6th June, 2003
Fort Benning, Georgia
It is about three in the morning and we finally just got the chance to sleep after getting to Atlanta around eight and riding a bus for a little over an hour to Fort Benning. The flight from Chicago to Atlanta was the longest plane ride I have ever been on; both literally and figuratively. I sat next to that guy from the hotel, Duncan, and another kid whose name I never caught. Duncan wouldn't stop talking the entire flight; I guess that’s how he deals with being nervous. It got on my nerves though, since I had a lot of things swirling around my mind and his voice just added another.
Though that seems to be a long lost memory already, considering what has happened since the flight. Stepping off that bus at 30th AG was like a shock to the senses. At first, it seemed as though we were going to summer camp or on a fun field trip. The Corporal who met us at the Atlanta Airport seemed as easy going and considerate as the other NCOs that we all encountered at MEPS. He spoke with us briefly before leaving for Benning, and seemed to keep to himself the rest of the trip. Once we arrived, the Corporal and the calm and friendly bus driver stepped off the bus; neither said a word. We were left to wonder what to do next. It was a bus full of people not wanting to make the next move. Luckily, or unluckily, the next move was out of our hands.
Shit was more than likely already lost by a number of trainees at that point. And who was Mike? I had so many questions; but speaking was not going to be my strong point. We spent the next five minutes stumbling over ourselves in an attempt to get off that bus. Naturally, we didn't make it off in less than a mike, which I guess means about ten seconds, but once we did we were greeted by four more snarling mad Drill Sergeants. We got in formation just outside of the bus, after dumping all of our bags in one giant pile. I remember a lot of yelling but not any specific words. The next thing I remember is marching in a column towards the 30th AG reception building, which upon entering was similar to one you’d find in a school; or maybe a church, with its rows of padded benches and a podium in the front.
I didn't dare sneak peeks of anything else going on around me once I was seated. I simply looked straight ahead and stayed as ridged as I could. A different Drill Sergeant was now in front of us all once we had been seated on the benches. He was a tall, slim man with what looked like a 101st Airborne combat patch on his right arm. I remember, now in retrospect that is, that he was the one who welcomed us to 30th AG and then went over the specifics on what all we would be doing the rest of the night.
Mid-way through Drill Sergeant Screamin’ Eagles’ outline another Drill Sergeant interrupted with an outburst of holler that I remember had something to do with each and every one of us looking like hippies. He said that before we would ever be allowed to sleep, we had to get those previously mentioned tasks completed, and before that could happen we would have to be presentable. What that meant to him was the entire group making another dash out to our pile of personal belongings and retrieving razors and shaving cream. I was smart enough to get my hair cut rather short before leaving and making sure to shave that morning. I’m seventeen and barely have to shave as it is, but I wasn't going to make things any harder on myself like some of these other guys. One guy pretty much had a full grown beard. The next thing I know I am in a bathroom with about twenty other guys who were all attempting to use three sinks to shave as quickly as we could.
As expected, not everyone was able to completely shave and be back at their seats in as quick as the Drill Sergeant’s demanded. Some people tried, though. In the insanity, I remember quite a few guys coming out of the bathroom with blood pouring out of their faces. One guy was bleeding so bad from a self-inflicted shaving wound that he had to be taken away to get it stitched closed. Or at least, that is what they told us was going to happen to him. The way things are here, I’d be surprised if anyone ever lays eyes on that poor guy again.
Following the brutal shaving event, we were lectured more about the fact that we were no longer civilians and had no rights now. We were now trainees and our sole purpose in life was to listen to everything the Drill Sergeants said. Personally, at that point, I felt like I was no longer in control of anything in my life; which is basically the truth now. We spent the next few hours filing out even more paperwork, and sat in a line for about an hour just waiting to get our heads shaved. Finally, after all of that, they marched us to an open bay with a large breezeway that was outside of the main building. It had a few different levels that surrounded us on each side and to the end of the breezeway was what looked like a cafeteria, or mess hall as it would be called now. Along the far wall that we were facing was various paintings of Army Infantry Division patches, most of which I recognized and some I didn't.
The Drill Sergeant in charge of us explained that we would be lead to a barracks and would get to sleep for a few hours. He also gave us a rundown of what we would be doing the next day, to include getting our P-T uniforms issued and going to the PX to buy the items we would need. Everyone was pretty out of it by this point and just wanted a chance to rest. They took us in to a barracks on the second floor that overlooked the breezeway that was filled with rows upon rows of bunk beds with large dressers and foot lockers at the end of them. None of the beds had any sheets or blankets, and looked like they were made of plastic. The Drill Sergeant who took us up there told us to not get too comfortable before laughing like a madman and shutting the lights off. Everyone found an empty bunk and attempted to pass out. I figured that while the emotion of the event was still raw, I would write about it in my journal. I am probably going to regret not sleeping as much as I could be, but I guess that it is worth the risk. I wonder how my brother is doing after going through all of this.