General Question

6rant6's avatar

What would an Air Force enlistee's experience have been in 1969?

Asked by 6rant6 (13697points) February 23rd, 2012


First draft since 1942 was held in the US on December 1, 1969. I’m imagining that young men who got the pole position and knew they’d be drafted and sent to Viet Nam might have enlisted to get some leverage in deciding what their branch of service and duties were. I remember the services advertising it that way (although I also remember men saying afterwards that those pre-enlistment deals were often ignored… but I digress.)

If an 18 year-old decided to enlist in the Air Force, what would he have gone through before being shipped out? I know that the training time was pretty minimal, since they were doing one one-year tours.

Any info would be helpful.

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8 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

Since my son is a current USAF enlistee, I think I could speak to this a little bit.

As an enlistee, I’m not sure what kind of hitch a young man would have signed up for in 1969. Since the military can be a career, even for enlistees, he may not have opted for just a one-year hitch. If he did enlist for just one year – assuming that to have been an option for a voluntary enlistment at that time – then I expect that your assumption of “minimal training” for his MOS (Miltary Occupation Specialty) would be accurate. He might be nothing more than a cook, medical orderly, gate guard or other grunt doing more or less menial work.

Since my son signed up for a 6-year hitch several years ago, he has been pretty extensively trained in Helicopter Maintenance, and he is now a sergeant / crew chief. That certainly wouldn’t happen for someone signing up for a minimum hitch. But the USAF has always needed mechanics for aircraft, and that’s normally done by enlisted personnel, so there’s no reason why that couldn’t have happened in 1969, even if it would have occurred mostly in Vietnam, and not just stateside.

6rant6's avatar

@CWOTUS My imagined character is one who signed up for the Air Force when he became certain that he’d be drafted otherwise.

The one year enlistment – I guess that was how they were getting people to sign up – and then the GI bill of course. There was much commentary when the war turned hopeless that by bringing in raw soldiers all the time that no one really knew what they were doing and so winning had never been a possibility.

Coloma's avatar

He was probably headed for Vietnam and the poppy fields of Laos.
Be glad it’s not 1969 and you’ll do an uneventful stint if you don’t go for a career run.

DrBill's avatar

War is never good. Although I am a Vietnam veteran, I was one of the lucky ones who was stationed at Okinawa Japan. I did not ever get shot at, but I seen a tremendous amount of wounded and killed.

We got 6 weeks of training which included marching, small arms marksmanship, survival training, etc.

zenvelo's avatar

AF staffing was on air fields away from the front lines, so an enlistee, if they did go to Nam, would have been in relatively civilized areas away from combat and the jungles. The AF also had airfields in Thailand. Also, since Vietnamization started in ‘69, there would be less likelihood of an enlistee going to Nam.

By the way, your statement First draft since 1942 was held in the US on December 1, 1969 is inaccurate. There was a draft all through the forties, fifties, and sixties. December 1, 1969 was merely the first draft lottery of the Vietnam Era.

6rant6's avatar

@DrBill What branch were you?

6rant6's avatar

@zenvelo Yeah, I got that well wrong, didn’t I? 1.3 million drafted during Korea, too.

This site there were 2,500+ Air Force casualties. I’m guessing they weren’t all in planes. And one point, I think air fields became a primary Viet Cong target. Anyway, it’s kind of the point of the story, that a kid signs up for the Air Force to avoid being drafted into the Army.

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