The Big Picture: The WAC is a Soldier, Too

The Big Picture: The WAC is a Soldier, Too  (1954) 
by Signal Corps Pictorial Center

The Big Picture is an American documentary television program which aired from 1951 to 1964. The series consisted of documentary films produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Pictorial Service. This episode shows Fort McClellan, a first good look at this new training center for WAC officers and enlisted women.

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Storyline
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U. S. ARMY

Today, the latest weapons, coupled with the fighting skill of the American soldier stand ready, on the alert all over the world, to defend this country, you the American people, against aggression.

This is The Big Picture, an official television report to the Nation, from the United States Army.

THE
BIG PICTURE

Now to show part of The Big Picture, here is sergeant Stuart Queen.

Sgt Stuart Queen

The privilege of serving the United States in uniform is no longer limited to men. To prepare the women who will serve with our Regular Army, the Women's Army Corps recently opened a multi-million-dollar training center at Fort McClellan, Alabama, the WACs' first real home of their own. Today The Big Picture offers the first good look at this new college for WAC officers and enlisted women.

Since 1942 when the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was created, women training for service with the U. S. Army have had a number of temporary homes, ranging from Florida to Massachusetts, from Iowa to Virginia. Today, the permanent WAC Center is a cluster of twenty-two cream-colored buildings in a natural setting of pines, oaks and sweetgum trees at Alabama's Fort McClellan.

HEADQUARTERS
WOMENS ARMY CORPS CENTER

On hand for the dedication ceremonies our service men and women who can easily recall when the training of WACs was an emergency, sometimes haphazard job.

So without further ado I would like to present to you our chief of staff of the United States Army, General Matthew B. Ridgway. General?

Today's ceremony has special significance, not alone for the Women's Army Corps, but for all of us. It emphasized the essential need for women in the Army, and the continuing nature of that need. The task of keeping our Nation strong and free requires the efforts and talents of all our citizens, men and women alike. For despite all our great natural resources and our industrial and military capabilities, one of our Nation's greatest shortages is in personnel, in the men and women who produce our industrial products and those who make up our armed services. Despite all our achievements in the field of National Defense, men and women, and the principles for which they stand, are still our most precious possession and our most priceless resource.

I take great pleasure now in unveiling this plaque, which later will be placed in a permanent location to commemorate this auspicious occasion. And again, I want to acknowledge my sense of privilege in being permitted to participate here with you today.

THE WAC CENTER

DEDICATED TO MEMBERS
OF
THE WOMEN'S ARMY CORPS

WHO SERVE THEIR COUNTRY
IN PEACE AND WAR

FORT McCLELLAN ALABAMA
27 SEPTEMBER 1954

By train, bus or airplane to Anniston Alabama come new WAC enlistees from every corner of the country. For the recruits there lies ahead an eight weeks basic training course, a curriculum designed to give every girl a chance in an interesting and attractive army job, or a head start on a post WAC career.

ANNISTON

From the moment when the recruit first takes the oath of enlistment, her trip from hometown to training center is carefully prepared. At the Anniston station, military buses are waiting to complete the last five-mile lag to Fort McClellan.

Fort McClellan
Alabama

Enlistments standards of the Women's Army Corps are high: in addition to the usual age, citizenship and physical requirements, to be accepted the recruit must be of excellent character and have a high school education, or the equivalent.

To anyone who has served in one or another of the U. S. Service branches, the issuing of uniforms and military gear to the recruits follows a familiar pattern.

But in the Women's Army Corps there's a mark distinction.

Hat, uniform and accessories borne by the WAC, all are styled by high fashion designer Hattie Carnegie. The value placed by the Women's Army Corps on meticulous grooming and feminine grace is one of the first lessons learned by the recruit.

The acquiring of good habits of dress is rewarding both in civilian life and in service.

Perhaps the trainee's strongest reminder that she has entered the United States Army comes with the issuance of the practical everyday shoes which scientifically designed for maximum comfort are exactingly fitted.

The ancient jokes about growing into a uniform of reducing to fit it do not hold up in the WAC. Each uniform is custom tailored to ensure every recruit a uniform which meets her individual requirements.

EXIT ONLY

Once the clothing issue is complete, and has been double checked by the supply sergeant, each recruit is personally responsible for the care and maintenance of every item.

Inoculating shots are the first health precautions taken in the trainees' behalf. From now until her period of service is over, each WAC will enjoy free complete medical and dental care.

NO
SMOKING
ENTRANCE
PROCESSING ONLY

Before she begins basic, the trainee is interviewed by specialists about her particular interests and skills. The wide variety of careers possible is explained in detail. Each trainee names three choices for a specialist school. On the basis of such interviews and previous tests, her future job is pinpointed, and her course of study determined.

For trainee and post personnel alike, the average day gets off to an early start.

For some girls the transition from civilian to military life takes a little time, particularly the time when the call of Reveille should be rousing her from bed.

