You learn pretty damn quickly you’re a team. All of you.
Your platoon, your section, your roommates.
When the morning alarm goes off, you had better be up, not just awake. There is no snooze, not even 20 seconds to contemplate what life would be like if you were back home. Just get up and go. There is not a moment between asleep and mobile, just as electrons have no travel time as they orbit an atom. They just suddenly appear elsewhere. Sometimes you wonder how you actually manage to move that fast.
Clothing. Bathroom. No space? No problem. In with the boys.
It’s hard to fathom being swept up by the Physical Training machine ten minutes after being fast asleep, but it happens. You get used to it. Your body changes pretty quick to accommodate your new workload. Mental and physical adaptation.
The days start off with PT. Always. Runs, team relays, rifle holds… every form of physical stress you can think to put your body through. Fast and aggressive, slow and tedious. It’s as much about changing your mind as your body.
Drill is another world of dilemma. Standing still for long stretches of time is stark in contrast to otherwise constant stimulation. Moving in unison, marching together is yet another challenge; if you’re short you had better be up front to set the pace. Short legs can’t keep up if you allow the long legs to take control. Then you ain’t keeping up.
Marching drills. Parade drills. Dress drills. Rifle drills. Clean it. Polish it. Dress it. Perfect it.
The beauty of striving for a high ideal is in moving past what you thought was even the least attainable goal. You can find new possibilities and strengths you never knew you had, and through teamwork move even further past that. The camaraderie that transcending this level of hardship develops is second to none and, quite frankly, priceless.
If it’s any testament to our training, on a day I can recall quite clearly we were standing in a thunderstorm and lightening struck thirty feet to our left in a spectacular ball of cracking light. We stood still. In the middle of the road, in three inches of pounding water, nothing but the vastness of empty landscape around us. We were lucky. To this day I have no idea why it didn’t decide to hit us.
All this intensity was juxtaposed with quiet classroom time which stretched our collective brain to the limit of concentration. It was as tedious and difficult as all of the other training without the adrenaline and excitement to keep us going.
Further into training we had the occasional few hours off. Some let out some steam with drunken unruliness, others just enjoyed quiet time. All of us enjoyed Walmart. It was the Mecca of creative expression and normal person clothing.
If someone got into trouble, we were all accountable for it. What? He’s missing? Everybody form up, we’re going to find him. Doesn’t matter that it’s two in the morning, you shouldn’t have lost him. Deal with it.
Okay, turn in. He’s nowhere to be found. We’ll have the MP’s pick him up. Turns out he’d wandered into the Artilley barracks and, those barracks being the splitting image of ours, promptly wandered up to the equivalent of his room. Being unable to unlock the door he settled down for a snooze in the hallways using his pants as a pillow and wandered back to us in the morning with one hell of a hangover.
The intensity of enjoyment during off time rivaled the intensity of the training itself. Work hard, play hard, feel hard. There was no hiding from it.
It was such a raw environment. You had better be there for good reason, and you had better be willing to get to know yourself and what you’re capable of or your not going to put up with it. But in finding this transformation you discover a strength of character that is carried throughout your life. That’s worth every push-up, profanity and frozen night.