I was told it would be an eight-week course and that I would be provided all the necessary clothing and equipment. We began our training during a hot spell and were housed in the older and two-story wooden barracks from World War II. These buildings were not air-conditioned, but I was fortunate to be located on the lower level and in a bottom bunk. The buildings did have windows, but I don’t remember any of them ever being open.
Some days our training had to be altered because of the heat. At the conclusion of our eight weeks (it seemed like seven months) of training, we graduated. I was a member of Basic Training Company C-14-4. (The 4th’s finest ... Every man’s a tiger … ROOOAAARRRR. On command, the entire company was required to yell that in unison.)
After graduation we were given two weeks of leave time before having to report for advanced training. I scampered home and soaked up air conditioning wherever I could.
My next training was at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Because I was going to return home after this program to continue my drills with the Indiana Guard, I was allowed to drive my car there.
I started my trip a day early so I could visit my Aunt Tess and Cousin Sonny in Pittsburgh. I spent the night and was off quickly the next morning to learn all about the fuel and electrical systems on military ground vehicles.
Our barracks were much newer and cooler, and we had quite a bit of study time, which kept us busy during the weekday evenings. Once it was known that I had a 1962 Ford convertible, I became popular.
This part of my training was to take about 15 weeks, and it was before cellphones and computers. Writing and mailing letters was the most inexpensive way to communicate with family and loved ones. I knew my folks were planning a trip over to the Aberdeen area, but I wasn’t certain when they might arrive.
One evening a few of us decided to go get something different (good) to eat. I was driving south on the highway that would take us to Baltimore if we decided to venture that far when a big white Oldsmobile pulling a travel trailer moved past me on the inside lane of traffic.
I eased up beside it and calmly told my buddies that we were driving beside my parents, my sister and one of her girlfriends. No one in Mom and Dad’s car had noticed us. The guys all laughed and were yelling “Yeaaa right!” when I honked my horn and waved.
Soon, we were all waving frantically. We then found a place to pull over so the fun could begin.
That was an amazing six-month period in my life.