A Sense Of Inanition………….#86 (the 60’s)

The 1st nuclear missile The Corporal

Mission accomplished, the ten members of the corporal missile electric material maintenance class having accomplished 8 months of training, issued a certificate of proficiency from the Army Artillery Missile School, and a 214.1 M O S designation as a Corporal Missile Electric Technician,  But Private First Class gary willson was crest fallen,  a lone Exception and a sense of inanition prevailed.   the entire compliment of his corporal missile electric maintenance graduation class would traverse overseas to Germany,  but the soldier would remain, his new assignment, firing battery  2nd missile battalion  80th artillery,  one of two corporal missile units at Fort Sill.  His envision of a world adventure having been banished,   a relatively prosaic province having ascended and commissioned a prisoner

Reporting for duty,  the new arrival discovering the 2nd Missile Battalion building almost vacant,  being informed the unit was in the field on an exercise, but could find the duty officer in the mess hall..  Sitting in the mess hall was an elderly looking Warrant Officer,  the WO introducing himself as the firing battery’s technical advisor, and was aware that gary would be arriving.  The soldier retrieving his duffel bag,  following the WO to a large second floor bay, assigning an empty bunk and locker.  The WO continued his introduction to the unit with a brief walk thru, then requisitioning a jeep,  the two traversing to the battalions exercise location on the west firing range.  The jeep coming to a halt,  dismounting they approach a group of officers. Gary surprised at being introduced to the battalion commander, the WO later explaining,  Gary’s arrival filled the required compliment of four battalion missile technicians, two for each missile platoon.

Gary discovering a missile battalion size was  smaller than a field artillery battalion with 500 to 800 men,   the missile battalion slimmed down to a compliment of less than 300,  the battalion consisting of  a headquarters and service battery, a firing battery and Medical Section. The firing battery consisted of 2 firing platoons and a guidance platoon. The firing platoons included, assembly, testing, servicing and firing sections The headquarters & service battery are just what they implied, all the ancillary services, personnel section , mess, supply and maintenance section. The one element missing from a missile application found in a field artillery battalion was a combat support company giving it the ability to defend its location

The 2nd missile battalion 80th artillery was initially flagged the 246th Missile Battalion.  the 246th was one of the three original corporal  battalions inaugurated in 1956.   two being deployed to Europe and the 246th to Fort Bliss as a reserve unit, later redisignated and sent to fort sill.  The newly calibrated PFC entered his new surroundings,  anticipating an aura of proficiency and deference,  instead finding apathetic complacency prevailing,  sensing an impassive attitude, beginning to question if those who served with the battalion from the onset, might have developed a vexation for the battalions ongoing reserve status and the fact that the corporal was being replaced.  The trial of guard duty and KP once again infiltrated his established routine, spoiled by the 33 weeks of abstention during his missile training.  the fraternal atmosphere that inhibited the previous months of school having vanished,  replaced by authoritative territorialism

PFC Clark was married and living off post,  having completed CEMMC school the previous year, and appeared reconciled to receive the newly acquired  soldier.   Clark found his daily work rather mundane, appropriating it to  a 8 to 5 job, Gary could understand why, the cabling up practice drills were without challenge, but the missile battalion Unit concurrence was.   The battalion’s field exercises  were coalesce with artillery units presenting a show of force,  capturing the various battalion’s weaponry convoys, their parading numbers generating an acquisition of showmanship for an array of visiting VIP’s.

Specialist E-5  Crow was the peremptory of the motor pool and was diligent in his duty of insuring every truck returning from the field was properly imbued.   Upon instructions,  Gary was ordered by Crow to facilitate the wash-rack with his and Clark’s assigned  5 ton test-van.   The PFC un-ceremonially having to decline,  the consternation of the E-5 was apparent until being informed by PFC Willson that he didn’t possess a military driver’s license and it would be a violation for him to get behind the wheel.   Arrangements were scheduled, finding  Spec-5 Crow instructing the PFC to report for instructions and a driving test on the 5 ton.

Willson, tongue in cheek,  pleading  inhibition difficulties with the shifting of the 5 speed 3 speed brownie and 2 speed axle, a somewhat frustrated Crow looking at his watch, saying they would render further instructions that afternoon until achievement was accomplished. It was during the second journey of instructions, the PFC, the son of a truck driver,  deciding it was time to halt the ruse, relenting, double-clutching  thru the gears,  utilizing the 3 speed brownie and engaging the 2 speed axle, then thwarting the test van back to the motor pool.  Disembarking from his now washable charge, trying not to acknowledge the look on the face of an astringent instructor, realizing that he was now a marked man on Spec 5 Crow’s duty list.

The town of Lawton was imperceptible, now devoid of acquaintances, the CEM C-2 likeable menagerie having departed.  Gary as of yet hadn’t discovered any collective substitutes, but a long neglected keyboard friend was available, an understanding mentor of solace and a comforter of charge.  His fingers moved,  beckoning a response, questioning, would it still kindle recognition and free the bonds of certainty.   Immured not, it knew no horizon, lifting its inner confines to the outreach of Nirvana,  he harnessed the challenge contending its compulsion,  and alas, it was again instilled, his friend the piano acknowledging.

  

The Fort Sill service club and music room filled the PFC’s evenings several nights per week.  This particular night, a well dressed person in civilian clothes entered the enclosed music room, sitting, listening to various structured musical sounds emitting from the piano.  Upon conclusion, the person introduced himself, addressing the virtuoso about the possible financial reward for executing these very same expressions in town.

The young soldier sitting at the piano declined the offer,  but later, something within,  an intuitive feeling emerging, recalling a passage he had once read, “the past may dictate who we are,  but we  determine what we can become”.

 

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