My Military Bootcamp Experience 71D MOS Paralegal
I will only give you some of the memorable and significant realizations. I joined the US Army Reserves at the age of 19 years old in 1996. The biggest reasons I joined were to escape gang violence and learn to become more independent. The neighborhood where I grew up in Waukegan, IL, had many gang affiliations as I finished high school. I've witnessed gang initiations and almost died from other gang members' drive-by and store invasion. The police knew who was associated with gangs vs. not. I was not what they said "Down" with a gang. Mostly, there were not many choices of not getting exposed or knowing somebody who was a part of a member of gangs like Kings, Maniacs, party crew members, etc. I did not need to watch the Jerry Springer show to witness or see 12–14 years old young boys dying in front of churches, being chased to the Emergency Services while getting shot at, or being remotely familiar with gang members. I will write another entry about what this other life was for me and others.
Now that you know why I went to the military, I will share with you some things I didn't connect until later in my years and how much impact it left me today. The movie "Full Metal Jacket" became famous during my boot camp days. Specifically, the young men memorized and said every line in that movie!!! I was never a person who cared to remember a line and say it back to you. I only cared about the main points or lessons to share with others.
Things I still can't stop or am unaware of at times that I'm doing today:
(1) I may pivot to turn in any direction.
(2) I still eat fast! I need to slow down eating more.
(3) I can still recognize others in the various military services by how they walk, their body language, how they process information, their command-type personality, or want to have process and consistency.
(4) I am still physically competitive in any sports or physical activity I do. Not competitive enough to always be first, though. I compete with myself and want to see progress.
(5) I believe in contingency everywhere, whether people, resources, time, or expecting possible failures that may arise. I test, validate, test, and confirm many things. I plan from A-Z. I document a lot, I don't assume, and I over-communicate. That saying, "Verify then trust," is ingrained in my daily practice. I've been thrown under the bus so often, personally and professionally, that I usually require more validation and test concepts.
There are physical requirements in the military, height of 5'0 and ends at 6'8 for men and 4'10 to 6'8 for women. I am 5'1" and was the shortest in our platoon. I was also the flag bearer to set the pace and run around in formation carrying my M16, rucksack, and the American flag. I maxed my push-ups for PT (Physical Tests). I got "smoked" or disciplined because I laughed too much. Laughing, I think, was my "survival mechanism." I learned early on that society does not like girls or women crying a lot; we are negatively labeled as emotional and incompetent to handle high-risk scenarios if we cry too much. I'm sure men suffer the same unfortunate stigma in evil ways. I have one recollection of a drill sergeant for a different platoon who reminded me of Jim Carrey. Every time he passed by our platoon to pick on us and look us straight in the eye, I could not help but laugh!!!! So I pushed.
Some memorable moments and learned lessons below:
- Our platoon wore wrinkled uniforms and could not get them worn or buttoned up correctly. NOTE: There were no accessible iron boards until our training for our MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) Training Program.
- We could not figure out how to be a team when following physical training instructions, military basics, and marksmanship.
- Somebody always made a mess or could not follow directions to the point that we just accepted it.
There were some interesting epiphanies when I joined the US Army Reserves:
- I was left-eye dominant and needed to learn to shoot with my left side. They typically placed me on the left of the marching platoon. Since I was the flag bearer, I naturally was in front of the marching platoon, walking three (3) steps per one (1) step of the captain. I was running most of the time because I was short!
- My marksmanship was pretty good. I did the better long-range shooting, and I couldn't blink or close one of my eyes. I shot with both eyes open. We fired over a thousand bullets training in fox holes, night shooting exercises with masks, and simulated scenarios. We also needed to disassemble and clean our M16 efficiently. I had zero problems learning that! The sand getting in any weapon was a challenge for all. I can tell you that the first time we lined up at the shooting range, my first thought was, "Everyone should direct their guns at the range and nobody else!" I was terrified that many of us were first-time shooters here. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and our drill sergeants kept us safe and focused in our marksmanship training.
It was a great experience to be part of the training and stay in the US Army Reserves for six (6) years. I met many great people and am truly honored to be a part of this inspiring and resilient community. Thank you to those who have contributed to protecting our freedoms and those who continue to serve.