3/31/2014

Money

When you were young(er), what did you think would be a good net worth as you got nearer to retirement?  I think one of my goals was to have a couple of lump sum accounts that I could draw on in an emergence and at least one annuity from a retirement fund.  During our working life, Barb and I both contributed to Social Security and at least one additional retirement system.  (Mine Civil Service and hers the Kansas Public Education Retirement System)  I also knew that somewhere out near the age of 60 I would start top draw a Military Retirement because of 31 years in uniform.  I also knew that my two annuities would severely cut my Social Security - And it has.

As it has turned out, we are pretty much on track and now that Tax Avoidance strategy of IRA's and 401 K's (Throw in a 403b for teachers) is getting ready to bite me on the butt.  It seemed to be a nice thing to not pay taxes on part of our income when we were working but now to have to withdraw a part of it each year just seems like a burden I don't want to pay.  You have to remember that way back when, the ROTH IRA's were not available.  Oh well, I guess the good news is that we can pay it out of the money we withdraw. And, just where the heck do I invest the excess money I draw out?

The thing that worries me the most, is that a lot of families are living on the edge and not only can't save, they are just a major accident from crashing their lives in.  The Baby Boomers are throwing as much into the Stock Market as they can and just who is going to have enough money to pay fair market price when they go to sell?   If you are a parent, are you kids going to be able to purchase as much stock as you want to sell in a few years?   The return of my money is more important than the return on my money.

I read that one of the largest transfer of wealth happened and is happening as the Baby Boomers parents are passing.  We didn't find that to be the case for us but I hope it was for some of my friends.   As I get ready to do my taxes each year, I update my balance sheet and am pleased to know that it is in a positive condition and hopefully Dave will benefit when we no longer need it.   You should hear him tell me that he doesn't care but one day I'll bet he does.  Better said, I hope he does.

I have a couple of Mid 40's members of the family that are just doing the Dave Ramsey thing.  The first focus is to know just what the heck you are spending your money on.  Then you build a budget based on your salary and do you best to get out of and stay out of debt.  He has the students in his program start off by paying off their debts smallest to largest.  He then has them focus on saving and wealth building.  You can trust me when I say that the only Credit Card debt we have is when we need to travel we use one.  It is almost always paid off the first of the next month.  We own nearly everything we have free and clear.  Our last Major purchase was the new storage shed and it was done with Cash, no debt.

Yes, dear one's I am down here blogging about money because there is a pile of bills upstairs waiting to be paid.  It is not the amount of money needed, but the hassle it takes to pay them.  You can be sure that Barb has one Motto that works for us.  "Income must be equal to or greater than Outgo."  My wish for all of you is to reach that point where the end of the month arrives and you have money left over from last month.  It still blows me away how much better things got for us once that started.

Now go pay your bills and be happy you can.

MUD

3/30/2014

Marijuana

In the neighborhood I grew up in, the drug of choice was simply beer.  We did have one old drunk that drank cherry vodka but mostly the kids had access to 3.2 beer and it was not uncommon to have been drunk on it prior to reaching the legal age of 18.  With me, the effects were to cause me to puke a long time before reaching the lethal amount of alcohol.    There is a cute story about peanuts and beer but I will skip it here and use it as a start point in a later story. Now, where was I?  Oh yes, Marijuana.

The sad thing about this post is that I can not tell your personally about the drug as I have never smoked it and don't plan on doing so.  My treatise here is to tell you the effects of it on my friends and people in my life I have met that did smoke it.  Smoke, 'em if you gott'em.  I have not smoked for about 20 years so I won't try MJ in that form for that reason.

In high school, a friend of mine started his drug use by huffing.  I don't remember the exact stuff he used. It escapes me, but soon he was the pied piper of MJ in our school.  I watched this guy go from a pretty nice guy to a guy that lacked what I thought was any direction in his life. He admitted to smoking MJ on his way to school and he always had that silly smile on his face so many of us thought he went out to his car at lunch and smoked.   In college, this guy came to me and wanted me to help finance a drug deal.  He was a Chemistry student at WSU and had a friend that wanted to cook up a batch of something.  He promised a return of 500% on an investment of $200.   I didn't have that kind of money as a college student.  I saw Joe on a trip through Wichita about 10 years after we graduated from College and he was working as an Engineer at Boeing so I guess the hype about MJ leading to a life in prison and a life wasted was a myth. 

The next true druggie I met was a soldier at Fort Irwin, California.  This was a pretty typical soldier on duty but it was wildly reported that he spent a lot of time in his VW bus after duty and he was reported to smoke there.  It made little difference to me until I was given orders to serve on a Courts Martial Board.  I was by far the most junior officer on the board and I spent most of my time watching and learning.  It seems that this young soldier was sent to the hospital for counseling.  He was not sleeping because of his fear of getting killed in Vietnam.  At one of his counseling session, they went to the Hospital cafeteria.  To emphasize a point, he slammed down his coffee cup and it broke a 15 cent saucer.   Might seem like a lot of expense for such a minor offense, but who know what was going on in the mind of his commander.   What was really surprising that it went clear to a courts martial.  He should have just simply asked to sign a statement of charges for 15 cents.  Then there could have been a letter of reprimand. The next step was an Article 15 or simple misdemeanor kind of process.  The most aggressive charge was a courts martial.  That's what he got.  He was found Guilty and sentenced to the Confinement facility for 30 days.  I am sure there are institutions all over the place filled with this kind of offender.  He did his 30 days and when we were given Christmas Leave he didn't return.  The next time I saw him, we were standing at the railing of the USNS Geiger and saw a couple of MP's escort him aboard where he spent most of the trip in the Brig.  I don't have a clue what happened to him after that.  Much was made of a simple problem.

Now, we are seeing the penalties against MJ use being made in to tax revenue and decriminalization is here for small amounts, so long as it has a tax stamp.  I wonder what will happen to the large number of dealers in Prisons for years over selling what is now a legal drug.  I would hope that the cost will be examined and the space used for people that do violent things. 

Is there a point here?  I guess I am trying to make the point that illegal use of drugs could have put me in a passel of trouble.  The drug of my choice was alcohol and I abused it for years.  In fact, I have been sober for about 25 years now.   I wonder if MJ use is the just the drug of choice.  I was told the other day on talk radio that if California would legalize the use of MJ and tax it, they could go a long way to curing their financial crisis. 

OH well, end of message.  In the old days I would just go have a beer but now a cuppa coffee will have to do.

MUD - Sober... I would say clean but I probably could use a shower.


3/29/2014

Hello, Is there anyone out there?

I follow several blogs and they all seem to have a lot of comments.  I will have 350 hits in a day and no one comments.  I just wonder if what I write is too straight forward or so verbose that there is little else left to say?  Oh well, I write this for me and you are welcome to come along for the ride down this mystery I call a life. 

MUD, Executive Assistant Laborer at Rabbit Run Farm.

Well, That's Over

For the BIG XII fans (really  BIG X but they want that name even though the have 12 teams now) our Basketball season is over.  Both Baylor and Iowa State fell to other teams and eliminated the last of our teams from the tournament.  I guess that's the end of that for me.  At least until the next season rolls around next year.  I am a fan of college basketball and it is always a fun ride.   I did get to see a few matches of the College wrestling tournament on ESPN and always enjoy how hard they work.  I don't fully understand all the rules but having known a couple of wrestlers along the way makes it fun for me to watch.  I absolutely don't watch the pro wrestlers and find it fake in a lot of ways.  I also don't care much for baseball.  To me it is a lot like watching paint dry.

One thing I do love is music.  There is very little that I don't really enjoy.  I love the newness of the Sugarland music to the old ballads sung by Barbershop groups.  I think the only thing I really don't love is too much of anything.   After a while even the new Country and Western songs begin to sound alike.  I am listening to the "Beautiful Prairie Rose" by the PR Wranglers. We pick that up when we had chuck wagon dinner down in Butler County.  They were the entertainment and I had a ball listening along with them.   One of the hits was when the kids all sang Deep in the Heart of Texas.  Good food served chuck wagon style and good music.

What are the things you have in your life that bring you smiles?  I don't mean those hundreds of things you  have to dust around but those items that make you smile when you see them.  Yesterday I was looking in my dresser drawer and found my Father's 25 year Beechcraft Hamilton Automatic.  It is a beautiful gold watch with the letters Beechcraft around the dial.  The Second hand has a little red plane that flies around the dial.  There is a kind of funny story about that watch.  One of the many trips Dad made to the VA near the end of his life was about a week long.  I stopped in to visit and he spied a new watch I had just purchased. It really was not a very expensive watch but it was a Timex Triathlon with a lot of nice features.   Dad saw that watch and said he always wanted one of those.  What do you say to a man who can't get out to buy his own watch?  "Here Dad."  He took off his old watch and asked me to put the a scruffy rubber watch band from it on the new Timex.  "Sure Dad" and he wore that watch away.  The next visit he looked me in the eye and told me that that watch told him three things he didn't need to know.  I think it told you the Day, Date and pulse rate. None of witch he cared about.  When we were getting ready for Dad's funeral, I asked Mom if Dad was going to be buried with his Beech Aircraft Tie Tack.  Mother said, "Oh there was something your Dad wanted you to have."  She came out of the bedroom with Dad's 25 year Hamilton watch from Beechcraft.  What a great trade.  She said, "Dad wanted you to have this."  I was honored then and now.

