basic training: a diary

October 17, 1993
It's Sunday and the trees outside are gold, green, orange and red. There's no rec room today; its replacement is marching practice. The soldiers with ROTC experience are split up to train groups of twenty to thirty. Some guys in my group were really good at whining "Hey, we can't hear you" to the ROTC. "Hey you need a megaphone or something, we can't hear" or "Can we move away from the trash cans, there's bees there and I'm allergic to bees." "Halp, a bee, halp!" Every few minutes these guys would spontaneously break out of formation to do a bee-swattin' dance.

The two specialists in charge of us help to improve the quality of life with impromptu entertainment. One looks like a dancer for Frankie Goes To Hollywood in his mustache and jean shorts. When he's not reenacting scenes from Full Metal Jacket, he's performing extended dialogues of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And everyone has an alternate feminine persona to play the part of one of Billy's Boys (as homosexuals are affectionately called). When Mustache says to an irritated private "Aren't we testy?," the other specialist follows up with "My, aren't we a bit testacle?" in gay style. And all the privates can do Beavis and Butthead at will, and often do.

At formation after dinner a sergeant comes up to a private who had placed his smart book and poncho (don't leave home without them) on the ground at his feet. "Do you know what my favorite sport is, private?" "No, Sarge." "Soccer." And with that the sergeant kicks the smart book across the formation. "Don"t ever put your shit on the ground again!" So everybody calls the guy Pele after that, including "Lenny" from the night before.

Back up in the barracks, people are comparing physiques and Lenny (a trifle obese) says "Well, I won't be playing soccer..." and looks over at Pele. Pele (who had been compared to three foot high weightlifter the night before) is a guy whose mouth is bigger than any other part of his body, and he responds: "Shaddup or I'll beat you cross-eyed. Oops, too late." Problem is, Lenny really is cross-eyed (scary, actually, considering he will be holding an M16 rifle in a couple of weeks), and it's not something to actually mention to his face. "You're gonna beat me what?" "Looks like someone beat me to it." "You're gonna beat me what?" "Cross-eyed." People had to pull the two apart after that to avoid bloodshed. Then Specialist Sieberly came along to get the two to shake hands and apologize.

The next activity for the night is for everyone to compare tattoos, real and wished. One guy has six tattoos. When asked what kind of tattoo he wants, Lenny says dreamily, "An American flag, all the way across my back." Everyone winces in imagined tattoo pain. "Hey," someone yells out from his bunk. "Let's all get tattoos."

 

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