Recollections - OCS Class Hotel 515

Class Legacy Project Odds and Ends - Class 515 H - Ft. Belvoir, Va 1968 Honoring 515 H class members who have died Wives of class members during OCS Training Return to the OCS 515 H home page How to reach us Hotel 515 OCS Class Members 1968


I'm using Aristotle as a euphemism for another Greek philosophers name because I don't want to embarass this guy if he ever sees this website. His name was De..."Greek Philosopher" to put this in code. Now I'd been through Jr. ROTC in high school in Richmond, Virginia. This program was modeled on VMI and the West Point. We wore the same uniforms and were called "RATS" as freshmen. in 1961, hazing was still in vogue. I learned to brace: stand straight as an arrow and keep your chin tucked in. At 14 I learned not to call attention to oneself for any reason. So when we made our first formation at Ft. Belvior, the Tac officer said, "Do I have a leader here?" Long silence, then, "Sir, Yes Sir."

"What's your name candidate?"

"Sir, Aristotle, sir"

"Well Aristole, get out here and lead these men back to the barracks."

"Sir, yes sir!" And Aristote jumped out beside the platoon. "Forward March!"

"Double time Aristotle"

"On the double men." We started the Basic Training dog trot .

"That's the wrong command, Aristotle! Drop down and knock out 50." And Aristotle did. Meanwhile we continued at the double and left Aristotle in the dust."

Now a full block ahead we came to a T and the platoon was heading right for a building. Failing to complete his pushups and catch-up to the platoon in time we crowded up on the building. "Now look what you've done now, Aristotle. Drop down and knock out 50." And so it went for the rest of the week. By Saturday Aristotle was DOR, and gone. Not sure who got the next assignment as Platoon Guide, but you can bet whoever it was, he didn't volunteer for it. Buck Bodwell

I remember how the smallest stupid little thing could get you thrown out of OCS. I don't remember his name but he was a member of 1st Platoon. And on off hours which were seldom, he would wear a cowboy hat. HE was assigned as the temporary head of the platoon and he marched us to class. NO problem. When class was over instead of saying fall out, he said let's saddle up! He was gone the next day.Jeff Fishman

First Day

I can remember my wife driving me up to OCS and I was terrified. All of us had heard stories in AIT from various people who knew someone who heard from someone else what can happen at OCS. Fortunately for some us at Knox, there was a 2LT who advised us to go ahead and get jump boot and break them in before we were in the program. I know Charlie Sprinkle and my self bought the boots and started wearing them and put polish on them so we would be ahead of the game (We were so CLUELESS!).

We sat around Knox for a couple of weeks after completing AIT waiting for orders and avoiding details designed to keep us busy. One time they had us sweeping the tank park for 8 hours. That like trying to sweep a 500 acre field with a push broom.

Anyway I arrived at the OCR and we were housed in some surplus barracks that was of WWII vintage. Someone (maybe Mudd?) came up with a pair of barber's clippers and convinced us we should go ahead and get a bean head haircut and everyone at the OCR would be impressed at our dedication (We were so STUPID!).

One thing that I vividly remember is eating at a mess hall the night before we started OCS and there we a couple of guy sitting by themselves and had really "strack" uniforms on. I went over and asked them if they were in the OCS program and one guy told be that had just be washed out of Delta Company. I asked him if he had any advise for us and he said something I remembered the entire time I was in OCS. He said, "They will make you low crawl and do thousands of push-up if your uniform or boots aren't perfect but they will not boot you out of here for that. However, if you fail in the academics, you will be sitting here like me. I didn't realize what was important. I put shining boots over knowing the academics."

There was a 40 something 1st SGT got us ran us over to a building that had tiered seating and Charlie Sprinkle and I sat together as we wanted to be in the same platoon. I remember that officers being very polite and low key and then handed out the OCS brass. Then they drew a line up though the seating that would determine who was in 1st platoon and who was in 2nd.The line went between Charlie and myself thus insuring we separated into different platoons. That is when the world turned upside down as they started yelling and screaming at us to get out and form up outside. Then they ran us over to the company area where our upper class was waiting for us and foaming at the mouth to inflect on us the same pain they had suffered at the hands of their upper class. The next 6 weeks are just a blur and I never want to ever repeat that again.

