J. P. Waller, one of the greatest guys ever to walk the face of the terrazzo, used to tell the story of surprising our AOC doing a no-notice inspection of his (J.P.’s) laundry bin. J.P. returned from class to find our AOC, a squirrelly little dude named Captain Wells, as I recall, with his head deep in the bin, digging sort of like a dog looking for a bone. J. P., thinking quickly, exclaimed loudly, and with convincing surprise, “Oh!” At that point Captain Wells, startled, started to bolt upright to a more dignified posture, and slammed his head into the countertop as he extracted it from the bin. J.P. continued, without missing a beat, “Oh, Oh, its You, Sir – for a moment I thought it was the world’s largest weasel, digging through my laundry bin!” Captain Wells, struggling to regain his dignity, stammered, “No, no – no, it’s just me . . .” And the good Captain staggered back to the AOC office. I don’t believe he ever made Major, but wish him the best nonetheless if he is reading this. I am sure he turned out to be a great guy (benefit of the doubt and all that!). I will never know if it would have been funnier to see the event happen, or to hear J.P. tell the story.
OK . . . so here's the scenario. I'm in CS-25, which was, IMHO, one of the least jock-friendly squadrons in the Wing, though I don't suppose it had anything to do with my attitude . . . I remember hearing from my roommate about a Saturday morning lecture delivered by our AOC (I was on a hockey trip) who was up in arms over what he saw at the previous week's hockey game. It appears as though one of the players for AF (I wonder who that might be?) had been chewing gum during the national anthem . . . busted! Interestingly, he never approached me about it, just talked about it when I wasn't around . . . very strange.
That sets the stage for the infamous (at least in my mind) weekend. Our hockey games were typically played on Friday and Saturday nights, and when the game was late Friday night, we were excused from all the Saturday morning hoopla (though the room had to be in SAMI shape...except for the sleeping lump in one of the beds).
On the Saturday morning in question, I am sound asleep when my door is jerked open and in walks the Group AOC, Group Commander and an untold number of Dancing Bears. They appeared to be oblivious to the fact that I was sleeping in the top bunk since the first thing I heard (other than the pattering of little feet on a waxed floor) is, "We've got him now!" Someone in this entourage, points to a corner of the room near a window and directs one of the underlings to investigate . . . Freeze Frame.
A day or two before all this happened, I received a care package from my mother (I believe it was just before Christmas) that was essentially one of those huge Hickory Farms gift sets (Cheese, sausage, crackers, spread, etc). Well, being the gracious kind of guy that I am (not to mention having hoards of hungry friends), almost everything in the package got opened immediately, but very little was actually finished. Of course, all of this stuff was labeled "Refrigerate After Opening." which would present a problem to the average person, but not to a resourceful zoomie (I've always claimed that if you hand a Cadet an empty Coke Bottle, a piece of string and a Buffalo Chip he could at least make some fun game out of it). No fridge? Not a problem if it’s December in USAFA-ville and you have a spare laundry bag, along with a window that opens.
Back to the action . . . the posse member who had been directed to investigate, climbs on top of the desk, opens the window, and reels in a very suspicious looking laundry bag (cadet issue, size Small, 2 ea). He peers inside with what I'm guessing is a rather puzzled look but says nothing. "Well . . . what is it?" asks another member of the task force. "Sir . . . I think it's . . . cheese." is the reply. "CHEESE????" "Yes, Sir . . . Cheese . . . " Never in my life have I wanted to sit up in bed and shout, "GO PACKERS!" so badly . . . fortunately I thought better of it and continued to be "asleep", or "playing possum" as my mother used to put it.
After some mumbling (I was concentrating so hard on not laughing that I don't remember what else might have been said), they left, and didn't even bother to hang the cheese back out the window. I guess the good news is that at least I know who moved mine.
During one point in our Firstie year, many of us would gather in the SAR before the meal formations and kill a half hour or so in front of the communal TV by watching a game show or soap opera or news before heading out to the terrazzo. Many times, a popular program would have us all packed in there enthralled until the very last minute. It was one of those times when being a Firstie as a '75er was kind of pleasant. Until of course, we ran into the Wing or Group Staff bureaucracy.
One day, we formed up in our squadrons on the terrazzo as usual. After the normal milling around, we were all called to attention and got our lines dressed. After Roy Rice, 33rd Squadron Commander, had us all squared up and at attention, from the corner of my eye I noticed 4th Group Logistics Officer Al Bready march across the terrazzo over to our squadron. We had lost Al to 4th Group earlier that semester.
Al approached Roy and both spoke for a few minutes. An almost audible groan rose up from the ranks at this, because this was during a time of almost constant inspections of the squadrons, mostly for haircuts. No good news ever came of Group Staff talking to Squadron Commanders during formation.
After a few more minutes, Al sharply turned back and rejoined his position with 4th Group. Amazingly, we were not being inspected (or in equal probability, restricted for the weekend - or assigned some kind of training activity that would make our lives incrementally more dismal).
This had nothing to do with Al, who was probably the best thing that Group Staff had going in our 4 years there – it was simply the reflection of life at the Zoo when the pendulum swung back to conditions being relatively harder than our Doolie year.
After we marched into Mitchell Hall and got to our tables, I just had to find Roy and ask him what all that was about! Roy was his usual ebullient self (nothing fazed the guy, ever) and smiled when I asked him what he and Al talked about.
His response? "Jimmy, Al came over to tell me that he was held up at his staff meeting and missed today's episode of "All My Children." Roy added, "I told him Erika (played by the dazzling and popular Susan Lucci) was still jealous over Brad's affair with Nickie and had hired a detective to follow him around town." With that, Roy grinned even wider; and to this day, I tell and re-tell that story, to point out that not all of us were obsessed with rules and traditions back then, and that life at the Academy was a matter of attitude. Those are the times I miss most about the place. This is my favorite Al Bready story.
John Sims and I were roommates on Composite Group 1st-degree summer, awaiting an onerous SAMI one fine Saturday morning. Our room was in shape (not that hard, after three years at the game) and we were just marking time, waiting for Bentley Rayburn et. al., to end the wasting of our time so we could go do something productive (like sleep, go to town – whatever). As we shot the breeze, somehow the subject of cigars came up, and John produced a couple of stogies (don’t recall the brand, but it was unusual enough to pique my curiosity as a dilettante in cigar consumption). I asked to see one, and as I was looking it over, he and I got the same idea at the same time: “Let’s light ‘em up!”
So we did, and by the time Bentley and staff got down to us (all of five minutes), we had the room filled from ceiling down to about knee-level with glorious clouds of (choking grey to those not used to cigars) smoke.
Anyway, the door flew open and out billowed the smoke, punctuated immediately by coughs and exclamations of shock by those who had come to inspect.