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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Just a last Basic Day - Graduation.

Graduation

When ever a Basic Training Cycle is completed the military has a "Pass in Review."  That is when the entire brigade and brigades assemble on the parade ground and pass in front of the reviewing officer, after said officer gives a short speech congratulating everyone for completing the training.  It is sort of an elaborate and complicated affair but has been done often enough that it goes without a hitch.  After the speech the commander of the unit  parading in review shouts out "Pass in Review."  The review is lead by an army band and each unit at company level marches and when they pass the reviewing officer the commander of the company level unit sounds off "Eyes Right."  The officers leading each company and platoon size units salutes, the squad nearer to the reviewing stand keeps their eyes and head straight ahead and the other columns turn their heads to the right.  After the reviewing stand is passed the same officer yells "Eyes Front."  The salutes are completed and the heads snap forward again.  It sounds sort of hokey but those participating do feel elements of pride.  I practiced the event several times but was unable to attend the ceremony.  I was recovering from an event that happened the night before.

A bunch of us were celebrating are completion of basic at the beer tent.  Another guy and I decided we didn't like each other and my only one real fight in my life ensued.  The guy beat me to a pulp.  I would like to say I put up a good fight but in reality I did not.  I remember very little about the fight and was black and blue and my face was swollen.  Several of my comrades helped me back to the the barracks and propped me up in the shower.  Several guys from the other platoons came by and said they would go down and beat the other guy up if I wanted them too.  They said they really didn't like the guy anyway and he had been a bully the entire eight weeks.  I told them not to bother, it was my fault for letting my masochism get in the way of sound judgement.

Needless to say I was somewhat embarrassed and had no desire to see the guy the next morning before the parade.  So when the platoon fell out the next morning I remained in bed and did not get up till noon when the troops arrived back to the company eara.

We started processing our way out of Fort Benning, several of my closer friends and I jumped in my car and headed home.  My basic days were over and while I don't dwell on them or want to relive it in any way shape or form, I don't want to forget even the most horrific parts of it and will treasure many of the events that occurred in the summer of 1968.

Just a Basic Day - Religion


Religion

If I were to be a preacher or priest or rabbi, I think I would join the military.  There are always plenty of sin going round and those who need to be saved or at least brought to the light.  I do not remember attending church while in Basic but I do remember a LTC Chaplin coming by the beer tent just to see if we were all doing OK and hinted that he was willing to talk to us anytime we wanted.  Of course we were not going to admit that we needed anything he had to offer, being the macho soldiers we were.

One other time a minister who was not in the army came out to one of our bivouac areas and held a small little service.  He gave us some inspirational words and let it be known that God would take care of us if we would only let him.  That he would clean our souls with his tears.

That night God cried a lot because there was a drenching downfall of rain that washed our camp site out.

Just a Basic Day - Propaganda

Propaganda

There is a great big sign or at least there was right outside of the basic training complex.  It read, "more sweat in training, less blood in battle."

Getting one all charged up is one of the major reasons basic training was invented.  Of course there was the conditioning and the learning how to be a soldier, but without being mind washed the rest is all for naught.  There are numerous ways the army and the military in general go about psyching one out.  Music is used, giving awards to place on your uniforms, different kinds of uniforms and some are by signs.  I had my share of awards, had four differnt kinds of uniforms, could choke up when an army band played but signs seemed to be every where.  A few I remember are "Think War," "Mission First, People Always," "God Hates Communists."  There were more but 40 plus years have erased most of them, but I am sure if you go on a military base today the signs and slogans will be displayed.

As almost an aside I remember that one day at Ft Benning we were all in an out door class receiving instruction on how to enter a village.  They had a mock up of a Vietnamese village.  The tactic are not that important here, but I thought then and do today how funny it was that the narrator said, "after the village is stabilized, you go to the village bulletin broad remove the enemy propaganda and replace it with our information."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Just a Basic Day - Camping

Camping

My cousin asked my dad to go camping once.  Dad said he did not want to go and when asked why and had he ever been dad replied, "Yes once, but we called in Korea."   Well I almost think the same way and if I had gone to Viet Name or something like that, I'm sure dad and I would agree.

As an officer you are given to shelter halfs to make one small, what we all call, "pup tents."  They were made from canvas, green, and very heavy.  If you were an enlisted man or a traniee you were only given one shelfter half and you had to find a guy who you would share a another shelfter half with.

Depending on if you were tactical or administrative you would sit you tents up in neat rows, dig drainage ditches around your tent in such a way that if it rained the water would run to another trench that others had dug in front or behind their tents.  In theory the water would run off your tent into the trench surrounding your tent and then flow into the trench that would carry the water away and you would stay high and dry.  It never seemed to work that way though.  If it rained a lot you just figured on becoming wet.

