T.S. Elliot may have measured out his life in coffee spoons, but when I was in the US Army back in the mid-1980s, I could measure out my life with acronyms. My whole Tour of Duty was awash with them. The meanings of all of them never really sunk in, but at least I learned pretty quickly that GI didn’t stand for gastro-intestinal.
The first week at BT (nowadays called BCT) was one big hurry-up-and-wait Charlie-Foxtrot. And then it was like, “Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot am I doing here???”
All us gals would be called out of the barracks at o’dark-hundred to stand in formation for 10 minutes while the peeps with the keys, er…the peeps in charge…would count…us. Then we were dismissed until the next call-out.
But I survived the whole 8 weeks at Fort Jackson, SC.
I rapelled off a tower (basically), learned how to set up a Claymore mine, tossed dummy grenades (not very far), learned how to read a map with all the curly-cue lines on it.
The FTX was especially grueling since I had never previously camped outside. Bring a toothbrush? Who knew?
The government-issued long underwear was wretchedly scratchy and itchy, but it was either itch or freeze in the cold night air.
The K-Rats were better than the MREs which were kind of like eating a plastic bag of mushed SPAM. And being left-handed, I never did quite get the hang of that little can-opener thingy.
I also survived early-morning KP duty at BT — there is nothing like the smell of a raw potato or a dirty dish at 5am. Kinda curbs the appetite, doncha know.
The DI’s were always yelling and cussing at us — I tell ya…never underestimate a woman with a DI Smokey-Bear hat on her head. Damn!
I was a tad disappointed by the BDUs that I was handed at the CIF — I had been expecting those super-cool OD Greens like they wore in “MASH.” And those black LPCS — so unstylish AND they hurt my feet like hell for weeks.
I was also less than thrilled by the GI BCGS I was given which made me look like a dadgum nerd who had a Buddy Holly fixation. After BCT, I was able to Deep 6 the BCGS with no pangs of regret. When the style became trendy in the ’90s amongst the faux-elite, I was not tempted at ALL to partake. And besides, why spend $300 for something I had at one time gotten for free?
And even though I threw a grenade “like a girl,” I was a Sharpshooter with the M16. Deadly!
I liked marching too and all those fun little cadences we regurgitated as we trudged along. “Mama Mama can’t you see What the Army’s done to me?” wasn’t exactly Pat Benatar belting out “Love Is A Battlefield” but there was a kind of comfort in the folksy familiarity of the little ditties.
My MOS was 46Q (PAS) and I attended AIT at DINFOS at Fort Ben, IN.
I loved shopping at AAFES (or the PX) and saving money that I was then able to waste on other things like beer and…well…never mind….
I went in as a PFC and was promoted all the way up to SP4…. 😉
When I enlisted, I had hoped to travel the world, but I was stationed in the CONUS for my entire 4-year tour of duty. But it definitely was a great PART of CONUS — Fort Ord, CA, home of the 7th Infantry Division (Light) in beautiful Monterey County. I was part of the HHC HQ.
Monterey was a great little tourist town. At the end, I was able to say BTDTBTTS and even got to stay on there for several years after my Honorable Discharge.
One of my favorite things was getting a license to drive the HMMWV — yee-haw!! A buddy and I would go on TDY to FHL to write about and photograph FTX’s.
When there was no HMMWV or car from the Motor Pool available, we had to use our POVs.
My least favorite thing was PT. I could run long but not fast, so I was always getting stuck with RPT. Push-ups almost prevented me from graduating from BT. I was on HOT for several weeks until a SSGT had pity on me and passed me.
Another un-favorite was CQ duty. You’d work all day at your MOS and then sit at a desk in the barracks all freakin’ night long drinkin’ coffee and waxing floors. No zzzzzzzzzz’s were allowed, so as soon as you got off at 7 the next morning, you had to hit the rack for half the day.
I somehow managed to stay clear of the IG and the MPs and received a GCM.
For four long years, there were days when all I could think about was FTA or going AWOL. But I hung in there and in November 1987 I collected my DD214, hung my 4-year old boots over the railing of the PAO building I had worked in and skedaddled out the 12th Street exit one last time.
It was a long journey of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, accomplishments and disappointments. And then at the end of it all, it seemed like it had only been 4 hours instead of 4 years.
But I have never regretted a minute of it.
©September 2011 by Phyllis J. Hanniver