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Hunter Liggett Military Reservation, Monterey County, January 1961:

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon and there weren’t any officers in camp. Corporal Stafford, Regular Army, came out of his tent and blew his whistle and we all kind of straggled into formation. He told us we needed to get our asses in gear and that he was going to have us do guerrilla exercises and we all groaned. He got loud and said he really didn’t care if it was Sunday, that there weren’t any officers in camp and he could do anything he liked with us.

He marched us up to the pasture, got us all into a big circle and started us moving, first the frog jump, then the hand-kick walk, then the duck waddle, and we goofed around and laughed at each other. He got loud again and said that RFA people were no damn good. He tried to keep us in the duck waddle but we stood up whenever we felt like it. He said we should at least try, we were getting out in a few weeks, and then somebody gave him the finger and that got him really pissed off and he yelled out that six-months people were useless as tits on a boar. We laughed at him and agreed with him, and he looked like he might cry. He asked us if we wanted to double-time and we said Hell Yes.

(RFA: Reserve Forces Act of 1955. Because of official concern that too many draft-eligible men were able to avoid active duty military service by joining the National Guard and Army Reserve, the Act had been amended in 1957 to require all National Guardsmen and Reservists to participate in a mandatory six-month active duty training program.)

He ran us down to the river bank and along the narrow paths through the trees. Somebody started going “RFA, all the way,” in airborne cadence and we all picked it up. Stafford was trotting out in front of us, and we all began to run a little faster. “RFA, all the way, RFA, all the way!” jacking up the pace some more, starting to get really moving, those of us in front beginning to crowd him and actually push him down the path, and everybody going “RFA, all the way! RFA, all the way!” even the guys with dysentery. “RFA! ALL THE WAY! RFA! ALL THE WAY!” a solid phalanx, the whole platoon. He tried to get out of our way by turning up onto a new path and kept pushing back at us with his elbows but we were right there, right behind him, almost sprinting now, even the guys with dysentery, and we stayed right on him and shoved him all the way back into camp.


There we stopped, all of us laughing and out of breath, without his telling us to. He didn’t even bother to dismiss us from formation or even look at us, just skulked off into his tent.

It was great.

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