(From 2014) – As I was starting Basic Combat Training (BCT), there was one moment in 0 week, when I saw 3 Drill SGTs displaying how to move as a team, using D&C. When the three came to attention facing us (recruits), I noted one mean face, and one jumbled face, but one was completely blank. It was not to one direction or another. It wasn’t tight, but wasn’t droopy. It was flawless. So I also have this acute ability to emulate things I see…
Skip to day one of week 1. We were loaded onto the bus, and driven to BCT with our heads down. Once there we were immediately bombarded by yelling and orders given. We all got outside our barracks, grounded our gear and started doing exercises back to back quickly. Then we had to pick up our bag and hold it above our head. My bag was the fullest and heaviest, and its string was cleverly tied to another bag’s string, which was similar size and weight. It was supposed to help me carry it, but the joke was on me, because we probably held that bag over our heads for 5-8 mins. I can’t remember, but what I do remember is I was the only person to not drop my bag. For the last couple of minutes I had most of the weight supported by my head, but I never quit, and the bags were at least 3 or 4 times heavier than everyone else’s.
I remember that during this bag holding exercise, towards the beginning, a Drill SGT first came up to me- it’s basically the moment we met (he and I became master/apprentice but it’s a long story)- he said in his Tennessee accent, “Wipe that look off of your face!!” I was running, tired, working hard and had a mean face on, but hadn’t noticed until he said it. So I did something amazing. I emulated that perfectly blank face I had witnessed a couple of days before. He looked into my eyes, and my eyes were focused on a spot far past him and I was looking through his eyes instead of into them. Come to think of it, that’s something I became proficient at when I was 13, when I was in the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. We always drilled in a gym, and I was taught to pick a spot on the far wall even with your eyes, and stare at it, no matter what came between you and it. They even had drawn a blue line on the wall at generally our eye-level.
During BCT I modeled myself after my Drill Sergeant. He was a rather odd guy to other people, but to me he seemed flawless in every movement and vocal inflection. Where other people saw an oddly-robotic guy, I saw seamless mechanics. Most think that to be synonymous, but the difference is the word seamless, and I did not see it as odd.
He flowed from one action into the next without adding extra meaningless actions in between. Every word was on point, in the moment, relevant and direct. He had 2 modes. He had a normal mode, which was hapless, and a rage mode which served a specific purpose relevant to a task. His task was completed, he would perform a near-instantaneous return to normalcy. I’d never seen anything like it in my life, and by modelling myself after that, I achieved a state unmatched by my competition in training.
I had many other skills as well, which all played their part in how I became the best, but I didn’t win an award as Soldier of the Cycle for being the best. I won the award because in the first 2/3 surveys given, over 90 percent of people reported me to be the number 1 soldier. In the 3rd and final survey, it was the complete opposite. I know why it happened. Everyone snaps in BCT. Most people snapped pretty quickly. I held out. When I finally snapped, about 75 percent of the way through training, it was hard for people to take. Some thought I became arrogant. It perhaps seemed like I was stepping above my station in training.
Let me explain. 2 people before me were student 1st-SGTs as a punishment. I was picked because when the real 1st SGT had us all in the bleachers at weapon’s qualifications, he asked each of the four platoons who was the best soldier. The reactions were mixed in each of the other 3, but with my platoon every single person shouted “JUMANGI!” I was student 1st SGT for 2 1/2 weeks, whereas most people keep the role for a few days at most. At around the 2 week mark I blew up one morning. I was always calm and on point, and on this morning I showed extreme agitation and had a consternated expression. I yelled at two troops for walking to formation. They were the last two and at their pace they took about 3 whole minutes to walk out their door, around the pavement 200 meters to their spot. They were already 2 minutes late. Someone double timing or triple even, could do it in less than 20 seconds. I asked them nicely, but they ignored me, so I yelled, “Like right F’ing now!”
They still walked, and as they took their sweet ass time with me standing there attempting to gain complete accountability so that I could perform the relevant functions following that, my face became really distorted. I was literally holding my entire self back from bursting into a mad rage and destroying two people physically. One friend told me after that my face was really contorted strangely as if I was snarling. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t know for sure at the time, but it seems certain someone in the CQ heard me yell and also started watching. At the time I wasn’t aware the Drill SGTs were even watching. It was my duty to get everyone squared away so that when the Drill SGTs burst through the CQ door and out onto the parade square everything would be ready for them. It was a series of functions, like blocks in my head that I had to check. I knew every bit of it and it was seamless to me, but those two guys, fat and slobbish, walking slowly while talking and ignoring their surroundings, not caring that they were already 2 mins late- to me it was unprecedented, and I couldn’t manage to have patience.
