Sunday, May 20, 2012

"What luck to be allowed to be......"

".....a soldier" sang the brilliant Tom Lehrer in the nineteen fifties. Funny then, funny now, but in between, as an invited guest of the Army of the United States, I frequently had long occassions to feel anything BUT funny.

But not all.

Recently, I have been spending some time reading over material that I wrote in the mid sixties, when LBJ replaced JFK as our Prez, and when male citizens were given two years to study the finer points of polishing shoes and brass.

The other night I came upon an entry that I had written upon the occassion of a gigantic parade being formed to impress some dignitary or other who was visiting our digs at Fort Ord, California 93941, now defunct. It literally had me laughing out loud, and upon being shared with Her Whose Opinion Matters, it was deemed worthy of sharing.  In addition to deleting proper names of individuals, I am not going to post the actual unit names either, although under oath I couldn't say why.  Quote"

Then, back outside again, marching up to the Hq of the ****Cavalry, where we drew M-14s and bayonets.  As soon as we had done this, we were loaded onto one of the cattle trucks, and to the loud sound of braying, mooing and baaing, the men of HqCompany **** drove out to the south parade grounds to join other soldiers of **** in their practice for the Organization Day parade to be held this Saturday.

The kindest thing which could be said about the day's activities was that it was farcical.  At worst it was pathetic.  We marched onto the parade ground and found ourseles surrounded by three battallions of men who take their soldiering somewhat more seriously than does our company.  Accompanied by four drums and the tramp of thousands of marching feet in pretty perfect cadence, here we came, looking like comic relief at a halftime show.

It is pretty safe to say that out of the 50 of us who were representing our company, there might have been 5 who took the whole thing seriously, and maybe half of those five really wanted to be there.  For the rest of us, our feelings varied between thinking the entire thing was to be one big gag, and being pissed off at having to be there at all.  My own feelings alternated between these two, depending on the circumstances of the moment.

So, we marched diagonally across the parade field, and we could all feel the stares of the soldiers as they tried to figure out what the hell we were.  They were commanded by First Sgts and Lt Colonels, and here our ranking man was a buck sgt.  He called a halt as we approached a battallion of men on a collision course.  "Left face" he hollered, and half the company thought he said "forward march" and off they went, right smack in front of the ****Armor.  "Stop--I mean HALT" went Sgt B, but it was too late!  A shambles, not unlike the personnel office itself.

Then we were ignored for awhile, and stood around applauding the drummers when they took a break, and laughing at the contrast between ourselves (blue scarfs) and all the rest of the troopers (yellow scarfs).

Lt S (exec officer) came over to us and gave us what might be politely called a pep talk, which went something to the effect that if we felt it really merited it, we should consider giving this thing some sort of good effort on our parts, even though he fully realized that none of has done anything remotely like this for some time.  And he was SO right!

Ultimately we were fallen with ***Cav, and Lt Colonel ****took over.  His attitude (not surprisingly) was quite different, and we rapidly found ourselves getting yelled at, shouted at, cursed and bullied along with his own men.  Most of what we did today was stand in one place and go from parade rest to attentiion and back.  Over and over.  And over.

Then the practice was over, and we broke up.  When we had done so, we were given talks first by Capt A, and then by LtCol M himself...both to the effect that they appreciated our being there, that they both knew it was not our kind of soldiering, and that they hoped (probably PRAYED) that we would do well, as theirs was a proud outfit.  And they both said that they realized that we represented the intellectual elite of the command (in fact, we did).  So while they short of shit on us a little bit, they did so with some deference to our position, as if they were not entirely sure which of us handled their pay records.

The afternoon was sort of an anti-climax.  Captain asked if he was late very often, and when I opened my mouth, the Msgt simply said "shut up Fin", and so I did.


John0 Juanderlust said...

In a way I yearn for the simpler times. But I do not miss the draft. Odd how it doesn't seem any more draconian than the slow boil of rules and intrusions we find ourselves in today.
You marched to make us safe from Charlie.

Fin said...

It has been fascinating for me to read the material I wrote when I was in my early and mid twenties.

Much of my thinking has changed, and yet much of it has only been validated by subsequent events.