Staff & Faculty Battery
I reported in to the Staff & Faculty Battery orderly room around noontime Saturday 27 June 1959. Staff & Faculty Battery existed for administrative purposes of officers and enlisted personnel who worked as instructors or support staff in the various departments of the U. S. Army Artillery and Missile School (USAAMS), and for billeting of enlisted personnel. My work assignment was at the Redstone School of the Redstone Division, Department of Materiel, USAAMS.
My first task that weekend was to remove my 1st Army patches and sew my new USAAMS patches on all my uniforms. During school, people just out of Basic Training wore the shoulder patches of their Basic Training centers. Students from other outfits wore the patch of their home unit. Now that I was permanently assigned to Fort Sill, I had become an Artilleryman; called, somewhat derisively by other branches, a cannon-cocker, but in our own popular vernacular, a Redleg. The United States Marines proudly and justifiably proclaim: "Once a Marine, Always a Marine". Well, as someone who proudly wore the Artillery red, I would add: "Once a Redleg, Always a Redleg".
The Staff & Faculty Battery 3-story building located on Randolph Road housed all USAAMS single enlisted men and NCOs, and married enlisted personnel without their spouses in the local area. Married men who chose to bring their spouses to the Fort Sill area were allowed to reside off base.
Staff & Faculty Battery came into being on 1 May 1958 through a U.S. Army Artillery and Missile School Command directive that discontinued the existing Officer Staff & Faculty Battery. Personnel and equipment of Officer Staff & Faculty Battery were reorganized and assigned to the Enlisted Staff & Faculty Battery, which was re-designated as the Staff & Faculty Battery, U. S. Army Artillery and Missile School. At that time the newly constituted Staff & Faculty Battery had a strength of 683 officers, 38 warrant officers, and 932 enlisted men. It was attached to the U.S. Army Artillery and Missile School Command.
Effective 10 December 1958, the U.S. Army Artillery and Missile Command continued as an immediate subordinate of the U.S. Army Artillery and Missile Center. However, on1 June 1959 the U.S. Army Artillery and Missile School Command was relieved from attachment to the U.S. Army Artillery and Missile Center and attached to the U.S. Army Artillery and Missile School. The School Command remained under the control of the Artillery and Missile Center for administration and logistics, but in all other areas it was to perform directly under the Assistant Commandant of the School.
Staff & Faculty Battery was commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. To the enlisted men who resided in the barracks at the time, it seemed strange to call a Lt. Col our "Battery CO". We all speculated about it. Did the size of the overall command call for the rank of Lt. Colonel as CO; or, was it a case of, as some readily expressed at the time, making a slot for someone at the end of his military career who had nowhere else to go, and did not have any possibility of being promoted to Colonel O-6?
Our First Sergeant was a larger than life character, literally and figuratively. I don't recall his last name, but he was known to all as "Big Lou". He was a M/Sgt. E-7 with about 30 years in the Army. He lived in Medicine Park, a community just north of Fort Sill, and some had it rumored that he was born and raised there also. A career Artilleryman, Big Lou had allegedly spent all but his overseas time at Fort Sill. In 1959 he became one of the very first enlisted men in the entire Army to be promoted to Sergeant Major E9. He finally retired either at the end of 1959 or early 1960. The other barracks story was that our CO and Big Lou came up the Fort Sill ladder together hand in glove. They supposedly started out together 2nd Lieutenant and Private, and ended up together 30 years later Lt. Colonel and First Sergeant/Sergeant Major. Although they may have been a long time team, it was obvious to all, however, that "Big Lou" was definitely the man in charge.
Not all of the building was used as a residence. The second and third floors of the east end of the building were used for billeting enlisted men. The first floor contained the orderly room, the CO's and XO's offices, and a day room facility with all the amenities of the time: magazines, books, pool tables, radio and phonograph, and a new color TV. "Bonanza" seemed to be the most popular and most watched TV show. The mess hall was located in the central part of the building. The west end contained the offices of the United States Army Artillery Center. I was quartered on the second floor, immediately above the orderly room, in a room containing about 50 enlisted men E-2 to E-4. We were primarily Redstone, Corporal and Honest John people; and, some communications specialists who worked in the Electronic Headquarters Building. NCO's had adjoining rooms on the floor, usually 2 per room. The third floor layout was similar to the second floor.