Soon after that I was released from my duty, and became a normal trainee again, but people had lost trust in me due to my attitude. They perhaps thought I felt better than them, and they would have been correct, in everything except PT. I scored 260 or 270 something at my peak. I Can’t quite remember, but there were some others that were stronger. There were some others that could wrestle better, and one day soon after that incident, one Drill SGT put his best against me They used the ‘date-rape choke’ which was an illegal move, but nobody stopped them. The time I took to look to the referee, eliminated my ability to fight back and escape the choke. I almost let him render me unconscious, as I lay there wondering why they did not stop the fight. Perhaps the other platoon’s SGT wanted to teach me a lesson in humility. I made a great effort to accept that lesson.
A couple of days later, I talked alone to that other platoon’s SGT. We normally wouldn’t interact and we found ourselves alone together after a class. He asked me something along the lines of, “How did you like having your ass kicked,” and without a hitch I calmly responded, ” It was a valuable learning experience Drill SGT.” He said, “It was huh?” The way he drifted off and seemed to be studying me, I could tell that he both liked my answer but didn’t want to show approval, and also was confused that I didn’t seem to lose pride, but didn’t boast any either. I stayed in the center of every emotion and expression, as I’d become accustomed to- as they had taught me to do.
And my voice. Nobody will ever forget me from BCT because I was at least five times as loud as anyone ever. Early on, I took every command absolutely serious, like some kind of Forest Gump (my favorite movie). I was ordered to be as loud as I could be, and I found I had an ability to expand the sound of my voice. It’s like putting your finger into the end of a hose. That’s the only way I can explain it. One day I found I could even throw my voice by doing this, but one time was the most effective I’d ever done it. The entire company was in a column formation awaiting the raising of the flag. I was front and left, so during a morning salute of the flag in mass formation it became my duty to turn my head to the left and shout first the Preparatory Command, “Right,” followed by a short pause and the Command of Execution, “Face.” The Command of Execution is to be said much louder and in a higher octave than the preparatory to make the distinction. So when the word face came out of my mouth it was so loud that it rolled across the field, the road, 1 blocks over another field, up a hill, bounced off a massive building and rolled back. I heard the report of my own voice echo back. I think the time between waves was near a second. As I turned my head, without fixing my eyes on him, I scanned past my 1st SGTs face, and he was looking at me like he had seen a ghost. He was absolutely floored. It seemed he had never heard such a shout. It was as if I had summoned a Thu’ume, which would require a Dragon’s tongue…
The only other time I caught him looking at me like that was one day at a massive course where there was a rope you had to traverse at a downward angle. Most people fall or climb upside down. 1st SGT was out there climbing it all day like Chuck Norris. He was 1st ID I think, and he was good at it. So here I came, and got onto the top as he is coming up from the bottom, watching me like a hawk. Me conscious of this, focused as well as I could. I moved slowly and methodically, with no variation in pace as I changed arms. My body was stiff as a board with no waver, and my eyes were trained straight ahead like a cat stalking it’s prey. My right leg was tucked like a frog behind me, my ankle atop the rope. My left leg hung down below, balancing me by chance that day, perfectly. I could see out of the corner of my eye, 1 SGT’s face like he was in shock.
I read the Soldier’s Handbook cover to cover, from zero week to the end of training. I knew every minor detail of rules for soldiers, down to the procedure for respecting the raising of the flag on base, while in a bus. I memorized the Army Song and the Soldiers Creed better than anyone, and with my loud voice my Drill SGT would call on me to shout the creed every time he felt someone needed to hear it shouted perfectly. One time he was at the table where we were purchasing something, and I guess he knew the vendor because he said the guy’s name, “Hey (guy), watch this. JUMANGIIII!”
Me, “YES DRILL SGT!”
Him, “THE SOLDIERS CREEEEEED’e!”
I yelled so loud the entire company grounds echoed with my voice. Every visiting family member and soldier in training heard our creed lima charlie (loud and clear). When I was done, he said, “Outstanding, now take your sleeve and wipe off the back of the guys head in front of you,” to which I obliged with a quiet apology to the soldier.
In my time in training, I ran 2 miles in under 13 minutes, and conducted a company-wide investigation and compiled a report. As student 1st SGT, I accelerated the training of my peers by mediating between drill SGTs and soldiers-in-training. I ate last, and kept other soldiers in line, according to every rule. I ran through hard rain in a lightning storm. I held the Guidon. I learned to respect integrity as a prime Army value, which I’ve come to understand is rooted in compassion. I was first-time-go in every training event. I once completed a team event by carrying an injured soldier on my back like a back-pack, and jogging at a pace greater than a walk. I wrestled a 245 pound son-of-a-Marine, and did not lose though I was rendered temporarily unconscious twice. I was described as the best at all things soldierly, by a friend and great leader, who had the opportunity to dub himself and refused. These are some of the reasons why I became the Soldier of the Cycle, my friend became Leader of the Cycle, and my Drill SGT became Drill SGT of the cycle.