Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Basic Training at Fort Riley

(click here to read previous story: The University of Wisconsin - Graduation)

Dinon graduated from the University of Wisconsin in June of 1953.  While working at a camp that August, he got the call.

The timing of his draft is interesting when compared to the timeline of the Korean War, which was considered to have ended with the Armistice Agreement that was signed on July 27 of 1953.  Dinon got his call in August of 1953.

A map showing the location of Fort Riley
"By that time, the Korean Armistice had been signed, so we were there just in case something happened," Dinon said.  "I was drafted for two years, but only served about 21 months because Congress would not appropriate enough money to keep the army as big as the military wanted."

The first thing that happened to Dinon was basic training.

"Now, basic training is broken up into two sections: one is the basic that everybody goes through, and then the second part is for a specialty," Dinon said.  "I was in the medics: I knew how to give a shot, bind up somebody’s wounds.  But I first started out in Fort Riley, Kansas, that's where I went through the basic."

Fort Riley, named for Major General Bennett C. Riley, is a U.S. army installation located on the Kansas River.  It was established  in 1853 to protect the people and trade traveling the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, and later provided protection to the building of Kansas railroad lines.  In the early 20th century, Fort Riley was also identified as ground zero for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.  During World War II, approximately 125,000 soldiers were trained at Fort Riley, and many Korean War soldiers were also trained here.
Young Dinon in his
army uniform

Part of the army dress code was a requirement to remain clean-shaven.  This was easy enough for Dinon when he had access to his electric razor in the barracks, but out in the field he had to rely on the light color of his hair.

"I mean, I wouldn't know how to shave with a straight razor," Dinon said.  "I was glad that my beard was very light and not easily seen - it was there, but you really had to look for it, so I got away with not shaving and then I shaved when I got back to the barracks.  I was just glad that I escaped detection."

During training, Dinon did well enough on the rifle range to qualify as a sharp shooter.

"I never shot a gun before going into the army, but I paid attention to what you’re supposed to do for aiming and so on, and I guess I was steady enough that I could do that," Dinon said.  "I never had to do anything with it, but that’s what I was designated anyhow."

He remembers one night that he was on guard duty for the finance office, where the payroll was.

"The sergeant in charge of the guards said, 'Tomorrow, I either want to find the money in there, or a dead soldier,' and so, we got the idea, 'OK, I guess we better pay attention'," Dinon said.  "Now, we had live ammunition that night, which we hadn't really had much of before ... Well, I was on guard duty, and it went all right."

An M1903 Springfield Rifle: this model, possibly
used by Dinon, was used as a sniper rifle during
the Korean War and is still used as a military
drill rifle
While at Fort Riley, Dinon also participated in the drill team.

"I got involved in a group where there'd be a bunch of us practicing, and you’d learn how to manipulate your gun and display it for parades and the like," Dinon said.  "So, for instance, if you were in the front, we'd be marching along, then you'd place your gun and walk away from it and then the guy right behind you, having done the same thing, he picks up your gun and the last guy ends up with two rifles.  We'd march around, and do different twirling and so on, and I thought that was fun."

After the first part of his basic training was completed, he was sent to Camp Pickett (now Fort Pickett) in Virginia for continued training as a medic.

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