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In The Beginning There was GMT

By Fred Kuzyk. Copyright 2001, Freddy The K Communications. No reproduction without permission.

In The Beginning There Was GMT

It was a lot harder getting in than getting out of the organization. First step was to report to the 2 Air Reserve Wing where you would fill out lots of paper. The government loves to kill trees. There was a process of tests, medicals, mug shots, finger printing & criminal record checks, blah, blah. After completion of the stages and after many trips, kindly old Warrant Officer Graham told me that I was accepted. "Repeat After Me", he said as I took the oath to work for the Queen & country. "Congratulations", I would now begin the military indoctrination of General Military Training or GMT.

GMT was conducted in the 2 ARW HQ. In a period of several weeks in a classroom, our small group learned the basics of being a citizen soldier. Military Police (MPs) spoke to us about military law & our obligations as citizen soldiers, or as they called it "citizens plus", because of the extra rules that applied to those in the military in addition to all the laws governing ordinary folk. We were subject to extra provisions, such as obeying lawful orders. There were harsh penalties for desertion, AWOL, leaking secrets to enemies, etc. Rules & regulations, we came to know, were not short in supply. We learned about aircraft nomenclature and the history of the Air Reserve & RCAF.

My favourite lecture was on ABC, also known as NBC (no this had nothing to do with American TV networks). This referred to Nuclear Biological & Chemical warfare (or Atomic Biological & Chemical). The Reserve Officer who was our instructor was a teacher in civilian life & really got into the topic. So did I, as a Strategic Studies student. I was already well versed on the deterrence policies of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), which simply meant that if the Soviets nuke North America, the Yanks would nuke them back before we all fried. Anyway, the instructor gleefully enlightened us that the same good people who gave us Bayer aspirin also gave us such goodies as mustard gas or nerve gas. Not the kind of thing that was mentioned in their commercials! Both sides had nerve gas & chemical weapons in WW II but they were considered too horrendous to be used. These weapons were not new, as chemical warfare was used centuries ago. Such as when an enemy's water supply was tainted with dead animals, or a plague victim was flung over the ramparts. So, our ancestors were well versed in the art of war! Later on, our buddies in Baden, Germany would become familiar with working on aircraft while wearing the fully encapsulated NBC suits. But here at home, living under the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, such threats were minimal, so drills were uncommon. Except the one time I remember a surprise alert at the Base. Personnel were running around with Geiger counters & we had to report to areas designated as "safe" and hide under desks.

The 12 Days Of Training (400 Style)

A song we quickly learned that referred to our training experience in the Squadron and sung at various events

There were practical drills during GMT. We learned about military rank & positions. It was kind of like poker - a Master Corporal beats a Corporal that sort of thing. There was dress & deportment. We had our dress uniforms & fatigues. There were also ties & RCAF tartan dickeys. Flat hats, berets, wedge caps - and for the ladies, bowler hats (which I thought were cute). All in any colour, as long as it was CAF green. Although I don't believe we were actually issued uniforms until well established in your Squadron. That way, the new kid really stuck out! We learned how to stand at attention, at ease, & to stand easy. Taught how & when to salute. And of course how to march. We'd march all around the Wing under the tutelage of Corporal Dorothy Rice. Dorothy would later be a fixture at 400 Squadron but this was my first encounter with her. Some of the trainees had problems with marching. Some would swing their arms out of sync & march like tin soldiers. As a one-time Sea Cadet, this was old hat for me. But we all passed GMT.

I can't recall if they asked what Squadron that I wanted to be assigned to or not. I seem to remember that I liked the idea of being affiliated with the "the City of Toronto" rather than the "County of York" Squadron. In any case, 400 was a nice round number. 411 reminded me of Directory Assistance with Ma Bell.

So, it was off to the 400. Both squadrons "paraded" (worked) on Thursday nights and on alternate weekends. My very first night is mostly a blur.

I'm sure I was introduced to "Mother Marl" the Orderly Room Sergeant, who explained all the little finance details to me. They wasted no time collecting Mess Dues. Everyone was required to join the club corresponding to their rank. The Officer's had their mess. Although I would never step foot in the place, I would hear that this was boring, where they would always stand with one hand in a pocket, the other clutching a drink while retelling war stories. The Sergeants & Warrants also had their mess. This was known as "Menopause Manor". But the Corporals & we privates had the Junior Ranks Mess. This was the largest & the most "happening" of the messes. Marl issued me a Meal Card for lunches on the working weekends. My photo with name would eventually be added to the personnel hierarchy board. I 'd also get a photo ID Card & my dog tags. You'd wear the dog tags in case the airplane you were on crashed so they could then identify your remains! I'm sure I was introduced to some of the key superiors. 

I was ushered in to the classroom where all the lads were getting some drill from Sergeant Lockett. I was announced & took a seat to a chorus of "Scrote, scrote, scrote" from the assembled masses. I discovered that this was squadron -speak for "scrotum"! An auspicious welcome indeed. I had arrived!After business had concluded for the night, we adjourned to the Apollo Lounge at the Junior Ranks, as was standard operating procedure. The Apollo was the classy lounge on the 2nd floor. Downstairs was the "snake pit" with pool tables, shuffleboard, darts, etc. I didn't know all of the player's names at the time but I recall that Huey was there. Huey had a pronounced speech impediment that you couldn't miss or forget. I learned to be patient while his eyes rolled & he attempted to get something said. Interestingly, Huey could sing without missing a beat. MCpl Bob Stopp ("with two P's") was also there. The guys were talking shop. Stopp mentions that something is "US". I assume that this means it comes from the States. Sometime later I'd find out that this meant it was "un-serviceable". Strange. When something was serviceable it wasn't called "S". I don't think they were intentionally trying to exclude the new kid, they just forgot that not everyone was on the same page with the lingo. Later I would master the language & add a few words of my own. Someone mentions something about "grunts". I just got to ask, "what's that"? Huey says they're the same as "P - P - P - Pongos", he finally concludes. It's explained that a grunt is an army type. It's suggested that the name comes from the sound that an infantryman makes when shot dead. OK, that works for me. I also discover that we call the Military Police "Meat Heads". No explanation is necessary. They also talk about the trips they have been on. About travel to the base in Germany & the upcoming Summer Camp. Booze is cheap here - 50 cent beers or shots. Cheap smokes, too. There's camaraderie. The unit appears cohesive. Everyone is included & is a member of the team. So I say to Samantha Helyer, one of the Admin Clerks, "I think this is the start of something great". That sentiment wouldn't always be so, but for now I was flying high!

Next Article: Hey, Hey, Hee, It's An Airman's Life For Me.

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