One of the funniest things that happened is when we had an underclass and Charlie Sprinkle and others had their smacks fall out for inspection wearing the following. White pistol belt, white gloves, galoshes with no boots inside them and helmets without liners. THAT'S ALL THEY HAD ON! I still think back on that scene and laugh. Roger Harris

Cooperate and Graduate

One thing I always remembered about OCS; Peter Gagarin saved my ass! About the 3rd week of OCS, Hamma made me the platoon leader with Peter Gagarin as the platoon Sgt. The previous platoon leaders were absolutely slammed by Hamma for not being able to tell him who was absent and what reason i.e. sick call, kp, etc. I can honestly tell you that by the third week of OCS, my brain was fried (lack of sleep, lack of food, 1,000's of push ups, running, low crawling) pick any reason or any combination. But when Hamma asked me a question and I didn't have a clue on what to say, I asked Gagarin to post and asked him where someone was, who was missing and why; and he always knew the answer. So I had the smartest guy in the class to cover my back. I know Peter Gagarin saved me from hundreds of push ups and harassment because he kept track of the people and saved a guy from Richmond who didn't have a clue! Roger Harris

"I'd like to give the world a ..."

About three weeks into the program, we were in class and took a break. Outside in the hall, was a Coke machine. Several of us looked at each other. Someone had enough change for all three of us. I took mine and went into the men's room,(Lord, were we ever smacked in!) I took a stall, closed the door and drank it in abot 4 gulps. I remember thinking at the time, "I didn't miss Scotch, but boy I missed Cokes." Buck Bodwell

Pogey Bait Runs

Two weeks into OCS and we were starving. We were required to sit at attention during meals at a family style table presided over by upperclassmen who were determined to make sure we did not suffer any less than they had. As I recall the rule was you everyone was served then the questions started: What's your chain-of-command?" "Who is Jane Fonda?" and on and on. A correct answer earned you a single bit of food. Incorrect, and you were told to learn the answer by the next meal...but, you never got that question again. When the meal was over you passed your un-touched plate into the designated guy, stood up, were told to drink your milk and fall-in outside. Thus, you did get 3 glasses of milk a day plus the odd bite of food. After 2 weeks of this everyone was starving and praying for a chance at KP where you would get to eat for a whole day.

Staging a Pogey Bait Run in April 1968Well, every night, after the lights went out at 10 PM, we were visited by the upperclassmen Red-Tabs that were assigned to "shepherd us". Here, for about 30 minutes they would talk to us about things we might want to learn, like the art of spit-shinning a boot or why Brasso should be your favorite chemical. Finally, we got a suggestion that perked all our ears up: "You boys should probably think about organizing a Pogey Bait Run." The upper-classman went on to explain that these were clandestine drive-by drop offs of food outside the barracks by our support team. What support team we asked. "Oh, you know, some of you have family nearby...they could pull it off with a little coordination and planning on your part. Just make sure you don't get caught by the guards or there will be hell to pay. You'll need to be 'sly, cunning and alert'." When he left the barracks, about 10 of us jumped up and had a meeting: What should we try to import? Food for starters. Who has a wife in the area? "I do." How do we get her the money and what we want? In short order a plan was devised to send the money in a laundry bag along with the order list to be picked up by my wife. She was to secure and smuggle in McDonald's hamburgers and Cokes. Each person was to get 3 hamburgers and a Coke. The time was set for 11:30 PM the folling night. Leaving nothing to chance, at 6:30, Carol called the local McDonald's and said she wanted to pre-order some hamburgers for 11 PM. "No problem," said the manager, "We'll fix them when you come in." "That won't cut it," Carol replied, "I need 100 hamburgers at exactly 11 PM and I need them in a couple of duffle bags that I'm going to drop off at 8 PM. And if they are not ready I'm not going to buy it?"

