I opened the door to the recruiting office and immediately felt I was back in my office at Camp Bussac, France. Drab government desks and chairs, unimaginative pictures on the walls - other than the back wall with the US and Army flags, the pictures of the president, army chief of staff, the general commanding the recruiting command, and a picture of the station commander.
Soldiers in khaki uniforms talked to prospective recruits, their command insignia on the left shoulder.
This is the insignia they wear on the shoulder straps.
I had a basic idea of what I wanted. No more office jobs! Driving around, I’d seen the big rigs barreling down the highways and thought that might be a neat way to make a living. And, what a great way to see this wonderful nation of ours.
Recruiting pamphlets lay all over the place. They weren’t what I sought. No big surprise, but there was a bookcase against the wall across from one of the recruiter’s desks and it had what I wanted, the Army regulation on Military Occupational Specialties. As a unit clerk I was very, very familiar with it. The recruiter’s eyebrows lifted when I asked if I could read it, but he nodded.
I went through it until I found the information for a Motor Transport Operator - the fancy military word for a truck driver. As soon as a recruiter ended what he was doing, he invited me to his desk.
He was a Staff Sergeant, what I knew to be the lowers rank permitted for a recruiter. He had all the salad to show he was a “leg”, an infantryman. But, the impressive one sat at a big desk at the back of the office. His six stripes showed him to be an master sergeant and a lot of rows of ribbons, a combat patch [Seventh Cavalry] indicated being in the Korean War - to include an impressive Purple Heart - and the equally impressive jumps-out-of-perfectly-good-airplanes-badge, along with another bragging about shooting at the enemy.
Remember, 1961 was a time when we weren’t at war with anyone - if you don’t count our “Advisers” serving in Vietnam.
The recruiter’s job was easy. All he had to do was pick up the phone and call his headquarters to get a slot for me to attend the US Army Transportation School. [No computers back then!]
“You don’t need to go to the school, Dale. We can send you to a transportation company where they’ll OJT you.” [That meant On The Job Training - or learn it while you do it.]
That was fine with me, so he confirmed I would sign up for a company at Fort Bliss, Texas - just outside of El Paso. He also told me that I’d first have to go to Fort Ord for in-processing, including being issued uniforms. Everything was confirmed and all it needed was to deciding the date and filling out the form.
As he sat there hunting and pecking with two fingers, I couldn’t take it any more. I asked him to let me at the machine and I went at it, typing as fast as when I was in the army before - I didn’t use one much at NCR but kept at it enough not to lose my touch-typing speed of almost 95wpm. I’d also filled out so many army forms that the ones he had were a cinch. I was even prouder as I only had to use WhiteOut once on a form that wasn’t all that important.
The crusty old sergeant came over to watch for a bit and smiled when I handed him the folder containing all the stuff I’d finished.
It was a Wednesday and I told them I had to give NCR two-week’s notice. It was decided that I’d enlist on Jun 21st, a Monday.
Ed wasn’t at all thrilled but had no choice. He took my written resignation, initialed it and sent it to payroll so I’d get my last check on my last day of work for him.
When the time came, I loaded what little personal stuff I had in the trunk of my car, put on a decent pair of slacks and button-up shirt - even a pair of somewhat shined loafers - and headed for the recruiting station. My last paycheck was in my pocket and I knew it would hold me over until I got my first military pay.
There were four of us - I was the only one with prior service. The district commander, a captain, was there to administer the oath. After signing our paperwork, he had us stand between the US and Army flag, had us raise our right hands, and said these words for us to repeat”
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
So, once again I was a soldier, a mere private in the United States Army.
What lay ahead of me this time?