June 27, 2009

The Training Instructor's Favorite

My first day of basic training I was told to sit perfectly still until my training instructor returned. He came back after just over five hours. I'd rather be hit in the face with an agitated puffer fish then ever try to sit still for that long again.

By the end of basic I'd hands-down been in trouble more often and had to do more push-ups than anyone else in my flight of 56 guys. I was also the training instructor's favorite. I know this because he told me, right before I got sent outside to move four hundred sandbags for no apparent reason other than I was his favorite.

One time I got in trouble for dancing in the kitchen while on KP duty. My punishment was... unpleasant. I say "one time" because that is not the kind of thing you want to get in trouble for twice.

Inside our bathroom was a vent that went up, over, and down into the girl's bathroom of our sister flight. Needless to say when our respective instructors were absent, there was much communication through the vent. I won fifteen dollars for doing an imitation of our First Sergeant into that vent. Word somehow reached our instructor and the next day I found myself doing that same imitation, only not into a vent.

My job in the flight was to roll shirts. I figured out a way to use two drawers side-by-side that made every shirt turn out immaculate, far above what was expected for inspection. Every guy had five PT shirts, six white undershirts and six tan undershirts. Times sixty.

One night for no apparent reason my entire body broke into hives. To this day I have no idea what caused it. Bees?

I don't remember ever feeling as proud as the day I had my name tag sewn on my uniform. It's strange to me how strongly I felt and still do feel about it.

My sisters sent me letters that occasionally had pictures in them. I'll never forget how powerful a letter or a picture can be.

During the six weeks when I'd never seen so much hazing (or public ridiculing), cursing or anger in my life, God turned what started out as two of us praying together every night into well over twenty guys gathering every night in the shower... the only place we'd all fit without waking the others up.

And I will never forget the day my drill instructor walked up behind me at breakfast and said
"You might want to get up. Now." Then flipped our entire table full of food into the air.
I'm pretty sure none of the cockroaches survived the fall.

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