Fort Sill, OK

Almost all Field Artillerymen have been to Fort Sill, Oklahoma at one time or another.  For every one soldier stationed there in a "real" unit, there are probably another 10 or so that have passed through.  In fact, I have never been assigned to Fort Sill, but have trained there many times.  For most like me, their first view was through the window of a commercial bus.  Back in the 1960's, we were taken to a central place where we were distributed to our new unit.  We arrived as a mob and went into the building where we were given a manilla envelope of information as to the new unit and some of the Fort Sill highlights.

Upon my arrival, I had no packet and no one seemed to have a clue what I was doing there.  Someone at the end of the line picked up a phone and called and was told that I was at Fort Sill for OCS Preparatory training and was then sent to my new unit VOCO.  That means no one took the time to cut orders so I was there on the vocal orders of the Commanding Officer.  What it really meant was that some clerk told them to send me somewhere for now.  Hell, the Commanders didn't give a rat's hind end where I went.

I arrived at my new unit and was met by the Duty Officer who turned out to be my Platoon Leader.  He passed out a diagram on how we were to put our equipment in order and what to expect.  It looked like the barracks we were assigned to was ready for about 200 soldiers and most of them were a lot like me.  We were told that there would be no civilian clothes and limited time off in the next 8 weeks.  I did know that we would probably be given a Christmas break in our training but little else.  For some reason, a bunch of the guys were unwilling to put up with the restrictions and no civilian clothes deal and the next morning the heard thinned out a bunch.  Not me, I was either too willing to stay or too dumb to leave.  We had our first morning formation and that's where I met our Platoon Sergeant Sgt Del la Rosa.  His stock statement was if we do it right was  "we will Coma outstanding like da four rosa"  I think that it was a reference to the whiskey four roses but I never asked or really cared.   

I think we spent the first week just getting our gear in the order that was supposed to be up to OCS standards.  I am pretty sure that my uniform had not seen any starch through Basic Training and in OCS we would have to break Starch.  For those of you young enough to have never worn starched pants, the legs would be starched together during the pressing process and you would have to put on socks and force you feet down the legs to break them apart.  Thus, the name breaking starch.  Everything in the building was so clean that you could eat off the floor even in the latrine.  Each bunk was just like every other bunk and every display had the same look.  We marched, stood in line and didn't talk for most of the first week.  By the end of that week, our numbers were more like the rest of the Army and a platoon was about 30 people.  Big numbers drop.

I am not sure if the change of Barracks was due to the numbers drop of if the Corps Of Engineers contractor had finally finished redoing the oldest barracks on Post.  We were assigned new digs in what is now the Reserve Component Annual training barracks.  The building was perfect for a normal unit but it did not shine in any way like the barracks built in the Robinson Barracks Area.  The floor had a pink linoleum and everywhere else the floors were waxed so well they were red and you could see yourself in the reflection.    It was clean but way short of anything that looked like the OCS barracks we toured.  

The next three weeks went by so fast that there was no time to even notice.  We were issued a "Book Bag" and the FDC training aids and learned how to do the manual Fire Direction tasks to make the artillery shoot where we told it to.  The 4th weekend we were to be given the Colonel's Inspection.  Evidently somewhere there was a Colonel in Charge of us and this was his first time to visit.  About half way through the inspection, he stopped and told the Battery Commander that we were so not ready for the inspection that he would delay it until the next week end.   I never worked so hard as we had to that next week.  8 Hours of class room training and the next 4 hours either the Platoon Leader or the Platoon Sergeant was there directing our efforts.  Somehow the supply channels had delivered about three five gallons of liquid wax for each new floor and that stuff just darkened the color when it was wet.  As soon as it dried, it was pink like a baby's bottom.  We had to pool our meager funds and buy some "Red tree Wax" and rent a commercial buffer.  As the only guy that had any idea how to run a buffer, I drew Buffer duty.  I found out that it you applied about a 1/8 inch layer of raw wax, and put the smallest guy to sit on the buffer, it would burn in and the floors looked darned good. After burning in the wax, we put a sheep skin on the buffer and make that floor look spit shined.  We started at one end of the barracks and each night we moved about 20% of the way down the barracks.  By Saturday, the joint looked like it was a regular OCS barracks.  Other than the floor, it wasn't much different but the Colonel granted us amnesty for the next 24 hours and we were allowed to tour on post.

There were three or four of us that had gone through Basic Training together and we found a small snack bar that sold beer and hamburgers.  We went there and ate and drank the day away.  Typical of the Military at the time, it was cheap and no one asked for any kind of ID.  What the hell, we were all going to Vietnam and there was no age limit to be shot at.

I am going to stop here and wait until next time to talk about the last three weeks of AIT and adventures at Fort Sill before reporting to OCS. 



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