The date is January 3rd, 2010 and I am on a bus headed for basic training, a four-month long process. I have a million thoughts rolling through my head. I have no idea what to expect. All I know is that I’m not in Texas anymore. I look out my window and see snow everywhere and soldiers walking in formation. The bus starts to take off toward the barracks, which I will call home for the next few months. Out of nowhere, three drill sergeants stand up and start talking to us about what we’re going to be doing.
Everyone always thinks drill sergeants are just people who are paid to yell and scream at new soldiers to prepare them for war, but as my drill sergeants were talking to me, they seemed very nice and relaxed. Then it all changed for the worse. They started yelling up and down the aisle way for what seemed to be a lifetime. I look up at one of the drill sergeants coming my way. “What are you looking at private? ” The drill sergeant shouts. “Nothing, drill sergeant” I reply. I then get told to get in the front leaning rest position. This in army terms, is the pushup. This is where I learn my first lesson.
One of the most essential attributes I learn at basic training is self-discipline. The first time I learn about self-discipline is during my first phase. Basic training is separated into three phases, each phase lasting three weeks. The first phase, called red phase, means the drill sergeants are in total control of me. They are constantly yelling at me even for the slightest mistakes I make. The purpose of this is to teach soldiers to pay attention to detail and teach us self-discipline. There is a significant difference between the daily life of a civilian and a soldier at basic training.
Everywhere you go at basic training there are rules. As an example, always marching to places in formation, or standing at parade rest when talking to a non-commissioned officer. Another place that has several regulations is at the chow hall, or cafeteria. On my very first day eating in the chow hall, I learn quickly what these rules are. I start walking inside the building in a single file line, trying not to be noticed by the drill sergeants. When I get up to the counter, food is put on my tray. There is a drill sergeant behind me watching every step I take, waiting for me to mess up.
As I get my tray back I start walking away. “Hey private, give me 40 pushups for not side-stepping all the way to the end! ” So I drop down and start my pushups. I pick my tray back up and go to my seat to start eating. About a minute into my meal a drill sergeant comes up to my face and yells, “you have 30 seconds to finish your plate, and then get up! ” “What did I do wrong”, I thought to myself. As I get up and leave, a soldier next to me whispers, “You’re supposed to keep your head down and feet together while you eat. Looking back on my first day eating in the chow hall, I realized how this helped me become more self-disciplined. Certain rules that I had during this “red phase” taught me how to do what was asked of me. Another instance I learn about self-discipline is when I get punished for not following protocol. One night, almost three weeks into basic training, the drill sergeant is walking down the hallway. He starts blowing his air horn, yelling, “toe the line! ” I immediately jump out of my bunk and run into the hallway with all the other soldiers.
I line up shoulder to shoulder with the others. The drill sergeant then says, “Hold out your canteens. ” I instantly start to panic. Our canteens are supposed to be full at all times, but mine was half empty. As he came to me, he grabbed my canteen from my hand. He shook it once and just dropped it to the floor. “I know I am in trouble now” I thought to myself. As the drill sergeant finished checking everyone’s canteen he says, “Everyone who is still holding their canteen will get to go on pass tomorrow. ” I just wanted to drop to the floor like my canteen.
I just lost my first chance to finally talk to my family since I left a month ago. Looking back at the night, I realize how that taught me self-discipline; I should always be prepared for what is asked of me. By the end of basic training I am able to show self-discipline by preparing myself for “family day. ” On the very last day of basic training, they have “family day” It is where my family comes and I get to spend time with them. In order to get this privilege, I need to have my M-4 inspected. I haven’t seen my parents in over two months, so I’m going to do anything to see them.
It is 16:00 hours and we just get back to the barracks from training all day. I instantly pull out all my cleaning supplies: brushes, rags, q-tips, shaving cream, baby wipes. I start cleaning for hours. I take my whole weapon apart, cleaning every square inch of it. It is now 2:00 hours and everyone in the barracks is asleep, except me. I continue cleaning it until I know it is perfect. After cleaning my weapon for around 11 hours, I finally go to sleep at 4:00 hours. I wake up the next morning and turn my M-4 in to the first sergeant. Anxiously waiting, he tells me I passed.
I am overwhelmed with excitement. I finally am able to spend time with my family. This occasion showed me that I have learned self-discipline. Basic training taught me a plethora of lessons and values. It was highly intense and challenging, so accomplishing it was very self-gratifying. The lesson that has affected my life the most though was becoming more self-disciplined. Those nine weeks have changed my life for the better. I hope to use several of these life lessons throughout the rest of my career in the army and in the civilian world.