Welcome to Fort Sill
We all arrive at Fort Sill. I am getting to know the other members of the Alaska contingent. There’s SGT Preble from my unit. Dehnke, a tall responsible specialist type from the Cav. SGT Cole, the default leader of our group. He’s the oldest, meanest, and he used to be an E-6. Plus no-one else wants to be in charge. From the 501st, there’s Murray, a short round E4 who’s never been deployed before either. I am always wary of people who remind me too much of myself. He seems like a cool guy but I will have to keep an eye on him. There can be only one. Then, the Butthead to Murray’s Beavis is SPC Lang, who is grumpy and irreverant about all things. He hates everyone, loathes the Army and spends all his time playing the PSP and ignoring what he is beng told. His month prior to deployment was not spent eagerly traipsing between various S-shops and headquarters trying to get papers signed and the proper shots. He spent the month getting drunk in his room. I feel a twinge of remorse when I hear this. Sure, my last month was filled with nonsense too, but I actually took the time to do what I was told. Were all the papers I had filled out a waste? (Yes, as it turns out).
I try to find out what we are going to be doing by asking SGT Cole. He yells at me for asking too many questions and mumbles something vague. Apparently he doesn’t know either.
We report to the Army E-7 manning a desk in the airport. He sits up tall and gets an evil look in his eyes.
“Are you guys supposed to be at AIT?” (training that takes place after Basic)
We tell him that we’re not, but we need to get to Fort Sill somehow to report to the 203d MI Battalion, or the Air Force, or someone who knows what we are supposed to be doing.
This perplexes the sergeant. Apparently no-one at Fort Sill is at work on the start of Memorial Day weekend, and the few people who answer the phone have no idea who we are or where we are supposed to be. It’s 100 degrees out, and the sergeant walks outside with us to gesture at some buildings on the horizon. Oklahoma is so flat that you can see miles in any direction. He tells us that the buildings are Fort Sill, and that we’re probably going to have to take a cab. This is all the help he can provide before wandering back into the airport to eagerly wait for and abuse arriving AIT guys.
I have a good feeling about this. If no-one knows we are here, and it’s Memorial Day weekend, we are probably going to have to wait at least four days before we can start on any kind of work or training. Plus, SGT Cole wanted to be in charge, so I have no problem sitting outside watching our bags with Lang, who thinks that we shouldn’t report to anyone. Since they don’t care about us, his idea is to get a hotel room, pay for it with our government travel cards and goof off until someone comes to get us. Preferably 6 hotel rooms, and preferably a hotel with a nice pool, since it’s so hot.
Finally, a taxi arrives, and they are flustered by the amount of baggage we have (this is going to be a recurring theme on this deployment), so they call for another cab. We ride over to Fort Sill, while the driver warns us about being robbed at ATMs, and his tips for picking up crack whores (you want to get the ones that just started because they’ll still have most of their teeth, but they’ll still do anything for five bucks)
We arrive at some headquarters that’s open on Memorial Day weekend. They still don’t know what to do with us, so they assign us to the Med Hold barracks which are virtually empty. As a consequence, we all get our own rooms. The rooms are large, cozy, clean, and comfortably air conditioned. We also meet up with Master Sergeant Williams who is in charge of us. He takes us down to meet with the Air Force guys we’ll be working with. We walk into their barracks. For once in recorded history, the Army is living better than the Air Force. They are doing some kind of combat skills training. Combat Skills Training is an opportunity for those people that have skilled jobs, to waste their time undergoing the same stupid basic combat training that all infantrymen go through, only twice as stupid because the people are generally smarter and older than we were. It’s one thing when you’re 19 years old and you are geeked up because you’re crawling through the mud towards a trenchline with machine guns blasting over your head. The drill sergeants make us do this because “this is what paratroopers do, and we might be doing this in only a few months when we go to war”. Unfortunately, nobody has fought like this since the Korean War, and people who go through “Combat Skills Training” can appreciate how stupid it is.
For some reason the air force guys are crowded four guys in rooms meant for two people, plus the space is lessened by the fact that there is dirty and wet gear hung up everywhere attempting to dry out. Tired, dirty Air Force guys coming home, pass by us in the hallway, giving us looks like we give the headquarters guys who’ve stayed in the barracks when we return from a particularly grueling and muddy field exercise.
An Air Force “Chief” – I don’t know what this is, but he’s old and has lots of stripes – I make a mental note to do some research into Air Force ranks – tells us that there will be a barbeque tomorrow afternoon and we are invited. Air Force barbeque sounds a little dull, but it’s only for a few hours and it is a lot better than jumping into whatever stupidly grueling training it looks like they’re doing.
We tell him we’ll be there, and MSG Williams takes us back to the barracks. I note that no-one has done any pre-emptive yelling, which is a first for Army personnel arriving anywhere. For those who haven’t read diligently through my previous posts, pre-emptive yelling is being yelled at in advance for something you probably weren’t even going to do, and takes the tone like you’ve already done it four times.
For example, “I don’t know what you assh*les are used to back at your old base, but here at Fort Sill, when we’re cold, we turn the heat up, WE DON’T BUILD A FIRE IN OUR GODDAMN ROOMS. AM I CLEAR, YOU F8CKING MORONS?” None of that from good old MSG Williams, who as Lang points out later, sounds quite a bit like Bill Cosby.
The rest of the night is spent relaxingly sorting out my stuff in my quiet, cool, cozy room. I feel free to put it however I want it in the room in a manner which is convenient to me. Another army first.
“Boots go on top of the wall locker! That’s the SOP! I don’t care if they are hard for you to reach if you’re short, and rain dirt on your head whenever you move them. Someone who doesn’t even live in the barracks decided that was the best place for them, so that is where you’ll put them!”
Sorry, venting, it’s going to take me a long time to get some of this stuff out of my system.