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Gonzales was like a man who always seemed to be holding something inside, like someone whose skin practically bulged with all the confidences he had accumulated. in the mid-nineteenth century, Fort Yukon is 145 miles northeast of Fairbanks. The daily temperatures in the winter would often be subzero. There were times when they would stay frozen at 50 or below, and there were still old-timers who remembered the wicked days in 1947 when the temperature fell all the way to 68. Stories lingered about the way people would toss jugs of water and watch the liquid freeze before it hit the ground. Fort Yukon was considered an important outpost in the Cold War intrigue with the Soviet Union. As superpower tensions surged, long-range radar and communications programs were ordered into operation in the 1950s to assist in reconnaissance efforts. When Gonzales stepped off the small plane and joined the hundred or so other men working at the air station, he was greeted by a sign depicting a giant moose and the words “8 miles above the Arctic Circles’ Gonzales was issued some Arctic clothing and officially given the title of ACW \(aircraft control and the Alaskan Air Commandbasically helping to blast huge, clear communications signals to other early warning stations from high-powered antennas set up in the rugged Alaska outback. He settled into a rhythm of monitoring the equipment, shooting the shit with the other airmen, playing pickup games of baseball, and writing letters to his family and Liz Lara. “All people do here is drink and gambleand I don’t like either of those;’ he told a friend. Still, he was unfettered, finally, from Humble and the limitations that existed or that he perceived on Roberta Lane. There were two older Air Force Academy graduates at Fort Yukon, and when Gonzales heard their stories about the influential military school in a nice part of Colorado, he was ready to apply. If he stayed with his four-year military commitment, he could easily see himself slipping from one remote, low-level assignment to another in the Air Force, going from one communications station to another, one bleak radar site to another. One of Gonzales’s command ing officers arranged for Gonzales to take part in a college correspondence course program in which he filled out assignments and shipped them to a university instructor in Oklahoma. That instructor was apparently impressed enough with his work that he urged the Air Force to consider offering Gonzales a spot at the academy. In the end, being in Fort Yukon crystallized things. The academy provided free tuition, free board. The trade-off was an agreement to commit to an additional five years in the military after completing the four-year program. He was not yet twenty. He could be out of the academy by age twenty-two, out of the military by twenty-seven. He petitioned his commander, who “made special arrangements for a flight surgeon to be flown up from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage for the necessary medical examinations’ Then he “hopped an air force tanker plane to Fairbanks in order to take the necessary physical fitness tests:’ Years later Gonzales would remember the whole application process this way: “These were extraordinary efforts, but I had found a path to a college education, and I was prepared to do whatever was required.” Whether he knew it or not, there might have been some other extraordinary circumstances swirling in the military and the nation. Gonzales was applying for admission to one of the leading military schools in the world at a time when specific mandates had been issued by the air force high command to increase minority enrollment in the Air Force Academy and in the Air Force Preparatory School, a feeder program for the academy. With antimilitary sentiment still coursing through many college campuses in the early 1970s, the high command of the air force met to discuss ways to attract new recruits. Specifically, discussion centered on how to bring in more minorities. The words affirmative action had not emerged, as they would later, as part of an ongoing, national, controversial debate. Gonzales was also applying at a time when minority recruiters were anxiously looking for recent high school graduates and new enlisted menand pitching the academy as a quality college, not so much as the starting point for a lifetime of military service. The thinking was that students would be better sold on the school as a place that offered a superior education, comparable to most of the “better” universities in America, instead of reminding students of the obvious fact that the school hoped to have people stay in the military for decades. According to his official military JULY 28, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19