3M Clean Your Weapon

August 9, 2007

I don’t know what Cameron’s ROTC was like, but at U Cal Berkeley’s in 1962, the male underclassmen (required to take two years of military training) were the equivalents of privates.

Those students who planned to continue on to become officers (though skipping West Point along the way) became cadets in their junior and senior years at Cal (officers for the underclassmen). They were supervised, in turn, by real soldiers, though the real soldiers were also in the reserves. They operated under a strange two-level system, which now seems incredible to me; though this is the way I remember it.

Our commanding officer had retired from the regular army as a Sergeant but remained in the Reserve, where he had risen to the rank of Colonel. This can’t be right, but that’s how I remember it. In the unusual event a real military person is reading this, he or she can straighten me out, I’m sure.

The cadets were supposed to drill us and inspect us. The real soldiers graded the cadets on how well their privates did. Almost as soon as my cadet discovered me in his unit, he realized he was doomed.

I was given a uniform that I was supposed to keep clean, pressed, and presentable. As a slob (then and now, but then unmarried), I immediately got about 10,000 demerits at inspection each week. My demerits sank my cadet’s chances of getting a decent grade beyond hope.

We also attended regular academic classes, where we were exposed to a little military history and theory. About all I remember is the Colonel telling us what to do in the case of a nuclear attack or a nerve gas attack. I was not optimistic about my chances if the Russians attacked me with nerve gas.

Mainly, however, the cadets were supposed to drill us. We were to march, halt, stand at attention, present our arms, put our right hand in, take our right hand out, give our hand a shake, shake, shake, and turn ourselves about and then go loopyloo.

I might have had a chance at the loopyloo part, but for the rest of it, I was worse than inept, and as soon as my poor cadet saw me attempt to march in step, he began to choke and gargle and turn bright green. Periodically the Colonel/Sergeant would walk past my unit and yell something to the cadet about me, which did about as much good at yelling at your dog about a squirrel in a tree making faces at it.

Each of us was assigned a rifle which lacked a firing pin. Each week we were supposed to check our rifle out from the armory, disassemble it, clean it, re-assemble it, and present it for inspection.

I got the rifle apart into its components, I did something that resembled cleaning it, but when the time came to reassemble it, I stared at the parts in stupefaction. I was already well on the way to an F, but the weapon handling finished me off.

Next: Draft Dodging an ROTC Obligation.



3 Responses to “3M Clean Your Weapon”

  1. janie Says:

    Yeah, I heard of someone else who flunked ROTC once. I won’t go into it. But, hey, you’re good at other things, like writing for example.

  2. Cameron Says:

    Ah, it all becomes clear now! I’m very detail-oriented, so keeping my uniform and drills weren’t too hard. We had a 4-year program that resulted in Second Lieutenant status if you took the scholarship (lowest officer level in the Army), four years of good experience if you didn’t (like me). By the late 90s (yes, I’m a child!), they had graduated to giving us the firing pins by our second year. We took marksmanship, rapelling, military history, etc.

    I think I would have stayed in, but I couldn’t imagine what specialty I would take. I really only wanted to teach high school–not really an option in the Army!

    I’ve missed you around, by the way.

  3. stevo Says:

    I was in the reserves for one day. The uniforms, the neatness, the marching, were as foreign to me as they were to you, Mr. Random.

    I look forward to the next installment.

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