Not everybody is cut out for a life as a serviceman or servicewoman. Heck, some people aren’t even cut out for basic training. These recruits might not have been the sharpest tools in the shed, but they amused their drill sergeants and fellow trainees in incredibly memorable ways.
This recruit fired all his blank ammo during "ambush response" training. He got a brilliant idea. He then crawled into a ditch opposite to where the aggressors were…and started throwing rocks at them.
The Drill Instructor came running down the middle of the road, blowing his whistle and screaming "What the heck are you doing?” The recruit screamed back, “throwing hand grenades Drill Sergeant”. Without missing a beat, the instructor screamed “Outstanding!” and walked away.
I asked a private the difference between cover and concealment. The private said: "Drill Sergeant! You asked what seems like a very important question which I am supposed to know the answer. However, this private was imagining not being called on, and was not paying attention to the question! Drill Sergeant!"
I’m a Drill Instructor. I ordered the platoon to form up facing West. One troop asked, "Master corporal, our West or your West?" I just walked away angrily and let his peers sort him out. But I couldn’t believe what happened next. I came out of my office and they were all facing East...
I went through training a couple years back. Our instructor was a stickler for making sure that our socks were pulled all the way up during physical training and would routinely scream at candidates to pull their socks up by yelling, "MOTIVATE YOUR SOCKS".
A couple days in, and we're doing physical training and the instructor spots a girl with her socks bunched at her ankles. He rushes over and gets in her face and requests that she motivate her socks.
She, being new, has no idea what this means yet. He yells it again and she started to panic. She looks down at her socks and yells at the top of her lungs "YOU CAN DO IT SOCKS!" The instructor does an about-face and despite his best attempt, he absolutely loses it while trying to make a hasty exit.
You are required to have creases in your uniform, and, if you know anything about the process, you can sometimes mess it up and give a shirt two creases. This is commonly referred to as “railroad tracks”.
One morning in formation for uniform inspection, it was discovered that someone had done this to their shirt. So in come the Drill Instructors. At one point, one of them yelling asked "Recruit, are you a train conductor?" They couldn’t believe the response.
Sure as heck, this guy was before he joined. So, he answered, “Sir yes sir”. Everyone got awkward quiet for what felt like five minutes but I'm sure it was only five seconds. And then the group of them went on yelling at the next person in formation.
In Navy boot camp, we have a thing before Battlestations called Amnesty Night. This is where we confess all the dumb stuff managed to get away with to our instructors while not getting in trouble.
Our chief had a lisp, which we all talked trash about throughout boot camp, but never in front of him. We had a pretty short guy named Patterson who could do a perfect impression of our chief. Patterson proceeded to stand up in the middle of it all and say things like “You guyths make me sthick”.
The entire division was laughing, and the instructors were in tears, about to fall out of their chairs. When everything quieted down, our chief looked at us and said, “I hate you guyths, but that wath funny". The entire division proceeded to laugh themselves silly again.
I overheard this. Drill Instructor: Did your mother send you here to tick me off? You write home and tell her you're doing a good job.
Recruit: Sir, no, sir. My father sent me here to tick my mother off.
The instructor spun on his heel and marched off with his head down and his hand over mouth.
In basic training, we were stood by our beds, undergoing an inspection led by the Platoon Commander. In she comes, walks around, and asks everyone questions. The guy next to me, who I’m still friends with now, got asked what he did before he joined.
He answered, proud as lunch and for everyone to hear, “I sold rubbers and nuts, ma’am”. Her and the Corporals just started laughing, they couldn’t help it.
While I was a Drill Sergeant, I had a recruit who I nicknamed Giggles, as she couldn’t help but giggle anytime anything was happening. Or, sometimes, even when we were just still. I knew just what to do. I came up with a rule that anytime I caught her, she had to tell me a joke, and if it sucked her whole squad had to do push-ups.
We were at formation just before chow, and sure enough, Giggles starts her thing. “Alright Giggles, let’s hear it”. Her response: “How do you get an elephant in the subway?” “No clue Giggles. How do you get an elephant in the subway?”
“You take the S out of sub and the F out of way” I walked two laps trying to figure it out, and finally turned to face her and said “Giggles! There’s no F in... “ just as I got it. “Alright Giggles, you win this round”.
I went to Marines Boot Camp in 2005. There was no room for foolishness back then, and I assume that is still the case.
Well about halfway through Boot Camp one night, we finish everything and are in our racks to sleep. The moment the Drill Instructor flips the light switch off, one of the recruits yells across the Squad Bay "Goodnight, Sir!".
So simple, so stupid, yet so absolutely hilarious. We spent the next 30 minutes getting smoked (doing push-ups) in the dark. I still look back at the moment and laugh sometimes.
We had a newcomer to the unit (he was fresh out of training) and his squad leader was a VERY boisterous, Black staff sergeant. He decided to mess with the kid in the best way. He very loudly asked him where he was from.
The kid said he was from Wisconsin. The staff sergeant yells, "WISCONSIN?!?!? I BET I'M THE FIRST BLACK MAN YOU EVER SEEN!!!" Kid says, "No, sergeant, we have a Black family in the county”.
