As you will learn later, becoming an MTI was the farthest thing from my mind as I was awaiting reassignment from Korea in 1957. But once my selection happened, I immediately decided to make the best of it and become the best MTI I could possibly be. I've never regretted my MTI experience and have since proudly boasted that my 31-year Air Force career included a four year, four month stint as an MTI at Lackland Air Force Base. I probably learned more about the Air Force during that assignment than at any other time; the knowledge I gained was invaluable throughout the remaining eighteen years of my career. For sure, my MTI background contributed greatly to my selection as the Honor Graduate of my NCO Academy class in 1965, as the Academy curriculum was focused on Drill & Ceremony, Customs & Courtesies, which for me was a snap. My memories and recollections of my MTI years are most positive.
THE BIG SURPRISE
In the summer of 1957, my Air Police assignment at Kunsan AB Korea, was nearing the end. In July, I went to my orderly room to forecast for my next assignment. I was a MSgt with 9 years service. The clerk, A2C Johnson, was there to assist me. On my dream sheet, I asked for any of the four bases (Lackland, Brooks, Kelly, Randolph) in San Antonio, Texas. Johnson advised me that he could guarantee my assignment to Lackland. I asked for an explanation of how he could do that. He replied to just "leave it in my hands and trust me." I went along with that and, sure enough, in August, I was notified of my next assignment to Lackland. I recall my excitement as I wrote to my wife to let her know our dream had come true. I left Kunsan on 20 September 1957, and headed for Laredo, Texas, to pick up my family and proceed to Lackland AFB. I went to the Air Police Squadron to sign in. They confused me by telling me that, "there is no guy named Gaylor pending assignment to our unit." But, my confusion turned to excitement when the clerk suggested I was probably going to be an instructor at the Air Police School "on the other side of the base." Following his directions, I drove to the school only to be advised, "we don't have anyone named Gaylor projected in to the school." I felt like a lost soul. The clerk said, "Let me see your orders." As he reviewed my orders, he exclaimed, "Man, you're going to be a TI!" "How did that happen?" I queried."You volunteered," he replied, and pointed to (T) in parenthesis after my name in my order. Airman Johnson, my Kunsan AB clerk, had volunteered me to be an MTI!! I assure you that no one has ever been more surprised about a career change than I was that fall day in 1957. And MSgt Bob Gaylor became an MTI!
I started MTI training in October 1957, with SSgt Jim Franklin as our very sharp, very military instructor. We had four weeks of intense training followed by four weeks of OJT in an actual Basic Military Training Squadron. I was assigned to 3709 BMTS for my OJT and then permanently assigned there in December 1957. We had far too many MSgts assigned (11 or 12) and they tried to invent positions for all of them; one MSgt was the Hobby Shop NCO. But because I was most junior, I was a street MTI; my first flight in 1958 was Flight 200, 60 young men. I had a Buck Sergeant assistant. The six weeks zoomed by and I was quite overwhelmed by the whole experience. But I was learning and I probably did a better job with my second flight. I was "getting my feet wet quickly and trying to keep from drowning." For sure, I put in a lot of hours.
Baseball has always been my passion and I was quite good at it - as an amateur. So when the base gym at Lackland advertised in the spring of 1958 for someone to manage the Lackland Warhawk baseball team for the coming season, I applied. And, to my surprise, I was selected. Baseball was big time then. We played 70 ball games. By order of the Lackland General, those of us on the team were released from duty at noon each day. Warhawk Stadium was where the big chapel is now; the outdoor boxing ring was where the library is now. So, in 1958, baseball was my life and my TI duties took a back seat - somewhat to the chagrin of some of my peers. My 3709 BMTS supervisor assigned me as an Academic Instructor. I'd teach 2 or 3 classroom classes to trainees in the morning and then "bug out" for baseball. That pattern prevailed through September 1958. I sure had fun - by the way, our record was 47-23, but my Air Force career was probably suffering a bit.
SHOULD I BE A JOCK OR AN NCO?
In October 1958, my annual performance appraisal was due. My rater was a 2LT Moser. He presented me with the worst APR I had ever received - a middle of the road rating. He justified the rating by remarking, "Gaylor seems to be a sharp NCO but chose to play baseball and therefore, was rarely present to complete Air Force duties. "I was angry but he was right. My baseball career ended in 1958 and I decided to concentrate on my Air Force duties. I was assigned as an area NCO in late 1958 and as such, I was responsible for four sets of TI's, four barracks, four flights of trainees. I continued teaching academic classes because I was good at it and most TI's dreaded the academic environment. My TI career was becoming quite routine. We wore AF shorts, knee length socks, bush jackets, pith helmets; if we had gone to war, the enemy would have died from laughing at how we looked. During this period, physical abuse of trainees was common. I saw trainees bounced off walls by instructors and smacked and pushed. No one did anything about it; my shame is that I exhibited no more courage to stop it than anyone else.
THE OPPORTUNITY DOOR OPENS
1958 and 1959 - day after day of the same routine; the drill pad, parades, barracks inspections, counseling trainees, bivouac. Our commander was Major Jahant; MSgt Sprouse was our Senior Training NCO. Trainees came and went by the hundreds. In December 1959, I was told to report to Major Jahant. He told me that I had been nominated to be the Senior Training NCO in the 3743d WAF Basic Training Squadron. Bob Gaylor, a WAF? The WAF BMTS was located across Military Drive from the entrance to Wilford Hall. There were 8 dormitories which have long since been demolished and other structures built. There were usually 8 female flights with 40-50 per flight for an average total population of 400. Women could only perform in seven career fields and made up less than 1% of total Air Force strength. In 1960, Colonel Jeanne Holm was Director of WAF; there were no star female officers. Accompanied by my wife, I went for an interview with the Commander, Major Agnes McAmis, the Senior Training Officer, Captain Norma Archer, and the First Sergeant, MSgt Georgia McLendon. They obviously approved and I transferred from the 3709 BMTS to the 3743rd BMTS in December 1959. What a way to start a new year!
