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Thread: Enjoyable time in the Army in 1960. Impossible?

  1. #1
    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Enjoyable time in the Army in 1960. Impossible?

    I guess I just ended up falling into a barrel of wonderful lavender flower aroma in my work life at times. I only met one lady that made it worth while and that didn't work out and that is a different story but we are still close friends.

    In 1959, I joined the Army for helicopter pilot training in a warrant officer position. After quitting my job, tying up personal things, I went in for my tests and medical exams. Since I was just a kid of 19, I really didn't watch the ins and outs so when all testing was done, I was told that field was full and a long waiting list. Never believe a military recruiter. So, what the heck, lets go in unassigned for 3 years anyway, called regular Army, not the volunteer draft. Some will probably think I was crazy and I probably was but I really enjoyed those three years as you will see later.

    When I joined the Army, I owned a mobile home parked in Lincoln, Nebraska that I lived in while working as a partner in a 24 hour truck stop in northeast Lincoln. Not bad for a 19 year old kid that did the books at night while my great partner did the mechanical work of big rigs durring the day. Remember this trailer as it will come up later. I did all my testing in Omaha with only personal effects I thought I would need while going through flight school. Needless to say, I didn't make that so the powers at be assigned me to a communications school at Fort Gordon, GA after basic in beautiful Fort Carson, Colo. I even enjoyed basic since I was used to hard work and taking orders from my Father without questing them. On the final test at Fort Carson just before getting out of basic and while on a "camping trip" called a bivouac, we got over a foot of snow up in the Rockies. Probably half the tents that were not set up correct fell down on the people inside. Unbelievable probably but the final test was cut short and we all left to our assigned schools.

    While at Fort Carson, I kind of ran into something really great thanks to being a member of AOPA where I had a credit car for Hertz that allowed me to rent a car even though I was under 25 and in the Army. One day when the weather was great, I got 5 other recruits to chip in and I rented a Chevy convt and drove to the top of Pikes Peak. What a trip. I really didn't think that 283 inch engine would pull us to the top at times. Sure came down in a hurry and stopped often to cool the brakes. None of us poured Coors on the brakes to cool them though. They drank them.

    Once out of basic, I was sent to the Army signal training center at Fort Gordon, GA. It started out in basic communications and learning Morse Code (which I already knew since I was 7 years old) where I ended up copying 35 wpm before I had to start typing because I couldn't write any faster. After going through that, I was sent to a rather secure school to learn about crypto communications. Can't go into that much though but when I was discharged, the CIA sent me a sixteen page employment application in triplicate to submit. I have always wondered where that would have taken me with my training in cryptographic communications. Gee, I could have been working for Bush or Clinton, right?

    This school pretty well shut down over Christmas and there were only four of us that didn't go home for the holidays. Instead, we just horsed around the base having all kinds of fun until we got bored since there were no ladies to chase because they were on vacation also. Finally, we asked our First Sergeant if there wasn't something that needed done to keep us busy. Turned out the mess hall needed painted so the four of us jumped at the chance and became instant friends with the Mess Sergeant. The way it turned out after all the other guys came back to school, the four of us never had to stand in line for chow again and were allowed to enter from the side door and be served as we requested. Our Mess Sergeant always gave us exactly what we wanted, called special order, steaks while everyone else had meatloaf.

    Time came to get orders after school was over. I suspect because of my training, I ended up being sent right to the DMZ in Korea to work at my job specialty. Even the early field exercises were fun for me. My sergeant and I, with our own special communications vehicle on field excursuses, would test each other on field excursus by allowing the person on duty to doze off while on duty while the other stood radio guard. We both learned, even while asleep, we could hear our own Morse Code address and wake up immediately when it hit our head phones. I have always believed that was why I never got into trouble by calling out the incorrect lady's name at the most inopportune time so to speak.

    All the time through basic and communications school, I still had my mobile home and it was rented out enough to make the payments. My monthly payments were more than my Army pay per month.

