I looked around this classroom stuffed with young men varying in ages between 17 and 25. I was 23 myself and stuck in the middle of a nexus in time with no purpose of direction.
Imagine you wake up in a white room with no doors or windows, you don't know how you got there or what conditions are to be fulfilled to gain your freedom. How do you feel? What's your next move?
Reread and answer the above question to yourself before my next sentence. Carl Jung the famous psychologist posed this question long ago to patients as a means to gage the important question in everyone's life: What is death to you. Not to be confused with the act of dying but rather the state of death. For a devote religious person you'd expect an answer of calm or peace and answers from an atheist ranging from "nothing" to "panic".
But my situation wasn't dramatic as this. I was surrounded by people in the same situation as me. As I would come to find out this would be a reoccurring theme throughout my military career. So it was up to me to learn from those who had know this environment better than me and I went straight to learning the social pecking order that evolves in any large group of people lacking purpose or guidance. After probing those with an open ear around me I got the breakdown of the platoon. There was roughly fourty people at any given time, add into that people who were tasked out around the base either doing temp jobs that regular soldiers had no time or patience for and tasks that were full time like working at a canteen or office doing menial paperwork. In the military's eyes this was a productive use of soldiers to accustom them to general military life and procedures as they weren't trained to a level of actually being skilled in an particular area. For a rough idea of what jobs we did go to Craigslists jobs under the general labour category.
As for the social structure it brokedown like so:
1. The FNG's (Fu**ing New Guys) - I fell into this groups. Guys right off of their basic course waiting for their trades course to give them a skill to use at their prospective unit upon completion of their training. This was the bulk of the platoon. Guys just waiting for their shot at greatness.
2. The Broken - People who had been injured on a previous course to the degree where they couldn't continue their training. Even with whatever medical aid they recieved (i.e. crutches, casts, pain killers). I should note that this wasn't university where you could go to class and roll your wheelchair in the back of the class and still take note. We had to do things like cross fields in all our battle gear with weapons or build large bridges by hoisting large panels by hand over our heads (these things could weigh up to 400 lbs).
3. The Failures - Persons who had for whatever reason not passed their previous training and were thrown back into the rotation for the next course. These people took priority for the next course. Generally dispised by FNGs as they were seen as taking a spot of someone "who would pass". These types always had an excuse ready as to why they didn't make it the first go around. "My staff hated me", "I wasn't allowed a make-up test", and "They failed me just because ______".
4. The Frenchies - A group bounded by isolation. They had no choice but to hang out together. As far as I could tell they spoke no english at all and didn't interact with with the rest of the platoon outside of necessity. Usually they were sent to Quebec to fill random positiions but those were few and the left overs were kept at our base.
5. The Scammers - Actually a subset of the broken but placed seperately because of intent. These were the people who for whatever medical reason were not allowed to go on course. Generally this started as a simple injury which disallowed them from being elegable for training. However, this became a constant as their name was picked time and again to go on course yet their "condition" would be aggravated and they'd be passed onto the next cycle. I found some people had been there for over a year with extreme cases being two or three. I knew one guy who weighed at LEAST 350 pounds, drank every night to excess, and then complained how he couldn't go on course because of his knees/back. Cause and effect seemed to escape the rational logic with these few souls.
So imagine your typical rag-tag group of soldiers from any military comedy you might have seen. Have a chuckle, then realize your life will literally depend on these people in the future. Now how funny is it?
The praxis of the general military population is to treat a group by the lowest of its members. Now this can be viewed as playing to the lowest common denominator. But it's been my experience that teamwork in built from the ground up and you build a house from the foundation and not the roof. However, I can confidently say that PATs were spit upon (figuratively) because of the worst among us. It was an uphill struggle being a PAT soldier and it didn't help that the people there before you were soiling the ground with an odour of ammonia. Things were going to get dirty.
To be continued...