Sunday, February 19, 2017

Welcome to the army, kid

It was an anniversary I had completely forgotten.
It was 32 years ago I nearly froze my, um, er, ears off.
It all started when I joined an army reserve unit. I had officially been sworn in on Wednesday and the entire unit was scheduled to leave for a winter training exercise on Friday.
Not a lot of time to get a grip on the nuances of military life, but I had a feeling I was about to get a crash course.
We all had to be at the armoury no later than 2000 o'clock - that's 8 p.m. for all non-military persons.
I arrived shortly before 8 p.m. with all the gear I had been issued: nothing.
I then had to scramble around and try and get at least the winter kit I needed to survive two days in the frozen tundra of B.C. in January.
The sergeant in charge of supplies leapt into action and told me to wait and he would get to me, which he did after talking to his girlfriend on the phone for a half hour and then chatting with people he knew in the unit for another half hour.
Eventually he got around to doing his job which was to supply the new recruit with all sorts of neat army stuff, which he did – sort of.
I was presented with winter pants that were two sizes too small, winter boots that had no inner linings, two left-handed winter mitts; a toque that was so dirty not even a hobo would wear it and a jacket that, amazingly, actually fit.
And because it was a winter exercise, I was issued snowshoes – that did not have any bindings to hold them to my feet, but that is an entirely different story.
Once I got all my kit sorted out, it was time to get some sleep. But with more than 120 people all 'sleeping' in a large gymnasium type room, there was not a lot of sleep to be had.
Things settled down at around 2 a.m. and boy was I happy to hear reveille at 5 a.m.
And by reveille, I mean someone yelling 'Get the hell up' at the top of their lungs.
But I did get a whole three hours sleep, so I was ready to go.
I did not realize it yet, but the army was convinced soldiers did their best work when everyone was so tired they could barely muster a bean fart.
As we lined up to get our weapons, I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes. That's when I heard a voice, a very deep voice, a voice that I would soon learn struck fear in all who heard it.
The voice said: Are you holding up that wall, private?
To which my groggy brain replied: Yup.
There was an audible gasp and I opened my eyes to see one of largest humans I had ever seen. He stood 6'8” and weighed more than 300 pounds and was not impressed with the skinny recruit standing in front of him.
I thought he was going to grab me by the head and screw me into the ground, but because I was a new guy he cut me a little slack and I learned to always know who I was addressing before I addressed them.
With wide-eyed people looking at me from all angles, amazed he did not grab me by the head and screw me into the ground, we collected the last of our gear and were ready to go play war.
We rushed to stuff our gear into ancient backpacks that I am sure were used by Genghis Khan and his troops. Officers yelled “Hurry up, move it, let's go, let's go, let's go.”
Which we did. We packed as fast as we could and then all lined up ready to pile into troop trucks – which arrived almost an hour later.
Welcome to the army, kid.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

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