get up, get over, get out (Page 2)
once we were soldiers

 

 

australian infantryman's combat badge

Boot Camp and Corps Training 60's Style (Page 2)

© By Bob Cavill
C Coy & Assault Pioneers
1st Tour
Author: Robert Cavill

 

Placing himself at the front of the bus he stood at what I would soon learn was the "at ease" position with a clip board in his right hand. There was a decidedly menacing volume about him we would come to recognise as being the parade ground professional soldier. "Quiet! Now answer your numbers when I call them; answer your number with your name and end with Corporal." This went along with some confusion for some time as many had not been given the good advice I had received back at Eastern Command re: learning your regimental number. Eventually one of my fellow recruits decided to inject a little levity into the proceedings by answering his name, but ending with 'Mate'. The RDI launched himself at the offender, he hurtled down the isle of the bus to where the miscreant was seated and leaning over him yelled in an incredible volume "Corporal!... I'm no f******g mate of yours"! All in the bus went silent, the bloke next to me whispered, "This is like the 'Boob'", (Jail). The same bloke went over the hill a few days later - never to be seen again.

In the mid AM, the bus proceeded on to the camp. As it passed though the Wagga City streets, I remember the RDI in that incredibly loud voice saying the town area would be 'out of bounds'. As we proceeded up through the Kapooka base camp gates he nominated the different buildings mess sites, stores, sgt's mess etc with an immediate and very loud... 'out of bounds!' It would seem that I was now to be confined to a very small place for the next three months. On debussing at our nominated accommodation site, those long round silver tunnel shaped Army buildings soon to be known as 'Silver City', we were told to get into some semblance of three ranks. Being of course unable to achieve this quick enough for the RDIs' we were promptly told we looked like a pack of f****ing yank wankers suffering with crud. Crud,
we later found out, was a particular condition common in the Army among recruits and other low types, caused by a slow seepage of shit to the brain.

The next day we were walked, because we could not march, like the shower of shits we were, to the Q Store. Here we were issued some kit; very basic and disgustingly non-descript pale washed out khaki clothing; a hat that looked like a cloth rag, this was nothing like the slouch hat I had expected? along with some err 'under-things'. These looked on brief perusal, rather like something my grandfather would have warn 'decidedly' un-cool, and a pair of boots AB with odd looking things called 'gaiters'.

Replete with all sorts of strange toiletries and objects 'For the Use Of', we twitted nervously along to what we would later recognise as a parade ground where we were lined up. This time to find a sergeant with a distinctly unfriendly look about him waiting for us. Standing at attention his swagger stick held perfectly level under his arm, he addressed us in this vane. He told us that his name was Sergeant Clark (I Think?) that 'we' in future could call him 'Sargeant or God' he would answer to either but nothing else. We, at this point thinking this must be some kind of joke, began to laugh in order to join in what we perceived as a sudden and generally more relaxed atmosphere ...but this was a mistake, it solicited an immediate reaction in him, he moved rapidly towards us and screamed out 'Silence!'.

Having immediately achieved the desired effect, he stepped back and came again to attention. Starting low and slow, he built to a crescendo eventually, spitting out "you may think you have known some bastards in your life - and you may have, but you see I'm not a bastard. I am an absolute ****!" (Female body part!) "And I guarantee in a very short time you will think so!" Getting into his stride proper now he continued, "So You f**kers want to be soldiers aye? ....problem is, you pack of civilian f**kwits all suffer from crud!" "Do you know what crud is? It's a slow seepage of shit to the brain!" "Soldiers aye?" "Well... we will make soldiers of some of you, but it's going to f****ing near kill you'; I will see to that! It's my job." "You are the lowest form of life in the Army - 'f***ing recruits that doesn't mean soldier... you lot will be soldiers when people like me call you soldiers and not before!" ... "And believe me you have a very long way to go!!"

We stood in silence; it would seem this was going to be a very unfriendly place indeed! And as it turned out, he was not exaggerating, because mentally and physically this was the beginning of probably the hardest time of my entire life. A second three months of 'Infantry Corps Training', followed by a further three months of jungle training near 10 months of intensive training in all, was and still is, with one exception - the hardest physical and mental challenge I have ever been subjected to in my entire life. However, I was to learn that without this mental and physical torture, to survive in Vietnam and remain psychologically intact would probably have been impossible.

And so it began, a Corporal called out Quite...Stand still! You will remove that crap you have on and change into the clobber you have been issued!" One fellow recruit was wearing a black leather jacket, there was something about his attire that induced what I felt was a particularly sinister sort of leering grin from 'The Cattle Dog' perhaps a sign of things to come. Staring intently, his eyes locked onto this offender he said 'Place that shit into what ever baggage you have'. I personally, had an airline bag. He went on 'You have been issued a tag, put your name and number on it and tie it to the bag, this will then be collected and returned to you on completion of your first three months training ... You have five minutes'.

We all stared at each other. 'Christ! is this bloke for real? it's more than five minutes back to the huts ...does he expect us to get undressed on the parade ground?' Two seconds passed - behind me some croweater in a low voice said "Ya can't piss-off without ya civvies aye!" There was some discussion among the members; I distinctly remember someone saying "Go on ... ask him Bob"

I decided to speak up; there must be some misunderstanding! Things could no doubt be clarified with further communication. 'THIS' was a mistake. "Ah sir, do you mean our shoes and underclothes too ... it's just that..." He came so close to my face I'm sure he smoked Rothmans! He spat out ..."Everything!" "You now have four minutes and 50 seconds! ....Well?" "What the hell are you waiting for, your mummies!?" "Get the f**k on with it!"

We took off! Some ran in the complete wrong direction dropping 'utilities various for the use of'' all over the parade ground. It looked like someone had thrown a kero tin in a chook yard. We had been given our first lesson and one of the most important things learned in the Army, when you are told to do it in the Army, Don't ask - do it NOW!


 

CONTINUE

ONCE WE WERE SOLDIERS | BACK TO CONTENTS PAGE