Infantry School

NOT EVERYONE GRADUATED from Basic Combat Training. At least, they didn't on their first try. A few were discharged for medical or “other than honorable reasons.” The stresses of the program of instruction proved too great for them. 
There were some few who were “recycled” to another BCT company just starting to try again. A few were reassigned to the “bolo” company – the men who lacked any athletic ability.

Our graduation was celebrated with a parade. We stood at parade rest with two other training companies and listened to a speech by the base commanding general and then “passed in review” while the band played “Hey Look Me Over.” That brought back an interesting memory.

“Hey Look Me Over” was written by Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman for the musical “Wildcat.” I saw “Wildcat” in Philadelphia starring Lucille Ball when I was in pre-law. We had gone to debate health care (yes, we were debating nationalized health care way back in 1960) at Temple University. (I was against it and won, arguing that we needed a plan to fix the private insurance system but never allow the federal government to take it over – but that's another story.) We met Ms Ball after the show and had a delightful evening with her. Unfortunately, “Wildcat” closed after only 171 performances on Broadway. However, it left us with the perfect song to accompany a military inspection.
The company commander was authorized to promote the top one third of the graduates to Private E-2. I believe at that time, it earned us a $7/month raise in pay – from $89/month to $96. Don't laugh. What did we have to spend it on. Every need was provided for by the Army – food, shelter, clothing, medical care. We only spent our money on beer and cigarettes. Yes, soldiers were allowed to drink beer at the Post Exchange (PX) even though they were under age. 

The PX sold only “green” beer – a variety that was canned before fermentation was completed. It only contained half the alcohol of regular beer. Today, we call it “lite” beer. Off post, it was called “watered down” and a bartender could be hurt if caught adding water to the drinks at a bar.

Of course, none of this was any problem for me. I was already past twenty-one. Well, it did create one problem when we received our first passes to spend a day in Augusta, Georgia. All the other guys wanted me to buy booze for them. That's just the kind of trouble I didn't need. Ultimately, I bought a pint of rum and promised to share it when we got back to the barracks. Somehow it was “lost” before we reached there.

In any event, we marched to a post theater following our graduation parade and Captain Sevcik, our company commanding officer, congratulated us, then began reading the role call of those who had been promoted. When he came to “Durish, John T.” he paused, looked up confused and asked, “Who the hell's Durish?”

It made me happy. I had stayed under his radar for eight weeks.


03/30/2012 00:29

We only thought Basic Combat Training was a bitter experience. But it was only the beginning. We looked forward to the Parade that would take us away from a cranky old drill sergeant. Little did we know that what he taught us was more valuable than the Ten Commandments.

03/30/2012 18:27

Boy - that brings back a lot of memories. My Company Commander in Basic was straight back from Vietnam - I happened to be CQ runner the night he came on board and I heard him tell the D.I.s there would be no undue harassment of the recruits - and there wasn't. That's probably why we set a P.T. record at Fort Benning that I know stood for four years and may still stand.

09/12/2012 10:26

lovely blog you have! :)


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