Our days would start at “the ass crack of dawn” everyday. 0530 to be exact. We would gather, in formation, in the thick Georgia heat on the parade field behind our barracks. Every company in our battalion. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo and HHC (Headquarters, headquarters company). Well over 600 men standing at the position of attention waiting for orders. At 0600 reveille, a loud artillery boom, would sound, followed by the bugle song and we snap to position of attention until given our orders. Orders, on most days, were to conduct P.T.. A loud sharp response from all 600 men in unison, “Hoah!”, acknowledged the order, woke us up and got us moving.
Infantry P.T. resembled basic training P.T.. Stretching, calisthenics, push ups, sit ups and a 4 – 6 mile run. Five days a week. Running is the foundation of soldiering. From this foundation, the structure of a soldier can be built.
We would return to the barracks, most days, at 0730. The only days we would be later was if someone ” fell out” during a run. Falling out of a run was usually reflective of a soldiers illness or because he was drinking alcohol to excess the night before. A “fall out” required a mass turn around, in formation, running at pace count to retrieve the soldier. No man gets left behind. Ever.
After P.T. we were released to chow and to shower. Second formation, for daily duty, was at 0900. After morning formation, we were given our marching orders for the day. Most days were spent in the motor pool. We were a “mechanized” Infantry Brigade. Mechanized meant track vehicles. M113’s, M557’s and Bradley Fighting Vehicles were parked in a dress right dress formation in a large parking lot structure referred to as The Motor Pool. Hundress of them. It was an incredible display of might and power. There was a large maintenance building housing Army mechanics and a shop large enough to pull these vehicles in and out of. Five days a week we spent in the Motor Pool. Performing routine maintenance and preventive maintenance on our assigned vehicle was our full time job.
At 1630, 430pm, we would head back to the barracks for C.O.B. (Close Of Business) formation. Formation was a mixture of receiving information and head count. Retreat, another loud artillery “boom” followed by the bugle song was played at 1700. We were then released for the day and off duty.
The 24th Infantry Division was one of two mechanized infantry divisions attached the the 18th Airborne Corps.. The 18th Airborne Corps., XVIII Airborne Corps., consisted of the 3rd Infantry Division (mechanized), the 24th Infantry Division (mechanized), 10th Mountain Division (light Infantry), the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division, 18th Field Artillery Brigade and support from Medical personnel, signal personnel, military police, engineers and aviation. We were the United States Army “Rapid Deployment” Force and ready to deploy any where in the world at a moments notice, hence the title: Rapid Deployment. We trained accordingly.
I was informed immediately that I couldn’t leave post with out signing out first in the C.Q. log book. If I was to wander more than 50 miles off base
I would have to bring a beeper and keep that beeper on my person at all times. The beeper was like my weapon… A part of my physical body. Loose one: Loose Life. The accountability was for an alert. If an alert was called we had two hours to report back to the C.Q. or Iwe were considered A.W.O.L. (Absent With Out Leave). A.W.O.L. was bad. Very bad. We were encouraged to travel in teams of atleast two men so we wouldn’t be alone. The world was changing and we were targets. We all saw evil, or the aftermath of evil, during the war. We took Rapid Deployment seriously. We had no choice.
As the days went by I noticed things about my immediate surroundings: none of the men in my platoon had local girl friends. The ones with girlfriends wrote letters to them and stood in line with me at the pay phone. Reynaldo, the medic across the hall from me was from Brownsville Texas. Not only was his girlfriend back home but he also mailed most of his bi weekly paycheck to his mama. He came from a large Mexican/American family. He was the oldest. He explained to me with no room for negotiation that this is what the oldest boy in Mexican families do. He was proud. I liked him. He was the kind of guy that would do anything including kill for you if you were his friend. He showed me regularly that I was his friend.
C.J., my roommate, also had a cute Irish girl waiting for him somewhere. He wrote her every day and was a regular as well in the payphone line. Hildago from Ecuador, Cox from the US Virgin Islands and Smith, a 17 year old rapper from California were all medics with girlfriends somewhere else. These men were as loyal to their life’s loves as they were to each other. They were brothers. Slowly, day after day, they were accepting me into their tribe.
The difference in medics serving in uniform doesn’t come from their background or place of origin. It has nothing to do with the color of their skin or rank held on their sleeves. It comes from the trust given to them by the men they serve, the infantrymen. These men are a different breed of character. They train to kill the threats that lurk in the shadows. They sacrifice their lives so that others may live. They do it for numerous reasons personal to each individual. The common bond they share is they trust that the man next to him, regardless of who he is, will give everything he has when their lives are on the line. That doesn’t come from school or training. It doesn’t come from the church, the bars or the barracks. It just comes. When it comes they let each other know. It comes when they refer to that man as brother. With medics, however, it comes when they call him “Doc”.
They called some medics Doc. That medic was a king to them. They knew, without question, that Doc would give his all to them. This meant on duty and off. As an outsider looking in, it was nothing short of a miraculous transformation. Combat experience had nothing to do with it. Rank, medals, schools, size, color of skin and intelligence didn’t factor into it at all. If you were Doc to them, they let you know. Some how, once a few of them called you Doc, they all called you Doc. When I first arrived to Kelley Hill, I was not called Doc. My squad leader, Sgt. Walker and his associate Sgt G. were Docs.
To the infantrymen, I was just a guy in uniform with short hair who was being trained by their Docs. They wouldn’t even acknowledge me.