It took us at least two-hours of standing in the rain to finally pick up our luggage in such a fashion that the Instructors were satisfied. It then that were we ordered inside the large building at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas. That’s where the pace picked up as one Sergeant barked instructions and several others moved through the ragged line of young men.
They too were shouting instructions and cursing at us. It was all part of a larger plan, as I had been told by Dad, to keep everyone on the edge of confusion.
“They’re going to break you down into a basic unit and then build you up into a team unit,” he had said.
It was a struggling to keep pace with the different commands I was being given. They came at me so much faster than I could think.
Suddenly there was a break in the yelling and shouting as one Instructor stood with his hands firmly placed on his hips. He was standing over a kneeling and extremely confused enlistee.
“We got ourselves one of those California queers,” he barked.
The young man on his knees stopped moving. He had been pulled clothing from his bag as instructed.
Unfortunately, the clothing he had his hand appeared to be feminine. He had a terribly confused look on his face.
“Did you or did you not, double-check your bag at the airport as you were told?” the Instructor bellowed.
Another instructor shouted, “What’s your name, sweetheart?”
They weren’t really questions as much as they were statements of intimidation. The young man’s lower jaw moved up and down, but no sound came from his mouth.
“What the hell is your name?” the first instructor asked in a deep voice.
“Dum-dum-dum-browski,” he finally stuttered.
The instructor reached down and yanked several pieces of clothing from the unzipped bag and held them up. Included in the handful was a couple of pair of women’s panties, a bra and a satin nightie.”
There were light snickers from the other Newbie’s as we would soon be called. We watched Dumbrowski as he nearly came to tears over the humiliation the piece of luggage had brought him.
Secretly, I knew that each man was glad that he had not made the same mistake and each man felt a sudden sense of guilt at the thought. I know, I was one of them.
“Well, Dumb-dumb-dumb-browski,” the instructor said, making fun of the man’s scared-stuttering, “Grab your gear and fall out to that table.”
Dumbrowski grabbed up everything he could in one large arm full and rushed to the far side of the room, where the Instructor had pointed. It was clear that he wasn’t the only one with the wrong luggage.
However, Dumbrowski was the only one to end up with a bag full of women’s clothing. He would go on to survive the night and eventually graduate from Basic Training a couple of months later.