I don't want to write my autobiography (it would only put people to sleep anyway), but “Anonymous” posted here a couple of times and it seems likely that we know each other, so I'll give away some clues about where I've been and maybe write a bit of a story while I'm at it. I just hope it doesn't turn out that he couldn't stand me.
I started my military time in the 20th Special Forces Group, a National Guard unit. At the first drill I was remanded to the tender ministrations of someone I initially regarded as a fat old man. It turns out the fat old man had done what we call “running recon” in Vietnam and had worked with Air America. Running recon is regarded reverently. Those guys had stones the size of a Buick station wagon. The recon units had a 100% casualty rate. Every man who ever did it was killed or wounded at some point. The fat old man damn near killed me. We would run for what seemed like hours, then do pushups for another couple of hours. Every single day of basic training, airborne school and SF school I thought of how he had prepared me to succeed.
After 15 straight months on training status I graduated the Special Forces Qualification Course with class 5-81. I started with class 3-81 in a brutally cold winter and we lost so many guys that they simply eliminated class 3-81 and made us wait for 4-81 to catch up. Being a radio operator, I then had to take what was called BROC (basic radio operators' course), which was eight weeks of Morse Code from sunup 'til sundown. Talk about inducing psycosis...So that left me with class 5-81. (medics had it worse, maybe I'll write about that some day)
I probably didn't think much of it at the time, but all these years later the field phase of the SF radio operator course seems like it was pretty cool. We flew low level on a C-130, bouncing around (several guys lost their last meal on the flight) and jumped into a drop zone so small that only five guys could jump at each pass. As always, I'd been screwing around during the preflight briefing and when I jumped I couldn't see the drop zone and didn't know which way to steer to find it. I finally saw it and almost made it, but a tree got between me and the drop zone at the last minute. Some of the guys went off the mountain into what the instructors called “Lost Cove”. One guy, who later made the cover of Time or Newsweek after the Grenada invasion, tried to climb down from a tree by pulling his reserve. Unfortunately, he climbed down inside the reserve—sort of a guy in a bag thing. The instructors called the mountain Bee Mountain. At first I thought maybe there was an “A” mountain and a “C” mountain. Nope. It was Bee Mountain. One guy actually ran across the drop zone with his 'chute trailing behind him trying to get away from the bees' nest he'd dropped on.
Anyway, I graduated and went back to 20th Group where I was assigned to an A-team. I guess I was there about three years before I decided I just liked it too much and needed to transfer to active duty. During that time I managed to dislocate a shoulder on a jump in Minnesota in January and break my back on a jump at Ft. Bragg. But those are stories for another time.
I went off to 10th Group at Ft. Devens, MA. 10th Group had (has?) a policy of assigning all new radio operators to the Signal Company (in which most guys aren't SF qualified) rather than sending them to an A-team. The reason is that the communications we used at the time, high frequency single sideband with a spring-loaded tape to burst Morse Code, is pretty iffy and they wanted guys who had something in common the A-team guys there so that they'd go the extra mile and beat the transmissions to death until they got them right. Signal company also had teletype vans for HQ communications, but I didn't know jack about teletype vans. I got assigned to a teletype van.
Eventually an opening came up in a line battalion, but it wasn't on an A-team. It was the battalion communications staff, which was all SF qualified. I was so desperate to get out of Signal Company that I jumped at it.
I suspect that my only distinction during the Signal/battalion staff period was having a bad temper.
During this time I got married (still have the same wife). She works for a three-letter government agency in the DC area, so she stayed down here and I went back to MA. Probably didn't help my temper any. But on the other hand, I had one hell of a bachelor pad in Nashua, NH.
Eventually I did find a slot on an A-team and was loving life until I hit a rock or tree root while skiing (10th Group does lots of winter.mountain stuff) and wrecked my left knee. Right after that I transferred to 10th Group's first battalion, which was located in a place in Germany called Bad Toelz.
Everyone wanted to go to Toelz, but I had an extra reason. My wife's agency had a field station not far from Toelz, so we could actually live together and I could, ahem, reap the benefits of marriage, so to speak.
Bad Toelz was probably the absolute best assignment in the entire history of armed forces. Because of my wrecked knee I ended up on battalion staff again, but I loved the place. I started out with the best NCO room in known history. They had just built a new medical clinic and turned the fomer clinic into NCO rooms. I was actually given four boxes and painting supplies when I moved in. I had to put together the two lockers and two bunks and paint the room. But that was ok as it kept me occupied in the evenings until we straightened out housing through my wife's agency. But the room was directly over the club and actually had a sink, left over from when it had been part of the clinic. The proximity to the club was quite nice, and the sink meant I didn't have to trek down the hall to the latrine, if you know where I'm going there...
I ended up living in a real live German apartment that the government leased. No barracks, no living off a noisy stairwell—it was wonderful. It meant I had to drive 45 minutes or so to Toelz while all the other married guys lived right across the street, but it was worth every minute.
The Army preventive maintenance paperwork doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I guess I'm a bit twisted, so I actually grasped it. My job at that point became to check on the team guys and make sure that their paperwork was properly filled out. I suspect that a lot of the guys regarded me as a pain in the ass, but that was never my intention. Officers, in particular, would get incredibly defensive at battalion staff meetings if I would say “Team number such and such had some problems with the paperwork...” At that point they'd go into big time defensive mode and never let me finish the sentence with “but I talked with the radio guy and we squared it away”.
The knee injury eventually finished me off, but we stayed in Germany for several more years, maxing out my wife's allowable overseas time. I spent the rest of the time working at my wife's place in the outdoor recreation office, but went back to Toelz regularly and made it to the beer fest when Toelz was given back to the German government. I even managed to meet Colonel Aaron Bank and get his autograph in a book. Shook the man's hand, even.
All in all, I had a great time in the Army. I don't regret a minute of it, even the times I ended up bleeding all over myself. I'd do a few things differently, but I'd still go SF. The mission, the guys—best in the world. Shortcomings I had in abundance, but for ten years I walked among giants.