Hotel Company's barrack was right on the gate, no fence...just 50 yards from the road to the barrack door. At exactly 11:30 PM a yellow Volkswagen convertible, with it's top down, rolled slowly into view. Five guys in their skivvies bolted from the vestibule of H company's barracks for the road. In seconds, two duffle bags of hamburgers and 3 cases of cold Cokes were unloaded and rushed to the barracks. When I reached the Volkswagen, I buzzed my wife a kiss and ran like hell for the barracks. As the Volkswagen rushed off into the night, I saw a guard turn the corner...he'd seen us. Oh no! Wait, he suddenly turned around and headed back the way he had come. Later, I learned the guard was an underclassman just like ourselves. Nevertheless, this was a very cool move on his part. From then on H515 stopped losing weight. We had a wormhole to the outside world though which we could import virtually anything we needed...and we needed a lot. As a result, PBR's and the goods they delivered, made the remaining 23 weeks almost tolerable. Thanks be to my wife Carol who usually had to teach school the next day! - Buck Bodwell

One night the enevitable happened. The second platoon got caught with pogey bait. Roger Harris remembers that it was a duffle bag of hamburgers and about six cases of Coke. Charlie Sprinkle recalls Lt. Richards having everyone low-crawl back and forth between the barracks and a pile of cole. With Richards yelling over and over at Lt. Eller, "Pogey bait, they've got POGEY BAIT!

Master Blaster

About the first thing they decided we should learn was how to defuse land mines. I beleive that was because if we dropped out of OCS after this point we went straight to Viet Nam with the Master Blaster (MOS). This day the instructor was a Master Sergeant with a Georgia drawl that droned on and on. Soon I was lulled to sleep despite my interest in the fascinating subject. By then I could sleep with my eyes open. In fact I even trained myself to follow the instructor's movements with my eyes open, though fully asleep. When I returned to consiousness, I learned that we were going to pair up and go out on the range, probe around, find a mine, and defuse it. I seem to remember that these were IEDs made of wooden boxes. The kicker was that it was armed with a live blank shotgun shell. As my partner and I got started, I whispered that I slept through the class and had no idea what to do. "Don't worry," he said, "I'll do it." "OK, thanks. But I'm more concerned about the fact that I might have to do this for real in Nam and won't know what I'm doing," I replied. "Not to worry," he said, "They give you a fold-up plastic card for everything you need to know." And so they did. I think I had a collection of about 8-10 of them by the time we graduated. Anyone save their's?..I'll throw up a fold or two? And, If you were my partner during that experience, please remind me. Buck Bodwell

Drop down and knock out 20

I learned to fall asleep in seconds whenever we received an OCS time out during a tactical exercise or even during classroom training. That instant sleep ability enabled me to survive 35 years of traveling to New York City by commuter train. Now that I'm retired and pushing age 70, the "Big Chicken" captures me at any time during the day. My fellow officer candidates called me "Bull Dog" because Tactical Officer, Hamma liked to drop me for 20 frequently, and in that position people thought that I looked like a bull dog. Whenever I'm passing Fort Belvoir, I often think about my OCS experience and the great people I met there. Only saw a few of you in Vietnam in 1969/70 during commanding general inspections. During my tour there, I served as an aid-de-camp to LTG William J. McCaffrey, US Army Vietnam commander. As a general aide, I was very fortunate during my year there and never saw combat or fired a shot. I look forward to joining a reunion of Hotel Company's best! Tom Dilitush

Escape and Evasion Course

My most vivid memory is the Escape and Evasion at Camp AP Hill. There were rumors in advance about the Agressors, and what they were going to do to you, so I was terrified as usual. They dropped us off from the trucks just before dark and we scattered into the woods. I think we had a map, a compass, and a little flashlight? I went in a couple hundred yards and then sat down for a moment to think about what to do. And promptly fell asleep. Woke up, no idea how long I'd been out, quite relieved to discover only about 45 minutes. It turned out to be excellent tactics, if unintended, because now I was well behind, and the Agressors had already picked up their quota of victims for the POW camp. I didn't know this, so I was still terrified, both of the Agressors, also of snakes I imagined in every stream I had to cross, especially the one or two waist deep. Pretty soon I figured it was faster and easier to use the road that ran along the boundary of the map, ducking into the trees every time a vehicle came along. That worked like a charm. The moment of truth was right at the end, there was some sort of bridge over a stream (or swamp?) that was the access to where our barracks were. I didnt know if there would be Agressors there, but there weren't and I was home free. And, as it turned out, despite my nap, first one back. I loved it. Peter Gagarin