One trend I started a few years back is now a problem.  Instead of hiring people to fix things at my rental houses, I started buying the tools.  It is nice to have the tools I need, but keeping track of them and finding just the right tool is a royal pain in the patootie.   I think about half of the shelves in the new shed are filled with those tools.  I could spend hours just going through storage containers to get everything organized.  I have everything I need and most of what I want - The corollary to that is I am damned lucky to be able to find what I need.

Oh well, enough of this, on to bigger and better things.  Lunch is starting to sound a lot like a road trip to Five Guys over in Lawrence.  Believe me, Barb made that suggestion as she really knows the true way to my heart is through a Hamburger Stand.  

MUD

3/28/2014

Popeye, I Yam What I Yam.

Everything you read, hear and see is processed through your Brain Housing Group.  In short, you are what you are and short of an Significant Emotional Event (SEE), you are just not going to change much. 

What the hell does that mean Denny?  What I am trying to say here is that all the good meetings, books or TV programs you will watch will only slightly change your perceptions.  In some ways, that is a good thing, but you need to be aware of the creep in your behavior and it is just possible that you don't know when things are changing for the bad.  I listened to a guy say one time, "You don't know what you don't know."  I thought about that for a long time and wondered if there was an assessment shot of counseling that would help you see where you need to find a see or have a SEE. 

Your life will be full of experiences and some of them will be not for the good.  They might not all be for the bad, but you are the only person that really needs to see if the door is half open or completely closed.  Throughout my life I worked hard at my jobs and from time to time I didn't get promoted when I thought I was the best qualified.  It was then that I started to look hard at why I thought I wanted that job and where I fell short of getting it.  I am pretty sure there were several bosses that were surprised when I wanted to know where I fell down in their expectations.  A lot of the time I found out that the other person had just been doing the job longer and was more "Deserving."  OK, I would move on from that and do my best to find a job where I was deserving of that promotion.  I also never stopped working on being better educated, more experienced and stand out in the selection process. 

Along the way, I realized that I am the source of my own happiness.  If I am bored, it is probably because I didn't get up off my butt and do  something.  If I wasn't happy, there was generally a hobby, a good book or a nap that needed my attention.

My father fell short of being perfect but he did have some pieces of good advice from time to time.  He told me that marriage was like work.  If you take time off, it won't do well.  If I decided t love someone, I needed to be prepared to spend the rest of my life with them.  He said that he had a lot of friends that were women, but the only love in his life was his wife, my mother.  He said that it was his experience that those guys that have girl friends and wives often had to stop loving one or the other.  He said wives know when the love light is out.  You might fool yourself but never them.  I guess having a 2 week time off in the summer (National Guard Summer Camp)  always made me realize how much I missed her and home. 

So, the next time you think you are lonely or bored, try to remember who made you feel that way.  Go take a long look in the bathroom mirror and see if you are Popeye or poopy.  You'll know if you need to change you or your diaper.

MUD

A Little Something Different

There was a post on Facebook today that caused me to think about a subject I spent a lot of time on in the past.  Because of all the time invested, I wanted to see if I still had a good handle on this.

The topic is the difference between Leaders and Managers.   If you work in a factory, a refinery or in a place where taking care of things, management is what you need most of all to keep things flowing well.  Once you throw in the variances of people, you need to put on your Leadership hat.  If you have an MBA, forget to read this as you will try to manage it into something that can be measured and you too will fail.   

I am not sure where I started down this path but I think it was clear back when I was a Boy Scout.  I had what would have been a rifle squad had we been armed with anything but piss and vinegar.  It was one of the first times I had to make a list of anything.  As a kid, my dad would come home on Friday evening, pass out grocery sacks and announce that we were going to Arkansas.  We had about 15 minutes to get our sacks loaded and into the car.  I don't remember how many times I forgot my toothbrush or clean underwear.  The good news is that as a boy clean underwear wasn't all that high on my list and I just went and had fun.  In the scouts, we had to figure out what to eat for the time we went out and that was mostly what the list was for.  Our Tents and sleeping bags were in the Troop trailer so that wasn't a problem.  Food was.

I had my first exposure to real leadership in the Army.  I was blessed to have SSG Tignor as our Drill Instructor.  He was like a daddy and had all the answers.  Hell, he knew what were most of our questions and at least once a week he would just sit us all down and have a group chat.  One of the first things he said was that a lot of the BS we were being taught wasn't there to help us survive in Vietnam, but it sure as hell wouldn't hurt.  He reinforced that we were learning a skill that just might make a difference when the time came and it just might behoove us to know how to shoot and live.  One day, after a long week of running and marching a lot, I had what felt like a bag of marbles in my Achilles tendon.  I went to him and wondered why I couldn't just have a few aspirin and not have to go on sick call to get them.  He told me that I had bruised the tendon and I needed to put on two pair of boot socks for a couple of days.  Sure enough that worked.  He was the go to man when I needed advice or help. (I also found a bottle of Aspirin on my bunk)

Later on, I went through OCS and ran into what had to be one of the most stubborn and inconsiderate Officers I had ever met.  His inferiority complex was only eclipsed by his inferiority.  He was so short that he had to climb up on a foot locker to talk down to us.   His idea of leadership was to give us things in writing and leave it up to us to figure out what to do.  When I spent most of the first few days helping my classmates get their stuff together, he damn near flunked me in Leadership.  Stupid.

Back to managers.  They study the process and see where they can tweak the system to make it more efficient.  They want to change items in the flow of work and see what makes it better.   They don't think of people as being much more that things in the process.  Give them an award for excellence and they go away happy not knowing or caring how many people they hurt.  I worked at a call center where in three years, they went through about 5,000 people trying to keep 500 people on the phone.  They had at least two classes of trainees going on all the time.  I had the best record of getting people ready and them staying but even then, the system was stacked by having someone with an MBA at Corporate changing the rules without even having an idea what the impact on the people would be.  Clearly these Masters of Manglement had never answered a phone in a call center.  Our people had input with the customers but when it was pretty clear that it was a pretty screwed up system no one cared to listen.  GTE started a project that was what today is called bundling for all of a customer's communications needs.  It was a great idea and way before its time.  They focused on getting a lot of customers into the system because some MBA told them that they needed to have a million customers to make it work.   Somewhere they forgot about the profit.  When we first started having customers, the focus was to give the customers money off on their bill when they called rather than trying to figure out what the heck was broke.   When I would talk to my classmates that went to the floor when I went into the training area, they were frustrated that they would have to take crap, and a lot of it, from customers that hadn't paid their bill for months.  The Corporation was so invested into the keeping a large number of customers that they forgot to look at the dollars being spent or wasted by non paying people.  I spent a lot of time trying to convince our system (a subcontractor) to allow our agents to start looking at the billing system and asking for payment before we tried to fix the phone for people that didn't or wouldn't pay.  Nope, we were to get a million customers and I was told to shut the hell up.

Having been a leader for about 30 years when I retired, and having survived in a combat zone for a year of that, I just tried to make sure that the students I trained knew what they would be facing when they went out to the Call Center floor and started dealing with customers.  I did that by talking with my former students (and my son) and making the training experience as real as I could.  By the time my students graduated, they had worked a sales call for every product in our system and for every area we served.  I took the real billing system apart and made the telephone numbers match the addresses I made up and that way the students knew that what the customer wanted matched what the system offered.  When a lot of the instructors would be done at the end of the day, they would let the students sit around and visit.  Me, I had them working on real world stuff until the end of the class.  When I went through the initial training class, I got sick the last week and went through the training for repair but I didn't really know what the hell it was all about.  When I tried to teach it, I just passed out the papers and had the students work through them.  My son Dave was working on the floor in repair.  On one of my days off I went in and sat with Dave until I understood the process and after watching me teach it to the next class, my supervisor had me teach it to all of the instructors.  When we first started, there were no credit checks done on people that ordered Cell Phones.  When I saw that most of the big non paid bills were for cell phone users, I went out to the floor and found out that there was only one person in the call center that even knew how to do credit checks.  On my next day off, I spent the afternoon with Charity learning how to do them.  It cost the company $25.00 each time I taught my class to run one but that was worth a heck of a lot more.   Sure enough after I sent a message up the line about the cell phone bills not being paid, the Center started doing credit checks on the initial Cell Phone orders.  By that time, almost every pod in the center had one of my students and guess who got to teach that process to the instructors.  The reward for good work is always more work.

