What were the barracks or quarters like in Boot Camp?

Note: This is part of series to help ALL who served and their families to reminisce, remember and record memories and stories of your military service. Be sure to check out all the other posts and comment in the white space below each one!

Last time I talked about What Type of Training You Did in Boot Camp.  Keep the comments coming!  If you ever served, you trained.  Share your stories.

This time I want to focus on what your barracks or quarters were like in Boot Camp.  My guess is you remember the sights, smells and feeling of where you stayed.

I remember distinctly the smell of cheap pine sol in my barracks building in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  The air was heavy and humid, as the rumors of air conditioning we were fed at the reception station were a big fat lie. It was also during July, August and September and this was in South Carolina after all.

I was on the third floor of a three story barracks building.  There were long hallways and rooms that each had four sets of bunk beds in them.  The bunk beds were tall and metal.  Each soldier also had a large wall locker for their stuff.  There was one large bathroom, but the shower area only had 5 or 6 shower heads for our entire platoon consisting of 50 people.  Yea, crowded isn't the word for it!

The feeling I had every time in that building was uncertainty and usually fear. Fear of the unknown.  It was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that showed up the first day we arrived there, and did not go away until I left.

About 7 years ago I went back to Fort Jackson when my step-son graduated Boot Camp there.  I went in the exact building I was in- the 2/139 training regiment, Company C, to use the restroom. There were privates everywhere dashing around cleaning and getting ready for something.  Being in that hallway again brought it all back.  Yes, the air was thick, it smelled like cheap pine sol, and I got the feeling back in the pit of my stomach when I heard privates yell, "Make way!!" as a drill sergeant streaked down the hall passed us.  I actually greeted the DS, and he nodded, probably wondering who the heck this civilian lady was in his barracks.  I smiled to myself because I knew I was walking out, and he could do nothing to me.  :)    So.....

What do you remember about YOUR barracks or quarters at training?

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Comment by Jeff Wenum on October 28, 2014 at 12:22am

Richard,& rest... Not used to the humidity, I guess. It always felt like way over 100%-but that's impossible.ha.

Comment by Richard Boyd on October 27, 2014 at 8:30am

What was the reason for the lack of saliva, Jeff? 

I'd been in Okinawa for a couple weeks prior to continuing on to Da Nang. So I was acclimated to humidity. Although, RVN was even more humid than that. Stench was worse too, which was pretty hard to beat, considering those "benjo ditches" everywhere in Oki. I acclimated pretty well to it though.

Comment by Jeff Wenum on October 26, 2014 at 8:22pm

I do remember arriving at DaNang,So.Vietnam; and the sweat immediately starting up when I stepped off the plane.. It was 2-3 weeks before I could drink milk or eat a piece of bread.No saliva whatsoever in my mouth.

Comment by Claudia Bartow on September 10, 2014 at 8:37pm

Great stuff, Richard!  I love the detail and especially the story about your "special times" inside your quarters, lol.  How cool that your quonset hut is one of the ones they preserved.  I bet you will never forget it.

Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Richard Boyd on September 10, 2014 at 8:12am

I arrived at MCRD San Diego, in late May of 1968, and graduated in late July. We were quartered in quonsets. One squad of about 15 to 20 men per hut. We slept on metal bunks (racks), stored our uniforms in metal, free-standing lockers, and put our skivvies, toiletries, etc in wooden footlockers that were stored under our racks. I can't remember the exact number of huts lining the "company street". I'm thinking six on each side. At the end of the company street were showers and heads. Next to the heads were rows of wash tubs, wringers, and clotheslines for doing laundry on Sundays, after church.

Weather in San Diego, is not extreme. It was hot, but not terrible. Although, close order drill out on the grinder, in the middle of the afternoon would make you sweat a little. I like hot weather anyway. So, it wasn't bad.

One day the platoon was having an off day and the DI's were getting fed up with it. So, they decided that maybe we were getting a little too much sun, which was addling our puny brains. To this end they took pity and allowed us to train indoors. I.E. inside a quonset hut. The DI's also decided that the best "indoors" training would be close order drill. They also figured that since we were doing so poorly drilling with our rifles, that it might be better if we replaced the rifles with our foot lockers. Thus, 65 (or so) sweaty Privates, with our footlockers at "right shoulder arms" marched into one quonset. Then with both doors and the windows shut we commenced to spending a couple hours with a DI calling cadence and commands "right shoulder arms", "left shoulder arms", "present arms", etc. while marching in step around the inside of a quonset, which of course, still had the racks and wall lockers in there too.

During that sweet Summer of '68, Platoon 2006 spent several afternoons drilling with footlockers inside the quonsets. Although the very best day was the one where we filled a quonset with sand to about two feet deep, and then the entire platoon went swimming in our "new indoor sand pool". We missed chow that night because after our day at the pool, of course we had to field day the quonset, and we could not go to chow until it passed inspection. Finally, around midnight, we passed. ... Ah, the memories.

BTW The quonsets have long been replaced by barracks. However, a couple rows have been preserved for historical reasons. The quonset that I lived in during boot camp is in one of those rows.

Comment by Claudia Bartow on September 1, 2014 at 10:36pm
Jeff, your story is right on. I was never not sweaty the entire eleven weeks I was there. I know making recruits uncomfortable is all part of the training, and rightfully so. Surely the jungles of Vietnam and the deserts in Afghanistan are worse than what we had it in S.C.. It sure feels crappy when you're young and naive and don't know any better though :).
Comment by Jeff Wenum on September 1, 2014 at 9:49pm

My "year" started in 1969. Old barracks just like you describe, probably from the 1930's. Parris Island, S.C. was pretty close to Ft. Jackson. We would hang up our t-shirts on the end of our rack at night; next morning,we put them back on, just as wet as when we took them off. NOBODY wants to go to S.C. in June- Sept.!!!!!!!! Went back 30yrs. later for my oldest son's graduation and he was in new concrete barracks.Air cond.?Don't hardly believe so.The rifle ranges were all the same though, probably since creation!!!!!!!

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