A LOOK AT OUR HISTORY THE ASSOCIATION OF SPANISH FLYERS
STORIES and LEGENDS
STORIES A story we will not forget:
PERU FIRES ON C130 FORCING IT DOWN
John "Bubba" Armintrout;
Dang Espi.... I started my MK career almost the same way.
I was sitting in my Arabic class in Goodbuddy with about a week left in my class. Sonny Vidari walked in and asked if anybody spoke Spanish.
I raised my hand.
They hauled me off and gave me a handscan and transcription test and then they interviewed me in Spanish and asked me stuff like where I learned Spanish, where I went to school, stuff like that. I graduated with my class and then joined a Spanish class already in progress. There were a couple of Marines, Dave Muran, Al Plumb, and a guy named Walt Vega in our class. I kept mixing my Arabic and Spanish together and had to translate my handscans from time to time but finally got it down.
I then PCS'd to Homestead.
In 1981 I got asked if I would like to go TDY to Offutt to help them with transcription.
Me and a kid from Key West named "Lobes" Kilpatrick traveled up there and worked transcription on Swings. "Lobes" was born and raised in Hastings, Nebraska so he decided to buy this old beat up LTD so he could drive home on days off. He drove that thing the whole time we were there and then sold it to Andy Carrillo when our TDY was over.
I got back to homestead and was coming up on re-enlistment. When asked what my plans were, I told them that if I didn't get to go airborne I was going to get out. Our First Shirt called down to San Antonio and told them I wanted to go airborne and they said when can he leave. Wasn't long after that I packed up my brand new Firebird and drove from Homestead to San Angelo for the airborne course. Unfortunately, they sent me in May for a class that started in March so I had to wait for the next course. I finally got to Offutt in April 1983. Went to Panama in 1990. Back to Offutt in 1996.
Retired in 2003.
I wouldn't change a thing!
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This most recent spate of Beaner Memoria has caused me to wax nostalgic about the best time of my life and about my Beaner
Don't know how many of you know or realize that this year 2012 is the 50th year anniversary of our legacy and existence as
a formidable force in the intelligence arena (yes, I brag). I have been reminiscing and reliving in my mind some of the
events that I am so fortunate to have experienced as a Spanish Linguist/Beaner/MK.
So, I have decided to share with you a bit of my Beaner history, actually my humble beginnings as a Beaner.
So here goes:
Late September 1962, I was sitting in class at Goodfellow AFB being trained as a Non-Morse Signals Operator. I was doing
ok in class. I know many of you won't believe this, but I was actually having a bit of trouble due to my extra curricular
activities in San Angelo every night, but like I said I was doing ok. This one day right about 10:30 in the morning, a
then young SSgt named Medardo Gomez (later Capt. Gomez) walked into our classroom and after a short conversation with our
instructor (then TSGT Babbitt) he stepped up to the front of the class and announced, "those of you who speak Spanish,
raise your right hand".
I did immediately, almost as a reflex. I don't remember how many others in class raised their hand, all I remember is SSgt
Gomez saying, you come with me, you are going to take a battery of tests. Went with him, sat down and was presented with
three 7 inch reel to reel tapes, each one contained a different type of activity. We were given some pencils and paper and
told, write down what you hear. Went through the tapes and we were released for lunch.
Went back to class, was sitting there about 2:30 in the afternoon that same day, fighting to stay awake, when the door
opened and in walked SSgt Gomez again. This time, again after a short hushed conversation with our instructor, he stepped
up to the front of the class and said, "Airman
Espinoza, follow me".
I did and he took me right outside the classroom door
and he told me, "you did real good, as a matter of fact, you only missed one word out of all the activity".
He asked, "do you know what a caza-submarino is?". Nope, was my answer.
His next words were, "you are not going back to class. So, go in there and get your materials, you are on your way to Key
My head was spinning by then, not knowing exactly what was going on. I went back into the classroom, picked up my stuff
and as I was walking out, TSgt Babbitt looked at me and said, "you jumped into a bucket of shit and came out smelling like
I did not know what he meant then, actually took me several years before I realized exactly what he was saying.
He was correct.
