When I was a young man I was in the National Guard. Actually I was in two National Guards: the Alabama Guard and the Maryland Guard. I liked them both. I made good friends in both. In the Maryland Guard, they thought I talked funny. The bulk of them were from Baltimore (it sounded something like Balla-mer), and they had the nerve to say that I talked funny!
I joined the Guard so I wouldn’t get drafted and I never realized I would enjoy the experience so. We were a lot more than mere week-end warriors. When we put on that uniform, we were soldiers. People like First Sergeant George J. “Red” Marlett, M. Sgt. J.C. Mayfield, Capt. Ed Davis and Capt. Dick Teague saw to that.
My first unit was a “light” anti-aircraft unit, armed with 50 cal. machine guns mounted on half-tracks and 40 mm. cannon mounted on a medium tank chassis, already obsolete in a jet airplane world but, my gosh, could they spit out the rounds, and noise? Probably a lot of my hearing loss today is the result of ineffective earplugs from those days.
We went to summer camp at Ft. Stewart, GA, over near Savannah, and fired at radio-controlled target drones (RCATS) until we shot down the regular army’s miserly allotment of target drones. Then we had to fire at a mesh “sleeve” towed by an RCAT. Before each “mission” the authorities would announce: “Fire only at the sleeve. Do NOT fire at the RCAT.” Well, late one afternoon, one budding Opelika sharpshooter “accidentally” shot down the RCAT we were not supposed to be firing upon. Reportedly, it may have been a recently retired circuit judge. By the time the official recovery team got around to locating the downed drone, it had “disappeared‘ into the back of a truck and concealed under canvas. Several weeks after we returned to Opelika, the Army figured out where their “toy” was and notified us to return the radio equipment and keep the drone shell. So that’s what you saw on the roof of the old armory.
Dick Teague was one of the finest men I ever met. He was the Lee County Extension agent as well as a citizen soldier. I used to spend a day riding with him to county farms when I came home during the summer. Dick was a WWII vet, flew on B-17’s, was shot down over Germany and spent nearly two years in a German POW camp. After Dick retired from Extension and National Guard, he and his lovely wife, Mary Jane, served several years as agricultural missionaries in Nigeria. On rare occasions Dick would need to talk about Germany. For some reason he found it easy to talk to me. I loved the man.
Red Marlett and J.C. Mayfield are ageless wonders who were my heroes and mentors 50 years ago and remain so today. You learn about some things that you have to be careful about, like gambling. Now, I have taken a course or two in statistics, know about the law of probability and all that. BUT, we had a man in old Battery B of the 104th who, on occasion, not always, mind you, but on occasion, would go into a sort of trance while shooting dice. His eyes would get glassy, his face would turn a deep red and he would perspire heavily. Most importantly, the dice would come up with whatever number he needed. I learned to watch him and when the occasion struck, bet on him. I never rolled the dice myself, just bet on my buddy and made my spending money.
Those were the days.