Army Training

I signed on the dotted line on March 15, 1976. That has always been the beginning of my time in service. But I didn't actually go to Basic Training until May 20th. This was called the "delayed entry program". Some recent Viet Nam veterans at Weyerhaeuser ragged me. They thought that I was crazy for joining the army.

In 1976 there was a dearth of Second Lieutenants and I also signed up for something called "the college option" program, which meant that I was signing up to be an officer.  The ranks couldn't be filled with ROTC and West Point grads. All I had to do was make it through Basic Training and Officer Candidate School.

Fort Jackson, South Carolina
and Basic Combat Training

The yelling began just after I stepped off the bus at Fort Jackson. I was greeted by special "inprocessing drill sergeants". Their job was to get us expeditiously processed with haircuts, uniforms, vaccinations, and stacks of other paperwork. Only later would I recognize the beauty of this organization. I received a PFC stripe (one up and one down), because I was a college graduate. Inprocessing was over in 4 days.

 When I stepped into trainee barracks I was in for a shock. I discovered that not only was the army trolling for lieutenants, but it was also scrounging 12:36 PM 2/25/2016the bottom of the barrel for privates. The  30 or so trainees who shared my space were at once alike and not alike. All seemed to be between 18 and 22. At 26 I was the oldest. All had an attitude of some type. Most seemed just out of high school, or the drop-out equivalent. But I had never encountered such a diverse group. I remember one time counting the ethnic makeup of my platoon. Besides myself, only 3 others were of European descent. About 15 were Black, a dozen or more were Hispanic of some sort, and there was an Asian or two.  I felt both the  both threat and appeal of diversity.

 The days and weeks went by fast. The thing I remember most about basic was the lack of personal / unstructured time. From the moment I hopped out of the bunk in the morning until the lights out at night, I kept a schedule; and my schedule was enforced by over-bearing drill sergeants. If a bus were late at picking us up, we broke into pairs and asked each other questions about the Code of Conduct. Once my platoon found itself ahead of schedule. Word was out "when your weapons are clean, you can break". I must have cleaned by M16 spotless for two hours straight. The inspecting drill sergeant told me time and again "clean it again. It's dirty". He pointed to some imaginary spot on the bolt. Suddenly, ten minutes before dinner, the drill sergeant inspected weapons and amazingly, they were all clean. 

 I grasped the concept of basic training: "break down the individual and build the team". An attempt was made to extinguish every vestage of  individualism. We all wore the same uniform, ate the same food, ran the same track, and shouted in unison "More PT drill sergeant. More PT. We like it. We love it. We want more of it". July 4th of 1976 was the bi-centennial year and we all had a day off of regular training.  However, we practiced marching all morning and in the afternoon marched for the big pass and review. Eyes right!

My age, personality, and religious persuasion conspired to keep me an outsider in my platoon. My fellow trainees also knew that I was an "officer-to-be". I went with the flow, cooperated and after 53 days graduated. By that time, several of my fellow trainees warmed up to me and wished me luck at OCS. I have heard it said that "the high point of morale in any soldier's career in upon graduation from basic training".  After watching the transformation of trainees in my platoon, I believe it.

The saluting picture is from a poloroid that I mailed to Kim for Fort Jackson

Fort Benning, Georgia
and Officer Candidate School

I bussed from Fort Jackson to Fort Benning and was inprocessed again. I was issued 8 sets of OD fatigues with a rank of specalist five on the sholder. There were about 80 men in my company, which was designated "1-7 Tango". It was the last OCS class to be all-male. My platoon (the first) had about 20 in it. Most folks were prior service enlisted. Graduating from OCS would place them into officer ranks. 

These were my two room mates, Dave and Chuck) The crossed pencils indicate our branch

The three of us Graduating

getting into formation

My graduation platoon at OCS

Sitting on the front law of the billets on visiting day

When Kim came she moved into these quarters. When I was commissioned I moved in too; and held Zac a lot.

Again at Fort Benning, Georgia, for Airborne School

The jump towers at Benning

Finally at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for Engineer Officer Basic Course

Visiting the sites while at Fort Belvoir


An official photo while living in Woodbridge Virginia

Graduates from Engineer Officer Basic Course

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