A Fat Man At The End Of His Army Rope

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December 10, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Being fat in Army boot camp isn’t a crime unless you consider reassignment to the fat platoon a promotion.

It’s not.  It’s not jail, but it’s less food and more activity.  It’s punishment 

The Drill Sergeant’s know you’re not the leader they want.  You can’t even lead yourself away from the table, and it shows.

They look at you as a disappointment who got slopped off on them.

Your old platoon will remember you as the fat guy who got cut.

Every new platoon you join will be full of FNG’s.  They’ll respect your time in service and pay little notice to the fat guy you still are.

That’s what you hope for and that’s how it is until the day you climbed the ropes, or tried to climb the ropes.

The first rope was a cargo net hung over a high platform.  The idea was to climb up one side and the down the other. 

You left your first platoon before visiting the obstacle course.

Climbing up was easy.  Some guys on top showed others how to flip to the down net: hang your upper torso over the edge, grab net, and swing your legs over.  Get your footing, turn to face the net, and climb down.

That’s how it worked in your mind, too.

Up top, you hung over and grabbed net then flopped your legs over.  You released your grip and fell into the net hanging upside down, your feet stuck in the net.

The next fall dropped you on your back.  Back flab saved you from serious injury.

You got up and moved to the next trial, crawling a rope over a chasm.

It started the same for everyone.  No one ended like you.

Once you get tired, too tired to pull your body along a rope you have your legs wrapped around, you stop trying.  If you dare look forward or back, and find yourself in the middle, it makes sense to quit.

Except it never makes sense to the Drill Sergeants in the gully.  They cursed and yelled, called you fat and weak, then said to drop.

They didn’t say how to drop, so you released your hands and legs at the same time and landed on the M-16 strapped across your back.

Again, those extra pounds gathered on your back protected you, or else the rifle might have punctured you.

Neither of the falls kept you from the long march back to the barracks.  Once you ride the Fat Wagon, you never want to ride it again.

After walking the third fire-break you didn’t care what they called it; you needed help.

The road back wasn’t the same as the road out.

The guy in front of you tried to talk you through it.  He gave you a life-line and you hung on as long as you could.  He even helped you up when you fell the first time.

By the second fall you knew you weren’t getting up.  So did the life-line guy.  So did the pack of Drill Sergeants picking up stragglers.

Each time you fell off a rope, you got the treatment.  The platoon leaders knew how to motivate soldiers.  You got up after falling off a tower.  You got up after falling into a canyon. 

And you get up after collapsing on a march. 

The Drill Sergeants gather around you and kneel in the dirt.  Moments later you jump up.

You speed march past the life-line.  You stomp past the last platoon marching in loose formation.  You plow the dirt and dust kicked up by three hundred and twenty boots until you take your place with your adopted platoon.

The guys you started with might remember you as a recycled fat man, if at all, but the guys you finish with will remember you as the one who fell and got up, then fell better and got up easier, then didn’t fall.

That’s what pushes you, that and a big boot headed your way.


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