I used some simple leadership techniques in my job.  First of all, don't take the word from a manager of what's wrong.  Get up off your butt and go see for yourself.  Occasionally they were right but seldom asked the guy that had to doo the job how to fix it.  Talk to the people and make sure they know what you expect and when you expect it.  Be available to help them do it the first time or two but once they do it, let them do it with out micromanagement.  It only took one time to be embarrassed in front of the General to realize that anytime one of my people briefed the General, I wanted them to give me a pre-brief so we could see what they were going to say.  Most of the time they did a good job but on occasion they could design a Camel when they needed a horse. 

In 1987, I was about to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and my name was on the promotion list.  I was called into the General's office and he asked me to wait a year and take on an assignment to help my old Artillery Unit pass an required Army ARTEP.  I would be the S-3 for a year and be assigned as the commander at the end of that year.  I agreed and I crawled over the test results for a week or so.  I went down to the unit and assumed the duty as assigned.

One of my first jobs was to discuss with the commander what the results said and to share was the problems in priority order.  He listened but didn't seem to want to take the initiative to fix the problems.  The biggest problem was the fact that no one had activated the NCO chain and made clear what was expected of them.  Their senior Sergeant was a Command Sergeant Major with about 10 years in that job but rather than being experienced, he had 10 years experience, one year at a time.  His biggest job was to drive the Battalion Commander around and put up the Commander's tent when they were in the field.  He was a hell of an aide but that's not what they needed. 

 I told the Commander that he needed to make the Battery B 1st Sergeant the Sergeant Major and do that quickly.  Instead of thinking about it and talking to me, he went out to his staff car and as they drove to a unit he said to the SGM that I wanted to fire him.   Shit oh dear, his good friend was the Adjutant General  and guess who he called.  The Adjutant General called me into his office and asked me if I had a death wish.  I went back to my office and brought the briefing material I had given to the Battalion Commander and gave him the whole thing.  When I finished I asked him what did he think I should have recommended.  He agreed with my assessment and I thought that was the last I had heard of that.  

 Well, nothing changed and in spite of a years hard work, the unit failed the ARTEP that year.  Had one of my former commanders not stepped in, I probably would not have been made the commander at the next drill.  I did and the first conversation with the Sergeant Major was how soon did he want his retirement party?  I appointed a person that knew what leadership was and sent him on his way to talk leadership to all the NCO's I drove my own damned car to visit the units.  At the end of that year we passed the ARTEP with flying colors.

Study, talk and make sure that the people know what to expect.  Listen to their input but have a line where you make the decision when and where the things need to go.  I don't know how many times I would finally have to say "Watch MY Lips" to end the discussion.  In fact that became the point where someone would put up a set of red lips on the briefing slide when a decision had to be made.  After all, even a leader has to make the hard calls and take the responsibility.  

I want to make sure that if you are ever given the role of a manager, I want you to do your best with managing things but apply leadership to the part of the process where it involves people. 

MUD

3/27/2014

The Midnight Surfer and Subic Bay

When we were at Fort Irwin, I found out that I had been appointed the Special Weapons Officer and I had a week to get a team ready for the evaluation.  I went to the First Sergeant and asked to see the files of the battery.  I picked the five or six smartest guys in the unit for my team.  One guy, "Stubbs" stood out above the others with an IQ so high, I had never seen one that high.  He was a pretty nice guy and Fit in with the other guys so we started training the next day.   About the time my roster went to Battalion, I got a call telling me to remove Stubbs from the training and bring  him over to Battalion Headquarters.  There in the S-2 or Intelligence Officers office he was told to forget that he ever was told one classified piece of Information under threat of going to Leavenworth as Permanent party.  I was told that the National Agency Check results showed Stubbs to be very unstable and they could not give him a Favorable rating so he was out of the Special Weapons program. 

On the way back to the battery, I asked Stubbs what the hell was that all about.  He said it probably was based on his experience with the Peace Corps.  He had joined to avoid combat and they sent him to Nigeria as an aid team to help the farmers.  When he got there, he found that the people were very proud and didn't want our help.  He went to his team leader and asked for a transfer.  He was told that the only way for him to leave was for him to be declared unfit.  He said he went back to his room, removed his clothes, smeared mud all over and went outside  and ran around until they caught him.  He was sent not to a new location, but home where the Draft Board was waiting.  He said he didn't think he was unstable but he was in the Army for two years none the less.

On the last night before we got to Subic Bay on the Boat, we were awakened at 3 AM and told to report to our boat station.  There, a report was taken and everyone accounted for.  It appears there was a man over board and until they had everyone accounted for we could stand there and wait.  As we were standing there, I saw them lower a boat and then raise it back up.  The rumor mill started gathering information and at breakfast I got the entire story.

It appears that Stubbs only needed about three hours of sleep a night and he also wandered the boat decks.  On one of his trips around the deck, he found a 100 foot rope.  No just how much trouble could he get into with that damned rope?  No, he didn't want to hang himself, he wanted to Body surf. Late one night he planned to take that rope and lower himself out of one of the port holes in the latrine and see what he could do hanging there on that damned rope.   I went to sick call to have an ingrown toenail looked at and I got the story from Stubbs on what happened.  He said all went well until he got about half way down that rope.  It seems that the spray made the rope slick and he slid down too fast until the rope came up under his arm and dislocated his shoulder.  The good news was that he had tied the rope to his wrist and when he hit the water he was still attached to the ship.  He said that he relaxed and the body surfing went fairly well until he decided he needed to stop.  He was unable to lift himself back up the rope so he hollered Man Overboard until one of the fire guards on the deck told the officer of the deck.  The boat went immediately into a turn and during that turn Stubbs said the barnacles on the side of the ship just about took all the skin off his side.  The boat that was lowered to get him almost hit him and all they had to do was put him in the boat and come back up.  Stubbs was dubbed the Midnight surfer right there.  He also went in to Subic Bay on a stretcher and  I never saw him after that.

When we got into Subic, we were told that only E6's and above would be allowed off the boat.  It was not any big deal for me but the poor guy that drew Duty Officer wanted to get off the boat and see Subic Bay.  I told him that I would go into Subic and see what it was like and would come back to let him go in four hours.  I saw all I wanted to see in about three hours and went back to let my friend go into town.  To stop the complete boredom from setting in, I decided to go see what the enlisted guys had for dinner.  It is normal that the duty officer in the Army would go eat in the mess hall and make a short report.  I found the cooks worksheet and saw what was supposed to be on the menu.  Most of it was just poorly prepared slop but it would not kill anyone.  About half way down the chow line, I saw the Barley Soup.  I asked the server there if anyone ate any of the soup.  He said no and I asked for a bowl just to taste it.  he said not to stir it up to get any of the barley out of the pot because of the weevils.  Sure enough he was right and instead of pepper the barley was full of bugs.  I called over one of the cooks and had him throw out the barley soup.  When I got back up to the main deck I wrote the event down. 

The next day I got a message to report to the Captain of the ship.  When I got there, he had three of his officers and the first cook there standing at Parade Rest.   I reported and the Captain asked me about the report of bugs.  I calmly told him that the Army Duty Officer always ate in the mess hall and I found weevils in the barley.  One of the officers said that couldn't be right.  I asked him if there was any reason in hell that he could think up why I would submit a false report.  I told him that in the Army it was a courts' Martial offense to make a false report and even a worse offense to call a fellow officer a liar without proof.  The Captain called that exchange to a halt and told me I was excused. As I left the Captain's office I heard the Captain shouting that he would not stand for this thing.....  He was pissed and I got the hell out of the area.  I made a report to the Battalion Commander about what happened and he reported it to the Senior Army Officer.  I'm sure they all had a good laugh about that. 

In a day or two later, we docked at Quoin Yon harbor and got off the boat.  It was there on that dock where with all the diesel smoke and the stable deck that I almost got sick. 

Tomorrow, our training and first day in the field.

MUD, in the Nam

Packin Up and the Sea Voyage

I trained at Fort Irwin, California in 1967 and early 1968 to deploy to Vietnam with the 6th Battalion 84th Artillery.  It was a battalion of 155mm Howitzers that were towed behind 5 Ton Trucks.  The build up and training phase went fairly well and I stayed at Fort Irwin over Christmas so I could take my leave right before we loaded up and deployed.

One of my additional duties was as the battery Supply officer.  That meant that I was the guy that became the expert on how to pack all our stuff into Connex containers.  The Army found that those metal shipping containers were just the ticket when it came to shipping our stuff up so we could send it on a boat and hope to find any of it where we stored it when we got there.  I don't remember the Technical manual's number but there was one that showed how and where to pack them.  I am sure that we also built about a thousand boxes that fit in the beds of the trucks to meet the standard.  When we first read the instructions, we thought that it was impossible to meet all the standards but when our vehicles got to Long Beach to load the equipment we found that our preparation was good as they were crazy sticklers for having everything had a place and we had everything stored there.  We even figured out how much fuel to put in our trucks so they didn't arrive there with more than 5 gallons of diesel in them. 

