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