Staff & Faculty was a very strange place. Perhaps it was the times, perhaps my age, or perhaps it was my perception of things after having been literally spoiled for 23 weeks by residing in 2nd Enlisted Student Battery. Although the two buildings were only physically 100 feet apart, they were light years apart in atmosphere. I was not alone in this feeling and perception. The general mood in Staff & Faculty was one of "why are we here?". For the most part, with one glaring exception, I can't honestly say any of us were harassed by NCO's with the classic and for the times typical Army nonsense. People were mainly respectful. As long as you carried out your typical day to day enlisted man barracks duties, NCO's were not necessarily on our cases. We pulled KP, obviously the bane of all enlisted men, but we did not walk Guard Duty. USAAMS facility security was performed by a civilian agency. But, to a man, we couldn't wait for the day we left there for good. Some were even willing to take the step of extending their enlistments or inductions if it would result in being transferred elsewhere. I recall one case of a person sincerely applying for Artillery OCS, just so he could get away from Staff & Faculty.
We experienced one case of petty NCO harassment, but that was dealt with quickly and efficiently. We had one Sgt. E-5 who, in a classic case of life imitating art, was a character straight out of the pages of "From Here to Eternity". This individual for reasons only known to himself took some kind of perverse pleasure out of throwing his rank around, and generally making barracks life as miserable as possible for the enlistees and draftees on our floor. He was the classic single NCO loser misfit, who in all likelihood would have been an absolute nobody in the civilian world. In an Army career, however, those 3 stripes gave him power, and it was power abused, not used.
A group of us got up enough courage to voice our legitimate complaints to the 1st Sgt., and to our utter amazement, and relief, he took it up with the CO. After an investigation, the CO and the Ist Sgt. sent the malcontent Sgt. packing. I heard later, he was sent to a regular line outfit on base, a 105-mm howitzer Battery, or something like that, which I'm told was a dreaded assignment for this character at the time.
At a subsequent morning formation, the CO addressed the assembled Battery and delivered a stern lecture, and warning, the theme of which was: this is not the old Army; this is the new Army of 1959; we will have discipline, but we will also have respect for our fellow soldiers. With that, we never experienced another case of petty harassment nonsense.
We had our daily routine. We started with our 0600 reveille formation, Monday through Friday, across the street, rain or shine. People who lived off base were also required to be part of that ritual. Then we ate, and then we headed for our basewide assignments. If we chose to do so (most did), we returned to Staff & Faculty for noon chow call. Then at 1300 it was back to our duty sites, until around 1630 hours. After that it was evening chow call, and off duty time. There were occasional Saturday morning formations or duties, but for the most part we held to a five day per week schedule. I don't recall any Saturday morning barracks inspections, or things of that nature. Unless you were pulling KP, weekends were your own time.
A case could be made that we actually lived and experienced a rather cushy existence: a 5 day per week "8 to 5" job. That may be so, but still the negative perception about Staff & Faculty Battery prevailed. Perhaps the negativity had to do with the fact that Staff & Faculty Battery was really only a place where we hung our hats, and not where we performed our day to day duties. We probably had allegiance to our USAAMS work sites, but none, it seemed, to the place where we ate and slept. Although it was always my goal to be assigned to an overseas Redstone Group, and I can honestly say for the most part I enjoyed the work I was asked to perform at the Redstone School, I cannot say the same about residing for a year in Staff & Faculty Battery. There truly was something strange and uncomfortable about the place. The more time spent away from there, the better.
This negative feeling about Staff & Faculty Battery was not confined to the resident enlisted men. Many of the senior NCO's who lived off base didn't like the place, and continually sought transfers to other assignments. SFC E-6 Forrest Stacy, a Redstone School Instructor and REMMC graduate, and an outstanding NCO and human being who I later served under in Germany, is one who comes to mind. Throughout 1959 Sgt. Stacy continually pestered the Missile Center personnel section to be considered for an Overseas Replacement Levy from one of the Redstone Groups in Germany. His persistence eventually prevailed, and he was reassigned to 40th Artillery Group. Whatever my personal discomfort with the place, it was to remain my new Army home for the next 12 months.
Redstone Division, Department of Materiel
I was assigned for duty to the maintenance section of the Redstone School, Redstone Division, Department of Materiel, USAAMS, where I had just completed REMMC 2A-59. Some tried to convince me that it was considered an honor to be selected for assignment with the School, as only the best students would be chosen. I wasn't buying any of that. I really didn't know what I was getting into. I wasn't being assigned as an instructor. Those positions at the time were held by senior NCOs and junior officers, certainly not by a Private E-2. Whatever the reasons for the assignment, I would certainly try and do the very best job of whatever was asked of me.
