TSgt Francis L. McMillian U.S. Air Force (1966-1986)
TSgt Francis L. McMillian
U.S. Air Force (Ret)
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PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE?
The decision was mine. Although my father and my oldest step-brother had joined the Army, they did not influence my decision. Originally there were five of us boys and two older sisters and a female cousin. The oldest boy was twelve years older than I and had joined the Army. The four boys that were left made our decisions at a young age. We lived way out in the country and we played cowboys and Indians and war. My older brother, by two years, joined the Marines. My younger brother, by two years, decided to join the Navy but he had a bad heart so he couldn’t join. My youngest brother by three years joined the Army.
I joined the Air Force since I had a fascination with airplanes.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
During BMT I heard of a career called “The Combat Control Team.” Checking it out, I discovered that I had to pass a physical Stamina Performance Test (SPT) to qualify. Having been in wrestling for four years in high school, I figured that it was a no brainer. I knew I was in top physical shape. While in high school PE I did 20 chin ups–the SPTA series called for only six. In PE and wrestling training I did 100 deep knee bends in less than two minutes–SPTA calls for only 80. I could also do 100 pushups. SPTA required only 20. SPTA called for a one mile endurance run in 8 1/2 minutes yet I did better than that in PE and wrestling running around the gym and up and down the bleachers. While all PTSA events were scheduled in rapid succession with 2 to 3 minutes intervening breathing periods, I did not need the breathing periods.
There was an aptitude test for mental qualifications: I scored 75% for Mechanical, 75% for Administrative, 80% for General, and 85% for Electronics. I qualified to enter the CCT program.
I graduated the airborne class at Fort Benning and went on to the electronics class at Keesler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi for Electronics Ground Communications Repairman. At that time we only had colored coded resistors and not computer chips. Unfortunately, I did not qualify for this segment of the CCT training. I was then given the choice of becoming a cook or a Security Policeman. I was not about to learn how to cook for several thousand military. So I became a Security Policeman.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
I was assigned to the 37th S.P.S. at Phu Cat AB, RVN from March 15th to July 15th 1968. During my stay there my duties were 3 swing shifts: 1500 to 2300 Hrs. with a 24 hour turn around; 3 midnight shifts, 2300 to 0700 Hrs with a 24 hour turn around; then 3 day shifts, 0700 to 1500 Hrs. Then I would get 3 days off.
Occasionally one of the days off was a training day. This was the same schedule that my last stateside base had, so it was almost with the exception of the occasional incoming mortar fire, like being stateside. I got used to the mortar fire and would sleep through some of them instead of going to the assigned bunker. The days off were used as I saw fit, and the majority of time was laying in the yard tanning or going to the club. At one time, we were allowed to load a bus, everyone armed, then be taken to Qui Nhon to the Red China Sea for a swim. At night we could see Pleiku being rocketed up in the Central mountains and thanking God that we were not there.
On July 15th 1968 I was totally introduced to the Vietnam War. I got assigned to the 633rd S.P.S. at Pleiku AB, RVN until March 1969. My first night there, even before officially signing in, and be indoctrinated to the area, I was sound asleep when I heard a very loud explosion from somewhere on the base.
Fortunately we were briefed on what to do in the event of an attack of any kind. I jumped out of bed, went to the weapons storage connex box, was issued an M-16 and ammo then hid behind the sandbag bunker that was 3/4 the height of the first floor of the barracks. I stood behind the bunker waiting for anything to move so I could shoot it. I am not to proud to admit that I was scared stiff of actually hearing the rockets going off. All of a sudden I saw movement coming from around the corner of an adjoining barracks and held my breath, placed my finger on the trigger, and began to aim at the movement. Then a figure of a man, too big to be Vietnamese, came out into the open, but in a shadow, and began to speak. He identified himself as the First Sergeant and told us to relax that the base is not being overran. I breathed a big sigh of relief and removed my finger from the trigger.
During my stay there these major events took place on the base:
1. The fuel storage area consisted of an area fenced off with an ECP and two tall towers in the back. The fuel bladders were below ground level with dirt berms all around them. During one of the rocket attacks, one hit a fuel bladder sending flames high into the night sky. The attacks were always between midnight and 0300 Hrs. The ECP was burned, both towers were scorched but no one was injured. My wife and her sister were driving from West Virginia to Florida when they heard on the car radio that Pleiku AB had been blown up. My wife naturally went into hysteria. They stopped at the nearest military installation to discover what really happened.
2. An Officer running from his hooch to his assigned bunker ran into a 122mm rocket.
3. Part of the Airman’s/NCO Club across the street from my barracks was blown up.
4. Part of the barracks next to mine was blown up.
5. The outdoor theater stage was blown up.
6. A plane that I was guarding was blown up.
7. The South Vietnamese munitions storage area, just off the end of our runway, outside our perimeter, had three storage bunkers blown up and all assigned personnel killed.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg…
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My favorite assignment was the 50th S.P.S. at Hahn AB, Germany from 1977 to 1980. Germany is a beautiful country and the people take care of their country. After WW II a lot of cleanup had to be done. People still sweep and mop the steps and sidewalks outside of their business or homes. The forests are highly maintained and cleaned. When a tree falls it is automatically cut up and removed for some other use.
There is NO litter along the streets or highways. Littering is a huge financial fine. Littering and seeding is met German Police with automatic weapons and you pay the fine right on site, in any countries money. The people themselves are very friendly and if you attempt to speak to them in their language they will respond in English, unless you are fluent in German.
To get hunting or fishing license you have to pay a large sum of money and attend the appropriate school. The deer hunting is also very controlled. Instead of going out to stalk a deer, like we do, you are required to set up in a blind and shoot the deer the Forestmiester (Forest Ranger) tells you to.
