Subject: President Carter's Cuban Follies, Part Two
or "I Like Cornbread"
Dear Brother Grady,
Here is more of President Carter's Cuban Follies or "I Like Cornbread":
When last heard from our hero, (me!) was on a bus from Fort Sill, Oklahoma to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas to be an officer in charge of some artillery soldiers who were being temporarily given duties as "prison" guards for President Carter's influx of Cubans. Ft. Chaffee is located on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas near the city of Ft. Smith, Arkansas and the tiny town of West Ft. Smith, Oklahoma. There is actually only one difference between Oklahomans and Arkansans. It is best illustrated by the following example:
Joke (not funny, but true--like English humour):
Question: Do you know the difference between a cowboy bar in Oklahoma and a cowboy bar in Arkansas?
Answer: In the Arkansas bar the customers are not necessarily armed.
Anyway, when the Battery full of cannoneers got to Ft. Chaffee they were divided into two infantry guards platoons and told that in no uncertain terms, one, this was not a "prison", merely a "camp". Not a displaced persons camp, because that was politically incorrect from WWII, or a resettlement camp, same problem, nor a detention camp, Geneva convention problems, nor a refugee camp because of problems using federal troops to perform police functions, and under NO circumstances was the term "concentration camp" to be used. So we decided to call ourselves "babysitters", because the second thing that we were told in no uncertain terms was that we would carry rifles and bayonets but would NOT get any bullets.
It was July and August in Western Arkansas: It was absolutely miserable and we were in old wooden barracks exactly the same as the Cuban Refugees. So, naturally, when my two weeks was up, I went back to Fort Sill to sign out back into civilian life, and instead, I called the Personnel Officer at Reserve Headquarters and asked to stay another two weeks! Esprit de Corps had slipped up inside the back of my brain and exploded a stupid bomb. So I went back to Fort Chaffee, but not before having some T-shirts made with "Official Cuban Refugee Babysitter" and getting a new haircut.
Sometime during all of this, I was made the officer in charge of one of the platoons. After we had a day or so of training in crowd control tactics, we started to pull perimeter guard around the "whatever camp" with the Cubans inside it. I got a brilliant idea. We despirately needed a morale boost. So on the bus from our barracks to the guard stations I told the men that we would use a new greeting to each other to pick up our spirits and set a positive tone. I think that I even used the phrase "get off on the good foot". The greeting that I used was my personal philosophy at the time "A la Cumbre" which is Spanish for "to the summit!" as in rock climbing. No, I was not a rock climber, I got it from a Taco joint in San Francisco called "La Cumbre" because it was at or near the top of a hill.
My men tried gamely to yell "a la cumbre!" in response to my rabble rousing techniques, and it worked just fine until the next day, when one of the sergeants told me privately that the Spanish-speaking men did not want to draw extra attention to the fact that they looked and spoke like the Cubans whom we were guarding and the rest of the men had all thought that I was yelling "I Like Cornbread!" They liked cornbread too but did not understand what it had to do with guarding Cubans.
I got home in one piece again anyway.
...and every moral and social virtue cement us,