Were you in the military?

Here’s how one Legionnaire served his country.

It was January 1951 and I was in my final year at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y, when I received the notice from the Selective Service. Since I had a pilot's license, I immediately joined the local New York Air National Guard, not wanting to be drafted into the Army. The 108th Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron (AC&W Sqdn) required weekly meetings at Hancock Field near Syracuse. Thus, I was able to finish my last year at the university and received my bachelor’s degree in chemistry in June.

Soon after graduation, the 108th AC&W unit was activated and it became a full-time job. Soon the unit was transferred to Grenier AFB near Manchester, N.H, where the usual training continued. From private to corporal to sergeant, my duties included time in the orderly room (typing reports) and serving as organist at the base chapel. Not being very impressed with these activities, I requested a transfer to someplace where my education could be better used. And while the 108th was being transferred to a base in Newfoundland, I was transferred to the 6501st Support Squadron at Wright Air Development Center near Dayton, Ohio. Then the real fun began.

I was given a couple of choices of what I wanted to do, such as (1) riding in a huge centrifuge that monitored physical stress during increasing speed, or (2) working with a civilian physiology professor on a project for developing an all-purpose survival ration for use under varying conditions. Needless to say, I chose #2. Military personnel might wind up anywhere: Alaska where it’s cold, the Amazon where it’s hot, a mountain where the air is thin, a desert where it’s dry, you name it. In any emergency one would like food that’s nourishing and not have to search the surroundings for something to eat. This research project involved albino rats, and if you’re squeamish about doing research on animals, then stop reading right now.

Various diets were fed to the rats over several days/weeks. They were then put into a large tank of water to observe their ability to swim. The rats in good physical condition could easily stay afloat for hours, while those in poor physical condition eventually drowned. Keeping track of what each rat had been fed led to the ideal contents of the food ration. And that research project kept me occupied for the duration of my three years in the Air National Guard. I wouldn't trade it for anything else.