Imagine this: It’s 5:00 am and we’re in physical training formation. Everyone is dressed in the proper uniform—gray shirt, blue shorts, white socks, and a shiny new pair of New Balance Dad shoes. Except, that is, for Recruit Idiot.
Recruit Idiot realized he didn't have clean white socks while getting ready and thought it would be ok to join the formation in knee-high, green socks. The following conversation transpired.
Drill Sergeant (DS): Trainee, what the heck do you have on?
Recruit: Ma'am, I didn't have clean white socks so I used my uniform socks instead.
DS: Trainee, do you know what covert ops is?
Recruit: Yes, Ma'am.
DS: Trainee, I want you to covert ops your behind back to the barracks and acquire a pair of white socks from your laundry bag.
Recruit: *stares blankly*
DS: LOW CRAWL YOUR BUTT BACK THE BARRACKS AND GET THE CORRECT PAIR OF SOCKS ON YOUR DARN FEET!
The recruit does what he's told and low crawls nearly a mile to the barracks. He also nearly passes out from exhaustion and humiliation. Oh, by the way, Recruit Idiot was me.
I was a Drill Sergeant. I feel bad for the guy but I gotta say it. His last name was Smellie. As in, "smelly". So when I had him come into the class for the orientation/admin day the very first day, I ask everyone to stand up and give their rank, name, serial number.
When I heard "Private Smellie", I lost it. I felt so bad for the guy.
I went through USMC Boot Camp in San Diego, and we had a recruit, Wade, who was a local from San Diego and had a reputation for being a really funny guy.
Wade was also very squared away and had both an excellent fitness score and was an expert at the range. Because of this, the instructors gave him some slack when he made a quick joke. By now it was a well-known Platoon fact that recruit Wade is from San Diego.
At this point in time, we're on third Phase of Boot Camp, so we're going through a run of the Confidence Course, which is the iconic obstacle course with the rope slides, tall climbs, etc.
Recruit Wade is climbing the Stairway to Heaven, which is a very tall ladder-like structure.
When he reaches the top he calls out to the Drill Instructor below, "Sir! Recruit requests permission to speak to Drill Instructor Sergeant Brody, Sir!" Sergeant Brody gives him permission to speak.
"Sir, this recruit can see his house from here Sir!" The Sergeant lost his composure and had to laugh out loud, and Recruit Wade had to do some extra push-ups and bend and thrusts when he got off the obstacle.
My dad tells me this story all the time. Back in the 80s when he was doing basic training, the Drill Sergeant was going down the line asking why everyone joined. My dad was like “Shoot, I don’t have a good answer for this” and was nervous. But then something miraculous happened.
The Drill Sergeant goes to the guy next to my dad, asks the question, and the guy says, “TO DEFEND MY COUNTRY SIR”. DS goes “THAT’S A LOAD OF CROCK, YOU’RE HERE FOR THE MONEY AND THE EDUCATION”.
And that became everyone’s answer.
We had a strict rule to write official documents with a blue pen. It is a NATO standard and has its excuses but all in all, it’s one of those things. I had checked about 200 lines of weapons check-outs and -ins, when at the bottom of the page, there was one entry in black ink.
As you would imagine, I found out who it was pretty quickly, given the entry had his name and weapon number staring right at me. Now, the army has this thing where you go through “basic training” for everything.
So for example, if you are given a pair of speakers, you are mandated to read the safety and usage instructions and give a signature for it, so they can’t be held liable to some degree. This absolute piece of twig and sap looks at me with the most uncanny look when I confronted him about this issue.
After a bit of friendly banter in front of his whole room, I ask: “So what is your excuse for using black ink?”. His answer was actually brilliant, in a way. “Sir, I’ve yet to get the formal safety and usage training for the blue pen, sir!”
He rewrote all 100 entries in blue pen that evening after being the only soldier to get training to use a blue pen instead of a black one. But man. That was a special moment where all the muscles in my face were fighting not to laugh.
Last week of Coast Guard boot camp, we all went to retrieve our civilian bags from storage. We were told to grab all valuables and put them in a plastic bag, then present them to the Company Commander to be collected and locked in their office.
Everyone comes out with the usual—wallets and phones, mostly. The Company Commander starts walking and talking about how we’ll get the bag of shinies back on Sunday for our off-base freedom.
But he stops mid-sentence as he gets to one recruit. The conversation goes like this:
CC: Howard, why the heck do you have an iron?
Howard: MY RECRUITER TOLD ME IT WAS A SMART TO BRING AN IRON TO SHARE WITH MY COMPANY.
The Company Commander doesn’t say a thing. Just turns on his heel, goes to his office, and blasts Rob Zombie for 3 minutes, all while we are still holding out our plastic bags. We had learned over the weeks that this is his method to prep us to get us to do a bunch of push-ups, so we were bracing at this point.
Instead, he only comes back and tells Howard to put that iron away, then carries on with collecting the phones and wallets. We later learned that he only played the music so that we couldn’t hear his laughter and his attempts to compose himself.
