My drill sergeant, Charley Tucker, discovered in late June of 1969 that he’d be shepherding a platoon whose members nearly all had a couple years of college, which made for an unusual cycle. We knew within minutes he had some respect for a college education, as he put the group’s college grads in the platoon’s leadership slots. But it was also pretty clear that Fort Knox wasn’t going to be much like college. Fifth Platoon developed into something a little odd–bookish, well-disciplined, but not especially fit–and we learned to help each other through the training. My memories of the cycle were that it wasn’t so much difficult as relentless; the pressure never let up, though the emphasis changed from week to week. It helped a lot that I was reasonably fit, and accustomed to long hikes. It didn’t help that I was only barely competent with a rifle. It was clear to us that, at least from Charley, the pettiness and meanness were part of the course work, not part of the personality.
Two bad memories from that summer:
- Another drill sergeant inflicted a fifty-pushup punishment on me because I didn’t recognize my name one morning. He’d twisted it badly out of shape, and it just plain slipped by me that he was trying to get my attention. Since arguing with drill sergeants about this sort of thing is pointless, I did the pushups. I trust Charley gave him hell later.
- I was one of the few people in the entire country who worked on July 20, 1969. Even most of Fort Knox got to watch the moon landing. I still haven’t forgiven whoever decided I’d spend the day pretending to guard the post. I’m quite certain the real guards had access to televisions.
I read Sergeant Rob because he’s thoughtful, says interesting things about his job, and says interesting things about the world. Rob’s occasional cheap shot is more than made up for by the thoughtful commentary. That I don’t always agree is, well, sort of the point.