Saturday, June 25, 2011


[In doing research for these articles, to illustrate the various moves is probably the hardest I’ve found in writing this.]

We gathered up our weapons and fell out in the company street under the watchful eye of our Drill Sergeant. As we settled into formation, he went through the platoon showing each of us how to properly sling our weapon on the right shoulder. He then spent the next half hour running us through the various parade drills.

We weren’t alone. The other four platoons were going through the same drills. I couldn’t help but notice ours was the only Drill Sergeant who didn’t scream and swear. It wasn’t that he wasn’t tough and didn’t make “drop and gimme twenty” but that he did it in a civilized manner.

[The problem with this is a recent picture is that it’s of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment. Even the weapons aren’t close as they’re M-14s which didn’t come into service until 1959. We had the M-1 as shown in my previous blog.]

My military school training once again helped as I somehow remembered all the commands and what to do. I managed to find my left and right and even felt comfortable on what foot to start with when we were finally told to turn left, then “Fooore-ward MARCH!” down the street and into the large parade ground.

We spent the entire morning going through moving the weapon from one position to another. The Drill Sergeant spotted me right away and stood me in front of the formation as his demonstrator of how the various moves were supposed to be done.

That earned me a lot of comments out of the sides of mouths about being a “brown noser” and other, slightly more profane comments. But, it didn’t bother me. In fact, it earned me the position of being appointed the first squad leader with a brassard bearing a Private First Class stripe. That didn’t really earn me anything more than a whole lot more attention from the cadre members. I was expected to be “more GI” than anyone else. It also didn’t exclude me from the Extra Duty List.

We put our weapons back in the bay before going to lunch. Afterwards, we were marched to a huge hanger-like building where we sat on hard chairs and spent the afternoon listening to sergeants reciting their subjects and watching a bunch a grainy US Army Training films. [nowadays they have real fancy training videos with all the graphics and stuff.] The films were all black and white but some with very good footage.

This proved to be our basic routine for the first week of training. calisthenics, breakfast, parade drill, lunch, lectures, the flag lowering, dinner and working on our things in the squad bay. That often meant all of us cleaning the latrine and hand-polishing the floors.

It was during that first week that I was introduced to Kitchen Police.

The cadre called him Cookie. We ’Cruits stood nervously as he introduced us to that huge area behind the serving tables. It was hot. And steamy. With lots and lots of very hot, sudsy water.  The pictures we’d all seen of a soldier sitting on a stool peeling onions proved totally untrue. They had machines to do most of the preparation like that and it was up to us ‘Cruits to keep them clean. And the mess sergeant was gonna make damned sure they were clean.

The Assistant Drill Sergeant roused those of us selected for KP two hours before revile. We were sorted out and assigned to various areas of the massive kitchen, about half sent out to clean the dining area. We quickly learned how much work went into feeding a little over 500 young men with large appetites after all the exercising, marching, drilling and instruction. Nobody would ever mistake it for a five-star dining establishment but the food was healthy and designed to keep up our energy.

The one duty that confused me was Sentry Duty. We all had to memorize the following General Orders:

1. To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guardhouse than my own.
5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.
6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the Commanding Officer, Duty Officer, and Officers and Noncommissioned Officers of the watch only.
7. To talk to no one except in the line of duty.
8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
9. To call the Corporal of the Guard in any case not covered by instructions.
10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
11. To be especially watchful at night and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.

[As I understand it, in today’s “sissy” army that doesn’t do the Daily Dozen, they only have THREE General Orders to memorize.]

But, here was my problem; we were on a massive army post completely surrounded by high barbed wire fences. Every singly entry was guarded by armed Military Policemen. The fort housed thousands of soldiers, not just recruits but many who’d been hardened by service in Korea and even the Big Deuce. Why on earth did they need some wet-behind-the-ears private marching around with a weapon with no bullets in it? Yeah, I know. It was to prepare us for The Real Thing.

Actually, sentry duty didn’t bother me. We were outside in the cool evening air with salty breezes blowing inshore from Monterey Bay. The air was clear and one could spend the hours making special forms out of the starry sky. And, it was really beautiful when the moon hung huge above.

Alas, my training only last another week. One day, while standing at Attention in formation, I keeled over. Didn’t see it coming. One minute, listening to the military music aware of being surrounded by my fellow trainees. The next, being loaded into an ambulance to be carried to the base hospital.

I learned I was among a group of trainees who had succumbed to the Asian Flu, a brand new form that had appeared on the West Coast out of nowhere.
And, for the next two months, I learned what it was to be a human guinea pig. They took blood samples morning, noon and night, explaining it was to find a vaccine to prevent it spreading further.

Great. I spent the days wandering around the ward, the hospital Day Room and Library - after mopping floors, square cornering my bed and whatever little tasks they could find for us patients. At least no KP or Sentry Duty.

[In one of the next blogs, we'll get back to basic]


  1. Lost Wages in Las Vegas - can't find it on Kindle....

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