When I was in basic training, we had all kinds of characters in our company. Enough characters, in fact, that I might get a half dozen blog posts or more from telling their story. Today, we’re going to start with the most notorious character we had. As usual, I don’t use names, so we’ll just call him “Private Adam.”
Private Adam was one of those recruits who had changed his mind about joining probably the minute he boarded the bus. He just didn’t want to be there. It wasn’t because he wasn’t in shape…he was in as good of shape as any two of us put together. It also wasn’t because he couldn’t take it mentally…he was brilliant. No, it was just a simple fact of not wanting to be there.
Private Adam began his assault on the very first day. He was mouthy, disobedient, and cocky. He gave very little respect to the drill sergeants and was constantly called out on it. He probably did more push-ups in a day then most of us did in a week, but he always did them. He always accepted every punishment and did his best to make it look easy, which of course, infuriated the drill sergeants. Private Adam’s goal was to get kicked out so, of course, every drill sergeant made it a point to not let him get kicked out.
Private Adam’s bunk was across from mine so I got to know him during the time we were there together. He had a little enterprise going where he made money off of some of the others by shining boots, polishing brass, and selling candy he obtained during late-night excursions to the commissary or PX. He got away with this for nearly a month before he was caught. He used to hide his stuff in a loose ceiling panel and it made all of us nervous. The way it worked in basic training, one recruit screws up, we all pay. It would be pretty hard to deny knowing about the ceiling panel. He was finally ratted out by his bunkmate and true to form, we all paid with both push-ups and extra duty cleaning the latrine.
That same night, he didn’t return to our room right away. He had been gone an hour when a drill sergeant came in and had two of us, me being one, follow him. In the hallway in front of the drill sergeant’s office was Private Adam. He was in the dying cockroach position and was sound asleep. For those of you who don’t know, the dying cockroach was where you laid on your back with your arms and legs up in the air…doable at first, but exceedingly difficult after about five minutes. Private Adam had been in the position for a half-hour and, well, he fell asleep. The other recruit and I were to help him up and assist him back to our room because he was unable to move his limbs freely after all that time.
Still, after all the belligerence, they wouldn’t let him leave. They just kept punishing him and he just kept taking it. The whole situation was puzzling to the rest of us because he was the most fit recruit amongst us. He could disassemble then reassemble his weapon faster than the rest of us, he actually took time to help and explain things to the slower recruits we had, and he was an all-around good person to almost everybody. He just wanted to go home. The next day, he finally got his wish…
We were all woken by our alarm clock…if you can call a drill sergeant banging on a metal garbage can an alarm clock…at about 4:55 am. Formation was at 5:00 am so we had to hurry. For one of the few times ever, we all made it out…except Private Adam. He was nowhere to be seen. As we stood in formation, we could see all the drill sergeants on the landing, accompanied by our First Sergeant and Commander. It was obvious we were going to have an inspection because normally it was just the drill sergeants. At exactly 5:00 am, Private Adam came out of the building, but stopped at the landing. Standing in front of the cadre assembled, he suddenly stood at attention.
PRIVATE ADAM: COMPANY! (We were confused, but responded).
PLATOON LEADERS (in unison): PLATOON!
PRIVATE ADAM: ATTENTION! (We all snapped to attention).
Up until this point, nobody on the landing responded. They all just stood up there with their jaws hanging. The Commander and First Sergeant looked a little confused as if they hadn’t been told something, and the drill sergeants looked frazzled and shocked. Nobody moved.
PRIVATE ADAM: FRONT LEANING REST POSITION!
Before we could drop to the ground, somebody yelled, “Belay that order!” and all the cadre began to move at once. Private Adam was escorted back into the building while we all stood at attention outside. They left us out there for about five minutes before a drill sergeant came out and dismissed us for breakfast. No inspection that day thanks to Private Adam.
None of us saw Private Adam leave, but apparently, he finally got his wish. When we got back to our room, his bunk was bare and his things were cleared out. To this day, I still think of him as the best soldier who never was.