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Arendt, Laurie (ed.) / Back from duty 2 : more stories from Ozaukee County's veterans

[Profiles],   pp. 11-148 ff.

Page 18

Frank Balistreri As told toVicki Schanen
Spent 32 Years in the Army Reserves
Grafton resident Frank Balistreri served with the U.S. Army Reserves from February 1961 until February
1993. He grew up on Milwaukee's East side, and had been dating a neighborhood Italian girl when things started
to get serious enough to talk about marriage.
I said, "That's fine, but there's always military duty." At that time in 1960, you could still be eligible for the
draft and I decided I was going to beat it and enlist in the Army Reserves.
I went on active duty June 2, 1961, which was my basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. Now I somewhat
laugh when I think about it - we were a bunch of people who knew absolutely nothing about the military, what it
took to stand up straight and talk and walk, and we were being lead by people who knew just a little bit more
than we did. For example, one of the top NCOs was a Southern gentlemen - a term I use dearly - he loved to chew
tobacco. His favorite toy was to call out the barracks number, to say, "Come to your roster line with [such-and-
such item], and [such-and-such item]..." He'd do this five or six times until you caught on. But what really, really
made me laugh was that I got a close glimpse of the microphone he
"I found that what I had          was using and it was brown from the tobacco juice. Ugh, man!
My entire company was full of "six monthers" - we were either
learned in the military also      fellow Reservists or National Guard people and our platoon sergeant
helped me in my civilian job -    hated all of us. He called us every name in the book and then pro-
ceeded to make up one or two. But we got the last laugh on him
I learned responsibility and how because every time test time came around, we generally averaged 95
or better on the tests. We had a CPA, a post-grad medical student, a
to be assertive..."               pre-law student and a bunch of construction guys - you could tell that
most of us were intelligent or smart enough not to chew tobacco.
I trained for eight weeks in basic infantry, a MOS of 111. My next
set of orders took me to a supply school at Ft. Leonard Wood. I spent
six weeks there and the final portion of my training was on-the-job training at a central issue point at brigade
level. I learned how to barter and trade to get what I needed.
I also worked as a mail courier. I remember around that time my mother sent me a box of homemade Italian
cookies. My supervisor's supervisor and the brigade commander both came to the central issue point - the
commander had a quart of milk and glasses. Both of them knew what was in the package - we sat there for about
20 minutes eating cookies and drinking milk.
When I finished active duty, I returned home. My mother cooked me the wonderful Italian food that I hadn't
had in quite a while. I also reported back to the Reserve Center and handed them all my paperwork. My
commander gave me a pep talk - he said now that you're back from active duty and went through this school, you
probably have all the latest knowledge on the material. I had taken a lot of notes, which was good because you're
going to be an instructor when we go back down to the school you just came from.
I did have a civilian job while I was in the Reserves. I worked at the Boston Store warehouse and later at
Badger Meter. I found that what I had learned in the military also helped me in my civilian job - I learned
responsibility and how to be assertive. I also did marry that Italian girl in 1963. We were married for 11 years,
and from that point I went from a Private First Class to a Sergeant First Class.
I found that with more rank, the more responsibility you had and the Reserves almost became a full-time job.
You had to use some of your private time to take care of things. We always had monthly meetings and two weeks
during the summer. Eventually I had a primary MOS 76Y when I was sent to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade for the
84th Division and I was also receiving training for a secondary MOS 13 Bravo, which was an artillery instructor. I
really became knowledgeable in the M-155 Howitzer Self Propelled and became an instructor. Shortly after that, I
became a training NCO and then a first sergeant, which opened up a whole new door to responsibilities.
Eventually, I ended up being at the maximum time that you could be as an E-8. When you reach that, you either
need to find another home or advance to the next rank. If you can't do that, you're out. I had a feeling at that
point, I was a short timer. And I was right.
I spent a total of 32 years in the Reserves. I am proud of my tour of duty in the military, such as it was. I have
memories that will live forever. Names and faces sort of fade over time, but you still remember the stories. I have
a million memories. I have a friend who is now a major and when I first met him, he was an ROTC cadet. We still
keep in touch. I have many friendships like that from my time in the military.

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