You can expect boot camp to be somewhat challenging, and to what extent depends on your personality, stress threshold, physical and mental fortitude, and a slew of other things that are hard as hell to accurately measure. No boot camp experiences are the same, at the individual level. But over time, there are trends you can pick up on based on the experiences of the masses.
One of the more interesting and somewhat preventable trends to observe is the tendency of recruits and trainees to make the basic training period unnecessarily difficult. In spite of the different training practices between branches, the different degrees of intensity, and the differences in drill instructors, there are universal tendencies adopted by recruits that make life harder for both himself and those around him.
If you’re interested in being that guy, simply do the following, starting from the time you get to boot camp, to the time you leave. This will guarantee that you and the people you’re working most closely with get your asses kicked as often as possible. If you don’t want to be, just do what you’re supposed to do and contribute as well as you can.When you ship out, you’re likely to run into at least one of each of these people. Keep it in mind, and you’ll be able to spot them immediately.
1) Be a volunteer DI (i.e. be a tyrant)
Or basically, mirror the behavior of your drill instructor. Doing this will make sure you’re the splinter in whatever unity your group achieves. As if the DIs weren’t capable of doing their jobs, you can go the extra mile and make sure that what they’ve failed to do gets done.
In reality, you’re painting a target on your back. In fact, you’re painting two targets on your back: one will be for the drill instructors, because you’re acting out. You’re asserting yourself and your opinion as being the one to acknowledge over theirs. They do not like this, by the way.
The second target is for the recruits who have to pay for your ego trip. They are the guys who will have to do pushups for your screw ups and incidentally, the ones who will throw you under the bus because you have no idea how to be a team player. The name of the game in basic training is teamwork. If you assume the role of the drill instructor’s mini-me, then you’re doing it wrong.
2) Be Gomer Pyle.
Every division in history has had one of these. If it is or was you when you went through, then you’re most likely now a better man or woman than you were before, and quite feasibly better than me. I’m not sure I could handle that role.
This persona also earns you a target during BMT (basic military training), and a large one at that. It’s most frequently reserved for the first person who blatantly, though unintentionally, screws up the easy stuff. Be this guy, and the DI will call you out, have you stand where everyone can see, and make an example out of you. Theoretically, which is to say “officially”, the military has eliminated this type of treatment in favor of training practices that better align with current pop psychology.
In fact, your recruiter may tell you, reassuringly, that this is a thing of the past, and DIs neither “make examples” of recruits or curse at them anymore.
LIES. LIES. LIES.
Not so long ago, my RDCs reenacted a scene right out of Full Metal Jacket. During this session, my division’s seaman recruit Pyle stood on a chair, being forced to eat doughnuts, while 4 more RDCs were called in to oversee a beat down session. This was called an “ice cream social”, and lasted the better part of 90 minutes where we IT’d while one guy stuffed his face. We weren’t happy about this.
The trick is to let someone else be that guy.
3) Be a Shit Bag
This is the apathetic, know-it-all version of the first guy. Sure, you graduated college, your daddy is a Senator, you’ve got a trust fund and make more outside the military than inside of it, you drive a Cadillac. Expect everyone else to do everything while you sit back and criticize. You’re a big picture person, after all, and if you felt like it, you could do it better.
No one cares.
You may not be targeted by the drill instructors (because you’re not doing anything that garners their attention), but you’re sure to annoy and slow down the progress of the group. By providing copious non-constructive input and sarcastic wit, you hinder, slow, and distract your colleagues who are working to contribute to the division’s success.
If this role tempts you, but want to avoid it, force yourself to overcome your petty insecurities figure out a way to contribute positively. No one needs destructive criticism, as there’s enough coming from the guys who are being paid to dish it out. The difference, of course, between theirs and yours, is theirs is to achieve a sense of uniformity and purpose in pushing other recruits. If you assume this role, you’re just demonstrating a fear of failure by tearing others down. Solution: keep your mouth shut unless it’s helpful.
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