It was the one time we broke him.
When I was in Air Force field training, we had a cadet named Scoby, pronounced with a long “O”. Naturally, everyone called her cadet “Scooby” (as in Scooby-Doo) instead, which she did not appreciate. Apparently, shockingly, we weren’t the first to come up with this joke.
Anyways, Cadet Scoby was acting as “Flight Commander” that day and someone asked, “Cadet Scoooooby may I ask a question?” Cadet Scoby then immediately corrected the “slip” of the tongue, “It’s pronounced Sc-Oh-by!”
The drill sergeant happened to be standing next to me at this time and said under his breath: “Ruh Roh Raggy”. The few of us that could hear him let out a muffled laugh and then he turned to us and smiled.
Still to this day one of the funniest “you had to have been there” moments and “Ruh Roh Raggy” is still something I laugh at.
I was in the Finnish army. I served as an instructor for new conscripts during the latter half of my own conscript service. We were testing how well the new conscripts had learned the ranks.
They would wait in line, and when it was their turn I'd show them a piece of paper with the symbol of a rank in it. They would address me properly, tell me their name, and say the rank. For example: "Sir Corporal sir, conscript last name, a Captain”.
The rank depicted on the piece of paper I showed was Corporal, which was also my rank and it was thus on my jacket, very visibly. It all went so wrong. The new conscript first addressed me "Sir General sir". I raised an eyebrow and he quickly tried to fix his mistake: "Sir second general sir".
This is a rank that would be right below general…if it existed, which it does not. The conscript behind him made a chuckle, so he fixed his mistake again, saying, "Sir corporal sir, conscript last name, I don't remember the rank you are showing".
I said, "You just said it”. He went quiet in thought for a few seconds, then happily said, "a conscript!"
In Army basic training, anything said to a drill sergeant needs to end with their title. Yes, drill sergeant. No, drill sergeant. So early into basic, our drill sergeant was handing out rifles. He asks my battle buddy for his serial number.
Battle buddy rattles it off. But he’d already made a mistake. The drill sergeant, not having heard his title given, asks him, “Who the heck do you think you’re speaking to? A drill sergeant? A fool? An idiot?”
My buddy, realizing he forgot the title and now fully flustered, goes to say “Apologies, drill sergeant,” but instead says “Apologies, idiot”. Both their eyes got wide at the same time in totally different ways.
The private realized he may not survive what comes next. The drill sergeant is giddy with excitement that a private just called him an idiot to his face. Exercise ensued.
In my final physical training test in basic training, I pooped my shorts but also got my fastest time. My Drill Sergeant said, "Private, what got into you?" Just before I barfed, I said "It's not what got into me, it's what came out!"
He sniffed, retched, and ordered me to the showers.
At Basic, I got the whole Drill Sergeant team laughing with a single comment. One Drill Sergeant starts yelling at me in my face about God knows what, on and on. He is from the deep south and has a super strong Mississippi accent.
I am an immigrant from South Africa, so my accent sounds English or Australian to US people. At that point, I’ve only been in the USA for a few years and have been living in Oregon, not the south. Honestly, I can only understand a bit of what he is saying.
At the end, he concludes with, "DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH PRIVATE?" I replied, "Drill Sergeant. No. I am really struggling with your accent Drill Sergeant”. There was silence for a bit, then they all started laughing.
Marching back to the barracks after lunch, I noticed a recruit with a white stain on his hip pocket. I halted the platoon and got in the recruit’s face. Me: “Recruit, that white stain on your shirt better be because you are excited for this afternoon’s training”.
I thought I was being off-putting, but his response took me aback. Recruit “No Sergeant, I am saving my snack for later. Me: “What snack are you saving?” Recruit: “Ice cream”.
On the first day, our Drill Sergeant was playing, "Who doesn't want to be here? If you don't want to be here, I don't want you here. Just tell me and you can go home”. We've been in front-lean-and-rest for between 15 minutes to two years (give or take), when somebody raises their hand.
The Drill Sergeant was flustered for a second because I don't think anyone had ever actually been dumb enough to raise their hand. He goes and gets gown in the Private's face and is screaming at him.
Finally he says, "Why don't you want to be here?" I'll never forget the response. "Drill Sergeant, this is not what my recruiter led me to believe this would be like”. It was the only time I saw the Drill Sergeant speechless. I ended up doing basic, OCS, and officer basic course with that guy.
One of my buddies has some amazing stories from his time as Drill Sergeant. My favorite was about a pair of trainees walking down the sidewalk toward an officer. The one trainee, Albert, was carrying a large box with both hands.
The other, Bert, was walking to his right and had nothing in his hands. The officer was getting ready to return the salute he knew was incoming, but the two trainees were visibly freaking out—how could Albert salute with both hands occupied?
Bert got the bright idea to salute with his right hand, appropriately, and to salute for his buddy with his left hand and a resounding "GOOD MORNING SIR". The Drill Sergeants were falling over each other to go tear them apart, stifling laughter the whole time.
