P.T. Field, January 1969

Ft.. Ord Radio School grads, 1969.

The storms start out there, on Monterey Bay. Grey blue haze obscures the horizon between sea and sky. Eyes front, but the vista compels our eyes to dart left, to take in the wondrous mottled light beyond the red roofs and yellow barracks, past the sparkling white sand of the firing range. On the water, bright patches where sunlight penetrates the morning dank define the luminous swell and ebb of the tide. Darker greys wash down from the ether shouting rain! Wetness swooshes across the water, heading directly toward us. “The Daily Dozen.” Windmill stretches. Jumping jacks. Jump thrust. “United States Army Drill Number One, Exercise Number Five, everyone’s favorite, the Push Up.” We drop to the front leaning rest position and begin the four count exertion. “One, two, three, ONE, Drill Sergeant, one two three TWO, Drill Sergeant…” Peripheral vision of breathtaking beauty counterweights a boot shouting in your ear, “keep your butt down, Trainee!”

We smell the rain coming, pushing the air before it, enveloping us in cool humidity that smells wet, that raises gooseflesh. Now we hear its relentless arrival.  Below us, Ft. Ord has surrendered to its drenching. Visibility zero down there in forbidden territory. We are maggots, confined to The Hill.

The first heavy drops of water strike us, a few more, more. At the order we pull our waterproof poncho from our gear, hunker down under the protective sheet. We are forty green tipi spaced dress right dress across the platoon’s PT field. The rain noise drowns out any other sound but the swirling wind pushing up from the bay. An unrelenting volume of water strikes our heads and backs. We savor these moments of privacy, alone with our own thoughts and memories, for now the Army only this dull green light and the sound of the passing squall. We feel rivulets form, tingle, and stream the length of our spine as the water  courses down to the ground.  We are blind; we can see only our boot toes and the corona of daylight that glows at the periphery of our waterproof poncho. Mud splashes against our now scuffed, once spit-shined combat boots. Run-off forms around our toes, puddling fashions the outlines of our leather as erosion sculpts a memory of our presence on the land. 

The noise abates. The rain passes. We obey. Ponchos off. Stand tall. Monterey Bay sparkles with magical light, whales, porpoises, salmon, sardines, Steinbeck…"U.S. Army Drill Number One, Exercise Number Five. The Push Up…”

We bitched and moaned. We laughed. I hope we all lived.

Memorial day, 2009.


Foto: Ft. Ord Radio School outprocessing day. Background is the Re-enlistment office, hence the smiles. These guys are Special Forces holdovers.