Jul 21 • 14M

Episode 5 "The sweetest tasting liquid in the world"

Don't Play With Things That Go Boom

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Don’t play with things that go boom. Lessons from my days in olive drab by Clint Morey, Specialist 4th Class, retired. Well … not actually retired … it’s more like  I didn’t re-up.

Episode 5: “The Sweetest Tasting Liquid in the World”

Now that the Army had us looking like soldiers, they had another job. 

And I have to admit, this job was a little more difficult than teaching us how to salute and march.

The Army had to teach us to become soldiers … real soldiers … fighters … or, to be a bit more precise … they had to teach us how to kill.

PHYSICAL CONDITIONING

Physical conditioning became an important part of our training.

Which made sense to me.

Not that the Army cared what I thought about their training program … or anything else for that matter.

We were going to be sent to the jungles of Vietnam to fight a war, and being in good physical shape seemed like a pretty important trait.

So … We ran. We marched. We threw things. We carried things. We did push ups. We did sit ups. We did more running and more marching.

THE PCPT TEST

They even had a test to see if we were good enough to be soldiers. And they told us we had to pass that test in order to get out of Basic Training.

The Army called it the PCPT — the Physical Combat Proficiency Test.

That test included things like:

Run, Dodge, Jump (Shuttle Run)

They tested our agility and speed running around objects, leaping over things (no tall buildings), and sprinting short distances.

These seemed like useful skills to have in a combat situation.

Low Crawl

I have to admit I would never have come up with this one on my own. The low crawl was a 40 yard sprint.

Well, not a sprint actually. It got its name because you had to cover a distance of 40 yards with your belly touching the ground the entire way.

Think about that.

Almost half a football field with your belly in constant contact with the ground.

If you did it right you resembled a cockroach scurrying across the ground.

If you didn’t do it right you felt like a cockroach as the Drill Sergeant screamed at you while your arms and legs flailed and your belly seemed connected to one spot.

But I could see how it was a useful skill if bullets were flying around overhead or you had to go under obstacles.

Horizontal Ladder

This one kind of mystified me.

The horizontal ladder resembled the Monkey Bars you see at parks with little kids playing on them. These were larger and the bars rotated which made them more difficult to grip.

I’m not sure what specific combat skill they were trying to teach us. Perhaps they were just trying to increase our upper body strength. I actually practiced on monkey bars at playgrounds before entering the Army.

The next test was sprung on us without warning. We marched to a field and were told to pair up.

After everyone paired up, then they told us what we would be doing.

It was called the 150 YARD MAN CARRY.

Right away I knew I had a problem. The guy I was matched up with was about 6’5” and 40 pounds heavier than me. He was quite happy he got me. I was not not quite as happy that I got him.

In this test your partner lay on the ground and you had to lift him up, put him on your shoulder, and run 150 yards. That’s the length of one and a half football fields. Imagining I was being shot at, I ran as fast as I could. My legs were burning and a little wobbly by the time I finished.

While it was a challenging test because of who I was paired up with, I thought it was a very important skill. I could envision being in a battlefield situation where a fellow soldier was injured and needing to be carried off the field.

I understand they don’t use this activity any more because it is too difficult for many of the recruits.

The final test item I remember was the MILE RUN.

Again, I thought this was a good exercise for general fitness as well as being useful in a combat situation if you were on foot.

I was glad I had been in cross country in high school and actually enjoyed running. So this was an easy test for me.

I remember when we took the PCPT test everything went well, except for one item. I had always done a good job on the low crawl but on the test day it seems like my belly was stuck to the ground and I had to work really hard to finish under the time limit.

But I passed tests and that’s all that mattered.

After Vietnam, the Army got rid of the tests I took and replaced them with new tests.

Why they made those changes is another story for another time. 

WEAPONS OF WAR

Getting in shape was just part of our training.

We also had to learn to use the weapons of war.

The goal was to kill the enemy and avoid being killed in the process.

The M-16

Our main weapon was the M-16.

Our drill sergeant made sure we called it a rifle and not a gun. He even had a little phrase he used to help us remember to call it a rifle, but I’m sure they don’t use that phrase any more.

Now I was a city boy raised in Los Angeles and firing weapons was not something that I did in the course of a normal day.

In fact, the closest I came to developing my shooting skills as a civilian was done in places like a carnival or Disneyland.

I would be at a booth that had a bunch of targets. Some of those target sat there. Some moved.

I paid the person running the booth and was given the rifle.

Sometimes those rifles worked like BB guns. Sometimes they sent out electronic signals.

On the electronic shooting ranges, the targets moved right and left and when you shot, it sent out some type of electric signal and if you somehow hit the item, it stopped, turned around and went the other direction.

That was my experience with shooting before the Army.

