Fort Sill, Oklahoma is probably a wonderful place when you’re not a new recruit going through Basic and 13B (Cannon Crewman) Training.
We had the same Drill Sergeants through the entire process which meant nothing change much when we transitioned from Basic to AIT (Advanced Individual Training.)
I was in the 1st Platoon of A Btry 1/40th. My platoon and I had spent the entire summer suffering together through the usual basic training procedures. We ran, we did push-ups, we marched, we shot and of course, more push-ups after that.
It was nearing Fall and we knew the end was in sight. We were all scheduled to leave in October.
One September morning we had just entered the field to begin our artillery training. They had several cannons both Toad and SP, lined up for firing. We built our tent city out of half shelters in the grass and prepared to learn our jobs as cannon crewmen.
The next morning we were formed up and given instructions for the day. One of the Drill Sergeants asked for volunteers to demonstrate some weapons for a fresh batch of new recruits who had just entered basic. Very much out of our character a friend and I volunteered and off we went to a small stadium filled with shaved heads and wide eyes. Our objective was to demonstrate various small arms and other weapons.
The demonstration went well and no sooner had we finished when a Humvee pulled up and a Sergeant jumped out and informed some of our training NCO’s that there was an attack on the U.S. We were quickly rushed back to our Battery and formed up in a circle which was unusual. One of the Drill Sergeants stood in the middle and asked if anyone had relatives who worked at the World Trade Center in New York. A few hands went up and they were quickly taken away. We were then informed that a plane had been flown through one of the buildings.
Now for the past few weeks they had been throwing mock emergency situations at us for training. Right away I thought this was just another one until more information began to come forth.
Reality hit us all and we suddenly knew that our future military careers were about to face some new obstacles.
For the remainder of our training we were on a tight lockdown and had to conduct around the clock roving guard duty. Training was altered but still fulfilled the requirements. I never had the chance to see actual footage of the attack until I was released from AIT in October.
On the way home in my Class A’s I was hugged, patted and thanked by dozens of people in every airport. This was much different than my Dad’s negative experience coming home from Vietnam to protesters.
The Nation had been hurt and everyone had felt it. And now it was time to rally behind our troops and support them through whatever lied ahead.