Jake Schultz, Villa Ridge, is assigned to one of the most unusual duties in the Army. He is a mule skinner, or driver of a team of mules for the Horse Cavalry Detachment of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. The mules and old military wagon advertise the Army in parades and at other public events. It’s a reminder of the Army Cavalry and serves in a historic role.
In his wildest dreams, he probably never thought he would be doing this in the military, which offers so many duty opportunities that to list them would fill a computer memory file.
Schultz’s story was in a feature in the Wednesday Missourian. The story brought forward memories of military service, and how duties vary and materialize.
We often refer to military duties as “where bodies are needed is where you go.” That holds true in garrison or in combat. It’s a body game!
Of course, you can volunteer for duty opportunities. In the Korean War, there were many military members who had older brothers in World War II, who told their younger brothers, “Never volunteer for anything!”
In basic training at Camp Chaffee, Ark., during the Korean War, several weeks into training, twin brothers from St. Louis, who had been meat cutters in civilian life, suddenly disappeared from our ranks. There was an urgent need for meat cutters and they were “selected” for those duties at the camp. We don’t know if they ever had to finish basic training.
We had about a week to go to complete 22 weeks of Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Sill, Okla., the Army Artillery School, when the battery commander called us out for a formation (at attention outside our barracks).
“I don’t agree with this and only am following orders in telling you this,” the battery commander, a West Pointer, said. “The Army Medical Service Corps has an urgent need for administrative officers. You can volunteer for this duty if you wish. They need 10 officers. We’ve trained you to be artillery officers and I don’t agree with this order.”
Most of us had already received orders for FECM, the Far Eastern Command, which meant Korea, or duty in Japan. The vast majority of young second lieutenants in the artillery, in those war years, became forward observers, assigned to infantry companies to direct fire. The medical corps did get 10 of our fellow classmates. Most of them were married and on orders for Korea. We didn’t blame them for leaving the artillery since they were married.
In Korea, in the infantry company we were assigned to, if a soldier was due to rotate home, he didn’t have to be a point man on night patrols. We had a young private who loved being a point man. He volunteered to be a point man right up to the day he rotated. He made it home.
The “body game” worked well in Korea. Replacements, bodies, seemed to be readily available when a soldier rotated home or got hit.
There are countless stories of the variety of assignments in the military. We had a friend who ended up serving as a lifeguard at an officer’s club in Hawaii. But Jake Schultz has one of the most unusual duties we’ve heard of in the military, and we looked forward to seeing him handling that mule team in the Rose Bowl parade.