There was a place we called “The Green Monster” at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas circa 1968. It was a very long building painted green. The new enlistee's welcome to the military was here.
We were raw recruits recently signed into Uncle Sam’s Air Force. It was our first day and time to leave behind civilian status to step into the life of an Airmen. We carelessly bopped along in a group to the large building affectionately known as “The Green Monster.” Our Training Instructor (TI) led us to the front door. We were urged in with a curt command of “Single File.” Thus it began.
Inside the door was a long walkway. To our left was a counter. Behind the counter there were shelves with all manner of military clothing folded and piled high. We had no time to marvel at the long line of shelves or the length of the building we had just entered. At the very start of our parade through, we were told to halt. All of us came to a civilian’s stop. We were told to face the counter and then one word rang through the length of the building.
We all looked at one another with mirth on our faces. I know I was thinking, “That’s funny. They think we’re going to take our clothes off in the entrance of this building.”
Once again the command was bellowed into the ears of all of us unbelievers standing in the open door.
The TI was screaming this command at us. One look at his face was enough.
We shucked our clothes into a heap and stood with our hands crossing our groins. This was the first time I noticed the cool breeze entering through the door. There we were a line of young manhood standing butt naked in front a mile of counter space. Several young bald recruits in starched fatigues began yelling at us from the business side of the counter.
Being raised in the South, I didn’t quite understand the question. After all, I was standing Au Naturale, shivering in the cold. My mind was occupied with my present predicament of goose bumped flesh.
"I beg your pardon?" I asked. He looked at this pathetic face full of fear and astonishment, not to mention standing stark nekkid and covered in goose bumps from toe to tussled hair--now there's another story, when I had hair.
"I'm sorry?" I repeated.
"SKIVVIES! ASSHOLE! SKIVVIES! WHAT SIZE? WE DON'T GOT ALL DAY, YOU DUMB SUMBITCH!"
"28" (Now there's another story, too. Let's' just say I'd be hard pressed to fit into those SKIVVIES now)
"SPEAK UP! THERE'S TOO MUCH NOISE IN HERE WITH YOU WALKING TURDS TO HEAR PU--Y VOICES ACROSS THIS COUNTER. NOW, SPEAK UP, S--THEAD!"
"RIGHT, MOVE ON!" He screamed throwing my shorts across the counter.
They smacked into my face, then dropped abruptly to the floor. I was too astonished to lean over and pick them up. The guy behind me, wiser than I, since I was first in line and quite unaccustomed to the procedures in this new environment, pushed me forward. My skivvies were trampled under foot. Being pushed forward in the line they were lost to me. At each section we halted and answered the demand 'SIZE!"
It was undershirts, shirts, pants, socks, shoes.
About this time we noticed that the men in charge of this parade of naked recruits piled high with clothing and shoes--two pair, combat boots and chukka boots--were being laughed at. One of the braver souls asked what they were laughing at.
"YOU, YOU DUMBS--TS. YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE DRESSED AND FIT FOR DUTY WHEN YOU WALK OUT THAT DOOR TO YOUR RIGHT. THE WAFS ARE MARCHING PAST AND THIS IS THEIR FAVORITE ENTERTAINMENT. ON RAW RECRUIT DAY THEY'LL BE AT PARADE REST IN HOPES OF SPYING YOUR LITTLE DINGALINGS WAVING IN THE BREEZE AS YOU PILE OUT THAT DOOR."
Everyone in earshot dropped his bundle, rescued his SKIVVIES and immediately jumped into them.
"WHERE ARE YOU GOIN', AIRMAN?"
"I gotta go back and get my SKIVVIES. They're on the floor at the front door."
"GET YOUR ASS BACK IN LINE, YOU F---ING MORON! BUY 'EM AT THE BX"
His face was in mine all contorted and purple. His mouth spit into my terrified eyes as he peppered me with his salty words.
"YOU STUPID S--T! HOW IN GOD'S NAME DID THE RECRUITER IN YOUR HOMETOWN PICK YOU TO COME INTO MY AIR FORCE!”?
"I was breathing, sir."
"WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY, YOU PIECE OF FILTH?"
"Sir, nothing, sir!"
"WHAT'S YOUR NAME AIRMAN? I WANT TO REMEMBER YOUR NAME SO I CAN GIVE YOU SOME CLOSE UP ATTENTION. I THINK YOU'RE GONNA NEED IT. NOW GET YOUR HEAD OUTTA YOUR ASS AND GET MOVIN'."
His yelling startled me so much I pissed in my boot which I'd dropped in front of me. It was an act pretty much unbeknownst to me but quite apparent to everyone standing around me. Now anyone of them would probably have done the same thing if it had been them standing like a cement statue in front of that foam flecked mouth spitting words and particles of food into their faces. But it wasn't. If I'd been a Native American they'd have called me Piss-in-Boots, but I wasn't. I was a lone frightened Southerner totin’ a wet boot.
Well, they laughed heartily and began to dress hurriedly shuffling along toward the open door. Beyond the door in the square were three flights of WAFS parked at parade rest with eyes front staring at the exit to the Green Monster.
I jumped into my pants and whipped the shirt on. I grabbed up my pile of clothes and hopped along on one combat booted foot trying to slip the other one onto the other foot. I succeeded with a splash.
“What the..?” I said out loud. The laughter was louder.
Finally, I was covered head to toe when I was pushed beyond the confines of the huge green building. We spilled out onto the walkways lined with white-washed rocks. We faced the parade ground in two lines. The stragglers were disgorged from the doorway.
Most of us made it to the breezeway suitably clothed, but there was one or two who stood in the breeze proudly displaying their manhood to the WAFS lining the walk. Proud they may have been at more fortuitous times, but they hadn't remembered how cold it was beyond the walls of the Green Monster. Their proud moment was obliterated by the full scale laughter and pointing fingers of those overcome WAFS falling out of formation to register their mirth.
"Where's Willie?" they belted the air with collapsing laughter.
Those few proud recruits in the buff thinking to impress our sisters in uniform dropped their load of clothes and yanked on their SKIVVIES! covering their cold morning air induced embarrassment.
Our TI walked through his crowd of fatigued misfits. He stopped in front of us and made an abrupt about face. He shook his head slowly as he looked at each one of us. We all came to haphazard attention at his command.
“YOU ARE NOW MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE! ALL YOU MOMMA’S BOYS BELONG TO ME!”
It was a promise and a threat. It was six weeks of pure misery and fun. It was the longest six weeks of my life and the shortest. Oh, and the WAF’s? Well, that’s another story entirely.
This happens to be the truth, give or take a lie or two.