Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Army Years

I lived for a short period of time in barracks but for most of my two years, I lived right in good old Berkeley.  But to begin this period, I took an early morning bus to Ft Ord. The barracks look pretty modern, but austerity was on the inside.
Ft. Ord - 1966
Although I only lived there about 10 weeks, it is a vivid memory.  In fact the flood of memories is so intense, it is hard to select a few words.

We lived in large rooms with bunk beds stacked quite close.  Part of the training involved obsessive concerns about cleanliness, floor polishing and sweeping.  That is not unexpected, but I was surprised that we were ordered to keep the large windows open all night.  It seemed, I arrived in the midst of a meningitis outbreak.

I left Ft. Ord around Christmas time to go to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas for training as a combat medic  In fact, it was a great First Aid Course.  If you ignore their emphasis on sucking chest wounds and the construction of field morgues, it was pretty useful. 

At Ft. Sam, I spent much of my free time trying to get a specialty assignment into mental health.  It was my first big foray into the world of self advocacy in a complex bureaucracy.  Here I got critical life lessons that I have used forever.  Some of the things I learned: "Never act too smart."  "Learn to act confused and helpless as the situation may require." "You can often change your own fate."

Using these ideas , I was pulled out of Combat Medic School and sent to Letterman General Hospital to be a social worker in a psychiatric unit.  From the specter of future combat to two years
working in a safe hospital in San Francisco.


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