7. April 2018
|My Father Ellis -- Alex Nuttall and Father|
My grandfather’s name was George Ellis Nuttall. He was a concrete contractor and builder. He was a fisherman, crabber and seafood vendor. He was a hunter. He was a crane operator. He was a World War II veteran. He was also a redleg.
|George Ellis Nuttall and Alexander Nuttall -- Photo By Donald Nuttall 1984|
Sometime during World War II my grandfather went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to become an artillery man. There is where he became a redleg. A redleg is a fellow who served in artillery. This was more than 50 years before I found myself there in Lawton, Oklahoma at Fort Sill in 1995.
My father’s middle name is Ellis too. My father is a builder. He’s a fisherman. He was a soldier in Vietnam. He served in the Signal Corps as a mess sergeant. He cooked for thousands of soldiers. He went to Fort Benning, Georgia.
|Donald Nuttall and Alexander Nuttall, 1977, Florida|
In 1995 I decided to join the U.S. Army National Guard. I was 25 years old. I ended up going for my Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) around September 1995. I had selected to become a Fire Support Specialist because I was already studying computers and networking. A Fire Support Specialist is also known as a FISTer. A FISTer is a member of the Fire Support Team (FiST). The FIST element is part of DIVARTY (Division of Artillery). So in 1995 I became a redleg too.
In January 1996 I was still at Fort Sill. I graduated Basic Training and I was heading over to my AIT. I was excited. I had survived 9 weeks of Basic Training (Really 11 weeks because the government was shutdown a week but that’s another story). I was officially a trained soldier. I went from running 2 miles in 16 minutes to running 2 miles in 10:58 minutes. I was 175 pounds of light, muscular goodness.
Basic was definitely a challenge but I was able to take it. I was about 6 years older than most recruits. I was 25. So I was old. I survived Basic so I was ready now to pursue my MOS (Military Occupation).
My fellow recruits and I made it to Charlie Battery. It was different than Basic. Instead of being like prison where they handed you a weapon sometimes, AIT was like work release where you had to go to classes, catch buses to and fro and sometimes they handed you weapons, laser range finders, radios, computers and the authority to call in some nasty artillery. We would learn to rain Hell.
Besides the school, tech stuff and advanced field training we would run. Every other day we would run 2 miles, 3 miles, 5 miles, 12 miles. We ran because a FISTer is supposed to be able to carry a lot of stuff. He had to carry beans, bullets, an M16 A2, A radio, a laser range finder, binoculars, a field artillery (Light Tac Fire) computer and toilet paper. A FISTer also had to do what the infantry did while attached to the Infantry. So we ran a lot.
In the down times I had the greatest thing in the world. I had a cheap personal radio/cassette player. Many times I just put on my headphones and listened to Public Radio. If I listened to my two tapes1 the batteries would die quickly. I chose public radio so that I could enjoy classical or jazz and no stupid commercials.
One night while feeling proud, a little nostalgic and mostly at peace with myself, I put on my headphones and dialed in the Lawton Public Radio Station (http://kccu.org/). It was about 2100. Lights were out. I was listening to a jazz piece.
As I listened I thought about who I was. I was a warrior. My father was a soldier. My grandfather was a soldier. I imagined all the times I spent with my grandfather and my dad. I was feeling a bright shining connection to life. You see I had no idea that my grandfather went to Fort Sill when I joined. It was only when my grandmother told me as I was saying goodbye to her before I left for training that I found out. I thought about that too.
As the jazz piece ended I heard the disk jockey’s reassuring voice about what I had just heard. He said, “That was Wynton Marsalis, “My Father Ellis.” I thought about my Father, my Grandfather and all of my family. I thought about this composer and his father.
I shut of my radio and went to sleep. The Universe seemed very right. I felt love and loved.
|Wynton Marsalis, “My Father Ellis.”|
Links:1. Ellis Marsalis Jr. – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EllisMarsalisJr.jpg
2. Wynton Marsalis – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wynton_Marsalis
3. Fort Sill – http://sill-www.army.mil/
4. Fort Sill – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Sill
5. 111th Field Artillery – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/111th_Field_Artillery_Regiment
6. Virginia Army National Guard – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Army_National_Guard
7. 29th Infantry Division – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/29th_Infantry_Division_(United_States)
8. FIST – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forward_observers_in_the_U.S._military
9. FIST 13F – https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/browse-career-and-job-categories/combat/fire-support-specialist.html
10. KCCU Public Radio – http://kccu.org/
Footnotes:1. [Salem 66, “Frequency and Urgency” and Meat Puppets, “Up on the Sun”]↩
1996 Alex Nuttall was thinking about his father, his grandfather and his relationship to them. He thought also about where he was, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. While listening to a Public Radio Broadcast he was given a sign that he was surely in the right place of his life.
Essay by Alex Nuttall, title: My Father Ellis, Original Date: 20180402 – © Alex Nuttall / OgFOMK ArTS 2018 – 2018 – Published .
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