Back then, if you were drafted, the chances where pretty good that you’d end up doing a year in Southeast Asia. If you volunteered for the National Guard or Reserves you at least got to pick what sort of job you’d have after finishing Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training. If you were drafted you didn’t get to choose your occupational specialty and the chances were excellent that you’d end up in Vietnam slogging through the rice paddies carrying an M-14 or later, an M-16 rifle hoping you wouldn’t get shot or blown up!
But regardless of where you ended up, everybody went through the same Basic Training. After that, we were sent to Advanced Individual Training for whatever our Military Occupational Specialty was, usually referred to as an MOS. But no matter what that specialty was, everyone’s primary MOS was 11B20, which stood for “Light Weapons Infantry.” I’m amazed that I still remember all the jargon the military attaches to nearly everything it does! In the Army, for instance, the phrase was never as simple as “black ground pepper” but rather “pepper, ground, black.” That’s just the way the Army does things.
From the moment we arrived at the Reception Station, we were totally under the control of a crusty old buck sergeant who absolutely would not put up with any nonsense. There was no more asking; we were told what to do from dawn to dark. We spent the next few days getting haircuts, uniforms, equipment, and all the other impedimenta that new recruits are issued. We also were vaccinated for just about everything including Bubonic Plague. Seriously.
By the time we moved to the company area to which our group was assigned, each of us had a duffle bag stuffed so full that we could barely carry it! Our drill sergeant was Master Sergeant James T. Ferrelli, a name not to be forgotten. Our unit was E Company, 18th Battalion, 5th Training Brigade or, more commonly, Echo-18-5, Sir! I’m not going to bore you with all the unique experiences that are part of Basic Combat Training, except to note that I’m glad I had all those experiences, but I definitely would not want to do it again.