Basic Training Stories

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Stories / NoHierarchy / Army /
@ K. 2000 11 14

We’re put in a company. The company was divided into platoons. I was lucky enough to be put in a platoon with a son-of-a-bitch sergeant who had some flair, a bit of style, and a great voice of command. Sgt. Bradley. Good looking bastard. Nobody wears hats like the blacks, and Sgt. Bradley wore his helmet the way Mishima wore his officer’s cap in Hara Kiri: shading his eyes so he could see without being seen. Great style. Immediately I introduce myself to Sgt. Bradley as a thorn in his side.

“I am a conscientious objector,” I explained.
“Don’t you believe in killing your enemies,” he asked.
“Oh, sure,” I replied, “But so far, Sergeant, the only enemy I’ve ever had is


Sgt. Bradley liked that. His respect for me stemmed from that moment. My respect for him also grew. If you’re going to be a soldier, be Sgt. Bradley.

2003 05 02 Hmm: I didn’t expect to be gone so long from this file. I start this story near the punch-line:

“Sing I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” the sergeant bellowed, tears of drunkenness, tears of sentiment streaming down his cheeks!
Knatz, from his diaphragm that can shatter eardrums on the other side of the football field barks


Quick explanation: We were K Company. In the NATO alphabet, “K” is said as a word, internationally recognizable: “kilo.” Early in basic our sergeants had ordered us to yell “kill” (for K Co, for kilo) every time we’re givn an order: an illegal directive I’ll bet! I’d told Sgt. Bradley I wouldn’t obey any order I saw a reason to disobey. Weeks had passed, the company shouted “Kill!” again and again: the only time Knatz uttered a peep was that Christmas Eve, on the firing range, in response to the bullying drunken sergeant order for harmonious sentimentality.

I did my basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. K Company. The US Army is a NATO member. A US soldier on maneuvers in South Carolina was just killed by local police. Yesterday’s intelligence report at cites lack of communication among different levels of government: federal, state, county … and declares that the country is not safe under its government. I was exposed to one NATO Band-Aid for poor communications. note NATO scholars devised a NATO alphabet. Each letter was represented by a word common to all NATO members and pronounced similarly in each language. You’ve heard it: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie … The NATO soldier doesn’t buy his liquor at ABC Liquors; he buys it at Alpha-Bravo-Charlie Liquors. Otherwise, if the Cockney soldier is talking over a squawking radio to a … some other brand of European solder, who knows what they’ll wind up with at the party.

The army had recruits scream the NATO name for their company in response to any order. “Tango Company: Attention!” The response is supposed to be a chorused “Tang-Go” as well as a snapping to attention. Fine. I was in Kilo Company. I’m willing to shout “Kilo.”

Now I had told Sgt. Bradley, repeating what I’d written on my induction statement, that though I didn’t want to go to jail for five years for refusing to be inducted, I had no intention of blindly following just any order. Tell me to pull the trigger, I might do it. Tell me to point the rifle at somebody and pull the trigger, I won’t: unless I personally want to harm that person. Not pulling the trigger in battle might get me shot, might get me more than five years: in a stockade that might be worse than a jail. It’s a gamble. “Maybe bad jail later” instead of “jail today.”

But Kilo Company, Fort Dix had its own wrinkle on the convention. Our sergeants wanted us to yell “Kill” at each and every order.

In an early exchange with Sgt. Bradley I pointed out to him that I had not obeyed several commands during our morning assembly. If I’m going to be court-martialed, there’s no sense procrastinating. Delay will probably make it worse. My conversation with Sgt. Bradley forced me to admire and even like him. So his reaction to my confessions of disobedience were a disappointment: he was a chicken after all. He said, OK, so long as the major doesn’t notice. No, no. I’m telling you so the major will notice.

Waste of breath. I never did get court-martialed. And I never did shout Kill to an order: with the one exception previewed above.

The army worked hard to make basic hell for the recruits. I understand their motive to be to destroy and individuals, then to recreate and knit us as parts for the war machine. I worked hard to show them that with me it wasn’t working. That I wouldn’t even pretend in exchange for a lighter sentence.

I’d been warned about basic by more than one elder. I’d been told what to do to counter it. I did all those things: eventually. But not in the first day, not in the first few weeks. Not getting off the bus in the face of mega-decibel chaos. No, it wasn’t a fire fight. Fort Dix was not DaNang. But it was nevertheless shattering to us virgins. Since kindergarten we’d been told what to do, but never with such raucous ugliness.

