The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

11 March 2005

Just one of the troops

This was the assignment:

Write about a specific event that precipitated a dramatic change in your perspective on life. This could be a childhood event, an illness, an accident, or even something someone said that really touched you or made you think.

That word "dramatic" put me off, since it suggests really substantive changes, and, well, I haven't had really substantive changes. I've been through a lot in my time, but I'm still basically the same person I was when I was born, except for not weighing seven pounds, six ounces anymore.

But I will cite one incident from May 1972, when I was taking the Army's Basic Combat Training, and doing generally well at everything that didn't require tremendous physical strength, something I'd never actually had. Still, I was making progress even at that, until an object on an obstacle course lived up to its name and smacked me to the ground, my ankle purple and twisted and swollen seemingly to the size of a watermelon.

So I got about on crutches for a couple of weeks, didn't mishandle any weapons or anything like that, but the dreaded PT test was coming up, and I figured I had to knock out a seven-minute mile with this bad leg or be recycled into another group and have to go through most of the same horrible things again for an extra six weeks. Since my best time before the injury was 8:07, I was not optimistic.

The test has changed much since then, but when I was there, there were five events, each of which were scored from 0 to 100 points, and 300 points, in whatever sequence, were required to pass. That day the mile run was last, and your friendly neighborhood gimp was faced with having to turn in a 6:53 time. I would have cried if it wouldn't have looked so pathetic.

Then out came the battalion commander, in fatigues like the rest of us but still looking as sharp as his silver oak leaf in the Missouri sun, and he said to me, "You can do this. Come on." And he took off around the oval to pace me through those 440 yards of hell four times over.

"Yes, sir." I was so absolutely flabbergasted that I forgot to notice how much pain I was supposed to be in.

And then, suddenly, it was over — in five minutes, fifty-six seconds. I had 311 points. I had passed.

The rumor went around that our company was on track to be the first in several years to have completed the cycle with no failures other than disciplinary. I don't know if this was true, but I do know that I don't remember anyone from that company who did get sent back for another six weeks. It would certainly provide some motivation for the battalion commander. But I don't really care what was going through the Colonel's head right that instant. What mattered was that he considered getting my unworthy butt through the system an important part of his mission, and that's what he did.

If ever you ask me "So how did you get such a high opinion of the military?" this is your answer.

(Submitted to Wizbang's Carnival of the Trackbacks.)

Posted at 7:10 PM to General Disinterest

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Charles tells why he has such a high opinion of the military. I think he's perfectly justified.

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Tracked: March 12, 2005 07:32 AM

Hot dang. I'd be real interested to know where that man is now. I expect he must have gone far. Certainly more than that mile with you... ;-)

Posted by: McGehee at 7:29 AM on 12 March 2005