The moment you step off the bus is the moment you get your first real glimpse at life in the military. That’s when you meet your drill sergeant (or drill instructor, or military training instructor, or recruit division commander, or company commander, depending on your branch).
As odd as it might sound to you now, boot, despite all of the screaming in your face, all of the push-ups you’ll end up doing, and all the wanton destruction you’ll endure because someone left their wall locker unsecured, you’ll look back on these days with pride — and maybe even a little bit of happiness.
And that’s all thanks to the NCO who’s going to make your life hell for the next several weeks.
1. They were your first up-close glimpse at military discipline
When you step off that bus, your life changes. No longer will you slouch, walk slowly, or fail to greet someone. You’ll start to adapt all of the little habits that separate troops from your average civilian during the initial “shark attack.”
Once the cruddy civilian has been smoked out of you, the drill sergeant will then start molding you into what they believe the military needs from you. As my drill sergeant once told me way back when, “I’m going to make sure you’re gonna be either really smart or you’re going to be really strong.”
Even when you think there isn’t a drill sergeant watching you, there is — everywhere you go.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James Seals)
2. They’re the ultimate juxtaposition of aggression and discipline
It’s kind of hard to explain if you’ve never been face to face with a drill instructor. Every fiber of your being will enter fight, flight, and freeze mode at the same time upon seeing their campaign hat. You will simultaneously despise the ever-living hell out of this person and have an undying respect for them.
This is because they seem like a walking contradiction — but they’re not. They may be loud and they may scream in your face, but they aren’t doing it out of malice. It’s to get your attention and to instill in you the level of discipline that Uncle Sam needs.
They won’t shed a single tear if you quietly hate them. You’ll be thanking them when you earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)
3. They were unexpectedly hilarious
Your MTI won’t teach you everything about the military. They’re there to give you a basic understanding of the major things you need to know as a troop. You’ll learn the rest at tech school and your first unit. If there’s one thing they’re trying to instill into you more than anything else, it’s good order and discipline.
It definitely won’t seem like it when you first arrive, but things can actually get pretty funny in Basic. You won’t be laughing when it happens, but you’ll think back on it later and get a good chuckle. In fact, a big part of the reason so many younger, fresher troops tell stories from basic is because they’re just finally getting the jokes — a year too late.
Whatever you do, never respond to “what the f*ck is so funny?” It’s a trap.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Melinda Mueller)
4. They seem more inhuman the more you investigate
As you lay down to get some sleep for the night, there’s an RDC there to smoke the sh*t out of you, but all you can think about is getting some rest. A few hours later, that same RDC is wide awake and throwing around a metal garbage can to wake you all up. They’ll flex on you whenever you can’t physically do something, and you’ll never see them break a sweat. You won’t even see them eat, let alone take a few seconds to catch their breath.
To you, they are military perfection embodied. They don’t have time for human shortcomings. They have their secrets, but you’ll probably never see them.
You may never feel like your attention to detail is as keen as theirs, but you’ll get it eventually.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Susan Krawczyk)
5. They gave you the foundation upon which the rest of your military career rests
For the rest of your career, you’ll be shocked at how effectively your company commander jammed minor things into your head. Everything from rifle marksmanship to drill and ceremony commands will come back to you without a second of thought.
If you kept your head down, did what you were told, and tried to learn every little thing imaginable, then you’ve done them proud.
If there’s one thing you’ll never forget, it’s their voice calling cadence.
(USCG photo by PAC Tom Sperduto)
This article originally appeared on We Are The Mighty
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