970s when the women’s movement was in full swing; so while some people thought of a woman in the jet shop as a good thing, others did not.

Although technically I was the second woman ever to be assigned to that jet shop, I was the first woman to actually work on engines. I worked on B52 Stratofortress and KC135 Stratotanker aircraft both in the shop and on the flightline. I LOVED it!

B52 Stratofortress

B52 Stratofortress

KC135 Stratotanker

KC135 Stratotanker

I have a lot of wonderful memories of those years; being away from home for the first time in my life, drinking and recreating in the Airmen’s Club, delicious pulled pork barbecue sandwiches at a little shack on the Arkansas/Missouri border, sitting on the bank of the Mississippi river when off duty.

I have never for a moment regretted my years in the military. It helped to shape my work ethic, it cemented my love for our country, it afforded me experiences I never would have had otherwise, and it allowed me to build a career that would not have been possible without it.


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