Many people ask about my experiences in boot camp (or ), and I usually respond with, “you have an hour?” Sure, I have plenty of stories that will make you laugh, and even more that will make you shake your head as you walk away before the tale has ended. Boot camp – at least for grunts like me – was that part of your military stint that you took so seriously when it was happening, but as soon as you experienced something even more miserable while in your unit and on deployment, you laughed at yourself for ever having done so. It’s nothing to take lightly, don’t get me wrong; it’s just that you realize it was merely a stepping stone to something much more serious.
The best way to describe boot camp is with the word “game.” At first, this makes it sound a little too enjoyable, and you might be picturing a bunch of Marines lying around in cammies playing Monopoly. But after more thought, reduced down past all of the rules, drill, running, shouting, screaming, crying, and hazing, it really is just a giant, stupid game; a game played between your drill instructors and your young, virgin mind. I chose the word virgin because trust me, if you’ve never been through it, your mind has never experienced anything remotely close to it.
Now, if I haven’t left your interest back in a ditch somewhere, I would like to propose something that will hopefully peak it. Once a month, I want to feature a new “horror story” from boot camp written by any of you who have been there. I’m going to call this feature, “Horror Stories of the Game.” These stories are meant to make everyone laugh, hang their mouth open in shock, or maybe even throw up (I’m kidding about that last part, hopefully). I want to get veterans laughing and I want to give the non-veteran readers a taste of “the Game.”
Any branch, any era, I want your favorite stories. They don’t even have to be funny, just some experience you had that made an impact on your memory. Every now and then, I’ll throw in one of mine (especially if there aren’t any submissions), but I would like to get veterans from all over the WIU community involved. Worried about your writing abilities? Don’t be. Jot it down, send it to me, I’ll clean up the format and grammar without changing your story, and I’ll get it on the column for that week. I’ll start off with one of mine just to make everyone feel a little more comfortable (or uncomfortable):
I had this rack mate for the first couple weeks of boot camp. He probably smelled worse than anyone I had ever met in my life, up to that point, anyway. Between his breath and his body odor, this guy had a stench that made me want to go home and give up my lifelong dream of becoming a United States Marine, okay? It was bad.
So one day we were doing this thing called field day – you may have heard the term in pop culture somewhere. Basically you just turn into a janitor . . . an extremely obsessive-compulsive janitor who gets screamed at if you miss a particle of dust and then has to re-clean the entire space.
In boot camp we lived in squad bays full of racks (shoddy metal bunk beds with three-inch mattresses) and foot lockers, so during field day all of these racks and foot lockers had to be moved to one side so that the floor could be scrubbed, then all moved to the opposite side so that section of floor could get the same treatment.
Well, it was our first field day, and the drill instructors were really pouring it on, yelling and running around and getting all of us worked up. So as everyone is running around moving racks and my rack mate and I are helping each other move our footlockers, I get a whiff of something fecal. I immediately assume that my rack mate has ripped a nasty one, and carry on with what I’m doing.
But then the smell gets worse. And then guys around me start to smell it. And right when I look down to keep moving, I see it there on the floor: a bright, shining, farm fresh turd.
And then I see another.
And then another.
Before I know it, there are four other recruits standing around this mine field holding their noses and yelling expletives. This draws the attention of one of the DIs, and he marches over to figure out why his little janitors have stopped janitoring. He follows all of our gazes and yells a few f-bombs of his own.
Then, like any good DI would, he decides not to let this chance to escalate the game go to waste.
“Who just s*** themselves? Whose s*** is that?!” he asks angrily. To my surprise (except not really), my rack mate raises his hand. It all becomes clear to me then. He had never found a good chance to go take a nice, quiet dump (because you never do have time) in the room full of stall-less toilets, and then when his sphincter was no longer capable of clinching, he had let it all loose . . . on the day he had decided to forego underwear. Frankly, I’m still not sure what he was thinking.
“It’s mine, sir,” he says timidly.
“What?! Open your f***ing mouth!” the DI responds; but not because he can’t hear – because that’s what DI’s do when you don’t scream at the top of your lungs.
“It’s mine, sir!” my rack mate shouts back as loud as he can in spite of the embarrassed crack in his voice.
“Well, clean it up,” the DI says in a strikingly calm voice, as if it was obvious. My rack mate hesitates, understandably confused about how to clean up turds without a pooper-scooper or plastic bag. DIs hate it when you hesitate.
“Clean it the f*** up!” he screams.
“How sir?!” my rack mate yells back.
“Put it in your pocket,” the DI replies. This time my poor rack mate finally grasps the number one rule of the game, and he jumps into action without pausing, grabbing his little treasures and shoving them into his pockets like they’re made of chocolate and had just fallen out of a piñata.
“You’re a nasty f***er,” the DI laughs, shaking his head as he walks away.
And then we carry on with the field day as if nothing happened.
Just another day in the game.