Your Force, My force, the Air Force: Chapter 2
Well before sunrise on the morning of July 30, 1991 my mom and stepdad gave me hugs and my mother cried. I grabbed my bag of clothes and personal affects out of the back of the pickup truck and gave my quick goodbyes. It was the end of my childhood. That moment. I was 17 years old. I walked away with excitement in my heart and towards the MEPS building where I would swear an oath.
“I, Jason Adams, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
I meant every word. Sometimes I wish I could go back and freeze that frame in that moment and give myself a long talk about the danger ahead. That’s ok, though. The mistakes and scares and successes I’ve had made me the man I am now. I’m fine with that. Now. I haven’t always been.
It was a blur until I had a quiet moment in the back of the airplane from Amarillo to San Antonio. It was the last quiet moment of peace I would have for the next six weeks. I rested my eyes before the storm.
I was so nervous I was shaking when I boarded the old blue bird. A military bus that took me to meet SSgt Walker. The photo you see is an actual picture of him, then. A large, muscular, competitive body builder, scary as fuck of a man. After getting off of the bus, grabbing my bag and running in to a formation of about 45-50 other confused young men. We were no longer children. Time to grow the fuck up.
We set our bags on the ground next to us and stood at attention, as still as possible, holding our collective breaths. He walked out from a door briskly…no. Stop. It was more like an EXPLOSION of hate and anger and violence in that moment where he and a couple of others screamed and shouted. Obscenities and insults and utter disgust at who we were poured out of that man. His job was to break us down and completely destroy us. Only to build us back up and reshape our quivering mounds of clay over the next six weeks.
“PICK UP YOUR BAGS!!” he screamed. Clumsily, we all reached down and grabbed them. Some dropped theirs in nervousness. “DROP THOSE FUCKING BAGS!!” he screamed. Everyone looked around and began to set their bags down back on the ground by their sides. “GOD DAMMIT PICK UP THOSE BAGS!!” he screamed. We all picked them back up and held them by our sides. Here and there, in my peripheral, I saw guys shifting and adjusting, tucking an item in better or whatever. “PUT THEM THE FUCK BACK DOWN!!” SSgt Walker screamed at us. His voice was monstrous. It boomed. Why was he so angry? What had we done?
This game, “pick ’em up / put ’em down” is one of their initial favorites.
Our job was to listen. And act. Listen. Act. No thought. No decisions. Just listen. Act.
I could go on and on, but right now I’d rather share a video that describes that first several hours better than I can. See the fear in those young eyes. The emotions welling up inside them. The fumbling from not being used to LISTENING. And ACTING. Strict, pure, unquestioned OBEDIENCE.
It was fucking beautiful to me. I loved it. Seriously. I loved being a piece of a whole, bigger picture. I was no longer the shy kid in high school. He was dead to me. I was going to become a finely-oiled machine of these goddamned beautiful United States of America.