Only Man In Womans Air Force Squadron
by Leonard Granger
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This a true story of an interesting assignment the Air Force had for a young Christian man in the early 1950's. Retiring after 23 years devoted to an Air Force career, I love to look back at all the places the AF sent me around the world and the many varied duties I found myself performing, all in the interest of national defense. One assignment I will always remember, as it may have been one of a kind, was being attached to the Women Air Force Squadron as the supply sergeant.
Prior to arriving in the WAF Sq, I was working in Base Budget and Procurement Section, Finance Accounting Department assigned to Group Headquarters. When many of us were replaced by the first generation of computers, an enormous sized monster which took up most of the building, we were asked in what work field we would like to retrain. Liking accounting, I was given my request to remain doing accounting type work.
When I arrived in the WAF SQ, the 1st Sergeant informed me that this was a newly authorized job and I should feel very honored to assist the young ladies in the squadron. After a big pep talk, she showed me where my work area would be located.
It was one-half of a wooden building housing the WAF Squadron Administrative Office, including the 1st Sergeant and in the other half was located WAF Unit Supply. The area was something in range of 20X20 ft and was furnished with a heavy, highly polished, oak desk and matching chair. A black dial-up phone was provided, this was long before modern touch phones. I always though the phone was monitored or bugged in some manner. On each side of the building were large wooden bins with doors and on the end was a door that opened upward , and it became a loading dock. I was assigned on two days each week, a USAF pickup truck, with which I would make trips on and off base, to meet Air Force requirements. This manual shift truck reminded of a John Deere tractor, we used on our farm, but I think our tractor was in better shape.
I often wonder why I was given this assignment, helping about 150 young ladies, living in three, two story, dormitory buildings? Was it because I was young, strong, and had just been married a couple months? Or was it they wanted my accounting experience to keep track of all the property and supplies needed to maintain a WAF Sq rated to be the best in the Air Force?
On examining my working area more closely, I found the one set of storage bins housed , linens, sheets, pillow cases and mattress covers. The other bins had several cases of light bulbs, all sizes the Air Force allowed --that were 60 watt--- and cases of paper towels and toilet paper. There were no windows in my half of the building and a large free standing fan to cool the wooden building was provided. There was no heating system as far I could tell, but again this was California and I was used to winters in frozen Iowa. As it turned out, I was rescued, before winter arrived.
I lightly passed over the duty assignment papers the 1Sgt had given me on the previous day. Keeping accounting records of all the equipment in the Orderly Room, the desks, typewriters, filing cabinets, chairs and so on looked familiar. The linen exchange one day of the week was standard for everyone living in the barracks, and the WAF Sq was assigned a Wednesday exchange. It involved each barracks resident taking two sheets and a pillow case to the supply room for exchange. I would place 24 sheets in the 25th and tie them in a bundle. Every so often would find a love letter in a pillowcase. Maybe sweet dreams??? Posted them on the wall but few reclaimed the letters. Then later in the day, the linen was loaded in the truck and driven to the laundry. It often took over an hour to exchange the dirty laundry for clean linens.
I found out the toilet paper stock was treated like gold and security was like Ft. Knox. The only way to get a new roll was to turn in the empty spool for a replacement. The girls were very modest and they would kindly ask for T.P. I would smile and say " Sorry, you will need to go to the Base Exchange to get toothpaste". Then they would say, "you know what I need, as I have latrine duty today." ---O.K. now I know what you want, toilet paper.
Once a month was time for the inventory, and I mean a total inventory was required. I would count all the linens, and also the spare mattresses and beds stored in the supply room. A check of a running inventory of TP and light bulbs was verified. Then the hard part, had to take the 1sgt with me to go into the WAF Barracks, where she would call out "Man In The Barracks". After inventorying all the barracks furniture in the day rooms, I would go room to room to make sure each occupied room had the required items. A bed, mattress, 2 sheets, pillow case, mattress cover, and chair were all there. Some of girls had worked night shift and were asleep in various state of dress or undress. That didn't stop me in getting a good inventory. It was sort of embarrassing, for a young Christian airman, but this was all in the needs of the Air Force. While in the rooms, I was to note if the pictures on the walls were of men or women, a stupid request I thought, but I did as the job required.
When a light bulb burnt out in a barracks room, the girls would tell me and I would go to the barracks with an escort and change the light bulb. Whenever an airman (yes, they were also called airman) was reassigned to another base or a new resident arrived, I being the young strong airman, carried the bed and mattress to her room. Always had an escort from the WAF Orderly Room.
As time went by, I knew many of the WAF girls by name, having performing so many duties in an professional manner. My wife of a couple months, asked what assignment the Air Force had replaced the Finance Office job with? I told her, a new Supply Accounting job that was created, not yet included in the computer system. Figured the details might be classified.
