Lionel 'Choo-choo' Pinn

Like all army training, SF training started before daylight. Why all army training starts when it is still so dark the birds are still walking around with flashlights looking for
worms is still a mystery to me, but it does.  Our Training Company’s Field First Sergeant was Sergeant First Class Lionel “Choo-Choo” Pinn.  Some of the old-timers had
nick-named Pinn, “Choo-Choo” and it stuck because it was a perfect match.

Pinn was one of the characters in SF.  He was an American indian, I used to know which tribe but forgot, and he was about 35 years old.  He had a beer gut, spindly legs, knobby
knees, and a big, stinky cigar that seemed to be permanently attached to his ugly mouth.  If you ever saw Pinn, you also saw that stinky cigar.  You might see his smoke signals
before you saw him.  Pinn would take roll call every morning while balancing atop a concrete coal bin.  Sometimes he wasn’t sober enough to be up on that damn coal bin, but he was up there anyway and at such times his attempts to stay perched up there were very entertaining.

Our first class was always PT, which enlisted personnel referred to as “Physical Torture.”  During PT, we would go through the normal army “Daily Dozen” exercises and then go
on a run.  Drunk or sober, Pinn would always lead us on the run.  He would bunch us up on Motor Pool Street where the run would begin.  The conventional army command for running a troop formation is, “Double Time, March!” and then everyone runs in formation and in step.  Pinn’s command was always a very simple, “Follow my ass!” and then he took off at a lope leaving a trail of cigar smoke for us to follow as best we could.

In Army PT, you normally jog.  Pinn did not jog, he ran. Hell, he flat hauled ass.  How his bird legs could haul his fat ass that fast while he puffed on that stinky cigar, I could not figure out.  It was just unbelievable.  By the time the guys in front reached a corner Choo-Choo would be turning the next corner or already around it and out of sight.  [Later, I learned that Pinn had been a marathon runner when he was younger.]

One morning when Choo-Choo was forming us up to run, George Groom whispered, “Val, let’s keep up with that damn Pinn today.  I’m tired of following his ass every morning.”  Of all mornings to ask me to keep up with Pinn, that was not the best one.  I was still half crocked from closing the NCO Club’s Annex One the previous night.

When we both stayed up with Pinn that whole run, I was probably the most surprised person on Fort Bragg.  When he took off in a dash, we kept right on his ass.  Usually
everyone fell behind right at the beginning of the run because Pinn sprinted for about the first quarter of a mile. I suspect Pinn was feeling poorly that morning.  Normally, we were doing good to just keep him in sight on the long stretches.

[Later, I heard that an ex-Navy SEAL in a subsequent class caught up with Choo-choo after his sprint and stayed right beside him on every run.  This upset Pinn so much he kept right on running one day and ran for the rest of that morning.  So did the student.  They passed by the Main Post NCO Club at lunch time so Pinn turned in for his daily lunch of beers and burgers with his student still at his side.

Pinn later served in Laos at the same time that I did, but he was on temporary duty from the 7th Group and he was in southern Laos while I was in northern Laos.  As I recall,
Pinn loved to play pot-limit poker with the Air America pilots.  Pinn lived to retire and now lives somewhere in Alabama.]

Don "Val"  Valentine