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The Wrong Stuff at the Right Time

When I went to join the military in 1968, I was going to join the Army and be a Green Beret. The Army recruiter squashed my childhood dream, stomped it like I was a bug under his boot. Turns out, I was too young and didn’t meet the requirements to be a Green Beret. As I was leaving the recruitment center, an Air Force Recruiter approached me and said, “The Air Force has something even better than a Green Beret.” I said, “Oh yeah, what’s that?” “Air Commandos,” he says. I asked him how old do you have to be for that and he said, “you’re old enough now.” I took the test and signed up, and after basic training at Lackland AFB, I was told to pick three ‘wishlist’ places to go. I reminded them that I wanted to be an Air Commando, but they said I had to put three on the list. I reluctantly added weapons and munitions to the list. When basic training was over, they called us all in to a room. I hear, “Okay Smits, you’re going to munition school.” I said, “wait a minute, what happened to Air Commandos?” He says, “they don’t have any openings.” Great. That was the only reason I had joined the Air Force. When I got to Vietnam I was doing some training with the Security Police when a guy comes around trying to recruit for the Air Commandos. I quickly volunteered along with a couple of my buddies. About six-months in, our team was shot up pretty bad and most of the team was gone. The Colonel pulled me aside and asked what I wanted to do. He said I had two choices; I could get another team or go back to munitions. I knew I didn’t want to do that. He says, “Oh, there is this other thing called SOG, Special Observation Group. It’s the elites of the elites.” In the end, what should have taken years of time and training to qualify for, I simply walked in to. I beat the system.

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