MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: LEAVING MY INNOCENCE BEHIND

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

LEAVING MY INNOCENCE BEHIND

I got a little out of sequence by writing about The Beacon Drive-In back in October of ’06, but it was in that piece that told how Woody and I seem to circle that place endlessly, and one night decided we would get out of that rut by joining the Air Force. That piece would chronologically follow the drag race piece and then this one.

That was the end of innocence for me. The day I decided I did not want to be a child anymore – what the hell was I thinking? Gees, I could have possibly milked that life at least another year or two, and who knows, maybe I would have become an electrician like my old man. Then, of course, I would have missed the war, never gone to college, and never known anything I know and cherish today.

Nevertheless, I chose to leave Harriman, my parents, some of my innocence, and all my youth behind me.

Imagine you are eighteen years old and far from home among strangers and some tough looking Drill Instructor (DI) and his huge black sidekick starts yelling at you during every waking hour and sometimes in your dreams. What do you do? You just look him, listen to every word he barks, and do everything he asks without questioning.

After your first two weeks in boot camp you begin the psychological state the drill sergeants work hard at provoking in your mind. You begin to think that you have always been at Lackland Air Force Base and that you have always been doing whatever you are doing at any given moment for the DI. You become totally his, putty in his hands, and you would literally charge a machine gun nest if he asked. That is the simple fact why the military takes recruits at the tender malleable age of eighteen. They would take them younger if it were constitutionally legal.

As soon as I arrived the DI told us, “I am now your momma! I am now your daddy! I am now your brother! I am now your sister! BUT, I’ll be damn if I’ll be your girlfriend!

Do as I say or you’ll have my foot so far up your ass you’ll have to have it surgically removed! Do you understand me?

Yes sir.”

I can’t hear you!

YES SIR!

That was the way if was from the first sticky August night I arrived, standing at forced stiff attention in my civilian clothes. We marched, or tried to, until the next evening in our “civvies!” This is why new recruits are called “Rainbows.” Their bright colored clothing stands out like a sore thumb beside the olive drab of the hundreds of older troops marching everywhere you look.

I arrived with about thirty-five new troops at about 1AM. Everyone was dog-tired and barely conscious from sitting around airports, flying, and riding buses since 6AM the previous morning.

We were marched into a huge building, which turned out to be an experimental barracks the Air Force was testing, and told which bunk was ours. The DI then announced at the top of his voice, “You got fifteen minutes to shit, shower, shave, and get in that bunk. Hit it! The lights go out in 14 minutes!

Somehow the thirty-five of us made that deadline before “lights out,” but just barely. Everyone I passed, like me, had little pieces of toilet paper stuck all over their faces to stop the bleeding. When you are tired, standing five or six deep in front of a mirror, and are scared shitless, it is a wonder you do not slit your throat!

I remember waking the next morning and sitting up startled, as “The time now is zero five-thirty hours! Get up, get dressed, and get outside,” blared from the loudspeaker! I also remember that the pillow was stuck to the side of my face from the dried blood I had shed during the past four hours I was asleep!

We jumped into our clothes, pissed, brushed our teeth, splashed water on our face and ran down the stairs to the waiting DI and his assistant who were busily trying to show troops where and how to stand and wait on the others.

We left behind a bed, latrine, and barracks area in a shambles, but this was the last time we jumped out of bed as carefree as we used to do at home.

After breakfast, we double-timed over to supply and had our new wardrobe thrown into our faces, our hair shaved off, and then double-timed it back to the barracks. It was then we began learning the finer points of making hospital corners, making a bed tight enough to bounce a quarter off a foot in the air, how to properly arrange and display our clothing and toilet articles, and how to clean the latrine, all before leaving within thirty minutes of “zero five-thirty hours!”

This discipline does not just happen over night, but with a lot of screamed encouragement down the back your shirt you learned pretty quickly!

This was just the first morning and my innocence and former existence were now far behind!

