They'll Let Us Know
As he was walking away, no longer able to see us, I was extending my arms out to both sides of me, palms upward, giving Turkey the “What’s up with that?” look. I had a tendency to think of Roy as Turkey now and again, instead of Turvey.
Placatingly, he put one hand out, palm facing me, as if to say, “Hold on their, Big Guy, I’ve got the situation under control.
By the time I felt that Officer Meane had moved out of of earshot, I had begun to see the light. Roy made sure the spotlight was brilliant, by giving me time to think it through. He just kept nodding and rotating that extended hand in the gesture that means, “Keep thinking, Son, you’ll figure it out.” And then I got it. I broke out into a colossal smile and said, “We’re going to the meeting, but we’re not really interested.”
“That’s partly right,” he said, his smile matching mine in intensity. “To make it perfect, adjust it to the point where we are highly interested, as long as we can keep getting out of class. As soon as the well runs dry, we abandon ship like a couple of rats-make that foxes-and retire to our den for some fresh chicken.” He was positively chortling. It all made sense, because the army knew that in order to survive, it had to stay ahead of the game by supplying a steady stream of capable personnel in leadership positions.
These personnel did not have to be smart (an observation too frequently observed to be ignored) but it sure helped. So many of the recruits coming through the system, did not take the tests seriously. Even the college grads, recently snatched up the minute their deferments became moot, did not begin to understand the ramifications of succeeding on these basic skills tests. They were the method that the army used, in order to be able to sort and classify each recruit.
Some were Eleven Bravos, right out the shoot, that being the number assigned the inglorious infantryman. Others were assigned a seventy-one MOS, which covered all of the clerical personnel, whether it was clerking in an orderly room, working for a chaplain or being assigned to a personnel service company, such as the 199th in Seoul, Korea.
As each company of recruits filed through the system, the brass would comb the records for potential grist for the leadership mill. Roy and I both qualified. Having established this, the next step was to find out if there was any interest on both ends. Just because a recruit was qualified, did not make him or her a desirable candidate. Conversely, just because the army was interested in the test scores, did not mean that the recruit reciprocated the feeling. Hence, a series of meetings was conducted, with some dropping out of the race the minute the ante climbed from a two-year commitment to one of three years.
We attended the first of these meetings dutifully, appearing at the prescribed time, and listening attentively. Roy had a steady stream of questions. I couldn’t help thinking about Eddie Haskell, of Leave it to Beaver.
“So how long would it be before we were flying planes?” He directed his question at Chief Warrant Officer Tom, a man who had obviously tired of having people try to pronounce Wojojlowitzchy (Woe-yo-lo-wit-ski), the name they saw above his breast pocket, and instructed us to call him by his rank and his first name.
“That is a good question,” said Officer Tom, “and I’m glad you asked it. We have several levels of participation on the warrant officer level, and we try to channel each individual’s talents in the most productive manner.” I thought to myself that he used a bunch of words to not answer the question. I couldn’t believe that warrant officers would ever be allowed to fly planes; conventional army officers outrank them by definition. All warrant officers would ever do, is lend technical support. That was the definition of of the rank. Roy, however, did not care.
“Is the flight school training open to women as well as men?” Roy’s question drew immediate interest from the rest of the group, around twenty or so other guys, all in uniform, all of them ranked private.
Officer Tom leaped at the question. “Hell yes! This man’s army is certainly open to women.”
Roy pressed on. “Do you have uni-sex barracks, like the dorm rooms in college?” Interest was sky high.
“Well, er, um, that is a good, er, um, an interesting question, but I would say that different army bases have different policies.” Again, I thought, sure they do, but none includes a policy which allows fraternizing amongst men and women, within the confines of an army barracks filled with recruits. It wasn’t going to happen in this lifetime or the next.
Roy, however, did not care. “Are we going to get leave between AIT and assignment to flight school?”
Officer Tom got cautious. “Well that will depend on what you and Uncle Sugar have going on. I have no control over those logistics.” He shrugged apologetically. Roy, however, did not care.
“What about our rate of pay?” There was no slowing him down; there was no dampening of his enthusiasm. He never did pose the question about the length of service, because someone else did, when Roy finally let someone get a question in edgewise.
We did not want to spend all afternoon at the meeting, but we did want to spend all afternoon away from the classroom. When the meting broke up at 3:00, we did not go back to school, choosing instead to pay an early visit to the gym for some leisurely laps in the pool. Two days late, when the next meeting was scheduled, no one so much as blinked when we told the instructor that we would not be thee after lunch. Only this time we did not bother to go the the meeting. Why bother?
However, we were still able to hitch one more ride on the warrant officer gravy train, when they announced that orientation for warrant officer school was to take place the following morning at Battalion Headquarters. When we were asked back in the barracks if we had been chosen for the training program, we just shrugged our shoulders disgustedly, and said, “Yeah right. Like they’re going to let us in on their plans. We just have to go with the flow, and they’ll let us know.” Roy seemed pleased with his poetry.