    Now on to Korea after flying over the beautiful Pacific Ocean with a stop in Honolulu which turned into a mechanical with our MATS DC-6. We were all dressed in wool uniforms and talk about hot.... Finally off we go and finally got to Japan where we switched to a C-124. Now I knew a little about flying at that time but I didn't than, and I still do not now, can understand how that aircraft stays in the air. We landed in Korea with three turning which really isn't a big problem, but immediately on touchdown, the other engine on the same side was shut down but not feathered. Make your guess there.

    Finally I get to my Artillery unit near the DMZ in Korea. We had the only Honest John rocket unit in Korea and lets just say we had some very unusual warheads stored underground near us. I was assigned into the comm section which I really didn't like because there wasn't anything to do so dropped a few hints about looking for more to do. Finally, the unit was looking for a message center operator. "Never volunteer in the Army, right?" Well, I did and talk about fun for almost a year. My position required me to be on duty 24/7 as I saw fit and I was responsible to control all the publications relating to Atomic warheads. I had no real boss but it appeared that everyone in Korea at that time trusted me. My Jeep was on dispatch 24/7 with no reporting of it's use. All MPs in Korea were informed of my Jeep numbers and they were never allowed to stop me for any reason no matter what I did. I lived in my office and there were only two people in all of Korea that could enter my room/office unannounced and that was the Commanding General of Korea and my Company Commander. My office was next to the officers club and low and behold, my operation fell under the communications officer who just happened to be the officer in charge of the officer's club. When I was away on duty which was nothing unusual, he made arrangements for his work staff at the officer's club to deliver my meals to my room, one course at a time. This is the Army and I was an enlisted no body?

    Because of my work and availability of my Jeep, I got to know our Battalion Sergeant Major very well as well as the Battalion Commander and every so often, they would come over to my office and ask if I could drive them to a local orphanage to deliver boxes of clothes collected by family and friends back home. If I could, needless to say I always did but military requirements always came first and they always respected that. How about that, a high up officer and a sergeant major asking an E-4 enlisted man if I could do something?

    Those trips were always something that really got to me and with many tears. We would pull in with 2 or 3 huge boxes of goodies for the kids. The Red Cross ladies would meet us and take us inside of the so called building (no running water, no bathrooms, sewer systems, etc.). The oldest child was chosen to take charge as he opened the boxes and pulled out an item of clothing or toys. After looking around the room he would call out a name and that child would walk forward, not run, to take it with the most beautiful smile on their face that you have never seen before. That older child always made sure every other child received something and at times, he/she would end up with nothing. Once we understood that, we always held back a special box for him/her. They really understood how lucky they were. What has happened to our kids now days, especially my own kids, when it comes to expecting things.

    Part of my duties involved driving right along the DMZ fence where I could look over to the side and watch the guys on the other side watching me. We both knew we both carried fully automatic weapons just in case but I never had a problem. Even the M-1 Carbine with two long clips taped together held enough power to get out of the heat but maybe not out of the area if those guys wanted what I was carrying. Kind of a joke but I always brassoed my ammo rounds. If I was going to fire to save my life, I wanted to make sure I didn't send them something what was contaminated. Our Battalion Commander always smiled when he saw me polishing the brass.

    OK, now my next assignment in Kansas. Is that a real state? Has to be since it is next to Misery and
    New-Brass- Key.
    As I said before, I was sent into an aviation unit with the great Otters and 205 Hueys.
    That outfit was sent on orders to a country that will remain unnamed near where I had just returned from and a hardship area, so I had to be transferred to a different unit. It turned out to be an ordnance unit and we were responsible to make sure all items were delivered to the unit before departure. Our unit worked 24/7 typing up parts orders. Kind of interesting in a way to see how our military can get things done in a pinch but never did understand why it was not being done day to day before.

