Fort Lewis

After being processed at Camp Atterbury, Richard Mahard was sent to Fort Lewis, just outside Tacoma, Washington. He travelled by rail and enjoyed the passing scenery in a Pullman car - his first ride in a Pullman. However, he had wished the event could have been shared with Marian. He was happy with the quality of the food on the train and was well-rested when he arrived at Fort Lewis.

Fort Lewis introduced Mahard to the waiting game that was Army life. Mahard spent weeks after arriving performing guard duty, kitchen patrol or KP, and being assigned various handiwork and custodial tasks around the fort. Eventually, Mahard would begin basic training, but nights of scrubbing pots and pans would continue from time to time if he was unlucky. Mahard would now also occasionally be tasked with working at the rifle range. Mahard's days were also now filled with shooting at the rifle range, parading, and watching instructional videos. 

Mahard was chosen to be his platoon's Informational and Educational Service's representative. This meant five days of being informed how to lead discussions, getting more information on topics to discuss with the fellow troops such as facism, countries involved in the war, and prejudices. Mahard, the academic, found it quite interesting and also enjoyed being able to miss a few days of marching and an inspection in order to attend the Informational and Educational Service meetings. Then it was back to the same basic training as all the other troops; drilling, learning how to use their rifles, and watching many films. Mahard occasionally got a pass to Olympia to catch a movie in the theatre or to window shop. Throughout, Mahard managed to write a letter to Marian almost every day and to respond to letters from President Brown, Dean Richards, Professor Wright, and friends from his days at Columbia University.

Then came the final test of basic training: bivouac (/bivo͞oˌak/). Essentially, bivouac entailed  leaving their barracks for a few days to camp and get a feel for what life on the front lines would be like. This also meant hiking for great distances, plenty of digging, and performing mock battles with the other platoons. The mock battles consisted of firing blanks or, on at least one occassion, shouting "bang! bang!" as the troops did not want to soil their guns by firing blanks during their ambush on another camp. Possibly the greatest danger throughout the excercise was the cold temperatures. Mahard guessed it was about 40 degrees and the men had little more than long underwear and denim jackets to shield them from the elements. They pulled through, however, and a band greeted them on their return from the field. One more mile, Mahard said, and half the men probably wouldn't have made it back to camp.

After Mahard and his group "graduated" from basic training, Mahard was caught in limbo for a few days. The rest of his battalion picked up and moved to the specialized training grounds while Mahard stayed behind to work in the headquarters of another battalion. Mahard was made the Charge of Quarters for a time, before filling in as a clerk in the orderly room. A day or so after his battalion made the move, the sergeant put in a good word with Mahard's superiors and sent him off to join in the special training. Mahard had been assigned to the "Pioneer Engineer" divison of the special training. He was taught about knots, lashings, and the tools of an engineer out in the field. These are really the only specifics Mahard recorded for posterity in his letters home. Marian arrived in Washington shortly after Mahard began his special training to be able to spend Mahard's free time together.

In August, Mahard received a surprise announcement that he was being transferred to Fort Myer in Virginia. Mahard was asked by the company clerk if he had a car to drive to his assigned destination or if Mahard would be taking the train the Army had arranged. Sensing there was some advantage to driving over taking the train, Mahard asked what would be the situation if he did have a car. The clerk told Mahard that he would likely be given a couple weeks to make the trip if he opted to drive himself. Mahard told the clerk he did have a car, and immediately set about purchasing one with Marian. Mahard realized that with minimal breakdowns, this would be the perfect opportunity to allow for a swing through Michigan to see his parents. After shopping around a bit, the Mahards settled on a $525 4-door Chevrolet sedan. Mahard was ashamed at how much he spent on the car, but it seemed to be in decent shape considering its age. Soon the car was known as "Georgie" and became an invaluable member of the Mahard trio. Michigan and Virginia or bust, the Mahards left Washington state behind and headed to the next stage of Mahard's odyssey through the Army.