The Baggage of Youth

First year, basic training in the CMTC was boot camp, no more, no less. My grandmother clipped and saved for me an Oregonian newspaper feature in which the writer called CMTC basic training “a deliberately harsh introduction to military life, designed to mortify and motivate trainees.” He claimed, “It fosters cohesion and discipline.” Probably what my mother had in mind:

As a 15-year-old surrounded by guys 16-20-years-old, I soon discovered that I was the Company runt. But I was a determined runt. And I muddled through. Trying to recall basic training now, it’s a jumbled blur of “physical hardening,” marching, barked orders, standing at attention, close order drill, the manual of arms, early a.m. bugle calls, squared-off bed-making, obstacle courses, advanced drill, parades, tactical formations, field hikes and time on the rifle range.

I think we spent several days of “snapping in” work, practicing the various shooting positions, none of them comfortable. Then came the actual firing practice. No Daisy BB guns. We manhandled the Army’s standard- issue Springfield rifle. I earned raw elbows and sore muscles on the firing range. In the end, I also earned a Marksmanship badge.

Basic ‘training ended that summer with an overnight bivouac far out in the boondocks, including a grueling ten- mile hike under full backpack and equipment.

By this time, several of the older guys were vying to see who was the toughest. I was vying to see if I could stay on my feet, as I trudged into camp at the finish.

It’s not that I knew I was going to make it. But I knew I wasn’t going to give up until I did.


Chapter Ten : The Adolescents

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