…In August I was headed out west for a fourth time except this time it was by air and my destination was some small town located in the mountains about 70 miles east of that west coast city of rain. Unfortunately, the area in which I was to spend the next three months was caught up into the same rain pattern that had so much turned me off in previously trips. No matter. Free room and board, $415 bucks a month and all the haircuts one would ever want or need.
Basic training? How to describe it? Holed up with 30 of your closest friends, under one roof as part of a 90 man Company. I was in “A” Platoon, housed in a “H” Hut with communal washrooms and showers. The other 2 platoons, “B” and “C” of our Company were housed in a stark, white building called Pachena Barracks. Three platoons and you had a Company as everything here was Army oriented, which kind of sucked and ticked me off to no end being that I had joined the Navy. No matter. They said that Leadership was Leadership no matter the environment and being an Officer Candidate I would be exposed to leadership drills and test scenarios in an Army environment to ascertain whether or not I had the right stuff for this military culture. Individuality was a no no in this environment hence the communal haircuts with the requisite white walls cropped ever so thin on top, and tight at the nape.
We all had fashionable haircuts for the day, long and shoulder length. Our first haircut was a traumatic experience. It was extremely tough to watch as our locks fell like fluff on the barber’s floor, only to be swept away into that dustbin of individuality. All that work in nurturing those locks, for months, years perhaps, all for naught. I’m sure I even saw some of the lads sob with every turn of the razor. I have to admit that with all of this trauma, the Army was super organized. They had a very large “Haircutting Room” capable of handling 10 of us at a time. Ten newbie recruits sitting there in 10 chairs with 10 Army barbers. Army barbers is a term used loosely here. In reality these guys were regular Army types making a few extra bucks on the side. Peace-work they told us and we were their peace-necks.
There were the usual comments such as “Hey, just a little off the top will do” or “Thin the sides” or “Shampoo and a rinse if you don’t mind” or my personal favourite “Take care of those split ends will ya.” They, the Army barbers, had heard it all before many, many times and just smirked as they took their razors, snapped a Number 2 on to the business end and, in what appeared to be one small swoop, the locks were gone. Just like that. Shave the nape of the neck, clean around the ears and it was all done in about 2 minutes. Next! Ten more. Next! Ten more. Next! And before you could say “a little dab will do ya” it was all over. 90 raw recruits in one door with 90 raw recruits out another but in right Army haberdashery fashion! It was somewhat comical watching 90 guys milling about outside afterward streaming their fingers through the hair that wasn’t there. The feeling was somewhat akin to someone sensing a lost foot or a lost arm after surgical amputation, or so I am told. Nevertheless, the transformation was incredible. We all looked the same, particularly after the uniform fitting was complete. From cool fashionable dude to Army, military dork….