Still Not Wanted!!
by Harold, Editor-at-Large
After a trip that became more pleasant the farther south I went, I arrived at Huntsville, Alabama, where the Arsenal reputedly was. At the gate I was turned away. I was not wanted and had no clearances.
I presented my orders and they gave me a long run around. I finally drove around the Post nearly to Decatur, Alabama, to a back gate where they finally let me enter and gave me directions to the Company. It was extremely difficult to find the Company since it was an Ordnance Training Detachment. The MP’s kept stopping me because I had neither a badge nor a sticker on my car. Finally one of the MP Majors took pity on me and drove me to the MP station where they photographed me and made me a temporary badge along with a temporary decal for the car and then drove me back to my car.
By then most of the day had passed, so the MP Major asked a lieutenant passing by if he had heard of the unit I was reporting in to. He said he did and he felt sorry for me. He gave me directions and after another thirty minutes of wandering back and forth among deserted old warehouse-type buildings I located a sign that stated here was the 32nd Ordnance Detachment GMDS.
Redstone was a primitive post compared to other posts I had been on that had nice wooden two story barracks, painted and well maintained. Since Redstone manufactured chemical munitions during the war, most of the buildings were just thrown up of native pine and covered with tar paper. Even post finance, which was twelve miles from the main Post Headquarters, was in a tar paper warehouse. The hospital, which was about eight miles from Post Headquarters, was primitive also.
There had been a flurry of activity resulting in two new buildings being built to house
ABMA (Army Ballistic Missile Agency) which handled all field able short range ballistic ground to ground missiles. AOMC (Army Ordnance Missile Command) handled the balance of the missiles, like the Nike series which were anti-aircraft missiles, and there were several more new buildings under construction. There was also a new Capehart dependent housing area just west of the Post’s north boundary.
I parked, got out, straightened my uniform and with orders in-hand, entered the building. The Orderly Room was a little cubicle tucked off to one side, and when I entered there was an older E7 who said he was the First Sergeant. He did not even look at my orders, but said, “Just wait here, until the Company Clerk comes back. He’ll take care of you. I have an important meeting to go to.” He got up abruptly and left, leaving me alone.
Soon the Company Clerk arrived and he was a nice fellow, quite helpful and everything. He asked, “Did you have problems finding us?”
I said, “I did. And was just about to think I was going to have to return to Korea and start over again.”
He said, “You are the only one assigned here who has seen overseas service. Things are bad now and will get worse. You will not see the CO today, since he is off on a trip. When you do, you will see what I mean. Let’s get you squared away for the day,” and he called the Motor Sergeant to sit in for him for the balance of the day.
He filled out some paperwork, took me over to the Unit Training Center
Headquarters where I was issued a new different badge and then to the MP’s where they give me a permanent sticker for my car and then to the housing area, which were giant Quonset-type buildings, newly built, out in the middle of an open field. I was able to draw a bunk and equipment and finally set my bag down.
We talked for several hours during which he told me that the CO had raged when he had seen my orders because I was returning from overseas and they would not even send him. Secondly, he not only did not have a use for a Communications Specialist, but did not even know what one was. And lastly, because of my record where they had included the bogus disrespect to a superior officer garbage from the line incident in Korea.
All the company clerk said was, “When I got this and your records, we did a quick check and found the truth of the matter. But it made no difference, and by the way your ex-CO speaks very highly of you.”
He left me there and said he would see me for the evening meal and the Sgt Major filled me in. He said, “The CO is a reservist who was activated and not given a choice of assignment and is very bitter. He wanted to go to Germany to Forces Command. The 1st Sgt has never seen a day
overseas in his life, and do not get between him and the door when happy hour starts at the club. Everyone else is drafted, very highly educated, and resentful there are no promotions, and the CO loves to stick them on KP. I will try to make your last year as pleasant as possible, but with Lt. Morris in the picture, that may be very difficult.”
I finished out the balance of the day with the Sgt Major, who arranged for my on-post
drivers license and qualification checks on various vehicles. He said he thought that I would be detailed to work for him as a classified courier, since I had a top-secret crypto clearance and was a Communications Specialist, whatever that was.
I told him, “I was qualified as a telephone lineman, switchboard operator and repairman, radio operator and cryptographer, which was why I was designated as such.”
The next morning after breakfast, after reveille in the company, I was stood at attention for over one hour in front of the Lt’s desk and subjected to a grilling and hostile evaluation with a number of opinions offered none of which were flattering. It concluded with him directing me to assist the Motor Sergeant until he decided what to do with me.
NOTE: Pictures of Redstone Arsenal when I was there are extremely hard to come by as ninety percent of the post was classified area.
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