HEY BOB, YOU FORGOT YOUR PURSE!
In spite of the razzing I got from my base buddies, my new assignment was exciting and challenging. The permanent party officers and instructors in the WAF BMTS were sharp, diligent and very serious about their responsibility of preparing young ladies for an Air Force career. I was one of only eight men assigned to the squadron but the uniqueness of my assignment soon became routine and I became engrossed in my duties. My two years with the ladies prepared me for the future - especially in the 1970's when Air Force began to increase the number of women and open new career fields in which they could perform. I learned early on how confident, professional and skilled a female airman could be. But, I'll make you a deal. I'll give you a quarter for every male airman you can find who worked directly for a female supervisor in 1960. Proudly, I can say that I was one who did. If you coax me, I'll admit that my two years with the female airmen were far more enriching to me than two years training the guys. I really believe the pride was more obvious.
AND THEN, IT WAS OVER!
In February 1962, my MTI experience ended. I returned to my Air Police career field and transferred to Tachikawa Air Base, Japan. Four years, four months - no regrets. In my MTI day, we drew no extra money or allowance; we had no Smokey hat to set us apart. We did have the instructor torch insignia but if I recall, that was our only tangible incentive. Our pride came from seeing young men and women complete basic training and depart looking sharp and prepared for their next Air Force opportunity. What more do you need? I always felt proud to be an MTI. Now it is 2002 - 40 years later. Lackland has changed - new dorms, new facilities. Basic training is vastly improved: Warrior week, gender integrated training, more meaningful curriculum, greater focus on contemporary issues.
SOME FACTUAL ODDS & ENDS
My first Dining In was in 1959. It was held in the Warhawk Gym. Attendance was mandatory for all assigned MSgts. To not attend, one had to write a letter to the Squadron Commander seeking approval not to go. The speaker was a TIME magazine editor. About all I remember, there was a lot of heavy boozing. During my MTI years, there was a serious scandal. Some high ranking base officers were accused of requiring basic trainees to participate in roller skating or horseback riding as part of their physical training - then getting a monetary kick back from the rink and stables. The scandal drew national interest; we instructors were ordered not to talk about it. But we did. A large percentage of MTI's during my stint were forced into the program against their will. Many of them were ineffective and had to be culled. Being an MTI requires an individual who is appropriately motivated. I oppose arbitrary placement of airmen in that important role. In 1958-1962, we instructed the trainees to tell Mom & Dad to stay away from Lackland. Now, in 2002, parents and friends are encouraged to attend graduation events. I applaud that.
CMSAF #5 Bob Gaylor
July 22, 2002
Because of the severe shortage of MTI's, I was selected for MTI duty as a non-volunteer. While I was not a volunteer, as with any assignment, I took it as a challenge and an opportunity to enhance my Air Force career. Shortly after my arrival to Lackland in July 1956, I was assigned to the 3723 BMTS. I attended an Academic Instructors course and received my street training, as we called it in those days, right in the Squadron. Incidentally, we didn't wear the campaign hats in those days. Instead, we wore painted helmet liners. Since I was a TSgt, after I completed all my training, I was made an Area Supervisor. In this position, I supervised five flights along with 12-15 TI's. As it has always been, the hours were long, hard, and challenging, but graduating airmen ready to serve our Country made it all worthwhile!
I found my experiences as an MTI to be most beneficial in the years to come. When I left Lackland in October 1957 for an assignment to the Philippines, I used what I had learned and established probably the first Base Honor Guard there. We performed in numerous functions all across the base. At the time, I wasn't sure about making the Air Force a career. I had less than seven years of service and I wanted to finish my education. I had left college during the Korean War, having completed two and one-half years. Eventually I did get my bachelor's degree while stationed at Barksdale in 1966 from Centenary College of Louisiana. Anyway, I decided to remain in the Air Force thanks to a couple of MSgt's (before the E-8/E-9's came out) who convinced me I should reenlist.
I was next assigned to AFROTC at the University of Notre Dame where I was Assistant to the Commandant of Cadets. In this position I was responsible for teaching drill and ceremonies to the young cadets. During my short stay at Notre Dame, I helped plan and execute the Honors ceremony for then President Eisenhower when he came to the campus to deliver the Commencement address in 1960.
During my future assignments as an instructor both at the old SAC NCO Preparatory Schools at Bunker Hill (later renamed Grissom) AFB, Indiana, and the SAC 2 AF NCO Academy at Barksdale, I had to once again rely not only on my training in drill and ceremonies, but in the classroom as well. Interesting bit of trivia, CMSAF Bob Gaylor was one of my students at the SAC 2 AF NCO Academy at Barksdale in 1965 and I brag to folks that I taught him everything he knows. So all in all I enjoyed my short time at Lackland and the experience was very beneficial to me throughout the remainder of my career. To this day, I still shine my shoes, keep my hair cut short, and get very upset with folks that wear their hats indoors. I credit this to my basic training background as well.
CMSAF Jim McCoy (79-81) 26 Aug 02
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