The other day I was rummaging through some books at home and came across the “year book” from my days in the Army. The year book was a chronicle of the time spent in Basic Combat Training (BCT) and a little about Advanced Individual Training (AIT). As I thumbed through the book, memories came flooding back about what it was like being a “trainee” at beautiful Fort Knox, Kentucky in August 1968. I imagine anybody who has ever been in the Army experienced many of the same things I did, but I thought it might be interesting to share some of the memories of those days with you.
To start, there probably is no greater shock in the everyday world than going from civilian life to Army life. There’s just nothing quite like if for most young people who, for whatever reason, have made the decision to join up. Suffice it to say, life in Basic Combat Training is a rude awakening to an entirely different world!
I had a slight edge on most of the guys in my basic training platoon. As I’ve written before, I was fortunate enough to have spent four summers at Culver Military Academy; and I already knew how to march, how to do the 16-count manual of arms, how to make a military style bed, and the invaluable lesson of doing what you’re told to do and keeping your mouth shut about it.
The first step in the transition from civilian life to Army life is called the Reception Station. We were under the gentle tutelage of a crusty old buck sergeant who wasn’t about to put up with one ounce of nonsense. He was what we used to call a “lifer.” Anybody who was going to spend 20 or more years in the Army was referred to as a “lifer.”