Here we go with another basic training story. One of the most common comparisons with veterans relating their basic training stories is that one recruit who refuses to bathe. It seems like every basic training class has that one person who makes the rest look bad and gets punished internally, rather than by the drill sergeants. By internally, I mean a blanket party or shower party. These are humiliating and sometimes painful for the victim and back then, the drill sergeants would look away as the internal punishment was administered. I still have mixed feelings about this form of discipline.
Anyway, we had one of those guys. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but his attitude made it worse. He was a creepy kind of guy that you would expect to see as a villain on Scooby Doo or something. He had hook-like hands, creepy grin, and what looked like green splotches behind his ears that we guessed were there because he wouldn’t shower. As far as I knew, he never washed his clothes during the time we were together. Needless to say, he stunk. He was also the guy that caused us to do a lot of push-ups. It wasn’t so bad for him, he could only do a dozen or so, but the rest of us had to do whatever we were told to do which would usually double because he couldn’t do his. He was an easy guy to dislike and the drill sergeants took advantage of this.
About six weeks into basic training, a few of the guys had had enough. It had been slyly mentioned to one of them how a blanket party works by one of the drill sergeants. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of about a dozen recruits walking towards the nasty smelling recruits bunk. Two of them had a blanket and the rest were carrying socks with something solid in each of them. It was supposed to be bars of soap, but I’m sure I heard the clanging of metal in at least one sock. It sounded like pocket change.
They quietly surrounded his bunk before the two with the blanket quickly threw it on him and wrapped him up while he struggled. They pulled him off the bunk and carried him into the showers. That’s where the beating began. They turned on the showers and all began swinging the socks and hitting him pretty hard all over. He was screaming in pain. I was still in my bunk, but the decency in me wouldn’t allow me to remain there. It felt to me like they were over-doing it and getting a little too much enjoyment out of it. I got up and walked to the showers.
I looked down the hall where the drill sergeant on duty was supposed to be and for some reason, he was missing. I figured they were in on it. Now before we decide I’m some sort of hero or savior for this guy, I want to mention that I disliked him just as much as everybody else. The difference was, I don’t enjoy seeing anybody or anything in pain. That’s why I had such mixed feelings about what was going on.
I made it to the showers and saw the dozen or so recruits just whaling on the guy. He was still wrapped in the blanket on the floor and it was obviously soaked and there were suds from most of the socks that had been hitting him. He was no longer screaming and I feared the worst.
ME: I think he’s had enough.
A RECRUIT: I don’t think so… (He lifted his sock into the air, but I grabbed his arm).
ME: Enough. (I said this calmly and without a forceful voice…I didn’t want trouble if I could help it).
ANOTHER RECRUIT: Yeah, enough. I think he’s passed out.
The dozen guys filtered out of the showers and I was left with the guy. One other recruit came in that had not been a part of the blanket party and we removed the blanket. He wasn’t passed out. He was just laying there crying. We helped him up and he shook us off before walking to his bunk. The soap hadn’t helped, his stench followed him like a cloud as he walked.
The next morning he put on the grubby uniform again and skipped a shower…again. He didn’t even bother to brush his teeth. We all made it to formation and because of his condition, we all ended up doing push-ups again. I was afraid things were going to get worse that evening so I tried to talk to him.
ME: Hey, you know why those guys did that to you, right?
HIM: They all suck…
ME: If you would just take a shower they’d leave…
HIM: I DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING YOU GUYS WANT ME TO DO!
ME: Okay, um, they’re probably going to do it again then.
HIM: NO THEY WON’T BECAUSE I’M TELLING!
ME: Um, who do you think put them up to it?
Silence. True to his word, he continued to not shower. He received another blanket party over the weekend. I stayed away this time. I still feel some sort of guilt over that, but if he wasn’t going to help himself, what could I do? I guess I could’ve stuck to my principles and tried to help again, but basic training has a way of brain-washing you at the time. Your mind is slowly transformed into what the army wants you to be, and at that point of the military, you kind of become that person.