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An Army of One - A Lesson To Learn

So you’ve been waiting for this day for weeks, perhaps even months — the time you stare a drill sergeant eye-to-eye. You have completed the fitness program in The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, you have memorized the terms and acronyms, and you feel there is nothing that your drill sergeant can do to make your life miserable. Consider the following real life example. I know this is a true story because I personally was involved (names have been changed (except for mine) to protect the guilty):

Private Smith and Private Jones just finished polishing their boots to a perfect shine. The boots were so shiny they almost blinded you when you looked directly at them. The two privates walked downstairs and report to the drill sergeant for fireguard duty. While walking downstairs their boots kicked up dust from the dirty floor. Their newly shined boots still looked great, but were spotted lightly with dust. Upon reporting to the drill sergeant to begin their fireguard shift, the drill sergeant noticed their boots.

The two privates, not realizing the stairs kicked up so much dust on their boots, smiled and were ready to receive a compliment from the drill sergeant. Instead of the compliment the drill sergeant yelled, “Group, attention.” The two privates snapped to attention. The drill sergeant yelled “Mark time, march,” and the two confused privates immediately began marching in place. The drill sergeant walked away. The two privates, still confused, continued to march in place because their drill sergeant did not give them the command to stop.

One hour went by and the drill sergeant reappeared. “Group, halt!” he yelled. The two exhausted privates stopped marching in place after one hour. The drill sergeant lectured them about dusty boots and told them to go upstairs and get the recruits who were supposed to relieve them for fireguard duty. The privates complied and ran upstairs to get their relief, private James and specialist Volkin. After hearing what happened to the previous fireguard shift, the two recruits reported for duty walking down the stairs gently, as to not kick up any dust on their shiny boots. “Fireguard, reporting for duty drill, Sergeant,” specialist Volkin yelled. The drill sergeant walked out: “Group, attention.” The two recruits snapped to attention. The drill sergeant shouted, “Mark time, march,” and the
two confused recruits immediately began marching in place. The drill sergeant left, and returned one hour later. “Group, halt,” he yelled. “How dare you have your fellow recruits come to fireguard duty with dusty boots?”

This true story was intended to prepare you mentally for basic training. You can be Mr. or Ms. Perfect when you go through basic training, but there is nothing you can do to avoid learning the lesson and motto: An Army of One. When you are subjected to a task similar to this, and believe me, I have heard many stories like this, do not get mad at your fellow soldier. Suck it up, learn from it, and move forward, just like a good soldier should do.


Mike Volkin is the author of the Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, available at

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