Thursday, June 10, 2004

Graduation Day…

Well, it’s finally almost over. I was thinking earlier about what to blog today and I’m a little bit surprised that Graduation Day wasn’t the first thing that jumped to mind.

I have to admit this cycle was a little tougher than the last one. The soldiers were different… but they’re always different… and the same. I think what made this cycle tougher was, in large part, a sense of frustration among the Drill Sergeants. Nothing really bad, nothing we can’t handle, but it just wasn’t quite as much fun this time.

A lot of Drills are getting close to the end of their involuntary third year extension. Most come here with the expectation of a tough two years on the trail, and either going back to the line or (if they are willing to take a chance on hurting their career) taking some sort of easy assignment. When everybody got involuntarily extended a lot of plans changed. Everybody gripes, but everybody also understands why it had to happen and will do their duty regardless of personal preference… that’s why it’s called service. In better circumstances though, most probably wouldn’t spend three years “on the trail” in BCT.

Everybody has his or her own reasons for eventually getting burnt out to some extent. Some just hate the hours, some hate the politics, some hate the grinding sameness of cycle after cycle, some hate sitting on the sidelines while everybody else does what they’ve trained their whole career to do.

I hate a little bit of all of this… a lot of the last one.

But believe it or not it is nearly impossible to hate training the soldiers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when they drive you absolutely nuts with their apparent stupidity. I often wonder exactly how many villages out there are missing their idiots for 9 weeks. But it isn’t really stupidity and we know this. It is ignorance, and that is our reason for existence. We try to replace that ignorance with a basic set of soldier skills, discipline, values, physical and emotional strength and pride that will be the foundation they build their career on.

They drive you crazy with their incessant deluge of questions…

…ranging from the mundane “Drill Sergeant, may I use the latrine Drill Sergeant?” (350 times a day. I’m convinced that most soldiers have bladders the size of a gumball.)

…to the trivial “Drill Sergeant, when can I buy some cool jungle boots like yours Drill Sergeant?” (Usually during some critical piece of instruction on a completely unrelated topic)

…to the tragic “Drill Sergeant, I just found out my sister is in the hospital with a gunshot wound back home… can I use the phone Drill Sergeant?” (Unfortunately, when you have around 200 soldiers here for 9 weeks, there are always going to be a certain amount of tragedies. It is one of the toughest and most critical parts of the job. Dealing with a soldier who has a legitimate heartbreaking crisis is one of those times when you sometimes have to “take the hat off” for a little while.)

…to the absurd “Drill Sergeant, what should we do if flying monkeys with laser beams on their foreheads suddenly crash through the window while we are pulling fireguard Drill Sergeant? (“PVT Krumme*… WERE YOU RAISED BY FREAKING WOLVES??!! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT KIND OF SELF CONTROL IT TAKES NOT TO POP YOUR EYES OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS AND DRAG YOU OUT OF THIS BAY BY THE SKULL??!! HOW DO YOU ALWAYS KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THE STUPIDEST POSSIBLE THING TO SAY AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT WOULD BE??!! START CRUSHING YOURSELF!! PUT YOURSELF ON AUTOSCUFF UNTIL I GET TIRED!!”).

(PVT Krumme* was absolutely one of my favorite soldiers this cycle. Although he wasn’t stupid, he acted dumber than a shoebox full of moldy scabs most of the time. He was always motivated though, and if given clear instructions he could be counted on to give it his best effort. He required … and wanted… constant attention, but he will be an awesome private for some NCO out there.)

(*Name slightly changed to protect the guilty as hell)

But in reality, it’s just 200 soldiers asking normal questions at a moderate cadence. They might only ask a really stupid question once a week… but that averages out to about 28 truly asinine questions every day for us.

The soldiers are there for the same reason we were many years ago, and the ones who make it are the future of our military. They will someday be standing in my highly shined boots, pulling their hair out because they have fallen victim to that oldest of curses. They now HAVE KIDS WHO ACT JUST LIKE THEY DID. I know I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to that. I still remember all the stupid things we did during basic training. Some the Drill Sergeants found out about and some they didn’t.

*TANGENT ALERT*

It was a little different back then though. (Ft Benning is a whole different animal anyway, even today, and it should be.)

I remember getting into a stupid shoving match with another soldier, and our Drill Sergeants telling us to “take it to the woodline” and don’t come out till it was over. We did. It was awesome. My buddy had two slightly black eyes, a swollen (maybe cracked) nose and bloody boot marks all over his ribcage. I had a swollen misshapen nugget and absolutely the biggest black eye I have ever seen lol. The fight lasted so long we actually took a water break in the middle of it. As much as I would like to say otherwise though, I think he probably won by judges’ decision. The blackeye shot ended it; we called it quits, and ran out of the woodline side by side. I never had a problem with him before or after that day.

I don’t know if my Drills really expected us to throw down like we did. Standing in their shoes now, I expect they were a little worried about what we would say when the CO started asking questions lol. We both came up with the same stupid unbelievable story though, and stuck to it.

(“Sir, We were on the FTX and I was running at night. I ran into a tree, Sir.)

The CO was pissed, but he couldn’t make us say otherwise so he finally gave up in frustration. Not a shining example of integrity by any means, but I felt like it was an absolute display of loyalty to my Drill Sergeants. (Anyone thinking of joining the military ignore what you just read. It is ABSOLUTELY unacceptable to lie to any officer (Commissioned or Non Commissioned) about anything. Do as I say, not as I did when I was a dumbass, jackleg Private.)

*TANGENT CONCLUDED*

Back to the soldiers of this cycle though…
Honestly there were many times when I would come out of a meeting where we got some sort of bad news about somebody’s “good idea” or new tasking, and instead of being more pissed off when I saw the soldiers, it actually would make me feel better. Reminding me that although the details and daily frustrations might change, the song remains the same. Train the Privates, Drill Sergeant… It’s not about you; it’s about them.

So if you indulge tonight, hoist a glass for the mighty 4th Platoon Bushmasters. They are a hard-headed bunch of turds… but they’re MY turds, and I hope they all have as much fun, satisfaction, camaraderie and pride as I have had so far in my career. It’s a tough time to be a soldier, but the fair-weather soldiers will fade away, and the hard core of true professionals will remain to carry this Army forward into the next decades of the War.


2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Semper Fi!

Bill Adams

5:35 PM  
Blogger Hoodia said...

Help me Dude, I think I'm lost..... I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw him in a car lot yesterday, which is really strange because the last time I saw him was in the supermarket. No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender". He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a San Diego cosmetic surgery doctor ,to fit into those blue suede shoes of yours. But Elvis said in the Ghetto nobody can afford a San Diego plastic surgery doctor. Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger. Then I'm gonna go round and see Michael Jackson and we're gonna watch a waaaay cool make-over show featuring some Tijuana dentists on the TV in the back of my Hummer. And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . . "You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on " Strange day or what? :-)

7:42 AM  

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