I ended up inthe 6947th ERU in Marathon Key, Florida living in a motel right on the beach living very much like a
vacationer. We were later moved to the Heliport in Key West. I was there for almost three years. In August 1966 I was
assigned to MacDill AFB and begin my flying career. Moved later to Homestead Florida, closed the place down in 1971 and
moved on back to Goodfellow as an Instructor. June 1975, after again getting in trouble in San Angelo, I got myself back
to flying when I reported to the 6949th at Offutt.
I was there eight years (seemed like 18 for some reason), and spent the last 2 years plus here in San Antonio at the HQS.
Folks, that was 22 years, 2 months, and 10 days of hard work and glory for me.
I am sharing this condensed version of a truly happy and exciting career because I am so proud to have served amongst and
with the best of the best. I learned so much from all of you and I sincerely hope I was able to pay back at least some of
you for your support and for allowing me to be part of such glory and a very hard working, caring Familia. I am extremely
proud of our gloried past as I am of the current generation of Beaners/Spanish Linguists/MK's carrying on the tradition and
keeping our legacy alive.
I also hope that this encourages all of you to start thinking about a 50th Anniversary reunion. I strongly believe we have
cause to celebrate with the Mother of all Beaner Reunions before the year is over. For the record: I believe I am correct
in stating this - Jimmy Bell, Hank Hernandez, and I were the original Beaner Lifers having begun our careers as Beaners at
the beginning of our Spanish Linguist existence and through our eventual retirement.
Thank you all. Espy
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I joined the Air Force in Feb 1979 and was one of only nine people going to DLI whose orders stated the language they would be studying once they arrived
at Monterey, Vietnamese-North dialect. Back then, they would have a cattle call and bring all the new folks into the middle of the 3483rd squadron building, tell you they were looking for 150 Koreans and count them out by pointing at you. Once they divvied everyone up, they would give everyone one five-minute gap to find the language you wanted and, if you someone from that language was willing to swap with you, you would switch groups. We, of course, stood off to the side and watched this goat rope take place.
I arrived at Okinawa (6990th) in June 1981, having been set back twice while at DLI, first time for my son's illness and then when my son Carlos passed away.
eing a Dogger was alot of fun and I really enjoyed the camaraderie and closeness of the group. Little did I know that I would soon be joining the group that defined group closeness. In October, 1981, a message came out requesting all airborne units to identify their airborne 208's who spoke Spanish and wanted to volunteer to be put on a list (at the time I had no idea what it was for). I did not volunteer my name because I had worked so hard to learn
Vietnamese. A couple of weeks later, a second message came out, again requesting units to poll their X208's for Spanish speakers. I was again asked and again did not volunteer.
In November 81, Ish Salazar and Brett Bryant left Oki for Omaha for a 30-day TDY related to their Spanish skills. That's all I knew.
In mid-December 81, I took my Cat III Dogger airborne eval as a gunner. Donny Blair was my instructor, he remains a good friend to this day. I passed and
went on a 3-day break. Upon my return, I was walking down the long hallway at Torii Station to the ops floor when I walked by our Ops Supe's office, Chief Bill Wetterer. His admin troop was a Boricua who was grounded due to weight, TSgt Luis Lugo-Rivera. Lou and I would talk on occasion but never in
Spanish. This morning, though, he called me in as I walked by and asked me to sit down. We had about a 10-15 minute conversation, all in Spanish.
After a bit, he leaned back on his chair, opened the Chief's door and yelled, "He's
good to go, Chief!"
What an H de P!!! LOL!
What I didn't know was that, while I was gone, a third message had arrived no longer asking for volunteers but ordering all units to identify their X208's who spoke Spanish. That was my language test and two days later, young Bob Garcia and I were on the rote back to Offutt. We arrived on New Year's Eve and were set up in billeting. Lee Anthony and Andy Carrillo came by to say hi and invite us to a New Year's Eve party at Manny Guerra's house. We went and met the group en masse, Ross, Jose, Manny, Yoyo, Jorge Hyland, Vernon, etc. It was quite an awakening because everyone was blowing crap on each
other and nobody was offended.
It was a great way to meet the family.
