The Smartest-Dumb Thing

During the first of three-weeks of what was lightly termed an ‘Indoctrination Course,’ by the Marine Corps, I learned to react immediately when a Drill Instructor directed me to do something. In reality the old saw, “When I tell you to jump, the only question I wanna hear is ‘How high?’ really doesn’t apply.

Why I was being yelled at has become lost to me over time, however I do recall shouting back, “Aye! Aye! Staff Sergeant!” as I took off at a full run across the Grinder, a large unfriendly and unpopular patch of cement used for everything from marching, drills, physical training to discipline.

Before I got very far the Staff Sergeant shouted my name (something you don’t ever want any DI to know) and I stopped on a dime, coming to attention. And as quickly, he was all over me, wanting to know ‘what the hell was wrong with me.’ The only thing I could think to answer was, “I’m not a Marine, Staff Sergeant!”

He paused for a few seconds to look me in the eye. I figured he was about to lower the boom on me as he responded, “That’s the smartest-dumb thing I’ve ever heard! You get any brighter you might as well go ahead and join the Air Force!”

“Aye, aye, Staff Sergeant,” I yelled back.

From behind me I heard a voice say, “Sarge, he’s already done that…”

The Staff Sergeant looked beyond me, towards the voice and growled, “Corporal, if I want any shit outta you I’ll squeeze your effing head!”

That caused the other nine ‘recruits’ in the course to bust out in laughter. I suddenly found myself standing alone on the Grinder, watching my mates dash across the open surface, and listening to the poor Corporal get dressed down, being reminded that he was “there to assist, not correct the senior NCO when he screws up.”

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