Discover more from Juliette’s Newsletter
Memories of the First Life, Part 3
Some aimed higher than others
Part 2 is here. I was going to call this one Part 2B, but decided against it after I got going.
Before we leave New York, I need to discuss something significant to the time during which my service began.
President Nixon ordered the creation of the military’s urinalysis program in 1971. But, the year in which I joined up - 1981 - was the one in which it was implemented systematically. Before that, enforcement was spotty and there was still a huge drug culture within the services. My American dad, who served four years in the USAF at the beginning of the Vietnam War, says that’s where he was first introduced to weed.
President Reagan decided that enough was enough and random urinalysis was introduced.
I never partook and still don’t but, back in 1981’s Plattsburgh AFB, many of my acquaintances did. I had a boyfriend: Darryl. I recall knocking on one of his friend’s doors, looking for him. Instead of immediately opening the door like I would, a suspicious male voice responded: “Who is it?”
I spoke my name, the door opened, and I walked in.
“Close the door, girl!” I did.
The room was filled with about five people - men and women - looking at me quizzically. I must have had the same expression on my face because I had no idea what was going on in there, but that changed quickly. One of the guys pulled an album cover out from under the bed and atop it was a pile of controlled substance ready to be rolled. Darryl wasn’t there - he hung out with the folks in the room, but didn’t smoke.
During my entire service, save for, roughly that first year, random urinalysis was the policy. “What’s that?’ I hear you ask. A segment of the military - a squadron, a wing - is chosen to have their urine output tested for illegal drugs.
The selection process is usually done using a random factor like selecting all who have a three as the seventh digit of their social security number. You never knew when your number was going to come up.
Also, there must be a witness to ensure that no fraud is committed; you can guess what that entails. (Trust me, no one wants that duty, not even the weirdos, I bet. I had the duty only once in my career, thank God.)
However, when the testing was first implemented, a huge mistake was made, and I mean huge.
It wasn’t random. The military tested every single person at the same time! Oh boy.
At Plattsburgh, this caused the base to shut down operations. Reason: nearly the entire security police squadron had come up dirty!
Cops. ::: side-eye :::
Aircraft operations require a great deal of security, so it was no-go for a good week until new personnel could be shipped in temporarily. I imagine that there was a call-up of National Guard and Reserve forces all over the country and I don’t even want to know what it was like overseas. Good thing the USSR decided not to do some things that week! (I bet their forces were higher than ours, though.)
There were a number of security police acquaintances that I never saw again after that fiasco.
Gradually things returned to normal as new permanent police began to arrive. I’ve read from others who served in the 70s and 80s that this, along with the abolition of the draft, greatly transformed the quality and work habits of personnel. We became clear-headed professionals who served because we wanted to. Well, mostly.
After the reaping of most of the drug-users, there were some stragglers and one of them was close by.
One of my fellow team members, Mark, and I both held the rank of Airman-First-Class (E-3). But, one day, out of the blue, he decided that he could order me around because he outranked me by a couple of months. Our team chief - who outranked both of us - had told him to fetch the tools necessary for a task we were about to do. Instead of doing that, Mark told me to do it.
“No. You’re not my boss. Sergeant Walker [our team chief] is. He told you to do it.”
“I outrank you, so you will do what I say!”
“You’re not in my chain of command. No.”
So, what did Mark do? He tried to pick me up and force me to do what he wanted!
Sergeant Walker, who heard the scuffle and me yelling and cussing, came into the room.
“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?”
Though Sergeant Walker was slim, he handled Mark easily, pulling him off of me and pinning him against the wall.
“If you want to press charges, Juliette, I’ll testify against him.”
It took me a day to think about it and I decided not to do it. Mark was white - so was Sergeant Walker - and there were already low-level racial tensions on base. If I pressed charges, the whole base would know about it. Additionally, Darryl would have had Mark disappeared. So, I never told him.
I wasn’t injured - though my sense of smell was assaulted again (he stank) - and I didn’t want a death on my conscience.
As it turns out, Mark received his penalty anyway. Sergeant Walker petitioned to have Mark drug-tested: heroin. So he was gone. And, soon, I would be as well.
Now on to Colorado!
Juliette’s Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.