When I went through Air Force basic training, we had a list of things we needed to have memorized and would regularly be quizzed on. Thing like the name and rank of every person in our chain of command from us to the president, ranks and insignia, a bunch of air force trivia, etc.
At the end of the chow hall line was the snake pit, the table where all the drill instructors sat. They would randomly stop trainees and ask them these questions. As I was passing the table one day, I overheard one drill instructor brag to another that a girl in her flight had every single answer memorized well before most people usually do.
That flight was behind me in the chow hall. As I sat down, they stopped that recruit, and one drill instructor started drilling her with these questions. She answers every one perfectly and quickly.
After 20 or so questions, the instructor threw a curve ball. He asks, "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?" The recruit paused for a minute and said, "Excuse me sir?" The instructor yelled at the top of his lungs, "WHO LIVES IN A PINEAPPLE UNDER THE SEA?"
The poor girl is just frozen and all the other instructors shout "SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS". They dismiss her and the instructor asking the questions continues to shout the next several lines of the song.
My brother did Army training, then joined the Air Force. In Army training at the time, all officers were, "Sir," no matter their gender. The Air Force, being a little more progressive, used “Ma’am" for female officers.
After taking maybe two steps off the bus on day one of basic, a female drill instructor my brother a question, to which he replies, "Yes, Sir”. This prompted her to yell, "Do I look like I have something down there?”
She then made him drop and do various horrible physical training exercises while loudly counting "One, Ma'am. Two, Ma'am" etc. As soon as she is done with him and he picks up his bags, a male instructor walks up and asks him a question, to which he loudly replies..."Yes, Ma'am!"
This happened in Navy basic training back in the early 2000s. We had just come from Freedom Hall and we're finally going for our first phone calls since we arrived. Our instructors put on their most menacing faces and told us exactly how it would go and that no matter how tempting or how clever we thought we were, we were not to touch the candy machines near the phones or we would be caught.
Now, it's my division and our brother division, so like 120 or so recruits. We get there and line up and just wait our turns for the phone booths. Everything seems to be going smoothly and we're almost done when I notice one of the instructors is just eyeballing this one guy and practically breathing down his neck.
The instructor bent down and in a quiet voice that naturally we all heard, he says, "Were those M&Ms good, recruit?” Well, you'd think this dude's soul flew out his body. His face turned red and just dropped. He was terrified and practically shaking. But it was far from over.
For the rest of the day, the instructors followed him around making comments about M&Ms. The next morning, we wake up to go start physical training and the recruit is gone. No one says anything. We get to Freedom Hall and there he is with the instructor that caught him. The recruit has been doing rifleman drills since 5 am.
He hasn't eaten and is ready to puke. He joins us for our next hour of physical training. I don't think he ever looked at an M&M the same after that.
We were on the grenade training range in groups of three. This is where there are various stations where you and your group have to throw dummy grenades at things. When you're the one throwing, you were supposed to yell to your group: "Cover me while I throw my grenade!"
This one guy from the south with an accent to match yelled, "Cover me while I throw this here grenade!" before he lobbed it. I had never seen the Drill Sergeant monitoring that station laugh so hard.
I was a Navy recruit. I was on colors duty in Chicago and, in case you don’t know, it’s kind of windy in Chicago. One time, we did not tie the fastening ropes well enough, so the flag ended up half-mast.
Our instructor retrieves me and the other recruit from class an hour later and proceeds to yell at us. He asks, “Who the heck died?” The other recruit, without missing a beat, says, “Chris Farley”—which was technically true, as he had passed a few days before.
The instructor had to leave to compose himself, before proceeding to have us stand at attention for a few hours while all the other ship instructors came by and made fun of and yelled at us, making Farley and Saturday Night Live jokes all the while.
During inspection, the section leader would walk up to every recruit and look them over for issues with their uniform. Everyone had a cap badge on their beret, and it’s supposed to be over the left eyebrow. But I’d made a stupid mistake. Unfortunately for me when I put my beret on, the cap badge was directly in the middle of my head.
The Sergeant walks up to me, stares me in the eye and says, “Recruit, are you the mythical cyclops of the underworld?“ Quite a few push-ups later and a lot of humiliation, I finally figured out what was wrong. Never made that mistake again.
We were on a casual run for physical training. It was a nice and easy 2 miler. We finish the run, and this idiot recruit walks up to the Sergeant conducting the run and says, “Sergeant, when does the real run start?”
He thought he was hilarious. We ended up running like 8 miles that day. Screw that guy.
In Navy boot camp, from time to time we would have inspections. We would have to put on a certain uniform and stand by our racks at attention while the drill instructors walked around asking us questions we were expected to know the answers to.
This particular time, it was on the chain of command. Anyway, one of our chiefs, let’s call him Chief Smith, was walking around, checking our uniforms, and asking us things like, “Recruit, who is your Commander in Chief?”
This is an example of an easy one you hoped to be asked. He gets to this one guy in my division, looks him straight in the eyes, and asks, “Recruit, who is your Chief of Naval Operations?” This guy looks back at him and confidently shouts, “CHIEF, MY CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS IS CHIEF SMITH, CHIEF!”
