Army Reception – Ft. Ord……..#75 (50’s)

A welcome sign

A welcome sign

The Call to Service correspondence having finally arrived informing Gary to report to the Army Induction Center at 10 A.M.on Monday, April 20th,  the youth beginning to wonder if the summons would every materialize.  The families acknowledgement seemed arrested, but he attributed this to his false display of insignificance to the coming event,  belaying the uneasy feeling in the pit of stomach and his true thoughts of the upcoming milestone.  The day of atonement, the youth packing a  shaving kit and other personal sundry items in an athletic gym bag,  a brief goodbye to mom with a mention of returning on his first weekend leave.


The drive to the induction center was without a lot of conversation, but this was pretty much a norm when he and his dad traveled together.  “Take care of yourself son” were his dad’s final words, entering the induction center the reality of leaving home beginning to set in.  He remembered when  growing up hearing his dad characterize army life with a saying  “hurry up and wait”,  Gary having received his report notification three weeks ago and now after his 10:00 a.m. morning arrival was told the swearing-in ceremony would take place sometime later that afternoon.


The augmented group,  estimated at twenty recently sworn-in recruits finishing their first military meal courtesy of a local cafeteria, it was late afternoon before mounting an army bus for deposit at Fort Ord,  a two-hour journey.   A uniformed corporal having just  reenlisted sitting in the front seat was charged with a large manila folder containing the groups administrative orders.   The bus turned onto the Nimitz,  Gary gazing across at the East Oakland Hills their view slowly withdrawing  out of sight and for the first time he felt a loss.   Having just acquired a feeling of independence, able to make major decisions thru observations and judgement,  a self-assurance suffused to ascendancy and now thru a bus window he watched as the anchor and foundation of his past departed before his moist eyes,  the hills would be nor, it was the ebbing of a youthful altruistic environment called home.


No harassing drill instructors,  not even a raised voice when disembarking the bus in evoking darken hour,  filing out to the reception area the future soldiers assembling in a formation as their names were convened.  The row-call completed, a NCO sergeant giving a blaring welcome, the makeshift formation of twenty recruits advanced inside a two-story billet lined with beds and mattresses.   Bedding having appropriated  to each berth and a cadre demonstration of the correct distilling of an army bunk,  including hospital corners which most had never heard of or seen before and a ceremonial bouncing of a quarter on the tightly secured  top blanket.

  Gary concluding,  with the recruits still in civilian clothes,  the late hour and a sense of perplexity may have explained the missing movie scripted scenario, the sergeant with the  stereotype army provocation.  The atmosphere was rather quiescent, a stillness prevailed, like the lull before the storm, the sergeant returning reading names and times from a prepared duty roster before posting it.   The wooden barracks required a fire guard at night, after lights out two individuals would stand a one hour watch,  arousing the next two continuing until  reveille.


The army became true to form in the morning,  the group being  wakened by a  two boisterous sergeants,  shouting instruction concerning physical appearance and the cleanliness of the billet.  Falling-in outside, a roll call was conducted, the recruits escorted to the silent scope of the mess hall, the spoken word was prohibited, the group experience their first military meal in silence.  Gary somewhat taken aback from the variety and abundance of food being served,  having grown up with adequate meals and a school cafeteria, but not on this order.  The morning discovering a journey to secure the fleecing of what little hair he already had and a march to a large warehouse looking structure discovering it was the clothing distribution center.  The new recruit discovering some personal unknowns, his actual clothing  sizes, a 29 inch waist, 29 inch inseam and size 8W boots and shoes.  It was a new experience,  in civilian life having never  acquired this volume of clothing that the army issued, filling a duffel almost to the point of being too heavy for him to carry.


The temporary wooden barracks home was designated Reception , other than acquainting the new recruits with inoculations,  a hair stylist and the art of spit-shine,  it was a holding area for interim new personnel until the numbers were sufficient for transfer orders to form a training battalion.   Gary discovering the reception holding area also to be a labor pool for established units to draw from, especially in realm of KP  (kitchen patrol), immediately  discovering it with an acquaintance.


The transition from civilian  to military life was instantaneous with no acclimation allotments, the recruits finding decisions,  opinions and preferences were no longer applicable and task were never completed the right or wrong way, but the army way.  Gary did possess avidity to experience the regiment of military order and on his fourth day in the reception area found his and the other in the barracks name posted to stand ready for transportation to a Training Battalion,  their home for the next eight weeks


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