Candidate Petty, Cont.

At the ripe old age of 19, I was drafted into the US Army in 1966.  In January of 1967, I entered the ranks of OCS at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Our Class 25-67 was broken into two parts 25 A (AKA - fox battery) and 25 B (AKA  - Golf Battery) .  We were assigned to adjoining barracks in the Robinson Barracks area.  Those barracks are now torn down but back in the day they were the home of thousands of young men.

The barracks were built during WWII and I am pretty sure they were not expected to last nearly as long as they did.  They were mainly old wood buildings and had anyone of them caught fire, several would have burned down because of the dryness and age of the wood.  It was the inside that was remarkable.  When you entered the building, you were met with a floor that in spite of how many persons walked on it, the floor glowed a deep red. I'll bet there were thousands of coats of wax buffed into that floor and for a place as dusty as fort sill, there was little dust on everything.  At least once a week we would hold a ranger party and with clean wet sponges wipe every surface of the building.  If something had a shinny surface, it probably had a coat of Pledge on it to collect the dust and make it shine better.  I lived upstairs so my description will take you there.  You would walk straight up the stairs and as you got to eye level with the floor, you could see the Platoon Motto on a board across the far end of the room.  "Illigitimi Non carbordum".  (Don't let the bastards wear you down)  That board also had a scroll work on the top and that just happened to have the exact size of a bunk and notches for the toes of our shoe and boot display under out beds.  If you put it down against the legs of the bunks, it would provide a uniform look to every display.  You would also notice that the shine would let you look at the undersides of the bunks if you so desired.  Every footlocker, every bunk every display was lined up and you could look down the footlockers and see the precision.

Everyone in the platoon had a job that was his to do.  I think I mentioned in a previous post that I was the floor buffer.  It was pretty evident that I could run one and manage to not knock things out of alignment.  When we would do our weekly wax, the crew would pitch in and sweep, mop and clear the floor area and i would buff the "Red Tree Wax" to a good gloss,  Then the good old sheep's skin and the spit shine would just glow.  Every morning Monday to Saturday, everyone would do his job and leave the area to me.  I would run the buffer from the hallway from downstairs to the fire door on the back.  The rest of the class would go line up for chow and i would continue to buff until it was done and done right.  I would take the buffer to the fire door, wrap up the cord and hang it on the nails,  I would climb down the fire ladder and slip in the side door to the mess hall.  No one seemed to notice the way I entered.  It was kind of like I was invisible.  Worked for me.

Because I had completed the 13E, Fire Direction Control course, I almost didn't have to study when we were in gunnery classes.  It was a fairly simple thing to me and most important it made sense.  Some of my classmates that had not come from the Field Artillery had a lot of trouble understanding it.  Many nights after lights out, we would meet in the latrine and discuss the finer points of the gunnery process.  Having been a kid that loved to play with a garden hose, High Angle fire was so simple that I could not understand why everyone didn't get it.  If the artillery tube starts out level, the round will fly only as far a gravity would allow. Increase the tube elevation and the round would go further.  At some point, increasing the elevation would bring the round closer to you.  Theoretically if you could shoot straight up, you could shoot yourself.  I think the High Angle fire exam was the one that washed out the first hard academic wash outs.   There was also a few "re-treds"  or set backs from earlier classes to us about that time.  For some strange reason my cubicle had washed out three candidates by that time and I was given a new cube mate.  He was a great guy and wanted to graduate and do well.  We held a platoon meeting and it was decided that our new unofficial motto would become "Cooperate and Graduate"  from that time on, we worked hard to not anyone fall behind and get set back.  In fact, the only failures we had after that were people that just did something so stupid that they deserved it.

As we neared graduation, we were visited by the local uniform and hat people.  Most of us would buy one really nice set of greens (Or Class A) uniform.  Then we would have the old enlisted greens converted to apply the black sleeve stripe and leg stripe of an officer's uniform.  A few of us bought a set of Dress Blues and then there was the matter of hats.  Yes, you could buy the conversion set that would change an enlisted man's hat to an officer's hat but in my eyes, i could spot them a mile away.  The Cadillac of hats, the Luxemburg from New York City, sold for about $100.00 and there were some middle of the road hats that were about half of that.  I bought the expensive Green Class A hat and a middle of the road one for the Dress Blues.   

Our Battery Commander, CPT Avera was not a typical officer of the time.  Most of the officers assigned to the OCS Cadre slots were bright, articulate, well dressed, young and set a good example.  CPT Avera was older and looked like he didn't care about his appearance.   We had a group question and answer session after the uniform salesmen visited.  Someone asked him about the hat issue.  CPT Avera said he bought the conversion kit for his old hat and saved himself the extra money.  Some one from the back of the room said, "It looks like it too."  For the next week, the Platoon leaders were with us everywhere and everyone was given demerits for the most minor infraction.  We did Physical Training  every morning just before daylight.  On one of the next days, i was in a hurry and forgot to put on a jock strap.  By the time we returned to the barracks it was just light enough that the Platoon leader could see and he wrote us demerits for dirty PT uniforms and if we failed to wear a jock strap for Valuables insecure, ie, family jewels.  I still smile about that one every time I think about those days.  Oh, CPT Avera made major and was one of the few people in our class that was killed in Vietnam.  He was in a helicopter crash and listed on the list of OCS Graduates KIA.

My last story is about the issue of orders for our first assignment after OCS.  The Platoon leaders took us to the day room and it was one of the first times we were allowed to "Smoke and Joke" with them.  In fact the Platoon leaders made it almost like a skit to read the orders.  The best set of orders was for Candidate Glen Priddy who had been a Rocket Scientist at the red Stone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.  His orders were to report there for his two years of duty.  No he would do the same job for a lot less pay and in uniform.  Several people were sent to Jump School, some to flight school and the last group was about 20 of us.  The TAC Officers said did we like sand?  Did we like the West Coast?  Yea, Fort Ord.  No?  Fort Irwin...  Located about 50 miles north of Barstow in the Mojave Desert is a place that is so god forsaken that hell is nicer.  It may not be the place the good lord would give the world an enema, but you can see the insertion point from main post.   We were told that we could take 300 Lbs of stuff, may not take wives and would train there for deployment to the Republic of Vietnam.  Lord Have Mercy on these final 20 or so young men who will train in hell to go to a worse place.



1 comment:

  1. Fort Irwin... Located about 50 miles north of Barstow in the Mojave Desert is a place that is so god forsaken that hell is nicer. It may not be the place the good lord would give the world an enema, but you can see the insertion point from main post.

    And, Lord Have Mercy on these final 20 or so young men who will train in hell to go to a worse place.

    Those made me guffaw, and brought a tear to my eye at the same time, MUD.

    I know I haven't been commenting on your recent posts very much, but I've been enjoying the hell out of them. I'm so glad that you're taking advantage of the 'net to chronicle your life experiences. When you're in the grave (or the urn...whatever you've decided), everyone that you love (and that loves you) will be grateful that you did.