Two days later, we left for Panama and the day after that we had our first flight. My "instructor/evaluator" was old Eddie Perez. He walked me onto the
Levi, asked me to show him the reel-to-reels, the receivers and talk him through recording a cut of traffic, all in Spanish. It took about five minutes or so, after which he declared me a Cat III on equipment and fully qualified in language as well.
The good ol' days!!!
I was supposed to be in Panama for 30 days but wound up staying for 174, leaving only because staying 179 would've required a PCS and there was no unit
in Panama at the time. When I got back to Okinawa, I found out the Air Force had released me (in effect, fired me as a Dogger) and reassigned me as an MK.
By then, however, I knew where I belonged and I was happy to move over to Offutt in late 82, the beginning of many, many months spent TDY to Panama and
flying those long flights south from Omaha.
Great times, indeed!
. . . . . .
This is great stuff, Espi. It's interesting to me that you and I became MKs in similar ways.
I was almost done with the MIMI class at Goodfellow, orders in hand to Osan after leave, when a young SSgt MK instructor whose name I've long-since forgotten (Jesse something) popped in looking for me by last name. When he saw me, he apologized and said that he thought I was Latin based on my name. I told him that I spoke Spanish, even though I'm a mostly-gringo bastard, and he dragged me away to take the language test.
From what you said, it may have been the same cuts that you got; this was in 1979.
I scanned them the way that I'd been taught: folded the scan form in half longwise and translated on the fly into English. He asked me why I had scanned in English, and I explained that I'd been taught to do that. He then asked why there were some words in Spanish - I told him that I didn't know what they meant, but they sounded important. They asked me if I wanted to go to Osan and marry a Korean girl or go to Omaha and fly.
I opted for the latter, of course.
I had the privilege of having John Armintrout and Al Plumb in my class, amongst others. I used to wear round-toed cowboy boots with my fatigues, and it drove our instructor crazy. Bubba used to help me measure the heels on the boots to make sure I was legal, almost every day.
I still remember the first day of work at Omaha. The first three MKs I met were Ross Martinez, Jose Ramos, and my new supervisor, Ron Fontanez. There I am, straight off leave, needing a haircut, and I meet a man with the gravitas of an old-testament prophet, someone who looked like a recruiting poster, and a recent Outstanding Airman of the Year...it was quite an impression.
Someone sat me down to sidesaddle with Jimmy Nadal, who never rewound, at which point I knew I had made some kind of huge error, that I'd never measure up. Finally, I sit with SrA Eddie Perez - he ignores me for a while, and then stops working, takes off his cans, looks at me and says "Muran, huh. I've had my eye on you."...and goes back to work without saying another word.
The other trainers at the time - Lee Anthony, "Disco" Ed Linnecke, Scott Stoner, and more, taught me everything. Espi and Andy Carillo inadvertently saved me from a marriage...I was so worked up about my airborne Cat III eval that I didn't sleep for three days prior; I still remember Espi, my evaluator, asking me if I was OK. I said I was, and asked him why - he told me that I'd been staring at the gap-filler button for five minutes without moving. They called it a no-eval, out of mercy, and I didn't get to go home and see my high-school sweetheart.
The folks at the 49th showed me what a real family was. I have so many defining memories from the people I worked for and with that I can't begin to enumerate them all. Joe Ramos made me understand what supporting the people who work for you really means. Tom Donovan tried to teach me the virtues of calm wisdom then and through the rest of my career. Jorge Hyland-Ramos taught me that you can deal with anything for a while, and you should use it as a motivation to move forward. ELS taught me that leadership didn't mean pushing people around; it meant making people want to follow you. I learned something from everyone there and everywhere else I went. You people, my family, gave me most of the strengths that I have, and I thank you all for that. Without you, I'd probably have ended up in jail or some other kind of dead-end life.
I learned things from everyone who I worked for or worked for me throughout my career; the 694X ESX, however, was the place where I was young and afraid, but not treated as a frightened child; I was expected to be a productive, adult, member of a group doing amazing things.