If you were tactical you just put your tent where ever you wanted with in a defined area and make sure you were at least 10 meters away from the other tents (the distance that a hand granade would kill at) and make sure you were camouflaged, an art in itself.  (If you were really hard core you could use your poncho and poncho liners together with commo wire and make your self a nice little abode. I am far from hard core but I have done it, it works and I prefer it.)

With all the technology I hope the military has figured out a way to make the tents lighter weight and individualized by now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Just A Basic Day - DI's

DI's

Drill Instructors, Drill Sergeants or just plain DI's were and I assume a dedicated lot.  The are also mean, cantankerous, sadistic, funny, and think all basic trainees are stupid and beneath contempt.  Most of them did not quite know what to make of us.

The average age of a basic trainee back in 1968 was about 19.  Most had never been away from home, most were draftees and I am sure most didn't want to be there in the first place.  The ones that were not scared to death had an attitude and a bad one to boot.  Our cycle, with all the two year ROTC candidates were an average age of 23, didn't really want to be there but given the alternative kept a good attitude about the whole thing.  Like one guy told me, "I'd hate to get killed because I wasn't paying attention in class."  To the DI's we were just as stupid and little less contemptible than most recruits and we were also giving them a break.  They didn't worry about us going AWOL or smartimg off or being thrown in the guard house, or be given Article 15's, it was sort of like a vacation to them.

They tried to act gruff but we knew it was all a game and knew that they knew and that we knew they knew that we knew.

I cannot remember any of their names except for our platoon drill sergeant.  I can remember what they looked like however.  All of them were black except the one I had.  His name was Sgt Redman.  He had been in the army three years, this time.  He had been in and out of the army three times and had gone thru basic as a recruit three times.  He drank a lot or so his red cheeks said and he wasn't that smart but sort of a nice guy.  He seemed to be pretty realistic about us, and didn't give us any amount of harassment.  He just told us to do things and we would do them and he did it with out yelling.  I have often wondered if he stayed in the army.  All the DI's wore smokey the bear hats.

Some of the guys in our company had a lot of problems going through the physical things required.  The DI's tried to help them and encourage them.  They would not give up and told the cadets that they could not give up either.  Most did not.

Just a Basic Day - Recycle

Just a Basic Day - Recycle

It seemed like every time the commander of our basic training company got mad at us for some infraction, usually not getting some place on time, he would threatened to "recycle" all of us.  We knew he couldn't do it of course but we did not want to challenge him either.  Recycle meant that we had to start basic all over again.  That was always a depressing thought.  In our particular situation it would never have happened, but to the regular draftee it was devastating.  Even the threat of being sent to Viet Nam was not enough for you to want to repeat basic.  The worst he, the commander, could do to us was kick us out of the program and there were a few that should have been.  It scares me just a little to think that some of the goof balls, and duffaces I saw in the ROTC Basic Training program made it thru and became officers.  Hopefully they were in the fiance or admin branch or some such place where they could not get someone killed easily.

Of course one of my greatest fears was that I would someday be put into a position that unless I made the right decision I could get someone killed.  The Fiance and Admin branches were not that bad a deal for any of us I guess.  I for one was a reluctant warrior at the very best.Recycle


Monday, November 13, 2017

Just a Basic Day - Low Crawling

Low Crawling

We had to low crawl it seemed every time we turned around.  As everything in the army there was a specific way to low crawl.  You had to lay flat on your stomach, extend your arms at the elbow placing your hands flat on the ground with fingers facing front.  Then you would spread your legs like a frog.  You would then extend your right arm forward while at the same time bringing your left knee towards the front while maintaining it parallel to and on top of the ground.  Then you would repeat the patters with the left arm and right leg and keep alternating until you got to where you wanted to go.  The idea was to present the lowest target you could to the enemy.  It works.

The biggest low crawl challenge you had is when you had to crawl under live machine gun fire.  During the first few weeks of basic you kept hearing about this and I suspect most of us had seen it done in movies.  It seems like there was always someone who had come across a snake, panicked and stood up and was shot.  It always was one or two cycles ahead of us but what actually was one of those urban legends never really happened.

Our turn to crawl under live fire finally came.  We were herded in to a trench at one end of a big long open field.  It was night.  The machine guns were set up at the opposite end and started firing over our heads.  When a bullet passed by you could hear a "snap" or a "crack" sound.  We were told that is the bullet breaking the sound barrier.  I don't know if that was true or not, but you did hear the bullet whizzing by.

We were told to climb over the drench wall and remain low (that seemed obvious to me.)  Then we were to low crawl under barbed wire while the bullets zinged over head, every 5th round being a tracer round thus lighting up the night.

No one panicked and I realized that the guns were placed in such an angle and on platforms that one would have to jump up and down in front of the gun and then probably couldn't jump that high to get hurt.

I was sort of disappointed because the position I had in line was towards the end of the column and no fire was going directly over head.  I didn't see any snakes either