It was a hot Summer in Georgia. Thanks to an excessive heat, humidity and wind index the Army called, "Wet Bulb," our time in the field was mostly spent sitting around drinking water from canvas lister bags . The water had a tangy canvas aftertaste and was cool due to condensation and ice the drills sometimes added.
Infantry school was a vast improvement over basic. We were still denied weekends off but the drills were focused on building us up rather than tearing us down which was the case in Basic. With rare exceptions, the drills were on our side. Always helping with tips, stories, and the occasional reminder to let you know they were still in charge.
"Private, what's the maximum effective range of the M-16?
"500 meters Drill Sergeant Nolan."
"Private, what's the cyclic rate of fire for the M-60?"
Five to six hundred rounds per minute, Drill Sergeant Nolan."
Private,what's my mother's name?"
"I don't know, Drill Sergeant Nolan."
"Her name is Mrs Nolan. Drop and give me 20."
Most drills went home at night but Nolan stayed in a private room on the second floor of our barracks. Occasionally, he would march my platoon to a trailer PX and instruct us to buy a 6 pack of beer. We'd march back and fall out into the woods where there was an abandoned concrete bunker we did our drinking in. We'd listen to Nolan tell stories of his year with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, Pathfinder School and how much he loved the Army.
On a Sunday march to the PX we were halted by a drill from another company. He spoke to Nolan who laughed and turned to me, "Tinseth, fall out and report to Drill Sgt Ott." Nolan marches away with the platoon as I stand at attention in front of Ott who asks, "Do you have a girlfriend, Tinseth?". I look at Ott and behind him I see a tan VW with my girlfriend in white shorts and a navy tank top. Her brown tan evidence of her Summer on a beach. She seems unreal standing next to her car parked in the POV lot. I watch my platoon and Nolan march by as they all stare at her gravity defying rear end and tube top.
Ott asks if I had anything to do with her driving up. It was understood no visitors were allowed until graduation. I tell Ott 'no way.' Amazingly, he buys it and adds, "This must be your lucky day." We're shown to a day room for visitors that I didn't know existed. I'm told we have an hour after which she will have to leave. Alone, we lock ourselves in a latrine and make the most of our time. Over, with much of our hour to spare, I tuck my fatigue shirt into my fatigue pants, square my web belt with my gig line and ask my girlfriend if she'll marry me.
We didn't get married but I don't remember being as happy as I was that Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, when I'm feeling sorry for myself, I think how unlucky I've been...but that picture of me, a few days after her visit, reminds me just how lucky I've been.