    OK, back to the story at Fort Riley, Kansas. Let me insert a short comment. In my early days of road construction especially in Nebraska while working on I-80, I was called by a friend to come to work and help build a section of I-70 near Junction City, Kansas so I kind of knew the area and, so to speak, the ladies. I joke of course, well more or less.

    After finishing the send off of the aviation outfit to Asia, things calmed down but our company office came up short a company clerk. Who, me, volunteer again?

    The company clerk was a weekend wonder and a really great guy, so the unit had to have someone and guess who? I set in and learned the ropes in a hurry and the guy got to go home to his family on time. While training under him, I realized there was a serious problem with our First Sergeant. What does a guy do? Once the position was turned over to me, I tried working with the guy. I must say, I received unbelievable privileges. Remember my mobile home? I was allowed to locate it on a mobile home park next to the military base with the full approval of the First Sergeant and Company Commander, I was allowed to live off base as a single person. I always had to be at work at 4 or 5 am and would walk to work unless the weather was bad and if that happened, the First Sergeant, who lived across the street, would drive me to work.
    Thanks to my Dad and brother, they built a system on a farm pickup to tow my trailer to Kansas and set it up. I suddenly became the "pet" of the park of ladies needed help with their trailers. I also did the mowing for the owners of the park.
    Oh yes, back to work.

    My company commander really trusted me probably more than the first sergeant so when the chips were down, he came to me. It ended up with me taking over the duty rosters and all office records, and for those that have spent time in the service, you will know what that means. When I went in to the unit, the morning report (the form submitted daily to record personnel) was something like 7 personnel off. I had to go back some 7 years to find the mistakes that lead to the problem. At one point as I was trying to correct the problem, I was called into a rather high up meeting with an officer to explain what I was doing and when I explained that my company commander wanted an accurate account of his manpower after I told him there was a problem. When it came time for the annual IG inspections, I was standing by instead of the First Sergeant. If it is OK with you guys, I will brag a little. I never got a deficiency on any inspection and at that time I was only an E-4 doing E-8 work which was supposed to be done by an E-8. It was determined by the inspection teams that my company commander was the only commander on the base that passed office inspection without an error. Check what happened next. Pardon me while I smile and remember.

    Oh, but the fun was when I could write myself a 3 day pass to hitchhike back to Nebraska to spend time with my parents. On one hitchhiking trip I ended up riding with the neighbor of my uncle in Nebraska. In a sense, as an enlisted person with the rank of an E-4, I held just about the same authority as a Captain in my work area. Most officers and top enlisted personnel were very concerned about how they talked to me and my company commander just loved it. Finally someone in his office with some brass bal.s well, you know what I mean. Sorry ladies. That year really turned out to be very enjoyable and I even learned how to enjoy a rodeo thanks to the driver of a high up officer on our mutual days off.

    OK, back to my mobile home.

    Once I got my trailer parked near the base, I had a welcome in party for my friends from base. It was a good old beer party and a little work involved with a good BBQ. Like waxing the trailer. They got a little work done before the sauce got to them so I ended up finishing it myself which turned out to be fun too. My neighbor was in and out of her place in probably 4 or 5 bikinis just to keep cool, so she said. That story will have to end here though before the rest of the story is told and what a story. Once out of the service, things got even better so to speak but not printable.

    It was strange in a way because in my three years in the Army, I never had a true friend outside of work. I was always too busy working 24/7. I read all the stories about military friends but never had the luck of knowing those guys. Only in aviation was I that lucky.

  2. #2
    howieb38's Avatar
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    Hi Ernie:

    What a great recounting of your experiences. You should write your memoirs. I enjoyed reading it a lot. :P

    Thanks.

  3. #3
    AlaskaAV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howieb38
    Hi Ernie:

    What a great recounting of your experiences. You should write your memoirs. I enjoyed reading it a lot. :P

    Thanks.
    Thanks for the comment. Needless to say, it has been a fun and interesting life.

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