For example, one pleasant August afternoon at Fort Campbell, the thermometer stood at 98°, and the humidity was not much less. Most of the 15,000 men on the post had been excused from rigorous physical activity. Not a few had repaired to one of the fort's swimming pools, air-conditioned bowling alleys or snack bars to wait out the heat. However, in a small, oppressive gym the members of the All-Army Boxing Team slugged away at each other and at bags. Every time a man hit something, or was hit himself, a spray of sweat rose into the already ripe air of the gym. Earlier that morning the boxers had done their roadwork. Later that night they would entertain the troops with a series of outdoor bouts. At the moment, at high noon in the gym, many of the pugs looked as if they might be willing to trade the soft athletic life for a tour of straight-duty soldiering.
Even when the Army's varsity boxing team is not in residence, Fort Campbell, by reason of its athletic traditions and resources, is well regarded by high-ranking military sports. It is most likely to be recommended to tourists, who, for one reason or another, are interested in the games soldiers play. A 110,000-acre reservation located astride the Kentucky-Tennessee border, 50 miles north of Nashville, Fort Campbell was built in the 1940s. It can accommodate up to 30,000 men, but its current population is no more than about half that, a mixed bag of basic trainees and permanent units.
There are probably no cities of 30,000, no schools and very few other military installations where games are so playable as they are at Campbell. There is a football stadium (since AR 28-52 rather a lonely place); an all-weather running track; two gymnasiums with the normal complement of hoops, parallel bars, dumbbells, handball courts; 36 bowling alleys; 26 ball diamonds; 12 tennis courts; five swimming pools; recreational (as opposed to vocational) target ranges; an 18-hole golf course; horseshoe courts; and innumerable Ping-Pong tables. Altogether it is calculated that about 125,000 games of something are played by somebody every month at Fort Campbell.
The recreational pièce de résistance of the fort, a feature which reportedly makes Campbell famous among Army posts, is its Rod and Gun Club, located in a sylvan corner of the reservation. There a man and/or his family can stable his horse, kennel his dog, hunt for stocked quail, fish for trout, pursue a coon, shoot skeet, take his scout troop for a camp-out, barbecue his ox or just relax and sit around the clubhouse and tell hunting stories, fishing stories or barbecue stories, while refreshing himself at a nominal cost. Very nice indeed.
There is, however, a forlorn, remembrance-of-things-past air about Campbell, something like that which hangs over the football fields of Georgetown or Fordham. Partly it is that Campbell is temporarily underpopulated and, while the remaining soldiers seem normally playful, there are more games to be played and places to play them than there are players. Also, there is considerable nostalgia for the good old days of the 101st Airborne, the famous sporting division that was permanently based at Campbell until it moved out earlier this year.
"The 101st was fantastic," says Captain Tom Barton, now Campbell's Special Service officer. "They had the jockstrap image. They played everything and played everything for blood. At night they'd jump out windows just to prove nothing could hurt an airborne man. Very gung-ho," says Barton a little condescendingly.
"You can say that again," says, with admiration and enthusiasm, Elmer Blair, a retired major, who is now the civilian sports director of Campbell. "When we had the 101st we had ourselves a sports program. Year in, year out, we had one of the best football teams in the whole military, and, believe me, we could have given some pretty good college teams a scrap. Same with basketball, baseball, boxing, you name it. Those airborne boys come to play. And you talk about morale, Spree Decor, they had it. There was one bunch, the Umpty-Umph Battalion, they worked out some sort of deal with the sergeant major in personnel. A new man came along who could play some, you could bet a penny he was going to the Umpty-Umph. They were slick."
"What Elmer means," says an attending PIO lieut. colonel, a military flack, one whose mission it is to make sure that everyone understands what everyone else means, "is that is how things used to be."
As Captain Barton is at Campbell, a Special Service officer is in charge of the recreational ball of wax at most Army installations, with command not only of the sports program, but of craft shops, little theaters, art classes and other diverse entertainments. The sports director is usually a civilian recreation man, frequently an ex-officer, as is Elmer Blair. The Special Services staff, which at Campbell numbers about 65 civilian and military employees, buys and maintains equipment and facilities; draws up schedules, finds instructors, coaches, referees and umpires; arbitrates interunit beefs;-awards trophies; and in general provides everything for games but the participating bodies.
Although the Special Services domain is a fairly large, complex one, the Special Services officer, whose duties approximate those of a park commissioner in a medium-sized city, is usually well down on the military totem pole, being generally a lieutenant or captain, an ROTC, short-termer type.