Vietnam War era
Basic training is necessary to transform normal street kids into soldiers. People who know nothing of war, are snatched off the street (DRAFT), physically and emotionally brutalized to prepare them to do battle with people they have never met. i.e how do you get a perfectly normal kid from IOWA to become a raging killing machine, devoid of the fear the IOWA kid could be killed? (BASIC TRAINING)
Many young men in my company did not want to be there. But, they were too poor to go college to get deferments and likely too far away from Mexico or Canada to slip across the border. More than a handful had been told by the judge, “Go to Jail, or Join the Army!”
Additionally, there were some young men that truly wanted to be soldiers and do their duty to defend their country. (My respect and yours should be with these soldiers, especially present day!)
Then, there was me. I joined, but that is another sad sack story, totally separate from this one.
So, how does one piss off a 2nd Lieutenant, who was fresh out of the Army Officier Acadamy?
*Back troubles for me began when I was young. I found out that Full Chin ups eased them. Years later, I was good at chin ups.
*The typical young man could squeeze 3 or 4 partial or half Chin-ups.
*2nd Lieutenants demand (more than earn) your respect. They have to prove themselves to get to 1st Lt.
Basic Trainees are rousted before dawn, with Screamed words your mother would not approve of. Pygmy F…ing Whore Dogs, was one such word phrase. Both an insult to any pygmies and dogs.
Various metallic objects were thrown around for extra sound effects, before Dolby sound. 40gal Garbage Cans were very effective.
Various Trainees could be observed diving from the top bunk, where the Drill Sgt. used them for Object Training lessons. (never fun, but frequently funny. You have to get good at laughing on the inside, a talent I still carry today!)
Trainees in these OT lessons frequently hated their mother for allowing them to be borne alive, to be abused in this fashion.
Without question, most of the trainees questioned their sanity and why they were here! Some would think of hurting themselves to get out!
Trainees not properly dressed by the allotted time were further used as Object Training lessons. (repeated funny, not fun)
All Trainees were then rushed outside in the dark, cold, sometimes wet, to perform P.T. or physical training. Typical were sit-ups and push-ups. But, our company also had very well made chin-up bars, made for 300 pounders to hang, not necessarily to execute. Three as I remember.
Before you had morning chow, you had to replicate, by the numbers, true Military sit-ups, push-ups and chin-ups. These were not sissy PT, perfect Military Form was all that was acceptable. No one could eat till they did complete. Nor, were you allowed latrine, until you completed.
So, this particularly dark morning, with various smells permeating the dawn from the hundreds of young men and sounds caused by being routed awake for mere seconds doused in fear.
One felt the young man next to and behind you, as the tension was palatable, as Drill Sgts. ran up and down the lines finding first one face then another to scream into.
Drill Sgts. learned a strength, a tension, to be forced onto the young man standing in front, waiting and hoping for tears or fears, to accelerate the tension. A game of chicken, as it were.
“The Army does not care what you did back home, football star, A-Student, Most popular. The Army does not care your mother liked you, or Jody was doing your girlfriend. The Army just needs you to kill any MF standing in front of you. Do you really want to live Forever? Cause that is a waste of Army Spirit and good men!”
Our 2nd Lieutenant was there watching. His last name was Bailey. His first name Robert. He preferred Bob.
His name tag read: B. Bailey.
For those of you that do not know the name Beetle Bailey, look him up. It is a very important clue to my later issues.
As I approached the chin-up bar, I could hear, more than see, various Trainees that were trying for the Military 3 chin-ups thus prescribed. Most struggled, mightily. Some were round, and one was their number, but others were thin, and had the one as well.
Finally, as the sun was finally pushing over the pine trees, and a few squirrels were stirring, I saw my bar.
I leaped onto and knocked out my 3. I dropped down to run off to get into the next line.
Suddenly, there was a military Retort:
Since it came from my shoulder, I figured I was the target.
I stopped, full attention, boots pointed forward, hands on my pant seams, head and spine like a rod, eyes quivering side to side to see what God I had pissed off today.
2nd Lieutenant B. Bailey was now standing in front of me, his nose 2 inches away and lower than my nose.
I observed a rather thin man, who seemed overly intense this early in the morning. His eyes were like lasers digging into mine, his body as tense as a bow weighing an arrow for flight.
“Troop! Do you think you are special? All other trainees struggle for 3 and you make them look like they are easy? Do you not see what you do to morale in my fine company? Do you want to make all of these other fine young men feel bad? ”
I tried to explain about my back, and Bettle was dead in my face.
“I do not want to hear it?” spittle had actually formed on his lips. He was mad.
“So, Trainee SMART ASS, how many Chin-ups can you do?”
I looked at Beetle and immediately thought of my response.
“I can do 5 Lieutenant. ” But, then the Devil took over.
How many can you do, Lieutenant?” I asked, in the sweetest manner I could.
Beetle looked like he was ready to prove me a liar.
“We will both do 5, in full Military Style,” he said, jauntily.
So, we leaped onto our bars, side by side, as the sun finally fell below the pine trees and found the grass.
I watched him out of the corner of my eyes and matched him stroke for stroke. At 3, he was slowing down, 4 was slower yet, and 5 was a crawl.
I waited for him to drop off his bar, knowing 300 Trainees were watching this.
Then, I quickly knocked another Five and dropped to the ground.
And, that is how you throughly piss off a MALE 2nd LT in front of 300 witnesses!
I must say, he was always at my shoulder from then on, looking for a button out of place, a string hanging the wrong way, dirt on my trousers where they should not be. He was always there.
By the end of Basic Training, I can honestly say we were not friends, but quite happy never to see each other again.