21 comments:

Les Becker said...

Look at you! How handsome in the uniform! You've inspired me to put my dad's WWII picture (now THERE was a handsome man) up on the wall above my desk. I'm going to be looking forward to more boot camp stories, Mushy. There's something about a man getting SCREAMED AT CONSTANTLY that is soooo sexy...

Suldog said...

That's a good read, Mushy. I never had the military experience. I kind of imagine I would have spent a lot of time either locked up or doing shit duty.

In any case, thanks for doing the job. There's a lot of us who appreciate it.

*Goddess* said...

I can't even imagine what it would be like to be yanked out of your world and shipped off to war when you're just starting into adulthood. Damn. I would have pissed myself more than once I'm sure.

Becky said...

My parents really, really wanted me to join the military after college, but I honestly didn't think that I could handle what you described. I also didn't think that I could handle having to take orders without question.

BRUNO said...

Couldn't have said it better myself, Bud!!! "Boot" was about the same for all of us, regardless of the branch---IT SUCKED!!!(But I STILL think it was better than a couple of the July/August, 16-hour "hay-field" days I put in!)

Indeed, that's why they picked us young, before we matured, mentally, and developed "common-sense"!

Fifteen to "shit, shower, and shave"---guess THAT'S why I'm such a SLOB today.....!

david mcmahon said...

Mushy,

You paint a great word picture. Speaking of pictures, nice image to go with the post, too.

My brother served at Lackland AFB. Small world, hey?

Is there a way to get your email address? We could swap a few yarns on this subject ....

Cheers

David

Mushy said...

fuzzbert_1999 AT YAHOO DOT COM

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Wow Mushy, weren't you the handsome one? Oh so tenderly young - it's heartbreaking. I have no idea how any kid copes under such savage conditions - but I'm guessing there was one hell of a lot more to deal with than this to follow, right?

Your writing just leaps from the page, my friend - it's like watching a movie. Can't wait for more.

David Sullivan said...

"This discipline does just happen over night, but with a lot of screamed encouragement down the back your shirt you learned pretty quickly!"

It sounds old fashioned, but it is soooo true. The nuns in Catholic School "whipped" me into shape!

Mushy said...

David Sullivan - thanks for pointing out that I left out "not" in that sentence. I do that all the time...it's what keeps me humble!

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

My grandad was in the Royal Navy and my Uncle was in the Royal Air Force. They both had hats like yours. Hehehee...

Mushy said...

I'm honored...a visit from BTBear!

david mcmahon said...

Will email you tonight (Australian time).

EC said...

You sure were a handsome little devil!! In fact, I dare say you were a hottie!! :-)

Mushy said...

Whoa...a hottie! After all the years I waited to hear that, not I'm too old to thoroughly enjoy it!

Thanks.

Alex said...

"Zero five-thirty?" I thought the day started at noon.

Fathairybastard said...

Well, I finally got a chance to read this, sitting in my cousin's basement in front of the big TV with his wifes lap top. Gotta get me one of these toys! Your writing does jump out of the page man. You had my blood pressure pumping, thinking of how scared I'd of been. Well, they say whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so I'd say you came out of it a better man.

Fathairybastard said...

You know, now that I've been there, the places you write about jump out at me even more. I can picture the spot where that drive-in was and see the road going down the hill over the bridge. Everyone should come by at some point and see this place that we've all grown to love from reading your posts. Thanks for showing me around.

phlegmfatale said...

well, it's not SO bad, and everyone's gotta grow up sometime. I'm thinking about growing up in a week or two.

Fathairybastard said...

Damn man, I'm jonesin' for some blues. What the hell?

Sarge Charlie said...

Ah, boot camp, mine was in Aug of 60 at Ft Jackson SC, talk about hot with a DI on your ass, no rest for the weary. I like your blog, made me feel right at home, stop by for a visit, I can swap some Vietnam stories with you.......