Brass knuckles, Traci Lords and your gun is for fun- how the army saved our lives

army reception docWhen  you joined the US Army, at the reception station, they gave you one last chance to drop in the Amnesty Box (no questions asked) all your contraband  — your brass knuckles, Oui magazine, num-chunks [sic] etc. — this was back in the day when soldiers would be escorted from the barracks in handcuffs for adultery, gay soldiers could get locked up, soldiers were administered Antabuse if they got in trouble for an alcohol related incident, when we ran our two minute mile in combat boots, toilets –20 in a row –had no partitions between them, a sergeant with two other troops would smother a knucklehead soldier with his laundry bag seconds before he passed out,  we worked out with barbells made of two coffee cans filled with cement with a bar in between them, you joined up with fingers orange from weed roach stains your recruiter telling you to lie because weed use would mean a meeting with a psychiatrist, dogs would run through the barracks on surprise middle of the night inspections sniffing for Amsterdam bought hash (Larsen Barracks, Kitzigen West Germany), we chanted on basic training runs I don’t know but I’ve been told Eskimo pussy is mighty cold and If I die on the Russian front I want to be buried in a Russian cunt, our SMART book (kept at all times, constantly, in the right cargo pocket of your BDUs) advised us to carry a small pebble in our mouth during long road marches to prevent dry mouth, we lit Kiwi cans on fire for a better polish, slept nude in those extreme cold weather sleeping bags, heard rumors constantly about saltpeter and undercover CID agents, called AFN Ain’t Fucken Nothing so instead bought Traci Lords videos at the PX before she would’ve landed you in prison as a Chester, had mo-gas blow up in your face in one of those field hot water drums, knew what lifer stood for (lazy ignorant, etc), knew the maximum effective range of an excuse, wore our gas masks in the field outhouses, got stuffed, really really stuffed in actual cattle cars when we were transported around.

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What it’s like to throw a hand grenade

The grenades are shockingly loud.  We went to the grenade range in Basic Training and as we filed in the bunker we were hearing these huge, ground trembling explosions, the walls and the floor just about shaking.  These can’t be grenades – – too powerful, must be artillery shells or something. They better be.  They weren’t. They were the grenades.

Our so tough drill sergeant was visibly shaking – – he had to take each young dumb clueless recruit out behind a horseshoe-shaped ring of waist high sand bags.  The soldier would say, Preparing my grenade; then, Throwing my grenade, then, Grenade, as you threw it.  Our arms (not yet tatted up, but very soon) were all up in the air pointing at 45 degrees like we were balletic visionaries.

As most people know (but I didn’t back then, none of us knew anything), you pull the pin but as long as you don’t separate the attached lever from the body of the grenade nothing happens.  As soon as you drop the lever the hand grenade starts to cook.  I think they told us to hold it cooking in your hand for three seconds; when you throw it it explodes immediately – – no chance for the enemy to flee or throw the grenade back or away.

At the end of Basic you are tested on a grenade course.  Six stations have targets from 15 to 30 meters.  You fail or you pass as either a Marksman, Sharpshooter or Expert.

Grenades at Fort Leonard Wood; lights out at 9 pm and we fell asleep immediately.

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