The Center's mission is threefold: as well as giving basic training to all WAC recruits, it retains from the ranks many women who will go on to specialist schools. Here also developed commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Reveille and the morning roll call are fundamental to all military training. At the WAC Center they are an integral part of the Army's large design, which seeks to utilize women in an ever-widening variety of non-combat jobs, contributing directly to the Nation's defense.

The morning march out to the WAC band and the review by non-commissioned officers for company marching honors are standard features of basic training.

Primarily drill training is aimed at improving the trainees poise, posture and military bearing. More familiar with a dance floor than a drill ground, a few trainees invariably find that they have what behave like two left feet.

However in a surprisingly short time, commands to the left, right, and rear become familiar sounds and a response to command becomes automatic.

In the first few weeks of basic training, no military practice is more frequent than inspection. At the start the demand for neatness is laid down, then emphasized continually thereafter with the result that great pride in personal appearance becomes second nature.

No area of human relations is overlooked in the training program. In class, social concepts are studied and discussed.

INDIVIDUAL STANDARDS
& SOCIAL CONCEPTS

This is our first hour of individual standards and social concepts, and this all we're going to discuss "you", you as representative of the Women's Army Corps. Does anyone know the meaning of individual standards and social concepts?

Individual standards are the standards that a person sets up for herself, and social concepts are the standards that have been passed down through the centuries.

The course is well-rounded, ranging from individual character guidance to practical studies in group living.

WACs enrolled in the Center's clerk typist and stenography course find the program radically different from the accepted training class. Students are graduated when they have attained the proficiency necessary for assignment. They are not required to attend the maximum limit of the course. Enrollment in these classes is open both to WACs in the field, and to graduate of basic training.

CLERICAL
PROCEDURES
CLASSROOM

The value of the course is twofold: the Army needs good clerk-typist and stenographers for important and interesting positions for post and higher-level jobs at home and overseas; the increased skill and ability enjoyed by the graduates brings more rapid promotions with a corresponding increase in pay. Then two, the new skills may be put to use to greater advantage, should the WAC later decide to return to civilian life.

HEADQUARTERS 54TH INFANTRY REGIMENT
Camp Robinson, Arkansas

AG 312                        16 Aug 54
SUBJECT: Training schedule

TO:      Commanding General
         Fourth Army
         Fort Sam Houston, Texas

I. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

   a. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The WAC school might be compared to a secretarial school, which require no tuition fee and which pays his students to learn new skills. Moreover, each student receives individual as well as class instruction to aid her progress.

The school day is anything but a grind; conveniently located near the classrooms. Lounges provide relaxation between classes.

ENLISTED LOUNGE

Two years of planning before the first groundbreaking at the WAC Center ensured that the school would achieve the optimum in comfort, and attractiveness.

WACs between the ages of 21 and 28 who have passed the required entrance examinations and interviews, may be admitted to the Centers Officer Candidate School. The 17-weeks course combines purely academic studies with military subjects. Young women with college educations are given the opportunity to begin military careers as commissioned officers. Because the Women's Army Corps has no ROTC, the demand for officer personnel must be met by training women of qualified caliber in the Center's OCS.

Similar to the advanced training offered by other branches of the army, the Center also conducts an advanced officer course to prepare WACs to staff duty at higher headquarters in the Army and Department of Defense.

CONCEPTS FOR ORGANIZATION

  1. TO SECURE THE MAXIMUM USE OF AVAILABLE MANPOWER.
  2. TO PERMIT TRANSPORT OVERSEAS OF A MAXIMUM OF FIGHTING POWER.
  3. TO PROVIDE GREATER FLEXIBILITY IN ORGANIZATION IN KEEPING WITH THE PRINCIPLE OF ECONOMY OF FORCE AND MASSING OF MILITARY STRENGTH AT THE DEFENSIVE POINT.
  4. TO REDUCE HEADQUARTERS AND OTHER OVERHEAD IN ORDER THAT COMMAND FUNCTIONS MAY KEEP PACE WITH MODERN COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPORT FACILITIES.
  5. TO PROVIDE COMMANDERS WITH THE GREATEST POSSIBLE AMOUNT OF OFFENSIVE POWER THROUGH REDUCTION IN PASSIVE DEFENSIVE ELEMENTS.

Students for the 20-weeks course come from the ranks of captains and majors; supplementing the classroom studies and tactics and procedure, are fields trips to various military centers. Outstanding military and civilian leaders are frequently guest lecturers.

STAFF ORGANIZATION
[…]

Nearly every modern convenience conceivable is incorporated in the facilities of the WAC Center. But the centuries-old institution of KP still exists, and will undoubtedly, until civilians and military alike have learned to subsists on little pills alone. But the burden of KP is reduced to a minimum by distributing the duty evenly among all WACs.

Well-balanced meals prepared by expert cooks and dieticians observed promptly and attractively by specially trained WAC personnel.

Healthy appetites among the trainees are assured by proper amounts of physical and mental exercise.

