I was checking out where readers were coming from this morning when I ran across one from Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri who read my post "Liars! Liars! Liars! Sen. Chris Dodd caught lying about AIG bonus backing." Memories came back like ghosts in the night, as I recalled my past association with this old Army fort. Don't get me wrong. Those days don't bring a lot of smiles. I hated the place and thought it's nickname "Fort Lost In The Woods" was appropriate.
I did my Army Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. The photos are via photobucket.com (also thanks to Veterans of Military Service at rallaxscurioandrelicfirearmsforums.yuku.com... )
I'd like to point out that this link is about someone (the only name I could find was Gschwertly which I presume is his last name) who was also in Ft. Leonard Wood while I was there in 1969. He was in a different company, and had a different MOS. But, when I read his piece about revisiting that fort and his memories there, it shook some cobwebs loose and I reluctantly went down memory lane too.
As you can see there wasn't much privacy in those days(left). The building on the right is a mess hall.
Our wooden barracks were also leftovers from WW II. They were heated with wood-burning stoves, and being on "Fire Watch" was a serious duty then. I was in Bravo Company, 31 AIT. I went to a two-week leadership course prior to joining B Company (some DI thought I looked big enough at six-foot-two, 200 pounds, to lead the training cycle). The only reason I did it was the promise of eating with the NCO's (food meant a lot to me as I was a growing boy) who got the best food. I wore a blue pull-over arm patch with a Star and Master Sgt.'s rank on it, and was expected to call the company to attention from everything from morning roll call, to the time they were dismissed for the day.
I had to lead the company marching, running, and everything else that was done. My sense of cadence was lousy and pretty soon our training NCO pulled out one of the trainees with a big mouth (and sense of rhythm), and let him call out the cadence. It worked for me because by then I was reduced to croaking.
My worst memories were those days we tromped through the snow in the Big Piney Woods on training exercises, like reading maps and using a compass. We had to slog through the frozen land at night while learning how to read the stars to navigate.
Perhaps the greatest irony (at least to me) was all of this training in the snow when I would be going to a tropical land. Most of us knew we were "Nam bait." During my basic at Ft. Ord, California, I training with the M-14 rifle. By the time I went to AIT all combat troops had to qualify with an M-16. Memories of shooting from the prone, and sitting position, in a pile of frozen snow while trying to pick out white camouflaged targets, leave me cold today!
I went from the snow into the frying pan, to the place our DI's called "The Nam" in 1970. I was a Combat Engineer (31st Eng.Bn) and spent most of my time there sweeping for mines on lonely roads wondering how I could have thought my training was so hard. I would have gladly gone back and tromped through that snow again, if it were possible. But, as usual, reality trumped my dreams.
As It Stands, this little trip down memory lane was good for me, because I realize how lucky I am to be here now.