An additional duty of the Supply Sergeant of the WAF Sq was to assist in the release of airmen, that for some reason were being discharged under less than honorable conditions. These girls were not dangerous but had committed some infraction of the Air Force military code. The Air Force as the Korean War was winding down had decided to reduce the overall manpower of the Air Force. This included the Women Air Force and I did the final processing of several young ladies on their way back to civilian life.
Discharges from the Air Force, in less than honorable conditions, required that all the Air Force uniform items be returned to Unit Supply. This included AF hats, coats, dresses, shoes and other outer garments. Also the duffel bag was returned. I would check off the items and give them a copy of the inventory document , after that a travel voucher was issued. It included a bus ticket to their place of enlistment, an amount of usually $200 to buy civilian clothing, and extra money, less than $100 to cover food and other travel expenses, needed while making the bus trip.
With my old AF Truck, we (usually a couple of WAF) would make a trip to town to select the latest style of women clothing. The girls would be in different states of mind, about this time. They had not talked to me about why they were getting discharged and I never asked. On the trip to town, they would discuss what they were going to next. Most, I felt thought the Air Force had given them a bum deal. I recall one that didn't want to get out of the AF. If they didn't spend all the clothing money, I believe they were allowed to keep the balance.
On returning to the WAF Squadron, they were given the cross country bus tickets, and the extra money for trip expenses. I waited, as they said good bye to whomever, but they usually quietly got back in the Air Force truck. Then, I drove them across the base to the main gate and stopped on the right side several feet from the guard shack. An Air Force guard, usually the one in charge, would greet the young ladies and kindly escort them out the gate. There they would get a shuttle bus to town and begin a homeward bound trip. I never saw them again.
I often wondered if the pictures on their barracks rooms had a become a reason for the Air Force to investigate their activities? They probably joined the Air Force with high expectations and a chance to see the world.
I, however, was about to be drafted in Army and after passing my physical, quickly ran down to the Air Force recruiter and joined. Asked to leave ASAP, which was three days later. While in AF basic training, received an Army Draft Notice, which was torn up, and we all had our laugh, at mail call.
Over the years, it has bothered me, what if the inventory of room pictures had indicated something? Those rooms with only pictures of female movie stars or actors on the walls, was the choice of the occupants. If they went to concerts, the county fair, other shows and bought the pictures with their friends, what is the difference? Today they could buy concert CD's, but they are not posted.
The young girl, when joining the Air Force was probably seen off at the airport or train station by friends and family. After arriving at the end of the trip was met by a welcome committee and driven to the Air Force Base for basic training . There she joined other recruits and made to feel at home, Air Force style.
However, now a few years later at best, she was on her own making a trip home. By traveling on the slowest possible means of transportation, a Greyhound Bus, she had plenty of time to think. What was she going to tell her family, friends, and others back home?
My supply duties became pretty much routine. One day was told , to be sure my area was in inspection order, as the WAF SQ was going to have a visit from the newly assigned, Sergeant Major . I believe that was his title and he was the ranking enlisted airman on base. I later found out, he had been a B-17 gunner shot down over Germany and served months in prison camp, was awarded several medals and now was an assistant to the Base Commander.
The WAF 1sgt accompanied the inspection team as they made the rounds of the different works areas. Finding a male airman, assigned to the squadron, was sort of a surprise, and they said, they would be back to talk to me later. The Sgt Major returned and asked just what my job and duties were to perform? I explained to him pretty much the duties and he thanked me and left, without really saying anything about by assignment.
The next day the Sgt Major, returned and said after talking with the powers to be, he now knew why I had been assigned to the WAF SQ. He told me his views about women in the Air Force, how they should carry their own weight. The Air Force had sent out a memo titled , " Quality not Quantity" and it pertained to the WAF SQ, and maybe others , I don't know. He said they could operate their own Supply Room, move beds in and out of the rooms, change light bulbs, perform linen exchange, drive AF trucks, and make the monthly inventories of equipment. The harassment of exchanging toilet paper rolls for T.P., inspecting barracks rooms and going into rooms disturbing sleeping occupants , and other methods the Air Force used to find certain women, was no longer acceptable.
That day, I left the Women Air Force Squadron. Relieved of my duties, which was sort of sad, but felt the Lord had really given me a challenge, and never was told just why I had been assigned to help the young ladies. The only male airman in the Top Rated WAF SQ in the Air Force, was an early assignment experience I'll always remember. After retiring, I bought a farm and had several different John Deere tractors, but never owned a pickup truck,
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Leonard, when I saw the title of this, I just had to read it. I enjoyed your memories of that experience. I'm assuming your wife now knows about the job you had there. ;-)