Chapter 8: 22 v the crayfish

Just who were these guys in 22 Platoon with whom I was sharing my journey to soldiering stardom?

It seems we were the local platoon.  I’ve already mentioned that we were Nashos, so we were all good lookin’.  There were no banana benders, crow eaters, mexicans or boys from the west in our platoon.

We had a couple of blokes from Canberra – I think the long haired bloke came from there.

We had a few guys from Albury, including twins, the Joss brothers. Call up for National Service was decided by ballot based on birth dates, so that’s how the twins ended up with us.

There were a couple of boys from Temora. I used to go to Temora to the local dances there so I knew the sister of one of the blokes.

We also had guys from Wagga, Batlow and Tumut.

We bonded pretty well and we helped each other out. Some coped better than others with the demands on our bodies and we all pitched in and helped one another.

This in essence is the goal of recruit training, to change you from an individual to a member of the group, and more importantly, to be an effective member of the group. To do your own thing and only look after yourself is to be a ‘jack man’. There can be no worse label to put on a soldier than to call him a ‘jack man’. Everyone must contribute to the group to ensure that the group finishes its task together as a group.

The group of course is 22 Platoon.

The PTIs (physical training instructors) took us for PT every day.  They were extremely fit and looked immaculate in their short shorts and tight singlets so we could all see their rippling muscles.

By contrast we were all skinny.

“Bloody crayfish.”

“Crayfish?”

“Yeah, body OK, head full of shit.”

We never called them crayfish to their faces though. We had more sense than that.

We often did circuit training where a number of activities were conducted until the word “change” was given and we would rotate to the next activity.

One activity was a simple summersault.

One of the Canberra connection decided to try it on and each time he went to do a summersault he would do it sideways and roll off the side of the mat.

The crayfish pounced. “What the fuck are you doing recruit?”

“A summersault, Bombadier.”

The crayfish then helped him do a simple summersault by guiding him over with a hand on his back.  This enabled the rest of us to slow down and take a breather while still appearing to be engaged feverishly in our activity.

After a couple of goes at trying to get our guy to do a summersault, the crayfish smelled a rat.

“Righto stop bludging and let’s get into it men, bash those bodies. And you sunshine, if you can’t do a summersault get down and give me ten.”

So everytime he came around to the summersault mat he’d spear off to the side, get up, do ten pushups and move on, much to our amusement and delight, although we couldn’t show it.

He was a heatseeker, taking the flack from the PTI so the rest of us would be left alone.

The worst part about PT was getting changed back into our uniform at the end of each session. We had two minutes to do this and I hated it every time, although it is surprising how quickly you can do it.

You’d leave your shirt buttoned up and still attached to your jumper and take it all off at once. This saved buttoning everything up.

One guy was always dressed first. He said he had plenty of practice back in civie street getting dressed quickly while climbing through a window at the same time. Skite.

So we would dress as fast as we could, form three ranks on the road, do a bit of WAH, TWO FREE, WAH, march quickly to our next period of instruction; and wait.

Hurry up and wait.

There is another Army saying – ‘Great coats on, great coats off’. This happens when there is a change of plans and nobody was warned out, particularly when a decision has just been made to change something at the last minute.

So the NCOs have to adopt an attitude. They can’t go around spitting the dummy each time there is an unscheduled change, you know, standing with their hands on their hips listening to an officer tell them how the 20 minute march up to this location was in vain and the platoon is now required 2 kilometres away, 10 minutes ago.

They could grab their hat and throw it on the ground and jump up and down on it to show their displeasure – or they could simple come back over to the platoon and say, “Righto men fucking great coats on, fucking great coats off, we are going over there!”

“22 Platoon, quick march, EFF ITE, EFF ITE, EFF ITE, EEEFFF.”

There would be no stamping of the feet this time feigning being out of step, the NCO was pissed off enough. We knew when to behave ourselves.

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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.

ian_cavanoughHi 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.
Ian Cavanough,
Tumut, NSW

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