When you ask Edmond McClinton if he is going to retire anytime soon, he simply says, “No, I have no plans.” Nearly everyone knows him around his office and the installation because McClinton has been working in Pine Bluff Arsenal’s Directorate of Ammunition Operations first in the late 1960s for a few years, and since the early 1980s.
“I came to the Arsenal in June of 1968,” said McClinton. “I was 22 at the time. I went into the Army when I was 20. I was fortunate because I never went to Vietnam. The only overseas location I went was Panama.”
He said when he first started he was a WG4 working on the production lines as an explosive operator. “I loved working on the lines,” said McClinton, who also spent time on the guard force at PBA, and worked at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville, Ark. “I also went to the Dallas Air Station for a while, but I was fortunate to come back here.”
In 1983, he came back to PBA and back to the Ammunition Operations area. “I was a supply clerk at the time. I do the same thing now but the name was changed to supply technician,” he said. “I deal with direct material now. I have been doing this since I returned to the Arsenal. We used to deal with indirect and direct supplies. This was split a while ago.”
McClinton, who is a Pine Bluff native, said he was going to school at Southeast when he went into the military. “You will see my name on the wall at Pine Bluff High but I never went there. I was a slow learner. I kept dropping out and going back,” he said. “I had the opportunity to go into the Army. I had my diploma at the time but I was going to have to go to summer school to finish the requirements. I decided I’d had enough.”
He said when he was 14, he came out to the Arsenal to try to get into the Army Reserve.
“Back then you didn’t need a birth certificate to sign up. If you looked older, they took your word for it. They discovered a medical issue at the time and that blocked me from going into the Reserve,” said McClinton. “When President Nixon created the all-volunteer draft, it hurt a lot of us who had dropped out of school. Our big thing was to go into the Army because it helped us.”
McClinton said he made it through basic training and went to AIT at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. “I was in the artillery. I had an opportunity to go airborne so I did. It was a lot of fun jumping out of planes,” he said. “I would absolutely do it again. The last time I jumped was in 1970 at Fort Hood, Texas.”
In 1967, he said his entire battalion (the 501st Airborne) went to Vietnam, except for eight men. “I was part of the eight because I was close to my discharge date. Everyone who went into combat died except for those eight,” he said. “There were so few of us left we were reassigned to another unit. We basically lost our unit colors.”
He recalled when he came out to PBA at 14, he rode a bus out from the city. “There were Soldiers at the gate at the time,” said McClinton. “In 1970, they ramped up the guard force. At the time, I was working at the white phosphorus plant for AO. I put in for a guard job and got accepted.”
During his time at PBA, McClinton has seen a lot of changes. “I remember when they built 44-110 back in 1968. My job has been good. When I worked on the production lines, I loved it,” he said.