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Archive for the ‘AF-FYI’ Category

the rest of that day

This posting continues the story of graduation at Lackland AFB-through the category of AF-FYI.

After the airman run, most of the men were released to base liberty.

But this is also when the honors ceremony is held.  So our airman took us into the building for the ceremeony.  Having felt the disappointment of not making it into a good position for the orientation meeting, when I saw the second row was empty I made a bee-line for it.  The way things were going, though, it appeared that it was reserved because other families just walked right by.  As I looked down the long row and saw one lone woman, Iasked if we could sit there and she smiled and invited us to join her.  It appeared that no one had plans to sit on the very front row;  Yippee!  Unimpaired vision!

The ceremony was not unnecessarily long or pretentious; but it was sobering and an honor to those airmen who had worked so hard to excel in the program!

After the ceremony, these airmen, too were released for base liberty.  For us that meant BURGER KING at the mini-mall.   Titus loves Burger King…as much as a guy can love fast food! 

I cannot imagine the torture my son endured for eight weeks going in and out of that mini-mall for supplies and even living nearly next door to Burger King.  Smelling but never tasting.  Is that a Narnia experience, or what?

Savor.  That’s what I saw Titus do.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him do that.  What amazing pleasure and delight shined on his face as he enjoyed that meal!  This was not a rushed event, by any means.  He’d endured eight weeks of shoving sustenance down the pipe.  This was definitely going to be a different experience.

Afterward we went bowling on base, had opportunity to just talk and hang out.  And finally, he returned to his dorm.

What an amazing day!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

General information:  There are a couple of mini-malls on base that have fast food restaurants, there is a stand-alone Burger King, and another restaurant (I think it was a chicken place.)  The BX on the other side of the base, which you are definitely allowed to go to has a pizza place, subs, Starbucks, Cinnabon, oriental.

So we walked to the mini-mall.  Get used to it, walking is the best way to get around on the training side of the base.  It’s all your airman has done for the past eight weeks, you can endure a little bit of it.

In fact, though your airman has been here for eight weeks, you may find that he does not know his way around.  They have had very specific destinations and were allowed no sight seeing on the march to the destination (well other than the sights on the back of the head in front of them.)

And on your walking tours, be aware that your airman will be uncomfortable taking a small shortcut or stepping on the grass.  It seems extreme to us, but it is important that you follow their lead and not press them to do something that seems “normal” — they have their orders to be followed at all times!

Just because your airman is released for base liberty, doesn’t mean he’s at liberty.  They called a meeting for a particular group on this day and Titus had to go to it.  I think it was about two hours.  During this time, we stayed in the snack shop and played cards.  By the way, bringing something to do like cards or another easily portable game could be a “life saver” for you, too.

It is interesting and heartbreaking to watch the incoming trainees during your free time.  Imagine seven or eight weeks ago, when that was your son or brother, and you will be overwhelmed with compassion.  These young people endure a total culture change via somewhat harsh means and they come out proud and shining.  For many this is the only significant thing they have ever done so far in their lives.  Be proud of our troops.

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early events, first day

The AF prepares an orientation meeting scheduled very early the first morning of the festivities…very early.  The start time is 7:00–which doesn’t seem so early, but if you arrive after 6:30 you’ll probably get sent to the overflow room and have to watch it on the television sets.  The experience definitely is not as good.  So get there EARLY!

We ended up in the overflow room, in case you didn’t deduce that.  About 7:30 it seemed that someone decided that the orientation was over or something because we started departing the room.  I didn’t really know why I was following the person ahead of me.  In the end, I concluded that if I’m not going to be able to hear the informaton because of poor sound quality and all the people shuffling out to leave, then I was definitely going to get a good place to watch the “Airman Run.”

Airman Run – 8:00 a.m. — This is the military, right?  Precision, timliness are normal for them….wrong.  But while we were waiting they made announcements.  The most important of which was “Don’t run after your airman!”  I’m thinking, “What a dumb announcement, who would do that!” 

So we waited and waited, and we shouted an AIR FORCE roar to psych them up — we could hear them getting ready for the run, so probably they would hear our roar!  The route was set up so that they would run past the crowd two times, once each direction.  And boy was I ready to find my airman–had to get that first picture, you know.  I had a clue he would be near the front because one thing I did figure out from Orientation was that the flights who did the best in their physical training would be running in the front sections…that put Titus’s flight near the front.

Some people made signs in the hopes that these would catch their airman’s eye as they jogged past.  And there was sure to be alot of shouting, which really turned out to be useless because the airmen do their own chanting during the run, so they really don’t hear much.  So letting your airman know that you truly had arrived would be next to impossible without one of those really cool signs.

Finally, they were coming!  Over the bridge and down the street…closer, closer …. where is he!  where is he!  AH THERE!  There he is! DON’T RUN AFTER YOUR AIRMAN! — Now that makes sense!  There is an exhilaration in seeing your airman for the first time that can irresistably compel you into the formation if you’re not forewarned and if you’re not on the opposite side of the street from him! 

Thank goodness I was on the opposite side of the street!  What an embarrassment I would have been — to my family, to myself, to my airman!  Joy, oh Joy!  There he is!

So they ran past, making the route to go around a block further down the street and return.  So, how would I ever let my airman know where his family was standing in this huge crowd.  The beauty of it was that he was on the outside column and I had my plan.

Back they came, chanting about sagging dog tags–I never did get all of that.  Each airman’s eyes were glued somewhere on the back of the head of the airman in front of him — kind of.  Occassionally you could see them doing a quick scan of the crowd.

Closer, closer — and I leaned my head into the street at about knee height and he looked down!  He saw me and winked!  That was so cool!

And I didn’t run after my airman.