On my leave Barb and I got married and we had about a week or two left together prior to my leaving for Vietnam.  We found a small cabin there near Barstow that rented by the week and we booked our little love nest. I don't remember much about that time except that I was glad to have married prior to deployment.  Barb was going to move back to her parent's house when I left and then go to San Diego State while I was gone. 

There was little time left over once we had everything loaded and we spent it as well as we could.  The last day was spent saying goodbye and taking a bus trip to Long Beach.   I had no idea what Vietnam would be like in reality, only an impression that there were people there that would kill me if the could.  It was my goal to return that favor and arrive back home in a year safely.

When we got to Long Beach, we were lined up and put aboard the ship.  MP's were on the gang plank and no one was allowed to leave the ship once safely ensconced there.  The highlight of my day was to stand there and watch as one of our AWOL's was brought to the boat in handcuffs.  That meant that 100% of our unit was finally aboard.  That guy who the MP's brought on board had on a pair of blue jeans and none of his gear was with him.  He spent the first week in the brig and then loaned a uniform so he didn't stand our too bad. 

On b0oard the ship, we were told to wear tennis shoes because the boat would do a rock and roll that boots just weren't good at.  I think I read Hawaii, The Source and played a hundred hours of 10 point pitch and learned to play cribbage.  I managed to visit alm0ost every part of the boat just wandering around.  No, it was not a ship, because it wallered like a row boat out there on the ocean.  Instead of going up and down like a ship, it rocked back and forth as it settled down.  Can we spell sea sick boys and girls?  On the first day our, we were directed to go to our abandon ship stations.  We went there only to find that one of my cabin mates was so sea sick he had to carry a sack.  He would shout "Ralph,  Buick" over and over.  It just cracked us up and we found out later that he was taken to sick bay and there he stayed the entire time we were out.  I think they plugged in an IV line and inserted a catheter and he stayed in bed for the next couple of weeks.  By the time we got to the Philippines he was taken off the boat on a stretcher and flown on to Vietnam. 

Tomorrow I will tell you about Olongopo there in Subic Bay and perhaps the tale of the midnight surfer.

MUD
Bored boatman

Fort Irwin, California 1967

Wen I drove into Fort Irwin in 1967, it was a combination of WWII wooden barracks and a few newer buildings.  Thee was one shopping area a lot like what you would find in a small town.  Off to the west was a housing area and you drove past the Officer's club with a couple of Bachelor Officer's Quarters (BOQ) nearby.  One set of the buildings was really old and one set looked like a modern day Motel.  You could tell the post was pressed into service and there were more units there than facilities. 

Most of us arrived in early August and the first unit scheduled to deploy left in September.  That cleared out enough space in the BOQ to move us those of us stuffed into a house out and into a real room.   They played fruit basket upset and moved a bunch of guys from the old BOQ and into the new one.  In December,  Our officers would move over to the new area when the 175mm Gun unit deployed next.  We would get to stay there until we deployed in Late February.

Our Battalion was located clear down on the north end of the post and our vehicles and guns were parked down on the motor pool lane.   The barracks were really worn out and while they had been given a couple of hundred coats of paint, they were pretty sad.  I know we kept a crew of civilian workers busy keeping the toilets and electric systems working.  Did I mention that we were in the desert?  No not dessert where you had ice cream on your cake.  That meat that no matter how hard you worked, sand tracked in everywhere and if you polished the floor or painted it, the wear and tear from hundreds of pairs of boots and the sand wore it smooth but far from shiny.  It also wore out brooms and god forbid anyone tried to buff anything.

The thing that amazed the guys from the Heartland was the use of swamp coolers vs. the refrigeration based coolers.  Because of the very low humidity, if you ran water over a fiber material, and sucked water through that, it would really cool the place.  The bad part of that process was that the water had so many minerals in it that  the filters would plug up in short order.  A new unit would look like it was years old in short order. 

I have deliberately skipped over the training we did because unless you were in the Field Artillery, it is probably more difficult to really describe the entire process than you would understand. (If you really cared)  In a simple way, the artillery delivers a 100 pound bullet that explodes as close to the enemy as possible.  Because in the real battlefield, there are also friendly soldiers, getting the rounds delivered as accurate as possible is the real problem.  There is the Forward Observer teams that are the eyes of the system and the guns that shoot the rounds and a whole bunch of support people that deliver the support to that system. 

The warriors of the Army think they are the most important part and so did I until I came to understand Logistics.    Their motto is if you don't eat, you don't shit.  If you don't shit, you die.  Crude but very true.

It took a month to organize the truck loads of material it takes to outfit an Artillery Battalion.  It took the gun sections a large storage container just to store all this equipment for each gun.  The 155mm Howitzers were towed by a Five ton truck and there was also three 5 ton trucks to haul ammo in each battery.  Throw in a Maintenance truck, a Mess truck and some smaller vehicles for the Ash and Trash, you could stretch out a gun battery a good half mile on the road.  Put a battalion on the road and it would go on for miles. 

In training, we started on the guns and the fire direction as separate pieces. Lots of practice in the motor pool and then we deployed our unit to the field.  Each battery trained first and when we got good enough, we took an Army Training Test where the battery was evaluated for accuracy and time.  When the battery teams were good enough, the Battalion took the Battalion test.  This training took most of the fall and most of the unit went home for Christmas.  I had met my future Bride, Barbara and decided to stay at Fort Irwin while most of the guys went home for Christmas.  I got to take my leave during the end of January and into February.  It was used by most of us as a chance to take our civilian crap home as we would deploy to Vietnam at the end of February.  It served for the chance to have my family meet my fiancĂ© and if she would allow, for us to get married in Las Vegas.

She did agree and on the 11th of February 1968 we went to The Chapel of the Bells and tie the know.  Now 46 years later we are still together. 

In the next blog, I will talk about the deployment phase.

MUD
Have map, will travel

3/26/2014

Intuitive Decision and the Law of Unintended Consequence

One of the talk radio programs today had a short discussion of what was a good intentioned Intuitive Decision done in by the law of unintended Consequence. 

It seems that someone had the idea that putting the lower ability Candidates at the Air Force Academy in with the higher performance Cadets would raise the performance of the lower performing cadets.  In the past there was no separation of cadets by performance level but it seemed that it was a good idea.

Well, as it seems, the performance of the cadets in the middle did improve a little, the poor performing cadets did in fact do worse in the new arrangement.  The study went on to say that the poor performers in the superior group tended to bunch together and as a group their performance drug them all down. 

This is a case where the Law of Unintended consequence failed as a social experiment.  This is to me why the social experiments of building housing developments fail from the 60's to now.  I contend that putting low income students in housing spread across a city would have a much better result than lumping them in a project.   

I attended a school that clearly had three classes of students.  Those from Eastborough were from very wealthy families and it was pretty clear that they had a lot of advantages that most of the rest didn't.  One year one of our friends went on Safari to Africa.  There were National Geographic Magazines but most of us had no hope or chance of making that trip.  The next level down was Forest Hills where the majority of the kids were from comfortable homes but not as wealthy as the Eastborough group.  Then there were the kids from the rest of the neighborhoods. Most of us had three meals and clean clothes but even there were exceptions.  We were for the most part put together for classes in groups of 30 (Damn Baby Boomer Classes).  I can't think of any time with one exception there was any separation based on class or education.

That one exception was a reading class in the sixth grade.  Because of my reading ability I was moved into the accelerated reading group and I think I stood out like a boil on the butt of a blonde in a nudist colony.   I could read very well, but hated spelling.  Even today I rely on the spell checker a lot.   In that class I probably got my average C with the majority of the class getting A's. 

MUD

3/25/2014

OCS Part 2, Chapter 4.1

As we got nearer and nearer to graduation in July 1967, the question of where would our orders take us.  In the dream sheet I asked for Fort Carson and Fort Riley.   We were all told to report to the Day room at 1630 (4:30) one day and we would get our orders.  It was a lot of fun to hear where the guys would go and what units we would be assigned to.  The Lt went on for about a half an hour and there was only one group left.  He started by saying the next guys had better love sand and the West Coast ( Fort Ord, CA?)   The he got this serious look and said hey these have to be wrong.  It limits the amount of baggage you can take and it says something about for further shipment to RVN.  Fort Irwin California is about 35 miles north of Barstow, California and the north edge of Fort Irwin is the South boundary of Death Valley.  Crap, train a unit up and take it to Vietnam.  Oh well, everyone has to go somewhere.

It didn't stop me in the least.  I had a brand new set of Butter Bars and I was going to pin them on and wear them proudly.  As it turned out, my parents came to my graduation and we left from there to go to my Grandparents farm over near Harrison, AR.  I was glad to have my little brother to travel with me and we had a good time.  That was my last visit to that farm.  By the time I got  home from for Christmas, they had moved over by Rogers, AR and lived on Beaver Lake. 