Escape and Evasion---I remember that I tried to play the game as they told us to but I got captured and spent some length of time at the POW camp. Finally, they let us escape and it was so late that I started going down the road which was a no-no. I saw a truck coming and so I ducked into the woods and spent 90 minutes wandering around in the woods thinking that I was going the right direction. Saw an opening in the woods and went thru it and it turned out to be the same opening that I had entered the woods 90 minutes earlier. Said the hell with it and went the rest of the way on the road. Larry Creekmore

We took a bus from the barracks, crossed a bridge and the bus followed the road for about three miles to the north, then turned west and stopped. We all got out and were told that the object of the exercise was not to get caught, to return to the base, stay off the road as it would go hard on you if you got caught, get back by dawn and beware of the agressors. We all ran south into the woods. As soon as we were out of sight of the bus, about 10 of us dropped down and went to sleep. I awoke about 1 AM to the distant sound of rifle fire. Only one guy was still with me and he woke up at about the same time. My general plan had been to let everyone else run into the agressors and I would follow along at a safe distance and sneak into camp at the last minute. But as I thought about it, this plan seemed flawed so I decided to follow the road back but stay in the bar-ditch. So technically, I wouldn't violate the rules. Be "sly, cunning and alert" comes to mind. My partner and I worked the bar ditch about 5 feet off the pavement. About every 5 minutes a jeep would come down the road and we'd bound into the woods. Then a jeep suddenly appeared around a curve ahead while we were on steep embankment. We bailed out, blinded by the headlights and tumbled to the bottom of the ditch. The jeep continued on and when we started back up the embankment I learned that my partner had sprained his ankle. He didn't think he could make it back so I helped him up to the road, flagged down the next jeep, and darted back into the woods. When the jeep left, I returned to earlier tactic of skirting the road. Eventually, I came to bridge, crossed it and entered the barrracks about 2:30 AM. I was told I was the first one back (sorry Peter), and got in the rack. We were rousted about dawn, when most of the rest of the company came struggling in. I got questions from several guys, "When did you get back? How come you're not wet? How'd you get across the swamp?" I said,I must have gone a different way because I didn't see any water. We all expected to get back on the bus and return to Belvoir, but we were missing someone: Fishman! Jeff showed up about 10:30 mumbling something about deer. Care to elaborate Jeff? Buck Bodwell

I can remember Hamma's threats that if we got caught on the roads, "We were out of there". Still remember Hamma talking about some bogus record that someone set on running the course which I thought at the time was really stupid as the name of the course was "Escape & Evasion".

I remember them loading us up in the back of the trucks and dropping people off at intervals of a couple of hundred yards. I don't remember who was with me but I felt pretty secure as I had a compass and had looked at a map before we loaded onto the trucks. I had done a lot of hunting prior to OCS and figured this was just a walk in the woods as long as you don't get caught.

My partner and I ran about 100 yards into the woods after they let us off the truck and I just laid down and told my partner we were going to get some sleep. He kept waking me up telling me I was snoring and I told him the aggressors were probably 2 miles ahead of us in the woods and to go back to sleep as I wasn't moving until 4:00 AM.

At about 4:00 AM we started moving, no really worried about the aggressors as I figured that they must have caught some people earlier and were probably racked out.

Saw several white tail deer as the sun was coming up.

At the end of the woods, there was a rope suspension bridge which I was a little afraid of crossing (good place to trap you) but wasn't willing to wade or swim across the swampy area and also figured that the rest of the Company was already back and Hamma was asleep.....Wrong!

After we had crossed the bridge and checked in Hamma came up and dropped me for 50 and told me I was one of the last ones in and had brought shame on the entire platoon. I told him the objective of the test was not to get caught and I was successful which made Hamma even madder and he introduced some low crawling interrupted by additional push ups. Some of the guys got in trouble that night as Poole and someone else's wife made a pogey bait run which included several cases of beer. I think Hamma was preoccupied with the beer problem which let me off the hook after several sessions of low crawling and push ups.