It is noteworthy to point out that during this time period guided missile systems and Field Artillery nuclear warheads and projectiles came of age, and each new missile and rocket became a field of endeavor unto itself. The Department of Materiel initially established separate Divisions for each of the missiles and rockets. in July 1960 mission evolution was acknowledged by re-designating the Department of Materiel as the Guided Missile Department (GMD) with Redstone, Corporal, LaCrosse, Missile Guidance, and Special Weapons Divisions. Honest John and Little John Divisions were transferred to the Gunnery/Cannon/Rocket Department.
Before jumping headfirst into my new assignment however, I had a three week detour at the Fort Sill Army Hospital. During REMMC, on a sick call visit, Doctors had discovered a minor condition that would require surgery. Fortunately, I was able to postpone going into the hospital until after I completed the course. On the afternoon of Monday 29 June I entered the hospital, and the surgery was performed the morning of 30 June. That afternoon shortly after being wheeled back into the recovery ward, a 2nd Lieutenant from Staff & Faculty showed up and tried to give me my pay envelope. He apparently was quite persistent that I take my pay. Still quite groggy from the anesthesia, I wasn't sure what was happening. Fortunately, the surgeon, who was a Captain, brought the 2nd Lieutenant to his senses and sent him on his way. My money - all $85 of it - did end up back in the orderly room safe, and three weeks later I finally received my pay.
Some of the hospital cases I witnessed over three weeks were absolutely wild. One man in a bed across from me was brought in the night of July 4 after he had been bitten by a rattlesnake. It turned out that he and some buddies had been drinking heavily, and decided to run around in the dark barefoot out at the Fort Sill picnic area on the west end of the base. He ended up stepping on the rattlesnake, which took its revenge by biting him in the foot. This fellow was in considerable pain and discomfort for quite a few days.
I remained in Fort Sill Hospital for 3 weeks. I was discharged as fully fit to return to duty, so, bright and early on Monday 20 July I finally started my post-school job in the maintenance section of the Redstone School. Maintenance was headed up by a 1st Lieutenant. I recall a 2nd Lieutenant, and several NCO's. But my real "boss" was CWO-2 Richard Bradley. He was assisted by CWO-1 Scott. Mr. Bradley ran the entire school maintenance operation. Our 1st Lieutenant was really more of a figurehead, or perhaps it was that he was being deferential to Mr. Bradley's experience and expertise.
SP5 Eugene Chronister was also a senior man in the maintenance section. I believe at the time Gene was in his second enlistment, and was planning on making the Army his career. Gene had attended the 1958 REMMC that was taught both at Fort Sill and the Redstone Arsenal. I guess there's something in being an SP5 E-5 as opposed to being Sgt E-5 that lets one get closer to the lower ranking guys, because Gene was a good friend of to all of us. I certainly learned quite a lot about our operation in short order from Gene. I remember that in 1959 he had a brand new Oldsmobile "Rocket 88" sedan, which he used to shuttle the guys back and forth to Staff & Faculty for the noon meal. Gene and his wife also had a brand new baby, their first, at that time. I would again work with Gene some 16 months later in Germany.
The Redstone School was located about 3 miles from Staff & Faculty, so we were driven back and forth each day by one of the guys driving an Army pickup truck or a 3/4 ton truck signed out from the base motor pool. That was a rotating task. And since an Army drivers license was required, the very first day on the job I was sent over to the motor pool to take a drivers test. Once again in classic Army tradition, Mr. Bradley told me to drive the school's 2 &1/2 ton air compressor truck over to the motor pool, to take my test. I told him I had never driven a truck before. His response was along the lines of: that's alright, you'll learn on the way over. So, I "drove" the compressor truck across base to the motor pool.
A civilian gave me the road test, and after about 10 minutes, I guess he decided that he'd had enough. He told me I wasn't ready. I managed to "drive" the deuce and a half back to the School, in one piece. I told Mr. Bradley that I had failed the test. I recall his response as being on the order of: what's this man's Army coming to anyway. They're giving me guys who don't know how to drive a truck! A few days later they sent me back to take the test on a Chevrolet 1/2 ton pickup, which was no problem, since the stick shift 3 on the column was the same as driving my parents' 1956 Chevrolet sedan. That's how I became authorized to drive all the school's vehicles up to 2&1/2 ton class.
