The hospital was located in the older part of Fort Ord where the in-processing center was. The buildings were converted WWII barracks with ramps connecting them.
I spent the first couple of days in bed, a tube stuck in my arm with something dripping into my veins from one of those plastic bags hung on a wheeled metal pole. I wore one of those stupid robes that tie in the back and leave your buns open to the whole world. I had blue cotton robe to put over that and blue slippers so I could make my way to the latrine.
There were three of us to start but it didn’t take long until the ward was full and they had to expand it to the one next door. As nobody quite understood what was wrong with us, we were quarantined and the staff wore masks. Fortunately, some docs came from a lab back east and quickly diagnosed us as having a new and very virulent version of influenza. That’s when we first heard of Asian Flu.
It wasn’t a case of lying around and doing nothing. Even with the IV’s in our arms, we were expected to keep things clean to include mopping the floors and daily exchanging our linen. We had a color television set and plenty of books. A community area had card tables with lots of game and puzzles. That’s where I learned more about Pinochle and thought I knew how to play poker. [I soon learned I didn’t!]
The hardest part of the whole thing was the regular blood-letting. The nurses came through three times a day to take blood samples. I never knew there were so many places to find veins from which to take my blood. And, I remember more than once actually sticking the needle into my own veins to draw blood when the nurse was busy with another patient.
They released me - at last. Of course, my original company had graduated so I was sent to another, one week along in the cycle.
I'd exercised once the IV was gone. Most of that was walking the endless halls with occasional things like sit-ups and push-up. So, I wasn’t that out of shape. Within a day or so, I was back up to speed with the daily calisthenics.
The new Drill Sergeant was very different than my first - he got right in your face and let loose a string of epithets to turn one’s ears red. I had no idea such profanity existed - difficult after having heard it from the adults I grew up around.
At least he spotted my proficiency with the Manual of Arms. He assigned me to the company drill team where I learned some of the truly fancy moves such as the one below.
They, of course, didn’t start us out with bayonets on our weapons! That would’ve been suicide.
When they at last took us to the rifle range, I was not surprised when I managed to qualify as an Expert. That earned me the right to familiarize myself with the M-1 Carbine and I also qualified Expert with that.
The rest of training went without a problem. My time on the ranch helped me to go through all the other stuff such as crawling through The Pit, on our backs with our weapons on our chest, going under barbed wire with a machine gun firing live rounds over us. I looked forward to going through the field exercises and training. And, when they got to the point of taking us on five and ten mile hikes, I enjoyed them.
If it hadn’t been for latrine duty, kitchen police and guard duty, basic training was almost enjoyable.
The best thing about basic was making friends. Not only with the guy in the bunk above or below, but the rest of the squad and platoon.
This is where I’m going to show one of my major failings - I can’t, for the life of me, remember the names of any of the guys I served with! I can close my eyes and see their faces. I can remember us doing things together. It becomes worse as I think towards the end of my military career but we won’t go through that here.
[The above is only an example of the uniform I wore. The patch on the shoulder was different at Fort Ord but is the one I wore at Fort Belvoir. I know I had to look that young and it makes me smile. Ah but the years go by so fast!]
This is the Sixth US Army shoulder patch.
At last, it came time to complete our training. I was very surprised when Duple [the woman I’d known all my life as my grandmother] showed up. She’d ridden the Greyhound bus up from Los Angeles and was in the stands for the graduation ceremony. I’d already packed my things and had my orders to the Army Engineer School at Fort Belvoir. So, once the parade was over, I gathered up my duffel bag and went with her on an army bus to downtown Monterey. There were several buses that went each graduation day to the bus terminals [Trailways also operated back then], the train station and the airport.
Step One was over. Now on to the next!