One form of exercise, sometimes called "drudgery" or "washday blues" by housewives which has been cut to a minimum at the Center, is the WAC laundry problem. Every dormitory boasts its own laundromat and ironing facilities. No scrubbing, no rubbing: they let the machines do it.

Once the clothes have been washed to equality frequently called "sunshine right", miles of clothesline await in the warm Alabama sun.

On the chance that over-mechanization, as exemplified by the automatic laundry, could lead to a weakening of physical trim, trainee is attending frequent calisthenic classes.

The post 18-hole golf course is only one of the several superb recreational facilities available to the WACs during their off-duty hours. And you needn't be an experienced golfer to give the course a try. The first attempt to circumnavigate the course might take some little time, but with diligence, with repeated practice, gradually one progress closed until at last some degree of success is achieved.

For those less athletically inclined, the spacious tea rooms found in each dormitory offer many recreational opportunities for the WACs ample free hours. In many respects, the living quarters bear a closer resemblance to college dormitories or to sorority houses than to military barracks.

The jukebox and television set in everyday room are close reminders of home, and the frequent exchange of letters between trainees and their families keep strong the hometown ties.

The gulf between the military and civilian world is narrowed further at the Post Exchange, which stocks a wide variety of clothing and accessories.

Beyond any question, the most popular spot at the new center is the WAC beauty shop. Professional beauticians modify and restyle the WAC hairdo, in accordance with the prevailing fashions. Beauty treatment available is complete, from hair to fingertips.

Intense through the training courses are at the center, teachers and students alike have adequate spare time to practice the hobbies they bring with him, or to develop new interests on their own.

In designing the living quarters at the Center collaborating architects and military authorities aimed at providing a maximum of personal privacy with the utmost in modern conveniences and comfort.

A girl here is free to add small decorative touches to her quarters, as she is to indulgence in her favorite pastimes in off-duty hours, whether painting or music arranging, perhaps for the 14th army band?

Dog-tired

In the Evening?
Maybe
you've been
Growling
Too Much During The Day

Serenade F. Schubert

The 14th is the only WAC band in existence today. The title of the WAC March by Jane Douglas tells its own story: A WAC is a Soldier, Too.

Many enlisted woman who plays a band instrument is auditioned during her basic training by the director of the WAC band. Those accepted are assigned to the band and play at all special and regular military functions, such as the time-honored call of retreat.

Present … arms!

Every opportunity for rich spiritual life is offered WACs at the Center. Protestant, Catholic and Jewish services are conducted regularly in the many chapels of the post, under the direction of army chaplains.

The chaplains are always available for counsel and guidance. Many WACs stationed at the Center find here the opportunity to strengthen the religious ties of their particular faith by joining a choir or teaching in one of the many Sunday School classes.

The first weeks in basic training are crowded, but at the end of the fifth week the trainee receives an eight hour pass; based upon her merit she may receive six or ten hour passes the other weekends and basic. Located at easy is, on the grounds of Fort McClellan, there is never a shortage of masculine escorts the WAC Center; quite the contrary is true.

SERVICE CLUB

Each week the WAC Service Club becomes the center of social life.

Tonight, the various movie houses, the swimming pool and even the libraries take second place to the dance, music for which is provides by members from the WAC military band.

Following the dance, a late snack in one of the two cheerful kitchens which are features of every barracks, gives an opportunity to discuss the strong—or weak point—of the escort of the evening.

Marriage is not encouraged during basic training but if a trainee does decide to marry, that too can be arranged. The only requirement is that the WAC complete one year in service before resigning. Marriage will always lead all other careers for women and the WAC graduate will be a better wife, mother and citizen, thanks to the training and education during her life in the Women's Army Corps.

Eight weeks of training will not make polished soldiers of girls straight from high school, college or farm, but the new WAC Center, whose facilities and program are designed expressly for women, today produces women in uniform, educated and prepared for duty to a degree never before possible.

W·A·C·BASIC SCHOOL

The Women's Army Corps, twelve years after forming, now has an up-to-date home of its own; a score of jobs at home and abroad are today open to qualified WACs, for undeniable proof has been furnished by experience that women can perform many non-combat jobs as well as—and in some cases better—than men.

The United States Army has called upon the woman power of the country to strength our defensive might at its very foundation.

There is no doubt that women today are playing an increasingly important role in our Nation's defense, and thanks to the modern WAC Training Center, graduates are better trained and better qualified for more responsible jobs than ever before.

Now this is sergeant Stuart Queen inviting you to be with us again next week, when we'll present another look at The Big Picture.

THE
BIG PICTURE

The Big Picture is a weekly television report to the Nation on the activities of the army at home and overseas.

Produced by

SIGNAL CORPS PICTORIAL CENTER

Produced by Signal Corps Pictorial Center.

was Presented by
the

UNITED STATED ARMY

Presented by the U. S. Army in cooperation with this station.

SEE YOUR ARMY
RECRUITING OFFICER

You can be an important part of The Big Picture; you can proudly serve with the best equipped, the best trained, the best fighting team in the world today, the United States Army.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).