Toughest Old Bird

SSgt J.L. Stelling was my Platoon Commander in 1968. After the first two weeks living in tents, we were the first platoon to be welcomed to the new High rise barracks in San Diego. SSgt J.L. Stelling introduced himself from the top floor while we were outside washing our clothes. From that point on Boot Camp became a whole lot more interesting. He was bad, though, and scared the sh-t out of everyone. The other two D.I’s were p-ssies. SSgt Stelling demanded perfection in everything we did. As a platoon, we won every streamer except the two PT streamers. Believe me, it was hell to pay to the bitter end for not winning them all. Graduating as Honor Platoon we still weren’t good enough to eat with a fork or knife, nor was the smoking lamp lit before we boarded the Busses for Camp Pendleton. He had us by the short hairs to the bitter end. I went from scared, to hating him, to total respect. Before leaving boot camp, I became salty and had developed a mental toughness that I have kept to this day thanks to SSgt Stelling. “There’s always that 10%, there is no excuse, and always do your last order first”. The civilian world hated these Stelling quotes which I live by. He is by far the toughest old bird I’ve ever had the privilege to have known. To this day I still don’t like eating with a spoon.

Platoon 2058, Aug-Oct 1968
RVN, A1/1, Jan-June 1969
PFC Franchot Duncan

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