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I was a mere twelve years old when I was sent to boot camp in Fort Lewis, Washington. When the grey camouflage bus came and picked me up, I honestly thought that I was going to have fun when I first arrived. It was a forlorn thought, I know, but I was young and naïve so I could not be blamed.
I arrived at camp. It was a hot day in the end of the May and we stood at the gate for about an hour. When some people started to sit down they came out. A tall man in an old Army uniform and his entourage burst the gate open. Before we knew it they had rushed us through the gate with screams and yells and a few blows to our head. They had been watching us on the other side to see who would sit and “get lazy” first. That is when it started.
First thing was the Parade Ground. A few Drill Sergeants came out of the barracks to our right and were yelling also. It began with them hording us into the showers. We were allowed to where swimming suits as we washed.
Then they took us to ‘The Barber Shop’ where they shaved us almost baled. We still had what they called “bushes” on our head. The girls were allowed to keep more of their hair. It was embarrassing at first, but we got used to it.
We had to eat after that. They showed us the mess hall and our “K.P.” duties. As one can probably guess it was as they call it, slop. It was an almost porridge like food and it wasn’t too bad. Until they told us what it was of course. It was made of ground chicken, beef and every other god-forsaken meat you could think of and then for a little flavor, it was smothered in brown gravy.
We were told to go to bed after eating. We knew after that it was going to be a long two and a half months.
We woke with shouts and hollers and people flipping beds over. To tell the truth one of the worst feelings that I can ever remember is lying on a perfectly good cot and suddenly kissing the floor with my whole body.
We ate soon after that with a form of non-edible, edible oat-meal. Most of the others had never eaten oat-meal so it was quite funny watching people churn it in their bowl with not understanding that they were supposed to eat it. To tell you the truth it looked pretty much like concrete.
When we were done we exited the mess-hall and found ourselves in a wide open field. It was time for what the officers called “your morning dose of hell”. It was a horrible time to be alive. They made us do physical education every day at 3:30 in the morning. It wasn’t that bad of work but they made you do it for about four times a day.
It consisted of pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, jumping, crawling and then a mile run to the weapon’s ranges.
We were allowed to learn how to fire assault rifles, bayonet and knife combat, and field-stripping our weapons. It was kind of scary watching people that have never fired a rifle or who didn’t know how to wield a knife and they’re shooting and stabbing with me in the vicinity.
I already knew how to fight and shoot because I have a militaristic dad who was really into it.
After that we did close-combat training such as boxing, karate and reselling. I remember going hand to hand combat with a girl named Bret. It went from training to an all out brawl with me getting a black eye and two fractured ribs, and her getting a broken knee and three broken fingers.
We had to run back the other way when we were finished to attend officer’s training. It was a leadership class where we trained in squad independence, mapping, multi-languages and conducting orders. It was an interesting class to say the least.
Then we went back to camp and it was R&R time. R&R means rest and relaxation time. We were allowed to read, write home and pretty much hang out. If you haven’t figured it out yet it wasn’t very restful. Many people fought in the close confined space and there was little light unless you went outside.
There were many fights over the time that I was there. They were quick to stop fights though and there was no such thing as “he started it” or “it’s his fault”. They just didn’t care. They would punish both of you. With anything from yelling to chores, but the worst was latrine duty.
After that it started all over again. It became kind of a routine.
What the heck, this does have to do with changing my life it really did, it may seem like they ruined our lives, but it made us stronger in life. It showed some people that they could achieve things that seemed out of their reach.
The point of going to this place is to get better than you were before you came and I think I achieved that. It was hard work to get where I am today. I may not like where I am now and what I’m doing but if I have to go to this place to move forward than I might as well do it?
It made us almost change entirely. We had to fight and learn in a scenario, sure, but it let us learn in life like how to work together and to help, because as one of the drill sergeants said and I quote. “A tower cannot stand without the pillars to hold it up”.