04. February 2006 · Comments Off on When we all come home · Categories: Air Force, Memoir, Military

Tonight while watching the current Military Channel program about submarines, when the program got to the part where the patrol ended, the scenes brought back a lot of memories.

In 22 years in the AF, I served six overseas tours, for a total of just over seven and a half years out of the US. Only one of those tours was accompanied, two years in the Philippines, at Clark AB. That means that the rest, five and a half years, was very lonely, separated from family. Then, at the end of each tour was the sheer joy and excitement of coming home!

Let me see if I can stir some distant memories in the hearts of my comrades who experienced like joys and sadnesses. My first set of orders out of Keesler was to the 6314th CAMRON, Osan AB, Korea. In fact, when my Army son-in-law finished his AIT many years later, his first overseas tour was Korea. Why does the US government love to torment us so? Well, it does seem that way. I remember that Korea in those days, only 8 years or so from the so-called end of hostilities, was a 13-month isolated assignment. I don’t know what it is today, but in those days the country was pretty badly torn up, and one did not go off base out of uniform. At least that is what the rule was. I don’t know how many people followed it, but…..well. Since I arrived in December and left in January, I had the dubious honor of being a 62-64 man. At a glance, it looked like 2 years, but it was, after all, only 13 months. And I darn near missed my flight home from Kimpo, as the day that I was scheduled to leave, there was an MPC change, which locked all the bases down, everyone restricted to base while the military payment certificates, which was what we used for money, were exchanged for new ones. This was to limit the black market, and it was always done as a surprise so, if you left your money off base, it was gone!

However, I managed to cadge a pickup truck from the motor pool, a friend to drive it back, and we managed to talk our way off base from the SP’s on the gate. I was desperate, I did not want to get stuck there and have to get new orders!! We managed to get to Kimpo, I got on my flight, and in a couple of days, I was putting my feet under Mama’s dinner table again. I wasn’t married then, Jen and I were engaged, and it was pure heaven to get my arms around her again! I was then assigned to Tyndall AFB, FL, and we were married in November of 1964.

We had just enough time to get married, have a baby, and then I was slapped with orders again. This time, to the PI. After 8 months of wrangling, Jen and L’il Joe were getting off a Pan Am 707 in Manila. We spent a few days with some missionary friends of mine before the trip up to Clark, Clark was an interesting tour, I was in an Air Rescue unit flying Grumman HU-16’s. They were durn near older than I was, and the radar system got off the Mayflower! We did a lot of sightseeing, had a lot of friends, and other than the ever-present violence, it was a pretty fun tour. I remember that my younger brother was at the time stationed in Vietnam, and he managed to get sent to Clark for a 2-month field training school, during which time he stayed with us. This kid, who had been in Vietnam, was scared to death of the Philippines. When he would go out the main gate after school, he would hit a run, and not stop until he got to our gate. We lived only a couple of blocks outside the gate, and we found this amusing. During this tour, I spent a couple of 30-day TDY’s to DaNang, we had a FOB there, and everybody had to do his part. That was one thing I didn’t like, leaving my wife and baby son in the PI, but we had close friends who took care of her. Then, when the tour was over, we were sent to Pease AFB, NH, a very lovely place, and one of our most enjoyable tours. Man, I’m getting old! Pease, and most of the other bases where I served, are now closed. Ugh!

The next call of duty was to Taiwan, where I spent 15 months at CCK, Ching Chuan Kang AB. Pease had gotten me into SAC, and once they got their mitts on you, you were stuck there! CCK, located about 75 miles south of Taipei, at Taichung, was a very safe, pleasant tour. We had KC-135’s there, used to fuel B-52’s from Guam flying to you-know-where. We lost one aircraft and crew while I was there. They were flying back from their mission when the plane just blew up over the Pacific. That was a sad day.

Then the happy day came in May 1970, when I flew home from Taipei, with orders to Wurtsmith AFB, MI. Another now-closed base. Man, the joy and excitement of meeting my wife and kids – my daughter had been born at Kittery Navy Yard in Portsmouth, NH, and my family had stayed in NH while I was in Taiwan, just hoping I would get sent back there. No, in the wisdom of the AF, they sent me to Michigan and another guy went from CCK to Pease. Don’t ask me why. SAC knew it all.

More in the next post of my tours in Thailand and in the UK, and Turkey. And of the sweet homecoming from those tours. Wow, it was so nice, and almost surreal, to be home again! It had gotten so bad, so lonely, that I almost began to believe that I’d never get home to my loving family again!

That’s all for this time. Hope I brought back some great memories of now-distant homecomings for you!

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