Questionable Journey………#74 (the 50’s)

Sergeant Jeff Casserly having made a return visit,  the husband of Gary’s Mothers good friend growing up in Yreka, Alice Larson, the couple having visited once before.   Entering the Willson’s residence this time in his dress uniform, carrying a loose-leaf binder the size of an encyclopedia.   The army recruiting sergeant making a special house call to visit the recent Castlemont 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.

  

His only firsthand military knowledge, besides from his recent visit to his cousin Bud O’Toole in Canoga Park, was 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 noticing the uniform stripes on Sargent Casserly’s sleeves,  his curiosity getting the best of him, finally asking the sergeant about them.  Not hesitating he replied:  the slanted service stripes were referred to as hash marks.  The ones 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.

 

Gary found the  Sergeant’s presentation was somewhat reminiscent of a school counselor’s,  attesting the m o s,  Military Occupational Specialty descriptions from the large manual,  explaining there were the prerequisite in acquiring a specialty .   The first was determined by the scores attained on the  AFQT,  Armed Forces Qualification 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 occupational specialty similar but not the same as his cousin Buds with missiles. The potential recruit found it challenging to make a decision,  mainly because of a lack of in-depth information.

   

The Sergeant having a up-to-date printout of m o s 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 eight or sixteen weeks,  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 specialty school,  it would be well over  9 months before he would be scheduled for a duty station.  Sergeant Casserly pointing out,  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,  because of his age, not having attained his 18th birthday his parents were required to sign an underage  waiver, the youth could be scheduled to report for a physical and qualification testing, but not to be sworn-in  before his 18th birthday.  Gary affirming is decision to enlist.

 

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 in line examinations portrayed in the movies.

 

Once completed, Gary relieved when certified as physically qualified, having a concern that his hundred thirteen pound weight may have prohibited his enlistment.  The testing area was a large room, 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.

  

Sergeant Casserly making his final visit, Gary’s test scores having exceeded all requirements, including qualification for o c s, 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, the youth questioning, could it be the expediency of commitment to a military enlistment.   patience was fleeting as the days passed  waiting for his Call To Service date,  the questions lingered, were these feelings a residual of haste.

     

The daily 13 steps up to the mail box on Greenly Drive giving the youth a new conscious meaning to the past,  a new aura of his surroundings,  the memories of home, his family,  its moments of elation, and the caliber of school days friendships, this world would soon depart.   Gary reflecting that something was astray, questioning if his decision, was this closing of a chapter in his life? or just maybe, the beginning page of a new one.

 

 

 

 

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