The last day of basic training had finally arrived, Graduation Day! We were all very excited, most of us anyway. A few guys didn’t pass all the PT tests and had to be “recycled” into another unit and keep trying until they do pass. I suppose that after they failed enough, they were kicked out of the army.
The graduation ceremony went smoothly. Several men had family there to watch them graduate if they lived close enough. Since I lived so far away, New York, my family couldn’t be there. No matter, I was proud enough of myself for making it though for everyone. I remember getting chills as we marched in formation past the stand. The bleachers were full of people and all kinds of “brass”, e.g., officers. What a difference those nine weeks made, because now we actually looked like soldiers.
After the ceremony, we headed back to the company area to gather up our belongings and get our orders for our next assignment. Those of us that graduated from basic training were promoted to Private E-2, which showed everyone that we weren’t recruits any longer. We also received our “yearbook”, which is where I got the pictures of the people you see here. We passed around the yearbooks for signatures; much like you did when you graduated high school. When we were all done with that, we were called to formation and told what we were in for next.
Up until now, nobody really knew where they would be assigned and held out that small glimmer of hope that it wouldn’t be for infantry training, which pretty much meant an all expense paid trip to Vietnam. However, like me, most were assigned to infantry training AIT, but a few others, like the men who enlisted, got different assignments. A few guys that were drafted got orders for mess cook and clerical position AIT. They didn’t sign up for that, they were just ordered to do it. I guess that’s what all that testing at the reception station was all about. Those assignments wouldn’t get them out of going to Vietnam, because mess cooks and clerical people were needed there too. However, being a mess cook or an office worker in Vietnam was a lot better than being an infantryman.
We were issued our orders and then fell out so we could go into our barracks to get our duffel bags. We walked out of those barracks for the last time leaving them as spotlessly clean, just is it was when we arrived 9 weeks earlier. Few of us joked about how the next group would make the same mistake we did the first time we entered the barracks. They would walk down the center aisle scuffing it up and be chastised for walking on “HIS” floor by the drill sergeant.
Here are the basic training graduation pictures from our "yearbook" of all of the soldiers in my unit; Company A, Sixth Battalion, Second Brigade. There are also pictures of a few other guys I hung out with from other platoons. I wonder how many of the young men you see here never made it back alive from Vietnam, I wonder.
If you couldn't tell which one was me, here's a close up.
We said our good byes and headed off to AIT, wherever that was? Most of us were assigned to infantry training AIT at Fort Jackson. This is where we would actually learn to be an infantryman for service in Vietnam.