Keep your hands down

In October 1970 I found myself at Fort Jackson, S.C., undergoing basic training. It was in the midst of the Vietnam War, so the drill instructors, all of whom were combat vets, were pretty serious about training. I soon discovered they also had a sense of humor.

At one of our first formations, the platoon sergeant asked anybody who had a college degree and could also type to raise their hand. I was new to the Army, so I raised my hand. I thought I might get some cushy job working in an office, but not quite. I was made a fireman. That meant that after a day's exhausting training, I got to don my "class Xs" and shovel coal into the coal-burning furnaces in all the old World War II barracks all night.

In two months of basic training, I never once got a full night's sleep. But I also never raised my hand again. It just goes to show you that having a college degree doesn't always mean you're smarter than the guy standing next to you.

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