Part 3: Ground Week, Part 2

Ground Week, Part 2: In which I’m glad I’m not a Marine, not that it matters at this point, and we are judged unworthy

Every morning, at PT formation, Captain Greene asked if anyone would like to quit. He encouraged this, actually, and he and the black hats would weave through the assembled ranks, get right in our faces, and make their assessments:

“You want to quit, don’t you, leg?”

“No, Sergeant Airborne!”

“You look like a quitter to me. You won’t make it through today’s run.”

“No, Sergeant Airborne!”

“No, you won’t make it?”

“Yes, Sergeant Airborne!”

“Can’t make up your mind? Just want the Army needs. Another indecisive lieutenant. Drop and give twenty.”

If the black hats hated officers, they hated Marines even more. And our student company commander (the highest ranking officer in training) was a Marine captain. Officer + Marine = abuse. Those morning conversations went something like this:

“We got any Marines still here?”

(Scattered barking huahs from the ranks.)

“Who was the greatest Marine who ever lived?”

Chesty Puller, Sergeant Airborne!” (More barking huahs from the Marines in ranks.)

“Chesty Puller? Chesty Puller? Chesty Puller was a leg! All Marines, drop and give me twenty.”

Now, if you couldn’t keep a straight face through all this (and really, the Marines were pretty funny, so it was hard), something like this resulted:

“What? You think that’s funny, Lieutenant?”

(Only a black hat can draw out Lieutenant so it sounds like the f-word.)

“No, Sergeant Airborne!”

“Drop and give me twenty.”

Oh, and if you kept a straight face?

“What? You didn’t think that was funny, Lieutenant? Cuz I think I’m a pretty funny guy.”

(At this point, it’s recommended you not roll your eyes.)

“Yes, Sergeant Airborne!”

“Yes, it wasn’t funny?”

“No, Sergeant Airborne!”

“No, I’m not a funny guy? I’m crushed, Lieutenant. Drop and give me twenty.”

And so on. You can’t win. As for the actual training, we did that too. After PT in the sawdust pits, we assembled after breakfast for training. Ground week centers around:


The parachute landing fall. You start on the ground, learning to fall, then work your way up to jumping off of ledges of various heights. Strange as it seems, this is extremely important to learn. Military parachutes aren’t like civilian ones. You come down fast and hard and if you land wrong, you’ll break something. Feet and knees together, legs slightly bent is the most important thing.That very first formation after PT, Captain Greene took in our full measure. He told us we were by far the sorriest group of soldiers he’d ever had in Charlie Company. (Oh, sure, I bet he says that to all his training companies.) We were so undeserving, so pathetic, that he wouldn’t allow us to carry the Charlie Company guidon. He went inside the barracks and brought out a mop–one the enlisted soldiers had used that morning to scrub the floor.

That wet, gray, stinky mop was our guidon from then on out. It wasn’t a fake out. He didn’t switch it when we left to march to the training area. We marched through post with that mop in the lead. There it was, for those occasional battalion formations–guidon, guidon, mop, guidon, guidon, guidon.

Every morning Captain Greene assessed us. And every morning we were judged unworthy. The mop was here to stay.

To be continued …

Part 4: Ground Week, Part 3

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