Preface: Dad was considered a lifer. He was in the Army Air Corp and flew 30 missions over Germany in WWII. Then when they split into Air Force and Army, Dad went with the Army. He was deployed to the war in Korea and later in the late 60’s to Vietnam. He retired after serving 30 years.
Here is one of his stories about the Army life.
I really don’t know how this got started, but as kids we used to play cowboys and Indians of course. Once in-a-while we found ourselves in the Army as we perceived it.
We would march, salute, and carry our wooden rifles on our shoulders. How did we know this stuff??? There wasn’t a war going and it was to early for WWII to have begun. Anyway we used Army tactics to take a fortress or defend it. It seemed to me that it would be my kind of life I might relate to.
It didn’t take too long to find out. And I wasn’t too sure that Army life was all that I had created in my mind. First there was all those rules. Stand at attention, learn to march, salute an officer but not a sergeant, then learn how to tell the difference. Making the beds so the Corporal wouldn’t turn your bunk over and make you do it again. As soon as I caught on to all this basic stuff, new things would be introduced. I had pretty well mastered the art of KP – kitchen police. The Army had a different definition for the word Police. To them it meant cleaning inside and picking up cigarette butts when outside.
Then we learned guard duty. First we had to become acquainted with the eleven General Orders:
To take charge of this post and all government property in sight. To call the Corporal of the guard when anything happened that wasn’t supposed to. Not to leave your post until officially relieved and so on. The really hard part was standing around for two hours knowing that after you were off four hours you were back on again for two more hours. Going to sleep on your post in time of war could mean getting shot.
After all the above, we started learning what Army fighting was all about. Crawling under barbed wire with a machine-gun firing over our heads, running through an obstacle course filled with holes to jump over, walls to climb, logs to vault and all the time carrying an eleven pound rifle. They were much heavier and longer than the wooden ones we used to play with.
I didn’t get too much of infantry training as I was headed for flight training. I can’t remember all the things we had to learn, but the time spent flying made it all worth it.
Then there was this thing called etiquette. Not only at the table – and I had much to learn about that – but also about interaction between people of different ranks. As an enlisted man, the sergeant was quick to point out lines that I had overstepped. As an officer though, I was supposed to know all the correct things to do and say. When I overstepped any of those lines there wasn’t a sergeant to set me straight. If it was bad enough the commanding officer would call you in and chew you out about it. The little things though he just kept in his memory and let them all spill out on your efficiency report.
Mostly though Army life wasn’t all that hard to adjust to. One never worried about things like which tie he should wear and did this shirt go with these trousers – things that drive civilians nuts. One got to do a lot of traveling while in the Army. Places I hadn’t ever read about became my home for a time. Mode of travel varied from flying to walking – depending on how quick the Army wanted you at another place and how far it was.
We used to have a saying “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for that time, but I wouldn’t give a nickel for any more”. That about sums it up