FAT, STUPID KID: Basic training woes, part two (column)

David Sparks

David Sparks

After the debacle of my first meeting with a drill instructor, I tried my very best to behave. It just was not meant to be. 

Our first day of training consisted of physical fitness evaluations. Oh boy, how well I enjoyed this. I had actually been “training” myself and could perform 10 push-ups. The drill instructor was not impressed. 

He was even less impressed by the fact that I could not perform even one sit-up! No matter how loud he yelled, I could not bend my big belly for just one! Boy, did I try though, I was entirely red by the time he told me just to get up and leave. 

Next came the mile-and-a-half run. Run, no way, I jogged some and walked a lot.

To say I did not perform well on my physical fitness test is putting it mildly. The drill instructor told everyone after watching me “run” I would have done a better job laying down and rolling for the distance. Man, he was rude! 

However, the Army had a great plan to get me in shape. I ran everywhere, did push-ups for any mild infraction and sit-ups before any meal.

By the time of the re-test several weeks later, I passed easily. 

The rest of basic should be no problem, right? No. 

First, there was a small issue on the weapons range. During the M203 grenade launcher training, I performed quite excellently. I was the only recruit to actually hit the target dead center. My head swelled with pride as the instructor praised me.

Then came the M72 rocket launcher. I stood in line for my turn to shoot this bazooka-like weapon. You had to stand on top of a 30-foot dirt berm (think dirt hill) and shoot a rocket from a shoulder mounted tube. 

I watched a real tiny fellow before me, and he shot it just fine. So, here I come with my big head and all. I did everything exactly as I was supposed to, leaving out only one small seemingly insignificant detail. 

When I depressed the trigger, I realized my mistake on my own. I had forgotten to firmly press the stock of the weapon into my shoulder. The kick of that rocket knocked me completely off of my feet, and I rolled all the way to the bottom of the hill. 

I watched from the bottom as my rocket went up in lazy circles in the air. The smoke trail looked quite lovely. My instructor was not impressed to put it mildly. I can’t repeat what he said, but it was bad.

Then came the grenade range. 

The instructor gave a thorough class on throwing a grenade that confused me. He said not to throw the grenade with your arm. Instead, use your shoulder. Now I did not want to seem dumb, but I threw with my arm and shoulder, what is the difference. 

When my turn came, I got into the pit. A grenade pit is just a sand pile with a brick wall in front of it. You put one hand on the wall, pulled the pin, then leaned back and threw the grenade over the wall. That is what should happen … but.

Stay tuned for part three. 

David Sparks is a contributing columnist for The Daily Home.