More importantly, however, the trip meant three hours alone – away from other soldiers and drill sergeants for the first time in more than eight weeks.It had been easy to forget that the world did not stop at the Fort Dix gates, but rather it was humming along quite nicely.I braced myself for what I was certain would be a ration of shit about something or other I was not doing right. â€ The MP looked at me for a moment, and I thought, OK, let the hollering begin. Perez continued, â€œIf you have no further questions, Iâ€™m going to hit the road. Had some of those psychological profiles we took identified me as a latent knuckle-breaker? I would wait until Monday to think about being an interrogator.
He set it down and asked, â€œWhere on the base are you headed? After a few seconds, I asked, â€œWhat will I be doing here? Thatâ€™s when we start the classes.â€ â€˜You mean I can go home for the weekend, if I want? The buses run regularly between Baltimore and Newark.â€ Absolutely stupefied, I said, â€œPlease forgive me. I just checked in here, and I can turn around and go home for the weekend, if I want? Just be back by Monday Morning.â€ â€œDo I need a written pass or anything?
â€ Still in shock, I told him that I had no idea where I was headed. He smiled â€“ he actually smiled â€“ and said, â€œNo problem. â€ He said, â€œItâ€™s really too far for you to walk with that bag. â€œIâ€™m reporting for duty, sergeant.â€ â€œOh, you must be one of the new students. â€ â€œLetâ€™s take a look at your orders, and weâ€™ll see.â€ I handed him my orders, and he said, â€œYou are a 96C. â€ He remained patient, despite my stupidly repeating everything I had just heard. I also see that you speak German.â€ â€œWell, I took the German test. C.â€ â€œYou mean that I can leave the base when I want? â€ He smiled and said, â€œThat depends on where you live.
Let me take a look at your orders.â€ He took a quick look at the orders and said, â€œO. The building you have to report to is about a quarter mile down this street on the right side â€“ big brick building â€“ you canâ€™t miss it. Heâ€™ll get you squared away.â€ I thanked him and began walk in the direction he had indicated. â€ I thought, OK, I knew that this was too good to be true â€“ this must be some kind of trap. Iâ€™ll have someone drive you.â€ OK, Jimbo, this must be some kind of a Twilight-frigginâ€™-Zone thing. Heâ€™ll check you in.â€ I found the orderly room, and, just as promised, Sergeant Perez was there. Youâ€™re a little early, but that is not a problem.â€ Did he say â€œstudents? How can you tell from looking at the orders that I speak German? â€ â€œâ€Yeah, are you going to hang around the base? I donâ€™t think going to California would make much sense.
There is no way that white-helmeted, bloused-trousered, pistol packinâ€™staff sergeant MP just said that he would get me a ride because it was too far for me to walk with a heavy bag. The MP got on the phone, and in a minute or two a corporal appeared in an Army car and said, â€œYou the guy who needs a ride? During the short ride to my destination, I couldnâ€™t think of anything to say to the corporal, other than to thank him for the lift. He was a sergeant-first class (three stripes up and two rockers). â€ The sergeant explained, â€œIt says that your MOS (military occupation specialty) is 96C2L29. He emerged from another room with sheets, a pillow and a blanket, and walked me down the hall to a large bay area, with approximately twenty double bunks on each side of the room. â€œI believe youâ€™re the first one here, so you can pick your spot.
Shortly thereafter, duffel bag and I boarded the local bus that would take us to the base.