Enlighten Presence…………….#76 (the 50’s)

New Barracks area

New Barracks area

        His new home for the next eight weeks, Company B  5th Battle Group  1st Training Battalion, its location referred to as the “new barracks”, modern self-contained three-storied cement constructed buildings located a mile from of the main gate and bordering on the east range,  a field exercise area stretching  over 2000 acres.   Each building providing domicile residency for an Infantry Training Company consisting of four platoons, each platoon occupying a quadrant in the upper two floors.  Gary soon discovering the army was consumed with, lack of a better term, alphabetical syndrome, his last name starting with W,  finding  himself assigned to the fourth platoon,  fourth squad.  The day commencing at 5:00 a.m., the lights attaining illumination, the intonation of a baton striking the  metal frames of the bunk beds and the compendium voice of a platoon sergeant encouraging the troops to rise.  The basic training contingency was diversified by their eight digit service number prefix, US  designating (drafted) and RA (enlisted).  The distinction between the drafted and enlisted trainees was not  noticeable, but what Gary thought was conspicuous was the frequent aphoristic use of four letter words.  The young Oakland soldier was not one to partake of the  abhorrent language discourse having been raised in household void of swear words.  He reasoned its current use with the analogy that it was similar to  students entering junior high, whereas  7th graders frequented an analogous vocabulary,  but  by the 8th grade it all but disappeared except for a few,  concluding that its current proclamation would also subside.

The new barracks

The new barracks

      The first week in the unit discovering expeditiousness a convention, there was  neither time for commission or convenience,  continuous assignments dawning from the reveille formation till evening dormancy with lights out and  the echoing sounds of taps heard over loud speakers throughout the post.  Whether as a company or platoon the trainings fold had standing marching orders both for  classroom attendance or practical field application exercises.  A soldiering foundation of discipline prevailed, from the exact folding and placement of clothing in footlocker, to the temporary silence in the mess hall, all highlighted with the never-ending use of Kiwi Shoe Polish and the charge of spit-shining both boots and shoes.  A little known secret to hastily obtain a patent leather or spit shine appearance was to wipe a normally brushed shined boot with a 5 day deodorant pad, but only done in an extreme emergency as this procedure would damage the leather over prolong use.  A competition was instilled between platoons, each sergeant in their role as a drill instructor ambitiously motivating his array,  some complained but Gary finding the continuous introduction of engaging military activities very relevant to his past youthful apparitions and now becoming  a discerning and meaningful reality.
       The physical training aspect was never a concern to the young trainee, the PT calisthenics were routine except for those gung-ho individuals having enlisted to go   “AirBorne” and were subject to an added PT program after the company had been dismissed.  The continuous daily regimen of marching displayed a difficulty for some,  the company instep-columns  was normally confined to the streets and parade field except when tracking the attenuated paths to the field exercises on the East Range.  Gary soon experiencing the 4th squad of the 4th platoon at the rear of the Company on a somewhat still day was subject to the accumulated dust of  the procession.  It reminded him of being in the last wagon in a western movie wagon train, subject to all the airborne crustrations created by those proceeding him.  It was by accident after being appointed and later volunteering to the position of rear guard when the company was on the roadways and discovering once in the field he could continue, lingering far enough behind the columns enabling most of the dust to clear.

marching4

Off to class

      The day of anticipation having finally arrived, the issuance of a weapon.   It was like accepting a merit of confidence, unsaid, but Gary could ascertain he was not alone with these thoughts  when his platoon received the cordon of a soldier,  a rifle.   The M1 Garand, air-cooled, gas-operated , clip fed, semi-automatic 30.6 caliber, mainstay of WWII  was the Company’s designated training ordinance.   Holding the rifle,  Gary reflected, his father trained with this very same weapon and now another generation.  He had heard the final test on the breakdown and reassemble of the component parts of the M1 would be done blindfolded and to his amazement it was true.  The initial firing range was located across the highway amongst the sandy  reaches and dunes of the breaking waves of the Pacific,  the sand inhibited instructional march to and fro was most difficult.  The M1 Garand weighing 9.5 lbs and sustained at port-arms for a prolonged double time march, it was discovered that some in the company were unable to maintain the rifle in the port-arms position for a long period of time.  The NCO overseeing each platoon would note those of questionable performance and on return to the company area have them fall-out for extra curricular PT.  Gary was one who fell short in his response, his 113 lb frame had yet to develop the arm strength for an extended double time port-arm excursion, but the desire was present and he accepted responsiblity for his lacking with resolve.

The M1-Garand - a soldiers best friend

The M1-Garand – a soldiers best friend

Fort Ord Firing Range

Fort Ord Firing Range

      Pvt E-1 Willson was acquainted with the Training Battalion less than two weeks when word was communicated within the Company for a person possessing journalism skills to assist the PIO  (Post Information Officer)  with interviews of company trainee, the results to be written and submitted to home town newspapers.  Gary making an inquiry being directed to the PIO officer for an interview submitting a verbal resume of his journalistic qualification and was notified by his platoon sergeant that he had been accepted, only later discovering he was the only applicant.  Acquiring this assignment added to his already inundated training agenda, but on occasion did allow him to forgo the ambulatory morning dispatch of  marching with the company to their scheduled class, allowing him because of his extra duty to procure passenger status on a duce and half or jeep to the field.  He thought that assisting the training cadre staff might in someway enlighten his presence, Pvt. Willson discovering he was right with his reasoning,  soon finding his name posted on almost every work detail list.

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