“Tonight the barber cometh. Youse will all get a haircut”, this was the great order of the day from the platoon sergeant. “It’ll cost ya four dollars.”
“But sarge, I got a haircut just before I got here,” said someone from the back.
“Read my fucking lips, dipshit, EVERYONE will get a haircut. Is that clear?”
“Yes sergeant!” was the chorused reply.
We were getting quite good at these chorused responses because, and I may be letting you into a little trade secret here, that’s how we soldiers get to do things together at the same time. You know, all that drill stuff where we do the same thing together at the same time.
Say the platoon is on parade and they want us to do a left turn. The command is ‘left turn’, with a precautionary before it, in our case ‘platoon’. So the deal is the NCO drags out the precautionary word of command so us little recruits know he is going to tell us to do something so let’s not stuff it up guys and have me look bad and my peers find out and I have to shout at the mess.
Plaaatoooooon (a pause) lllllleeeefffffffttt, TA!
We then get to have all the fun by swinging our bodies through an arc of 90 degrees to the left (or 1600mils in Army speak but I’ll tell you about that later). At the same time we all yell out “WAH!” Then we yell out “TWO, FREE” (this is when we don’t move, but we all simply pause mid turn) followed by our bringing our rear leg forward in line with the other one and stamping our foot as hard as we can on the ground and yelling out “WAH!”. We are all now facing in the new direction except those guys from Canberra who don’t have a clue. When the 30 of us stamp our feet on the ground it should be heard as one big stomp, if our timing is right. If someone stuffs up, we do it again. We know we’ve stuffed up when the NCO says “ASYAWUR!” (as you were).
In summary we move on the “WAH” and pause on the “TWO, FREE.” There are some other words too, so I’ll run through a few examples.
Halt “CHECK HALT!”
Right Turn “WAH, TWO FREE, WAH”
Fall Out “WAH, TWO FREE, WAH”
Shoulder Arms “WAH, TWO FREE, WAH”
For the next few weeks or until they say otherwise, we are yelling WAH, TWO FREE, WAH all over Kapooka along with dozens of other platoons, so naturally 22 platoon must yell louder than the others. We don’t want them to think we are pussycats.
Meanwhile down at the barber shop……
It is not really a barbershop, just four commercial barbers visiting our lines to make our heads ‘Regimental’. We all line up and the barbers do their thing. I can’t believe some of the haircuts these guys are getting. Are these guys real barbers?
Finally I get to the front of the queue.
“Yeah, hi mate.”
“How are you finding the Army son?”
“I think I made a big fucking mistake.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Too late now boy. Now, do you want a crew cut or a college cut?”
“Gee, I didn’t know we could have a choice, I’ll have a college cut thanks!”
And with that the barber placed the cutting shears at the start of my hairline and made a blow right over the top of my head and then he worked his way down either side of my head. I suddenly realised that he had no comb in the shears. It was operating on zero and he took all my bloody hair off!
I had thick dark hair as a result of my Chinese ancestry and now my head looked all bumpy, lumpy and …. white!!!
I never did get to see the guy with shoulder length hair lose his. That would have been something to see.
Back at the platoon lines we started to introduce ourselves to each other again as we couldn’t recognise each other. Boy what a transformation.
We were real Army recruits now.
Reproduced with permission from FUN, FEAR, FRIVOLITY – A tale by an Aussie infantry soldier in the VIETNAM WAR. If you can’t wait, read more of this story now – or wait out while we reproduce it on these pages.
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