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.

PVT E-2, Soon to be Candidate Petty

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