I’ll never forget my first mission in the Air Force. The first one is always the scariest, they say. I was a private, a clerk typist at Mitchel Air Force Base on Long Island. Master Sergeant McGlumphy called me over to his desk one morning. “Private Newman, I’ve got an important mission for you today,” he said and I began to feel queasy.
“You’re to fetch coffee and donuts for the entire office staff, including Major Schultz, and it’s essential that you deliver everything here intact, as ordered and without delay. The major is very strict about that. There will be hell to pay if you fail.”
I wrote down the complicated order – about a dozen coffees with various instructions on cream and sugar content and two dozen donuts, some plain, some coated with particular icings.
The trip to the target, the base cafeteria, was uneventful, but the civilian counterman turned out to be hostile. “This is for the McGlumphy bunch, isn’t it?” he snarled. “Which coffee is McGlumphy’s?” I lied and told him I didn’t know. I didn’t want to have to watch him too closely.
He loaded everything onto a wobbly cardboard tray that threatened to fold up at any moment. There was no way I could balance it with one hand so I had to wait to follow someone through the cafeteria’s exit door.
I fought off bogeys at 10 o’clock, barracks buddies I met along the way who insisted no one would miss a few donuts. Five minutes later I ran into flak. An air policeman chewed me out for unstable jay walking. He fined me one donut.
By then, walking unsteadily, I’d lost three cup lids and there was considerable leakage. I was losing fuel. I had to circle in front of the headquarters building until a WAF exited and held the door for me. Sergeant McGlumphy was now in sight and my cargo was reasonably intact. I was beginning to feel relieved and ready for debriefing. Just then Major Schultz popped out of his office and said, “Ah, the coffee and donuts! Good man!”
It was a reflex reaction. After all, I was still a raw rookie and he was an officer. I automatically snapped to attention and saluted and – bombs away! Fortunately there is no way you can demote a private.