OH, BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
"R.O.T.C." = "Running Out of Trained Cannoncockers"?
I had a dollar for every time I was asked in Vietnam: "Which OCS Class did
you graduate from?"
I could have gotten a great head start on my retirement fund, clearly surpassing
that lowly $222 per month salary I was getting.
It just got more and more suspicious each time a fellow Lieutenant asked that question! Obviously, the guy asking the question survived the hard knocks of OCS at Ft Sill and the grind of all the field artillery course brainwashing and got his OCS gold bars. Oh, yeah...can't forget...he also got an all-expense-paid trip to Vietnam as his reward whereby he ran into me...that rare species called a "Rot-see" graduate. Often my reply that I was a "Rot-see" grad got a strange look that was saying: "Boy...did you screw up!" Or..."Who did you manage to piss off at such high levels"?
I've already concluded that there was something seriously wrong with the math here. I mean, I graduated in June of 1965 and was told that Ft Sill had no openings in their BOBC (Branch Officer Basic) course until late October, 1965. Good Lord! Was there such a high demand - taking all the slots - caused by ROTC grads choosing a combat arms branch over all the other "desk job" branches they could have chosen? Was the class size ultra small? Why did I have to wait so long? Now, following this math logically, there should have been a "bumper crop" of field artillery branch ROTC grads at the end of the pipeline/cycle. How come the field artillery OCS guys got orders to Nam and the Rot-see guys were nowhere to be found? Except me, of course. Or...could it be that...assignments to Nam were not so random. Perhaps the OCS guys were sent to Nam but the Rot-see guys weren't? If so, what could I have possibly done to piss off somebody at the Pentagon level? I don't recall anything.
Well...there was this ONE thing. Back when I was a Training Officer in the BCT Brigade at Ft Bliss, TX. The Draft Boards were working the midnight oil putting young men in the service to support the war. You were presumed "1-A" until some doc made you a "4-F". At the basic training company level, you got to see all the "mistakes" made by a Draft Board. There was this one kid...from Chicago. He was an "only child"...a late-in-life miracle for his parents. They raised him in an apartment like a potted geranium. How in the world did those parents let this kid get drafted? Why didn't they fight it? Maybe they just couldn't; I don't know. Poor kid had no social skills...barracks life and the brutal yelling and screaming that accompanies good military discipline was a total shock to his system. Ferdinand wanted the flowers...not the fight. So, Junior here uses his first taste of Trainee freedom to go to the Main BX at Ft Bliss and select a .22 caliber rifle. Then he selects a box of .22 caliber shells. As he is standing in the checkout line, he loads the rifle, puts the danger end on top of his foot and pulls the trigger. He puts a very clean hole right through his foot. Court-martial time...serious charge of malingering. Oh, yes...I'm on orders as his Defense Counsel. Well, I knew all the circumstances and the only hope here was that he would be re-classified as a "Section 8" (mentally unfit for service) as result of his behavior. But...I gotta find a military psych doc to write this up.
What I get back is a neatly-typed, three-page psychoanalysis of this kid. This document is the epitome of equivocation. The doc HAD to be a tennis player: yes, he is crazy...but then again, he may not be crazy...but even so, he must be crazy, but on the other hand, maybe he's not. The ball kept bouncing back and forth. But...it's all I got and all I was gonna get. The psych-doc seemed to be saying that this kid didn't belong in military service, but don't pin the tail on my donkey.
There was something strange about this particular court-martial. I got the distinct feeling that the case was already decided and the hangman's noose was in the judge's center desk drawer. "Impartiality" and "due process" were not to be found here. My motion for dismissal based upon the psychiatric evaluation just delayed the proceedings for a minute or so. The senior officer just flipped through the pages. It was totally impossible to comprehend all that psycho-babble gibberish taking up three (3) pages so quickly. "Motion Denied!" "Maximum Sentence!" Okay...I get it...the message came down from "on high" to hang this kid and send a message to others. Can't have malingering in a BCT outfit.
The tradition back then was to let you have one final moment with your "client" before he got sent off to the military pokey. I used that private moment to tell him to have his parents contact their Congressman with a copy of that psych evaluation. Had no foggy idea if he understood that or if he would follow through.
surprise! The kid does. And his parents do. And the
Congressman does. The kid is freed...he is deemed "Section 8--mentally
unfit". The potted geranium gets out and returns to his greenhouse.
But...yours truly "undid" the system. A call comes down..."Lt Dauphin...report to Battalion Headquarters". The Bn XO sits me down and holds a very private conversation: "Did you tell Private Geranium to contact his Congressman?" "Well...of course not, sir!" We both smiled...he knew and I knew he knew.
So...I guess that's it. My little escapade went all the way up the line to D.A.!
So...don't try to "sell" me that I got sent to Nam at random. Cuz I ain't buying it.
Lt Dennis Dauphin