Redstone School Duties
In maintenance, we did a little of everything. That is to say, the E-2s, E-3s, and E-4s did the work. The E-5s and above - Gene Chronister excepted - did the supervising. Mr. Bradley did the task planning and troubleshooting; and, I must admit, the teaching of the younger guys under him. "Pay attention to what I'm doing, Ryan. You might learn something". It seems that was the way of Warrant Officers in the Army of 1959. We were on standby during class operations, so many times we would work into the evening hours in support of REMMC or RMMMC, when their sessions ran late. We were expected to have all the school's assets up and running at all times, such that there would be no delays or stoppages in the training cycle. I learned electrical maintenance, mechanical maintenance, you name it. In time we could fix anything on site, and many times we would fabricate replacement parts in the shop.
Some examples of many: I would make repairs to the electrical cables running from the FC&TT to the trainer missile. I would pull faulty checkout consoles out of the FC&TT in the middle of a training session, get a replacement installed ASAP, and then help repair the faulty unit in the shop, to have it back on line as soon as possible. I operated the diesel generators used to supply electrical power to the trainer missile and the vans, and I ran the air compressor truck to supply the high pressure air used by the guidance system computer's air bearing surfaces. In short, we were there to keep the school class schedules running smoothly and on time.
We had our spit and polish tasks to carry out also. The Redstone School was an Army showcase, with regular VIP tours, and the like, conducted. The concrete hangar floor was covered with tile kept waxed to a high sheen, so at least every 2nd week I took my turn at the controls of the floor waxer and buffer. All the heavy duty electrical cable assemblies and high pressure air lines were laid out in sharp right angle "Dress Right, Dress" formations. They were cleaned of hangar environment debris almost on a daily basis. It seemed as if we were constantly washing and spot painting all the school's trucks and equipment. And of course, all the truck tire sidewalls had to have a black spit-shine look maintained to them. The bottom line, however, was that we were always busy; and at times, the pace was downright hectic.
Time for Leave
Although only on the job for a month, in mid August I put in for September leave. I had not been home since the previous Christmas. Honestly, more important, I wanted to bring my new car out to Fort Sill. My parents had gotten one for me. It wasn't exactly a 19 year-old's type of vehicle, but no matter, it would be mine. They got hold of a classic "little old lady only drives to church" low mileage 1954 Chevrolet 4 door Sedan for me. Automatic transmission, power windows, and the like. Great 1950's color scheme: turquoise body with white trim.
At first, our Lieutenant said no to my leave request. He said he couldn't spare me at this time. I guess sounding desperate about it, I asked him to grant me a three day pass to fly home to New York and then drive nonstop back to Oklahoma over the Labor Day weekend. Sensing he was dealing with a car-crazed 19 year old who would risk getting himself killed over Labor Day, he relented, and gave me a week to go home and get my car. So, I made my plans to fly home on Friday of the upcoming Labor Day weekend, and drive back to Fort Sill by the end of the leave week.
During the second half of August, I worked an extended day, usually up to 2000 hours, in support of a REMMC that was staying late. I started my own two week countdown to the time I would be flying home. During smoke breaks out on the flight apron, I would watch the airplanes taking off from Lawton airport, counting the days left to when I would be onboard one of those evening flights.
On the evening of Friday 4 September 1959, I left Fort Sill to fly home to New York. The trip was basically the inverse of the one I had made in January to get to Fort Sill. I took the Central Airlines DC-3 from Lawton to Fort Worth, with its intermediate stop in Duncan - landing over that oil refinery again. This time during the flight I did not spot any fuel oozing out of the top of the DC-3 wing. Around 2300 hours I boarded an eastbound American Airlines DC-6B flight. The stewardess told me the flight had originated in San Diego, making stops in Tucson and El Paso. We stopped in Memphis several hours later, then Washington, D.C. in the morning, and finally on to La Guardia airport in New York City, arriving just before noon. My father and 2 high school buddies were there to greet me.
Cross Country Drive
It was good to be home, but the time obviously was too short. I planned on a 3 day trip back to Fort Sill, driving by myself, so that I would arrive no later than Friday night 11 September. In those pre-Intersate Highway days of 1959, you had to allow about 36 hours driving time for the 1700+ mile trip from Long Island to Fort Sill. This information was gleaned from fellow New Yorkers at Fort Sill who had made the trip, and from an uncle who had done it numerous times in WW II, when he was in the Army Air Corp at Fort Sill. I figured I could easily handle 12+ hours a day driving time. After all, I was 19!
