Sergeant School Part One

The Eve and morning

Warrior leadership course is required to advance to sergeant. I volunteered more to have employment for two weeks than to advance in the Army Reserves. I would have preferred a sooner date than the first two weeks of April, but that date would have to do. My biggest worry was not being able to respond to inquiries about the lawn business. To date I have five confirmed new customers for this year.

My training was preluded by a reckless week of haphazard accomplishments. If it wasn’t one problem, it was another. By the eve of my flight out I was a wretched stressed out wreck. In contrast to my temperament, the weather was calm and relaxing. I was to spend the night at my brother’s house and fly out the next morning. While at his house the night before a group of us neighboring friends went to the park. The physical exercises released the stress that had built up. By night’s end I was resting peacefully.

I could hear Sam making breakfast. I woke up to kitchen utensils clanking around, but if I wasn’t fully awake by then, I was after the fire alarm screamed. I could hear a disgruntled Sam muttering something at the alarm like, “I ain’t burn’n anything, I know how to cook, you just shut up.” The chair rumbled across the floor as he centered it under the noisy device and deactivated it.

My door opened and I heard Sam starting to say, “Hey it’s time to…”

“Ya, I’m up,” I interrupted in that familiar rough sounding morning voice. The breakfast was a healthy one; Eggs, a pancake, and a hash brown. The drive was a short one. Midway Airport was just a couple miles away. In no time, I was grabbing my bags out of the car to head to my gate. I shook hands with Sam and left through to entrance.

A Reading Digression

My flight took me to Atlanta Georgia first. While I waited, I read my book: “Business at the Speed of Thought.” I had only read up to page 33 the last time I read it. Bill Gates, the author, was explaining how computers were, in addition to revolutionizing the home, would continue to revolutionize the way business was done. Written in 1999, he made some predictions that have been a reality for some time now. Some of his predictions included banking online, booking flights online, and online tech support. One of the major dilemma’s that he felt was his responsibility was the fact that, to that point in time, the US was still doubling its paper consumption every four years, despite the increasing use of computers. Taking the pioneering costs, Gates led his company to make the transition to going almost completely paperless. In all, the company went from using over 1000 separate paper forms to only 50; thirty were required by other companies, ten were required by law, and the last ten, though used within the company, were so infrequent that it wasn’t really worth switching over. Despite the high cost of pioneering the new business system, Microsoft still cut 40 million dollars a year from their total costs because of that.

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Taking the Bird

It was time to board my first flight of the trip. I got to sit toward the front right behind first class and next to the window. It wasn’t long before I was talking with the guy next to me. I asked him, “So are you flying for business of pleasure?” It was Easter weekend so many people were traveling to visit family.

“Both actually,” he replied. He was visiting family over the weekend but also had a business meeting on Monday. He was a commercial insurance representative. Blatantly ignoring the stewardess’ safety briefing directly in front of us, we talked until the plane reached its peak altitude. He then took out his head phones and I took out my book. The flight would be an hour and twenty-seven minuets. To me it never seems to take as long as it actually is. It felt more like just twenty minuets.

My next flight gate seemed like a mile away. I used the walking accelerators. It amazed me that people would use them to slowly transport themselves as they stood lazily. I walked past those kinds of people. When I finally got to the gate I found that my next flight was delayed about two hours. I then decided to go for lunch. I got a hamburger and coke. I got a call from my dad as soon as I was done with my hamburger. I talked to him for just about the rest of the waiting time.

dscn1822Before the flight, the pilot explained that the flight was delayed because of a reverse thrust problem. He reassured us that though it needed to be addressed, it wasn’t a major problem.

The take off was much more turbulent than the first flight. I could tell that the woman next to me was a nervous flyer. Her periodic fidgeting gave it way. The flight was even shorter than the last. The official time was 45 minuets. While we climbed in altitude, I climbed to page 70-something in my book. I still had over three hundred pages to go, but I didn’t worry about that. My goal was to finish the book by the time I returned, which gave me ample time.

