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Being a Young Cadet

More discovered autobiographical writing that I didn't fictionalize at all back in 2005 when I was writing Hill Mole. All about being a JROTC Ranger in Ranger Club at Saint Louis School in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I grew up. This is all true.
Being a Young Cadet

JROTC Rangers

I Was a Haole

When I was in my first year of all boys Catholic school, I noticed that there were army men all over campus every Thursday. I started at St. Louis when I was entering the 7th grade. Until then, I attended public school. Public elementary school in Hawaii was something the entire country could admire. I had plenty of sunshine, air, and support from a an assortment of tiny Japanese schoolteachers. On the other hand, public schools in Hawaii are some of the worse in many neighborhoods once the hormones start cutting in. There was no way in hell that I was going to go to public school after 6th grade in Hawaii. I was a haole. I was a white kid in Hawaii and although I became a kama’aina over time, I was never perfectly part of the fabric of Hawaii. At best, I was a patch. At best, I was an embellishment. At worst, I was believed to be a tear. I worked furiously to make sure that I was not going to go to the Intermediate school I was supposed to attend, which was Central. Central is where all the Mokes and Titas went to school.

Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp

So I worked hard and got into a little Catholic school and when I got there I had to wear a uniform aloha shirt with slacks and dress shoes. For the next six years, I had to wear a similar uniform. Every Thursday, it was the day that the members of the JROTC cadets would wear their uniforms to school. I always considered it rather queer that this was the case. In most cases, the uniform was pretty standard. Envelope hat and class A uniforms. Dress shows, socks. When I reached 9th grade, I realized that there were three choices one could make and the choices were to become a band geek, a jock, or a cadet. I decided to become a cadet and joined the JROTC.

Class As on Thursdays

The reason why we had to wear our Class A uniforms on Thursday is because on Thursday we would move to the football field en masse in order to practice our parade drills. From the start, we were privates. From the start, we were taught how to hold a wooden rifle and how to dress right and how to get into formation. We trained on how to polish brass, how to salute our superiors, and how to fire .22 rimfire target rifles in our very own firing range. I daresay that we might have been pretty rare in our school because we had our own firing range. I don’t hear about very many people who had a rifle team in their school, although this is American and I am pretty sure that it couldn’t be that rare either.

Being a Young Cadet

As I became more accustomed to the feel of being a young cadet, I also became more accustomed to the different classes in the corps. There were a number of folks who dressed differently on Thursdays. These folks wore shiny leather boots. These folks wore black felt berets with insignias on the front in school colors, red and blue.

I Want to be an Airborne Ranger

Charlie was older. He was one of the coolest kids in the school. He was respected both in JROTC as well as in the school. He was pretty bad ass. He was a junior the year I met him. The first Thursday I saw him come into class was a dressed differently than everyone else. He wore the same class As that the rest of us wore but there were several important distinctions. He wore jump boots and a black beret. The boots were old and looked cracked but there was a rich shine on the toe. The pants were bloused into the boots, showing off the tall sides, the endless zigzagging laces. The boots were old but well cared for and lustrous. There glinted like opals. His hair was short off his brown head. His face was set in a permanent grin. A shit-eating grin. But not that of a fool as his eyes were cruel. He was never cruel with me but he was stern. He cheeks were broad and set high. On this head he wore a felt beret rakishly. A military crest in our school colors was stitched into the peak. It was formed to his head and when he was indoors, he doffed beret and rolled it, stored it under the epaulette of his shirt. The shirt that showed he was a Ranger. He was a Saint Louis Ranger. He was member of the Ranger club and this club earned the right to wear jump boots and a black beret.

Exit, Stage Left

I quickly left the rifle team and joined the Rangers club.

A Code of Silence

The Rangers turned out to be much more than a simple club. The Rangers was a secret society with a code of honor that was effectively a code of silence. Every Ranger was told of the awful things that could and would befall the Ranger who broke the code. This defilement was the thing of legend. These defilement were legendary and strictly adhered to because each of us held a secret that could not only get us kicked out of school but could also have the Ranger program disbanded and have our Sergeant Major – the man who held all of this together – fired and have the JROTC program disbanded and probably even ruin the reputation of the entire school. Were this secret to ever come out in the school paper or – heaven forbid – in the Advertiser or Star Bulletin, the jig was up.

Us Cadets

The funny thing about our secret was that we kept it both because of what telling the truth could have done to us but also because we really could only share it with each other because who the hell else would believe us? And honestly, who really wanted to be friends with anyone else in school after the kind of intense experience shared between us kids? Us cadets? So we didn’t talk about it.

A Fresh Clip of Ammo into the Chamber

We didn’t talk about the fact that every other weekend, we Rotsee Rangers were for hire. We were hired out by the US National Guard and the US Army Reserves. We were sometimes taken by Force Recon Reserves of the US Marines. Mostly we were hired as OPFOR soldiers for war games, rife with M-16s and M-60s, rife with Alice Packs and field jackets, rife with web gear and L flashlights, rife with cammie paint and canvas pouches designed for 30-round clips. We would bring home a standard form for a field trip to our parents. A form that when signed allowed their fourteen year old son to be issued a 100-percept operational NATO weapon. A weapon that could (and was) fed real armor-piercing rounds. A weapon that was rendered a training aid simply (and only) by affixing a screw-in fuck me red blank adaptor to the tip of the barrel, right onto the flash suppressor. And the 30-round banana clips that we bought at the surplus store didn’t require any adaptation before loading in the shiny brass blanks. We would stuff our cargo pockets full of blanks and bring them home with us. We would get home and we would buy 30-round clips from the surplus store and we taped two of them together so that the clip protruded low from the gun, so that there was always fresh ammo on the gun. So that all you needed to do to reload was to grab the clip, turn the clip upside-down, and load a fresh clip of ammo into the chamber.

Spetsnaz-Trained Special Forces Operatives

We were the kids who would only wear slash-pocket jungle greens and the odd jungle patterns experimented with during Vietnam. Vietnam was the last war but we were looking towards central and south America for our inspiration. Even so, it was always towards the USSR that we were looking. And that was the story we were given. That was the story given to us as our cover story. Our cover story was as follows: we teens were not in fact just two teams of five children. We ten or so Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets were in fact Spetsnaz-trained special forces operatives. Yes, of course we are young teens, but we are told that the Soviets have found that raising operatives from the cradle is the way to go. So, we are kids dropped well behind the lines expressly in order to disrupt the supply chain of the United States government military. The supply channel to the front. So, we would find ourselves time and time again in the jungle, covered in mud and sweet-smelling sweat. We would be caked in cammie face paint. I would sit there hungry, with my nerves jangling. On edge but strangely serene. I could feel the weight of my gun. I could feel the weight of the pack. I could feel the weight of the assault rifle in the palm of my hand. I felt a little sick with excitement. I felt sick with my excitement quite a lot, every weekend.


One of the stories I remember was about how a Ranger, one before us, was caught during an ambush. How this boy was caught by the enemy and how he was strung up in his underwear, lashed to a tree, in the forest and left. Riot cuffs and all.