Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

AF Prep Course at NAPS

By Paul Belmont

I recognize now how fortunate I was to have NOT been accepted to USAFA right out of high school and having the opportunity to become an AF Reservist called to active duty to attend the Air Force Academy Preparatory Course at the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), at the Bainbridge Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, MD. Some 100 fully qualified Cadet Candidates were selected to enlist in the AF Reserve for the Prep School (Regulars attended the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School at Fort Belvoir, VA). The prep school was a repeat of high school english and math courses and lots and lots of practice SAT exams -- leading up to the "Big One". Most of us added some 100 points to our previous SAT scores.

The nine-months at Bainbridge were good for maturation, learning about the military, and great comradeship. We were free on weekends, and I regularly (three weekends out of four) hitch-hiked back to Roanoke Virginia where I had attended high school for four years. Never had any incident, never returned late -- never have figured out how I was so fortunate. Roanoke was at the absolute limit of the 250 miles we were restricted to. Any one of a number of things could have gotten me into real trouble.

For us, unlike the current AF Academy Prep School, we were "discharged" after we took the SAT exam in early March 1960 and returned to civilian life to await the decision on acceptance to the Academy. I still had no Plan B for not being accepted into the Academy -- and to this day have no idea what I would have done with my life if I had not received one of the Reserve Component appointments to the Class of 1964. I hitch-hiked to Tampa, FL, where my family had moved right after I left for Lackland, AFB the summer before for basic training. My father had been assigned to the OSI Detachment at McDill AFB, FL.

A highlight of my time at Bainbridge was having the opportunity to attend the very first Air Force Academy vs. West Point Football Game at Yankee Stadium in New York City in the Fall of 1959. My father was attending a multi-week OSI training program in Washington, DC. He secured tickets for the two of us to attend the game. He took the train up from Washington to Havre de Grace MD and came to meet me at Bainbridge. Together we trained up to Philadelphia to visit my Aunt. Saturday morning we took the train together in uniform to New York City and the game. Great game. I recall vividly the march-on. The Corps of Cadets had assembled on the field, and suddenly a Whoop! broke out of ranks and ran toward the AF Side of the field -- as he ran he stripped off the West Point Great Coat and revealed the AF Academy Cadet Blue uniform -- the crowd went wild. As a part of the pre-game activities a group of Cadets started to unfurl a banner along the sidelines. It was something (??) on a very long roll of brown paper about 4-foot high. As it was unfurled it said: "The mule has neither pride of ancestry nor hope of progeny!!". Loved it!! The game was a classic. AFA went successfully for first down off of fake field goals TWO TIMES -- how slow was the West Point coaching staff!!!?? Somewhat befitting the caliber of the teams (including the Lonesome End and Pete Dawkins for Army), the final score was 13 - 13 tie.

By the way, as circumstances would have it, I attended all of the first five games of the AFA-Army series: the 1959 game in Yankee Stadium (tie); the 1963 game in Chicago as a Cadet (Army win); the 1965 game in Chicago (AF win); the 1967 game at USAFA (Army win); the 1969 game at West Point (AF Win). I have often wondered who else beside me and Ben Martin attended all of the first five games of the series. The annual series started with the game at USAFA in 1971.
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