Friday, May 20, 2011

Basic Training

My neighbor's son is going to Basic Training in a few days and she is understandably worried and reluctant to see her 'baby' go.  Basic is hard, but it isn't nearly as bad as people think it will be.

Except the second week- you have been there long enough to get really tired and think 'what have I gotten into?', but you still have what seems an interminable amount of time before you are done.  Yeah, the second weeks sucks.

Many of you all may not know that I was in the Air Force.  I originally signed up to work in public affairs but ended up as a photographer- a fantastic job.  I was stationed in S. California (which I hated) and Alaska (which I loved).
Pictured: Me in 1992 the day I left basic with the douchebag I married.

Today, I will share one of my truly hysterical experiences from my time at Basic with you all.

I don't think anyone likes Basic Training, but it is a worthwhile experience.  Mostly unpleasant and definitely exhausting, I learned skills that I still use today.

The first day, we were transported by a big ugly green bus to Lackland AFB near San Antonio, Texas (side note: I hate Texas, too.)  Just like in the movies, the drill instructors start yelling at you and ordering you around before you even disembark from the bus.  I was mentally rolling my eyes at their 'show', but I did as I was told.

Once outside, we were put in formation and made to stand holding our luggage for about 15 minutes whilst they worked on elevating their blood pressure and laryngitis.  One of the main objectives of basic is to weed out people with weak minds and constitutions and toughen up the rest.

This is done, as you might imagine, with a lot of mind games and exhausting tasks.  Though, I have heard that now, they are not allowed to do things like wake you in the middle of the night for surprise inspections.  In case anyone is wondering, this was the part where I felt most murderous.

I don't remember how exactly I caught the attention of the drill instructor from our 'brother flight' (the male group that was going to complete basic with our female group), because I already knew to keep my head down and my mouth shut.  A very important skill in these situations is to make yourself as invisible and average as possible.  This crucial knowledge was passed to me from my father and all of his friends who were  drill instructors.

Under no circumstances do you want to draw attention to yourself and dear God, DO NOT volunteer for anything.

Brown-nosing was not rewarded.   They will assign you something, but if you stay off their radar, it will be a much less rotten task.

Anyhoo, Sgt.  Red-Face-With-Bulging-Blood-Vessels gets in my face and is bellowing a bunch of stuff that I am not really supposed to respond to.  So I don't.  Then, he orders me to put my suitcases down.  Then pick them up.  Then put them down. And then he tells me to keep doing it until I am ordered to stop.

I didn't much care.  Even after about 20 minutes. I used to be in really good shape and I was raised by a former soldier who thought his  children were recruits, anyway.  So far, this was an average Tuesday.

Now, in my right hand was a cheap gym bag filled with toiletries and jeans.    In my left hand was a horrific monstrosity made by Samsonite, circa 1970.  It was that special 70's shade of orange and hard plastic.

During my whole luggage lifting routine, the instructors are screaming rules and procedures at us about things like meals and wake up times and the ever important never do anything without express permission, including have a bowel movement.  They like to say shocking things.

 About the same time they wind down, some 30 odd minutes later, my gym bag is falling open and stuff is flopping out.

I foolishly thought  to fix it, but was immediately screamed at for stopping the whole lift and lower routine.  I was a bit peeved, but still pretty unfazed.  That is until one particularly good slam of the big orange suitcase on the concrete (my arms were getting  tired) and the whole thing popped open.

Now, the wind can be pretty strong in Texas and the way they designed the buildings we trained in, it funneled between them  in huge gusts.

So, there I am, lifting and lowering two open, flapping pieces of luggage and my best Victoria's Secret (yep, back before kids I could not only afford it, but I could fit it!) articles are blowing all over.  There were snickers and giggles, even from me.  This only led to more time lifting and lowering the suitcases while everyone else went to claim their beds.

Finally, Sgt. Red-Face comes back and tells me to go pick up all my stuff.  I end up chasing panties, bras and t-shirts all over the area and even have to suffer the embarrassment of having some  well-meaning male soldiers return items to me that they had picked up.

I had a huge laugh that first night with some girls from my unit about what had happened and to this day, this story always tickles me when I picture my unmentionables blowing all around everyone's ankles as we all tried to keep our composure.


  1. I am so impressed, April! Wow! You're a woman of many hidden talents :) Now it becomes clear to me from where you get that compulsive need to zoom in on odd things lying about on the lawn and in garden beds and on the kitchen floor ;)
    Great story...thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to more :)

  2. Hi April,
    Desiree told me I should come check out your blog as I would enjoy it. I'm very glad I listened! Great post. Being an air force wife for the last 17 years I have heard alot of Basic Training stories and even though at the time things seem horrific they seem to be some of the greatest memories of serving.. Thanks for sharing this. I will be following.


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