We arrived, were assigned bunks, and stood formation with our Platoon Sergeant and the company's First Sergeant. The latter instructed us on the routine, which was pretty much that we were on our own except that rosters would be posted every day with the names of those responsible for policing the grounds and for other menial chores. His last words to us were, "There will be no passes, no leaves, and no bedchecks."
I decided I would go home (Beverly, Massachusetts) for a visit, and gave Mike and Malon my home phone number. They agreed to call me collect if anything came up that required my presence.
Nine days later Malon called. My name had come up on a duty roster. I was to be part of the detail cleaning up the area on the following day.
I returned to the company, pulled my detail, and headed for home again. This time, however, I was just about broke, and was going to have to hitchhike. Nobody wanted to pick me up for a couple of hours, however. I was about to give up when a gentleman stopped and said he was going to Philadelphia. I decided to take the ride, reasoning that I would have better luck getting a ride in that busy city.
Well, I didn't. I guess I gave up. I found out where the USO was and paid it a visit. But while I was there, something, I don't know what, made me call the company. I got Malon who expressed great relief that we were in touch and told me that we were flying out the next day. This was critical information. I was already AWOL, although that was unimportant provided that I didn't get into some other trouble, but if I missed the flight, the company to which I was supposed to report would drop me from the rolls - that is, declare me a deserter.
It was early evening and I was afraid to trust my hitchhiking luck. I explained the situation to one of the USO hostesses and asked her to call the Military Police. She said there were none in the area, but there were Air Police, the Air Force equivalent. I asked her to call them. She allowed me to listen on an extension as she told them there was an AWOL GI at the club who needed a ride to Fort Dix. They asked her not to tell me that she had called, and we smiled.
Soon two of them arrived. There were perhaps a half dozen servicemen in the club, and the APs announced that they wanted to see everyone's IDs. I walked over and told them I was the one they were looking for. Having determined that this was the case they escorted me to McGuire AFB, where I was booked, then drove me to my company at Fort Dix. My First Sergeant had to sign papers transferring custody from them to him.
When they left he turned to me, scowled, and asked, "Are you bucking for something?"
"No, Sarge. I found out that we're shipping tomorrow and I had the USO call the APs so I could get a ride back here."
After a pause, he scowled again and said, "Get out of here."