February 4, 2014
I was sent to the Japan Air Material Area (JAMA), North of Tokyo and specifically assigned to the Motor Pool - because I had a drivers license. There I met my first friend, Sgt. Simonetti, from “Philly” he said. Asked what I could do, I confessed I only knew how to “milk cows and drive a tractor”. He glared at me, he wasn’t kidding, I had tried to kid him. Wrong!
He pointed to a “stub nosed” tractor, one of those that pull 18 wheel trailers, and commanded, “Show me”. I had no idea how, but I wasn’t about to quit on that guy, so I climbed up into the seat and fortunately, on the dash board was a configuration of the transmission. I started it up and he told me to drive around the motor pool area. First time, I went pretty slow; the next time he told me to speed it up, and again, speed it up some more. Now I had to be careful not to run into something else. He jumped to my window and asked if I had ever backed trailers. “Sure, on the farm, the two wheeled kind.” He told me to climb down and he would show me how to connect the tractor to the trailer and then, asked me to try it. It worked. Then, he asked me to back the trailer into a assigned parking spot and miracle of miracles, I did it on my first try.
He told me to come with him and took me to the Captain’s office. “Sir” he said, “We have found the right man to clean up the mess we have had.” “Welcome aboard,” the Captain said and I had a job, a real job. The night drivers would come in drop their trailers here and there and it was my job to park them where they belonged. I was done before lunch time and just hung around the place. Then, came assignments to run errands, deliver materials, all sorts of odd jobs. I became the “Hey you, c’mere” of the Base Motor Pool.
One day, they sent me back to the barracks to wait for a call from the Base Commander and then, drive his sedan into Tokyo. I would wait for him until he was ready to return. I did that twice and the last night, he asked me what I was doing chauffeur work and I told him it was only temporary as I thought it would be. Then he made a remark about blacks being chauffeurs as it was the best thing they can do ad I ought to get a better job. He told me he was reassigning a number of personnel and would include me. Sure enough, I was.
I really did not like what I had been doing so I took the Colonel’s advice - look for a better job. The interviewer was Sgt. Max Miller and I will never ever forget him. Asked what I would like to do, I told him I thought he might have a job for me; he asked if I knew the alphabet. “Sure.” “OK, report to this office in the morning. All I had to do was go through all of the personnel files and make sure they were in alphabetical order. I was done by Noon. He had more files. I was done by 1600 hours. I will never forget the next thing he had to say, “Mac, I am leaving here in 18 months. If you want my job then, it’s yours.” I kept looking at the stripes on his sleeve; he had six, I had none.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that” and sure enough, when he left, I had four. My future working in Personnel was underway.
Fortunately for me, the others in the Headquarters helped me to learn the ins and outs of protocol, what to do and what not, when to and when not to, etc., etc. The only problem I ever had that I recall was one Saturday morning, I was asked to type some transfer orders. When it came to the command line, which was to read “By Order of Colonel Chitty” I thought of the joke going around and changed the “C” to an “S”, typed one copy and corrected it on the ones I sent to the appropriate office. Guess what! Someone got hold of the copy I had discarded and it wound up on the Colonel’s desk. Needless to say, I had to explain to the Colonel. I told him I did it for laughs and now realized it was not a laughing matter. Nor, did he think so, then.