Monday, March 23, 2009

Ft. Leonard Wood in 1969: a viewer from my old AIT in Missouri checks in today and I get all nostalgic...

  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.

24 comments:

Michael said...

Was assigned to Co B, 2d Bn, 1st AIT Bde (Pioneer) during April and May 1969. Your pics bring back memories, if not the best. Came from new brick barracks at Ft. Dix for BCT, altho Ft. Wood was a better place to be (primarily due to weather and shorter training day/week). Went from there to same barracks at Ft. Belvoir for another 23 weeks. Never got used to the latrines.

The Avenger said...

I did basic at Ft. Wood Jan-March
1969. Company A-3-3.

Thanks for the memories.

Unknown said...

Just found my platoon picture with the A33 dated 8 April 1969. Faces brought back memories but no names. I remember my best friend was an Eskimo from Alaska. Fourth row up second from the left. I was to the left of the standard bearer. It was ironic that when we got our orders I was given orders to go to Alaska and my buddy went to Nam.

Tallsilver said...

Basic training there Jan-March of '69. Cold, wet, and long days. Thanks for jogging the memories.

E-5-3 was my cycle.

Anonymous said...

My Father was Col. John D. Cunningham-Commander of the "Blue Devils" from 1969 or 1970 to 1972. Surprisingly there is no information about him at all. He then went to the Presidio of San Francisco and Commanded until 1976. This was supposedly the last of the real Command Post which also included Ft. Baker, Barry , Cronkite and Hamilton AFB. When he died in 2008 I was not given anything to remember him by except the few pictures I have taken. Anyone with memories or in the Brigade would be appreciated. Names of people that may have pictures or stories. I eventually want to create a web page of his career and Commands. Thanks for any info. Already went to the page you have discussed. Thank you for your Time!
Joanne C. Ward (Cunningham)

Anonymous said...

You can find me on prov31mrs@yahoo.com
Thanks!

DougA-NJ said...

Michael, of Co B-2-1, April and May of 1969:
I was there in that company at that time.. as a "holdover", working in the 2nd Battalion HQ as a clerk/driver for the Battalion Co. I was living in the barracks buildings with the B-2-1 trainees, but had a private room on the 2nd floor.
Do recall that I had the Battalion CO's car parked outside the door of our barracks?
Doug A.

TMS said...

I was in Echo Company, 4th Bn. 2nd Brigade (BCT) Oct. '69-March '70. It was far too cold for us Georgia Boys but we made it. I have forgotten my unit for AIT, but also served at FLW. My MOS was 51B20 (Heavy Construction Carpenter)Does anyone remember an outbreak of meningitis at that time?
Thank you for a chance to remember and maybe find one of my fellow soldiers that I trained with.

Anonymous said...

I did my basic training at LeonardWood, January 1966, B 1 3
Dsyarber@att.net

Anonymous said...

I did my basic and AIT at Leonard Wood from 11/70-4/71. little Korea. arrived just after the meningitis event. B-2-2 for BCT and D-3-4 for AIT..51alpha utility worker. thanks for the memories

Anonymous said...

did my AIT there from october to december of 1969. MOS was 71H20 personnell specialist so i had it easy. i do remember those "private" toilets. i was in D-3-5 and we had, i think, at least 8 toilets in a row. you either went or your guts would blow up. i lucked out and went to germany for 18 months. not bad for being a draftee in august 1969. may those who died in the Nam rest in peace. i am alive because of them.

Larry Walther said...

I was a reservist from California, combat engineer from November 1969 - April 1970. Do you remember the 'wind chill factor' being - 50°? In basic we were C-2-3 in brick barracks where the boilers were always broke down. Brr! Yes I remember a serious case of spinal meningitis. Also 2 'Georgia Peaches' I think they called themselves... a fellow named Warmbracht (sp?) and Pease. They also referred to 'River Rats' as well.

Anonymous said...

I was in C-1-2 in '69, and C-3-51. I hated boot camp, we were in the tin huts with only one latrine building in the company area, but they did make me a solder, and it sure helped down the road. Thanks for bringing up the memories!

Anonymous said...

Served basic E-1-3 and AIT 36 Kilo at Fort Leonard Wood from 12/69 to 5/70. Forgot all about those latrines, any of you guys remember keeping exactly 1" of water in the "butt cans" nailed to the posts during "night duty" ? Thanks for the memories.

John Mikes said...

Did basic at Leonard Wood summer of 1969. A-1-2 WETSU, drill sgt!

We were the last class for our DIs, who were moving on to other duties. A couple went back to Nam, I think. They were unmotivated to turn us into soldiers because of that, and because the company was overwhlemingly composed of reservists and national guard from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Reservists and NGs didn't go to Nam so we suspected the DIs didn't much care if we were soldiers or not. It was also a standard issue central Missouri summer -- hot, and the guys from up north had a hard time dealing with it. I think the word came down to make sure none of them died in the heat, so we seldom did any PT or low crawling. I was from Missouri and used to the heat and humidity, so I cruised through basic.

I was Army Security Agency and left there for Ft. Devens to become a 33C.

John Mikes
johnmikes AT comcast DOT net

Unknown said...


Also went thru basic and AIT (36K) at Leonard Wood, 12/69 to 5/70. Went home for 7 days and to Korea for 13 months. For anonymous poster, if your Drill Sgts. were Beam and Henderson please drop me an email.

Mike Crabtree said...

I did my ait at Fort leonardwood in A-3-1 in late 1969, Sgt jumping Eagle was our drill sergeant, anyone out there from that time

Anonymous said...

my name is eric morse,i am looking for anyone that did m.o.s training at fort leonard ,in dec.1966 to 1967,in unit a-2-5,my father robert morse was there during this time,would love to talk to anyone who knew him,and might even have photos..any help would be greatly appreciated as my father passed away sep 2002 of mesothelioma and am just trying to find whatever i can find...thank you

Anonymous said...

i meant to say my dad was at fort leonard wood not leonard,'66 to '67 A-2-5...

CRS said...

I went through FLW basic April - June 1969 A22. We were in the new 2 level brick barracks. Easy to keep clean & new latrines. Most of our Di's had just come back from Nam & did not take any shit from new recruits. After a few weeks most of the Di's mellowed and we could see they were decent guys. A few though remained pricks for the entire 8 weeks. The kid who slept next to me had a tough time all the way through & the night before we went to the rifle range with live ammo he said to me " first I'm gonna shoot (Sgt) Dieter & then I'm gonna shoot (Sgt) Brown" I told him that was a bad ides and he agreed with me & said that he would shoot Brown first. As things turned out he was not a man of his word. lots of memories CRS

JIMMY PHILLIPS said...

I DID MY BASIC,AND AIT THERE FROM SEPT TO DEC, OF 1969 A-2-2

Sal G said...

12b10 Combat Eng F-1-1 AIT April to June 1969 Ft.Leonard Wood.
Did BCT at Ft.Gordon,Ga B-5-2 Feb to April 1969 Both Forts had old WWII wooden barracks. Draftee US51733166 from Massachusetts. Meet a lot of good people. Becker, Surovey,Frich,Hare just to name a few. Hope they all made it home safely.

Sal G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ImBlogCrazy said...

Sounds like you were two cycles ahead of me Sal. I'll always wonder what happened to my friends there.

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