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OK Espy, (and any others who might care), not only did your trip down memory lane pick up this gabacho hitchhiker, but I've also been monitoring the other inputs and felt I had to add my 2 centavos worth too. Altho I spent only 3+ years on flight status at Offutt (1971-1974), I was a Beaner/MK for 9 years (with almost 6 more years at OLBB 6947 Scty Sq, NAS Key West (Boca Chica) before becoming an airborne MF/Raghead. Regardless, I have many fond memorias de los frijoleros porque fueron, pues, mi primera familia autentica en la fuerza aeria.
There's no way I'd call myself an original, especially when I think of the guys who started at MacDill and Homestead in the C-130s, but I'm proud to say I knew and was trained and inspired by many of them, men who entered the AF and became cooks and APs but, because of a minor 'crisis' south of Florida, ended up becoming the nucleus of nuestra famila, those who might have turned out differently, still reprobates, just different types of reprobates! Claro esta que lo digo con carino.
It all started back in 1970 when I told my recruiter I knew some Spanish (I had taken classes in junior and senior high school and a couple more in my 2 years of college), but in no way was I fluent. He said, "When they ask if you speak a foreign language, tell them you're flent in Spanish; otherwise, they'll make you a Vietnamese linguist." A buen seguro, that's exactly what happened. I ended up taking a bypass test at LAFB during basic and did well enough that I didn't have to go to DLI; I went straight up to GAFB, lived in some old WW II-era barracks (Bldg 115), and spent months on casual status pulling CQ in the orderly room while waiting for my clearance. When that finally arrived and after indoc, class began and it consisted of Gerardo Briones (later an usher at our wedding in '72), Federico Hinojosa, Terry Adams, and me.
Most of you know the former, the latter two ended up at Fort Meade and did only one tour. Our ALK instructor, as I recall, was TSgt "Archie"
Archuleta, and we learned on the R-390 receiver before we moved over to the airborne (AZK) training bldg. It sure looked intimidating and sexy with that dark room and all that equipment lit up. We got our assignment while there and I was slated for the Fort while Adams was to go the the 49th at Offutt; our desires, however, were just the opposite. We had heard you could swap assignments, but for some reason CBPO didn't want to cooperate, at least not until this MSgt Potter, an
A207 who was in our class, said that was BS; all things being equal, there was no reason not to allow the swap. He got it changed but CBPO wasn't pleased and showed their displeasure by assigning me to OLAA 6948th Scty Sq (M) at Offutt rather than the 49th. As it turned out this didn't make a hill of frijoles to me or the 48th as they didn't have much need for a Beaner/MK where as the 49th did. So I was only assigned to the 48th administratively; operationally I was with the 49th. That worked for me!
So, after all the requisite training for airborne qualification, I got to Offutt in Aug-Sep '71. I did what I had to do while assigned to DOT, had my first flight on an RC-135C (14848, Burning Pipe) on 4 Oct 71, and was ultimately assigned to TSgt ELS's flight where all the fun and games began. TSgt Jimmy L. Bell, a man who, along with his family, treated me like a brother, was my friend and trainer. No one could have asked for more or received better guidance. I well remember flying the "water burners" which RC-135T (0-53121 Burning Candy Rivet Dandy) and KC-135R (0-80126, Burning Candy Rivet Quick) were. I really could have been set up for the ultimate fall after flying my training mission in 848, a quiet (fan?) jet, and then flying in a water burner on my first ops sortie. A couple minutes after take off it got so quiet once the water injection (burn off) was complete it seemed as if the engines had totally shut down if not fallen off the aircraft! No one told me to expect THAT event!! I looked around expecting mayhem but no, nothing unusual was said or done and we merrily kept flying along. Boy, was I relieved!! And talk about loooong missions! Take off at 0230 or 0330, hook up with two tankers for 80K pounds of fuel, fly 8 (often boring) hours on orbit, and land after 14+ hours of flight time. And all this for a whopping $55 extra per month flight pay. Big money! My A3 bag was usually stuffed with a sleeping bag (which, if I was lucky, I quickly put on a bunk I claimed if I got on board early enough; otherwise I stretched it out behind a rack), an RON kit with funds to defray costs of an overnight stay, maybe a pillow and a few other goodies for who knew what eventuality.
