The Academy: Week 1

Week 1 was something of a revelation. Jason (the other new recruit) and I drive down to Plainfield on Sunday night, since we had to register by 0740 hrs on Monday morning. We were both incredibly nervous, having heard horror stories about the terrible food and the evils of the drill instructors. Neither of us was looking forward to the next 13 weeks.

By Monday morning we were a little less nervous, but neither of us had gotten much sleep. We registered, then stood in the doorway of the little auditorium where we had been told to go for briefing. I think we maybe had a foot each out in the hall, but it was enough to incur the wrath of a drill instructor. "Get your asses out of my hallway!" he shouted. We scrambled into the auditorium, then looked at each other, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.

All through the briefing, I could see the drill instructors up by the doorways, hovering like angry shadows in their black BDUs and straw hats. I pride myself on being an independent and somewhat fearless person, but I was more intimidated than I think I ever have been in my life. In the background we could all hear the state police recruits getting yelled at by their drill instructors. All I could think about was how long these 13 weeks would seem to last.

After briefing we were sent out numerically to be issued our linens and towels and bring our gear from the cars to our rooms. A guy in front of me was very intimidated and turned the wrong way down one of the hallways. A D.I. swooped down on him without mercy, berating him loud enough for everyone in the building to hear. He got flustered and asked a question, which only resulted in him getting yelled at for not paying attention the first time. I put my head down and hoped nobody would notice me and I wouldn't screw up.

It was back to the auditorium after collecting our gear, without any time to unpack or attempt to settle in. We were told the rules and expectations, then turned over to the drill instructors so they could "have some fun" with us before lunch. We'd been assigned squads upon arrival, then each squad was placed into order by height. Each recruit was assigned a particular tile on the gym floor. That tile is ours until we leave the academy. We were taught the intricacies of the position of attention, and I thanked God for my 4 years of marching band. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad...

Some people weren't so quick to catch on that when you're at attention you do not look around, especially at the D.I.s. One unfortunate guy made the mistake of scratching his face, and he was made to scratch that same spot until the D.I. was satisfied that it wouldn't itch anymore. Then we were all placed into the "front leaning rest" position (the up position of a push-up) to get acquainted with our tiles. I don't know how long we were down there, but it felt like an eternity. We were then made to "stand" at attention face down with our noses on the floor. I don't know about everyone else, but I was thrilled to be laying there unable to see anything around me. Throughout this entore lesson in drill, the D.I.s were shouting at those unfortunate enough to make a mistake or to catch their attention. Thank God I wasn't one of them.

We were marched down to the chow hall at a 6 inch interval, which meant that we looked like a train wreck as we all crashed into each other and tried desperately to stay in step to a non-existent cadence. Chow wasn't much of a break, as there are protocols for the way you can get your food and how much you can take. There was also no talking, and we were given maybe 10 minutes to wolf down our food. Through it all, the D.I.s were still yelling, and I was wondering how I'd ever survive the week, let alone 13 of them...

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