A highlight of basic training was marksmanship instruction. We were all issued M-14 rifles, (keep in mind that in 1968 the Army was transitioning from the M-1 to the M-16 and the M-14 was an intermediate weapon in that process.) It weighed about twelve pounds, but I thought it was a great rifle. I recall one morning we were supposed to march the five miles out to the firing range. It was pouring rain – and this was in late October, so it was very chilly outside. I can remember thinking, “They’ll never make us march out there in this weather.” Yes, they did. We had on our steel pots, ponchos, and rifles slung upside down underneath our ponchos. We slogged the five miles out to the firing range with water dripping down the back of our helmets inside our ponchos drenching the back of our shirts. The firing range had been used for a very long time, so there were indentations in the ground at each firing position. I can remember thinking, “They’ll never make us lie down in all that water.” Yes, they did. My particular firing position was filled with about five inches of muddy rainwater. For those of you who’ve been in the Army, you’ll recall that the prone firing position means lying flat on your stomach. In this case, we could rest our weapons on a couple of sand bags to help steady our aim. I was so cold I couldn’t have held the rifle steady any other way.
Please be aware that going through Army basic is nothing compared to being in actual combat, which I never was – thankfully! Maybe on some other occasion, I’ll tell you about First Sergeant Bell. “You people are gonna remember Sergeant Bell!” He was right. I still do.
That’s –30—for this week.