The Army's On Its Way
A few threads here on AN focusing on new Army officers heading to BOLC made me a bit nostalgic for my own training days at Fort Sam. The story below is true with minor details and names changed to protect identities. My insincere apologies to the Navy and Air Force as every branch has their jokes about the other branches.
I've found over the years that unless I'm working night shift, 0330 is an unpleasant time to be conscious no matter how you cut it. An adamant night-lover, I wondered at my own sanity one particularly early morning as I stood on the parade field at that ungodly hour, better known to Soldiers such as myself as zero-dark-stupid. A massive installation run was scheduled for that morning, and while it was already 50 degrees on Fort Sam Houston, the sun remained firmly tucked below the horizon, contagious yawns spread like wildfire amongst the troops, and the fifty Soldiers that comprised my platoon stood waiting for the main event to get underway.
"Hey, First platoon! First platoon!"
The conversations continued, uninterrupted.
"Hey, you idiots! Bring it in over here!" 2LT Piper, a short, usually soft-spoken nurse, called over the din of the chatter that served to keep the half-conscious soldiers from falling back to sleep. Though she was naturally inclined to silence, a week as the platoon sergeant had brought Piper out of her shell nicely. She quickly developed a suitable tone of voice for commanding our attention, which, given the nature and reputation of our platoon, was something of a mixed blessing.
"Hey, look at this! Piper's talking! Hey, First, shut the hell up or you'll miss it!" 1LT Brown, a PA and the uncontested company clown, was the next to speak up over the conversation.
"Shut up and move, Brown! Don't make me take it out on you in combatives tomorrow."
"Oh, threats! That's what this has come down to--threats! Whatcha gonna do, Pipersqueak? I'm already planning to wear my shin guards! I'm titanium, baby!" Brown teased good-naturedly, referencing Piper's nickname as the platoon crowded around them, forming a tight-knit circle three soldiers deep.
"This should be interesting." I muttered to 1LT Li, another PA who stood nearby in the first rim of Soldiers around the platoon sergeant.
"Tell me about it. Piper and I were paired up in combatives last week. Let's just say she's a bit more knowledgeable than the last time she met up with Brown on the mat." Li stretched, revealing years of muscle earned by ten years of prior service in the Special Forces.
"Reaaaaally?" I asked with a glimmer in my eye.
"Brown will have no idea what hit him." Li grinned.
"All right, all right, be quiet, First! If you don't pipe down, you'll give away the surprise!" Piper exclaimed.
"What's the surprise, PSG?" Li called.
"Take one and pass 'em around!" Piper called, tossing a plastic bag into the crowd. "Now y'all remember last week when some moron from Fifth platoon wore ankle socks for the tenth time and bought the entire company an ***-chewing?"
First platoon responded with the usual barrage of sarcasm. No one could forget the inept lieutenant in the reviled Fifth that was constantly bringing the wrath of the cadre down on the company as a whole. While low-rise socks were in vogue that year, the Army regs clearly stated that the PT socks must cover the ankles. The blatant violation continued after days of warning, and the company had paid the price.
"Well, we're not going to take it lying down! Let's show Fifth how real Soldiers wear socks!" Piper cried.
"Holy hell, PSG! These socks are knee-high!" The lanky 2LT Anderson exclaimed from where he sat on the parade field, re-tying his shoes.
"That's right! There will be no ankles showing in my platoon! There will be no falling out of my run! And there will be absolutely none of the monkey business that goes on in that disastrous excuse for Fifth platoon!"
Cries of "Hooah" rose loud and clear from the crowd, most of us now sitting in the dew-soaked grass, changing into our new socks.
"Hey, Piper, are we supposed to wear these or have races in them?" A Soldier called out from the back of the crowd.
"I'll bet you could fit Piper and Soldiernurse into the same sock!"
"PSG, do these stockings make my *** look big?" Brown asked loudly.
"Hey, Second platoon! Is someone watching your guidon?" 2LT Cole, notorious for stealing the guidons of rival platoons, yelled to our neighbors from the fringes of our group.
"I knew it was you, Cole! Try it one more time and the Colonel will hear about it!" A familiar looking LT from Second replied.
"We're onto you, Cole! Tell your goons over in First that we don't find you even slightly funny!" Another familiar face from Second scoffed.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Second, though I think most of the cadre would agree that a latrine is not an appropriate place to store a guidon!" Cole continued, a defiant smile on his lips.
"Easy, Cole. Try to rein yourself in. The Colonel's still trying to figure out who relocated the guidon from Command last weekend."
The dry, low tone of Captain Coble, our platoon commander, split through the cluster of soldiers formed around Piper.
"That was an honest mistake, sir. LT Mayer and I thought we were swiping the guidon from Sixth platoon to round out our guidon reassignment tour. I had no idea it belonged to an unhappy two-star." Cole replied sheepishly.
"Do two-stars come any other way?" Brown whispered to Li.
But Coble had switched gears, his eyes surveying the crowd of First platoon officers, whose legs were covered to the kneecap or above by white socks. "Let me guess..." He began.
"Sir, there will be no ankles in my platoon." Piper replied to the unspoken question.
Coble shrugged. "Excellent. Carry on."