Upon which, Chief Smith pauses for a moment, mutters something to himself like, “Chief Smith…? What the heck?” then screams down this guy’s throat like he’s the clown at the drive-thru “THAT’S MY FREAKING NAME, IDIOT”.
At this point, all the other recruits standing nearby burst into laughter, myself included. It was hilarious. This guy had just told a drill instructor that he was in charge of the whole Navy.
Not only that, but Chief Smith himself lost it a little, too. We could tell he was trying his darndest to hold in the laughter, but he actually had to walk away momentarily to regain his composure.
Meanwhile, we’re all still laughing, and he comes back and says, “HEY. STOP LAUGHING,” then starts giggling himself and walks away again. It was amazing. The memory’s a little hazy now, but I don’t even think the recruit who answered incorrectly got in trouble.
I think there was some unspoken rule that if you can make the drill instructor laugh, you wouldn't get in trouble.
Back in basic, there was a huge amount of importance put on ironing creases. Anyways, our instructor was a turbo-tough-guy, nine-year Senior Chief; Chief Faulise. One day, we're all doing morning inspection, having ironed our clothes sometime during the night.
Then Chief sees some random recruit just walking though the hallway looking like absolute garbage. Chief called the recruit into our compartment and had him take part in our inspection. This recruit’s uniform looked like it had been balled up and steamed.
To this day I still can't fathom how he managed to look so messed up. Chief looked at this kid and his ridiculous uniform and started laying into him with the usual. "You look like hammered dog poop, etc”. When Chief asks him, "Did you iron even a single article since you've arrived?" the recruit replied, "CHIEF, I IRONED MY SKIVVIES, CHIEF!"
Keep in mind we're all standing at parade rest as this was transpiring. That means you couldn't move or make a sound. So Chief hears that this kid ironed his underwear. Then he got an incredible idea. He made him dress down to his skivvies and march around the compartment saying, "I IRONED MY SKIVVIES, CHIEF!".
We almost ruined ourselves holding in the laughter.
I was one of the recruits at Army Basic. This happened on one of the field training days for learning some piece of gear, I don't remember what. The Drill Sergeant calls on Recruit to sit in the chair as a demonstration.
The recruit obliges, obviously. The Drill Sergeant is walking around, talking, explaining, while the platoon is sitting in a large circle around the chair and the Drill Sergeant. Almost as soon as the Drill Sergeant starts talking, the recruit's head is nodding off.
By the time the Drill Sergeant gets back around front, the recruit is asleep. That's when the Drill Sergeant realized other recruits had been truthing when they said this guy had mild-narcolepsy.
Back in 2000 at Parris Island, we were doing warriors breakfast after the crucible. The series commanders are asking questions like "Where are you from," and, "Why did you join," and so forth.
They get to this Cambodian kid and they ask him why he joined up. His response was: "Because it was raining”. The series commander is like, "Explain”. The whole story was jaw-dropping. It turns out the kid was like fresh off the boat in New York City, didn't speak any English, and it started raining so he ducked into a recruiter's office.
They signed him up and he just went along with it. He learned English in boot camp.
I had a kid on my fireteam, he was an 18-year-old fresh out of basic. He kept falling out of runs and one day I’m ripping him a new one and I tell him that the First Sergeant is 49 years old and he’s running better than him.
The kid tells me, “But sergeant, he’s been doing it longer!” What in the actual?!?!
This happened back when I was in Basic Training, on the very first night. We were all lined up to shower. The first shower, they were pretty strict about time. 60 people in and out in 90 seconds. Wash the important parts and get out.
Obviously we didn't do it fast enough. So, this part explains why we were all mostly undressed when this happened. It was summer-time in Georgia, and they were super worried about dehydration, so they made us drink a canteen of water every night.
The Drill Sergeant had us do it, then said to hold the canteen over our heads when we were done. After everyone was done, he said to dump them upside down so he knows everyone drank it all.
One kid decided not to drink it all, and when the Drill Sergeant said to dump it, he said he "didn't want to spill it everywhere”. That was the beginning of the end. The Drill Sergeant has us fill our CamelBaks up full and get back on the line. We’re all still in towels mind you.
Drill Sergeant: "RIGHT, FACE. Now unscrew the person's CamelBak in front of you". "LEFT, FACE. FRONT LEANING REST POSITION—MOVE". That's the push up position.
Cue the water flooding everything. Literal gallons in each CamelBak. 60+ people. It was a mess. Then our towels start falling off as we do push-ups. Slowly everyone started to laugh a little as we all realized the ridiculousness of it all.
Eventually the Drill Sergeant lost his composure and left the room. All he said was, “It's lights out now. That means I don't want to hear a thing until the morning...And this room better be clean”. Then he walked out snickering.
I was US Infantry, serving in Korea. We were part of a mixed US/Korea unit, and during a briefing, one of the Korean men fell asleep. Our sergeant wakes him up and begins screaming at him.
The soldier said "No Sergeant, you got it all wrong. In Korea, it's a sign of respect to listen with your eyes closed, because then you have no other distractions”. The sergeant bought it, and as soon as the meeting was over and the sergeant was out of earshot, we all cracked up.
