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Upon Being Discharged from the Air Force
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 by Frank Shortt
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After serving four years with Uncle Sam, I was pretty well indoctrinated in discipline. I was used to taking orders from anyone who was my superior, especially the Staff Sergeants who actually run the Air Force.

I had three jobs as an Airman at Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento, Ca. My classification was as a Special Vehicle Repairman. That job consisted of repairing, first of all, fire trucks and towing tractors used on the flight line. Unfortunately, I never liked being a mechanic after having chosen this as my career field. After a few times of being called out at 3am to go to the flight line with one of the senior airmen to repair broken down vehicles, I was ready for just about anything that did not require me to have to be a night owl. If there were no “Special Vehicles” to work on, I was also required to repair almost any other general purpose vehicle that came in to the maintenance shops.

After attending Technical School at Chanute Field Illinois to learn the ins and outs of the R-2 Re-fueling truck, I returned back to my duty station, Mather AFB, to resume my job. I was never given the chance to work on the R-2! I had been promoted to Airman First Class recently and it seems that during my absence a job opening was created when the Staff Sergeant at the base Quartermaster Station was promoted to Tech Sergeant. I was ‘gently encouraged’ to take over his duties after he had trained me in the finer points of running the Station. I had no choice! After all, he had trained me for the position.

My job at the Station consisted of overseeing about 14 men, more or less, who would be working three shifts. I was also required to procure any items we might need to run the Station, as well as, procure the gasoline for all the base vehicles used on the flight line and general staff transportation. At the station we did minor maintenance, making sure the base vehicles contained ample oil, water, antifreeze (in winter) and making sure their windshield wipers worked during rainy season. After I learned the jobs in and outs, I could have my work done in about two hours, unless I worked slowly. The rest of the time I could wander around the base looking for spare parts or anything else we needed.

I got to know a lot of people in the last couple of years of my hitch as I moved around the base.

My third, and probably least important duty, was as a member of the radiac detection team. We were trained about what causes a nuclear device to explode as the one in charge pushes the right button. In order to be on this team, each member wore a little round black box. If we had been required to attend a site where a plane crashed with nuclear devices aboard, we wore this little box and it would record the amount of radiation that was released in case one of the devices exploded. This was sheer comfort to each of us on the team.

Upon my release from the Air Force I was at odds as to what to do next as all I knew was discipline and taking orders from my superiors! I even continued to roll my undergarments, my socks, and any other small garment as I was taught to do in the Air Force. My wife and I lived with my in-laws for a while after returning from a trip to the east to see my folks and for my wife to meet all of them. It so happened that my in-law’s neighbor owned a filling station where they also did minor maintenance to vehicles. My father in law talked to the neighbor and he hired me to do the second shift. As not many people came in at night to get gas, I was given the second duty to do any vehicles left from the daytime for minor maintenance. This afforded me a small wage and gave me some great training in the ways of business. I stayed there until I got a better paying job, and even after, as I was working during the daytime now and could do the filling station at night. My boss was very nice to me because I was a veteran and because I was his neighbor’s son-in-law.

Through the years I went from one job to another not ever forgetting my first training in the service of my country. I worked my way up from service station attendant, to shipping clerk, to custodian, to maintenance man (at a school district) to management trainee at a Lumbertaria/hardware company in Arizona, back to maintenance man in California, to night supervisor of custodians, to being the Chief of Operations at the same school district. I know that I have been blessed beyond reason since I left the U.S. Air Force and I would have to say that every effort I have made was blessed.

Most of the training I received in the Air Force has helped me in the procurement of jobs and how to handle myself in those jobs. For the life of me I cannot see how that being trained as a radiac detection member and wearing a little black box around my neck has ever benefitted me in any way during my lifetime!