I don't think I was in the first class of Drill Sergeant Assistants, but I was very early in the program. I certainly was the first at my Delta Company. I think the first sergeant was pleased with the results.
The guys who had gone to Drill Sergeant school were always lifers before this. I don't know exactly how they qualified to go there, but because we were going to be a whole new program, our intelligence tests upon entry were part of the criteria. Since we did not have years of army experience, they wanted us to be of some minimum level of intelligence.
I think this worked out very well. We were taught things about leadership and how to do the job that the lifers may have scoffed at, because of their experience. Guys like me had no experience, so we just paid attention and learned what was taught in school. It was pretty good stuff.
When I went back to the Drill Sergeant school again, I had been promoted to Specialist 4 pay grade, acting sergeant - 3 stripes.
It was really easy this time. I lived in my room at my own company and only had to worry about the uniform I wore to work each day. The standards were still as stringent. Take those stripes for example. We had to make sure there were no loose threads and the dark edges were not showing any of the gold. We used a magic marker to darken the edges. I had just finished the exact same school only 6 months before and the academics were a piece of cake. I did very well.
Soon after graduation, I was given my own platoon. It was the first time I learned the old axiom - Necessity is the mother of all qualifications. When I first talked to my trainees, I told them that I had only been in the army a year and was not that far removed from where they were. I think this inspired some of them and they thought they might be able to do the same thing. I relied on the leadership skills I had learned in the school. I said that I was not responsible for their being there, but that we had a shared responsibility to get them well trained with the things they had to accomplish in basic training.
I told them to watch the way things were done in other platoons, by sergeants such as Jerome Hanberg. I didn't mention him, by name, but just generally referred to the others at the company. I told them that I didn't want to resort to any of that nonsense, but could if I had to. I explained that I wanted to say what I expected to be done, to leave and then see that it was completed when I came back. This worked for about 90% of the trainees, but there were always those few who needed a little more attention.
I was developing a strong set of lungs and voice from all the drill commands. I was now doing much of the instructing for company classes, such as hand to hand combat, physical training (PT) and bayonet drill. I had started smoking at a young age and still did at this time, but all the physical activity helped me maintain my excellent conditioning.
We were starting to get other young guys who had gone through the Drill Sergeant Assistant school. We were all natural running mates. We spent a lot of time in Louisville. My best friend and room mate was Ricky Richter, from near Camden New Jersey. Jim "Carbo" Carboneau was from Chicago, Chi Town. We all had lots of energy and enthusiasm and were good at the job. We were having a blast. Old Lean, our first sergeant, was very happy with his boys.
Our new CO was Lt. Morris. Lt. Martin was the XO. Martin was a regular guy, but Morris was a little anal. He did not seem to think much of the way we young guys were having so much fun, both at work and off duty. We all knew we were kind of hot shots and may have become a little like prima donnas, but not too bad, considering the fine job we were doing.
I was starting to really like army life. I felt a little out of place when in a civilian environment. I was thinking about making the army my career, mainly because I seemed to be doing so well at everything. I volunteered for every class that became available. Every time the first sergeant had a cadre meeting and announced that one of us had to go to a school, I said I would do it. This worked for everyone. The other cadre members didn't want to go and Lean had to send someone. There were classes for setting up the generators that powered the PA systems we used for the field classes. There was a first aid class. When I finished that, I got to drive an ambulance on long marches, instead of marching myself. I went to school to learn how to drive a deuce and a half truck. There were others I can't remember, but in my opinion, everyone worked to my benefit. I spent most of my time in the army going to some kind of training.
With all this gung ho attitude, I was considering becoming a Ranger or going to Officer Candidate School. I felt that I could do anything I decided to do. It was a very heady time and it all went back to that night on the TWA Constellation.