I was so excited when I came to bootcamp that I was immediately labeled as one of those “greenies”, who walk around all twitchy and proud, as if a stick is permanently lodged in their back-side and a permanent grin plastered on their faces. The type that had this extra “oomph” in their salutes. I admit, I was “poisoned”; that is the term we use for people like that, the overly thrilled ones, the ones who follow the regulations to the letter and then some, as if the green uniform seeps into the blood stream and poisons your mind into soldierhood. Aye aye, sir, they do.
It was an adventure I’d been waiting for, as many of my friends had. I intended to get the most out of the experience, regardless of how short it was. It’s not like I was going to be trotting in the mud or crawling in cow manure. I did that in girlscout camp in 10th grade. No, this was girl’s bootcamp, and I was not just a girl, but a nerd girl, with a previously-assigned position. Most of my platoon was just like me;we were in the same basic training course, and we all knew exactly where we were going afterwards: an office job with uniforms. We were geeky girls, and this was geek-girl bootcamp.
Even our Uzis were girly. Mine was called Uza, after a puppet character from an Israeli children’s show. I thought it was smart. Brilliant, even. Of course, 80 percent of our platoon named their Uzis “Uza”. I wasn’t so special, after all.
Don’t get me wrong, bootcamp wasn’t a walk in the park. We had exercises and drills and the mandatory power-struggle between commander and subordinate. These were meant, supposedly, to crush the rebellious teens out of us and rebuild a conformed soldier. It wasn’t too successful; the staff lost their threatening power. Their threats that if we misbehave we would be assigned to the military waste reclamation unit fell on deaf ears. They simply couldn’t assign us there. We were geeks, we spent three months being trained in geekdom and our units awaited us. We knew just where we were going to go. That, of course, just served to frustrate our commanders even more.
Most of my actual military training I learned later, in Officers training course. In bootcamp it was more of a practice run. A demo. We were given fresh work uniforms 10 sizes too big, making our morning exercise routine extremely amusing. The food was hideous and the showers were worse, but complaining about them was part of what made bootcamp so effective. We would all sit down in the evening for our hour-break before lights out and complain about anything and everything. It was our bonding experience.
My bootcamp was short and girly and, I admit, somewhat amusing. But it served its purpose; it made us understand the meaning of loyalty, of friendship, of complaints and of missing home. It made us decent soldiers.
It still took me forever to get rid of my “poisoned” state, it lasted quite a while after my bootcamp, well into my officers’ training course, where it intensified and transformed into lieutenantism. I finished my military service with some green goo in my blood still. Even today, when I watch a military ceremony on television or see some soldier in the street, the poison bubbles, my heart pinches, and I remember my excitement. My service. My Uza.
* * *
Written as a response to “Stockings” by Tim O’Brien.