Anyway, after many hours of sitting rack, sidesaddle or otherwise, I eventually became a Cat III SC op, was assigned to A&R with Jimmy Valles and became a 2 op working the ARC-106 (clackity-clackity-clack) and its successor models. I also became very familiar with the Mod-28 opscomm and Ellie Padgett and Hilda (?) at the Fort. Sending PMFRs to HQ, cursory and in depth analysis of traffic along with compiling and sending STRUMs, CUDAIRs, and a host of other reports became our staples as did shift work.
One short story. I remember one particular flight when we couldn't land at Offutt due to wx so we diverted up to Ellsworth AFB, SD. Everyone knew we were diverting except for one person who was asleep in the bunk in the crew rest area--Sandy Marufo. Altho it was against regs, we let him stay in the bunk and he slept thru the landing. The intent was to see what kind of reaction we'd get out of him once he stepped out of the plane and not realize or recognize where he was. To say he was a bit confused is an understatement, but of course he suspected something was up when we didn't get him out of the bunk for the landing. Small payback for all the gaseous regalos he'd graciously bestow on us not only en la guagua pero tambien el avion. Claro esta que fuera muy orgulloso de sus regalitos and was never shy about claiming them either.
Lastly Espy, I remember coming up from Cayo Hueso with Victor Mercado during the Nicaragua incident when the unit needed extra airborne ops.
I flew a few missions, you eval'ed me on a Caribbean mission, and before leaving the Ops Supe asked me if I wanted to be reassigned to Offutt (it might have been Tom Tenent (sp) but I'm not sure). I had too much going on down south at the time, tho, so that never happened. But I did spend 30 years and 28 days serving this still great constitutional republic.
In addition to those names I've seen en las noticias de este Assn, others that I've not or seldom seen mentioned but might spark memories, if not stories about, include (and forgive me if memory fails at times) Ron Paggen (best man at our wedding), Ralph Thier, Joe Riggs, Doug Maynard, Jimmy Cudd, Storkamp ('Stork'), Ron Christiansen, Manny
('Pancho'?) Padilla, Eddie ('Fast Eddie') Rincon, Bob Garcia, Santa Maria ('Sandy') Marufo, Roland Hebert, Enrique ('Hank') Hernandez (oh, the stories I could tell), Jose Rodriguez, Rico Vasquez, Ruben ('Sonny') Vidaurri, Samaniego, others I'll remember later, others I've long forgotten, and of course many from Cayo Hueso.
Espy, thanks for starting this string. I hope I didn't bore too many of you and I really look forward to hearing more about a reunion. I'd dearly love to see mis companeros de anos pasados otra vez. Que buen idea!
Recuerdos a todos,
. . . . . .
I started my Air Force career as one of those hundreds of new Korean linguists at DLI in 1981. After Goodfellow I spent 82-84 at Osan - I did two tours because it took almost the whole first year of a short tour just to get fully qualified as a CAT III operator in the van, so I wanted to stick around long enough to build up some real, no shit experience on rack.
Then I went to Fort Meade for a couple of years (84-86), worked as an analyst cranking out reports, intel gleaned from transcripts. The most fun part of that tour was getting qualified to work in the NSOC. But in reality it was a whole lot of guys, and not enough real work to be done. Boring as hell.
By the summer of 1986 my first enlistment was up. I had seen enough of the Korean linguist field to know it wasn't for me. Go to Korea, (possibly marry a Korean chick,) return to Ft Meade, repeat for a 20 year career - not very appetizing. I had learned enough about the linguist field to know about the flying community. It sounded like fun, they were getting flight pay and air medals, so why not?
The Air Force was trying to spin up as many Spanish linguists as possible and were actively "raiding" the rank and file of the (by now) surplus Korean linguists. These were the days of Oliver North, the FLSN, the FMLN, Contras
- and our fearless leader Ronald Reagan was about to kick some commie ass South of the Border. Dude, I'm in...
