Right now, someone is looking at the title and going, Rich, learn to spell, dude. It’s “Bane,” not “Bain.” Well in this case, it is Bain, as in “Bains Gap” or “Baby Bains.”

I recently joined the Military Police group, and someone posted an aerial photograph of the area. I took one look at it, and even after over 30 years, and having run it several times, I still look at Bains and groan. Anyone who went through Basic and AIT at Ft. McClellan, Alabama ran it at least once. Even when I went through MPI (Military Police Investigators) School, we ran it.

The first time I ran it, we took the long way around. I was platoon guide which meant I was running out front. We had four squads, and the way they ordered the squads is by height. The tallest guy or gal is in usually leading the squad. That means they have to set the stride for everyone else.

In our case, we’d had two guys who came to us from the Navy. That meant they were prior service, got out, and then went into the Army. We called these guys “Inserts” and truth be told, we often times felt like slapping them around. Both these guys were fairly tall, and that put them toward the front of the column.

This was just such an occasion.

It well before sunup and this was Range Week. This is the week we go to the rifle ranges and learn to use and qualify with the M-16. This is a major milestone in our training, so we’re pumped. We’re running, singing cadence, and the road isn’t that bad. It was a perfect moment that was about to get derailed.

We were making good time, when suddenly there’s a crash behind me. I’m hearing startled cries, cries of pain, and Drill Sergeants shouting. I stopped, and and half the platoon is picking themselves up off the road. One of the Inserts had tripped and fallen, taking two of the squads with them. It was an unholy mess with lot of yelling and finally the two squads picked themselves up and got back into lines, and we could get going again.

We had a lot of scrapes, but thank God no one go really hurt.

The second day we ran Baby Bains. Baby Bains was soon to become the bane of our existence. The road across it isn’t exactly straight up, but when you start running it, you suddenly know how a spider climbing a wall feels. I don’t think it goes much more than a hundred meters, but it feels more like a quarter to half a mile.

We’re running it. Each of us in full combat gear, carrying a M-16 and a ruck. I hit the hill and lean into it. Within a few yards my legs are on fire. A few more yards and my lungs are hurting. A few more and I’m pretty sure I’ll die of a heart attack well short of the summit.

And I’m used to running hills. I was good runner, and trained at almost 8000 feet. Colorado can get pretty hilly and I was used to running hills.

I thought I’d seen hills, but that was before I went to Alabama.

Behind me I’m hearing people gasping for air. Some are falling out. I don’t recall actually making it to the summit, but I must have because we were being told to stop and let everyone regroup. We did, and going downhill was much easier.

When I went to MPI school, I was a good runner again. At Ft. Riley Kansas, I often ran from home (Ogden, Kansas) to the MP Companies. Noon usually found me on a run, and I’d run the hills at Ft. Riley. I ran the hill to the Ammo Dump, Custer Hill and the Artillery Park often.

After classes, I’d go for long runs at Ft. McClellan and Baby Bains and Bains Gap were almost always on my list. Running it hadn’t gotten any easier. I was just stronger and in better shape for running it and knew I could handle it.

That’s a big thing. Running hills to a runner is like a sand trap to a golfer. They tend to make you better. What I learned about running hills is a life application I call “Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Now, to the story I remember most. When I first got to MPI school there was a specialist who was permanent party at the MPI school. He was pretty cool. While there he made Sergeant . It was take one guy, add NCO stripes and you get an instant ass.

He got so stinking bad, we decided to fix his little red wagon. Now there was an Air Force guy in the same class and he and I were the distance runners. We both hated running with the pack, so we always ran road guard.

This young ass of an NCO always ran with us, directing us which way to go. That was cool, and afforded us the perfect chance to teach him a lesson.

We learned we were running Baby Bains the following morning. My Zoomie buddy and I saw the perfect opportunity to knock him down a notch or three.

We sat down the evening before and hatched the perfect plan.

The next morning, the company falls out, and we start running. Myself and Air Force are leading the way with the NCO running with us. We knew he wasn’t a runner and he played right into our scheme. So we set a blistering pace to begin with. Soon we were well ahead of the rest of the company. He’s hanging with us, but it’s taking all he’s got to do it.

Then we hit to bottom of Baby Bains. I looked at Air Force and said, “Race you to the top!”

“You’re on.”

And we threw our bodies into warp drive. We’re giving this everything we got, our legs eating up the yardage, our lungs protesting as we sucked in air, and our hearts going what are you doing to me. This isn’t a casual run. We were running like the honor of our respective service depended on it. Like Olympic Gold and a kiss from Miss America waited for us at the finish line.

This flat out run to the top is killing two men in prime condition.

And this guy is dumb enough to try to hang with us.

Within twenty yards, he starts stumbling. In fifty, he’d dropped to his knees, but to his credit, he’s still moving. He sounds like an emphysema patient on his last legs. At seventy five he’s staggering up the hill.

Air Force and I easily beat him. And to show you what total pains we were, Air Force starts doing jumping jacks while I dropped and started knocking out pushups.

The young Sergeant makes it to the top of the hill, drops on his back and stares up at the sky like any minute now he’s headed home to Jesus.

We got him back on his feet and took it easy on him as we headed back to the company.

Later, he asked us if we’d done that deliberately. Having figured it out, I admitted we did.

“Why?”

“Because when we got here, you were cool. You get promoted, you became an ass. Being a leader means leading, not being a bully.”

I guess he got the picture. He started leading.