The old German that owned the apartment we rented off base, owned several fishing ponds in both West and East Germany. He would go out and inspect them now and again and on one occasion he took our son with him and let him fish all he wanted.
When I was working a midnight shift in the winter I would drive home and the old German was waiting for me near his Mercedes-Benz. He would call me over to him and open his trunk and offer me a couple of sips of some sort of Schnapps before I went to bed to warm me up.
My least favorite assignment was Pleiku AB, RVN, for obvious reasons.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
A few of my favorite memories come from some of my off duty time in Vietnam.
Once at Phu Cat, after closing the club for the night, our barracks were across the street from the club but we had to climb a five foot embankment from the street to the barracks. It had rained that day and an attempt to climb the five foot embankment was impossible, but we tried. We would crawl up the embankment part of the way then slide down in the mud over and over again. We had to finally walk around the embankment, a couple of yards, to get to our barracks. DUH?
Pleiku was a different matter. We worked twelve hours on and twelve hours off from July to March. The only day off you got was your birthday and mine had passed in May and I would leave the country before May again so I never got a day off. At night they would show a movie at the outdoor theater for those that worked days. For the ones that worked nights they would show the movie at the Officer’s Club in the morning.
About a dozen of us had a daily routine, we worked nights. Clean our weapons and turn them in, go to breakfast at the chow hall and eat like pigs making a mess, go to the Officer’s Club to watch the movie and get drunk, after the movie we would jump into the dirty green waters of the Officer’s swimming pool, check our mail, go to the barracks, strip our cloths off, take a shower, go to bed, get up and put on our cleaned uniforms and polished boots, go to work and get our weapons, then start the same thing over again every day. I never became an Alcoholic; I do not drink even to this day.
This is a photo of me on the ‘freedom bird’ flying away from Vietnam back to the ‘World’.
IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
I have received two Air Force Commendation Medals and one Air Force Achievement Medal. These were earned for doing my job as prescribed by the Air Force Security Police Squadrons.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
I have earned all four Security Police Badges because I had joined at a time when they all became of use. I earned the Security Police Masters Badge because I achieved all necessary qualifications for it.
I earned the Airborne Badge as a result of completing the needed qualifications of the U.S. Army Airborne Jump School at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
I earned the national Defense Medal for doing what I thought was right for my Country and the Vietnam Service medal for protecting the rights of my country and those of another country.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
A2C Joseph Crump, during my assignments at Mac Dill AFB, Phu Cat AB and Pleiku AB. I am from Elizabethtown, Indiana and he is from Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He was a comedian and always found ways to make a joke out of anything and make you laugh.
Mr. Boss “MAC” a Vietnamese child with a vehicle wash crew of eight other Vietnamese children who washed our vehicles at the river outside of our Phu Cat perimeter. He demonstrated that even in hard times, one can make a living at whatever seems to be needed. He also taught me how to use a P-38.The ingenuity of Vietnamese children who needed some food from the GI’s and learned how to crawl through the concertina wire to get it without getting scratched.
Sgts Willie Ahner and Bill Crosby who taught me that even an older guy can play Racquetball. Sgt Ahner was another comedian who laughed at everything and taught me to not take life so seriously. He is a friend even unto this day all the way back from 1974.
There are others but unfortunately I can no longer remember their names.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
The ones that still make me laugh have already been recounted in previous questions and the ones that were not funny I am trying to forget.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
After spending 20 years as a Law Enforcement Specialist, Criminal Investigator, and Narcotics Investigator I attempted to get into a Law Enforcement field in the civilian service. I tried in City, County, State, and Federal enforcement but was told at the time that I was two years too old. I retired at the young age of 39 and they would not take anyone over 37. So I obtained an Associate’s Degree as a Legal Assistant and still could not find a job.
I ended up working at different types of jobs from 1986 to 2005 when I decided to retire permanently.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I have become a “LIFE” member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans. I am a member of the Vietnam Security Police Association, Air Force Together We Served, 836th Security Police On-Line Chat Organization, and others mentioned in my Profile page.
As far as benefits derived from joining these organizations, one is to assist those in need, two is to hopefully make contact with previous individuals that I have been assigned with and three is to keep in contact with those I have made contact with.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
The way I have approached my life starts back with my father. He always taught us that there are two ways of doing things: One is the right way and the other is the wrong way. He explained to us that anything that is worth doing is worth doing right. I lived with that for nineteen years prior to joining the Air Force.
After joining the Air Force and becoming a Law Enforcement Specialist I learned that the UCMJ teaches the same principles. There is the right way by following the UCMJ and the regulations and there is a wrong way which could land you in jail. Due to this training I live in a black and white world of rights and wrongs. There is no Grey way.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE AIR FORCE?
If you were raised properly then follow those conceptions and do not be led astray by others. If you did not know those type of people growing up then you will meet those kind of people in the military. Follow your upbringing and be your own person. You will excel where they will fail.
A base or post or ship is just a small condensed village, town, city or metropolis and anything that happens there will happen in the military. Having spent 20 years as a Law Enforcement Specialist I have come across any type of criminal that you can name, ANY.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
TogetherWeServed.com has enabled me to go through all of my saved papers from the military and remember where I have come from, where I have gone, who I have met, whom I hope to meet again, and what I have accomplished good and bad.
I am one of those who protects important documents. I have all of my thirteen school year books, all of my report cards from grade school and up, all of my military documents. The documents I did not save were the comic books I used to read while in Vietnam. With all that was going on around me, reading such light fare was an easy, fun way to escape the realities of war.