Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Lessons Learned

by Lou Comadena

While at Uban RTAFB in 1967, I had the opportunity to spend some evenings at the O Club bar with Colonels Chappy James and Robin E. Olds. Their number one discussion topic was how to get the Air Force to add some guns to the F4's because the missles were often unreliable. But with me they were most interested in finding out the status of the completion of the construction of the squash court project. One night after they returned from a mission Col. Olds sought me out, and he was angry. "When the hell are you going to have that film lab construction completed. We need it. We're suffering unnecessary causalities because we have to wait for over 24 hours to get our pictures back from Korat (RTAFB)."

I tried to again explain to him that the location authorized for this facility by the Thai Air Force Base Commander was in the middle of a swamp, and that we were trying to get it changed through our embassy in Bangkok. Col. Olds let me know in very forceful and vivad language that this was not acceptable.

I hurried back to my office and started making plans. I remembered at one of our training classes at Wright-Pat. that an instructor had said that the terrain in Southeast Asia would sometimes not allow you to follow the normal construction method of digging down until you found a solid base and then buildt up from there to your final elevation. He said you needed to reverse the normal process and start by spreading sand and small pea sized gravel over the swamp muck. Then you added larger and larger stone fill until you had a solid foundation.

With no more information than what I have just outlined, we set out the next morning and began this unconventional approach to foundation construction. All during the process there were a number of my more experienced NCO's scratching their heads and asking me if I were sure of what we were doing? I Wasn't. But under the circumstances, it was worth a try. It worked beautifully, and in less than a week we completed the film lab, Col. Olds was very pleased, and I was very relieved.
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