I went back to Wichita for a week and then lit out for California.  I had never been west of Denver, CO and I drove part of the way on US54 and part of the way on US66.  A Lot of US 66 had been swallowed up by the new I-40 but a lot of it was the old highway near the cities.  There was one stretch of road that was recommended to me to drive the old highway rather than the new one.  It was the trip of my lifetime.  It took 2 really long days of driving and I loved it.

The last evening, I drove in from Needles to Barstow California and it was lit up like a diamond.  I thought how great it was to have that city nearby.  When I woke up the next morning, I saw the real Barstow and it wasn't nearly as pretty.  It was pretty dirty and sand was everywhere.  The only place I saw going out of town was the Del Taco there right by the railroad bridge.  It became my favorite place.

I started driving out north of town towards Fort Irwin and I drove, and drove and drove.  Finally there in the middle of nowhere was a gate guard.  I asked him where was the main post and he said it was about 10 miles further north.  By putting the gate out 10 miles from the main base they got away from paying Isolation pay.  We deserved it as even when we got there, it wasn't much of a base.   It was the desert warfare training center for WWII and used by the National Guard after That.  Most of the buildings were very old and in poor shape. 

The first thing that happened when I reported in to the Camp Headquarters was I noticed that all the buildings had swamp coolers and not the kind we had in the Midwest.  About the time I went in to the bathroom I noticed that I had a nosebleed.  I think the humidity that day was about 5% and the temperature in the morning was already 100. 

I signed in and was sent to the housing office.  I found out that along with about 9 other Lieutenants were given a four bedroom house that our Battalion Commander would move into when he arrived fro his assignment in Washington, DC.  I was the last guy and seriously I was given a bed in the dinning room as the bedrooms were all taken.  Oh well, like I said, it was only temporary and we would be on our way to Vietnam in 5 or 6 months. 

I will end it here and move to Chapter 5 Tomorrow

LT MUD - In the middle of No Where

3/24/2014

Note from the basketball Side

I interrupt this recounting of my Military life to throw in a message to my Friends and Family.

I am a sports fan and enjoy the College basketball season about the best.  It is unfortunate that our Kansas teams are all either going home or at home now, but wasn't it a great season?  For KU to have a decade of Conference Championships and Wichita State to go undefeated through 35 games is a great run.  Rather than hang my head and say, "What If", I am simple going to move on to those things in life that give meaning to what I do. 

I love the technology we have now in our world that allows us to communicate well and frequently.  You don't know how it gladdens my heart to see pictures of all the little kids in our families.  They are the future and I beam when I see one of them doing well and looking good.  Reports of weddings and graduations just gladden my heart.  I know that there are a few negative things that make our news but that's life. 

My challenge to you is that if we all spend as much time celebrating good things as we do celebrating sports, we will be better for it.  I have found that one path to success is to do what I do as well as I can and move on.  Changes don't mean the door is slammed shut, it means that you have to make a choice to open another door.  I for one believe in the fact that the door is always half open so we can change. 

MUD
aka Mean Uncle Denny 

3/23/2014

Chapt 4, OCS

I started OCS in Early January as a member of class 25B.  We were half of the class that would have graduated on the 4th of July but for the sake of the Holiday graduated on 3 Jul 1967.  We started with nearly 200 in my half of the class.  They stuffed us in two Barracks in the Robinson Barracks area.  The floors were divided into cubicles on each side of a common floor down the middle.  They stacked us in on bunk beds at first and ended with mostly two Candidates in each cubicle at the end.  Some of the candidates were "set Back" to a class that would graduate later but a bunch were just dropped out of the program for failure to meet the academic requirements.   There was an honor code and I'm sure there were a few that were caught in a lie but I didn't know any of them personally.

If you were to travel back to the Robinson Barracks area there at Fort Sill, it was an area a couple of blocks long with a big mess hall at each end of the street.  Those old buildings had been cleaned and waxed so that everything shined or it had a fresh coat of paint.  Hell, we even crawled under the barracks and raked the fine gravel under the buildings.  The barracks had a latrine down stairs that got a fresh coat of wax daily.  Pity the poor bastard that ever urinated in the latrine trough.  Some of the classes even put fish in that urinal trough.  We just kept it waxed and "windexed" to a shine.   The floors were waxed once a week and buffed daily.  In fact, that was one of my duties.  Everyone else would go downstairs for formation to go to breakfast and I would put the sheep's wool pad on the buffer and go out the back stairs and down the fire escape to catch up about the time the class got to the mess hall.  I would sneak in the side door and no one seemed to notice.

As I had just completed OCS Prep, I had most of my uniforms standing tall and per the SOP.  I really pitied those poor bastards that came to our class from Infantry AIT.  Their clothes had holes and their boots were worn out to the max.  I had one pair of boots that never got worn and they were spit polished tops and soles.  Little things like name tags had to be sewn just a certain way and it wasn't the way the uniforms were issued.  When we started AIT, there was a requirement to have leather tags sewed into our shoes, boots and hats.   That went away but by the time it did, I had them in all my stuff.  We even had a display of toiletry items that went in the top shelf of our foot lockers.  We never used that stuff as most of us had a stash of daily use stuff.

My class had early PT every day and we alternated between a five mile run and Calescentics.  We had just enough time after PT to get dressed and go to breakfast.  After chow, we never went back into the building until after all the classes were finished for the day.  Most of the time we would fall in a class formation and march either to the bus point or to the classrooms.  A lot of the time it was a trip over to Snow Hall and formal classes there.  We did have maintenance in a different place but Gunnery and tactics and Combined Arms was in Snow Hall.  As a candidate I didn't figure out the funny smell that Snow Hall had.  Later on when we went to Fort Sill for classes I was told that the latrines had an automatic flush system and what we were smelling was the urine form hundreds of guys that sat in a urinal overnight.  Save that water.

For the first six weeks, we had candidates from classes that started earlier living with us.  They were a royal pain in the ass and we were sure glad to have them leave us when they did.  The Senior Candidate would walk down the middle of our floor wearing clickers and make marks on the floor.  We walked only along the edge and a lot of the time we took our boots off to not leave footprints.  In fact, that was one of the funny stories I like to tell about our class and the assigned Tac Officer.  Lt Gooch was probably about the minimum height/weight you could be and get into OCS.  He was rumored to have a perfect Leadership grade but had spent a year in OCS because of gunnery set-backs.  He would come into our barracks and come upstairs to our area.  He would jump p on the very first foot locker so he could see us.  The next day, he would write that poor candidate up for foot prints on the top.  We finally sent that footlocker out to a paint shop and had them put a laminate on the top.  A coat of pledge and even dust wouldn't stay there.  The first time Lt Gooch came in and hopped up on that locker, he just kept sliding and fell off. 

My class was from all over the United States and Puerto Rico.  I just loved it when one Candidate from Maine would try to talk with one of those Cajun guys.  I could understand them both but they couldn't understand each other.  As we got to know the rest of the guys, it was clear that there were two guys that lived only two blocks apart in new York City and didn't know each other.  One of my Favorite Candidates was a Muslim Candidate that had spent his entire education under teachers that were from England.  He had a British accent and spoke with a very deep voice.  His name was Atta Jundue Obiajulu.  He would say his last name in one word with no breaks.  Our TAC Officer Lt Gooch was from Alabama and he would make it come out as Obye a Jew loo.  It was hoot.  In my platoon was also Glen Priddy from My AIT class.  He continued his excellence in academics and was put on the staff because of his excellent scores.  We didn't see much of him after hours as he was almost always at the staff Headquarters.

Our time in OCS was in three phases.  Our first six weeks were the blue phase.  We wore a blue plastid ring under our helmet brass and a blue backing under the OCS Brass.  We were the lowest of the lowest and picked on by everyone.  For the next 8 weeks we were middle class and wore green felt under our OCS brass.  At least that had a few benefits like the chance to go to the PX when we were close enough.  The final 6 weeks were red and we were the seniors and no messed with many.  There was the final week of Upper class where we were the one's about to Graduate and Happy Battery  could mess with all of the other classes.  By that time I had my fill and pretty much didn't bother my little brothers. 

here was one big problem about the third week and it was the Leadership grades.  We did a peer rating on each of the guys in our Platoon. I had really tried to help my classmates get their stuff ready and mad a lot of friends.  I was near the top of the peer ratings and my TAC Officer threw a fit.  He called me into his office and threatened to throw me out of the class because my leadership grad was failing.  I told him I didn't understand his position at all.  We had a class motto of Cooperate and Graduate and everyone was helping others as much as they could. He told me that if it continues, he would flunk me out of the course.  He said he would give me a 70 for that period and every time my peer rating would fall one position, I would find my leadership grade raised.  True to his word, by the 20th week I was tied for last of 25 and my Leadership grade was 94.  I never understood it but what the hell.  The great thing the OCS Prep class did for us was the gunnery work was so good that it made it very easy for me to snot study and make mid 80's on all the exams.  I even spent a few late hours working with some of the guys that didn't understand gunnery.  We always left the lights on in the latrine and it was almost always  a study hall on the nights just prior to tests.

