Guess I've got some time before I have to go help my wife tend bar...
Entrance into the US Marine Corps, July, 1991:
All US military recruits are in-processed through a MEPS--Military Entrance Processing Station. I was driven to the Baltimore MEPS from my home in Washington, DC, by my recruiter. Upon arrival at MEPS, urinalysis, various forms, swearing in, and then sitting in the waiting room, watching TV, waiting to be called to go to the airport for our flight. Not allowed to sleep in waiting room. Upon arrival at the airport in Charleston, SC, I and my fellow Marine recruits were met by a Marine Corporal at the gate; we were lined up literally a@@hole to bellybutton, and marched downstairs to yet another waiting room; we were given sandwiches of rubber chicken and limp lettuce, and for entertainment, were provided with small handbooks with "everything a Marine recruit needs to know"--like how to NOT get court-martialled, etc. Again, no sleeping. Stay awake and read the enthralling literature provided. It should be noted that my day started around 7 AM. By this time it was likely around 10. We were eventually loaded on buses, and took a 2 hour (I think?) drive to Parris Island. All Marine Recruits arrive on the Island after dark--to enhance the sleep deprivation factor, the disorientation, and to help prevent recruits from escaping. On arrival at the PI main gate, we were made to put our heads between our knees, and forbidden from looking out the windows. I spent 13 weeks on the Island, and had no idea how to get off the bloody place until I was driven off after graduation. Heads between our knees, we were driven to Receiving, where the nice Sergeant gets on the bus and screams at you to get off and get your feet in the yellow footprints painted on the pavement. Immediately brought into Receiving. Inventory of personal effects and valuables, haircuts, issue of uniforms, turn-in of personal clothing (let me tell you, clothes which are sweated in for 12+hours, then stored in an non-air-conditioned warehouse in the South Carolina summer for 13 weeks, are NOT fit for human wear after they are returned!!!)
After all this, brought in to a very unattractive female GySGT who re-read the terms of the contract under which I enlisted, outlined all the places I was to be attending training, and asked if I understood. Hell by this time I could barely think, but I signed the papers. Again. At some point, we wound up in Receiving Barracks. This was NOT our training platoon. The DI in charge of us was not the DI who would be training us, merely a "babysitter". Recruits are kept in Receiving for several days, for their medical screening, etc. Reason for this is that once you're picked up for your regular training platoon, things are rather....stressful. As it was, I was diagnosed with "hypertension" the morning after receiving, and had to spend the next week reporting to Sick Bay to have my BP checked. This, when I typically have an abnormally low BP--one nurse once told me that had I come into her hospital bleeding, she'd have immediately hooked me up to a transfusion! BP was normal after that first day. I've probably left some things out, but we've got Pool Leagues at the bar tonight, and wifey will scalp me if I don't get off my ass and go to help her out. Gonna be mucho customers.
Along with about 50 other blokes parked my two suitcases in the corridor waiting for an NCO to arrive.
Then down the corridor came a full screw. Took one look at my suitcases and exploded "Who the f*** are these"
"Mine Corporal", I replied.
He then proceeded to boot them up and down screaming at the top of his voice "Don't you F****** ever F****** leave anything outside my F****** door again or I'll F******boot you up and down this F****** corridor as well" This plus about 2000 other expletives that I can't mention.
Scratch two suitcases, my street cred and anything else you care to mention.
Welcome to the Army. Still -- only 16 weeks with this nice chap to go.
I spent my first night in the drying room (1966) trying to burn my boots down with a candle and a spoon in a desperate attempt to be ahead of the other lads (my older brothers advice) and was discovered about 2.00 am by a bombadier who wanted to know what the F*** I was doing at that time of night in the drying room.
I must of impressed him because he took me to his room and showed me how to burn the pimples off with an electric iron, in fact he finished the job off for me with a warning not to tell anyone he had helped.
Amongest all the PS I met in recruits battery he was a very decent bloke who made for all the ********* I had to contend with.
Looking back I find it difficult to think that a fifteen year old today could cope the initial shock of Army life, it made me the man I am today...................................................................................bitter and twisted!
I got of the train on a very cold November day in Ash Vale and started to make my way to Keogh Barracks.
As I approached the Guard Room I saw some full screw screaming and pulling his hair out at some other new bods.
What the feck was I doing here,I thought I was about to do my very first about turn......but moved gingerly towards him and reported my arrival.
The first 24hrs was running about like a blue arse fly......bedding,bollocking kit,bollocking, haircut,bollocking....in fact i took more bollockings than i care to remember in that first week......but still it all turn out ok......26yrs later.
I arrived at Keogh Barracks at 14.00 having made the mistake of following the reporting instructions and telephoning the famous Maj. Moore and asking for transport from the station. (He told me politely to walk but turned out to be a star bloke later on so if you are reading this....no hard feelings)
The only food available was army spaghetti which, even after 22 years I can't eat.
After that it was a whirl of room allocation, bed block lessons and intorduction to a mixture of superb and foul instructors; many of whom are still legends.
The taxi dropped me off outside the Prince of Wales' Division Depot Lichfield and a rather nice Sarn't came out, saluted me and immediately ordered one of the Toms to "take the young gentleman's suitcase up to the Officers' Mess". I decided I was going to like the Army. Sarn't then politely asked me my name and what I was going to be doing. "Actually, my names Rickshaw and I believe I'll be joining Normandy platoon" said the very young and innocent Rickshaw. Pause for detonation........"You! Bring those *ing suitcases back 'ere! "You" (to me) "pick up those *ing suitcases and get up that *ing hill! You *! You poncey, skinny sack of *! I'll *in' 'ave you! You will regret the day your *ing mother kept the afterbirth and gave it a name! Your life is going to be hell!" Etc, etc, etc...... He was right.
