From Freshman to Flight Commander
Chapter 1 - "ROTC--whatever that is!"
(From the May 15, 2004 BIA Newsletter)

By Coach Bob Drew (64-67)

“What's going to be my "major?”

That was the question I and most every other Ohio Wesleyan Freshman was asking himself in 1959. Pre-med? Pre-law? Business? I had no idea--and quite frankly, didn't really have burning interest in any of the "major" academic options. Deep in my soul I wanted to "major" in theater--but even I knew that was just plain silly. Finally I decided, "Math! Yes! I'll major in math and science and become an engineer." My father liked the sound of that. He had graduated from MIT in 1925 with a "major" in math and science and had become an engineer. But 1st semester "D's" in both calculus and chemistry vaporized that plan. It was a bit of a miracle that I didn't flunk out my freshman year--but my English teacher liked my writing, I got "A's" in Phys. Ed and Music Appreciation and I had followed the crowd and blindly signed up for Air Force ROTC—"Whatever that is!" I think I got a "B" in ROTC--which also helped me stay in school. "Business" was my next "major"--which sailed until I barely eked out a "C" in Econ. 101. But now it was 1960 and I was shedding "majors" like overcoats on the Sahara. I did get a "B" in Basic Psychology and one could actually "major" in that. Humm. It struck me that Psychology was kind of nebulous. More subjective than objective. No black or white. No right or wrong. Sort of "open to interpretation." Kind of like, "Well, how do you see it?" "What's your opinion?" I figured I could talk my way through Psychology--and with that scientific analysis--Psychology became my "major." And what about this ROTC business? Well, an Air Force future was determined for me by a handwritten sign on the bulletin board in the ROTC building--a sign that read, "Checks are in!" In those days, the college boys (I don't remember if girls were allowed in ROTC--but for certain we didn't have any) who chose to continue on with ROTC into their junior and senior years were actually paid money--real money--at the rate of $.90 a day! That was $27 a month that ROTC was going to pay me for staying in the program. Not only that--when I graduated--IF I graduated--they would give me a commission in the United States Air Force. Well, considering the fact that I certainly wasn't going to be marching off with my classmates to Med school or Law school or any other legitimate academic pursuit--it all sounded pretty good to me. I always did like war movies and by God I looked pretty good in my uniform! Yeah! $27 a month my junior and senior years, a commission when I graduated and a uniform. Okay!! "Off I go into the Wild Blue Yonder!!!!" 

Literally! I was going to be a pilot in the United States Air Force. I had passed the physical (remember I got an "A" in freshman Phys. Ed) I had good eyes and I could read those maps--a talent that has since deserted me by the way. And the Air Force was so enthused about me becoming a pilot that my senior year they established a brand new program called the FIP--the Flight Instruction Program. The idea was to have newly anointed (I know that should read "newly commissioned" but I do so love the alliteration of "newly anointed" that I couldn't resist) 2nd Lieutenants destined for "pilotry" to report to flight school with a private pilot's license in hand! And the Air Force was going to pay for the private lessons. So, things were definitely falling into place. I actually had a goal--fighter pilot in the USAF. But alas, "the best laid plans-etc." A little background here. Most flight students "solo"--that is take off and land the plane all alone--by themselves--without anyone else in the plane with them!!--after 10 to 12 hours of instruction. Some do it in 8--but 10 to 12 is normal. It's up to the instructor to decide. After 17 hours of my instruction it was evident to both the instructor and me that in my case things were not quite normal. I had been somewhat "inconsistent." That was his word for it. My word for it was "terrified!" Nevertheless, in the middle of my 18th hour the instructor told me to taxi over to the hanger. I knew what was coming. He was going to get out of the plane and give me the thumbs up "Go! Take her up and bring her back down" (pilot talk). The words were in his mind and on their way to his lips. But before he could get out that "Go!" I grabbed his shoulder and blurted out,


            "What do you mean?" he said.

             "NOO!" I said elongating the "00." "I'm not doing it. I'm not going up."  

"But you're ready" he stuttered--void of conviction.

"NO! I'm done. I quit. I don't want to do this."

            "All right" he said shaking his head with a touch of relief.

            And when he asked "Why?" all I could offer was "This is not for me." What I didn't tell him was that I was horrified at the thought of being 2000 feet off the ground, all alone, in a little cardboard box. It just didn't seem right. If God had wanted me to fly He would have given me wings. Mind you, I loved the "live in fame" idea. It was the "die in flame" part that bothered me! No! I was not going to be a pilot in the USAF.

            And the question arose once again, "What was going to be my "major?"--this time, not in college but in the Air Force? I should interject here that during the Spring of 1963--I had the lead role in our University's stage production of the musical "Guys and Dolls." I loved that! It was the best time I spent in college. All of a sudden that "theater major" idea didn't seem so silly--but three months from graduation was three years too late for that kind of thinking. I did ask the ROTC officer if I could serve my Air Force obligation in the USO but I took his belly laugh to mean "You must be joking!" And when the dramatic moment arrived and Command Assignments were read in class and Cadet Drew was assigned to Security Service--I had no idea what it was. I thought it was probably overseeing Air Police. When I was told it was "Intelligence" -- I bellowed a belly laugh. Intelligence?! Haven't they seen my grade point average? I'm a talker not a thinker! Boy, do they have the wrong guy for this! Not to argue.


Next stop-- Security Service. Intelligence. Goodfellow Air Force Base.


© 2004, The Berlin Island Association

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