I can't even begin to tell you how fast that entire process took. Time just flew and it would take me an entire book to tell you about the details.  In the interest of brevity, I will just tell you that it was an experience I wouldn't take a million dollars to repeat but I learned a lot. 

Candidate MUD, About to Graduate.
2LT to be

Fort Sill, Chap 3 of MUD Plays Army

In November of 1966, I found myself at the Home for Wayward Cannon Cockers near Lawton, Oklahoma.  It is officially known as the Home of the Field Artillery and then was known as the United States Missile and Field Artillery Training Center.  If you were to be a Field Artillery Officer, that's the place to get your training.  As I said earlier because of the build up projected in 1968, I was selected to attend the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School.  Prior to starting that class in early 11967, I was assigned to an Officer Candidate Preparatory Advanced Individual Training (AIT) class.  The focus there was to take young men and introduce them to the Field Artillery and the rigorous standards of OCS.  The first part was tough because it was pretty rigorous and we focused on the technical part of Fire Direction.  We learned to split hairs to bring accuracy to the fire and all about the Forks.  Not the kind you take on the road but the smallest part of the Artillery Accuracy problem.

As I said as I ended the previous chapter, I arrived at Fort Sill without orders but the crush of soldiers arriving there daily just swept me along in the process.  I think the normal starting class of about 200 in the 8 week cycle started with about 400.  I am sure that about half weeded themselves out the first week when they found out what a tough way they were in.  We were made to work as hard getting ready for OCS as we did to learn the gunnery program.  In no way was it easy or fun.  In my own simple way, I just made it a game and worked harder when things got tough. It was there that I met Glen Priddy. 

Glen was just a little taller than I was and either alphabetically or by height we spent a lot of time standing next to each other.  He was an Honest to God, Rocket Scientist from the Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville Alabama.  From the first exam it was clear that he would be the honor graduate.  Our tests always had a bonus question and he not only got all of the regular problems right, he always got the bonus question.  I'll bet he had an average of 110 to 120 on a 100 point basis.  I could out shine my brass and boots but he was the king of Computation. 

In the normal training cycles, the soldiers could wear their civilian clothes when not on duty.  In OCS, we were not even allowed to have any civilian clothes with us.  I think that some of the guys had a pair of jeans in their Suitcase kept in the storage room.  I didn't have anything but a gym bad with some extra toiletries. There was always a hope I would earn my way off base and or be out overnight.  Not from early November through Christmas for us. 

From the start, we were briefed on the tough expectations of OCS.  I think in a lot of ways it was tougher that the actual OCS but perhaps the time in OCS was fairly easy because of how tough the Prep class was.  We spit shined everything and cleaned our barracks better than the highest standards for eating establishments.   Daily inspections looking for the stray strings or the unpolished boot or piece of brass.  God forbid if we ever wanted to have a free weekend that we would have left over Brasso inside of a belt buckle.

About the fourth week of AIT, the crush of soldiers arriving at Fort Sill caused our Battery to be moved from a fairly new brick building to a set of WWII barracks that were just redone.  I will promise you that the standards of construction there at Fort Sill were a hell of a lot lower than the OCS standards of buildings that had been washed and waxed daily for the 20 years between WWII to Vietnam.   For the weekend of our 6th week, we were scheduled to have the Training Brigade Commander's Inspection on Saturday Morning.  We spent hours cleaning and polishing to get ready. The first thing the commander said, "What the hell did you polish these floors with,  a Hershey bar and a brick." The red linoleum the Army installed just inhaled the floor was and it had nothing that looked like a shine.  He left and told us he would be back the next Saturday for a re-Inspection.  We learned there was a product called a sealer and then with the help of Red Tree Wax we made those floors stand tall.  They weren't as red ad the old floors over in the OCS area but they looked nice and you could see a shine if the sun was out. 

We went home for Christmas in 1966 and that was a trip in moving the whole base somewhere in short order.  They set up busses that took soldiers to another city for busses or planes home.  Because I lived in Wichita, I took the short bus ride to Oklahoma City and then up the Interstate to Wichita in short order.  That set of busses were direct and we didn't have to stop in every little town along the way.  Getting back to Fort Sill was not direct and I think it took about 5 hours longer to stop at every little town.  I did have a couple of dates during the Christmas Holidays and my Christmas present was a Christmas Card with the Diamond Ring I had given to a girl returned to me with the diamond taped where the Star shined down on the baby Jesus.  It was a tough holiday for me because we were told to wear our Uniform the entire time I was home.  I think I, for the most part, did just that.  Not that it was popular at the time but at least ne of my Marine Corp Friends was home for Christmas and he too was told to wear his uniform the entire time. 

It seems like the time from the end of the Christmas holiday to the start of OCS was so short that we really didn't have much new to learn or do.  I found that we were allowed to go to the snack bar in the evening and I could get a burger and a beer there.  At least three of us were regulars there and time passed fast.  We graduated on a Wednesday and I had orders to report to OCS on Sunday.  I remember spending the days in between resting and eating as much as I could.  My barracks were about three blocks from the "Robinson Barracks" area and by then it was no big deal to schlep my duffle bag over to the new unit.  More on the next 23 weeks and on to become a butter bar next time.

By this time I had been in the Army about 18 weeks and knew that if I kept my nose clean for the next 23 weeks, an Act of Congress would declare that I was an Officer and a Gentleman.  Yeh, Right.  The Wichita Flash, not dry behind the ears would go to War.  But wait, that is only after 23 more weeks of pretty tough training.

MUD
PVT E-2, Soon to be Candidate Petty

3/22/2014

Basic training Part 2.2

The one time I pulled KP in basic was when one of my Platoon friends wanted to play football for the 2nd Brigade Saints Football Team.  He found out that he was on the KP roster the Saturday of the game.  I told him that after breakfast I would come down and ask to replace him so he could play.  It was a Saturday and we didn't have anything scheduled that day so what the heck.  I went into the mess Hall after breakfast and asked to see the First Cook.  I told him that I had volunteered to replace my friend so he could go play football.  The First cook hollered "DRO"  and a guy in a fairly clean uniform came over.  He was told to go out side and relieve Parnell from cleaning those Pots and Pans. I was then asked if I knew how to run a buffer and clean.  You bet I do, and I did.  I really cleaned up that dinning room and it stood tall when the noon lunch rush hit.  I worked that hard after lunch and the First Cook at least acted amazed that I even wanted to wax part of the floor.  That mission was accomplished and I was no worse for the wear.

You remember from the last story I told you about the only weekend end I had off in Basic?  Well, the same guy I had done KP for was on the same bus I took to Springfield.  He and four others were going to go find a cowboy bar and see if the girls liked men in uniform.  I went back to our barracks on Sunday Afternoon and those other four guys came dragging in almost too late.  I asked where Parnell was and was told that he was at the post Hospital getting the dressing changed on his head wound.  He showed up a couple hours later and when he took off his green jacket, it was clear that only about half of his uniform shirt was left.  He was covered with scrapes and bruises. When he took off his hat, the top of his head was covered with a bandage.  It seems that the cowgirls loved the guys but, the cowboys took real offense at attempts to meet and mate.  My friend Parnell shouted KI-AAH! when the first cowboy approached and was promptly hit over the head with a beer bottle. He said that he played rear guard as the others escaped from the bar but he took a lot of the attention and it wasn't much fun.  He said that the only thing that saved him from worse injury was the fact that he was able to slide under a pick up truck and the cowboys left him alone.  Funny thing - no one called the cops and even when he went to the local hospital no one seemed to think that it was out of the ordinary that a bunch of GI's were thrown out of a Cow Boy Bar in Springfield.  Hand to hand training might work on the battlefield but not in in a bar.

PVT Petty aka MUD 

A-4-2, "WE Can Do" -Nothing

Company A, 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade (Saints) was the first unit I was in for Basic Training.  It was the fall in the Ozarks and went from Hot to cold during the 8 weeks we were there.  Our Barracks were built as temporary buildings for WWII and they were for the most part replaced with newer Brick Buildings but not where I was.  In fact, on a visit to Fort Leonard Wood a couple of years back, there is still one small set of the wooden buildings that look like the ones I went through just short of 50 years ago.  They were at least 25 years old when I was there.  Gee, how time flies.  Or the age of time draws flies.

On our first day, we were introduced to our Drill Sergeant, SSG Tignor.  We were called Tignor's Tigers and I for one had the time of my life.  For some reason I still don't understand, basic training seemed to be like the Boy Scouts with guns.  I am pretty sure that we learned more during that 8 weeks and there was no end to the things we had to do.  From first light until they turned off the lights, we went about as hard as we could.  We ran early and read and polished late.  Someone gave us a book about the History of the Army and I read it cover to cover at least three times.  I just seemed to fit in the Army and because things had fallen apart with my girl friend, I had little else to do but to throw myself into the experience full force.

