Bag ‘sorting’

On Jan. 29, 1955 I was inducted in the Army at Omaha, Nebraska along with a number of other young men from northeast and western Iowa. We boarded a train for Fort Bliss, Texas. After 220 recruits had been assembled at the reception center, the Army was ready to send five busloads to begin eight weeks of Basic Training.
What happened next was mental harassment to the fullest.
At 9 p.m. we lined up with our duffle bags which had our names and serial numbers stenciled on each to board the buses. I noticed that Army personnel were throwing and stuffing all our bags in the underneath baggage compartments. I remember thinking “this isn’t going to turn out well.” I was one of the first men to board the second bus, and as I dropped my duffle bag, I stopped for an instant to see that mine was thrown to the front of the baggage compartment. I got yelled at and quickly took a seat toward the front and on the right side of the bus.
An hour later, we arrived at the dimly-lit basic training area. I was one of the first men off the second bus, and Fort Bliss cadre were already starting to throw all the duffle bags into a big pile. I knew approximately where mine had been stowed, so I grabbed it when it hit the ground. Drill instructors were yelling at everyone to hurry and get their bags and get out of the way. As four recruits got their bags, they were to run to one of the four-man huts which would be our home for the next eight weeks. The instructions given as we were getting off the buses were that if a recruit didn’t get his own bag, he was to take that bag to the company orderly room and report that he didn’t have his own duffle bag. The recruit with the wrong bag was then chewed on for being so stupid. Then he had to run to the assembly area and throw the bag in with other incorrectly grabbed bags while trying to find his. Every time an incorrectly grabbed bag was reported, a siren would sound, and all recruits from the five buses, even if they had their own duffle bag, had to run to the assembly area. This harassment went on until 2:30 a.m. Finally, after 220 recruits had their own duffle bag, we had to unpack all our clothes and display the clothes correctly in our huts. We finally got to sleep around 3:30 a.m. and were rudely awakened by more screaming drill instructors at 5 a.m.
The above described event isn’t one of my fondest memories from basic training. However, since chaos and confusion always did drive me crazy, I remember those events as if they happened yesterday. It would have been so simple for someone to read the names or the serial numbers on each bag as they were removed the the baggage compartments, but that would not have provided mental stress to 220 new recruits.

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