On the bus ride back to the OCR, everyone was asleep except for Hamma and my self. He came back to where I was sitting and accused me getting a good nights sleep the prior night. I just smiled at him. Roger Harris

Gentleman there are a couple of things I would like to straighten out. First, I would like to explain and clarify the only black mark I seem to have on a Perfect OCS Performance. You all know what an excellant candidate I was. The blot on my record is that during the "Escape & Evation Course" You believe that I held you all up for hours because I fell asleep! Let me set the record straight. The truth is that I was abducted by aliens and I kept telling them that Hamma would be angry with me but they just didn't care. So I hope that explains why I was the only candidate not to be captured. Okay, now the real truth. I had gotten separated from everyone and was totally lost when I startled a deer and it knocked me over, twisting my ankle so I just went to sleep. Sorry for the wait but I paid for it after we got back to camp. Hamma had me low crawl from the billets to his office. He and all the other tac officers grilled me for three hours until finally they ley me low crawl back to the billet. Jeff Fishman

Sleep...Sweet Sleep

I'm quite certain that we only got about 4 hours sleep throught the first two phases of OCS. My most unusual experience was the night march at Camp A.P. Hill. I think we had spent the day building something, perhaps a Bailey Bridge or a barracks then we went on a night march carrying weapons. I know I was exhausted, but someone handed me a 23 pound M-60 machine gun to carry along with my own rifle and other gear. I remember we were on a dirt road I was carrying the M-60 by it's handle. The next thing I knew I was in a ditch along side the road with a buddy pulling me to my feet. I had actually gone to sleep moving at a forced march pace. Later that night we stopped on a hill with some fallen timber. We were immediately attacked by an agressor force. I lay down between two trees, hung my rifle over the side, and went sound to sleep. Everytime the agressors charged, I fired off a blank round and promptly went back to sleep. Buck Bodwell

High Tea is now being served

This second incident has to do with the wives and I am sure some will remember it. Along with everything else we all had to do at OCS, because of my restaurant and hotel background, I was made the company mess officer. I was not allowed to go to the mess hall except if a special function had to be taken care of by me. It seems I was called into the Captain's office and ordered to set up a tea with snacks for the wives of some of the candidates who wanted to speak to the CO about some of their concerns. Carol Fox may remember this. The tea was scheduled for the same day that the company had to go to a confidence course. I was ordered by the CO to keep myself available in case anything was needed for the ladies which I did. That evening after the afternoon tea and all of you were back at the compnay, I once again was ordered to low crawl to Hamma's office from our billets. I don't think I got to standup for the first six months I was in OCS. When I reported yo Hamma, he wanted to know why I had deserted my classmates and not endured the confidence course with them. He felt I had let our platoon down. I explained about having to prepare the tea for the ladies and he wanted to know if I felt that was more important then being with my platoon. I explained to him that I was ordered by the CO to be available and that an order from the CO in my mind superceded and other responsibility and that I would be willing to go the confidence course with him now and perform it. Instead he had me knock out 100 push-ups and then low crawl back to the billet. So thanks ladies, you owe me one. Jeff Fishman

Peter Gagarin's Recollections

here is some of what I remember about OCS...

I was terrified. I'm pretty sure I was terrified from the first day at Belvoir to the last. I think mostly I was afraid of failure, and in such cases fear can be a powerful motivator. I remember right at the beginning someone saying, "Look at the person to your right, and the person to your left. One of you three is not going to make it." I didn't want to be part of that one in three.

Within the first couple of days I remember standing in front of Silhasek's desk, and he said to me, "Gagarin, you're not at Harvard any more." The implied message being, I'm going to be extra hard on you. Sweet.

Best thing I did to get ready for OCS? I went through basic at Ft. Dix and AIT at Ft. Knox (tank school) with Bill Oster, and at some point we found out we were going to the same OCS class at Belvoir. I don't know whose idea it was, but we decided it would be good to learn how to march troops. So a couple of times we went out and took turns marching each other around, yelling commands, learning the timing. I got tapped as platoon sergeant the second week, had to do a lot of marching off to classes and back, and the experience helped a lot. I still remember the commands for crossing to the other side of the road (starting from when you were double-timing) _ Quick time, march. Road guards front and rear, post. Right flank, march. Left flank, march. Road guards, recover. Double time, march. Some things you never forget.

