…The Africans stayed to themselves for the most part. They were extremely lazy and racist – toward us and surprisingly toward themselves. They wouldn’t respond to orders from the rest of us during the leadership tasks until such time as the leadership role passed to them. Then watch out. They ran us into the ground trying to impress the staff with their field acumen. It didn’t work though for their field acumen lacked common sense or intelligence. And there weren’t any Batmen to order around or bail them out. I remember one task in particular. The Cameroon Officer was in charge. The task was to find and rescue a paratrooper who was caught up in the bush somewhere. It was our job to find the man, render first aid as required then bring him home. A time limit of three hours had been imposed. Once the scenario began and the Cameroon Officer’s Orders Group completed, off we went at the high port. He literally had us running through the jungle; he didn’t accept advice and was adamant that his way was the only way. In spite of his incompetence we did locate the wounded paratrooper who was, for exercise purposes, entangled high up in the trees. On starting the extrication and first aid process he shunned us all away and stunned us, shamed us, by taking out his revolver and, for exercise purposes, taking aim then shooting the casualty. Good thing we only had blanks. Shocked and amazed he then told us in no uncertain terms that his country had a “take no prisoners” philosophy, especially wounded prisoners, for whom in his mind’s eye were no better than rabid dogs!
Our basic training finished late November. I finished around the middle of the pack. I did have a couple of close calls with respect to a “cease training” career review board. Christ! The Career Review Board was a military “Star Chamber” and a nice way of saying WE DON’T WANT YOU! One of which was called due to my inability to meet the standard for the 9 mm pistol. No matter that I excelled with the FN C1 rifle achieving marksman status at 1,000 yards. The Army had rules after all. Luckily I was able to convince them that being in the Navy there was no need to be able to fire a 9 mm hand gun at close range. The days of “hands to boarding” were long gone with the death of Nelson some one hundred and seventy five years previously. The Army was like that though: stubborn and strong on rules and outmoded traditions. Yet cooler heads prevailed after telling them that the only gun I would be firing would be a 3in70 anti-aircraft gun weighing in at some 20 tons.
The other incident was more traumatic and emotionally painful. Toward the end of our training the powers that be had this survey completed by all of us recruits. It was called a Peer Review Survey where each and every one of us could assess the ability, leadership potential and personality traits of each other. If one received an adverse assessment from the other cadets a Career Review Board could be convened and the candidate in question ceased training and sent home. It was up to the candidate to convince the powers that be that he or she was up to par. Under no circumstances however should any of us have put another recruit down, no matter how despicable he or she may be. The repercussions were just too serious. Unfortunately, maturity was lacking among the majority of the recruits.
This was brutal. Unfortunately I received an adverse assessment from another cadet, one out of almost 90. Of course we were never told from whom. I couldn’t believe it as I always felt I was friendly, easy going and a team player. I got through it but it was a hurtful process especially to be told that someone in the group felt that you were not up to snuff or you were an asshole, a proctologist’s apprentice perhaps. It wasn’t until years later that I found out who it was, only by happenstance, as this individual anonymously tried to have me relieved of my duties from a staff position at Headquarters due to some perceived slight on my part toward his character. He did this without my knowledge. A falsehood as it turned out but it brought me right back to the Peer Review Survey that was done some 30 years previously. Ah yes, it was him, a colleague from Basic Training. The only saving grace for me was that this individual was an alcoholic, extremely obese and cowardly to boot. I don’t know where he is today or if he is still alive but I remain steadfast in amazement at his ability to smile to your face while imparting a knife in your back.
Interestingly, after a few years, that Peer Review Survey was discontinued…