The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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!)

Posted at 6:34 AM to General Disinterest


TrackBack: 9:30 AM, 29 May 2006
» A Special Memorial Day 'Thank You' from Yippee-Ki-Yay!

Expressed admirably to a class of American heroes largely forgotten today -- by Charles Hill.

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Nicely said. I'll second that.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:31 AM on 29 May 2006

I dunno. I can think of a number of reasons why most young men fresh out of high school should have a couple of years during which they are ordered around and in general won't have a say in what happens to them. But I have a rather low opinion of human nature.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 5:41 PM on 29 May 2006