Saturday, July 01, 2006

"R.A."--Blast from Past

Was talking this morning in our community garden to a neighbor about the damage wrought by this week's rains. She said that 3 of her neighbors in the row of townhouses had basement flooding. In some cases it was because their gutters were blocked; the water backed up into the ceiling and attic and ran down inside the walls. She started to explain that her husband had said that they had been smiled at for having their gutters cleaned so often. She's originally from Vietnam and she stumbled a bit in the telling. At first I thought she was having trouble with the English, which is unlikely since it's good, but when she came out with the phrase "[smiled at] for being so R.A.... I realized she was afraid I wouldn't recognize it, but really it brought back memories.

For anyone under 55 or so it's a meaningless phrase and it doesn't come up in Google's top ten results. Back in the days of the draft, and before the GI's serial number became their social security number, the Army assigned 8-digit serial numbers to every new recruit. If you enlisted, you got an R.A. number, meaning "regular army", while if you were drafted you got a U.S. number. Anyone who bought into the army's ways wholeheartedly (or even quarter heartedly, given the times) was mocked for being "R.A."

1 comment:

George Buddy said...

R.A. 13994344 -- that was my serial number and I joined right ahead of my draft notice in 1966. Everybody in my MOS was RA. Army Security Agency.

No, the real kicker, the real insult, was -- calling someone a "lifer." That was usually, in our frozen part of the army, E-5 or E-6 and up. All the rest of us were spec. 4's after about three months on the duty station.

RA's were regular assholes, but lifers earned the title for the rest of their life.