Constant Fear and the Dirty Little Secret

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Me at the bayonet course.  Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri – Spring 2009

Warning:  This post is rather high in sodium.

The above photo is the only known one taken of me during basic training other than the class photo.  The only cameras we were allowed to have, were those on our cell phones.  You read correctly!  We were given the use of our cell phones in basic training, if only for 20 minutes each Sunday.  The camera on the flip phone I then had wasn’t very good anyway, and I much rathered take the opportunity to talk to my family back home.  So I didn’t spend any time taking pictures as other soldiers.

Looking at this photo, I know that although I was all dressed up to get good and dirty, I didn’t look very macho.  I guess I was already very tired, stressed out, bored, and who knows what else that morning.  Besides, I’ve never done much of that looking macho stuff anyway.  Being a married father of two little boys at the time, I had gotten soft.  I had worked pretty hard months prior at losing the weight needed to enlist, but hadn’t really built any muscle.  I think that was one of the reasons my drill sergeants (DS’s) enjoyed picking on me.  I gave the best effort I knew how in basic training, but I never was one of the physically hard core soldiers.  No one is in basic training, and certainly few headed for desk jobs as I was.

As one would suspect from watching military themed movies, fear was the main source of motivation used throughout basic training.  It may sound horrible, but I really doubt a government could crank out soldiers who were ready to face death without at least getting them used to functioning while dealing with such a feeling.  It was used in many different ways.  Sometimes it was fear of punishment we might get if we failed to perform properly.  Others, it was used in the form of actual punishment to help back up those threats and help us imagine how bad the punishment might be at later times, whether the offenses were real or made up.  

The military has claimed for many years to be tough on hazing, but that thought seems to go against the grain of the true nature of basic training.  There was a fear of humiliation, also a fear of the unknown.  The DS’s often gave us situations by surprise that were highly unfavorable to say the least, to which we had no other choice but to respond in the best way we thought we were expected to.  The only positive reinforcement I recall from my ten weeks there, was the thought that if I made it through this experience, I would have a solid career.  At times, things were so bad that I don’t think some of us cared about that idea anymore.

One evening with about a week and a half remaining, we arrived back to the barracks after a day of hot and sweaty who knows what kind of training.  While in formation, our platoon sergeant began to yell at us as he always did.  This time we had really messed up, or so he would have us believe.  Twas the night before we would leave for our final and week long Field Training Exercise (FTX).  DS So and So in his ranting, told the entire company that his platoon (the one I was in) had failed badly at guarding their posts during fire guard previously, and that we would be given the charge of it for the whole building for that night, when we usually only covered our floor.  That meant that instead of staying up for one random hour of the night, each of us would be doing it for two or three, leaving us much shorter on sleep than we were used to.

That night, I showered and packed for the next day as fast as I could, but still had 1/3 of my packing list to go at lights out.  In basic training after lights out, no one is allowed to do anything besides “utilize the latrine” unless you are pulling fire guard duty.  “That’s okay” I said, “I can do the rest in the morning before we form up to march to FTX.”  After a little sleep, my first shift was on an upper floor.  No problems here.  My second shift was a little different though. 

In the words of Winnie the Pooh, there suddenly arose a “rumbly in my tumbly”.  My guts started talking to themselves.  I knew I had to get to the toilet fast, or surely there would be a disaster.  There were soldiers all over the place starting to rustle and make their final preparations for our FTX.  I asked all that were within sight if any of them could cover fire guard for me while I used the crapper.  Nobody would.  They were too busy getting ready.  I didn’t dare just go use the restroom.  What if I got caught by Drill Sergeant leaving my post?  I could only imagine what they would do to me for messing something up right before ‘go time’.  Guess I would just have to hold it until my shift was over.  This couldn’t be good!  I didn’t have time to take a crap!  I still need to do some packing, besides shaving and changing into my combat uniform before we leave!  

But my colon had other plans…I crapped myself.  Not just a few skid marks on the runway kind of crapping one’s self either.  But my insides were soon free of yesterday’s lunch, and obviously dinner.  In a short horrific moment, the total of all my fears had come true!  Luckily for me, the PT uniform we were required to wear during fire guard included some compression shorts which true to their reputation, held what needed to stay in, in until I was able to deal with it properly.  What was I going to do, run up to the CQ office and tell Drill Sergeant I had just shat myself?!  The showers weren’t turned on in the morning.  Think fast Private Taylor!  

The morning wakeup hasn’t sounded yet, but oh well.  Screw everyone who withheld their help when I needed them most!  I ran down the hall as fast as humanly possible.  I knew I couldn’t throw my PT uniform in the bathroom waste baskets.  They had already been emptied that night.  If I put them in there now, we’d get back from FTX in a week to find a stinky bathroom and a heavy, muddy PT uniform with my last name carefully written on it in black Sharpie.  Drill Sergeants love that stuff!  For some miraculous reason, I had a few garbage bags of my own in my locker.  I knew just what I’d do!  My battle buddy was out of our room for a minute, so I made quick use of the socks I had on and some baby wipes (baby wipes were our method of bathing while out on training exercises, as well as for soldiers who deploy to far out desert posts).  I then as tightly as possible triple bagged the offending garments and tied them up, and hid them under some other things in my locker and proceeded to get dressed the way lightning gets dressed every morning.  

