Most civilians have little idea of what it means to work a mid-shift, one that runs from roughly midnight until eight o’clock in the morning. Setting aside the havoc it plays with normal sleeping patterns, it results in mid-shift workers being at odds with a number of social conventions.
This is no clearer than the conflicts that arose in my sister unit at Osan Air Base, South Korea, right after the Pueblo incident (You don’t know about that? You should look it up and become an informed citizen). It was an earth-shaking international event that caused thousands of soldiers and airmen from all over the world to deploy to South Korea.
The Operations division of the unit at Osan worked around the clock with a Day Shift than began at 0730 and went to about 1600, if I recall correctly. The Swing Shift relieved the Day Shift and worked until Midnight or so when the Mid Shift took over until the next Day Shift arrived. There were a few people that worked straight Day Shift from 0730 to 1630 and only Monday through Friday. Derisively called “Day Ladies,” these were usually senior people and they figure only peripherally in this tale.
When people get off work from a Day Shift, they have a normal evening ahead of them, perhaps going to their favorite watering hole. The Osan squadron had a lounge with a pool table and a dart board. Oh, did I forget to mention the bar where booze was liberally and cheaply dispensed? That lounge figured prominently in all non-working hour activities for people in my line of work.
Swing workers getting off at Midnight would usually rush to the Chow Hall for what was termed a Midnight Breakfast, a hearty meal that was often better fare than a regular breakfast. Then they would hustle to the lounge for a couple of hours of relaxation until it closed at 0200 or so.
Prior to the massive Pueblo deployments, poor Mid Shift workers got off with just enough time to make last call for a normal morning breakfast. That was that, for with the squadron Administrative people working in the same small building that housed the lounge, it was deemed improper for Mid workers to party hearty after their shift.
That nonsense screeched to a halt when my unit deployed to Osan. Round-the-clock operations were pedal to the metal due to mission requirements. Mid Shift after-work partying started full bore too, but it had to occur on base since the village just outside the Osan gate was off-limits until 0900. The admin types were powerless to stop the numerous Mid workers who demanded that they also be afforded an immediate after work drinking and partying venue.
Those poor Day Ladies had to put up with boisterous airmen hell-bent on consuming alcohol, playing music, and generally acting like it was evening – which it was for them. I participated in a number of those early morning revelries and we often played a game of Thumper, which was generally disrespectful, loud, and raucous.
The problem was that during the day, senior staff were around to see and hear what when on, and some of us wondered how the senior staff might react. However, they never interfered or asked us to dial it down, and I had to respect them for putting up with our shenanigans.