Preparing to Get the Boot From Boot Camp

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EDITOR'S NOTE: TIME Daily writer Frank Pellegrini, at a ripe 27 years, has taken a leave of absence to join the Army Reserve. He is undergoing basic training boot camp and then will spend time in an Army journalism school. Given the difficulty the armed forces are experiencing in recruiting young people these days, we think his experiences and impressions are worth sharing. Here is the fourteenth missive; others will be posted as they arrive.

If, in the past couple of dispatches, I have appeared unhappy to be back, I am not alone. We are all backsliders here, having drunk deeply enough of civilian life during our Christmas break as to nearly forget we are all still volunteers. One drill sergeant calls it a "bad case of dumb-ass," another says he sees the same why-oh-why-did-I-sign-that-paper stare we had in our faces when we first arrived here.

For us, it is worse this time; we have lost the anticipation, and of course the fear, that clamped us down then. Now we only want to whirl around and go back, to the families and friends and lovers who let us sleep as late as we wanted, and patted us on the back as if we were already finished.

It passes, though. After a day or two of bumbling, fumbling and grumbling, the training schedule ramps up again and we find ourselves dragged by necessity back to our old heights of motivation. Formations tighten up; cadences grow loud and crisp again; words of appreciation are uttered at meals.

Here and there, privates (myself among them, proud to say) are doing voluntary PT in the evenings, trying to impress the commanders at the next stop in their training. (Everyone else swears they'll start hitting the sweats any day now). As a company, we tear through the "confidence course" — walls, towers, rope climbing, etc. — with reasonable gusto. After all, we have only two weeks left, half of that reserved for the equipment-cleaning and paperwork of "out-processing," and there is only one real ordeal — three days' camping in the field — between us and the Exit sign.

The drill sergeants call our attention to this constantly. They figure it's the end that drives us these days, not the process, and they are always claiming, quite convincingly, that they are as eager for us to leave as we are.

We try not to act too hurt.

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