Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ft. Benning, 25 Years Later

Sunday 10/01/06, 1600

I am now at Ft. Benning, Georgia. I was last here 25 years ago for OCS and Airborne School. In some ways the place is just the same, and of course it’s changed in some ways, too.

For example, I’m sitting in a Subway sandwich shop collocated with an MWR facility (game room, TV room, wireless hotspot) that is within sight of the Airborne School. Not only is that something new, but there are actually OCS candidates in here buying sandwiches and pizzas. I’d heard that the new Army was not as tough, but that’s going too far! We had to mount a major midnight commando operation just to get pizza delivered to the OCS barracks. :-) Perhaps it’s a privilege they were able to earn somehow….

I took a few photos of some of the Airborne training facilities. The jump towers from the 1939 World’s Fair are still here, and the other ground and tower facilities are just as I remember them. I am quartered in an area not too far away from there, and since it’s the weekend we are actually eating in a mess hall right next to the Officer Candidate School. Does that ever bring back some memories!


Ft. Benning - Airborne School Towers
Originally uploaded by
hkp7fan.


I was driven down here from Ft. McPherson in a van this morning, and reported in to the company about 10:30. They got me signed in and assigned me a room, which I have to myself so far (although there are 4 bunks in it). RHIP in some cases – I have my own latrine (bathroom) including a shower, so for now I don’t have to do the communal shower thing. The wall locker is like a bank safe – definitely a change from the flimsy sheet steel lockers we had when I was here before.

I went to clothing sales and got an ACU pattern briefcase – I will now retire my old mapcase, which I brought with me to carry my paperwork around in. The mapcase will stay in the US along with whatever else I decide to leave behind. If I can find a tailor shop on post I’ll get a nametape sewn to the new briefcase. STRAC!

They have vans to drive us around, so I shouldn’t have to walk quite as much as I did at Ft. McPherson. I definitely plan to go back to clothing sales and look around – it’s much bigger and better stocked than the others I have been in recently. Of course, this is Ft. Benning, Home Of The Infantry. I’d expect it to have a good MCSS. I need a couple little items, like a sewing kit with the right color thread (although it will be for repairs only – the new ACUs do not require any patches to be sewn on; everything is velcro).

Tomorrow at 0800 I am supposed to meet one of the NCOs to go down and draw all my CIF and RFI gear. After that I’ll start going through the administrative processing (medical, finance, etc.). Then I’ll go through some training exercises to make sure I’m still up to speed on core warfighting tasks (I’m guessing they will include use of the protective mask, weapons qualification, immediate action drills, and who knows what else - whatever they want me to do). I don’t think I’ll be low-crawling through any barbed wire or jumping off the towers this time around, though. :-)

After I get done here I’ll head back up to Ft. McPherson. But for the next few days I’ll be here at the “Benning School for Boys”. (And it really is still that, despite the larger role of females in the Army these days). There are definitely women here, but in much smaller proportion to men than other places I’ve been in the Army. This is the Infantry Center, and since women still do not serve in the combat arms, they are less prevalent here. I’d say the ratio I’ve seen is roughly 30:1 or so, just going by the soldiers I’ve seen walking around and here patronizing the place I’m in. Go to a transportation, quartermaster, or medical unit, and you’ll see a much higher ratio of women. But the infantry is still a man’s world.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that hardly anyone is overweight here. I’ve mostly been hanging around reserve units and higher-level headquarters, and while everyone has to pass the PT test, I’ve seen plenty of people carrying around too much weight (they even make *me* feel thin!). But here it’s a different story. These people are young and fit, and the older officers and NCOs I’ve seen so far are fit as well. All these people look like what you’d expect the Army to look like – like something straight off a recruiting poster.

It’s cool to be back here. The cliché would be to say it makes me feel old, but it doesn’t. To be sure, I’ve had to smile a few times. One young man I saw was wearing a Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” t-shirt. I’m sure he wasn’t even born when that album was released, and I was already in high school (or maybe even college). But despite the reminiscences and the realization that it really was 25 years ago that I was here as a young man, it doesn’t make me feel old - quite the opposite. I feel energized, centered, and “together” in a way I haven’t felt for a long time. I think this is really where I belong. What on earth was I thinking for all those years?

Mood: Energized
Music: Berlin, “No More Words”

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