Over-encumbered with gear, recruits were formed outside the reception building to standby for transport to to our basic training site. As the bus pulled up, I shimmied my way onto the bus with two duffle bags and a personal bag of gear. Again, taking an opportunity to rest, I slept on the 15 minute bus ride to our basic training site. The bus pulled in front of a training compound with four red buildings. As I gazed out the window I noticed the all too familiar Drill Sergeant hat, however this time time they had an apparent intensity that wasn’t there before.
“Get the *bleep* off my bus, Privates!”
Funneling 30 recruits off a bus full of gear is more congested than rush hour in Salt Lake. When I eventually pushed out the bus doors, I was greeted with a Drill Sergeant in my face for something I can’t recall. I reckon it was for my goofy demeanor. I stumbled with all my gear to formation, where we were immediately “smoked (disciplined)” for moving too much in formation, or not keeping our eyes fixed forward, or other “(expletive) ups”. Day 1 is all about discipline. Pushing out the civilian, and implementing the mentality of battle. As such, stress, language, exhaustion, and smoking were always in first gear.
Lucky for me, I was targeted by the Drill Sergeants, likely for being in front of our formation given my last name as well as being tall and lurpy. “Oh, look here Drill Sergeants, I found our company (explative)!” The first Drill Sergeant yelled in my ear. I was surrounded by all of them who preceded to tell me how ugly I was and how I would never pass basic training, or find love in life. “Yes, Drill Sergeant!”
An hour later, we gathered our belongings and made our way into the barracks where we’d reside for the next 10 weeks. We were issued our linen and assigned a bunk. We got dinner chow, again with intensity, then returned to our racks for the day. I recall sweating through my uniform on the first day as the humidity and smoking rendered me completely soaked.
Looking down at my hands, I saw cuts from all the pushups on the hot pavement. As I looked at my hands, I felt an initial wave of hopelessness “this is my life for the next 10 weeks”. However, something fascinating happens after experiencing adversity. I recall having a sense of resiliency where I thought to myself “wow, I just made it through the hardest day”. For someone who didn’t have a lot of accomplishments in life (I wasn’t the most ambitious adolescent), this was an empowering experience. As a person who practices mental imagery, I tend to draw on difficult experiences as a reminder of our innate resiliency.
Later that night we were briefed by our platoon Drill Sergeants: SFC Hayes, SSG Gloviak, and SSG Sempek. I later greeted my ruck with gratitude and immediately fell asleep. The following morning, recruits begin the first of three phases: Red, White, and, (surprise) Blue.