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Location: Clearwater, South Carolina, United States

Monday, April 03, 2006

KS - working shifts

6- In the first part of November 1960 my security clearance finally came through and I was assigned to a rotating shift in the communications center because they had to have 24/7 coverage. My job was maintaining and/or repairing all equipment therein contained. Our workshop was located in the very back of the center. The workers were multi-national and this was a totally foreign concept to me (pun intended), but we worked well together even though we did have an occasional miscommunication in the communications center.

The next document in the file is my Army driver’s license, dated 22 November 1960. According to this I was qualified to drive a 5-passenger sedan, a truck up to 2 ½ tons and later was added a 5-ton tractor-trailer qualification. This last was necessary to facilitate our equipment being moved into an underground bunker in case of an air attack.

This truck training took place on an abandoned WWII airfield some few miles South of our work location. Training lasted about a week and was probably the most fun of any training I had while in the army. First we were taught how to service the vehicle, then how to drive them forward. These vehicles had to be double clutched to change gears – a first for me.

Then we learned how to back them with a trailer attached – this was when the fun began. Can you imagine 5 tractor-trailers racing backwards down an airfield? Well, this was part of the training and seemed to be pretty effective – even though we were jack-knifing all over the place. The shortness of the communication trailers made the backing even more difficult. Who says training can’t be fun?

Another piece of kept paperwork was a pamphlet containing a French language lesson. Attending formal classes was not possible since I worked rotating shifts the whole time I was there, but I did study on my own and learned enough to get by – if they spoke slowly. The language of physical “love” was another concentrated learning effort of mine, laying aside the communications of real love - that of the spiritual.

I still have a small map of the monuments of Paris, many of which were personally visited and photographed. The rest of the sites were mostly ignored, due to the aforementioned interests in much baser pursuits. One of the sites that I saw every time I went to Paris was the Arc de Triomphe de etoile. This famous arch was located in a large traffic circle into which twelve streets emptied traffic of all types and speeds – with no traffic lights.

This was the Etoile, French for star, and that is what it looks like from a map overview. It always seemed confusing to me, but it worked for them. The reason for seeing this monument a lot was that we had a regular bus route that ran from SHAPE, and that point was the end of the route – and of course the beginning when we went back to the base.

TBC – ec


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

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4/04/2006 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I love the communications people in my armor battalion! Of course, I always kept on their good side. In my positions as battalion S-1 and later S-2 I could not function without communications. Thus, I’d often buy the commo officer—usually know was “Sparks”—a drink at the officer’s club.

As an officer, I was not trusted to drive anything! My last jeep driver was a speed freak—and I thank God my jeep had a governor on the carburetor! The only time in my life I have ridden with someone who drove as recklessly as he was when I was in a cab in San Francisco shooting up and down hills in the midst of heavy traffic.

4/04/2006 12:25:00 AM  
Blogger mreddie said...

SSN - Especially important in time of war - I've read some personal accounts of WWII and they relied heavily on communications. We had a few wild drivers as well as best as I remember. I find it odd how some of these events stick in my mind and yet can't remember names to introduce someone. ec

4/04/2006 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

The Triomphe de etoile sounds absolutely terrifying, more so if the stories I've heard about French drivers are in any way accurate.

4/04/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger mreddie said...

peter - It was as scary as it sounded. It also was said at the time that a Frenchman had rather lose his life than his momentum. They only looked one way, to the right, and everybody on the left was supposed to watch out for them. ec

4/04/2006 10:38:00 PM  

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