Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Basic Training redux

Coming tomorrow, a new edition of The Turret!

The "media day" held by the 46th Infantry Regiment was covered by the local newspaper, a television station, the Elizabethtown news radio station, and the Associated Press.

I was pretty happy with how mine turned out. Since we're a weekly, I've got some extra time to put together my stories. For me, the assignment was just to shoot photos for a photo page and get enough to provide the News-Enterprise with some shots, since their photog was tied up that day.

As it worked out, my camera card -- an ancient magnetic version -- decided it was going to succumb to the terminal cancer it developed a couple months ago, so about half the shots I took that day were mysteriously missing when I got back to the office. I said several bad words in the newsroom.

On a side note, immediately after that I headed to the office kitchenette and opened the 'fridge to find the coffee tin. When I opened the door, about 671 cans of Diet Coke came tumbling out onto my feet. I bellowed "SON OF A WHORE" at the top of my lungs, and next door, in the newsroom, everyone burst out laughing.

Back to the point, I didn't wind up minding that the photo page fell through, because there was more than enough material to write a decent story. The officers in the 2nd Battalion's command group were eager to help, and I wound up interviewing the battlion commander over the phone this morning.

I asked him what the most fundamental change to basic training has been, and without hesitation, he said that it's the drill sergeant's new role as squad leader. This is in contrast to the "old way," where he was a... well, a drill sergeant. You've seen Full Metal Jacket.

We'd spoken Friday during the media day, and he'd asked me about my own basic training experiences. I just said that four years ago it had been a bit different, and that I'd gone to Fort Benning. Today, I asked him how he'd respond to someone -- and there are many who'd say this -- who suggested that basic training had "gone soft."

The colonel said anyone who said that should head over to his battalion and make a judgement for themselves. He'd gone through basic in 1983, and he said that basic is actually harder now, not easier. When I thought back to the happy two months I spent in Company D, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry, I realized he was probably right -- there wasn't a single task that was in and of itself difficult. The cadre -- and to a large extent, the idiot members of my platoon, D Co.'s 4th -- were responsible for making those weeks a period of time I would never want to repeat.

Well, them and the fire ants. They're bastards.

So keep an eye out, I'll post the link to the story as soon as it's up. As John of Arrgghhh wrote me once, I'm involved in advocacy journalism, not critical journalism, so bear that in mind.


Also, Pearl Jam's new album, Pearl Jam, came out yesterday. I must have it.