Officer Training School in 1970 was a cross between college and military boot camp. We were assigned to squadrons of new Officer Trainees (“OTs”). Each squadron had an Air Force officer who acted as a low key drill instructor. I got up each day except Sunday at about 5:30 a.m., made my bed in the USAF way, showered, shaved, got dressed and marched to the mess hall for breakfast. We had to march everywhere outside. If we went any where on the OTS campus, one OT had to be the flight leader who gave the marching commands to the other OTs (or sometimes a single OT) who marched in single file or in a column of two.
Breakfast, like all meals, was quick and we could not talk. We only had between 5 – 10 minutes to eat our food so everybody woofed it down. Then it was back to the barracks to study for class. A typical day consisted of mostly class room instruction on military subjects like how to be an officer, the structure of the USAF, and military history. An hour or two each day was devoted to exercising and physical education. We ran a lot, and I’m not big on running long distances. We also played team sports like football, softball and a strange game called “Flickerball,” which was a combination of basketball and football.
I don’t remember OTS as being very difficult, certainly it was nothing like Marine boot camp. I do remember making a lot of good friends and having a lot of good times. We always seemed to find something to laugh about. I distinctly remember getting the feeling that I was getting converted to the Air Force way of thinking. I also remember seeing movies in the big auditorium, which we affectionately called the “master bedroom” because when the lights went out in it, a lot of us nodded off to sleep.
Every Saturday morning at OTS the cadet wing of OTs had a parade and marching competition. The first six weeks I was at OTS, I marched in the parade. The marching skill of each squadron was graded. The quarters of each squadron was also graded. The squadron that scored the highest combined score won the weekly prize. The last six weeks I was at OTS, I was one of the OTs who graded the squadrons’ marching at the parade. The only time I ever marched or participated in a parade was when I was at OTS. I never marched or participated in parades on active duty.
I’ll never forget watching an Air Force made short movie called “There is a Way.” The movie was about men my age and a little older flying combat missions over North Vietnam in F-105 Thunderchief (the “Thud”) fighter bombers out of Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand in 1966. Lt. Karl Richter was featured in the movie because he epitomized the heroic young American warrior of the Vietnam air war. Lt. Richter had survived 100 missions over Route Pack Six, the most dangerous area of all aerial combat of the Vietnam war, and he volunteered to fly another 100 missions.
Lt. Karl Richter was shot down and killed in action on July 28, 1967, after completing his second 100 missions over North Vietnam. There is a statue of Karl Richter at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, on which is inscribed, the following words from the prophet Isaiah: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Here am I. Send me.” Lt. Richter gave his life in the service of his country. Karl Richter’s spirit and sacrifice will live on in the annals of the United States Air Force and American history. The December 1992 issue of Air Force Magazine contains an article called “Here Am I. Send Me” about Karl Richter. Read Lt. Col. Hank Brandli’s article called “Karl Richter’s Last Mission” to learn more about this American hero. This article starts with “Richter flew 100 missions in a Republic F-105 over North Vietnam, then flew another 100 before he was tragically killed on a milk run.”
The movie includes footage of a mongrel dog named “Roscoe,” which had a special purpose and place at Korat. Roscoe attended all the early morning briefings given to the aircrews that were to fly into the dangerous Route Pack Six area in North Vietnam. The briefings were held in an auditorium at Fort Apache, the intelligence building on the flight line at Korat.
Roscoe had a reserved seat at the briefings in the front row. Because the Route Pak Six briefings were usually very early in the morning, Roscoe liked to sleep. Sometimes, however, Roscoe woke up. Korat fighter pilots believed that if Roscoe slept through the briefing then nobody would get shot down. If Roscoe woke up during the briefing, the fighter pilots believed that it was a bad sign that somebody was going to be killed or captured that day. For more information about Roscoe, see the story written by Col. William C. Koch, Jr. USAF (Ret).
Roscoe was adopted by all the fighter pilots at Korat. The youngest flying officer was given the additional duty of “Roscoe Control Officer.” His duty was to take care of Roscoe’s needs and transport him around the base and make sure Roscoe was present for the big Route Pak Six mission briefings at Fort Apache.
In the summer of 1972 when I arrived at Korat, Roscoe was still alive and living the life of top dog on base. I saw Roscoe most every day while I was at Korat. He was usually at either the Officers Club or Fort Apache, which was the intelligence building where aircrews planned and briefed combat missions.. One day I was waiting outside the Officers Club for the shuttle bus to take me to the flight line and a pickup truck pulled up and stopped in front of me. A bird Colonel got out of the truck, opened the door and Roscoe jumped out and sauntered into the club.
Sunday night at the Officers Club was “cook your own steak night.” The Club always made sure that Roscoe got a steak Sunday night. I frequently ran into Roscoe while on the shuttle bus. When Roscoe wanted to go someplace, he would wait at the bus stop until the shuttle bus arrived. The drivers all knew Roscoe and stopped to pick him up and let him out.