I left home around noon on Wednesday 9 September. The first hurdle was getting off Long Island and through New York City. You took the Brooklyn to Staten Island ferry in the days before the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Fortunately, during the mid afternoon pre-rush hour period, there was only about a half hour delay waiting for a ferry. Then it was across Staten Island and onto the New Jersey Turnpike. I exited the New Jersey Turnpike for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and then headed west across most of Pennsylvania, to US 40.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike portion was an interesting experience for a first time long distance driver, especially where I drove through the 2 lane old railroad tunnels used to get the Pennsylvania Turnpike though the Allegheny Mountains. There's nothing quite like encountering an onrushing 18 wheeler in one of those tunnels. I then followed US 40 through Wheeling, West Virginia and Zanesville, Ohio. I called it quits for the first leg at midnight in Columbus, Ohio.
After about 5 hours sleep in a motel, I was on the road again at 0600 for the second leg of the trip. I just kept heading west on Route 40 crossing Ohio and into Indiana, hitting Indianapolis mid day, and Terre Haute mid afternoon. Then it was across Illinois and on to St. Louis and the Mississippi River where Route 40 joins up with US 66. I took Route 66 over the Chain of Rocks Bridge, with its famous 22 degree turn at mid-span, and then around the northern and western side of St. Louis. This route took me past the St. Louis airport, Lambert Field, and the McDonnell Aircraft plant. Next it was west by southwest across Missouri on Route 66. I lasted that day until about 1900 when I called it quits in Rolla, Missouri.
I guess even at 19 I needed a little extra sleep the second night, and I didn't get on the road until after 0700 Friday. I drove Route 66 to the Oklahoma border. Stopped at a red light in Carthage, Missouri my car conked out. I was able to get it started and into a gas station on the corner. The owner/mechanic had me on my way in short order. He had to regap the ignition points which were set too tight. When he saw where I was from, and heard where I was going, he sent me off with no charge. As he put it, one former soldier doing a good turn for a new young soldier. I drove through Joplin, then crossed into Oklahoma, and onto the Will Rogers Turnpike to Tulsa, and the Turner Turnpike to Oklahoma City. The home stretch leg was a mere 110 miles to Fort Sill via US 277 and US 62, through such great sounding tiny Oklahoma communities as Cyril, and Cement.
My 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan and I arrived intact at Staff & Faculty Battery, around 1800 Friday 11 September 1959. I would make additional such journeys during the course of the next 10 months.
Back to Work
Now that I had a car on post, I was added to the daily driver rotation. I think there were 9 or 10 of us involved, so once every two weeks or so I would drive to the motor pool early in the morning and sign out a 1/2 ton pickup or 3/4 ton truck for the day. We would use the vehicle to take us back and forth to work, and for the lunch hour round trip.
I received my first stripe in September, when our Lieutenant promoted me to PFC E-3. Since I had missed out on promotion at the end of REMMC, I was a least 2 months behind everyone else, so I was anxious and hopeful about being advanced in grade. In fairness to our Lieutenant, I hadn't really been on the job all that long to warrant a promotion any earlier. But I guess he was impressed enough by what I could do in the short time he had to evaluate me, to put me in for PFC in September. I think Mr. Bradley also had a big say in the matter.
Once every six weeks, on average, I would draw Colonel's Driver duty. We would sign out a 1957 Chevrolet sedan from the motor pool, and stand by to drive Colonel Royal E. McShea, Commanding Officer of the Department of Materiel, USAAMS, on a moment's notice. Being Colonel's Driver was a Class A uniform assignment. The Colonel would usually have one or two trips around the base, or would sometimes make a trip to Lawton Airport to meet and greet visitors. On several occasions, however, the Colonel would dismiss us from duty for the day by early afternoon. The Colonel was a tall, very imposing man, with mustache, literally the archetypal Army Colonel. Colonel McShea commanded the Department of Materiel (re-designated the Guided Missile Department in July 1960) from October 1959 until December 1960. I would serve for and under Colonel McShea again, in Germany.
I volunteered for an interesting job that Autumn. Chrysler Corporation, the prime contractor for the Redstone Missile, designed and built a classroom trainer console system for the REMMC. They sent a field engineer to install and check out the system, and I volunteered to support his effort on the night shift. It took about 3 weeks to install, set up, and check it out.
Essentially, the system was comprised of interconnected roll around consoles, hooked up to the trainer missile or dummy load box, with each console duplicating an FC&TT checkout station. The FC&TT could hold no more than 5 people comfortably at a time. The new trainer console system allowed for a larger number of REMMC students to be simultaneously trained to check out the Redstone inertial guidance system from the classroom, rather than trying to crowd into the FC&TT.