15 Mar 2006
Before actual basic started we had to start loosing our personal identity. We were civilians and we needed some time to make the transition from civilian life to military life.
I'm not sure how long this took, I suspect 5 to 7 days. Our barracks seemed to always have something going on almost like a constant level of chaos. Seemed like people were always coming and going and I guess they were as they arrived from the induction centers and then were moved on to basic training companies.
I particularly remember the latrine and the first time I had SOS. One think missing was privacy and I remember going into the latrine the first time and seeing the toilets. Just a row of toilets. No stalls just toilets. OK, when you gotta go you gotta go, privately or publicly. It was just part of the transition from civilian life to military life.
And then there was SOS. This was a breakfast meal that most people would call chipped beef, or some other gravy, on toast. But in the Army it was 'Shit on a Shingle'. Actually I thought it was pretty good, kinda hit the spot.
Many transitions happened during those days including the first haircut. As I recall there were three chairs with a 'barber' at each chair. I'm not sure what qualification these 'barbers' had but I doubt it took longer than 5 minutes to master this hair style. Each draftee, there were probably some recruits amongst us but most of us were draftees, must have been in the barber chair for less than a minute. It was a few swipes with the electric razor and the hair was all gone. And as I recall we even got to pay for the haircut.
You wouldn't be complete without your new set of clothes. It didn't take long for this part either. The styles were the same and there was just one color to choose from. They really made it easy on a guy. The boots were the most challenging in that you had to find the pair that fit so that took a little time. In a short period of time we were ready to go. I'm not sure if we just got the fatigues at this time or if we were also fitted for our dress uniform. I suspect they might have taken measurements since we would not need the dress uniform until graduation, 8 weeks in the future.
I don't recall much beyond this.
And then it was off to the real basic training.
First Day of Basic Training
The process had started to convert us from civilian to military at the reception center but that process really shifted into high gear the day we were taken to our basic training unit.
We boarded 'cattle trucks', the Army’s version of mass transit which we would become familiar with over the next 8 weeks, for the trip from the Reception center to our new home. As we drove up to the barracks we could the drill instructors, DIs, waiting for us. The yelling, screaming and mass confusion started immediately. There is alot I don't remember about that day but I do remember that I was scared shitless.
One thing I do remember clearly was when we were told, I was going to say asked but in the Army you are never asked, to dump out the contents of our duffle bags. The guy next to me threw something into my pile of clothes. I don't know what it was but I suspected drugs. I tried to step on it and it must have worked because as they checked through my stuff they didn't find anything. I think I kicked it into the grass after they went by. That is just what I needed getting busted my first day in basic with someone elses drugs. Luckily that didn't happen.
I was a pretty soft piece of clay for them to mold. I suspect most of us were. Even though the DIs couldn't hit you they were extremely intimidating. Everything that went on in basic training is highly planned and calculated and we were all beginning our journey to become soldiers.
This is a picture of my basic traiing home. My barracks was on the second floor on the left side of the building.
These were the guys that I went through basic training with. They are:
1st Row: Moreno, Herron, Schaffer, Viev, Lanyon (Drill Sergeant), Battles, Dietro, John Lewis
2nd Row: Cox, Larry Wilson, Gallo, Krieg, Woller, Holtz, Quivedo, James
3rd Row: Padilla, Krause, Rife, ?, Seay, Gerald Scott, Mayer, Larry Scott, Kirkham, Mazac, Erskine
4th Row: Laster, Wilder, Thompson, Westphal, Gallegos, Forster, Montoya, Patania, Morris, Frey, Vega, Mishinski
5th Row: Me, Wilson, Gradowski, Dreckman, Curtis, Bryant, Rogers, Patty, Burrison, Thrift, Gordon, Manning
One of the many areas of training we received in basic training was first aid. I don't recall many of the specifics of that training but I do remember one of the stations where we stopped. The station depicted a battle scene complete with wounded soldiers, manaquines. The wounded soldiers were lying on the ground and their bodies were peppered with these crater like holes. It was the oddest thing. I really didn't know what it was all saying.
More on this later.
Every morning we found ourselves running, it was a part of the campaign to get us civilians in shape. We also did alot of marching from place to place as we continued our training. DUring many/most of the runs and marches we chanted. The DI would chant out a phrase and all of the guys would repeat it. I recall just part of one of the chants and wish I could remember more as some were pretty good.
The one phrase I remember has stuck itself permanently in my head. It goes something like this:
I want to go to Vietnam
I want to kill a charlie cong
Here we go, here we go
It's not much but it has played in my head many times since 1970.
22 Mar 2006
We knew that the day would come when we would get our AIT, advanced individual training, orders. This would tell each of us what job we would be performing while in the Army and would also give us a better idea if we would be heading to Vietnam and if so in what role.
This is the orders that I received and it ordered me to Ft. Knox, Kentucky with a PMOS of 11E10. First off PMOS means Primary Military Occupational Specialty. Secondly, 11E10 meant that I was going to be an armor crewman. I was going to Ft. Know to learn about tanks and armored personnel carriers. It was a combat MOS which greatly increased my chances of seeing action in Vietnam. The land of General Patton was the next stop in this adventure.
:: Graduation ::
The day finally came, Graduation. I graduated from Basic training on 24 March 1970 and was to report to Ft. Knox, KY no later than 1200 hours, 26 April 1970.
It was a big day. We were now soldiers and ready to serve our country. Lots of family members came to the graduation ceremony and we strutted out stuff in front of them. Now it was time to go off to our various AIT units and learn the job that we would have for the rest of our time with the Army.
My mom and both of my brothers came up to Ft. Ord for the graduation. I was even able to spend a few hours off base with them. We went to the room they rented and had a nice time. It was the first time I had been out of the Army’s sight and it was nice to feel the fleeting moment of freedom. The time away was short since I had to be in Kentucky on Sun 26 April.