Basic Training Story #4708
I had wanted to join the military for years. For most of my life though, I was really, really, morbidly obese. After falling in with a group of Marine brothers, I realized that the only thing that was in my way was all 300 pounds of me, and with their help and the help of a few others, I was finally able to enlist in the Army.
Most of the time I was training with them, they had prepared me for Basic by telling me it was literally going to be the worst time of my life in the military (“even if you’re *only* joining the Army” they would say :-P). I once asked them what the best strategy was for making it through Basic with as few problems as possible, and they always replied with the same answer, “listen, stay alert, and try not to make waves.”
That shit went right out the window on Day Zero.
I’m an Indian guy. A BIG Indian guy. After reception week, we were all kind of used to having DS’s up in our faces, so I figured that by the time we actually got to Sand Hill, it couldn’t get much worse.
Well, fuck my face, because it did. Our reception DS’s told us to put as much stuff in our laundry bag as possible, it would make day zero a whole lot easier. What they didn’t tell us was that we’d have to hold those laundry bags over our heads for most of the afternoon.
When the bus pulled up at the CTA, instantly we got moving, and the shark attack was on. Now, before I enlisted, not only was I huge guy, I was also a two-pack-a-day smoker. Running up that hill was no joke — I could barely make it halfway — and every DS on the Hill was around me, asking me why I wasn’t moving faster, why it looked like I was going to die. When I finally got to the formation area, I was wheezing and dying, and they taught us what the Front Leaning Rest was. Between getting dropped and getting back up and getting yelled at, they kept telling us to keep our laundry bags over our head.
At one point, I thought I was clever and decided to rest the laundry bag on my head while the DS’s were dealing with our cycle’s first (and most constant) heat casualty. Some OTHER ninja DS came out of nowhere and goes, “WHAT’S WRONG, PRIVATE?! IS THAT TOO HEAVY FOR YOU?! HERE, LET ME HELP!” He grabs my bag and slams it against the wall.
My detergent was in there.
He made me go recover it and then keep holding it over my head. What I didn’t know was that my detergent had busted inside the bag and was leaking down my neck and arms, covering my hands. I slipped from that point forward every time we were dropped until so much dirt was stuck to my hands that I could regain traction…then we were split up into our actual platoons.
After the other platoons had gone up to their areas, 4th Platoon was still down in the CTA getting our balls smoked off. To increase our stress, the DS’s would give the smallest, weakest guy in our platoon a task to complete solo, while the rest of us were screaming at him to hurry up because we were dying.
Now this whole time, smoking, screaming, covered in detergent, I think I was doing a pretty good job keeping my shit together. The last time we were dropped before we went up to our platoon area, I’m down in the FLR and I feel something brush against the side of my forehead. I didn’t turn, but I could feel breathing, and I knew what was going on.
Out of nowhere, I hear, “PVT S, YOU’RE NOT WEST INDIAN, ARE YOU?!” he yelled in my ear.
“YES DRILL SERGEANT!”
If he could smile, I imagined he did. He proceeds to ask, “YOU’RE NOT FROM TRINIDAD, ARE YOU?”
“YES DRILL SERGEANT!”
Senior Drill let us recover shortly thereafter, and that Brown Round never left the side of my face. Just before he returned to the front of the formation, DS G looks at me dead in my soul and says in a low, rumbling, growling whisper:
“PVT S, I expect great things from you.”
Needless to say, this guy was on my ass almost the entire cycle (being another West Indian man from the Virgin Islands). From running (the bane of my existence) to PMI to D and C, DS G would not stop until I had gotten it 100% correct. He chased my ass up the rappelling tower, he made me do pushups AND run laps around the killzone when my mail came (“RUN FASTER, CURRY BOY, I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!”), he haunted me while I ate (“You better lick that shit up like it was roti”), to ensuring he fucked specifically with the guys at my position during our last FTX. If I didn’t know any better, and you told me the man hated me, I’d believe you wholeheartedly.
The only break came just after our last PT test. I was always in the rear of the formation, and one night after chow I hear, “PVT S, IS YOUR MOTHER COMING TO GRADUATION?!” My mother had always addressed her letters “From Mummy,” and every time a letter from Mummy came in, Curry Boy got dropped. “YES DRILL SERGEANT!”
Again, I can only imagine he smiled when he replied, “IS SHE BRINGING WEST INDIAN FOOD?” How he knew I asked for my mother for some food for him in a sealed letter, if he did, I’ll never know. “YES DRILL SERGEANT!” I returned.
The day of our Beret Ceremony was the first time we were going to see our families in 10 long, exhausting weeks. I made sure my shit was on point, because I wanted to show them how much I’d grown. As we were standing in formation, I kept looking for my mothers and sisters (as we would stand out in a Benning crowd), but I didn’t find them immediately. When I finally saw them, who else was standing next to my family but DS G.
I immediately broke into a cold sweat. I was always in trouble as a kid, so when I saw my mom next to any kind of authority figure, I thought there was some kind of trouble. After a quick “Dress Right, DRESS!” I looked over again and DS G had vanished.
After the ceremony was over and family day had begun, I embraced my mother and sisters and we went to go have lunch, the first meal that I could actually pay for on my own. When I’d worked up the nerve, I asked my mother why she was talking to one of my Drill Sergeants. This woman proceeds to tell me:
“Oh, who that man from the ceremony? He was so nice! We got lost and he let us follow him in his car from that one building to the field! He gave me great big hug too!”
At this point, I knew she’d slipped something in my drink. “Wait, what?!” I asked, “You hugged my Drill Sergeant?! Why?!”
My mother said, “He told me, ‘thank you for the food. Your son was a joy to train…he never said anything.'”
Easily, THE most surreal experience of my life.