11-year-old Ian Thomas, Jackson Shepherd, and the other young recruits aboard the Colorado Springs transport began to feel a bit more anxious as they sat in silence, awaiting their first official instructions from a representative of the New World Military. And, it didn’t take long to receive that first set of official instructions. Suddenly, a very serious little person in a flat brimmed hat flashed by the bus windows. He bounded up the stairs of the transport, turned and addressed the recruits. Quite loudly.
“Off my transport!” he screamed, banging a metal baton upon the steel wall of the transport. “Stand up, grab your gear and line up with your feet on the black line! Go! Go! Go! Go! What are you babies waiting for?!”
The gruff, angry little voice belonged to none other than twelve-year-old Drill Sergeant, Dwayne “Pinky” Perkins. It was rumored that Sergeant Perkins had earned the nickname Pinky, when he lost the smallest finger on his left hand, due to an unfortunate weapon malfunction during a training exercise.
The recruits urgently grabbed their luggage and exited the transport as quickly as humanly possible, each simply wanting to stay off the loud little man’s attention grid.
“Holy cats, I hope that’s the last we see of that little guy,” Jackson whispered to Ian as they waited in line to exit the transport.
“Man. Un-Freaking-Believable,” said Ian, exhaling deeply, puffing out his cheeks.
In seconds, the recruits had scrambled from the bus and firmly planted their feet upon the wide black line, as instructed.
Sergeant “Pinky” Perkins, along with a group of other Drill Sergeants stood in a group, speaking and observing the new class of recruits. Jackson Shepherd immediately recognized little Perkins from the brief, yet explosive encounter aboard the transport. Jackson elbowed Ian in his side a couple times, attempting to get him tickled at the sight of the serious little Sergeant.
“Dude, stop,” whispered Ian, trying not to smile.
It was all the two boys could do to keep from laughing out loud at Perkins, who was now pacing about the parking lot with his pants pulled up beneath his armpits like a mean old man.
“Now listen up and repeat after me,” Drill Sergeant Perkins instructed. “I am a recruit. I know absolutely nothing about anything.”
“I am a recruit. I know absolutely nothing about anything,” the 200 recruit voices answered in unison.
“The way I will learn something, is by shutting my mouth and listening to my instructors,” continued Perkins.
“The way I will learn something, is by shutting my mouth and listening to my instructors,” answered the recruits.
“Out-Frigging-Standing, children!” blared Drill Sergeant Perkins. Now listen. I will only say this once. You will be divided into squads of ten and taken to different areas of this incredible military installation for housing and to collect your military gear. There are 200 of you, therefore, there will be twenty teams of ten recruits each. If you studied basic math at your blessed elementary schools this year, what I just said should make perfect sense to you.”
Ironically enough, there were some recruits who seemed puzzled by the Sergeant’s math, but none were brave enough to ask questions, nor doubt the math.
“Standing behind me are nineteen of the finest Drill Sergeants the New World Military has ever created. These talented young men and women are here to transform you children into friggin’-killing machines,” roared Perkins, boasting, tapping the metal baton upon his leg as he spoke.
More than a few of the recruits’ eyes widened with anxiety. Until now they’d never imagined themselves as friggin’-killing machines and weren’t quite sure what to think about the idea.
“I will now read your squad assignments,” explained Sergeant Perkins, studying the clipboard. “These will be the people you bunk with, eat with, train with, cry with, and bleed with. Do you understand?”
“Sir, yes, sir!” the 200 voices exploded.
“Each squad will be identified by a letter of the ancient Greek alphabet,” Perkins explained. “For example, the first ten names I call will be assigned to Alpha Squad. When I call your name, go stand behind one of the Drill Sergeants standing behind me. You will know the appropriate Drill Sergeant, because he or she will have his or her hand raised.”
Ian and Jackson waited impatiently for their squad assignments. The two boys watched as 190 names were called ahead of them. Then, finally…
“By my calculations,” said Perkins, carefully scanning the clipboard, “there should be ten of you left on the black line. You ten recruits will be under my tutelage for the next eight weeks of basic training. Congratulations!”
“Aw, fudgesicles!” Jackson hissed through his clenched teeth.
Ian stood silently, either completely shocked by the news, or possibly uncertain what the word tutelage meant.
“Baker, Chu, Dubois, Espinoza, Gregory, Sanchez, Shepherd, Irwin, Thomas, Weber,” barked Perkins. “You ten recruits are Upsilon Squad.”
As the final ten recruits jogged into position, Perkins reviewed a few final details with the other Drill Sergeants.
“Ian, what the heck is an Upsilon?” Jackson whispered, confused.
“Did you not read the pre-basic training packet last night?” Ian replied, very serious.
“Yes, said Jackson, “well, not all of it. Was Upsilon in there?”
“Dude, yes,” said Ian, with his eyes widening as he spoke, “right next to the section about rats and stinky food.”
The two boys erupted with laughter momentarily, then suddenly shut up as they remembered where they were. Jackson skillfully transitioned from laughter into a fake coughing fit, complete with snot spitting, trying to hide the chuckles from the sergeants. After taking a few breaths, Jackson signaled toward the sergeants, just to let them know he had lived through their horrible, fake choking ordeal. Perkins glared back at Recruit Jackson, wrinkled his face in disgust at the snot spitting episode, then shook his head, and continued the conference with the other sergeants. Ian stared straight ahead, and pressed his lips together tightly, managing to hold his chuckles to a couple mild snorting noises that sounded more like sneezes.