The first few days in the Army are the most demeaning experience most people will ever go through in their life. Once you get past those first few days though things change; they get worse.
After what seemed like weeks – but was in reality only a few days – I was processed and issued uniforms and boots. I had a uniform; I was starting to look like a soldier.
We all got shots in both arms for God-only-knows what diseases. The shots were administered with a pneumatic gun that worked on compressed air. We were in a single file line with our sleeves rolled up. One medic stood on either side and they issued the shots simultaneously. After I got my shots, I started to leave and one of the medics said, “Hey come back here”. I turned around and went back. The medic looked at my arm and then pointed the gun at the wall and pulled the trigger. We all watched in amazement as a stream of fluid shot about ten feet across the room and splattered on the wall. He then turned back to me and proceeded to shoot me in the same arm again. The medic examined his work, watching as the blood seeped out of the wound, and laughed saying, “I thought it didn’t work because you’re the only one who didn’t bleed”. I somehow failed to see the humor in that. At that point I still wasn’t sure just how much power these guys had. In retrospect, I think a well placed punch to the nose would have been an appropriate response. I still have a scar on my arm to remind me of that day.
The Army duffel bag is a magical thing. When you have put all the things into it that it will hold, your Sergeant will show you that it is only half full. After I was shown my incompetence at packing a duffle bag I – for about the fiftieth time that day – dropped and gave him ten. After going through in-processing, I was put on another bus convoy; this time to Fort Gordon, Georgia. On arrival at the fort, after about a two or three hour ride, I was half asleep and feeling sick from all the shots. When I had been herded on to the bus I was soaked with sweat. The fact that the bus’ air-conditioning was kept at what seemed like fifty degrees did not help matters any. When I was back in the heat, I was really feeling like crap. The good thing was I didn’t have a chance to think about it.
A sergeant greeted us and stood in the door of the bus. He explained that we had “five seconds to un-ass the bus” and that he had used three of them telling us. For the first time in my life I was truly motivated. I was determined not to be the one who got the sergeant’s boot up his ass, as he had threatened. Fear can be a great motivator. After more pushups than I could physically do, and a temporary loss of hearing from being yelled at from close proximity, I had finally arrived at my new home. We were lined up alphabetically and broken into four groups, which I learned are called “Platoons”. We then grabbed our duffel bags and moved at what I also learned was called “double time” to our barracks. If you were not marching to your destination, you were at a double time (running). If there were more than two people in the group, you would get in a formation and one would take charge and march the others to the destination. I always thought two privates being marched by another private looked pretty funny. This was the norm for the next eight weeks. You’ll be surprised to learn that I did a lot of push-ups for getting caught walking.