"Holy hell, Soldiernurse! Hey, Piper, did you order special thigh-highs for the shortest LT, or is that just how men's knee-highs fit her?" Li exclaimed as we stood up, the white socks rising so high that they disappeared under my PT shorts.
"What do you think, Li?" Piper asked as she pulled up her own socks, rolling them over her knees and up her lower thighs.
"That's right, battle. Hooah for the little LTs!" I exclaimed, the two of us exchanging high-fives.
"Midgets, hooah!" Six or seven nearby soldiers echoed in reply.
"All right, flying monkeys. Fall in!" Coble called.
Conversation immediately ceased as our platoon formed up and Piper called us to attention, then put us at ease. Coble stood at the front of our formation, surveying his charges with tired eyes. "Listen up, kids! Today is the joint run with the Navy and Air Force."
"Air Force, Hooah!"
"Shut up, Brown, Li! All right, now to reiterate what your fearless PSG has already said, no one falls out and for the love of God, if I hear one complaint about the time, the run or the weather, you'll run with the Air Force for the rest of the morning, is that clear?"
"Y'hear that, First? Who's up for a morning of easy jogging?"
"Air Force, heyyyyy..."
Coble rolled his eyes, and while his expression was one of irritation, we were all well aware that the easily disgruntled captain seemed to enjoy the mischievous nature of his platoon. As such, we were happy to play the clowns to his no-nonsense act.
"All right, folks, I mean it! No more derogatory comments against the other branches..." Coble began.
At that precise time, MAJ DePree stalked past our formation, mumbling under his breath. "They'd better front-load the Army, that's for sure. Someone mark the ******* calendar! The Air Force is running! The Air Force run for the fiscal year is soon to be complete! Hear that, Soldiers? The Air Force is running!"
"Don't hold your breath, sir! The run hasn't started yet!" Brown returned.
"That's the spirit, LT!" DePree exclaimed, giving Brown a complimentary slap on the back as he headed for the center of the parade field.
Coble rolled his eyes and exhaled. "Thanks you, MAJ DePree. I nearly had them behaving themselves."
"Really? This is First platoon, correct?" DePree paused at the back of our ranks.
"The one and only, Major!" Someone replied from the center of formation.
"Then don't fool yourself, Captain! If they're not up to anything now, it's only a matter of time!"
Just as First platoon began to respond to MAJ DePree, the company was called to attention and the chatter died into stifled laughter. Before we knew it, the run commenced, and one hundred feet ran in unison up and down the main streets of Fort Sam.
"Hey, Piper! Stretch out that stride! Anderson's going to get tangled in his own legs if you don't step it out!" Brown called from the second row.
"It happened before in kindergarten! It took three surgeons and a contortionist two days to untangle me." Anderson recounted.
"All right, First, let's hear it! We're almost to the General's house!" Piper yelled. "Heeeere we go again!"
Clapping, intentional foot-stomping and loud cadence-calling immediately commenced, First platoon vying with the platoons around us for air time. Just as our ranks passed the house, a light turned on in the upstairs bedroom. Whoops of victory rose from the street.
We turned around at the end of the boulevard and circled back down the street in time to see the front door of the general's house open. A tired-looking general emerged onto the front porch steps as the troops passed the house, rank by rank. He raised a weary hand to the shouted greetings, a smile tugging at his lips despite the early hour and obnoxious herd of new officers traipsing by.
The run ended shortly thereafter, but my platoon was not one to give up the fun without a fight. Breakfast in the hotel dining room came immediately on the heels of the run. Thus marked the beginning of a tradition, for it wouldn't be the last time that our overstated socks would make an appearance at PT and breakfast, a constant reminder that training is frequently what you make of it, and a little bit of camaraderie can inject revelry into what may have otherwise been just another early morning run on Fort Sam.Last edit by Joe V on Mar 19, '14
Mar 19, '14Aww .. brought back memories of my days in basic. Thank you for posting this! I really can't wait until I get to BOLC.Mar 19, '14I also had a great time at BOLC. Active duty have to suffer through death by PowerPoint before the Reserves/NG join us for the FTX portion, but it was relatively painless!
SoldierNurse22, great article!! I am still in touch with many people from my platoon, those weeks have a way of forging some lifelong friendships.Mar 19, '14Same here, Pixie. It was a rather incredible experience...probably one of those times in my life that I'll recount to grandchildren someday in a creaky old voice.
"Well, kids, you may not believe this, but back in my day..."Mar 21, '14Yes, sadly we AF tend to suddenly have airplanes to launch, breakfast burritos to eat or death by power point briefings to attend when joint base runs are planned. Weird....
Great article, love it and keep them coming!Mar 25, '14AD has the fun at BOLC....reserves does not. I have my own opinions on the validity of AMEDD BOLC but that is neither here nor there lolMar 25, '14Quote from DrangerVery true. I have a few bones to pick with AMEDD BOLC, especially stacked against every other BOLC out there. There's a huge difference in time and knowledge burden spent on becoming an Army officer versus an AMEDD officer.AD has the fun at BOLC....reserves does not. I have my own opinions on the validity of AMEDD BOLC but that is neither here nor there lol
I came into BOLC expecting it to be something like basic. After I realized it was nothing like basic training, I had so much fun...it felt criminal.
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