Our day was off to a quick start, we left the transient barracks after breakfast and into quonset huts at Las Pulgas by 0800. We marched in formation to the supply warehouse and were issued the gear for training. Helmets, cartridge belts and an M-16 with two magazines were basic needs for combat training.
After securing our gear we were transported to a medical facility for a physical exam and updates to our vaccine records. We received shots with a CO2 jet injector which is more painful than a needle but faster. Everyone had a “knot” on their upper arm from the experience.
Returning to the quonsets we found fresh bedding on our bunks, and everyone made their racks. Our new handlers (trainers) gave us instructions to be in the outdoor classroom by 1300 with all of our newly-acquired gear. This left time for lunch at the mess hall.
We straggled to the classroom, and I noticed Gaskins up ahead wearing his helmet . . . a ridiculous sight. We had some time before the class started so I tried to help him adjust the webbing in the helmet liner. He had done a good job of tightening all the straps, but I cinched everything to the max. It didn’t wobble anymore, but his head went deep into the helmet. A trainer came over to take a look at the helmet and made a sarcastic remark about Gaskins’ small head. I couldn’t help myself and loudly said, “If you can’t help with this, then get the fuck away from us.”
All of a sudden the Company Gunnery Sergeant intervened and wanted to know what the problem was. I told him, “Private Gaskins wasn’t endowed with a normal-size head.” While everyone was laughing, the Gunny inspected the helmet liner and said with a straight face, “He needs a helmet pillow,” and he walked away.
After the orientation class, the trainer came over and apologized to Gaskins. Gaskins responded, “It’s OK Sarge, I get this all the time.”
I asked the trainer, “What the hell is a helmet pillow?” The trainer answered, “Make a small pillow out of a hand towel and stuff it under the webbing.” We made a pillow, and it worked.
Later after dinner a few members of my platoon thanked me for standing up for Gaskins, and Sergeant Garnett said, “That Gunny is going to watch you like a hawk.” I knew Garnett was right but standing up for your troops was basic leadership, and the Gunny should respect that.
We were in our racks by 2200, and all I could think about was Jenny. I knew others were having loneliness issues; hopefully once the training started we would be too preoccupied to feel sorry for ourselves.
Next Edition: Basic Infantry Training