When you’re young and in uniform

Been there, been subjected to something like that:

I had some fleeting and absurd (patently so to me even at the time) visions of one of the NCOs looking cock-eyed at my Berkeley t-shirt and cargo shorts and saying, “Well, well, well, looks like we already got ourselves a troublemaker,” or some such. Instead, they found me someone with an extra set of clothes I could borrow.

Then, another NCO pulled me aside and told me my hair was too long, and I should get it cut as soon as possible. Another strike, also insignificantly minor in any reasonable scheme of things, but consider: I’d now been there a whole 15 minutes or so and my sole interaction with the Army thus far consisted of being told what I needed to fix. At the time, I was glad they weren’t handing out guns yet or else I’d probably have blown my own foot off.

It turns out that there were multiple people who needed haircuts. And they apparently hadn’t been distressed by the fact that the barber shop was closed. There were also some who showed up the next morning in the wrong PT uniform. But I didn’t see any of that that afternoon, I saw only well-prepared people who made me look like a slacker or an incompetent, and I thought to myself that it would be a real shame if they figured that out about me so soon. I’d been hoping to space out revealing those facets of myself over at least a few months.

Of course, I went through this in 1972, arguably a nastier time to be joining the Service. But it’s perversely gratifying, I suppose, to see that the same sort of effort to rip the new arrivals out of their comfort zones is still being made today.

And best of all, this chap is heading for the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. An officer, natch. We lowlifes in the bottom enlisted ranks always assumed that butterbars and such were getting an easier time of it: sometimes it was quite a while before we learned otherwise.





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