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Military Service - Where, When, What, etc

Created on: 02/01/10 07:32 PM Views: 2055 Replies: 2
Military Service - Where, When, What, etc
Posted Monday, February 1, 2010 02:32 PM

I'll let someone else start this one off - I know my service was interesting, and took me to some nifty places - I see others have served - how about some info on where you served, what you did, this sort of thing....

This message was created without causing harm to any trees, but it did inconvenience a bunch of electrons for a few nanoseconds.

RE: Military Service - Where, When, What, etc
Posted Monday, February 1, 2010 04:34 PM

I spent all of my service (after basic training at Fort Jackson SC) at Tacoma, Washington.  I was sent there as a stop before going to Vietnam.. However, my unit was not ready to be deployed, so I worked in the dispensary system on post.  I was already a registered pharmacist, so my advanced training was done.  We manufactured several items like cough syrup and antacids for distribution to the 13 outlying dispensaries.  I only reported to my unit when they went out into the field. My unit was a mash type of surgical hospital. I drove a 2 1/2 ton truck with trailor which contained the pharmacy and lab units and tents.  When functioning in the field we would receive the most serious patients who needed surgery.  After surgery they were sent to a general hospital unit and we would pack-up and deploy to the next area of intense fighting.  As I say, though, my unit never went to Vietnam until I only had 6 months of service left and Terry was 7 months pregnant.  I was left back.  Our hospital was 75% wiped out before getting their first location and I lost a lot of close friends. 

I started as E-1 and finished as specialist E-5 since I turned down my officer's commision. 

RE: Military Service - Where, When, What, etc
Posted Monday, February 1, 2010 06:20 PM

I enlisted in the Air Force after being directed to leave Penn State, as I knew the draft board had heard of my departure, and was determined not to spend my time face-down in the mud. When I enlisted, I thought I was going to get Electronics training - something I could put to use when my four years was up.

In Basic Training, several of us were called out and offered a chance to spend 3 days in testing in air conditioning.  Basic for us was in San Antonio, and in July and August it was hot so I was ready to go.  What I ended up in was language screening, which basically was a teach, test and wash out for all of us, using an obscure dialect of Sanskrit so nobody could get through on knowledge - it all had to be learned.  Based on my nonperformance in German at Penn State, I had my doubts, but I survived the three days and placed well - and all of us who survived were offered another three days of screening for Mandarin Chinese.  Of course, it, too was in air conditioning so nobody turned it down.  Mandarin has four different tonal stresses that can be applied to a syllable, each of which imparts a different meaning, so if you have a tin ear, don't even try!  There are some funny stories about misunderstandings in Chinese that I heard from Chinese linguists, but I'll save them.  I got through this screening, but they filled the need for Chinese linguists before they got to R in the alphabet, and the next need was Russian - so I was off to Syracuse in October of 1961 to learn Russian.  As stated, I had my doubts, but I got through this, too and ended up headed back to Texas in July of 1962 for some training in the use and abuse of radio equipment - and how to hear stuff that almost was not there but we needed to know.  I did well enough in Intercept school that I got my choice of assignments, then got held over for surgery, and after that got involved in a court-martial (someone else's) so they gave my Germany trip to someone else.  When eventually I got to go overseas, I pitched a fit and they found another duty station in Germany, and I was happy as a clam.

In Germany I learned a couple of local dialect and lived mostly on the economy and stayed as unmilitary as I could. Security Service was a strange place anyhow, what with the special requirements for linguists and morse code guys, so they put up with a lot, including various beer-fueled adventures that I'll probably never admit to having had.  Of course, I had a motorcycle while in Germany, and enjoyed running all over the place on it.  My second home was a city called Darmstadt, and when I got out I lived in Griesheim bei Darmstadt, an 800-year-old farm town just osutide Darmstadt.  Before I came home, the town celebrated its 800the birthday and let me tell you, it was some party!  I liked it well enough that I got out and stayed there for an extra year after my enlistment was up.  While I no longer recall just why I stayed that extra year, I suspect some German girl might have influenced me.

What I did has been declassified within the last 5 years - I had travel restrictions (no iron curtain countries) for 25 years after separation, as a result of which the one place I wanted most to go (Berlin, where my father had been during the Airlift) was barred from my travel.  When I go back to visit, I can go to Berlin.

We listened to radios.  We listened for stuff in not only Russian, but Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian and occasionally in German, for those of us who had picked up the language.  The rules did not allow any intelligence-trained linguists to go to the country that used the language, but since I wasn't specifically trained, it was OK.  The stiff we heard was all encoded one way or another, so it was rare that we actually heard people conversing.  A place as large as the Soviet Union uses a lot of aircraft and airspace, and the best way to let everyone who matters know where the planes are is to broadcast the information, encoded so if you don't know the magic formula the info is meaningless.  Well, we had figured out what it really meant (something we got to do again each 7-10 days when they changed the code) so we knew where the aircraft were.  We also got encoded weather data, and occasionally army maneuvers.  It was interesting, and I really enjoyed the work, although the military aspect was occasionally disruptive to things I wanted to do.

There are many aspects of life in Germany that I miss - those years I spent living on the economy speaking only German were an education I could not otherwise have had - the Russian experiences were icing on the cake.

My rank went up and down depending on what programs I turned down and what officer I irritated.  I went in as E-0 and came out as E-2 with a good conduct medal (go figure...), a marksmanship medal and an outstanding unit medal.  I got as high as E3 twice, and had it taken back when the assignment for which I was promoted proved to be one I would not take.  I had no interest in St. Lawrence Island for a year after only 8 months in Germany.  Turkey and Pakistan were equally uninteresting.  Staying in Germany had costs but I happily paid them, whatever they were. After I got out of the service, I worked when I needed money, and wandered when I had money - the life of a nomad. that old BMW motorcycle and I saw some fascinating places - but they are topic for another time.  Sometimes I just talk too much.

This message was created without causing harm to any trees, but it did inconvenience a bunch of electrons for a few nanoseconds.

Edited 02/01/10 06:26 PM