At eighteen and a half, finally done with mandatory indoctrination at the hands of incompetent “educators”, I thought I was seeing freedom of action by choosing the career least objectionable. My stepfather offered a free ride through college. I had zero interest in staying in a classroom, and little idea of what I should learn if I did. The local economy was typical of the Eighties aftermath of our sending factories overseas- service jobs only. And the military seemed like a fun idea- I would get issued a FREE semi-auto carbine of my very own in which one hoped I could kill commies and other assorted riff-raff. And, I could continue the new family tradition of law enforcement. I had tried the Air Force first. I liked the idea of staying out of mud and woods and being nicely dressed. But I made the mistake of telling them about my bad back and they had no interest. I then went to the Army and lied about having any medical conditions and they gladly signed me up to The Green Machine. Basic training was at Fort McClellan, the combined MP and Chemical Corps facility ( since closed down, I believe ). July, I’m in Alabama- I was used to California lack of heat, bugs or humidity.
Not only did the Army like crappy places to train you, I got stuck in an experimental OSUT ( one site unit training ) where I had to put up with the same drill sergeant from day one basic to MOS school graduation. At the time, 1983, they liked to brag that the Army MP School was ranked number ten nationally in law enforcement training. If that was the case I’d have hated to see what kind of bozos number eleven churned out. We got one or two hours of training in most particulars ( body strike points for a baton, holds for subduing, riot control, etc. ) and the majority of the time was pseudo-infantry training ( urban assault, squad automatic weapons, M203 grenade launchers, traffic control on battlefield, bivouacking, etc ). Their justification of Basics Only law enforcement was that every unit had different standards ( and yet arriving at each unit it was assumed you were already trained ). This was my introduction into the silly military tradition of hammering square pegs into round holes. And yet, despite such difficulties as barely getting five push-ups out the first week ( only thirty-five more to go as a minimum! ) and never getting enough sleep, waking up screaming with cramps, MOPP training in muggy weather, and all the rest, all in all I fondly look back at basic training. It was my first real challenge and the first time I pushed myself. I was genuinely proud, even if all but the worst screw-ups made it through. Alas, that was the first and only time I enjoyed my stay in the military. More on that next time.
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