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Infantry Officer Candidate School

I will take you down my own avenue of remembrance, which winds among the hazards and shadows of my assignment to 52nd Infantry Officer Candidate Company, Fort Benning, Georgia. I cannot come to this story in full voice.

I only speak for the candidates who graduated because they took everything the system could throw at them, endured every torment and excess, and survived the first eight weeks with a feeling of transformation and achievement that they had never felt before and would never know again with such clarity and elation as the day we turned "Blue." I will remember it for another reason, I carried our nations standard in the quiet ceremony.

I will speak from memory--my memory--a memory that is all refracting light slanting through prisms and dreams, a shifting, troubled riot of electrons charged with pain and wonder. My memory often seems like a city of exiled poets afire with the astonishment of language, each believing in the integrity of his own witness, each with a separate version of culture and history, and the divine essential fire that is poetry itself.

Our first assembly was in Wigle Hall--a place of honor where I would be inducted as a Colonel in 1984--I volunteered to be President of the company honor council.

I applied for non rated warrant officer status in early 1962 while assigned to the 45th Transportation Company (AM&S), which, at the time was located at Ascom City, not far from Inchon, Korea, as a Spec. 5. At the time I was responsible for rotary wing aircraft inspections. The unit moved to Pyong Taek in July 1963 and I was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

Each year, in my birth month, I took a physical and said that I was still interested in the warrant officer program. After assignment to the 10th Air Transport Brigade, as the Brigade S4 sergeant, I was Field NCO of the Day with the Brigade Adjutant, Major Joe Solari. We got around to personal issues when he asked whether I had ever considered becoming an officer.

In fact I had. Captain Glen Jones encouraged me to apply for OCS in 1959 while I was in Taipei, Taiwan. At the time I wasn't interested and asked him whether he wanted a good crew chief or aspiring officer--he wanted a good crew chief. I began taking college courses shortly after that just in case another offer came along.

Vietnam, and American involvement, was growing when I reported in August 1964. There was an oddity about my classmates--they were older! In fact, my class was a collection of sergeants--generally candidates were promoted to E5 once they signed in.

OCS Insignia

Senior candidates handled the arrival ceremonies overseen by the cold, inimical eyes of the cadre. I got in fast and started preparing my things. Outside senior candidates and cadre began teaching the late arrivals the cheerless rudiments of the system--military sharpness, leadership, devotion to duty, ambition and an uncompromising, uncomplicated belief in the system--all of which have a basis in push-up's, sit-up's and grass drills.

During the six month course of instruction, I held all of the unit leadership positions, in addition to those on the battalion honor council, and did a special article for the class year book. Ranked eighth in my class, I did well both in academics and peer ratings, an achievement I attribute to excellent enlisted and officer leaders and a training system unequaled or paralleled in my life to that point.

Having been elected President of the honor council came as quite a surprise. Another surprise was being commissioned a 2LT of Transportation and getting an airborne assignment graduation day from an Infantry commissioning program.

Normally I would have concluded that my duty as Honor Council President would be grim and excruciating. Being responsible to judge the guilt or innocence of my peers accused of lying, stealing, cheating or of tolerating those who did seemed like the right thing to support. It never occurred to me that everyone didn't support those values, i.e., those found guilty of an honor violation were drummed out in a dark ceremony of expatriation that had a remorseless medieval splendor as the guilty individual was drummed across the parade field to Headquarters Company.

I watched the 50th Company drum a liar out of their ranks and it removed any temptation I might have had to challenge the laws of the honor code. It also occurred to me that I was one of four who could summon the battalion and that fearful squad of drummers for the ceremony of exile.

Throughout my remaining military career, my decisions were always cushioned by the memory of the drummers and my promise that I would not tolerate a liar, thief or cheat, or those who do. I graduated sixth in my class and commissioned a 2LT of Transportation Corps on 15 February 1965.