CZ Graduates of the 10th RCD
by George Chevalier

Members of BHS41&42 had been able to go over to Albrook Field and as civilians take the Air Cadet exams and if they passed were sworn in to duty as Air Cadets and transported to training bases within the States. If they failed to pass the exams they caught the bus back to Balboa still civilians to do what ever they then wanted. But latter when we of BHS43 went to Albrook to hopefully do the same we were told the game had changed and we must first enlist and then take the tests. Mulling over the ramifications of this we decided to do it anyway but now there was another change. We would have to enlist, receive basic training at Howard Field and then take the Air Cadet Tests. We had come too far to turn back so with raised hand we took the oath to serve for the duration and six[War and 6 Mo.]  And that was how thirty some odd of us reported to Howard and The Tenth Replacement and Control Depot to learn the ancient art of soldiering in the Army of the United States, Air Force Branch. We were from all over the Isthmus,Central America and Caribbean. Foreigners that could speak English were admitted and would expect to gain citizenship in the end.

We had the 2nd floor of the barracks to ourselves and after receiving uniforms commenced training. Another local boy, Hugh Norris, having enlisted some time ahead of us was the unit armament Sgt. and would issue us the Grand Rifles to drill and fire on the range. We felt we were well treated considering this was a serious affair and one drill instructor in particular has been remembered favorably by all and that was Sgt. Pete Orgeron who after the war worked for the Canal for many years. Pete would march and close order drill us with understanding and consideration for our mistakes. Never failing to allow frequent smoke breaks in out of way places where we could flop and take five. Lights out at taps and we were cutting zzzz in short order for we did rise awfully early. Formal inspection every Sunday AM and then a pass to go home in town from noon to midnight just this once a week. There was one of us who was exempt from all the training and that was our full time jocker, Jess Neuman, who if you recall was the first baseman for the Diablo Ball Team. In addition he played full time on the Howard Field Ball team and had access to beer after the ball games until taps and we did not. Needless to say Jess would stagger in after lights out under a heavy load and flop down on his bunk to be immediately asleep.

But! Beer does have a habit of wanting out and so our still inebriated jocker would rise from his bunk,do a left face,and thinking he was in the latrine he would proceed to hose down the unfortunate little Salvadoran recruit in the adjacent bunk. We would all be rudely awakened by the screams of; Mister Jessie-Mister Jessie you are peesing on me.

With graduation day in sight we inquired of the Orderly Room as to when we could take the Air Cadet Tests and were given the shocking news it was over for the Army was not sending anymore men back from overseas to go to the Air Cadet Program. We were further rankled by the news that applicants were still being accepted from those within the US. We were given our Sq. assignments with eventually HQ.SQ.6thAF receiving the largest number of local boys and most of the others were at Albrook in other SQs. I think we all served well and honorably inspite of the many traps within the military system. Some of these being failure to salute a passing Officer while you were deep in reverie with another local boy. Failure to get out of Panama City before 11:00PM and that meant over to the CZ side of 4th July Ave. Then to be back on Post at Albrook before the stroke of midnight. The penalty for this was two weeks restriction to the base but since the storm trouper MPs took a week to get your confiscated pass back to your SQ. and then time started so it was really a three week penalty.

This forced your having to drink that horrible beer the Post Beer Garden served instead of those cool drafts of Atlas that the El Rancho served. There was a wartime quota on the number of men allowed off base on any one day but Sgt.Jim Ridge was our Chief Clerk in the HQ.SQ. and us local boys tried to take care of each other so it was seldom that we couldn't get to town. I do recall the resentment we had against the owner of the Atlas Beer Garden when he had it thrown off limits to enlisted men for the duration of the war. So we let it be known that after the war we intended to boycott the place. Well we did not get to be Pilots but we did get to grow up and live and that in itself is a blessing.