Most of my memories of USAFA now are "pleasant" ones, and I can laugh or smile about some of the others. My only recurring USAFA nightmare is not knowing which class to go to – is it an M-Day or a T-Day? – and then sitting in a final for a class I've forgotten to go to for most of the semester (yeah, I know – the CAS system would have corrected this early on).
But one of the dusty rooms of my memories on which I try to keep the door shut was boxing: one of those dreaded "Character Builders".
I was glad to have the ordeal of Freshman boxing behind me until I moved to my 3-degree squadron (CS-37). There, the Athletic Sergeant picked me to be on the squadron intramural boxing team. Why I didn't leave USAFA with ulcers should confound any gastroenterologist aware of the situation.
Much like Mike Ruth, I was a victim of my own physique which has a great deal in common with the 30 mm depleted uranium round we shot in the A-10. While the bullet is larger than the more common 20 mm round used by fighters, its remarkable mass totally belies its size. I had the reach of a bantam-weight and the mass (weight) of . . . , well, someone taller – much taller.
I only had three bouts that winter – which in itself, was a blessing. One was with someone as terrified as I was – we clinched so much, the referee started humming a song for us to dance to. Another one was a bye, or no-show, from the opposing squadron (no doubt, spending the check I gave him). My last bout was with a Doolie (did Stich have a younger brother?) whose physique more properly reflected the proper build for our equal weights.
When I saw him, his upperclass coach was talking in his ear to make sure this Doolie knew he was facing an upperclassman. The kid couldn't have been happier than if he had been given keys to a ‘vette for a trip to the Playboy Club in Denver.
I'll spare the "blow-by-blow" (and there were many, almost all headed in my direction), but here's how it ended. By the middle of the second round, every one had a towel in their hand to throw into the ring on my behalf – my coach, his coach – some of my squadron-mates had made runs back to their lockers for their towels. Even the Doolie would pause from his labors every now and then and look around to let everyone know he was offering them a chance. But for some reason – lack of oxygen, little to no blood flow to my brain – I was going to see this through.
As I tell this, I've just remembered the ref was an upperclassman and friend from my Doolie squadron, and it was he who finally called a halt. I do remember being given a compliment at the time – "Guts" – which I unfortunately mistook for a comment on my injuries. Still, I was able to make the walk back up the hill for the evening meal at Mitch's. And I was happy – that was the end of the season. SERE behind me, no more boxing – what else could they do to me?