As I scrambled to stuff the last handfuls of stuff into my rucksack, two of my DS’s showed up in my room and started marching around and yelling at me in an agitated way, speaking of how I better not make everybody late.  At this point, I don’t care.  I’m sweating like crazy, and functioning faster than reality.  Everything smelled like poop to me in that time.  Can they smell poop like they smell fear?  Because I don’t know which one smelt worse at that moment.  If they found my little hidden treasure, I was toast.  I closed my locker, strapped up, and ran out to formation as fast as an over-loaded weakling could.  It was my lucky day.  There were a few soldiers from other platoons that had everyone waiting longer than I had, so the worst screaming was saved for them.  I was on my way to a week of hell, but it didn’t matter because my secret was safe!  Before basic training was over, most of us had realized that basic training wasn’t as bad as we thought it was.  A worse period called AIT (Advanced Individual Training) that made basic training look fun was just a bus ride away. 

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Sacrificial Waffles and Muffin Top Building

Hey, you wanna hear something gross? It’s been a week since Christmas, and you know what I just found while doing some post-yuletide cleanup? Santa’s half-finished glass of milk hiding amongst the countertop nativity scene! Oh that’s nasty. Thankfully enough though, Jesus is all about forgiveness. So he didn’t really put up a big stink about it.

Every now and then, when my wife’s day off from work lands on the weekend, I like to make breakfast for her and the boys. Usually, the main dish is either scrambled eggs, Aebleskivers (a Danish sphere shaped pancake), or waffles. For some reason, I never caught pancake fever. Maybe because of the ever changing selection of commercially available pancake mixes at the store and their poor quality. Maybe I should look into finding a recipe this year. I’ll have to talk about it with a psychiatrist one day, along with my lack of enthusiasm for professional sports.  I keep hoping both teams involved in the Super Bowl will lose the game, but every year, I’m disappointed to see one team going home with the trophy, while the other keeps the agony of defeat all to themselves.  How cool would it be to see them both lamenting over their failure in the post-game interviews, all covered in sweat and grime?  “Well” says the commentator, “another Super Bowl come to pass, and no winner!  Guess we’ll have to see if anyone can pull it off next year.  Back to you Josie.”

Moving right along, often as I’m cooking any type of breakfast pastry, I’ve found that the first one off the grill is rarely worth eating, usually either due to the fact that the iron wasn’t heated to the right temperature, or maybe there was a little something on it from last time. So it’s right into the trash with it. We jokingly call it “the sacrificial waffle” in my house.

This post is my sacrificial waffle of sorts. I’m entirely new to this blogging scene. I know blogging was catching on before Facebook (FB) became popular. Part of me thought at that time that we had seen the end of it. But with the FB scene getting worse and worse, part of my New Year’s resolution for 2016 is to trim down my visits there to twice per month. Ironically, I have my blog set up to share my posts on FB as they are cranked out twice a week so my friends can easily click them. Ha ha! You can’t win for losing!  Or can you?

Most people who create a blog do so with a solid theme locked down, and hopefully a really catchy reason to get you to read it. I have one friend who writes one on all things related to letter writing. Her blog is tied into her stationery business and letter writing club. Another friend is a travel writer who has authored his own book.

Upon realizing at the urging of loved ones that I needed to write something, I asked myself what my guiding inspiration and purpose would be if I were to take it up. I have one whopping year of college education. I don’t own a business. I haven’t seen much of the world compared to many friends. Being physically disabled, I’m not going to be talking anyone through training for the Strongest Man in the World competition. What am I going to write?! Certainly not a page on proper punctuation; and nothing brings a smile to my face like a little known poor grammar usage in search of all the English teachers out there.

There are a handful of things in life that are very real to me, first of all, my family. I have a loving wife. Together we have three young boys, who are growing up faster than I’d like. Second, my faith. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called by many, the “Mormon” church. I believe “in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” to quote the first article of faith.  It’s a big motivator and guide in the way I live my life.  Of course I love learning about other beliefs and cultures as well.   Third, I have two spinal injuries gained while doing Army physical training (my most recent career), as well as severe depression and anxiety which definitely combine to make life more challenging. Lastly I have an odd, musty sense of humor, and I often call upon it to help me hold life together.

Other blog writers pick any one of these subjects and write their entire blogs on it.  In these times, everything has been done before.  But rather than focusing on any one of these ideas, I’ve decided to bring out all of them. In years past, a small percentage of my FB friends even read my posts there. It’s likely even less will follow this blog because of the greater scale of words found here compared to what they’re used to reading on other social media.

Foreseeing this possibility, I’m at peace with it. I never was one for popularity contests, and I’m not in this to make any money. Maybe writing this blog will lead me into a professional future as a writer of some kind.  Or perhaps one night at a family party, my brother will slap me on the back and say, “Hey Jeff, remember that one time you started a blog?!  Ya, I read all three of your posts, and I really thought you had a good thing goin’!  Haa haa haaa!”   Even if five people read it for a peak at the strange thing that is my life, and the other three for the occasional funny one-liner, it’s going to be fun. I look forward to the possibility of being able to share deeper findings of life and going on new adventures.

Now I just need an original cheesy closer to throw in at the end. How’s this one? Don’t forget to eat your waffles! Nine out of ten professional muffin top builders attest to the fact that they are what so quickly brought them to fame and glory!  Ooooh, muffin top building!  There’s something I could write a blog about!