So, I reenlisted on condition I could return to DLI and Goodfellow for the "full blown" language training. I didn't want to have anything to do with the "quick dip" solutions they were trying to come up with. One guy was "certified" as a Spanish linguist after a six week course of reading Spanish language newspapers at the Fort. None of that crap for me. This was one of those happy situations in which the wants and needs of the Air Force just happened to align pretty nicely with what I was trying to accomplish with my military career. The orders were cut, and off I went.
I packed my bags and headed back to DLI in the summer of '86 for Espanol, baby. As a side note, one guy signed my going away thing (a framed photo of the NSA building getting hit by lightning) with "Vaya con Dios" - and I had to ask him what it meant. I took Spanish in high school, but spent most of that time cutting class and drinking beer. So, I didn't have much of a foundation to start with.
About a year later I had finished DLI, Goodfellow, and survival school, and showed up at the 6933rd on Howard. There was a night and day difference from what I had been exposed to already, in terms of gear and equipment. Lots of money had been spent over many years at Osan to build the Olympic Game mission at Skivvy Nine. While working at NSA and NSOC I saw some of the high tech solutions that were starting to come on line. So my first impression of the 33rd ops floor was "this is it?"
It took me awhile to figure out this mission and location had grown up and basically sprouted out of an A3 TDY bag - and what we had at that point was a whole lot better than what was available just a few years (or months) before, so be happy. But still, I loved the Comfy Levi platform - mostly because it had great ears - and if you played with it just right you could dig out really weak shit from the grass, focus on it, pull it out, and make it usable. I loved that sort of stuff. I literally loved - loved - being at altitude and on orbit. If I could I'd go back to that right now.
Being a new "white guy" in Beanerville was tough. As a Korean linguist, there was no real major differences between the younger guys - we were all basically clueless. All of the older guys who had been back and forth between Osan and the Fort on two or three or four tours already, obviously had more experience, but there were practically no "native" speakers, except for the Koreans we worked with (Mr. Han, Mr. Pak, etc.)
But in Panama holy shit - almost everyone was a native speaker in one way or the other, which meant I was at a huge disadvantage from day one. I worked as hard as I could to improve my language skills, as quickly as possible, but still - it would take a very long time indeed before I felt really comfortable, capable, and confident in my own abilities.
My insecurity grew out of respect for the guys who were there. I was trying to earn their respect, but I know I never really did. When it came time to select the "absolute best" flying crew to put on the plane, I was not on that list. Oh well, life goes on. I flew a bunch of missions, got qualified, and did my job the best I could.
By 1990 my three year tour at the 33rd was up and I went to the 6994th and spent a few more years flying the Senior Scout. The unit motto was "anytime, anywhere, for per diem" and we did a lot of deployments. I flew on AWACS T5 spots, did a bunch of laps around the flag pole at Green Flag, and did a 90 day tour in Saudi on the RJ as a DLO. I even did a real no-shit carrier landing (on the USS America) and a catapult launch in the COD while at the 94th during an exercise we did with the Navy. So the 6994th stuff was fun, interesting, and educational. Hector Romero was my boss - best I ever had - and Ernie Paschall was my best friend.
After attending the JMIC PGIP at DIA in '95, I went back to the 33rd
(ground) until it closed out from under us as part of the Panama drawdown. I was actually given orders for Offutt. Just then Dave Muran got promoted (thank God) which opened up a slot in the J2 at SOCSOUTH - and I managed to dive head-first into that position. I spent the last five years on active duty working with those guys, before retiring in the summer of '00.
So my Air Force career had three flavors - starting as a Korean linguist at Skivvy Nine, in the middle as a Beaner, and ending in the SOF community.
All I can say is - that I wish I knew in the summer of 1987 what I know now, with regards to my abilities with the Spanish language. I now spend all day, every day, seven days a week translating Spanish to English, so I've gotten a little better over the years. Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to hold my own in the break room with guys like Big Eddie, Rolon, BBG, etc. I mean, if you can cut it there, being on rack is a piece of cake.
Thanks for letting me play with you guys. Being a part of the "Beaner"
community is something I look back on with pride.
. . . . . .
Cast a vote for The David Martinez Band
Both Lowe's and Home Depot offer 10% discount on purchases to active duty military and veterans alike, but you have to ask when checking out.
I love my LA Dodgers, but this year... this story sums it up.