Basic Training Story
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Journey of Resilience: Story 4580

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January 23, 2017
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My Basic Training platoon had two Drill Sergeants, DS W was on his last cycle and was coming off of the trail after graduation. DS J, who this story concerns, was on his first cycle as a DS. Looking back on this decades later I think he was trying to prove himself to the other Drills as the New Guy. So anyway...This event occurred maybe three or four days into the cycle. We were forming up outside of the mess hall after noon chow and were waiting for the last platoon come out so we could be marched to our next class. DS J was taking advantage of the short break by going through ranks and quizzing all of us Privates on our memory work. General Orders, phonetic alphabet, Chain of Command, you all know the stuff.He goes through the 1st squad and starts on the second. Some Privates know their stuff. Some get dropped. Pretty typical of a herd of Privates at this point in our training. DS J steps in front of me, god help me.

Now, I've always been good a rote memorization. Not bragging, at my advanced age of 47 I have a brain full of useless trivia. So the memory work at Basic was coming easy to me. DS J asks me the first question, First General order or something like that. I nail it. Second question, nail it. Before long we've gone through the entire slate of what we had learned up to that point. DS J smiles (should have been a red flag), pulls me to the side of the platoon, and calls the rest of the Drill Sergeants over to witness his new prodigy.Keep in mind we've only been here for a few days. Shark Attack is still fresh in my mind. Suddenly I'm faced with what seems to my young eyes to be a sea of Round Browns.I hear DS J say, "watch this: Private, what is the maximum effective range of an M16A1 rifle?".My 17 year old brain-housing group completely vapor-locks. Hell, he could have asked what color the sky was at that point and I would have come up with nothing.So there I am, stammering like a fool. The other Drills laugh and walk away. "Yeah, you have a real winner there J". I hear one say.DS J is most seriously pissed. He gets in my face, the rim of his Round Brown pushing into my forehead and though a clenched jaw grinds out at me. "Private, if you ever f-cking embarrass me like that again I will make you eat that god damned "smart book". You are now Squad Leader and your people had better know their shit".I ended up being squad leader through most of the cycle, only losing it just before we loaded up in the cattle-cars to go to our FTX weeks later when they fired all of the squad leaders and platoon guides.And yeah, through the cycle my guys knew their shit. As I heard in a movie somewhere, "fear is a great motivator".

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