Note: in a kleptocracy, the only social condition literate peoples have ever lived in, it’s the kleptocracy, not you, that gets to decide who your “enemies” are, gets to commandeer the language, the vocabulary, take charge of still another thing that doesn’t belong to it: language. And then the kleptocracy changes your enemies like fashions. … the Germans, then the Russians … now the Afghanistanis … The Germans never made me go to school, pay taxes … The Russians never had their hand sewn into my pocket (Oh, we’ll just hold 20% of “your salary” for you), never drafted me … never took my front yard away citing “eminent domain” … How are the Germans, the Mexicans, the Vietnamese … my enemies?

(This directory is just personal stories. The meat of deals with topics so important they’re not even issues: topics so huge on our horizon that there wasn’t even a word for kleptocracy until these last several years:. See the directories under Kleptocracy.

2001 07 17 Ay yai yai. I say I’m anxious to tell army stories, tell one, and now see I’d already told that one at the domain version of Many good ones to come: instructive, could kleptocrats take instruction (from a reluctant kleptocrat; they take plenty of instruction from “superiors”).

Basic Training Section: see also Marching: Out of Step Together

2015 06 15 It’s a dozen and some years since I started narrating this section: how can I have not yet been bothered to tell how I suffered by my army boots?

We were assigned to temporary barracks en route to what would become our company for the duration of basic, “K” company. In the temp location we were given our shots, given our tests: I volunteered to take a French test: they, the fools, classified me as fluent. (Given a little practice that would have become true soon enough. We were also herded through a series of warehouses where Spec 4’s threw our uniforms at us: large, medium, small, extra-whatever.

“What’s your shoes size?” And the dude threw two pairs of spanking stiff new boots in my face: combat boots, laces up the shin, no try-on period. At what became K Company we were told to alternate which pair we wore as we broke them in. I’m an anarchist, I don’t believe in these morons’ right to tell me what to do; but I’m also an idiot: I do obey!

Obedience was agony. I suffered something terrible, but I did wear both pair alternate days. Most guys I noticed did not. They cheated, and benefited. Would have served them right if my sores had become infected, if I’d infected everyone, if we’d all died.

Chesty Puller

But here’s a story of a famous soldier, Marine general Chesty Puller. My mother’s suitor Dr. Don Nielsen told us this one:
Parris Island, marine boot camp. Chesty visits a company, tells the men they’re going to take a hike, with complete battle pack. Chesty marches the guys out into the boonies, marching with them, squeaking testosterone. After several miles he calls a halt. Up rumble some trucks, lower the back gate. Chesty commands that the recruits take a seat on the ground, remove their boots. Chesty announces, Now, your name and serial number is in your boots: tie them together by their laces, throw them in the back of the truck, you’ll be able to reclaim them later. Off rumble the trucks, the recruits sit there in the dust, in their socks. Now, says Chesty, open your battle pack and remove the extra pair of boots Marine regulations demand that you have packed into the interior, dust off your socks, and ut on your spare boots. Chesty himself opens his full battle pack, there are his spare boots. He dusts of his socks, dons his boots: gets up, says OK men, now we march back to company grounds. And off he marches, every inch the soldier.
The moral was: obey orders: there’s a reason for them whether you see the reason or not.

(It reminds me though of the story about the luxury liner sinking: the drunk sees everyone fighting for a place in the life boats. He says the hell with it, goes back into the ballroom, returns to the bar, mixes himself a drink. The boiler blows. The drunk is hurled beyond the the sucking hold in the water the ship has upended down into, while all the life boats get sucked down too.
Not obeying orders served the drunk’s turn.
You never know for sure what will help, what will hurt: obediance, defiance, indifference …

And now I take a tagent:
We just watched the NBA finals, Golden State, winning; the Cavaliers’ LeBron James making a display of himself, losing. I’d said, I’m for Steph Curry and the Warriors, but I’m really against LeBron James!
LeBron insulted his coach, repeatedly, before the world. Now: I couldn’t stand either LeBron and his ego for all his talent and accomplishment or David Blatt, the potato-mouth coach. Normally, pk the anarchist, I’m for the genius, the artist: and against the church, the priest, the pope, the army … against the Authority! But here, with this particular NBA star, I’m for the stupid corporation and against the star.


Poor Communications:

NASA is not a NATO member. NASA didn’t get the message even when told (happens all the time with politics).

My brother-in-law, the audiologist, was hired as a consultant by NASA in the early days of the Mercury program. Dr. Baker joined his team in recommending that the project not use Gus Grissom as an astraunaut: his phonemes were not distinct enough for reliable radio communications. The recommendation was run before the politicians. No, we need a southerner. It doesn’t matter what tests Grisson fails: he’s in.

We know what the result was. Not just death: humiliation for the space program.

Hierarchy vs. Conviviality Stories


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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