El Paso Part 1

It’s funny how with age some of the smallest things in life one can still remember, like a photograph. My very first memory of El Paso was upon hearing Reveille , looking out my barracks window and seeing nothing but an ocean of sand. The day before, I had finished basic training at Ft Ord, along the coast of the Monterey Peninsula, and the Drill Sgt had us all in formation as he was giving out assignments with the Army post we’d be going to for advanced training. .

Guys were getting infantry, signal corps, and when it came time for him to call my name, “Brandt! Ft Bliss, Texas – Air Defense!

I’m thinking (to myself of course) – say what?

Army Air Defense was/is the last vestige of the old Army Air Force. The U.S. Army is responsible for all ground to air defense.

And they have both fixed and mobile units out in the field. As far as I know the mobile units are sent out only in the theaters of wartime operations. Maybe things are different now.

And the selection of Ft Bliss for training was not a random decision by the Army. At nearby White Sands, NM they tested all of the captured V2 Rockets from Germany.

During my time (now looking at my impending geezerdom) we used two missile systems, the Nike Hercules – a 2 stage solid fuel rocket, and the HAWK, which could be both mobile and at fixed locations.

And with things at the time coming full circle, the Germans used both systems and trained at Ft Bliss.

And what should one see in front of their barracks?

El Paso 1

German V2 Rocket at Ft Bliss in front of German Barracks (with your’s truly)

I had left Ft Ord at night, flew through the night, and saw my first view of El Paso through the barracks the next morning. At first, being used to the ocean, it was a bit of a cultural shock. And El Paso is pretty isolated – other than the border town of Juarez, any other major US city seemed 300 miles away – or more.

As for Juarez, we used to stand in formation in the cold desert air at sunrise, and listen to our drill sgt. “You clowns get in trouble in Juarez, the Army can’t do nuthin’ for you!

Forty six years ago unless you did something stupid, got into an argument with a taxi driver, bar fight, etc., you were usually OK.

Now with the drug cartels and violence I think one would have to be a bit nuts crossing the border.

Anyway when in our fatigues (they didn’t call them BDUs then) we usually looked sharp.


U.S. Army slang term for “a well-organized, well turned-out Soldier, (pressed uniform, polished brass and shined boots).” A proud, competent trooper who can be depended on for good performance in any circumstance.

El Paso 5

Boots after a coupla hours of work… with starched and creased fatigues, we were STRAC

In a short time, I grew to like what I called the “splendid isolation”.

El Paso 3

Probably viewed from Franklin Mountain, right in the middle of El Paso

And the people I met there – the civilians – many I considered to be the epitome of what I would call the “Good Texan”. The weathered rancher you might meet in Luby’s Cafeteria might be a multi millionaire, or someone just getting by, but all well mannered and not given to braggadocio.

Good people.

Maybe this is a good point to stop for tonight as I have a car rally to lead tomorrow…With the news of today I am sure most of you know what Part II will contain…


update 08-07-19: I learned last night while surfing the Internet that the Air Defense school was moved to Ft Sill, OK in 2009. 


Filed under Army, In Memoriam

3 responses to “El Paso Part 1

  1. Edward

    Hi Bill,

    I recommend highly that you listen to this Scott Adams podcast (#618) all the way through.


    This will be the most rational set of statements that you will encounter about what took place yesterday.


  2. Pingback: El Paso Part II | The Lexicans

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