Food, or lack of it. Going around the table, one person eating at a time, and just a tiny bit each time. Right away the letter to home, send food every single day. And before long the packages were coming, never opened until the Tacs had left and the lights were out, and hopefully you got one or someone in the next bunk did. I went in the Army at 140 pounds. By the time I finished AIT (a lot of eating, not much exercise) I weighed 152. After 6 weeks of OCS I weighed 129. (By the way, I'm still 140.)

I never could spit shine my shoes. I never really tried. I thought a little extra sleep was more important. It was.

First time ever having to pee and shit quite so out in the open. The whole platoon showering in 60 seconds.

Classes were the one respite from hell. You were safe. The rest of the time you were fair game for whatever they wanted to do to you.

At some point in the first 6 weeks or so I got pneumonia. Went into the base hospital for two days I think. Heaven. Slept about 16 hours a day. Came out and was put on "no PT" for a week, no running, even though by then I was the one in charge of leading PT for the platoon. Sort of ironic. Also had the land navigation test that week. No running, but finished first, a sign of things to come? I always could read a map.

There was a fellow from Arkansas in my platoon, name of Charles Smith I believe. If there was ever a guy who had a command presence it was him. Well over 6 feet tall, lean, strong voice, wonderful at calling cadence. But he just couldn't pass the tests. I got assigned to tutoring him for the final infantry test, did everything I could, he still flunked, and then was gone. A shame.

The pushups. All these years I thought the standard was that we dropped for 50. Was it only 20?

You couldn't just ask a Tac a question, first you had to ask permission to ask a question. I remember one guy forgot, so the magic word - Drop - which meant everyone dropped for the standard 20 (50?). All done, we're up, the guy forgets again, we all drop again. Isn't there supposed to be a learning curve?

I didn't really like the demolitions class, but the one thing I never ever wanted to have to do was retrieve a mine field.

We built bridges and houses and roads and all sorts of other things engineers did even though I think most of us weren't going to be commissioned as engineers. I certainly had no engineering skills. I was supposed to be commissioned in the Ordnance Corps. I also had no skills in anything that might be related to ordnance, but it seemed preferable to infantry when I signed up. Throughout OCS I always tried to do as well as possible. I'm not sure why, I think I just figured it wouldn't hurt. I always was good at taking tests, so the academics was easy, I was just good enough to max the PT test, and my amorphous leadership scores were good enough, so I seemed to be first in the class on that fateful day, maybe a month before the end, when they announced out of the blue that there was one opening for our class in the Finance Corps and one in the AG Corps, and they would be granted based on class rank. Both sounded better than ordnance. I had about 10 seconds to decide my future, and I stuck up my hand, Finance Corps, sir.

I remember spending much of the last month being pissed off. We were almost done, we were just about to be officers, and they were still treating us like shit. Really pissed me off.

But we made it. Peter Gagarin

Steve Furste's Recollections

I have some great memories of our time together. Was it just me or were we always hungry? On most days we got to only finish our milk! In the beginning it seemed like we had to low crawl everywhere. As to our barracks they were a fire trap but how we kept then clean and ready for inspection everyday. Of course every day started at 4:30 AM and at the end were all used to it! To this day I still get up between 5:30 and 6:00 AM - kind of sick, huh. A few years back I was in DC on business and went back to Belvoir and all our barracks have been torn down - it goes to say - "one cannot go home" breaking starch everyday and our uniforms were like cardboard early in the morning and with the high humidity they looked like a prune at the end of the day! The "boonie runs" with full gear, "pass it in "at the mess hall and I hated that most as we were always harassed by someone. I do remember that Hamma seemed to pick on Dilatush the most, poor guy, and it seemed Creekmore was picked on more than most. I also remember polishing our jump boots (the toes) all the time and do you all remember "gross rigging bean head"? Of course the highlight of our time was the wonderful pogey which was a special treat for us. And how many times did Hamma turn over our foot lockers as he claimed they failed inspection. As I remember more I will share it with all of you. Steve Furste

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