As a teenager I had decided that I wanted to pursue a college degree after I graduated high school, but I knew that my parents could not afford to pay for it. Therefore, I ended up joining the Pennsylvania Army National Guard at the age of seventeen to help pay for my college tuition. Previously, I had only worked at an Italian restaurant located in Indiana, Pennsylvania as a dishwasher, which at the time I considered my worst job. If I had only known what basic training was going to involve, I would have preferred to wash and scrub my way through college. Soon after reporting to my basic training location in Fort Benning, Georgia, reality set in and I realized that this particular job would end up ranking number one on my list of worst jobs. The verbal abuse from the drill sergeants at basic training made it the most horrific experience of my life. In fact, not a day went by without being verbally ridiculed and belittled with vulgarity.
After, we finished the tedious in processing tasks; we all packed into a big metal cattle truck and headed “down-range” (Any forward-deployed area of operations) to our barracks. As soon as the cattle truck stopped the drill sergeants attacked it like a pack of wolves screaming: “GET OFF MY BUS MAGGOTS”. At times the drill sergeants would get so close to my face yelling, “Are you eyeballing me, boy?” that I could feel the spit flying out of their mouths. In my opinion Georgia had no positive qualities what so ever, but only negative ones. When we would go out to the “field” (outside area that usually consisted of sand and trees) to train we always had to watch for snakes, spiders and many other types of harmful bugs. First, we had the fire ants that would inflict a very painful sting when one of us accidentally disturbed a mound of them. Next, we had the Brown Recluse spider which could cause a tremendous amount of agony and necrosis at the site of the bite.
Finally, we lived with the cockroaches sometimes as big as a mouse that would scatter around everywhere as soon as a light was turned on. In fact, some of the older out houses that we had to use housed hundreds of disgusting cockroaches. The heat from June to August in Georgia was horribly hot and humid, so the drill sergeants would constantly make us drink water to keep hydrated. For example, when they would say, “drink water,” that meant drink your entire canteen and then turn it upside down. However, the water tasted like they got it out of a swimming pool from all the chlorine they used in the water buffalo(mobile water tank that was black in color) to kill the bacteria. Also, the canteens that we used gave the water a funky plastic taste. The funky plastic taste combined with the chlorine and the fact that it was always warm just left a bad taste in my mouth. The mental and physical challenges that we faced every day are what made basic training the absolute worst job I have ever experienced.
Every morning we would get up at 0330 and head to Physical Training. It consisted of a Three to Six mile run followed by an hour of push ups, sit ups, and what ever other form of torturous activities the drill sergeants felt like making us do. Throughout the day we would complete various intense training courses and attend one or two monotonous classes, where on average we would get told, “drop and give me twenty” at least twenty times. After getting back to the barracks for the night between 2100 and 2200 we had two minutes to shower and until 2300 to shine our boots, do our laundry, and perform any personal hygiene that we so desperately needed.
Furthermore, the deprivation of sleep made it very easy to become unfocused and careless, which consequently led to unsafe training that the drill sergeants frowned upon. After nine weeks of exhaustion at Fort Benning, Georgia, I was finally home; all of the verbal, mental, and physical abuse had ended. I did not have to drink the funky tasting water anymore or get up every morning to participate in physical training. My life was back to normal: going to school, and working every day. Meanwhile, my parents and teachers would occasionally yell at me, but compared to the drill sergeants their yelling did not seem to have any negative effects. In conclusion, there are many ways to pay for college tuition, but for me, the military was neither the easiest nor the quickest way.