I'm an infantry nurse, and as part of our orientation we had to give vaccines to the new recruits. One of the recruits was probably four foot nothing. They have yellow handprints on the wall for one of the shots, and he couldn’t even reach them.
One of the instructors just kept yelling at him: "Defy all odds, Recruit! Defy all odds!"
I went to a military college. Our first year is called Knob year. It's basically one long boot camp. We were standing in line, waiting to go into lunch formation when we had a couple upperclassmen come to yell at one of my classmates.
Apparently, he had requested for extra time off around Thanksgiving.
Upperclassman: "Knob, what is the meaning of you asking for Special Leave?"
Knob : "Sir, my stepbrother is in a band and about to go on tour. This will be the last time he is home for a year, Sir".
Upperclassman: "A tour, with what band?"
Knob: "Sir, they are opening for Motley Crue, Sir".
Upperclassman: "What's the name of his band?"
Knob: "Sir, Guns and Roses, Sir".
Upperclassman: "God, what an awful name, they will never make it".
At the end of Knob Year, my classmate decided not to come back to school but instead go and be a Roadie with his step-brother’s little band.
Navy here. I was at Great Lakes in the mid-90s, and the funniest memory I have from boot camp was in our first week. We had gotten all of our clothing issue. Our Recruit Division Commander, which basically is the equivalent of a Drill Sergeant in the Navy, was pacing while he instructed us how to fold and stencil our underwear. But the problems started instantly.
Now, they make it super complicated and petty so you will learn how to work under stress. I know that now. 18-year-old me didn't! Our instructor was 4'11" of the meanest man I have ever encountered.
We were all sitting in front of our bunks while he told us how promiscuous our mothers are, and that's why they didn't have time to teach us the proper way of folding underwear. I was trying my best not to laugh.
He would grab someone’s stack of underwear and just slam it onto the floor. He would then do a kind of pagan river dance on top of them. I remember squeezing my pucker so tight, it hurt. It was the hardest laugh I have ever held in.
Some of my shipmates burst into tears because the instructor told them that they will never be able to sleep with a woman or have a good career, all because their name was stenciled off-center.
I understood what he was teaching us, but he was screaming at the top of his lungs as if he walked in with one of us and his wife. When he approached my bunkmate, I closed my eyes and prayed.
My bunkmate was like the nicest guy in the world. He is from the Philippines and had been speaking English for two years. This was not going to turn out well. I kept my bearing and looked straight ahead.
Suddenly he got into my bunk mate's face and called him things like "worthless” and a " commie piece of trash”. It was the thought of a grown man being so offended because your undies weren’t folded perfectly that was making my nose bleed while holding my laughs in.
Here is where I failed.
He threatened to punch my bunkmate in, and I quote, "his bun oven"! I'm still not sure what that is, but I let a few pangs of laughs shoot out my nose. It sounded more like crying as I thought about how I was going to explain my discharge from the Navy to my mother.
The Drill Sergeant glared at me. He yelled at me to stop pointing my big teeth at him, which until he said that, I never had an issue with them. My bunkmate looked at me with eyes that said "Thank you for taking this beating for me".
The Drill Sergeant was half an inch to my face. I could taste the sad, cold roast beef gyro he ate alone at lunch. He made a mad grab at the underwear stack I was holding. I paused. I did a good job folding. I watched his eyes go up and down while he looked for the slightest mistake.
He looked confused and darted his eyes back at me. But then I made another mistake. I smiled slightly, expecting praise. His Xena-like cry in response made my heart sink to my stomach. He then turned and ran towards the window and threw my underwear bundle with all his might. But there was another twist.
The window was closed. He immediately went at the small lock with punches and kicks. Two other instructors had to hold him back while one of the recruits got that window open. He broke free and tackled the underwear bundle.
Everyone watched while he backed up to a running start and took off. My underwear fluttered out to the wind rather beautifully. But one of them said no. It sailed back inside supernaturally and my instructor went to kick it. Another twist.
The instructor is short, so when the underwear wrapped around his foot, he started stomping his leg as if he had a lit match between his toes. I was laughing so hard that I didn't notice he was stomping me too! But the entire time my underwear was still wrapped around his feet.
Know what this cost me? For every one push-up anyone in the Navy did, I did ten. I didn't get a blanket party, but my fellow shipmates spoke openly on the best way to hide my body.
Before I graduated, that instructor told me that he would find out what base I get assigned to in a few years and he will just watch me. Just watch me. Then once I am at my happiest, he will come get me. So at least I have someone thinking about me.
Back in the mid-1980s, I was attending Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Basic Camp, which was designed for college students who wanted to enroll in the Army ROTC but did not participate in ROTC in their first two years of college.
The Drill Sergeants made it quite clear that they were not happy having to train future officers. I had CQ duty, which meant I was on my hands and knees at 2 am rubbing wax into the floor of the company headquarters.
The duty Drill Sergeant stepped out to check on the fire guards, and about five minutes later he came back into the orderly room, laughing his butt off. He then ordered me to come with him. I followed him to one of the barracks, where there was a young Cadet standing on the sidewalk trying not to cry.