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sleeping arrangements

We did rent a house. Which in itself is not a bad idea because we have always had success with this approach to our vacations. The house was fine, but this was not really a vacation.

One approach you may want to consider is to get a map of Lackland AFB and draw a circle around it going about five miles out…this is a good range for lodging. Further is okay, but we didn’t really enjoy driving. (Remember our 1600 mile excursion just to get there!) Our house was about 13 miles out from Lackland; having a choice to do this over, I would spend more time on researching commercial lodging closer to base.

In the five-mile range you have many commercial lodging options — Comfort Inn Suites, Marriott, Holiday Inn, etc. (There is lodging on base, but it is limited.) There is a Carefree Inn at the base entrance. Since we didn’t stay there, I can’t comment, but the pictures on the website look alright.

Plan on dining out, unless you do simple stuff in your room. We thought having meals “at home” would be really great…and the meals we did have there were good; but if you don’t find a house you will have to eat out.

Regarding finding a house that close in San Antonio. Good luck. It can be done, but the cost may be prohibitive. The greatest thing about our house is that since we had so many people in our party, everyone had their own space and we didn’t feel thrown together. This was a good thing after a three day road trip!

If you do choose commercial lodging, find a place that has a comfortable public lounge. You are going to want time to visit with your airman (he’s a trainee until graduation–then he gets a title promotion to “airman”.) Visiting in restaurants is difficult.

Also, there are a few things that your airman will desire — one may be a good two hour nap. If you have a nice place to hang out while he sleeps, it will make the wait easier on you!

Do your research, call the base hospitality center/travel agent regarding nearby lodging.

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Air Force – FYI

As I said on the Air Force- FYI page, we’ve been to Basic Training Graduation and back.

My overall impression today, as I sit here in my chair in total exhaustion, is amazement. If you’ve never been impressed by the military committment, then you’ve never understood. These young people step out into the complete unknown, entering a culture that is entirely foreign, seeking to excel at difficult things to a degree that they’ve never encountered before, completely independent of the support framework to which they’re accustomed. It is truly amazing what they accomplish in these eight weeks of personal growth and discovery.

Basic Training Graduation occurs after eight weeks of remaking a trainee. Graduation for us occurred during the holiday week of New Years. This little fact alone made it unfeasible that we would actually be able to fly — airlnes know that everyone else wants to fly those same dates so the rates are ridiculous. For a family of five, the cost would have been well over $2500 and then we would have needed a rental van in San Antonio. In light of those costs alone, we chose to drive.

And drive we did. Dory told Nemo “Just keep swimming.” Linda told Bud “Just keep driving.” Prepared with MP3 players, audio books, radio shows, DVD player, reading and even some needlework we began our three day drive to the far reaches of the country.

The weather was cooperative; the traffic on December 27 difficult. We didn’t get as far as we had hoped in the time we allotted, so we drove a bit longer. The girls, our own plus one we “adopted” for the journey, were traveling well, so we just pushed a little longer.

The second evening of our trip, we stopped in Longview, Texas. We have long-time friends there. Tim and Kay Meadows are serving with Missionary Tech (http://www.missionarytechteam.org/) and we haven’t seen them since we moved to New York. We bent our trip by about 25 miles and stopped by their place.

We had a great evening of fellowship and the next morning got to have a tour of the facilities at Missionary Tech. — Thanks so much Tim and Kay for sharing your time with us!

That evening about 5:00 we arrived at our lodging place, which we found on VRBO.com.

Regarding comments about the Air Force postings: While at times, I may share events in our journey that were disappointing to us, please be advised that no derogatory replies will be allowed. These postings are simply insights into our journey and not a place to judge our military or its activities.

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trainee reporting

I know that you’re waiting for a posting from this significant day –when this moment is less raw, I will share it.

3/4/2011

Ok, so here we all all these many months later.  That day seemed bigger than life that day.

In many ways it was a “regular” morning.  The girls prepared for school.   Bud began breakfast.  But it seemed Titus wasn’t aware that we needed some morning time with him.  The girls need the normalcy of having their brother with them one for one more breakfast.

So, we roused brother.  I think he knew that he was about to enter the sleep deprivation tunnel and he was trying to stock up.  Since it doesn’t actually work that way, we only felt a little bit bad about dragging him to the table.

But once he got there he was fine.  Bud had perpetuated “the tradition”.  There were apple turnovers for breakfast!  And according to tradition, each on was written with a name or nick name or other little phrase.

We enjoyed this time together greatly!  The girls have good memories of the morning, even though we all felt the weight of the impending separation.

Later, as we left, we went through Alfred and picked up Erinnae.  This day was weighing heavily upon her.  Even though she was not home consistently to see Titus, having settled into a college routine, they were still incredibly close.  Being 13 months apart, they’ve only ever known life with each other.

So she wanted to go to the recruiter’s office too.  Well, she didn’t want any of us to go; but if it had to happen, she wanted to be there.

We arrived, unloaded his stuff.  And being the “dude” that he was, he didn’t really seem to want us to wait around with him.  There were other guys there, waiting outside for the bus, so we went into the lobby.  We hugged, my tears started, Titus had that watery-eyed look himself, Erinnae was having a hard time holding it together.  We finally were able to leave.  As I looked back in the mirror, I saw Titus come out of the building to wait for the bus with the other guys.  I saw a simple gesture — thumb to the eye, wipe, down to the pant leg, wipe… and I cried.

Then I had to leave Erinnae off at class.  That was almost as hard.  I knew her heart was breaking; the first ties of childhood tearing away.  There’s not much a mother can do to mend that.  So as we parted I cried with her some more.

And I returned home…knowing that things had changed permanently.  Walking into the door, I knew that Titus would never “live here” again.  Thankfully, there would be visits and vacations.  But yes, truly he had made that step out into independence and adulthood.

 

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