The first sound in the mornings was the clumping of the sergeant’s boots down the middle of the barracks. Followed shortly by a loud blasting command to “get our maggot asses out of our bunks” or we’d catch hell all day “paying back Uncle Sam for sleeping on his time.” I suppose, reveille played before he entered, but I was never awake to hear it.

My bunk was in the middle of the barracks. There were others evenly spaced across the entire open bay. The bed was so small that I had to sleep with my legs doubled up; if I straightened them out I kicked the pole supporting the centerline of the building and the smarts from that would keep me awake most of the rest of the night. The soldier on the top bunk was older than I, named Maben, a mechanic of sorts from Detroit. He snored like a bear and worked on his piston most nights. Needless to say, it wasn’t an ideal sleeping arrangement.

Army chow was uniformly disgusting. For breakfast you got two slabs of greasy bacon and green scrambled eggs, and stale toast with thumb-marks in it. Fortunately, they never gave us enough time to really eat it. For lunch there were generally those little airline sandwiches which appeared to have been wrapped a few days in advance in clear plastic wrap–if we were lucky, we got a scoop of french fries. Don’t even think of trying to go for seconds. The Sergeants would have a fit. “What do you think your doing? You better be ready to do the work of two if you’re going to eat for two!” Towards the end of basic training, the rush to get us out of the mess hall seemed to slack a bit. The smell of the kitchen was dreadful, but, as with that of the barracks, you ceased to notice it after a while.

Despite the occasional absurdities that inevitably arise when someone demands absolute compliance with orders, it wasn’t so bad an experience. I learned a lot. Most important being that I could endure every challenge thrown my way just by persevering.