The DS, still laughing, said "Hey Cadet, tell this Cadet what you did!" Trying to maintain his composure, my young comrade started to tell me how he tried to pet a cat, but I already knew this kid from the Bronx did nothing but smell like a skunk.
To understand this prank, you have to know that every time a Drill Sergeant enters a room, someone must yell, "at ease!" to alert everyone to jump to their feet. This is helpful to warn your buddies sleeping in their bunks, as this is a big no-no—you sleep only during personal time and personal time doesn't exist in Basic.
Well, this poor soul was resting his sweet eyes when we had the brilliant idea of tying his bootlaces around the bunk. With the entire platoon gathered around (the men, at least), he awoke to a thundering, "AT EASE!".
His upper body rocketed from the bed with a thrust rivaling that of Apollo 12, while his feet remained firmly anchored to the bedpost. Funny how we create humor in the most miserable of places.
I had a trainee, Paul, who could not remember his reporting statement or that he needed to use it when addressing the training instructor. It was a simple statement, "Sir, Trainee Paul reports as ordered,” then you answer a question or say what you need to say.
Pretty easy. Or it should have been. Anyway, we were doing physical training one morning on the pad under the dorms because there was lightning within 5 nautical miles. The whole time, Paul was failing at push-ups.
The instructor calls him on it "Why the heck can you not do a push-up Trainee?” Paul just starts stammering, "I'm just not...that...uh…I don't…”
Instructor: "Sir, what?"
Paul: "I don't...have...uh...much upper body strength...”
Instructor: "SIR, WHAT?!"
Paul: "I'm not good at push-ups!"
Instructor: "WHERE IN THE HOLY HECK IS YOUR REPORTING STATEMENT?!"
I still can’t believe what happened next. Paul looks all around himself, pats his pockets, looks at the instructor, and says, "Sir, I think I left it in my security drawer”.
The instructor, without missing a beat, points at the stairs and says, "Well, go get it!” Paul runs off. Some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen. As far as I know, he's still in that bay looking for his reporting statement, because I never saw that dude again.
I did basic at Fort Benning Georgia in 1990. The funniest thing that happened was one day the Drill Sergeants didn't have anything for us to do, so they took us out to this big field behind the quad and gave us a "work detail" or just "detail".
That meant making us move a pile of logs from one side of the field to another. Just total busywork. We weren't allowed to form a chain or anything like that, either. You had to pick up a log, move it to the other side of the field, and stack it neatly.
Once complete, of course, we had to move them back. By the time we were in the "move back" phase, we were all exhausted, dirty, and unhappy. Bear in mind that infantrymen tend to get lippy under these circumstances.
Our head Drill Sergeant showed up and was displeased with our progress, so to add insult to injury he started to "smoke" us in classic fashion—push-ups, flutter kicks, sit-ups, etc. All the while demanding to know why it was taking so long.
At one point this one guy in my platoon finally speaks up: "Geeze, Drill Sergeant, Rome wasn't built in a day". The Drill Sergeant immediately retorted "OH YEAH??? Well, I wasn't in charge of that particular detail".
As dirty, tired, sore, and ticked off as we all were, we all busted out laughing, including the Drill Sergeant himself and the guy who spoke up.
My brother was in basic training, and the boys decided to do a type of relay race in the hallways. They zipped two dudes, one of which was my brother, into duffel bags. So just their heads were poking out.
The objective was simple: Two other guys had to run to the end of the hall and back while carrying the duffels. The first one back is the winner. Well, halfway through the race the Commanding Officer walked into the hallway.
The boys holding the bags dropped them and everyone booked it back to their rooms. This left my brother and another guy trapped inside their duffels, desperately trying to wriggle free while their Commanding Officer looked on.
I had a guy in my platoon with the last name Starr. The Drill Sergeant started giving bim heck from day one about it, randomly saying he was Patrick Starr from SpongeBob SquarePants. The Drill Sergeant comes up and asks his real name out of curiosity.
No joke, the guy’s name really is "Patrick Starr," and had just about as much of a brain as the one and only from SpongeBob.
He also brought some kind of bizarre bad luck with him. Like, as soon as his feet landed on grass from stepping off the bus, someone in my platoon quit. My platoon had 55 total people, and at one point 17 total quitters who were there with us but slowly leaked away.
It was a nightmare because they did not care even a little bit and they made life just that much tougher for the rest of us who were committed to staying. One guy literally went AWOL, twice. He ran away in the middle of the night one night, then came back saying he’d cut a deal with the Commanding Officer, then ran away again. Just a total mess.
Meanwhile, good old Patrick Starr just sat around and did nothing, though he did miraculously make it through training. To this day, though, I cannot hear his name—or watch or think about SpongeBob SquarePants—without remembering some of the worst weeks of my life.
In basic training environments, recruits are given a standard set of responses that they're supposed to stick to. They vary from service to service, but generally, the standard responses are some version of: Yes, No, I'll do that right away, I'll find out.
