Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Odd Jobs and Odd Fellows

"No Warrant. I want to be here. I'm happy doing this" I was convinced of my soon to be greatness, my time to shine. I wasn't a Private Pile, and I wasn't going to drop out for the easy path. I was here to stay.
"All right." said the seasoned veteran as he went back to administer the on goings of the troop. But before he left he laid out the ground rules.
"Look. I don't give a fu** what you do in your off time. But I expect you to show up here on time and in uniform everyday. And when I have a task to be done I expect you to volunteer. Got it?" He said this not in the abrupt dismissive manner I was taught in throughout basic training but rather in a tone that conveyed an seasoned experience of dealing with juveniles apt to disregard responsibilities.
"Of course Warrant" I mean how could someone not follow an order as easy as that? Show up in uniform and the designated time and place. Simple enough.
"Good" He walked back to the PAT administrative office where all our tasked were farmed out of. It was run by himself and two other junior officers awaiting their courses, along with James the guy with the DJ shirt I met my first night on the base. He was apparently their clerk and errand guy for odd paperwork assignments.

Now that I was introduced to the platoon structure and finalized all my tedious administrative clearances I had to sign in around the base I was ready to join my fellow recruits in daily military life. I was told that we were to report every day to a classroom in the Military Engineering School. Cool, easy enough I suppose. But since we had spent so much time clearing in, we were allowed to just go back to our barracks after it all and we wouldn't be needed for the day.

The next day I arrived at the school after a quick breakfast at the mess hall. It was the same breakfast I've seen countless times prior. Why? Because there is only one breakfast in the military (at least for army bases) and that's your standard issue scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, beans, and an oddly cooked tomato substance. Of course on the side you can get your standard grain cereals and fruit as well. Now I'm not saying it's not a good meal. But even Brad Pitt got sick of having sex with Jennifer Aniston after five years. Here I was sick of the breakfast after only three months.

I went to the Engineer School in the proper amount of time. They made any candidate who wasn't qualified march through the halls whenever you entered the building. To show who was a student and enforce military discipline. Easy enough, yet the classroom I was to report to was on the otherside of the building and going around to the back entrance wasn't really an option as you had to cross a field of grass to do so. Now to the laymen this sounds simple enough, but to a military person the is on par to streaking naked across the same field. Via doctrine it's to enforce the old military adage of "stick to the hard pat" especially important to engineers who deal exclusively with mines and other things that hide-and-go-boom. But in reality it's an opportunity for senior staff to jump all over a young recruit for violating an unwritten rule of decorum and throw around an ever atrophying sense of purpose while tucked away in an office.

Eventually I made it to our assigned classroom. With polished boots and a cleanly pressed uniform I expected the usual morning inspection or something akin to it. Yet all I found was a classroom half filled with guys sitting at their desks either chatting with the person beside them or fiddling with their cellphone texting girlfriends and playing games. Quite the odd site for someone fresh out of boot camp. Eventually I found myself a spot to sit and struck up a conversation with the closest person unoccupied by some trivial matter.
"Hey man, what's going on here?" I said puzzled.
"Oh you know, just another day waiting for role call" He said in an non-enthused manner.
"Really? So what's the drill?" I asked curious.
He then explained to me how everyday we had two role calls. One in the morning and one in the afternoon right after lunch. This was to keep track of both how many people they had available and deter anyone from taking 'unscheduled' time off. It was preformed by the Warrant who had talked with me earlier.
Just then the same Warrant barged into the room. Someone in the back of the room yelled 'ROOM!' a standard command we'd all been trained since the beginning to follow. Basically you stiffen up in your chair, avert your eyes to the front of the room, and just shut up. You don't have to do anything except hold that position until you're told to relax. Sometimes you get tested and people get lax at start to slouch after a minute. Giving your instructor the small window he/she wanted to catapult into a directed tirade about following orders. But today wasn't special and the Warrant quickly ran through the list off names confirming the presence of individuals and noting the absence of others for excused reasons. Once finished, he left the room.

I turned to my previous companion in conversation and posed the question: "So what do we do now?"
"Just killing time man, just killing time" as he laid back in his chair and closed his eyes.

To be continued...


  1. For being the standard food it looks great, but it's true that when you get used to...

  2. My brother's in the Canadian Forces. This reminds me of a lot of stories he tells.

  3. my step father do part of the marines

  4. Interesting story! Where are you in Quebec City? Valcartier? I'm from Quebec haha

  5. i served a few years to the army myself, so i can really relate to this. great stuff!

  6. How long ago was this..?
    And are you still there?

  7. they canceling army in my country starting next year o_0