In the Army it was a little different. We learned how to completely disassemble and reassemble the M-16. We learned safety techniques so we didn't shoot each other or ourselves. And we spent a lot of time on the shooting range.

I have to admit I was not that good at the beginning but I practiced and got better and better and better.

By the time we came to our final test towards the end of basic training I was really a very good shot. The final test went over two days. Depending on your skill level you got one of three classifications. I don't remember what they were — expert, marksman and something else. I wanted to get the top classification.

The person with the top classification could qualify to be a sniper.

Now I knew I was not going to be a sniper because my eyesight without glasses was so bad. Even if I had good eyesight, the idea of sitting around waiting to shoot someone was not something that really was appealing to me.

But I did want to get the top classification.

For the final exam we had a shooter and a spotter. So when I shot at the various targets, the spotter would record my score. And I remember at the end of that first day my score was high enough to be in the top level.

So I was excited for the next day because I knew that I could get the top award.

But then something happened.

And it was something that was not all that uncommon in Louisiana.

It rained.

It rained hard. It rained so hard, I could barely see a few feet in front of me.

But we had our shooting to do on the range for our final exam.

I remember lying on the ground on my belly in a good prone firing position as the rain splattered all around me.

We were notified the targets were ready.

I stared and stared trying to see the target through the pouring rain.

Finally I looked up at the spotter and told him I couldn’t see the target.

The spotter told me he couldn't see the target either but I should go ahead and shoot anyway. So I pulled the trigger and shot.

Neither one of us could see if I hit what I shot at so the spotter just give me a score that was high enough to be a passing grade for that second day and that way I was able to get my basic shooting award.

But I did not get the top level of shooting.

THE SPIRIT OF THE BAYONET

I included the bayonet here because it seems like it should go with the M-16, even I don’t think I ever actually saw a bayonet attached to an M-16.

“What’s the spirit of the bayonet?” yelled the Drill Sergeant who was trying to get us into the proper mental attitude for bayonet training.

We knew the words he wanted us to say in response, but most of us didn’t have the proper mental attitude and our response was a little on the weak side.

“To kill, to kill, with cold hard steel, Drill Sergeant,” we mumbled.

It seems like most of the recruits had my background with this warrior mentality thing.

Needless to say, the Drill Sergeant was not pleased with our response.

So, he had us do push ups while he screamed at us.

Then he asked us again, “What’s the spirit of the bayonet?”

We were a little louder but not enough to please the Drill Sergeant.

So more push ups.

We went through that routine several times until we were finally able to answer his question …

“What’s the spirit of the bayonet?”

“To kill, to kill, with cold hard steel, Drill Sergeant.”

Finally, he was happy.

So we moved on to the next phase of our attitude adjusting.

THE SWEETEST TASTING LIQUID IN THE WORLD

“What’s the sweetest tasting liquid in the world?” yelled the Drill Sergeant.

When the Drill Sergeant told us how he wanted us to respond, I have to admit, we looked at each other and some even laughed.

The Drill Sergeant did not take that well.

“What’s the sweetest tasting liquid in the world?” He yelled at us again.

“Blood? Drill Sergeant.”

We definitely did not have the warrior attitude he wanted to hear.

So, more push ups.

And more screaming and yelling by the Drill Sergeant.

As I recall, while we were doing push ups, he said a bunch of very unkind things about those of us from California.

With all the push ups we did that day, we were getting into good physical shape.

And finally we were able to answer his question …

“What’s the sweetest tasting liquid in the world?”

“Blood, Drill Sergeant.”

The Drill Sergeant smiled.

He earned his pay that day.

Now that we had the proper warrior attitude, we began our bayonet training.

Only we didn’t practice with real bayonets. Instead we practiced with pugil sticks.

Those were sticks with pads on each end.

This is a Marine Drill at Paris Island in 2013, but it’s similar to our training 43 years earlier at Ft. Polk, Louisiana.

If you ever saw the old Robin Hood movie with Errol Flynn, it was like the scene where Robin and Little John confronted each other on the tree bridge.

There was no finesse. Basically we just pounded on each other until the Drill Sergeant blew his whistle.

Lessons?

Well, there were a couple.

(1) Well, when they taught us how to use some of the weapons of war, I tried to learn how to do it well. I wasn’t just trying to “get through” the test. I was trying to master the skill.

That’s a good lesson in everything we undertake. Try to become excellent at what you do.

(2) Some things just aren’t aren’t all that important.

I have to admit that I never bought into the idea that blood was the sweetest tasting liquid in the world.

Thanks for listening to this episode. 

If you enjoyed it, please sign up to follow the podcast and in the next episode I'll share about some of the very, very dangerous weapons of war we used and how I did on my final tests.

Not to give it away but I actually graduated from Basic.

Before I go, I'd like to share a blessing with you from the Old Testament.

“May the Lord bless and protect you; may the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; may he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26 (The Living Bible)