It had turned blustery on the Terazzo that November day of our Doolie year. Momentarily safe from the Upperclassmen in our dorm room, Carl and I waited anxiously to hear what uniform would be required for the mealtime march to dinner. Finally the campus loud-speakers came alive: "...Uniform is parkas, under cover..."
It's been so long ago, that I can't remember which one of us
had the "bright" idea about how to respond to this apparently new uniform combination, but it revolved around these two comments:
"Gee, we've never heard THAT uniform combination before."
"Well, the 'under cover' part always meant the wheel hat, so let's put the parka over that and we should be set."
We went back and forth debating the pros and cons of that approach, with the concern in mind NOT to do something that would attract attention and undo ire from the Upperclass. Meanwhile, the hallway callers continued shouting the count-down: "There are now ten minutes until formation for the evening meal. Uniform is ..."
We had to decide quick, and went with the wheel hat. But it was a struggle to get the pointy hood over the wide round hat and still zip up the parka. It took each of us yanking and tugging the other's hood to get it over the wheel hat. With barely time to get to the formation, we stepped out into the hall in stiff braces and turned sharply toward the stairwell when, horror of horrors, Cadet 2nd Class Hard-A** caught sight of us. "Up against the wall, you two squats!" We banged into the wall, with chins buried in our adam's apples, breaking into a sweat. He surveyed our uniform choice, fighting back a laugh, then hollered out to his squadron buddies: "Hey guys, you gotta see THIS!" We soon had nearly all the upperclassmen on the hall around us, cracking up at our "uniform." They were so in awe of our sartorial creativity that someone took pictures, though the photos are now lost to the ages. What wasn't lost was a moment of levity and squadron closeness, which helped us all weather the pressures of that first year at the Academy.
Bill Van Horn
9491 South Johnson Court
Littleton, CO 80127
USAFA Class of '74 - published a book of our experiences for our 40th reunion!