Day six (or is it day ten) and I’m rooted. Every muscle in my body aches, it hurts to even lie in bed. A human body was not built to withstand drill, PT, weapons lessons, marching everywhere uphill and yelling WAH TWO FREE WAH while suffering the effects of Army medical experimentations.
We’ve had so many needles I’ve lost count. I have swollen glands under my armpits from the small pox injections. I have this cough that threatens to drown me in phlegm if my lungs survive being turned inside out each time I cough.
And they also feed us Bromide.
“The bastards put Bromide in the food.”
“Someone said they put it in the milk, I’m gunna stop drinking the stuff. I haven’t had a fat since I’ve been here.”
“Hey, I noticed that my urine is dark and it has a pungent odour.”
“Does Bromide make ya piss stink?”
No matter how sick we were none of us went to the RAP (Regimental Aid Post). The reason was quite simple. The NCOs had discouraged us from doing this by implicating that they are all a bunch of idiots down there, they’d give us an Aspro and tell us to stop wimping out and get back to our platoon. In addition, if we were sick and needed a break for a couple of days then we could not train with our platoon, that meant being BACKSQUADDED to another platoon and we would not graduate with 22 Platoon but with some other bunch of squeezers some time later.
Worse still we could end up in a Reg. platoon. Heaven forbid!
Enter ‘The Professor.’
The professor was my other school mate, Ian. He worked out that by making a hot drink out of cold tablets and drinking it before you went to bed, you felt much better in the morning, particularly if you slept with extra blankets. His theory was that you ‘sweated’ the cold out.
It seemed to work, except for the guy who collapsed with pleurisy and ended up in hospital. He was back a couple of days later. He was skiting that he got a root while he was at the hospital.
“Yeah, he got a root at the hospital alright, his arse is still sore.”
He wasn’t backsquadded at all because he didn’t miss any crucial training sessions.
We did lose one bloke. He took off! He said he had had enough of this shit. Maybe we all should have left with him. He was back the next day. He hitched a ride quite easily he said and ended up at Albury when he realised that he could end up in jail for not meeting his National Service commitment, so he came back. I think they charged him and docked him a couple of days pay.
Lectures after lunch are the worst. Getting up at 5.30am and continually on the go until after lunch where we find ourselves in a nice warm lecture room with full stomachs and a comfy chair to laze in. It wasn’t long before we were all starting to doze off. This must be where the term ‘dozey digger’ comes from. Only the coughing kept us awake along with some threatening remarks from the instructors that our bodies would meet some irreparable damage if we didn’t switch on.
We get threatened a lot from the NCOs when we don’t do what they say or we don’t do something to their required standard. Being on the receiving end of continuous yelling really messes with your brain. I see it as a contest. I don’t let them get to me, especially during drill lessons.
“Do you like me recruit?” said the big burly corporal with a megaphone for a mouth. He was inches away from my face and the blast of air from his oesophagus straightened my eyebrows.
“Ah….” my mind was racing. If I say no I’ll be in deep shit.
“Oh, you like me do you recruit? Maybe you want to fuck me? Do you want to fuck me recruit?”
“Well then don’t look at me lad. Keep your fucking eyes to the front. If I see the smallest flicker from your eyes I’ll break your bloody arm off, shove it through your ears and ride you ‘round the parade ground like a fucking motor bike. Is that clear?”
Panic started to set in. I can’t laugh and I can’t even show the slightest smirk at his joke. I must keep a poker face and stare to the front.
I think I passed the test. I didn’t look at him anymore and he didn’t straighten my eyebrows again. The Army is teaching me to be observant. I noticed for example that when you want to holler at someone you need to open your mouthy really wide. You can only drop your jaw down so far, so you have to tilt your head back. This really opens the mouth up nice and wide and deep.
When the drill instructor has his face in your breath zone you don’t look at him. You stare into the distance so that his face is out of focus. If you focus on his face all you see is that little pink thingy hanging from the back of his throat. It vibrates when he hollers. You can visually check his sinuses through his nostrils at the same time.
It’s a good thing he can’t read my thoughts.
Actually despite the aches and pain, I think I am starting to dig this soldier gig thing.
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.
Hi guys. I am a good-looking, opinionated old fart who relishes a spirited debate on any topic regardless of how much I think I know about it.