I am not sure when, but during the second or third week of training someone came up with a set of drums to help us stay in step when we marched long distances.  I had been in Choir and Band but never played the drums until then.  I played the tom-tom drum and every where we went we stayed in step and had our own rhythm section.  On occasion we would be stopped and the drums would get to really rock out.  Our snare drummer could really jam and I could add to that.  Someone told me to never volunteer for anything but I volunteered for everything including truck driving classes and drummer.  That seemed to keep me off the KP list and I will tell you about the one time I pulled KP later.

If there was one subject that I loved the most, it was the weapons training.  I fell in Love, not like but Love, with the M-14.  Mine was typical of most of the old rifles issued to trainees and well worn but this one was about the best shape even though it had probably fired several thousand bullets.  The mechanism for adjustment was precise and it zeroed the first time I fired it.  Had I known that had I not been so quick and it so good, I could probably have stayed on that range most of the day. Instead, I found myself loading magazines for those that could or did not zero early.  We went through the zero range, a 25 meter range and then on to the Known Distance range in progression and I always fired very accurately and completed the first try.  Stupid me.  The pinnacle of the rifle range qualification was the final qualification on the pop-up target range.  There were targets from 15 meters out to 400 yards and the targets were small in front and full size out at the distance.  I killed them all as quick and well as I could.  About half way through the course, I was told to jump down into a culvert to fire. As I did, my helmet hit the rear sight and I missed the next two targets.  I stopped and ran the sight down and then back up the right preset number of clicks and didn't miss a target the rest of the course.  There was a distinction of High Expert if you hit 97 targets out of 100 and I hit 95. That was expert but that two targets caused me to lose 1/2 point on the total of 1000 we could earn in Basic.  A couple of years later, I learned that I missed scoring the perfect score by 1/2 point and got beat by another trainee in my Company for trainee of the Cycle. 

I raised my hand when they asked for truck drivers to take the training.  I had driven almost everything I could as a kid and thought it might be something different to drive a Military Truck.  I took the training and passed with flying colors.  I loved the brand new dump truck they had us take our Hands On drive in.   A bout a week later, I was told to go over to the Post Central Motor Pool and draw a truck for Guard duty.  As a driver, It was my job to pick up and deliver the Guards every 2 hours all night.  Much to my dismay, the vehicle was just a civilian 9 passenger Van.  The Clerk in the Motor Pool told me to go out and get a Van and he gave me the log book.  I went out and the Van I was to drive was a piece of junk that had more things wrong than right with it.  Red Line that sucker and try another.  Yep, the second was almost as bad and it too got red lined.  The third Van was mostly OK but it had a couple of burned out turn signal bulbs and I took the log book back and asked if I could have a screwdriver and the bulbs.  The clerk gave me the OK to fix it and I did. 

That night, the drivers were allowed to sleep in the Orderly Room so we would be handy.  It was hallowed ground and most of us never got to go inside unless we were dying of at least injured.  Inside that Hallowed Ground was a board with the names of all the trainees and how they had been doing in the training.  I had really tried to do well and was amazed to see all the 10's by my name on that board.  about 2/3rd of the way through and I was on my way to having 1000 points.  It didn't mean a lot to me at first but I did get promoted to E-2 out of Basic Training which only the top 10% earned. 

We had both real Sergeants and acting Jacks in charge of us.  Most of the time the Acting Jacks had been given an extra two week of instruction and they knew their right foot from their left.  We were given one of the least (is there a word opposite of Inept? -apt ?) Sergeants and to top it all off he was a bully that had seen too many movies about the Marine Corp Drill Sergeants.  He would push the little guys around and harassed us with threats of being put on report if we didn't do everything he told us to do.  Yep-er, Blanket Party time boys and girls.  One day he actually shoved one to the little guys down the front steps to our barracks and that was when ewe decided he needed a lesson.  That night, about four of the biggest guys in the Platoon brought a blanket to his bed.  We clamped it down over him and let the little guys work on him.  The littlest guys brought a bar of soap in a sock and really wailed on him.  It pretty much ended when one of the corner guys swung a fist and hit the acting Sergeant in the balls.  No matter how hard we held down  the corners, that guy just sat up and we ended our game.  I tried to play rear guard as the rest of the guys ran down the stairs and the guy caught the back of my T-shirt.  I gave him my best elbow and he fell into the latrine.  That cry baby got dressed and went to the orderly room.  I am pretty sure he saw who I was and told them.  The next day, I was taken aside by SSG Tignor and asked to explain our actions.  I figured that in for a penny, in for a pound so I told his the entire story as I knew it.  That was the last day we saw that guy as he was transferred to another Company and relieved of his acting Jack status. 

One day, the Basic Training Company Commander told us that there were two things in this world he hated. Recruits and Flies.  The more times he saw us, the more he liked those little green flies.  I think saw him once or twice but he hid in his office and had the Real Sergeants do most of the training.  So, one day we were out on a training range for one reason or another and he drove up in a jeep driven by the Company First Sergeant, who we never saw except for him to be so close to the Company Commander that if he stopped fast it would mean a trip to the emergency room to remove the nose of the 1st Sgt from the Lt's rear end.  The Company Commander had the 1st Sergeant read the names of several of us off a list.  Knowing that my co-conspirators' were from just my Platoon  and there were other guys from the Company called, It was not about a Courts Martial.  In fact, we were told to stand at ease and the Commander told us that we had all scored high enough to go to OCS.  First Step was a Board of Officers to judge if we were Officer Material.  I think there was a guy or two that didn't want to got to OCS but probably 10 of us decided to go to the Board just to see what it was all about. 

The day of the board, we were given a head to toe inspection by the Senior Drill Instructor and then allowed to got to the Day room of an adjoining Company.  As our names were read, we went in to the room and reported to the President of the Board.  I don't remember much about the Officers seated there but the Sergeant Major on the end was another story.   I had never seen anyone with that many ribbons and Service Stripes.  I had read about most of the ribbons but most of these went back to WWII and Korea.  I saw that his CIB had two stars above it and recognized this guy was a real soldier.  Most of the questions were very easy and straight forward.   The Sergeant Major asked me what Branch I thought I wanted to be.  I told him that in ROTC our instructor told us that if we wanted to be real officers, go to the sound of the guns.  Infantry, Armor or Artillery were my choices if given one.  I was sent outside and when I was brought back in, they told me I was accepted and they were going to recommend Field Artillery.  Yea, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. 

Only one weekend did I get a pass in basic and when I met my parents, Dad told me that my fiancĂ© had married a Sailor a couple of weeks earlier.  Dad was told that she was pregnant and didn't know if it was mine or his so she married the guy called "Lucky"  Lucky me, for that was one relationship that was a total disaster.  I don't remember much about the next couple of weeks as it was a blur of training and trying to get a Physical to see if my health was still good enough to go to OCS.  Other than my hearing was a little damaged from the M-14, I was still all 1's.  I watched the medic giving the hearing r=test as he tested the guy ahead of me and the machine just played frequencies and the sound got louder the longer the button wasn't pushed.  I pushed the button anytime I couldn't hear anything and passed.  EVEN THOUGH I AM DEAF A LITTLE TODAY.

On graduation day, there were still orders for me to go to Fort Lee Virginia in the system.  I had the 1st Sergeant call over to Admin and was told to get on the bus to Fort Sill. I did and those damned orders didn't catch up with me for a week or so.  The reception Station at Fort Sill just didn't know what to do with me so they sent me to an OCS Prep Battery and there the orders finally caught up to me.  Yes, they were from Fort Sill in the first place but seemed damned hard to catch up to me. 

MUD
PVT-E2,  Cannons to the front of me , cannons to the back of me.  Day and night you could hear those damned cannons.

3/21/2014

Chapter 2, Lost in the Woods

After the brief stay for the Induction part in Kansas City, We were herded on a bus enroute to our new home at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.  The only memorable part of the entire trip was the fact we stopped at some truck stop in the middle of no where and I ate my first plate of chopped Sewage.  OK, it was called chop suey on the menu but just how authentic could a Chinese meal made by a red neck in Missouri and served at a truck stop be?  Like that Girl Scout song about that damned peanut, "I ate it anyway."   I think most of us went to sleep only to be shouted awake way after midnight when we got to the "Rude" Reception Station.    I struggle to remember a kind word or anything that was said to us for the next 8 weeks that was not shouted or did not include a curse of some kind.

"Get Off my fucking bus and stand on a number."  I guess this wasn't their first rodeo and they had numbers painted on the parking lot.  "Shut up and no talking in the ranks."  We were sent into a barracks building and told to find a bunk.  "Don't get too damned comfortable, first call will be about three hours from now."  Yep, some one came in a little while later and threw one of those big metal trash cans down the middle of the floor and told us to get our asses out on the street and find one of those damned numbers. 

