19. For many draftees, the Army provided their first trip by train
New recruits left the induction centers bound for training camps. Some, such as Madison Barracks in upstate New York, had been in continuous use by the Army since the War of 1812. Others were brand new and their numbers increased rapidly. For many recruits, particularly those in the South and on the plains, the journey represented their first departure from the community of their birth. Some went by Army trucks or by bus, most went by train. They arrived in civilian clothes, with civilian haircuts and with their individuality intact. The Army immediately went about removing any vestige of the civilian life they knew. They were dressed the same, given the same haircuts, marched in unison to training, to meals, to classes, and to medical care. The goal of recruit training was to instill instant, unquestioning obedience to orders, adherence to Army principles and traditions, and physical fitness.
During recruit training, individual skills and training led to some men being destined to go on to artillery school, or paratrooper school, or tank training, or signals and communications schools. Some advanced training was open to volunteers only, such as the Navy’s submarine school or the Army’s airborne units. Others were based solely on the needs of the services and the evaluations made by one’s superiors. A soldier who demonstrated an aptitude for heavy weapons was pointed to heavy weapons platoons; a sailor with skills in engine mechanics went on to training as an aviation mechanic, or a shipboard engine room specialist. Drivers with civilian experience in large vehicles went into transportation jobs, bakers became cooks and bakers, heavy equipment operators were often sent to the Navy’s Construction Battalions, known as Seabees. The military used the manpower pool to meet its needs, rather than the men’s whims.