As a learning curve, it was fairly pronounced. Thirty plonk years on, I still smile at the gormlessness of my younger self turning up in the proverbial grey suit, school tie, shiney shoes and all that...........
My first day in the forces I arrived at Bury St Edmunds rail station where I was told a coach would be waiting for me (and others). There was no such transport and I was the only one there. I telephoned the guard room number (that I had been given in case I missed the coach) and was promptly told to get a taxi to the camp and I would be re-embursed with the cost. On arriving and being taken to the company office where we did all the usual bits, I asked about the money for the taxi. The Sgt told me to F*ck off and that it was my first lesson in army life. Onto the first pay parade, on being called I marched into the office and halted, saluted and was then told to go outside and come in again and this time do a halt that made the money jingle on the table or I would not get paid. This I accomplished and I was promptly paid the grand sum of just Â£1.00. On enquiring about this fabulous sum (I was told I would earn Â£9.00 a week, a lot of money in those days) to the training Cpl, he advised me that we only got Â£1.00 the first week and the rest was stopped to pay for any kit loss. An old sweat who heard me winging asked me if I wanted to borrow Â£5.00 so I could get home that weekend. I agreed and some time later after repaying him he asked me to lend him Â£20.00. I agreed and the Bast*rd went awol and I never say him again until some year later when out on the P*ss while on leave I saw him helping a drunken mate, I knew he was AWOL still and he recognised me and promptly said that he remembered owing me money and passed me Â£25.00 in payment. I guess he knew all I had to do was call a copper and he would have been in the sh*t.
I joined the JLR RCT\RAOC in Feb 87 by climing on a bus at Bath station and getting dropped off at the WRVS club in Azimghur Barracks at Colerne. I was then confronted by a 6 foot 4 monster with so many stripes on his sleeve that I was gobsmaked. He twas the Trumpet Major of the RCT and after admitting I had played cornet in the school band I was tagged for the band and a place in in Bond Troop 57(Korea) SQN RCT. I was taken into one of the standard RAF 'H' block and made to place my suitcase containing all of the stuff the joining instructions told me to bring, wash kit, spare clothes etc onto what was to be my new bed. We then had to sit on chairs outside the troop Sgts office whist he did 'paperwork'. All the time the troop on the floor above us was hurling insults and generally laughing their arses off at us in our cheap suits and lost looks. They had just started their third and final term. I was 2 months short of my 17th birthday and the guys looking down upon us looked so much older, even though they were the same age or younger than myself. After paperwork was competed we were intoduced to our 4th termers. These were junior leaders who had passed out of Bond troop the term before and were selected to hold our hands through the first few weeks before they left to go onto trade training. We were then issued track suits, these would be our only non-uniform clothing that we were entitled to wear. We then had to get out our underwear, socks and washkit and our suitcases were placed in the box room, not to be seen for 2 months. After an evening meal (force fed of course) to be eaten in 5 mins flat we were 'marched' back to the accomodation to be shown a couple of basics such as coming to attention and standing at ease and how we were expected to make our beds (bed blocks were a shock!). We then were put to bed at 10pm. I was in a room with 15 other lads, a troop of 45 in all and everyone was as lost as I was and everyone was trying to bluff about how they were not apprehensive about what was to come and how cool they were. The next moring at 6am the 4th termers woke us up to a noise that I have never again heard outside of those barrack rooms, the sound of striplights starting with a 'banging' noise. I will never, ever forget that sound. Very bizarre.
After the best and hardest year of my life just 15 of us from that troop passed out and of that 15 only 9 made it through trade training. Now that was selection.
Rocked up to Woolwich in a suit carrying my bag, nice full screw welcomed me in and directed me to my troop, intro to the sgt and told to get my hair cut by the morning. Got told no uniforms for a week so we had to buy a tracksuit, uniforms were infact availible about 3 days in, quick brief on how to make a bedblock and cheerynight.
Next morning i do remember fainting on parade after about 3 hrs kip, bollocked and threatned with SNLR, the rest then became a blur of boot polish, running, jumping in the dell and drill
The train from Glasgow was delayed, and by the time we got there the barber had gone home. After kit issue the next morning we had our ID card photos taken...not good! Every time I've ever had to show my ID, people have been in fits over my hair.
The moral of this story is, get your hair cut before you go!
Summer 1976 (a hot one), and I pitch up at RAF Swinderby on a Wednesday morning. I had been in the TA for just over a year before joining the RAF, and the RSM (ex-reg) had given me a few tips before I left. Amongst them was 'don't have your hair cut before you start the course'. After a quick intro to the DS, we were lined up in a hangar, and the first five were doubled over to the barber's on the other side of the hangar. The Sgt asked if anyone had had their hair cut already - a few former cadets stuck their hands up, and an evil look appeared in his eyes as he doubled them around the hangar before they had their hair cut again...
- walking past Station Headquarters (the typical WW2 building with flower beds in front) and getting shouted at by the SWO: 'How dare you look at the CO's flowers! Double awaaaaay!'
- some youth crying in his bed the first night
- being one of 30 recruits standing, pale and nervous, in shreddies in the med centre waiting for the final medical, whilst the families sick parade went on around us
- learning that we had a prospective RAF policeman in our midst, and knowing that he would get most of the beastings
- being taken to the NAAFI shop, but only for the purpose of buying boot polish, dusters, and Johnson's Lavender Beeswax, which the DS had determined was the only thing to use on the floors, which were polished with the old style long-handled bumper.