Uncomfortable Emergence……….#74 (the 50’s)

House call - Master Sargeant Casserly

House call – Master Sergeant Casserly

Recruiting Sergeant Casserly having returned, the husband of Gary’s Mothers good friend Alice Larson, the two growing up in Yreka,  entered the Willson’s residence looking very astute in his dress uniform, carrying a loose-leaf binder the size of an encyclopedia The recruiting Sergeant making a special house call to visit the recent high school graduate about the opportunities of  an Army enlistment.   Gary perceiving the stripes adorning the Sergeant’s uniform,  three up and three down as the rank of Master Sergeant, but not sure of what  the diagonal bars on the left sleeve and the horizontal bars on the right sleeve represented.  His only firsthand military knowledge besides from his recent visit to his cousin Bud O’Toole in Canoga Park, was extracted from his dad having served in the second world war and on occasion would recapitulate humorous accounts from his deployment on Saipan, Korea and Okinawa,  but always refraining from conveying the execrable events that he had witness.  Gary’s uniform stripe curiosity getting the best of him finally asking Sgt. Casserly, the slanted service stripes, referred to as hash marks,  on the left sleeve were for years of service, each stripe representing three years, the horizontal bars on the right sleeve represented 6 months of overseas combat service.

The Sergeant’s presentation was somewhat reminiscent of a school counselor’s,  attesting the MOS,  Military Occupational Specialty descriptions from the large manual,  explaining there were the two prerequisite in acquiring a MOS.   The first was determined by the scores attained on the  (AFQT) Armed Forces Qualification Test replacing the old (AGCT) Army General Classification Test,  including a battery of test equivalent to the  (SAT) Scholastic Aptitude Test for college entrance.  The second condition was that of occupational necessity and school availability.   Gary was interested in a MOS similar but not the same as his cousin Buds with missiles. The potential recruit found it challenging to make a decision on an occupational  specialty mainly because of a lack of in-depth information.  The Sergeant having a up-to-date printout of MOS availability,  but discovering the scope of description in most part was limited to a few paragraphs of generalities.   Sergeant Casserly couldn’t detail the course of study but did ascertain that most army school were of eight or sixteen week duration, the missile electronic school Gary was interested in was 33 weeks in duration with an addendum nuclear warhead school.  Gary was somewhat taken aback, with eight weeks of basic training, and over 33 weeks of study it would be well over  9 months before he would be scheduled for a duty station.  Sgt. Casserly pointing out that military class instruction was much different from the academic world of college, besides being paid, you’re in the army and subject to military discipline.

The question was no longer pending, the youth being asked if he was ready to make the most important decision thus far in his life.  Gary unsure of what the future would bring if he remained at home,  recognizing that if he enlisted he wouldn’t have to cope with making many decisions.  He agreed on enlistment but because of his age, not having attained his 18th birthday his parents required to sign an underage  waiver, the youth scheduled not to be sworn-in but  to report for  a physical and qualification testing  before his 18th birthday.

The Federal Building at 15th & Broadway in Oakland

The Federal Building at 15th & Broadway in Oakland

The given day for his physical and qualification testing have arrived, Gary maneuvering his families recently purchased 56 Dodge Belvedere into the parking area of the Federal Building at 15th and Broadway, the location of the Armed Forces Induction Center.   Entering the building, the young high school graduate experiencing a feeling of solitude, alone, on his own, advancing one step at a time in a new unexplored world.   Directions finding him ushered into a room waiting to be called with others for a brief physical, no resemblance to  the stripped down wait inline examinations portrayed in the movies.  Once completed Gary relieved when certified as physically qualified, having a concern that his 113 lb.  weight may have prohibited his enlistment. The testing area was a large room encompassing many tables, the military instructor serving notice that the  battery of timed test would take several hours  and would pose questions concerning vocational skills as well as academic ones.   Gary just out of high school having taken final exams discovering no difficulty, especially with the math problems having traveled a 4 year journey on the road of algebra thru calculus.  A possible life changing day fulfilled, the youth returning home, relieved that it was over, a  sense of confidence residing.

A Greenly Dr. home destined to become a memory

Sergeant Casserly making his final visit, Gary’s test scores having exceeded all requirements, including qualification for OCS, Officer Candidate School.  He was enrolled in a Corporal (missile) Electronic Material Maintenance Course,  the Army to notify him by mail the date to report for formal induction, the swearing-in ceremony and transportation to Fort Ord to begin 8 weeks of  basic training.    An uncomfortable feeling began to emerge, could it be the expediency of commitment to a military enlistment, patience was fleeting as the days passed still waiting for his Call To Service date, the question lingered, were these feelings a residual of haste.  The daily 13 steps up to the mail box on Greenly Drive giving the youth a conscious new meaning to the past, a new aura of his surroundings, his family, the memories of home, the moments of elation,  the caliber of friendships, all would soon depart.   Gary reflecting that something was astray, questioning if his decision was the closing of a chapter in his life or just maybe the beginning page of a new one.

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