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Can’t Believe It Was 25 Years Ago

March 9, 2013

I was laying in bed late the other night.  And it just popped into my head.  It’s March 7th!  I did the math in my head.  1988.  25 years ago I enlisted into the Army Reserves.  I’ll always hold this day special.  It was a definite turning point in my life.

My senior year of high school at Des Moines East, I stopped by (I have no idea why) an Army Recruiter table at our school.  My recruiter’s name was SGT Jenkins.  (Funny what things you remember in life, eh?)  I filled out a card and he followed up with a phone call which later led to a visit to my house with my parents.

He gave a simple presentation which included the GI Bill. RE: Money for college.  That was the ONLY reason I even considered joining the military.  Because I knew that my parents weren’t in any position to help me out financially.  I don’t at all say that with disregard or malcontent.  I am very happy my parents made me pay for school on my own because it made me a much more indepenent person.  Also I was the first of 4 brothers to go down this road.

So SGT Jenkins made his final pitch and stopped talking.  I thought about it for a second.  Said….sure I’ll do it!  I know I shocked my parents and sort of shocked myself too.  As a minor, I had to get their signature to make it official.

I can’t tell you how much easier it was to go through college (Iowa State) getting a monthly check from the military and doing a monthly weekend drill. (Thus how the Reservists are called “Weekend Warriors”).  It was plenty to make a poor college kid live off of.  As an added bonus I also got the “Loan Repayment Program,” in my enlistment.  This meant after graduation, the military would pay 10% of my loan for every remaining year of my enlistment.  This helped take a big chunk out my school loans (which I am proud to say are all paid off).

My time in the Army Reserves (March 1988 to March 1996) was the same time as “Desert Storm.”  My job was a 31K (Kilo) which was then titled “Combat Signaler.”  When I entered the Army I already knew what I wanted to do in my professional life and wanted to be in communications in the military also.  “Combat Signaler” was simply field communications.  RE:  Field telephones and running wire for switchboard communications.  Which is now non-existant in the Army.  Everything is digital, just like the real world.

I don’t consider myself a “hero” by any means.  The real hero in our family is my father Don who did 2 tours of Vietman as a SGT in the Marine Corps.  He also is the recipiant of a “Purple Heart.”  My dad went through hell there and I am so proud of him.  It’s hard for me to talk about him without getting emotional.

I was in an Engineering Unit based out of Des Moines (372nd ENG GRP).  I did three weekend drills there before shipping out to Basic Training in June of 1988 at Ft Jackson (Columbia), South Carolina.  Talk about a life changing experience.  Especially for a 17 year old.  I spent 10 weeks there and returned mid August just before the start of my senior year in high school.  I was a “Split Option Trainee.”  This meant I did Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training-Army Schooling) a year apart.  Normally regular Army people do that back to back before being assigned to their permanent station.

Then in June of 1989, right after I graduated high school, I did it all over again.  Except now I was headed to Ft Gordon (Augusta), Georgia where I learned my 31K job specialty.  AIT wasn’t quite as bad as basic, but you still had Drill Sergeants who bossed you around.

My favorite memory of basic was that I could imitate the voice of a DI in our company.  He’d always say “GET OUT OF MY WAY!”  So we’d be out as a company together and I’d walk up behind my fellow trainees and say “GET OUT OF MY WAY” (in a deep manly future radio star voice) and they’d all turn around freaked out and thought I was him, which cracked me up.

I know I wouldn’t be the same Geoff Conn if I hadn’t decided to enlist for those 8 years.  I am very proud to say I have.  It helped shape me to be the man that I am today.

At Basic Training in the summer of 1988 in Ft Jackson, South Carolina.


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  1. Spencer permalink

    Did the same thing (regular Army though) in ’86.

    Hope all is well.

  2. James Shell permalink

    I was in Fort Jackson the exact same time you were there! It was hot as hell wasn’t it? And that sand! I swear, running in sand has got to be the most brutal thing on earth to a skinny teenage set of legs! Ironically enough, I was also a 31K (damn road crossings)!!

    • What company were you in? I was on Tank Hill. CO A Protrain.

      • James Shell permalink

        Your reply somehow got lost amidst my junk mail so sorry for the late response! I would have to look up which company I was in (my memory isn’t quite as good as yours) but I was in the air conditioned condos!! That was nice at first, but the daily swap between 100 plus temps and the conditioned air made all of us as sick as dogs! The experience formed me into the man I am today as well. I did my AIT at Gordon as well, but did mine back to back with the rest of the regular army guys. I think it would do great things to all of our problems in society today if all young men were forced to do that training after school.

  3. Doug permalink

    Definitely covered some of the same ground. Tank Hill – June ’87 (C-2/13). Fort Gordon – (A-369) – September ’87, Fort Benning (Jump School) November ’87. I ended up in at Ft. Riley (didn’t land in an Airborne Unit) for the rest of my enlistment, and was deployed for Desert Shield/Storm from my Reserve unit.

  4. Bill Dunkin permalink

    I was a wire dog, 31 kilo in 1988 at Fort Gordon. Good memories. Unfortunately I don’t recall my DI, he got in trouble half way through for fraternizing with a female private. I wished I had more pics of that time frame.

    I related to your story

  5. Gary Bennett permalink

    I went in the reserves as 31k did basic at ft Jackson around that same time in 1988 & strait to ft Gordon. Cant belive it was that long ago either. I had staff st Sutton as my Drill instructor

  6. Jen Lee permalink

    OMG, I was also going through basic training in the summer of 1988 at Fort Jackson SC! Tank Hill! I remember it so well and I recognize the barracks in your pic. It seems like yesterday.

    • Jen Lee permalink

      Do you guys remember that photograhy company that came in and filmed our training to try to sell us videos of our training? How many of you guys bought the $20 video? I was ashamed at the time that I caved and bought the silly thing, but now that I still have it on tape after so many years, I’m glad I did. Time goes so fast, and time seemed to move even faster during those days. After all this time, it’s great to see others who also remember Tank Hill.

    • Wow cool. I don’t know about yesterday 😉, but it definitely helped make me into the person I am today.

  7. T. Paul permalink

    WoW .. here it is 2020 and I just discovered this site .. so pushing 35 years ago for me .. lol. I come from a strong military background, all of the males prior to me served. I truly think that most of the kids of today could learn a lot from serving even in the reserves for a few years.

    I did the same thing where you spend you Jr (1985) summer in basics and then back to school for your Sr year then off to AIT. I remember that red sand getting into everything and EVERYWHERE. I was in them old WWII barracks on Tank Hill (A 4-1) and can remember running past the New Hollywood barracks where they got to have AC at night to sleep and we had 1 fan on each floor .. lol.

    AIT at Ft Gorden … then jump school .. and and and and … like most of us, I ended up wearing a bunch of different hats .. BUT even now, I have fond memories of my service and some of my best friendships come from the people I served with.

  8. sandra dye permalink

    Did I teach any of you at the 31K Combat Signaler Course? Was a 31K Training Instructor at Fordon from 1984 – 1989… Instructor of the Year in 1987.

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