From Hamburger to "Prime Beef" in Ten Weeks

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty-year old boys, off to join the Army. It was so easy and simple to see it that way. A choice for some. A duty to others. And simply a total misfortune for others. All young, most naïve, and all generally oblivious as to the realities of life and death in the real world.

FROM HAMBURGER TO “PRIME BEEF” IN TEN WEEKS

By Al Garcia

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty-year old boys, off to join the Army.  It was so easy and simple to see it that way.  A choice for some.  A duty to others.  And simply a total misfortune for others.  All young, most naïve, and all generally oblivious as to the realities of life and death in the real world.

Most of us were coming right out of high school, or a year or two in college.  Our parents had taught us well. To have faith.  To stand up for what was right.  To turn the other cheek.  To live by the edict of the Ten Commandments.  We had been given a name and had our own personalities and identities, which our upbringing and schooling had helped to mold.

Then, one day we’re put on a bus.  We wave our goodbyes, and wipe away a tear or two, because for most of us, this was our very first trip alone as an “adult,” even at that age.

For ten weeks, we would all now be placed in a situation, and in an environment where the years of careful growth, grooming and molding by our parents, teachers and preachers, would abruptly come to an end.  We were all on our way to “re-education centers,” as the Chinese prefer to call their “camps,” while here in American, we prefer the more subtle term of “Basic Training,” the process of stripping away each boy’s personality and identity, and replacing them with complete and unquestioning obedience over mind and body.

In 10 weeks, the military was tasked with transforming young, mostly unsophisticated boys, into soldiers.  Totally raw recruits, pushed and shoved into learning everything military: basic tactical and survival skills.  How to shoot (marksmanship) and use a hand grenade, rappelling a wall, marching in unison, navigating obstacles courses, and even hand-to-hand combat.  Also included was training in nuclear, biological, and chemical defense, a bit more freighting and relevant for boys coming of age in the 1960s.  But more importantly, and more basic than a mere “re-education” process, was ensuring that each new recruit was physically fit.

The culmination of the intense training was to build up our self-confidence, teach “decision-making,” something we all learned in time, was never in our paygrade, but more importantly, taught to encourage our sense of extreme aggression and fearlessness.  In other words, we were being groomed to become thoughtless, emotionless, unquestioning fighting machines.  We were “re-educated” into becoming everything we had been taught was wrong – bullies, fighters, killers.  And for some young boys, this was a new and exciting chapter in their lives.  For others, it was troubling and contrary to every fiber of their being and upbringing.

The majority of boys did make it through the 10 weeks of harsh and sometimes brutal training.  Some were kicked out, and returned home as “unfit” due to “mental” or “physical” weaknesses, while a few disappeared voluntarily (AWOL) without notice.  Yet, the majority of us ended up walking out the gates of “boot camp” as new and improved images of our former selves, or so we were told.  We had made it through our training, and the Army had given us its “Stamp of Approval.”  I guess it was like getting a USDA stamp on a prime piece of meat, except we were still walking and breathing, and not slabs of meat hanging from a hook.  Not yet anyway.

With Vietnam in the horizon, for some, that would soon change. 


Submitted: June 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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