Ain’t Released Me Yet
Memoirs of a REMF
Copyright© 2016 by Robert B. Martin, IV
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without express written permission from the copyright owner, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal. I have attempted to recreate events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them.
The End is Near
“You’re off to great places, today is your day!” ............Dr. Seuss
As I previously mentioned, our training company was the only one not granted any weekend passes during the entire eight weeks of BCT. We were given PX privileges on Saturday or Sunday afternoons only after about four weeks of training. Early in the training cycle our company commander, CPT Spacek, promised us weekend passes during graduation weekend. He even encouraged us to invite our families to the ceremony so that we would be able to spend time with them. Carol Ann was about six months pregnant but her folks agreed to drive her the seven hundred and seventy miles from Toccoa, Georgia to Ft. Leonard Wood, MO to attend my graduation and spend the weekend with me before I shipped out to Field Artillery AIT at Ft. Sill, OK.
Graduation weekend came and Carol Ann arrived. It was April 4, 1969 and CPT Spacek informed us that no passes would be issued as previously promised. No reason was given and I hated the man for going back on his promise. I’m glad that I never saw him again. As far as I was concerned he was a sniveling, little asshole. SGT Lever (the “mean” one), bless his heart, allowed me to spend a brief period of time alone with Carol Ann on the evening before graduation but I was not allowed to leave the post and would have to return to the barracks in time to clean all my gear.
As a graduating trainee, I received a certificate of completion and a copy of the “Yearbook” for which I had posed at the beginning of BCT. The yearbook was very much like a high school annual. Probably the closest thing to one that some of these young kids ever received. The stock pictures in it seemed to portray everyone having a grand old time. The weather looked great. It reminded me of summer camp. Except that it wasn’t.
That night after graduation, the night before we were to leave for AIT, and after I told Carol Ann goodbye, we were up late cleaning and turning in our weapons and gear. Everyone was in an exceptional mood. We had graduated and the hell called BCT was over! We felt invincible. That night I came up with a great idea for a practical joke. It was SGT Lever’s night to conduct bed check. I’ve already told you how he would wait until about thirty minutes after lights out before stomping in and turning on all the lights. I suggested that we stand on our top bunks and unscrew all of the overhead light bulbs just, not all the way, just enough to keep them from coming on when SGT Lever flicked the light switch. Everyone thought it was a great idea and would be very funny. We climbed up on the top bunks, loosened all of the bulbs, climbed back into our bunks, and waited for SGT Lever to arrive. I could hear a lot of snickering and it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. This was going to be so good!
Finally, the door banged open and boots stomped in followed momentarily by a click - click - click - click. Then all of a sudden there was a piercing scream, “Goddam muthafuckas! I’ll give you to the count of ten to get these lights back on!”
Blankets were flying and guys were jumping all over the place screwing in light bulbs as SGT Lever counted down from ten to zero. Before he reached zero the lights were back on and we were standing at attention at the foot of our bunks while a furious, red faced SGT Lever pranced back and forth in front of us.
“Assume the front leaning rest position and give me fifty!” he screamed, spit flying from his mouth. We gave him fifty quick push-ups and then he made us remain in the “up” position while he yelled at us some more. He wanted to know whose smart idea it was to unscrew the bulbs.
Nobody said a word.
“Gimme fifty more!” he screamed, more spit flying from his mouth.
We did another fifty pushups and again he kept us in the “up” position.
“I said, whose idea was this?”
Again, no response.
“Gimme fifty more!”
We were getting very tired and probably could not do another fifty, but we struggled as best we could. We were also more than a little curious and somewhat scared about what else he might to do to us.
Again he screamed, “Whose idea was this?”
I knew that we couldn’t do any more push-ups so I sucked it up and while still in the front leaning rest position, shouted as loud as I could, “It was my idea, drill sergeant!”
SGT Lever’s back was to me when I shouted and he wasn’t sure which one of us had answered.
He turned around and yelled, “Who said that?”
Forty-nine voices shouted loudly in unison, “I DID, DRILL SERGEANT!”
He turned, glared at everyone, stomped towards the door, turned out the lights, and left the barracks without saying another word.
That’s when I knew what basic training was all about. We started out as forty-nine strangers but after eight very hard weeks we acted as one. We had become a unit. The forty-nine Musketeers. “All for one and one for all.”
I often wonder if SGT Lever wasn’t actually proud of us. It was not like him to walk out the way he did without administering more punishment.
Continued in Chapter 18, Field Artillery Training