Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others. -Robert Louis Stevenson
Basic training is just that, basic training. At the time of my enlistment the Army had an 8-week training plan designed to take young men and women from the streets of the hood, or the fields of the farm, whichever the case may have been, and transform them into lean, mean, fighting machines. Hooah. I hadn’t heard a peep from my recruiter, Sergeant Michaud since the fateful day I singed the six year contract to be all I could be when on the eve of my shipping out he called. You ready to go tomorrow Jo?
I’m ready. Do you think I should get a haircut before I leave? I had pretty long hair at the time; I was a product of the70s after all. This may explain why I find That 70s Show somewhat funny today.
Nah, don’t worry about it, you’ll be good. I’ll be by to pick you up at eight.
Apparently there was some sort of rule requiring recruiters to drive their enlistees to the MEPS on the day of shipping out because I was not allowed to have my parents drive me though they would be permitted to meet me there and see me off properly.
At the MEPS, I along with 3 others took the oath of enlistment again before receiving a quick briefing on the dos and don’ts of traveling to basic training. We were recruits and expected to behave in the manner of such during our travels from Portland, Maine to Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Rodgers! You’re the senior man. That puts you in charge of this squad. You’re to hand carry these documents. Don’t lose them and don’t lose these plane tickets. Upon arrival to Newark airport make sure everyone in your squad retrieves their luggage and lead them to the military liason office located near the Greyhound desk where you will receive instructions and bus tickets to take you to Fort Dix. What are your questions?
So I found myself in charge. My folks followed us to the airport where we exchanged goodbyes. My mom cried. Turning to my rag tag squad I gave my first order. Let’s go wait in the waiting area.
I was nervous. I knew fear. Fearful of what lay ahead. My recruiter had downplayed basic training whenever I asked what to expect and now I found myself responsible for getting myself and 3 other kids to Fort Dix all the while behaving in the manner expected of Army recruits.
The attractive Delta Airlines gate keeper made the announcement that our flight had been delayed. My squad decided it would be a good idea to get some lunch. And some beer. We marched to the airport bar and got some lunch using the vouchers they had given us at the MEPS. The beer we had to pay cash for.
A large amount of cash changed hands while we waited at the bar. Are you the Rodgers party? They just announced last boarding call for your flight to New Jersey.
Shit. Let’s go guys!
I knew fear. Fearful that I had fucked everything up the first time I was put in charge. We drunkenly dashed through the airport making it to the gate just in time to board. The attractive Delta Airlines gate keeper chuckled as she took our boarding passes wishing us luck as we entered the long hallway to our plane. Good luck boys.