What a difference it was being at Headquarters and Service Company (HSC)! I felt like I could relax a bit, although there were new issues to deal with, too. Being around more soldiers, especially a bunch who were bitter about being discharged, made for dealing with the whole fake tough guy type a lot. I’ve never been much of a fan of that personality and being in an environment where there were serious consequences for bad behavior was difficult at times.
During the first week at HSC, I almost came to blows with a few people over stupid things. One memorable near scuffle was literally about being a little bit taller than a dude. He was so bitter about it. I don’t even know where it came from or how it started, but dude got mad at me for being just a bit taller than him and wanted to throw. Luckily one of the sergeants who oversaw us rejects came around the corner at the right time and nothing happened.
Lionel and I were having a lot of fun, though, after work hours were over. Laughing about dumb things and telling sort of tall tales about what home was like for us. I shared with him my love for going to see bands play and he talked a lot about hunting and fishing. Somewhere in the middle we could talk about sports, too. The baseball playoffs were in full gear and there was a lot of talk about that.
Sports were a common ground for a lot of us and this was also a source of arguments. My Dodgers had been terrible that year, so I took a fair amount of grief about it. The Cardinals were still in St. Louis, so my football team was still the Raiders, and they weren’t great in those days, either, and the Suns were pretty bad in those days, too. I had nothing to brag about, but I did like to talk sports. One of my other buddies, Jimmy from Chicago, was a huge basketball fan, so we talked hoops a lot.
On the first Saturday I was there was October 10 and 11th. We were in formation after breakfast and Sgt. Kitchen, who was maybe the most gifted and articulate user of the word “Fuck” I have ever met asked if there were any volunteers for a special detail. Lionel and I stepped forward and were promptly rewarded with the opportunity to go with a small detail of soldiers to help demo a building that was going to be a new church on base.
We worked all day throwing stuff away, taking fixtures off walls, and prepping for painting. It was not terrible, and the pastor seemed like a good guy. He had a grill set up and made us burgers and dogs for lunch. It was nice to sit in the Georgia breeze, eat burgers, and feel like regular guys doing a good thing. Lionel and I decided we would continue volunteering for special details as it might get us away from the barracks. We also decided we would tell the others that it had sucked when we got back.
That night, during formation again, there was a call for a special detail for the next morning and we stepped up. This ended up being one of the more army-esque things I got to do. We had to get up at 0400 and meet a Captain downstairs who would pick us up. There were about six of us who were sleepily standing out there in the cold morning air, pitch black, too, wondering what in the hell we were in for when a big troop transport truck pulled up.
“Get in the back! Double-time!” was all we heard, and we did what we were told.
After what seemed like a long, cold ride, the truck stopped, and we were told to get out.
It was way too early for all that army nonsense in my book, but when I realized why we were standing at attention in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, I understood. We were in the presence of a general. The captain who picked us up told him we were from HSC and there to help out. The general told us to be at ease and said something along the lines of “Glad you’re here, boys. We need all the help we can get.”
There was a long line of trucks like the one we had gotten out of sitting there in the dark and our job was to unload them. Apparently, a bunch of units on base were doing some field exercises for a few days and we were going to help unload the supplies. We were paired off and sent to trucks to start unloading.
As the units started arriving to the site, I felt like I was really in the army for the first time since the first couple of days on base. People were moving everywhere and looking like they had purpose. Eventually we started getting to the trucks with weapons on them and that was more than interesting to me. I held my first M-60 and it felt good. I remember wondering if we were going to be there long enough to maybe see one of these bad boys fired or better yet, fire one ourselves.
A lot of the boxes were very heavy and after a few hours, we were all pretty spent. Luckily, we had a lot of help once the units got there and by 0900 or so, we were done. The captain arranged for us to get a ride back to HSC and told us he owed us one, but that debt was never paid. Well, at least not to me. When we got back to the barracks, we were filthy and tired, but we were also free to move about the base as we pleased until 1800 hours. We got cleaned up and grabbed the base bus to the PX as soon as possible. I wanted to get myself a Walkman and some cassettes and some snacks. I also had an idea about how to make a little money on the side.
See you tomorrow.
These suckers are pretty crazy to hold in your hands.