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AAA Exhibit

OCS Memories

by COL (Ret) Richard H. McCormick, OCS 04-52 (Bliss)
AAA OCS 2003 Reunion
Fort Benning, Georgia

I would like to thank all those individuals who worked so long and hard to make this reunion a reality. I am personally grateful to each and every one of you.

In the Book of Joel there is a passage of scripture that says, “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” We are now all old men. Some among us had not only a dream, but a determination to reunite a group of soldiers who had shared an unforgettable and, at least in my case, a life-changing experience. Thank you for making your dream and mine a reality. Thank you for our being able to relive, if only for a short while, that dream.

My return to Fort Benning represents a homecoming of sorts for me. I attended the Infantry Officer Advanced (Career) Course at Benning in 1954-55, and I was posted here again for a short period as Veterinary Corps officer during the buildup of the 1st Airmobile Division in 1965.

Although I will always remain, in my heart at least, a “Redleg Artilleryman”, I was proud to wear the robin’s egg blue of an infantry soldier, both as an officer and as an enlisted man. I have been honored by the fact that I was able to serve with a musket, a lanyard and a scalpel. In whatever capacity any of us served, we were all there to support that Spec 4 walking point on a night patrol. He deserved our best, and that is exactly what we gave him.

In our individual lifetimes we observe many milestones. Some of these milestones include marriages, births, deaths, university graduations, success or failure in business and retirement. On the other hand, we have very few seminal events in a lifetime. My definition of a seminal event is one that changes forever one’s life so fundamentally that things are never the same following it. For me, OCS was a seminal event. My view of life after graduation and commissioning was never the same as before. To many of my classmates, OCS did not even represent a milestone. Rather it was just a jog in the road for privileged young men on their way to bigger and better things. But this was not true in my case.

The United States Army took a skinny young kid, without the first day of college, and who had been in the service for only five months, and gave him a shot at becoming a leader of men. At the time I entered the army, I was climbing poles for the telephone company for fifty dollars a week. My ambitions, to say the least, were severely constricted.

The confidence I developed in the crucible of OCS allowed me to go on to complete nine years of college, graduate from professional school and to own my own business. I was also privileged to complete a career in the USAR, retiring in 1990 with the rank of full colonel. None of these things would have happened without OCS.

So many memories. Staying up until one in the morning in the only illuminated place in the barracks, the latrine, while a classmate tried to teach me the rudiments of trigonometry for surface gunnery. Watching another classmate go from 195 pounds down to 150, as we all struggled to choke down the powdered eggs and dehydrated potatoes served on a tin tray in the mess hall. Being constantly bone-tired from the lack of sleep and ready to quit because of harassment from tac-officers. I kept an unsigned resignation form in my desk for weeks.

Dining on the dollar steaks and cheap Mexican champagne at Geronimo Fong’s in Juarez. Geronimo Fong, who was half American Indian and half Chinese, would proudly take us back to the kitchen where we could observe sides of beef, mostly bull-ring kill, that were covered with flies. Flies or no flies, his steaks beat the mess hall chow.

Map reading in the desert, and being able to shoot a five mile azimuth. Watching the desert turn purple in the evening when we went to New Mexico’s Organ Mountains to fire the 120mm guns. The exhilaration of early morning PT runs in the snow, a rare occasion in El Paso, even in February. The trill of buying our first set of “Pinks and Greens”, the most elegant uniform the US Army ever had. Signing each other’s graduation yearbooks, ours was titled FLAK, and the promises to keep in touch. We lost track of one another so quickly. With the exception of my Dog Battery classmates, I have never met most of you here today. Nevertheless, we share a common experience that is well worth celebrating.

I ended up soldiering for forty years, both active and reserve. I served as an artillery officer and as an infantry officer, as well as a member of the Veterinary Corps. During that time period, I never saw the equal of my fellow officer candidates in terms of motivation and performance of duty. You have every reason to be proud of yourself.

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