Part of the head game that's played during basic training is getting into the habit of only answering questions using your standard responses. With that last one, the point is to try and remove "I don't know" from a recruit's vocabulary and replace it with "I'll find out”. It's a mental thing.
Unrelated to that entirely, people in the army are very particular about hats. Your hat gets tucked into your pocket or stuffed into your pants/boot when you're inside, and as soon as you're outside—boom. Hat goes on. You always have your hat with you, just in case you go outside, because one of the first things you learn is that people wear their hats when they go outside.
This concept is central to our identity, as silly as it may seem. So there was a situation where a recruit was holding a door open for his company mates to pass through. He was standing outside, holding the door open, but he wasn't wearing his hat.
We were on a pretty tight schedule, he was a good kid, and I wasn't trying to make a scene. I walked over to him and in a hushed voice asked, "Recruit, are you inside or outside?". My intent was to prompt him to put his hat on—that was it. I was just trying to help a brother out. It backfired on me.
He turned to face me and, at the top of his lungs shouted, "THIS RECRUIT WILL FIND OUT, SIR!"
I couldn't help myself.
"Oh? You're going to find out? You're going to find out? You're going to find out if you're inside or outside? You know what, take five seconds. Find out. Go ahead, look around. Gather as many facts as you can. Go go go go go go go go go go go. Zero five. Zero four. Zero three. Zero two. Zero one. You're done”.
“Recruit- have you reached a determination as to the description of your surroundings?"
"Well?! Speak freely!"
"THIS RECRUIT HAS ASSESSED THE SITUATION AND IS OVERWHELMINGLY CONFIDENT THAT HE IS OUTSIDE!"
I then pulled his hat out of his pocket and placed it on top of his head. His eyes lit up with an "ohhhhhh" look. He got it. I was trying to help him out, not yell at him.
After he graduated, I linked up with him to tell him that situation was probably my absolute favorite thing that's ever happened in any of the classes that had come through.
We had a specific response that we had to say if our instructors or any other higher-ranking person asked us a question in basic. You had to say "Trainee (last name) reports as ordered" before you could answer the question. Or, if they called you over, you had to say it before you went over.
A lot of trainees screwed it up and would say "reporting" instead of "reports". One day some new kid from another flight, still in his civilian clothing, said he was “reporting” to his instructor, and when he got there our instructor stopped our flight so we could watch what happened.
That guy stood there reporting the weather and telling the instructor what shapes he saw in the clouds because "only meteorologists do the reporting”. I'll never forget watching some guy sit there and tell 52 other people what shapes he saw in the clouds at the top of his lungs.
Ooooh boy, I remember going to Basic. They had us all single filed into a classroom and seated by name. So, of course, our instructor starts asking, "Why did you join?". The first unlucky fellow doesn't address the Major Corporal’s rank and just goes on talking.
He gets blasted. We keep going around the room and for the most part, it's pretty good. Then my buddy's turn comes up, and he makes the same mistake as the first guy. Before the Major Corporal can even start yelling, my buddy says, "I’M SORRY MASTER CHIEF”.
Yes, Halo Master Chief. My Major Corporal just stared at him, lightly chuckled, and then the whole room burst into laughter. Buddy was from then on nicknamed…Master Chief.
I was in an infantry basic training that was rather regimented, though I have no concept of how other trainings are. For example, we weren’t allowed to say “roger” or “hooah”. It was pretty much only “Yes/No drill sergeant,” which you of course had to append to everything you said.
One day, this fool next to me responded to a question (unironically) with “The private doesn’t know. The private will educate himself” about a week into the “roughest” portion of training.
12 years later, I still have scars on my hand from low crawling up and down that gravel hill because of his idiocy. Actually, that guy was also afraid of getting pink eye one time. I jokingly said “Spray Lysol, it’ll kill all germs”.
10 minutes later, we hear screaming from the bathroom. He actually did it. He cried. We spent 20 minutes washing his eyes out, and afterward, he knocked on the Drill Sergeant’s door to snitch on me.
We had a guy in Army training who was horrible. He got recycled—kicked out of one training cycle and thrown into ours—and it was definitely due to him being an absolute idiot. Finally, our Drill Sergeants had enough as well and got him chaptered.
But before he left, he apparently pooped in the male showers as revenge. Now, as a woman, I did not have the luxury of witnessing what happened when a Drill Sergeant found it. I did hear it though, as there was much yelling and slamming going on.
The men were doing push-ups hard as the Drill Sergeant tried to find out “Who pooped in his showers," but by this time the guy who did it was already sent away. Finally, the smoke session ends.
Fast forward to the end of training. There was one last kicker. One of the last mail calls is happening and our Drill Sergeant is calling us to grab our mail. He stops at one particular letter. It's addressed to him, "from" the shower kid.
He looks around suspiciously and opens it. Inside was a letter written on toilet paper. It said, "Dear Drill Sergeant, Sorry I pooped in your shower”. Our drill sergeant shook his head and started laughing.
We didn't even get smoked. Obviously it wasn't from this kid, it was another private that made it and put it through the postal system to our Drill Sergeant. Best mail call ever.
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