Meaning Beyond the Military

Who knew that at the heart of Basic Training I would find a secret of life. I expected few things of basic training. I expected it to be hard and I also expected to learn the necessary beginnings of my military career. These included how to march, how to attune yourself to noticing the smallest details like strings on clothes, and finally how to come together with the rest of the trainees and work as a single unit. I admit, however, I did not expect to learn much more than that. It took me awhile but I have come to realize that Basic Military Training, has left me with one of the best lessons I have learned so far in my life and one of my strongest beliefs that I hold. I believe in drill sergeants.

There is no one like a drill sergeant and almost no experience like life with one. When you arrive at Basic Training you are put into a group and assigned a drill sergeant. They are with you from the time you wake up till the minute you go to bed. There is no escaping the drill sergeant. It is one of the most exhausting experiences; you hit the ground running and don’t stop till you graduate. You are constantly lacking sleep and food, while continually having to master new skills ranging from how to make your bed perfectly to how to assemble and disassemble an M16-A2 rifle in one minute.

Drill instructors are not there to make it any easier. They are there to make it ten times harder, to mount the pressure to an explosive boiling point. I remember a particular instance among just one of the many days. We had been up since 4:45am going nonstop all day. We were practicing for our marching test, when the next drill movement was called and I was the one who did the wrong movement. You don’t really even have time cringe while waiting for the reprimand. By reprimand I mean the scariest, loudest man possible within mere centimeters from your nose, deafening your ears. You wouldn’t believe how close someone can get to your face without touching it. Yet it did not end there. Two more drill instructors came to drag out my embarrassment and to add the physical labor of hauling sand bags for a few hours. Moment after moment like this for weeks was topped off by the pressure of learning the necessary skills for graduating on schedule. What could I possibly see in these people? They are they to make your life hard, they are there for you to hate them. Many trainees do come to admire their drill instructors because they are such exemplary military figures, but what is there to like about them and admire about them on a more meaningful level? I did not know at the time of my graduation, and it was not until much later that I figured it out.

About a year after Basic Training I went through a month, everyday not knowing whether my grandmother was going to die. Never had I experienced something so difficult, yet somehow I was able to keep myself together. I was able to maintain an attitude about myself that I never would have thought possible. Throughout this time I came upon the true gift of drill sergeants. Drill sergeants if you let them, will teach you how to have what seems like one of the worst days of your life and how to get up and keep going. Drill sergeants have meaning beyond the military.

Autumn J