The mood was celebratory as the men graduated basic training and sewed on that first stripe. They had done it. Twelve weeks of intensive basic training had turned one hundred and sixteen boys into men able to serve their country in the United States Air Force.
“All right, listen up!” their drill instructor yelled. Calm and quiet quickly overtook the parade ground where they had just finished marching in review.
“You are to report to Building 151 at this time to find out where you’re being sent for further training. As you recall, this is called Tech School and, depending on your specialty, will consist of between twelve and thirty-two weeks of additional training. You will be able to apply for a particular specialty, but nothing is guaranteed. The mission of the Air Force comes first, and you will ultimately serve where you are needed. Are there any questions?” asked the sergeant. No one raised a hand or said anything. “Then you are dismissed!”
The entire squadron headed to the training building also known as Building 151. Everyone chatted away in excitement trying to guess whether they would get their hoped for specialty. As they filed into the large classroom and took their seats, two sergeants stood at the front of the classroom next to a screen. When everyone was settled in, they began.
“You men will quickly choose an Air Force specialty on the paper sitting before you. You will then turn them in, and we will begin the process of assigning you to your flight school for further training. This training will begin in two weeks for most of you. Until then, you have the option of staying on base or going on leave. Please now fill out that paperwork before you,” said the older of the two sergeants.
Eighteen-year-old Zach Kellerman quickly opened the small booklet on his desk and ran a finger down the specialty codes until he got to the one he was searching for: 81230-Base Security Forces. He had dreamed of serving in the Air Force as an armed defender of an assigned Air Force base anywhere in the world. This was his chance staring him in the face.
Airman Kellerman filled out the paperwork and passed it forward when told to do so. The room remained quiet as the two sergeants in the front went through everyone’s selection and after almost a half hour, stood up and faced the class.
“Okay, gentlemen, you’ve made your requests, and this is the Air Force response,” said the young sergeant.
He then went down the list calling out names and their newly assigned specialty. Finally, he got to Zach. “Kellerman—Base Security Forces. You will remain here at Lackland Air Force Base for your Tech School. You will report in two weeks.”
Zach was elated at having gotten his choice. Most were feeling the same way although some—who had chosen highly technical fields such as nuclear specialties—did not get their choice. After the assignments had been given, the men were dismissed.
Two weeks later, Zach reported to the Security Police training barracks with the rest of his classmates. In total, one hundred and twenty men reported as ordered and were now assembled in the day room of their new barracks. As the men began the process of learning about their new cohorts, a master sergeant walked into the day room and the room went silent.
“I am Sergeant Anderson, and I will be your supervising training sergeant while you are in Security Police School. At the end of this training, you will be able to defend any Air Force base in the world. Some of you will also be assigned duties as Base Police and will function like any medium-sized police department in the United States. Airman Kellerman, stand,” ordered Anderson.
Zach was shocked into reality when his name was called out in front of his entire training squadron. He stood up and replied, “Yes, Sergeant.”
“Everyone look at Airman Kellerman. Because he graduated number one in his basic training squadron, he is now being put in charge of this group. When a sergeant is not available, you will go to Kellerman with your problems, questions, or concerns. He will march you to classes and back again. The only time you will merely walk somewhere is when you are off duty. On duty, you march. Kellerman, you are assigned to room one. You will find a notebook there containing an explanation of your duties. You are entitled to choose one airman from this squadron and make him your assistant. He will be your roommate while you are in this barracks. Any questions, Kellerman?”
“No, Sergeant!” replied Zach.
“Any questions from the rest of you?” Anderson asked. “It is in your best interests to give Kellerman your full cooperation,” he said. When no reply came forth, Sergeant Anderson continued. “Training will begin tomorrow at zero eight hundred. You will not be late. That bulletin board over there will contain any announcements from command, and you are responsible for reading it daily. You have the rest of the day off to get settled into your rooms. That is all.”
Sergeant Anderson then left the barracks, and Kellerman stood up, taking on his new role. “Okay, listen up, guys; chose your rooms and unpack. Remember I have to choose my assistant, and whoever that turns out to be will be moving into my room. Until I have read the notebook waiting for me, you can carry on.”
Everyone grabbed their duffle bags and headed down the hallway to find a room that caught their attention. The scene didn’t differ much from that of a freshman scramble at college. The only difference here was that everyone was in camouflage fatigues and combat boots.
While that was going on, Zach went to his room and found the notebook as promised. He threw his bag down on the floor and began to read about his new duties. Before he could get three pages into the notebook, a knock on the door interrupted him.
“Zach, I got a problem,” Airman Bosky informed him.
“What’s the problem?”
“I sat on my bed and it collapsed.”
“Are there any empty beds elsewhere?”
“Nah, we got a full floor.”
“What room are you in?” Zach asked.
“Okay, for now unpack and as soon as I’m done reading this, I hope I’ll know who to call.”
“You got it,” the young airman said and walked away.
With a frown, Zach continued to read where he’d left off. He was responsible for everything that happened in the barracks and on the way to and from any assigned place on base. As the sergeant had said, he would be required to march the men calling out cadence just as if he were a drill instructor in basic.
Oh, this is gonna make me real popular.