There was a life before the ‘net. There were photos before digital. Sadly, those sit unloved, unviewed, slowly decomposing in shoe-boxes in damp garages and attics. Today’s post uncovers a few of those photos, scanned in 2018.

In the summer of 1981, in-between high school and my first year of university, I went to US Army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. This first photo shows us at the end of the course, at the airport, heading home.

This compatriots in 3rd platoon, 4th company, D battalion.

Most of what I have to say includes

  • the smell of starch as applied on a commercial scale in the laundry
  • the scary joy of a buzz cut for the first time in my life
  • the humid heat of Missouri (which the locals pronounce “misery”)
  • when food and beverages were regional, a delightful discovery, before worldwide mind-numbing sameness: Mr Pibb was rare, cold from the vending machine, and absolutely impossible to describe to my friends back home (where only Coke was imbibed).
  • the unmitigated joy of unlimited, tasty grub at the chow hall. After hours of running, learning everything from shooting a Colt M1911 and M16A1, small unit tactics, physical training, and hurrying up to wait, there was always the chow hall.

1981 was the very beginning of tech, but it wouldn’t come to the Deep South for a while yet. This group of soldiers still remembered when indoor plumbing arrived to their communities. Cameras used film, and were expensive to buy and use. My gift to my company-mates was the purchase of a Polaroid camera and film, to make instant photos for them to give to their loved ones. The following are a few that wound up in my shoebox.

After 35 years I don’t remember names, but these are the faces of the people in my platoon. I’ve head it said that you don’t really notice the differences in people until you put them into uniforms. I get that now.

There’s a lot of tomfoolery around the barracks, but I can’t remember what occasioned this superman pose in tighty-whities :-) I’m sure there was a good backstory…

Some in our platoon were physically gifted, others the gift of gab, and yet others just seemed to have the ability to game the system. My memories of this guy are something like a benign “King Rat” (if you’ve read the book (or the movie)).

More tomfoolery in the barracks, this time forced PT at rifle-point.

Anything for a good photo to send home, I guess.

That’s me in the center with our company rabbi at left. A few hours each week was spent in a philosophical discussion with him and the very few Jews in our company, which was a nice antidote to the (obviously) very regimented life the rest of the hours.

This is 1982. Ft Bragg, North Carolina, where I attended the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) officer’s advanced camp, where we learned team and unit leadership, how to drive a tank and how to call in air strikes on combatants far away or “danger close”. This was another amazing summer, where we got a chance to put our hands on pretty much everything the US Army has to offer.

There were a bunch of us who were slated to do Airborne (parachute) and Air Assault (helicopter calvary) after OAC before returning to school, but the Army decided to add a month of test curricula and blew out those schedules. For that I’m still sad.

Don’t I look sad?

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