A debut comic memoir chronicles a high school dropout’s experience in the military.
Martin was a painfully shy teenager and turned to drugs as an antidote to his awkwardness. As a result, though, he floundered academically in high school and was eventually expelled (his father, the vice principal at the time, delivered the news). After stints at a psychiatric institute and then a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, Martin decided to join the military, mostly because the enthusiastic recruiter promised him a life filled with foreign adventures and female admirers. The author quickly discovered that he had essentially been duped. Basic training was terrifying and toilsome, and even eating was transformed into an opportunity for mortification. Instead of some glamorous assignment involving espionage, he learned he was only eligible for less thrilling positions and became a strategic aerospace mechanical engineer. And when he was sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, there weren’t even real planes available for him to practice on; they were all deployed to the Middle East during the first Gulf War. The biggest obstacle Martin faced was the stultifying burden of boredom. He also learned how to become impeccably clean and ruin his credit score. In an attempt to counter the plague of “sex-free loneliness,” Martin married a complete stranger and divorced after six months. He does, in fact, get to travel quite a bit as a crew chief for an aircraft, but he’s virtually trapped aboard the plane, ensuring a deficit of excitement. The vivid memoir unfolds chronologically for the most part but is still organized into essays centered on recurring themes. Most of the chapters, with such titles as “Food Camp,” “Shy Guy,” and “Airman of the Month,” could be read independently of the whole. The style is relentlessly comedic—much of the prose reads like the transcript of a stand-up routine. The good news is that Martin is genuinely funny and has a well-developed antenna for the ironic and the absurd. Equally good news is that he’s not merely amusing, providing gimlet-eyed insights into his attempts to find purpose within a stubbornly shiftless youth.
A hilarious and impressively candid remembrance of life in the Air Force.