One of the first things we did while at the Reception Station was go for haircuts. A haircut in the Army means, and I suppose always has meant, a total buzz. It only took the barber about a minute – maybe two – to cut off all your hair down to about a quarter of an inch! Upon reflection, I think getting a buzz has at least two purposes. One is to let you know dramatically you’re not a civilian anymore. Second is for reasons of hygiene. As many guys as they ran through the process during the days when we had a draft in this country, you never knew who had clean hair and who, well, didn’t.
Another common exercise at the Reception Station was being fitted for uniforms. In the Army, the term “uniforms” takes on a broader meaning than one might first suspect. Being issued uniforms in the Army means from the skin out and from head to foot – dress shoes, (called low-quarters), combat boots, olive drab socks, underwear, fatigues, caps, field jacket, steel helmet and liner, web belt with brass buckle, and duffle bag – just to mention the stuff I can immediately recall. While all this was going on, your last name is imprinted above the pocket on all your olive drab fatigue shirts. Above the other pocket was “U.S. Army.” I’m fairly sure the duffle bag was issued so you’d have enough room for all the stuff you’d been issued. As I recall, the duffle bag was full by the time we had been issued all our equipment and probably weighed at least eighty pounds.
The next fun exercise at the Reception Station was the physical exam and vaccinations. The actual medical part of the process was rather perfunctory, if you didn’t mind standing in line in your brand new underwear for a couple of hours. The inoculations were another matter altogether. There were six medics standing in pairs, each holding a device that looked like a paint spray gun. We were warned to stand still when we were given the vaccinations. If you jerked your arm, your skin would tear because the actual shots were injected into your arms. No needles were used – probably would have taken too much time. So, you got two shots at a time, one in each arm, by the first pair of medics. The same process was repeated three times. In all, we got six injections in about three minutes. We were even inoculated against the plague! I also remember one guy who had been acting pretty tough until he was about to get his first pair of injections – he turned white as a sheet and passed right out on the floor! That experience took a little of the swagger out of his step!