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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Little Red Muskrat

For a while, I wasn't making very much money.  My dad had to sell the Hosemobile.  Then with the promotion that accompanied my going back to the Drill Sergeant school, I had a few extra bucks in my pocket.  I had no living expenses, so I decided to buy another car.

I bought a new 1967 red Mustang coupe, with a 6 cylinder engine and standard transmission.  Ricky, Carbo and I would drive that car to Louisville, nearly every night, to do what young men do.  I'll leave that to your imagination.

The cost of paying for the car, left me with very little extra cash.  The other guys didn't have cars, so I asked them to buy gas and food and drinks for me when appropriate.  Eventually, Carbo started complaining about that arrangement.  I said, "OK, we'll stay here and hang out in the company area, because I don't have any gas."  That lasted for 2 days.  They finally broke the code on what it was like not to have a car available and we were driving up the Dixie Highway once again.

This was about the time we started having issues with our company commander, Lt. Morris.  He had been a kind of mousy guy to this point, but after time, must have gained some confidence and was being advised by the CO from the company next door.  The "Hollywood Sergeants"  all had our own platoons and in fact, with all the lifers either going to Viet Nam or getting out of the army, I was the senior and most experienced NCO in the company, except for the first sergeant.

This meant that I was the Field First Sergeant. (Necessity is the mother of all qualifications.)  I had been in the army for about 18 months, with 6 months to go.  I was now in charge of the movements of the company of 250 trainees each day, as we moved from one training site to another.  This was a job that called for an E-8 pay grade in the army's pay organization system, same as a First Sergeant.  I was a pay grade E-4.  The army was in a bind, because there was a sudden need for more experienced NCOs in Viet Nam.

The guy who had been our Field First Sergeant since I first arrived at Delta Company was Sergeant First Class, Paul Mayberry.  He was a good guy and I had learned a lot from him.  He was the kind of guy who led by example.

I felt more than qualified for the job, because of my training and experience.  I never had any complaints about my work and my platoon was always the best in all the areas that could be measured.

I was eligible for upgrade to E-5 paygrade (the same as the stripes on my arms and 3 levels below the job I was doing) at the point when I was in the army 18 months.  That promotion never came.  I did not complain about it or talk to anyone about why it had not happened.  I merely decided that I would let the clock run out and become a citizen again on 21 Oct 1967, 2 years after I was drafted.

Just before I got out, Lt. Morris left the company and Lt. Martin became the CO.  As I said before, he was a great guy and we would have been better off if he had been CO all along.  Part of the process of getting out is to meet with the CO, so that he can talk about reenlisting.  Since I felt I had nothing to lose by being honest at this point, I explained that I was going to get out and that I had considered staying in and even becoming a Ranger and/or going to Officer Candidate School.  He told me he could get me in OCS or anything I wanted to do.

I said that I was unhappy that I had not received my promotion, that I had never been told that I was not doing a fine job or counseled on how I could do a better one.  I said that I had volunteered for everything I could, that I was working well above my pay grade and experience level and that it had not been appreciated for what seemed like personal reasons.  He agreed completely.  He said he would put me up for my promotion immediately.  He told me about a big cash bonus for reenlisting   He awarded me Outstanding Cadreman of the cycle.  I thanked him for all that, but said I had already made my decision and was going home.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, amazing to reflect back on those points in our life where we really made obvious life changing choices.