What a great idea! Join the Air Force, and see the world! After a humiliating induction physical, I was sent to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. What fun! South Texas in the heat of summer, in an un-air-conditioned barracks with 40 other guys. I only stayed there for a period of five weeks but it wasn't the most pleasant time I’ve spent. A good percentage of my group of guys wound up with heat strokes and some got sent home, but I managed to make it OK. I did have my first brush with military discipline when I beat up on my squad leader. The Air Force decided to cut my basic training short and let me complete that phase at one of their Tech Schools. They give you a battery of tests to determine what field of training you are best suited for. The Air Force gave me three choices: 1. Go to a journalism training school and write for one of the Air Force publications. 2. Go into the intelligence service, and 3. Become a Weather Observer. I had no clue what a weather observer does and it was explained to me that those are the guys that send up weather balloons and report on the weather. After I found out that the training facility for weather observers was located at Chanute AFB in Illinois and that was only a hundred miles or so out of Chicago, I jumped on it. And so it was that I made a career choice based solely on my desire to be closer to my home in Chicago. Not the smartest thing in the world! I did have the opportunity to visit Chicago quite a bit and would hitchhike home to visit my Mom every chance I got. They say ignorance is bliss,and as it turned out, my career choice was a good one.
In the Observation Tower at Scott AFB
I spent nine months at Chanute before graduating the program. From there, I was assigned to the Base Weather Station at Scott AFB near Belleville, Illinois. I had nothing to do with this choice of location, but it suited me because it was still Illinois, albeit a good 300 miles from my home. I decided that I liked working at the Base Weather Station and started catching the weather geek bug. I divided my time between working in the station plotting maps and filing teletype messages, and manning the observation tower taking weather observations. I loved my time in that tower, and was known to sneak several civilians up there from time to time, including a friend that was visiting me from Germany, and my girl friend (future wife). Yes, it was during my tour at Scott AFB that I met Cherie. We met at a local college hangout where I spent a good deal of my off-duty time. I never told people I was in the military and always passed myself off as a student. The Viet Nam war was escalating, and most of the girls were reluctant to date GI’s, hence the charade. It only took Cherie a short time to figure out that I was lying, but she continued dating me anyway. It was in December 1965, that I found out that I was going to be reassigned to Germany. My reaction to this news was mixed. I looked forward to going back to Germany, but Cherie and I had gotten very close and a three year overseas assignment was going to be a very long time to be separated. We decided to marry before I made my move. We were still very young (Cherie was only 19 at the time), but neither one of us wanted to be away from each other for that long. It also meant not being able to visit with my mother in Chicago.
I couldn't leave something this cute behind
Cherie and I got married at the Zion Lutheran Church in Belleville, Illinois on January 8, 1966. I left for Germany at the end of March while Cherie stayed with her parents and continued working to earn her fare over to Germany. She joined me in Germany on May 1, 1966, and oh yeah, I should mention that she was already pregnant with our first son.
I was attached to a remote Army post located in the Bavarian Alps. This was the home of the 10th Special Forces Group, an elite Army Ranger Battalion. My job was to provide them with weather information and provide support for their parachute jumps. Cherie and I lived well away from the post in a remote Bavarian farm house. We loved our life over there! Cherie had never been away from home, but she took to her new life like a duck to water. She rode a bike, learned the language and shopped on the local economy. She was a regular little Bavarian “Hausfrau”. We were poor but happy!
Our oldest son, Arno Martin Perlow was born on October 31, 1966 at the Army hospital in Munich. He was almost one month premature and weighed in at just a little over 5 pounds. We had to leave the little guy in the hospital for another two days after Cherie was discharged because he was so skinny.
Serious looking dude
In 1967 I volunteered to go through the Army “Airborne” training. This consisted of 3 weeks of parachute training and later I would also get training in “Survival” and Winter Warfare”. During the time I was in jump school, Cherie made a trip back stateside to see her family and show off “Little Arnie”. Being “Airborne” gave me added income and I also got promoted to Staff Sergeant and had 4 years of service. Suddenly we had all kinds of money. Well, maybe not a lot, but we were comfortable. We moved to a bigger apartment and eventually moved to government housing near the post.
I was very fortunate to have had this fixed 3 year assignment. Not only was life in Germany very enjoyable, but it kept me out of Viet Nam for the time being. Many of my Army colleagues made several trips to Nam from Germany and more than just a few never came back. My closest brush with actual combat came in 1967 when I was suddenly told that I was going to jump into a place in Egypt to help secure a group of American civilians that were trapped there during the Israeli 7 day war. I was on the flight line with a platoon of Army Rangers when we were told to go home. The Israelis had taken care of it. Whew!
Towards the end of my tour I was accepted into the Weather Forecaster School. This meant a classroom setting for at least a year stateside and no chance of being sent to Viet Nam. We left Germany in April of 69 with mixed feelings. We were glad to get back home but hated to leave this beautiful place. We loved the assignment and made a lot of friends. Some of those friendships lasted through the present. We had visits from my Mother and Cherie’s Dad while in Germany, but hadn’t seen other family members in over three years. We were headed home.
Cherie and Arnie in a park near Garmisch Partenkirchen
Getting ready for a training jump.
I'm the tall skinny guy!
Arnie frolicking in the woods near our home.