Nov 1, 2009

Soule Restaurant: Just Another Day... US ARMY

0430. They can’t be serious.

Who would’ve thought that eight weeks could drag on like this? The thought doesn’t slow me down. Brooding has to be done while multitasking during Basic Training for the U.S. Army.

I sleep on top of my blanket to save time in the morning, covering with the rough, green blanket that functions as a pillow cover. I fold the blanket lengthwise twice and lay it across the pillow, tucking the ends into the sides beneath the mattress before getting under the bed and pulling the main blanket tighter through the bedsprings.

There. A quarter can bounce on that easily.

I sleep in my PT (Physical Training) uniform so in the morning, I only have to brush my teeth and go.

After returning from the latrine, I close my combination lock and dial the first two numbers; after PT I’ll only have to turn to the last and it’s open. My secret; no one knows how I’m always the first in the shower.

I grab my sneakers and head for the stairs where I pause to put them on. (We buff the floors at night for morning inspection; only socks are allowed on the floor of the barracks.)

0440. Five more minutes to formation. Plenty of time.

My buddy PVT Slaughter waits impatiently at the steps for me.

“You know today’s the unit run, right?”

Goodness... I was resigned to a cardio day, which was only three miles. The unit run meant six.

We ran to formation, and were soon off to the field to rendezvous with the rest of the unit. It was February in South Carolina; not yet dawn, and cold enough to see your breath. We weren’t upset; we’d warm up from our run soon enough.

Our company normally split into four groups before a run with group one comprised of the fastest, and group four the slowest. For a unit run, however, we would run together at a slower pace with a designated Guide On up front holding our Bravo Company flag.

As we arrive at the parade grounds, PVT Navarez begins her normal banter.

“Mayers, I dare you to take the guide-on,” she says.

“I dare you.”

“You first.”

“Last time I went first, you flaked. You first.”

“Alright,” Navarez answers, surprisingly, because she’s not a strong runner and is normally grumpy on cardio days.

Picking up speed, she heads to the front, taking the flag from our Guide On and sprinting towards Alpha Company, who are positioned ahead of us in our running formation. She proceeds to run a circle around them as they run at a normal pace.
When I see her returning, I start to the front to meet her at the Guide On. Handing it over, she says, “I ran around the whole company.”

(Sigh.) There are four platoons in a company, so that meant I’d have to circle all four as they ran.

“Cool,” I responded.

I was the leader of the fast running group and she was in group three. No way I couldn’t do this.

The purpose of this exercise is to antagonize the other unit by demonstrating superior ability, and this display of arrogance isn’t complete without cadence.

I sprinted, passing the first and second platoons easily enough while singing at the top of my lungs:

Down by the river
I took a little walk
Me and Alpha Company
Had a little talk
I pushed’em, I shoved’em
Threw’em in the river
Watched them drown
No more Alphas
Hanging around

By the third platoon, I slowed down, just a little. I had to pick up speed to give them a wide enough berth to cross in front on the return. I reached the front feeling good; the decelerated pace and singing of cadence had helped to regulate my breathing. I took my time running back to my platoon, allowing them to meet me.
Handing the flag back to our Guide On, I took my place in formation besides Navarez, where she and Slaughter could barely contain themselves.

“What?” I asked.

“Did you run around the company?”

“Yes,” I said, ready to argue in case they didn’t believe me.

“I only ran around one platoon,” Navarez laughed, stumbling and almost causing the soldier behind her to run into her.

I shook my head, laughing… I’d been bamboozled.

We continued the run in a pretty good mood, at a pace much slower than I usually had to maintain running in the fast group, so I was breathing easily.

At mile five, I glanced sideways; the First Sargeant now kept pace beside me.

“Mayers. Go help the Guide On,” he challenged.

I smiled.

“No problem, First Sargeant,” I replied.

Please note: This is not to make light the experiences of our troops; rather, we should appreciate their sacrifices for the sake of our country and its citizens. All done with pride.

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