Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Basic training companies are run by the cadre of drill sergeants. There are officers, but they have not been trained to do what we did there. They just kind of hang out and observe. They also hand out pay checks.
As I said, we had a captain when I first arrived and two second lieutenants. The captain had orders to go to Viet Nam and one of the LTs would be our company commander (CO), the other the executive officer (XO).
Before he left the captain had a meeting of the cadre and was kind of asking us which of the two we preferred as CO. Long story short, we picked the wrong one. More about that later.
The real power in the company was held by the first sergeant, James McIlhenny. He was also a drill sgt. and was a big man. He was tall, and he was big. He did not look like he missed many meals at the mess hall. He had a big gut, but still moved athletically and looked like a guy you would not want to mess with unnecessarily. He had a big voice and looked like he could "bring smoke", which means he could make you wish you had not crossed him. He was a very authoritative guy and when he talked, you listened.
One of the platoon sergeants was a black guy named Frank Haney. He was a kind of a wise guy and I had trouble getting along with him, at first. He often referred to the first sgt. as Lean, which was short for Lean Over the Belt. He never used that name to his face.
Another platoon sgt. was Andrew McCoy, another black guy, who I worked for during one of our trainee cycles of 8 weeks. He was a pretty good guy and treated me well. When I brought the Hosemobile down there from the Burgh, he always wanted to borrow it. He never put gas in it.
I worked for a white dude named Jerry Cotton for at least one cycle. He was from Oklahoma and loved to drink hot coffee, regardless of the temperature. He said that when the air temperature was very hot, the coffee made him feel hot on the inside, so that he felt cooler on the outside. Hey, I'm just relating the story. Jerry was a good guy.
My favorite was big Willie Bryant, another black dude. He was kind of like a big brother to me. He was a big strong man and liked to pair up with me when we were demonstrating hand to hand combat moves. One of the other guys would be talking on a PA speaker system and we would be up on a padded stage. Willie was the good guy and I was the bad guy. He loved to throw me and slam me to the padding, then say something scary to me as he pretended to hit me with a karate chop. Then we would have to try not to laugh. The trainees loved it.
The guy who was the unofficial leader of the black guys was Staff Sergeant Norwood T. Turner. They all called him T. He treated me OK most of the time, but for a long time, acted like he did not completely trust me.
Those of us who were not married, lived in the company area. We were in an area that was called Disney World, because the barracks were 3 story buildings made of cinder block,
instead of the typical wooden buildings.
T was one of those who lived in the barracks. We had rooms we usually shared with another member of the cadre. One weekend, T had been drinking and he confronted me with some racial stuff as we were hanging out. I must have handled that well, because after that, he acted a little embarrassed at first, but then seemed to think I was an OK dude.
A guy named Sergeant Jerome Hanberg worked for T, as his assistant. He was a tall, skinny guy from Montana and he was nuts. On weekends one of us had to pull Charge of Quarters (CQ). We were in charge of the company area.
Hanberg liked to mess with the trainees when he was CQ. There was an intercom system from the orderly room to each platoon bay. Hanberg would call for a trainee in one of the bays and time his arrival at the orderly room. Then he would tell the trainee he had taken too long and make him do 30 push ups. He sent him back to the bay, then called for him there in a few minutes.
He could not possibly have gotten back there that fast, but had to come back down. By this time, he was running and Hanberg was timing his run and noting when he would get to a corner or doorway enroute. Then he would start the same process with another trainee and time their trips so that they ran into each other at full speed at one of these tight spots. Sick.
I filed all this information away for future reference.