The flight soon reached the landing run-way. I followed the signs to baggage claim. All I could think about was changing from by blue jeans and blue two-button collared shirt to my “pt’s”. When I called earlier, the sergeant informed me that I was to show up wearing my PT uniform which consists of black shorts and a grey army t-shirt. I grabbed my duffle bag and went straight to the bathroom to change. Since my flight was delayed, I missed the free ride that would have been waiting for me. I had to take a cab.dscn1826

Soon we were on post and I was collecting my bags from the back. I gave the cab driver his money and moved quickly to the company quarters. There, they directed me to the barracks that I would spend the next fourteen nights at. I found a bed and placed my stuff down and ran back outside. There was a formation that had dismissed and loaded onto the two grey buses. I was the last to arrive, but I made it. I boarded the second bus. The buses looked like they had been handed down to the Army from a public school. You could see where the stickers use to be on the front of the bus. As we took off the smoke visibly escaped from the bus in front of us and entered the windows of our bus. I tried to hold my breath through it.

As we rode, I realized that I had been on this very base a little more than eight years ago. I never had thought I would be returning to my boot camp grounds. We even passed the barracks that I was in while there. My mother and my grandfather drove all the way out from Illinois to see me graduate here at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I don’t believe I had realized the magnitude of the distance of that journey that they had made. “Papa,” as we called him has passed away since, only about two years ago. While I was in Afghanistan, I sent him a flag and a plaque that stated what date the flag had been flown in his honor. It meant a lot to him and he placed the flag on the wall of his hall way until he passed away.

 

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The barracks

We arrived at a building where we would spend the next few hours in briefings. As we neared the entering of the building we were all swiftly handed boxes. I grabbed mine and continued to follow the next person in front of me. I looked down at the already open box and deduced that it was a laptop. “These are all laptops,” I thought to myself, partially surprised. They were all laptops; brand new laptops and we were the first rotation to be able to use them. We signed for them, and for two weeks, the lap tops were ours. I soon realized that I could potentially journalize this course. My only dilemma was; how would I save it and bring it home? Perhaps I could burn it to a disk, or maybe I would be able to wirelessly connect to the internet and send it to myself in an email. Ultimately, neither of these was going to be a viable option, but to my excitement I would be able to copy it and bring it home. I brought my digital camera, which had a chip in it that could plug directly into the computer. So this was typed on that computer.

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The Sergeants that would train us were drill sergeants. For this class, however, they would be referred to as sergeant leaders or SGLs.

The Weekend

All of Saturday breezed by quickly. We were taught in the class room all day about leadership. All of us students would be referred to as sergeant regardless of our actual rank. Mine was specialist, but I felt I was long overdue to be sergeant. I wish I would have had the opportunity to have taken this course much sooner. If I had an opportunity to advance, perhaps I wouldn’t have left the army for two years.

In the evening, we were dismissed and would be “free” until Monday morning at 5. Normally we wouldn’t have Sunday off, but because of Easter we did. I looked forward to the extra sleep. I also looked forward to reading my book. Furthermore, I anticipated beginning the journal on the computer assigned to me.

My efforts to find a phone book and call a church up were in vain. The company quarters had no phone book, or at least they couldn’t find it, so I was stuck on base. To my relief, the gas station down the street was open. If it weren’t for it I don’t know if I would have found anything to eat all day. I hated spending more money. For breakfast I signed out and walked down the street. The base is so large that they have several private restaurants. With the gas station Shoppett was a barber and a Pizza Hut. For breakfast, I bought a coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and a sweet role. For lunch I bought a meatball sub. Since it was refrigerated I had to heat it up in the microwave. As I ate it, some other soldiers gave me some extra pizza so that it wouldn’t go to waste. It was challenging but I had the three pieces of pizza with my already sufficient meal. I don’t think I went back for dinner. Since my lunch was a late and hardy one I really didn’t miss it.

The guys in my immediate barracks area and I became familiar with each other that afternoon. After lunch, which was around 3 or 4 o-clock, I changed into my “pj’s.” I had my fire engine red coke-a-cola pants and a t-shirt. I acquired a nick-name because of that. From then on I was referred to as “coke” or “sergeant coke.”

Part 2 Continued click here

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