29 May 2006
US, Drill Sergeant
Spring 1972, and we were in line we were always in line outside the mess hall, and as each of us passed by the man with the stripes and the wide-brimmed hat, we sang out something like that. Those of us who'd come in through the usual enlistment routine recited "RA": Regular Army. Others reported in with "ER" or "NG": "Enlisted Reserve" or "National Guard."
And about a third of the company sounded off with "US," which was a truncation of "AUS," which meant the Army of the United States, which meant draftees.
It wasn't hard to spot them early on in BCT: while we were all disoriented and perplexed, most of us figured that well, we'd asked for it when we'd signed the papers. The AUS fellows hadn't asked for it, manifestly did not want to be there, and while they didn't say so, at least within the hearing of anyone with any actual rank, they'd be sure to mention it during our less-than-copious free time.
We assumed, given our limited opportunity for assumption, that The Powers That Be would single them out for grief. It didn't happen. All of us E-1 types were equal, though we obviously weren't equal to much at that point. A few days into the training cycle, though, it started to sink in that none of us, regardless of how we'd gotten there, were going to get away with slacking off; somewhere farther along, we noticed to our surprise that none of us were even trying to.
And that, of course, was what our trainers and our officers were counting on: the career man and the conscript, when the chips are down and the bullets are flying, must rely on one another, and little matters like what we'd done before we wore the uniform simply vanished into insignificance.
We don't have a draft these days; the AUS was officially disbanded in 1974. And unless the barbarians are pounding on every available gate from Seattle to Sarasota, I'm not particularly keen on reinstating it. But on this Memorial Day, while we remember those who went before us, I'd like to say a special "thank you" to those who never desired the call of duty, but who answered it just the same.
(Roundup of Memorial Day postings at Wizbang!)
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