For the next couple of days, we were taken from one place to another by some Corporal or another.  We were given shots, hair cuts, issued uniforms and at the end of a very short period looked like one another and our identity was stripped from us like a leech in the swamp.  Until that time, I had no clue what the Military had in mind for me other than I thought I would be another soldier shortly on his way to Vietnam.  The only thing that was different for some of us was that if we scored above some magic score, we were given another test and None of us were really sure what the new one meant.  I found out later that if our entrance scores were above 114, we were given the OCB (Officer Candidate Battery) to see if we were just lucky on the entrance exam or did have some vocabulary and math skills.  Because I missed out on the Math gene, it had to be the fact that I had my nose stuck in a book most of the time I was not running and gunning at full speed growing up.  

One of the most interesting things during that time was the shots.  We were hustled into a long building where medics lined us up and we were ran down a gauntlet of tables and given all sorts of nasty things.  Plague, the flu shot, and a host of things that I don't remember.  It cracked me up that we had one guy that fainted at the sight of a needle.  He was carried through the line by his buddies and given the injections with him passed out.  They even had one station where they injected one shot with a pneumatic needle.  If you flinched, the injection would cut you like a sharp knife.  I stood still for that one.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that Mom wasn't the best cook on the block but I had never seen anything like the mess halls at the RRS (Rude Reception Station.)  One morning there, I was told to go inside and report to the First Cook.  I was selected to help serve breakfast.  I was put on the spot in the line where toast was made.  I put sliced of fresh white bread on this carrousel machine and toast fell out the other side to allow soldiers to grab a slice or two.  If one got burnt, I swear that a guy came by and took those slices to be made into French Toast.  I never was a French Toast fan and even less so after that.

One thing I would say is that the people in the clothing issue point knew what the heck they were doing.  They could size you up and give you the right uniform almost every time.  They kept the uniform shirts so a bunch of ladies could sew on the name tapes.  By that night we all had a duffle bag full of uniforms even if hardly no one wore those boxer shorts.  Well, some of us did only because we didn't have any thing else to wear. 

One notable thing about this time in my life was the first time we were told to fall out for a police call.  The smokers, the bastards that threw the butts on the ground in the first place were told to stand fast and "smoke 'em if you got 'em."  I think this was some sort of subliminal form to getting us to smoke.  I think for the next 8 weeks I only smoked cigarettes to keep from having to pick up a handful of butts.  For the next 31 years of my Military career I couldn't walk by if there were two butts on the ground without stopping to pick them up.  I know a lot of people thought it was funny that a Full Bird Colonel would do that but That is how my balls rolled.  Back then, the Military did not know about the dangers of smoking and you could buy a carton of cigarettes cheaper than you can buy a pack today. 

Tomorrow I will tell you about A-4-2, "We can Do!" and Tignor's Tigers but that's chapter 3.

MUD
Still a Private and not sure if I Love it yet.

3/20/2014

In the Beginning

Instead of writing a book about my Military history, I am going to start again with what got me to where I was and now am.  This the first chapter or Genesis part of the story.  Fasten your self in for this journey.  I will sugar coat some stories because that's the way I remember most things.  I will not try to make up too many things but read the warning at the side of my blog and you will be reminded that a lot of the memories have been filtered through time and by being told again and again.  Some of the truth has been distorted to make the truth funny rather than tragic.  But if you want absolute fact, write your own book.

Somewhere in the time building up to WWII, my Mother and Father bought a house in the shadow of the  Beech water tower on east Central in Wichita.  The name it was given was Travel Air City but it morphed into Dog Patch later on as the preponderance of the houses and trailers were filled by people from Missouri and Arkansas came to Wichita for Jobs.  Just this last month, I drove by 544 Byrd street and for a house build almost 75 years ago it is in fairly medium shape.  A lot of the neighborhood to the west has been bought by Beech or whatever it is called now and turned into a parking lot.  In fact, there was probably 9 houses on that side of the street where only three now exist.  Our backyard was the big parking lot for beech and the lights there lit our yard Monday through Friday until after the Second Shift workers went home.  The kids there played outside on most days in the summer.

The best way to describe most of my friends is to tell you that our Daddies came home from the war ready to go to work and raise families.  As Birth Control was limited to condoms, there were a lot of births in the post war era and we were called Baby Boomers.  There was never a shortage of someone to play with or things to do.  I would tell you that mine was a fairly normal childhood, but it was normal only in the context of that neighborhood.  I am not sure that my parents were laid back about what I did or if they gave up trying to make me conform to any vision of normal.  Most of us were outside from first light and because of the parking lot lights, we were sometimes out very late.  I would think that I was considered an urchin because most of us traveled in shoeless packs and wore shorts that were in different conditions of clean.  But hey, I had as much fun as we could cram in our days there on the east side of Wichita.  I think of my childhood in terms that I would occasionally report in and tell Mom and dad where I was going and not particularly to get permission.  I grew up fairly fearless as I could out cuss, out fight or outrun mot of the kids I grew up with.

Probably because of her concern that if we didn't get a bath on occasion we would infect her kids, Mrs. Sawyer took us swimming at one of the city pool once or twice a week.  Mrs. Sawyer was a teacher and had the summers off and had a car.  She was the bonus Mom that a lot of us didn't have at home.  The funny part about the swimming lessons was that I had been swimming in lakes and ponds and could out swim or out float most frogs.  I remember that her son Ron never got much beyond the beginning section where I went almost right to the advanced swimmer classes.  I could hold my breath and swim across the pool and back underwater. 

I think about the time we started to hear the tales of our father's War time activities, we became a guerrilla Army and played all sorts of war games.  Because we had cap guns a plenty, we played cowboys and Indians, a Lot.   For some reason the Civil War was a popular theme and once the majority of us became cub scouts, our blue shirts and neckerchiefs just made us think we were the cavalry.  I am not sure who'd mother censored our wars on Japs and jerries' but they slipped in to the battles only when the parents were not monitoring us closely.  The BB gun phase also fit in there a lot but BB's were not allowed  in the battles.  They were for shooting sparrows and things. 

I think this playing war gave most us the idea that it could be fun to do battle and because it was not fatal, we thought of ourselves as great warriors.  Combine that playing with the competitive nature of our sports and you can see how we were easy prey for the Vietnam War that erupted just as we got out of High School.  I can't imagine that there was any thought of running off to Canada to avoid the war in any of 'My Gang."  I do know a couple of guys that went to Australia from the rich neighborhood but it didn't phase any of us or change the way we thought or fought.

I would like to tell you about my great love and how we were childhood sweethearts and got married.  The good news is that her father got transferred to Seattle and we just drifted apart.  She married some sailor she met in her Navy training and I met and married the love of my life (46 years last February) while stationed at Fort Irwin,  California.  OK, I took a  step or two ahead right there.

I started my college career at Wichita University.  It wasn't called WSU then.  I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do but I started out taking Business classes but mainly that first year took the electives that were required.  History of Western Civ, Biology, some English Lit class and an Art Appreciation class.  The last class introduced me to a lot of foreign films I would probably never seen had it not been a requirement to enroll in a workshop that had a weekly film.  Wichita University had a great schedule.  Because of the large number of workers enrolled you could take about any class day or night.  I loved that school. 

My first semester I earned a 2.0 average as I just would rather play pool and drink beer with the guys. I think a lot of evenings you could find us at Scotty's Uptown recreation (A pool hall) on Douglas Ave just west of the Arkansas River bridge.  Pool was 15 cents a game and beer was the same.  I think they had bologna and cheese sandwich that was a quarter so for a couple of bucks you could have a great evening.  It wasn't until I learned to play 10 point pitch in the basement snack bar of the Campus Activities Center that I really stopped going to class and dropped out prior to failing all my second semester classes. I found a partner that loved to win as much as I did. We worked out a system to cheat by the way we held our cards and won a lot.  I don't remember playing for money much so it was mostly for the thrill of Victory.  I went to work early that spring of 66 doing construction and did that until the draft notice came in August.  That was probably the most fun I ever had in my life.  I had money, a car and in Kansas we could drink 3.2% beer at 18.  

On my 19th Birthday, I was sent a notice to appear for a Pre-Induction Physical and went by bus to Kansas City.  We spent the night on Bunk Beds in the Center and the next day in our underwear going from station to station having things and places prodded that most of us thought were private. The Military did not have those same ideas.  That physical ended with a Doctor telling us to come in to his office and have a seat.  He looked at the paperwork and signed his name to some sheet of paper.  Mine said 1-A with 1's in every category.  Guess who was prime Cannon fodder?

I think about the time that report was returned to Wichita, I got the notice to appear for induction.  On the 5th of September 1966, we were bussed to Kansas City to see if anything had measurably changed.  Nope, go stand over there and raise your right hand.  Thankfully, the group was split into two groups just behind me and those guys were told to do an about face as a Marine Officer swore them in.  We were sworn in by an Officer and to the best of my memory no one did a Mohammed Ali and refused Induction.  We were given five minutes to gather our stuff and get on the bus out front for a trip to Fort Leonard Wood, MO. 

I am not sure if the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end but until next time.

MUD
Private to Be, US Army