Tag Archives: Army Basic training

Fort Ord 1972 – Basic Training

Last time I mentioned a bit of how I came to be in the Army.

The Monterey Historic Races every August is an amazing event, if you have any gearhead in you. Over the years, I have seen them honor various marques, and the factories have flown their historic cars out to show them on the track.

Two of my most memorable times there were when they honored a man many consider to be the greatest driver of all time, Juan Manuel Fangio. He was at a table signing the posters that were given us, and I didn’t want to wait behind 20 others. Maybe I can attribute that to my Army days of so many lines.

Then there was the time that Audi, being honored one year, flew out their Auto Union 16 cylinder GP car and Daimler flew out their GP car to then to be together on the track; perhaps for the first time since the 1930s.

But that road to Laguna Seca racetrack also makes me a bit melancholy. You see, if you want to avoid the traffic getting there, you take the “back way”, the Salinas exit on Highway 101. And on the last turnoff to the track, you pass the remnants of what was the US Army’s Ft Ord.

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My Army Beginnings – 1972

Ghost Town

26 Sep 1972. I had been in the Army 12 days.

We were talking in the Facebook Group today about stories of our Drill Sergeants we knew in the military, and I mentioned mine. Thought I would reprint it here, and of course I can’t just mention that without mentioning a bit more.

I’m really easy to spot in the above picture of all those shaven heads, once you know my background.

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A Reminder That I Am Getting Older

Although I was not sent to Vietnam, a lot from that era is still raw with me. Doesn’t take much to bring it back up.

Some months ago, PBS I believe, ran a program on the life of Janis Joplin. A friend of mine of many years says that I tend to be obsessive. I never considered myself as such, but with a bit of reflection, I tend to agree. I will dig and dig learning about things that interest me.

Anyway subsequent to the program I come to learn that someone from her old band – Big Brother & The Holding Company – was having a talk about Janis in Vallejo and I am all ready to get a ticket and attend.

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42 years ago this month


I reported to the reception station in Oakland for induction into the US Armed Forces.

At the height of Vietnam I was told you would count off by 2s – half for the Army; half for the Marines. I was in the 2nd to last group to be drafted – Sep 72.

I can remember my father getting up at 03:00 to take me to the central post office where a bus would take us to Oakland.

We were welcomed by  a horde of draft protesters in the darkness all screaming that “we didn’t have to go”.

That 2 hour bus ride through the darkness was the quietest drive I ever had – each man in his own private thoughts.

At the Oakland Station, a Marine Lt gave us advice that has stuck with me for those 42 years.

He told us about the “10% Rule”.

That is, in any population sample, in any endeavor, 10% f*** it up for the other 90.

Seems to have held true, in my subsequent observations of life.

A few hours later, we were on a bus for Ft Ord, near Monterey.

It is funny where the road takes you. At the time I thought it was a rough patch but looking back – a little over 2 years of Army service – even as a lowly Spec/4 – I am proud of that service.

The bureaucracy sometimes drove me nuts – but the camaraderie – I think about it every day.

And miss it.


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Learning How To Drive, Army-Style


Even years later, I still get a bit melancholy when I go to the Monterey Historic Races in the summer. Coming in from Salinas, you drive through what was the massive US Army base at Ft Ord.

Although its been closed for 19 years, a lot of it remains.  During Vietnam it was huge – with a PX the size of a Walmart and a huge hospital. It had a mixture of the most modern buildings and WW2 era barracks.

It’s been 41 years and 2 months since that bus took me there late at night. I remember a sergeant got a mess hall going up for us.  First Army term I learned – chow.

If you are driving down Highway 1 towards Monterey, you can still see some of the rifle ranges that faced the ocean.

I’m sure for most, no matter whether it was Ft Ord, Perris Island, Lackland or Great Lakes, most of us remember that place where we started a transition from being individual civilians to part of a unit.

I really adapted to the rigors quickly. I treated it like a big summer camp with lots of push-ups, and learned one thing rather quickly.

Stay out of the front of a formation.

Within a few days I learned to stay away from the rear, too.

This served me quite well for a month or so.

We’d been double-timing with our M16s down to the range, did our shooting, and the drill sgt called us to formation.

Yours truly made sure he was in a row towards the middle.

The drill sgt barked, “First 2 rows take 2 steps forward!”

Last 2 rows take 2 steps backward!

There I was, exposed.

You other rows, fall out!

So, our row was picked for something….but what?

How many of you have driver’s licenses?

Well, my hand shot up.

One guy said “I’ve got a chauffeur’s license!”

The rest of you can fall out! You guys with the driver’s licenses – over here. I’ll show you what you will be driving.

Our vehicles that day were brooms – very large brooms. We put a leather harness over our shoulders, and went up and down the range, sweeping up all that brass.

I had to smile through the whole time.

Oh, and the group picture of our platoon?  Spotting me from that group of bald heads and OD fatigues is easy – I had the white strip of flour across.

I’d been pulled from K.P.


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