Never Played A Down Of Football Until Last Summer Boot Camp: Character Discovered Daily

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Boot Camp: Character Discovered Daily

Your colleagues will get it. Unfortunately, your loved ones who have never shared the experience just don’t understand boot camp. What happened there? Why did you change? The following will help start this conversation. They never really know. Maybe they can at least understand.

“Content of character” is a phrase we often hear. Each of us has a character; some have more content than others. Or that they made us believe. How do we know how much character content we have? At what point do we reach our bottom? How do we react when we look into this abyss? These are questions that basic military training, affectionately known as “boot camp,” allows each of us to answer for ourselves.

During the summer of 1989, I had the distinct pleasure of serving as the ROTC Cadet Training Officer at Dover AFB, DE. It was a six-week boot camp designed both to mold college students into American warfighter leaders and to weed out those unable to meet the demanding requirements of USAF officers. Along with the rest of the staff, I reported a week in advance to review the mission and plan.

A few hours before the cadets arrived at dawn, my true mission was fully revealed. After spending the evening together as an R&R officer, I looked around the room only to find that I was alone with the Commandant of Cadets, a lieutenant colonel of impeccable credentials. He asked me to sit next to him and began to speak in soft tones: “In a few hours the civilians will come here, I expect you to leave the officer candidates.” Expecting this to be the perfect thought, I responded with a typical “Huh” to acknowledge that I understood my mission and accepted its invitation. However, he continued.

As he spoke, I felt his tension rise. Although he never raised his voice, his passion and sincerity captured my attention and filled me with great anticipation. I no longer had casual conversations. I experienced one of the most memorable moments of my life, leading up to a major emotional event in the coming weeks. “I want you to break every cadet that walks through that gate. Break them mentally, break them physically, or break them emotionally – but, break them! Then they will know the depth of their character.” I sat there, open-mouthed, apparently stunned, deep in thought as he concluded, “They can’t be rebuilt by the Air Force… They can’t bring planes into battle… Until until they find something. deep inside.”

It was about four weeks later that I understood what he said. I was checking the barracks at 3:30 pm and I expected that the cadets were all asleep; but they knew they could shine shoes by moonlight or study by flashlight. These things had to be done at night. In the daily routine, time was not allocated for the cadets to perform all the tasks assigned to them. However, as a night stalker, it was my job to punish anyone who was caught. It was a game. They had to do whatever it took to pass courses, tests and physical education tests; I increased the difficulty level. There was only one cadet that night. When I came across him, he was washing the floor to a high pitch in the open area.

Within minutes I had her doing push-ups outside. As he counted them, “1, 2, 3, 1, sir… 1, 2, 3, 2, sir,” I got a comical smile at his cadence. He had done it before. He knew the game now and was willing to wait for me to go back to his barracks and sleep until I was out of the area. The commandant’s words came back to me. I did not know how to carry out my mission. I knew: failure was impossible.

This was a great example of the man before me. If he hadn’t chosen to play defense, he could have easily decided to spend his time chasing the football, as he splits linemen and ate quarterbacks for a light snack. He passed 50. I gave a lecture. I told him that it is now the property of the state and that he does not take good care of this property. When he passed 100, I extolled the virtues of sleep and the body’s need for rest. It wasn’t until about 200 square shots that he even started to slow down. But, until 250 he was mine. I didn’t need to shout. I realized that whispering is much more powerful. I always put my lips close to his ear and questioned his masculinity. As his arms began to shake from lifting his mammoth frame, I knew his strength was leaving him. A few more and he was physically unable to continue. I pushed him to his physical limits. He tried to pull himself up; however, his hands were no longer cooperating.

“Are you full?” I barked enough to change my mood; but not loud enough to wake those sleeping inside. “No, sir,” he returned earnestly, now with serious disappointment in his tone. I urged him to resign: “Maybe my Air Force isn’t the place for you, cadet. Say the word and you’ll be back in your mother’s arms by this time tomorrow.” I had barely finished the sentence when he said, “I’m not leaving, sir.” His body did not agree. He is done. I called him to attention and stood nose to nose with him. “It’s not for you,” I insisted softly, “why don’t you go home to mom. I’ve got enough air power for the both of us. Speak up, cadet.” His face began to harden. His muscles, though tired, were trained. His eyes pierced me like a dagger. His gaze was cold.

I was not innocent myself. At 6’5″, 220 pounds, I was not only an athletic trainer, I was also a martial arts fighter who held the state record for knockouts in Pennsylvania history and was recently an Air Force athlete in the sport. Although in the ring with I’ve met big men, but what stood before me was a giant with epics written on it – a mountain voice. As I noticed the definition of his tree muscles. I believed that I could almost smell his anger.

As I prepared for the worst, I realized that anger was not in the air. This was the content of the character of a man that I witnessed. A tear fell from his right eye. “I’m not going to quit, sir,” he shouted loudly, “you can’t do anything to me… Now both my eyes were crying.” – You can’t tell me anything… – Determination returned to his voice. -… to leave me, sir. He straightened his shoulders even more, clenched his fists, stood at full attention, and finished, “We can stay here as long as you want, sir… as long as you want. need… “till you know I never quit!” We didn’t have to stay any longer. My work was done. He found his bottom and saw its contents.

Weeks later, at his graduation ceremony, he politely saluted and then extended a hand of friendship. “I can never thank you properly for that night,” he said as his eyes fell from mine. I took his hand and squeezed it with purpose and replied, “And you never need to, Hoo?” His gaze locked on mine as his grip tightened, ending our time with a parting thought. Because to show his complete understanding, he could only say one thing: “Yes”. This was the leader of the warriors.

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