What I did during the Vietnam Conflict Part III

by Alden Cole on April 19, 2014 · 0 comments

7figuresWPfour fashion drawings done while in the Air Force, mid-1968, each 13″ x 8″ • collection of the artist

In less than a day I had processed out of Officer Training and made the short trip to Lackland’s Basic Training center for incoming airmen recruits, where I was assigned to a new platoon. The rigors of basic training are legendary. Ask anyone who’s been through it, and you’ll probably get a story or two about one aspect or another of the process that is geared to humiliate the prideful, and break down ones resistance to authority. If the tales aren’t about the inhumanity of the TIs — those Training Instructors whose job it is to reduce our individual egos to virtually nothing in ten weeks of training— then it’s tales about marching, marching and more marching, being reveilled out of bed before sunup, standing in formation for ridiculously long periods of time, sweating in the hot sun out on the calisthenics field, running in place, learning the new language of military jargon, running the obstacle course — up, down, all around, over and out — complaints about the kind of food one has to endure throughout basic. A picnic it was not, but it was endurable; and although life seemed to drag in real time, in retrospect those few weeks flew by. At about the same time I would have been graduating from Officer Training, I finished basic; was given the choice of career fields, either working as an Air Policeman or taking an office position working in Personnel. It was virtually impossible for me to imagine myself as a policeman carrying a gun, so I opted for personnel and carrying a pen and pencil instead. Given the choice of several bases — California, Texas, Maine or Massachusetts, I choose Westover, the Strategic Air Command’s base near Springfield in western Mass. I was lucky; I was situated almost centrally between the three poles of my existence to that time: Maine and home were about three hours east and north; Providence where I had recently gone to school was a little over two hours away east and south; New York City where I wanted to be was three hours away west and south. I had a car at my disposal and although I wasn’t living large on $100 a month plus room and board, I was a free man with plans. The time dragged, and the time flew. Focused on my Next Life, I prepared myself by drawing lots of idea sketches for clothes, only a few of which survive to give an idea of how my drawing style evolved from those early ball-point pen sketches shown recently in my April 15 post, and the more developed marker sketches of one-eyed mannequins shown in the April 17 post. The timing of today’s sketches is questionable, impossible for me to pinpoint when exactly I executed them during the 21 months I was stationed at Westover. Like all good things, my time in service too came to an end; and on August 7, 1968, two years to the day after I had signed on the line and become one of Uncle Sam’s finest, I was again a free man with a future ahead of me.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: