Chuck's Basic Training Experiences!

I was watching television the evening when it was announced that the Russians had been placing missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba, only 90 miles from the United States shores!  Most people don't remember how frightening that was at the time. The first thing I though was I and everyone else eligible was going to be drafted. Of course I was drafted but the first thing I remember was answering the questions on the draft papers. The big one was are you or were you ever in a homosexual situation. I thought what business is it of the government. Keep out of my bedroom! Then I thought why not say 'Yes' and end the service requirements right there. Just as good as people like Vice President Quayle, who used his fathers influence to get of the military and serve in the National Guard along with President Bush or Gingrig and so many others that suddenly went to seminary schools or what ever to skip Vietnam. Screw it, I could serve my country just as good as anyone else so I marked the answer as 'No'.

Because of the frightening aspects of missiles pointing at us, the army put 800 men through basic training in one large group in order to get the military up to speed. I was in the First Platoon and most men in it were 22 to 25 years old. We all had worked in the business world so knew what was going on as to the 18 year olds who couldn't even tie a tie! The First Sergeant had a new Cadillac and was always driving around checking up on us and our progress along with our Platoon Sergeant. I had scored very high on the intelligence test and was a candidate for Officer's Training! Every other day I was picked up by the First Sergeant, driven around the base, and interviewed by everyone of importance. I kept thinking what if I decided to become an officer! Just salute me and say 'Sir!" That sounded good! Then one day I was sitting in a general's office and his secretary asked me to come over to him but to keep quiet. He said this was off the record and to keep my mouth shut! Papers had come down from headquarters as to where I was to be located after basic training, a supervisor in the computer installation at the Presidio of San Francisco, the choicest spot for anyone to be sent to. If I went into officers training I would be at the bottom of the heap and probably would not like being screwed around, especially after being in the business world. What good advice. I did keep my mouth shut!

The last few weeks were very busy and ended up with the final exercises, one of which was the best score on the firing range. I came in first out of 800 and won an award for sharp shooting, someone beside me told me, you know that Cuba is first and then Vietnam will be coming down the road so watch out. The First Sergeant was behind me and said "Don't even think about missing!" Out of seven awards, the First Platoon won five and I came in first, second, and third for these five awards! We showed the others, especially the Air Born who thought they were God's gift to humanity!

The last day of boot camp and all 800 were called out in front of the barracks. The First Sergeant said he would call names out and the men should form a group. He said group one was going to Fort Benning Georgia to train in the swamp. He called half of the First Platoon, my new found friends. They were not happy. He then called each group of people for mostly nasty training experiences. After 799 men were called off I was standing there alone. Everyone wondered what was happening. The First Sergeant and our Platoon Sergeant both just shook their heads because they would have gotten points if I had gone to officer's training. The First Sergeant looked at me standing there all alone and said to me, "You obviously knew you were going to San Francisco and had me drive you all over the camp and take time off doing it." He then announced I was going to be a Supervisor in the Computer Installation in the Presidio. There was absolute silence and that was the end of my new found friends. Could I help it I had experience in the computer world and they didn't?

So off to San Francisco and a whole new way of life. I shared a room with another man and the room had a window over looking the City! The enlisted club overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge and on our off hours we went to the ocean beach or hustled around San Francisco meeting and enjoying it's many charms which I am still doing to this day! Talk about luck!

One thing I must address that seems very strange to me about the military and the congress over the last ten years is their sticking their noses into everyone's sex life. My First Sergeant was a black man, the Platoon Sergeant was a short cocky white southerner and everyone in the platoon knew I had tendencies but no one seemed to care. I was smart, dependable, and minded my own business. I was helpful to the men who had never worn a tie or suit or how to do a lot of the things most of us take for granted. Because I had been raised on a farm and also had worked in offices, I had a unique perspective on differing ways people had been raised. I was told if we were ever on the front lines no one would be concerned about my sex life, only that I was the best shot in the platoon - with a gun that is!