Here’s one a lot of us can relate to.
The day we arrived at our Basic Training Company.
We’d arrived at Ft. McClellan, Alabama in the middle of the night at what the Army calls “the Reception Company.” The Reception Company does a couple of things for you.
They get your paperwork done. I’d enlisted as a PFC because I had college. But since I still owed Uncle Sam money from loans, my transcript wasn’t an official transcript so they couldn’t use that (the things they don’t tell you at the MEPS station). But I also had copies of my diploma from the Colorado Police Academy, commendations and such, and that counted under the Stripes for Skills program. so I was able to stay as a PFC.
You get your shots. It was also the first time I ever saw a six foot six, two hundred pound man who was solid as a rock pass out cold from the sight of a little, bitty needle.
You get your hair cut, an experience that left some in tears.
And you get your uniforms issued. You discover the people handling the clothing issue aren’t too bad at looking at a person and handing you the correct fit.
Soon after, buses or cattle cars arrive and take you to your basic training company. I was lucky enough to be sitting on a bus.
So, let’s see how many of you remember this. You pull up to your basic training company. The uniform issued to you still reeks of moth balls. Your boots aren’t comfortable yet, and everything you own is in one stuffed-to-breaking-the-seams duffle bag.
My Basic Training company was Charlie 10. Charlie is was more than just a Basic Training Company. I’d remain in the same company for the MP School.
We pulled up to the large three story cement structures that would be home for the next several months. C-10 had a large open bay at the bottom. This would be our company assembly area. It provided for some cover from rain and heat. We’d do at least some training there, to include PT (Physical Training). This area also had offices adjacent to it that housed the offices for the company, the Arms Room, laundry facilities, and Day Room (which the only time I ever saw was while cleaning it).
The drills were waiting for us.
Truthfully, I’ve seen friendlier looking Dobermans.
The bus stopped, and the Senior Drill came aboard. And the guy is nice as punch. He welcomes us to Charlie 10, and so on and so forth, and after about a thirty-second talk he pauses, and I swear to God, the man morphed into a minor demon. His eyes changed and suddenly someone else was looking out of them.
I almost stopped and asked, “How did you do that?” Heck, the answer to the question might have been worth doing pushups till I puked.
He then announced we had exactly ten seconds to get off the bus and he’d just taken nine of them.
Now yelling doesn’t phase me. At the ripe old age of twenty nine, I was the senior citizen there. I’d already been through a gunfight or two, so I didn’t scare easily. And the Police Academy had taught standing at attention. So I maintained an even keel through the next stormy half-hour.
The drills were yelling where to drop our bags, and then lined us up. Of course they weren’t happy with the formation and took every opportunity to remind us that we were absolutely pathetic example of soldiers and human beings.
I’m standing at attention, and facing the sign that identified the company. It had the names of the Company Commander and the 1st Sergeant. I don’t recall the first shirt’s name, but I’ll never forget the CO’s name. Captain Douglas Bonebreak.
Cool name, I thought. Then I asked myself, “Who wrote this story?”
I don’t know how it is today, but then the drills circled our formation like vultures. Their beady eyes searched for weakness. Then one Drill would peel off, close on some recruit and scream in his face. Most keep staring straight ahead, and answered, “Yes, Drill Sergeant,” or “No, Drill Sergeant.”
Some recruits actually cried. That didn’t save them. The drill would back off with an order to suck it up.
Eventually we were taken to our barracks area. Racks and lockers were assigned, and we were told to stow our gear, herded downstairs where we were issued sheets and blankets and then herded back upstairs. The first constructive thing was a class in how to make a bed the Army way. As Drill Sgt. Bruce taught us how, I could tell from the looks on most peoples’ faces that they’d never once made a bed.
This was the start of our first week at C-10. We’d be waiting a full week before we began training. It would be a week where a lot of people missed home. But we did discover a wonderful military tradition called KP. Since we really had little to do until the rest of company arrived and we could begin, I volunteered often. I figured washing plates and moping floors beat sitting on my butt doing nothing.
A week later, everyone who was to be assigned to C10 had arrived, and we’d start training the following week. I recall Sunday morning, Drill Sgt. Jones was watching things, and after herding us to church, breakfast, and lunch, he fell us all out downstairs to have a “Chat” with us.
It was during this time that I met and was assigned my Battle Buddy, Doug Mullennax. A great guy, we recently reconnected and I’m happy to see life has been good to him.
Drill Sgt. Jones wanted to know one thing. “How come you privates can’t march? They’re supposed to have taught you that at the Reception Company.”
I remember saying, “Drill Sargent, they never showed us a thing regarding marching.”
“The basic facing movements, but that was about it,” I replied.
Several others chimed in saying the same thing.
I remember Drill Sgt. Jones shook his head. I guess that’s what he expected to hear. He looked at the vacant parking lot across the street, and said, “Fine, Privates. You’re about to learn.”
He took us over to the parking lot and starting with “This is a formation, and this how you get into it,” he taught us how to march. It was warm in the Alabama sun, but at least it felt like we were starting to take a step in the right direction. With a couple of hours’ work, we were soon marching around the parking lot and doing so without endangering ourselves or others. We still had a long ways to go, but I think that was the first time C10 began to feel like soldiers and not lost civilians.
We were also introduced to a wonderful thing called “cadence.” Cadence is basically singing while you march. It’s designed to help keep you in step, and it’s also designed to keep your mind off the pain marching can cause or distances traveled. Years later, when I’d be part of the Nijmegen Road March team, I’d be very thankful for it.
Different drills handle cadence differently. Some stay with the basics, but others could rock. Drill Sgt. Griffith was one of those who rocked. He barrowed from R&B favorites to build cadence and often times we marched to Martha and The Vandellas, Smoky Robinson, and the like. We always looked forward to him marching the company because it was fun.
Recently I saw a video of a Drill marching troops to “Baby Shark.” My opinion concerning the song is it was created by some mind control cult so we’d leak IQ points every time it played. But from the POV of a soldier marching to it?
I think it’s cause for desertion.
Now, what do you remember most about the first week of Basic for you? Where and when was that?
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Like my blog and stories? Check out my novels available on Amazon. I have two out right now, The Cross and the Badge, and Against Flesh and Blood. A third novel, The Judas Tree will be coming out soon. Click on the novel names to be taken straight to them.
As always, thanks for dropping by and for your support. God Bless.