HHC XVIII Airborne Corps at Ft Bragg. I'm second from the right. The peace time Army. All volunteer as well. A horrible time it was. For the Army that is. Not for us. This picture was taken after I had been kicked out of Special Forces Phase Selection. 88 were in my SF class and only three made it to the green beret. All prior enlistment NCOs. I never really had what it takes. I certainly don't now.
Four of us were infantry in this picture. The other two were clerical types. Not that it matters. We were all REMFs. It was about this time that I started thinking seriously about being a soldier. A little late but there was rumor of war in Europe. We were all being trained for W.W. III. The idea was the Soviets would invade West Germany. We would be parachuted in and most of us would never exit the aircraft. We would be shot down long before ever reaching the drop zone. That's what we were told.
I tried to imagine who would kill me. Some 19 year old from the Ukraine or Estonia. With no more interest in killing me than I had in killing him. All of us children. All of us, wound up in our training and hot for medals and bobbles. The Combat Infantry Badge or the CIB was the one to have. Combat Jump Wings. Little star on the parachute indicating you jumped onto a hot DZ. Very rare. A Bronze Star for just showing up. Or with a V clasp if you did something truly heroic but not heroic enough for the Silver Star. All of it cheap metal and ribbon. Napoleon said men would die for mere bobbles. He got that one right.
But these serious thoughts were almost always pushed away with mind numbing duties interrupted by jumping out of planes and visiting Hay's Street in Fayettville. Hookers and their pimps were a lot more dangerous than the Warsaw Pact soldier ever turned out to be. For the first time I saw a part of the Army I had been kept from. The Pawn Shops and Stereo Stores with 33% APR. The Pop a Top Lounge, Flaming Mug, Seven Dwarfs and Susie Wong clubs where "Coke" girls shared time with you while they sipped a soft drink you paid three bucks for. Outside, the professionals walked the street and asked if you wanted a "date."
All of those experiences are like a patina no Brasso could ever polish up.