Telling tales of military recruitment and service

The Old Men of the Mountain, when spoken to, generally start with the pandemic, then the how-are-you’s, then the weather. These are normal opening greetings when the get-together does not have a specific purpose.

When it is the pandemic, the OFs generally complain that it is a pain in the butt, but really wish it would be over. The how-are-you’s usually are full of fibs because every one of the OFs seem to be great. The weather, if it is seasonal, there are just a few comments; if it is bad either way then “I remember what the weather was like in …” begins.

That takes up some time in the conversation. This week, however, somehow a few comments and remembrances were on basic training in the military, and being called up to serve. This scribe remembers one OF early on telling how the seniors at Berne-Knox-Westerlo all went to Schenectady to answer a draft call.


Snowed under

One of the OFs related a story of his coming home after reporting and going through all the rigmarole at the draft center. It was in the dead of winter and it was snowing.

At the top of the hill, just about at Highland Farms, or not too far from where routes 156 and 157 (Thompsons Lake Road) meet, the group buried the car in a snowbank and they decided to walk home and get a tractor to pull the car out.

However, the OFs did not realize how bad it was snowing, (they were just kids at that time anyway) and by the time they made it to a house at the end of Witter road and Route 156 they had had it. The YFs stopped in and asked if they could get some help from the old goat who lived there and he refused.

The (now) OFs remembered how he said he wouldn’t even let them in to warm up. Thank goodness the people on the Hill are not like that now, or least the OFs hope so.

So the group trudged on, but did split up some, because a couple of them took off up Pleasant Valley Road. The OF telling the story had to hike all the way to Line Road, and that is a hike in the winter, in the snow. The OF said, after all this, the draft board wouldn’t take him because he was a farmer and farmers were deferred.


An older recruit

Another OF told of how he knew his number was becoming close to being called and the OF said he did not want to go in the Army, so he enlisted in the Air Force. The OF said he was not that young and had two college degrees under his belt. This scribe forgets what he turned down because of his education but he did go into the regular air service.

Some of his buddies tell the stories of what the OF did in basic training and afterwards these buddies say it is a wonder he was not put in the stockade. None of the shenanigans he is alleged to have done were bad; most had to do with authority and common sense.

One story was about day one and they were still in their civilian clothes. The first uniformed airman they met was their drill sergeant and, after initial greetings, they were told in no uncertain terms to go to their barracks and he wanted all of them in the barracks in two minutes. Which was impossible, but was to apparently give them the idea this guy wanted it done right away and fast.

The buddy telling the story continued that the first in line ran and all tried to go through a simple door at once, which really did not work. When the OF in this story got to the door, he walked instead of running, but the walk was at a good clip, and he put his arms across the door and told everyone to stop and he started letting them through quickly — one at a time.

The OF again telling the story said everyone paid attention to this OF and he thinks it was because he was so much older and made sense. He also said the sergeant pulled him aside and started hollering at him. He doesn’t know what was said but he noticed the OF just listened with his arms folded.

The OF kept on with telling some of the stories and he feels that the other OF early on got something on the sergeant that was important, because nothing happened to the older fellow all the while he was there and he did other things similar to this — not many but enough to be noticed.

He does recall that the captain one time came to this particular OF and the two of them went to see the colonel. The report was, in essence, the colonel told the OF that, since he was older, and not much younger than the colonel, and the colonel knew that the men respected him, but the job of the sergeant was to teach that following orders, no matter what, and would he please help.

Later on, the OF said, the Air Force was aware of his education and wanted to make use of it. The OF never left the states and was in a pretty important position though he never took a test or desired to go any higher in the military. He just put his “time in to get out” which was his motto. Just like the doctors in M.A.S.H. 

A soldier finds

a scorpion in his tent

In the Marines, he kills the scorpion.

In the Army, he calls his CO and reports the presence of the scorpion.

In the Air Force, he calls the front desk and asks why there’s a tent in his room.