War Story Re-Told Part 2

On the 6th of September, 1966, I was sent to the downstairs area of the AFEES center in Kansas City.   Someone read the list of names and we lined up in Alphabetical order.  Seems like there were three or four lines about 25 to 50 across. I don't remember where the break was, but a part of the group was told they were going to be in the Marines. There was a group that had volunteered but a bunch more were added as draftees.  I never had a thought in the world that it was even possible but a fairly large group was designated.  We were told that we were about to be inducted into the military and told to take one step forward if we agreed to do so.  I don't remember anyone not stepping forward in that group.  We raised our right hands and took an oath.  I always got the oath from the Boy Scouts and the orders of Guard duty confused.  On my honor I swear that I will perform my duties in a Military manner until properly relieved?  Nah, that isn't it but I was sworn in no matter what I said.

Just as promised, a Marine Gunnery Sergeant told all the Marines to do a right face and file out of the door at the end of the room.  I am not sure where they went but it was either the east Coast or the West Coast.  Lejeune or San Diego.  I was headed out of the door to a waiting bus for the glorious location of Fort Lost in the Woods, MO.  (Fort Leonard Wood).   We left mid afternoon and had no idea what was in store for us.  Somewhere about half way to our new station, the bus stopped and we were issued meal tickets for a dinner meal at a truck stop.  I had my first chop suey meal there and I was filled to the brim.  I fell asleep on the bus and was awoken about midnight by someone telling me to get off their damn bus.  We were taken outside and lined up and someone took a head count and had us shout when our name was read off the list. 

After an hour of that, we were taken over to a big barracks building and issued a sheet and a blanket.  We were told to find a bunk and get to sleep.  We were allowed to go to the bathroom if needed but I'm sure that none of us were allowed to shower or brush our teeth.  After what seemed like only a moment. someone turned on the lights and kicked a trash can down the middle aisle of the barracks.  Grab your socks, drop your cocks and get your asses out on the street!   I have no clue who it was but I suspect it was one of the Drill Sergeants from the Company we were soon to be assigned to.

In case I have overlooked the detail, everyone new to the Army goes through what they called Reception Station.  They did their best to take a group or civilians and at least make us look like soldiers.  We were marched over to the mess hall and they had several guys fall out of the line and go inside to be servers.  I was chosen and someone told me to man the toast machine and keep making toast until I was told to stop.  About half way through, a couple of pieces got burned and I set them aside.  Someone came by and took them to make French toast.  I passed on that when I went through the line. 

For the next three days, we were taken to an issue point to be given a duffel bag full of clothes, a PX to buy a lock for a wall locker and the infamous hair cut.  As the barber would ask the guy, "Do you want your sideburns?"  He would then cut one off and throw it in the recruits lap and say, "Here"  We went into the barbershop looking like civilians and came out looking like a bunch of  members of a bald headed gang. As I remember we had to pay for the haircut even though it was only 75 cents. It was really funny at first to have spent a couple of days with someone and not even remotely recognize them when they were scalped.  We were soon issued uniforms and at least one set had a name tape on it so we knew who everyone was.  Our small barracks was soon filled and we were told that the soldiers in three other barracks would be joining us our Basic Training Company.  Every morning, we were lined up and taken on a giant police call.  That became the norm and someone told us the we could light 'em if we had 'em and everyone else fell out for police call.  I hadn't been a smoker but I like a bunch of the other guys became one right there in our first week of the Army.

We were given shots, lectures, uniforms, tests and sometime the last day several Drill Instructors showed up and we were broken down into platoons. I don't remember the exact test, but somewhere in the middle of al that testing I was told that about 25% of us had scored high enough to take the OCB and I did.  Later on I found out that it was the Officer Classification Battery test and I had qualified to take the test and scored high enough to go to OCS if selected. 

There was also the station where we were given the classification briefing and we were told to sit down by some Specialist 5 and he told us where we were going to go in the Army.  I remember being told that I would probably be assigned as an armorer 76Y  but I had Infantry written all over my name.  I was given the opportunity to sign up for an extra year with a guarantee that I wouldn't get infantry.  No Thank you Specialist, I would take what the Army gave me and that was good enough.  Three of the guys in our platoon took that offer and they were mad as hell when the orders came out at the end of Basic and they found out that about 50% of the class were going to be supply guys. 

I met SFC Tignor and was told I was now a Tignor's Tiger.  (Followed by a Growl)  We were put on trucks and hauled over to an old part of Fort Leonard wood and put in barracks that were built for WWII.  The next couple of days we were marched all over the place and given drill and ceremonies training with our rifles.  I loved the feel of an M-14 early in the morning.  Every day we cleaned our weapons, shined our boots and marched.  OK, I left out the part about shine and shit but that is a fun story tomorrow. A Couple of guys that had been in the Army a week longer than we had been were assigned as acting NCO's and they were with us as we went through everything.  One guy was wearing acting NCO stripes of a Staff  Sergeant Three up stripes and one rockers and one was just an acting Sergeant.  The guy we had over our squad was the acting Sergeant and he was an utter asshole.  He had no leadership ability and he immediately picked one of the smallest guys to shout at every time he felt like it. 

The platoon I was in had at least four members of the Minnesota National Guard Band in it and they were a hoot.  Ya, I be from Min E Sota and I like an ice cream coen.  They knew they were going to go to Fort Leavenworth for their Advanced Individual Training and would be home by Christmas.  They spent as much time as they could trying to figure out ways to laugh and have fun.  I took this shit serious because we were told that we needed to learn as much as we could as we were probably gong to Vietnam and being stupid was a real good way to get killed.  That didn't mean that I didn't laugh at the funny things those Guard Guys said and did.  I just listened to everything that sounded like good information and tried to do everything as right as I could.

Near the first of Basic, the Drill Instructor asked us who had a valid license driven a truck?  I know we were told to never volunteer but I raised my hand.  They had us fall out of the formation and we were marched over to the Big Motor Pool on Main Base.  We were given about three hours of instruction and then an actual driving test.  I passes and wondered what the heck I would do or be told to do now that I had a military driver's license.  More about that later.  I was given a license that had all commercial vehicles and trucks up to 2/12 Ton on it.  There was no Bus listed so at least I knew I wouldn't be hauling the platoon around.

Private Petty, 1966
Part 3 tomorrow.

MUD - Lost in the 60's

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