…We were a mixed bag of sorts. There was the Franco Platoon, separated from the rest of us in their own little French cocoon. Heaven forbid that they should assimilate with us nasty Anglos. Then the international guys, wannabe soldiers on exchange from Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania, and Jamaica maan. They were a site to behold but at least they were integrated with the rest of us. And, as it turned out, had political baggage that was unknown to us at the beginning of our training. The rest of us? Just a smattering cross section of adolescents and young men from all walks of life from small town or big city. There were the keeners, the know it all-ers, the busybody-ers, the brown-nosers, the I gotta be in charge at all cost-ers: all young men in their prime of life or boys away from home for the very first time. Some guys were destined for the Army. They were the ground pounders or gravel technicians; some were headed for the Air Force – wing nuts, candy asses; while a smaller number still earmarked for the Navy – the hairy bags, bollard heads and tadpoles. We were all thrown together to work together to get together through all of this together. Three months of ground pounding hell together.
There was a great deal of pride in one’s chosen element. I don’t know why because none of us had a clue what the Army, Air Force or Navy was really all about. Most of it was gleaned from some romantic notion of heroism or action or pride as witnessed in the multitude of movies produced about the Second World War. I mean for me it would have been “The Cruel Sea,” Horatio Hornblower or John Wayne’s “In Harms Way.” It was harmless fun, just innocent ribbing with naivety’s jesters. There was one guy who I got to know pretty well that had a penchant for the C130 Hercules Aircraft. He reminded me, now, although not at the time, of Forest Gump’s friend Bubba who had a thousand ways to prepare shrimp. His C130 Hercules could do anything in herculean manner: Cargo, fighter, Maritime Patrol, Command and Control, aerobatics, carrier hops, you name it and his image of a C130 could do it. We would wile away the time together on some of the route marches peppering each other with the ways and means of this legendary aircraft or coming up with novel mission statements for his Hercules. It was all good fun. Unfortunately Mike didn’t pass out. I always wondered what happened to him and his fantasy C130 Herc.
The African contingent from Cameroon, Tanzania etc was worlds apart from the rest of us. In any given task these guys had to be plodded and probed to get on with the program. They were part of the old British or French colonial school as well. On our very first morning inspection I was shocked to see that Remy, the Tanzanian, whose bed and locker were directly across from me, had nothing turned out. His bunk was a mess, clothes were in disarray, locker was open and Remy was in a sad state of repair and panic. Where’s my “Batman” he kept saying to no one in particular? I’ll kill him. Where’s my tea? Yikes. This will not end well and for him it didn’t. Culture shock for this Officer candidate.
We learned to despise these guys, especially the Jamaican maan. He was more of a Mulatto than full a blown African Jamaican. He was of average height, good looking but not really handsome. He was extremely over confident having that English aristocratic bearing, posture and arrogance with the verbal bullying and abuse that came with his kind. He treated the non commissioned staff on the base with contempt. Yet paradoxically he had a thing going on with one of the female Army Sergeants although this fact didn’t come to light with the rest of us until our passing out parade where he was awarded the ceremonial sword for achieving “Best in Class” status among us all. Best in class – Hmmm I wondered about that female sergeant and some of the other classmates. But I wasn’t all that jealous because I always thought that best in class referred to the Westminster dog show and competition. In this regard he was somewhat of a Rottweiler….