Friday, February 09, 2007

Day one with the Old Guard

First day with the Old Guard...

Ah...the 3rd US Infantry...The Old Guard...

These guys DEFINE "soldier". Talk all you want about Airborne, Rangers, all those guys... talk all you want. Yeah, they're all tough...but it takes a SPECIAL kind of soldier to maintain all the toughness of the Airborne, the Rangers, and still maintain the personal discipline required to execute something like Military Funeral Honors with pinpoint precision. That's the Old Guard.

That's who is training me for the next two weeks. These guys don't play.

A TINY bit of the classic Chris Jones class clown came out this morning after Physical Training (heretofore referred to as "PT"). One of our instructors had to address the class rather tersely in regards to the fact that several of them didn't run the entire second mile. After stressing that this was a military course and that we were here to learn the highest and most stringent of military standards, I piped up with, "You gotta be in good shape when you're carrying a coffin full of 'fat boy'."

As soon as I realized I'd said it out loud, I regretted it. "This is not the place for 'that guy'," I thought to myself, "this is where you're supposed to be SGT Jones, the old-school Drill Sergeant-type."

Fortunately, everyone laughed at what I said, and the instructor chuckled and said, "You're absolutely right, Sarge. This job takes more stamina than any other job!"

**Whew** So...the clown poked his stupid noggin out for just a second and didn't manage to completely invalidate or discredit me. I vowed to myself to have better control.

--At this point, my intrepid readers, I must insist that those of you who take personal delight in tearing me down on a regular basis for my choice to be talkative, or 'out there', or 'on', most of the time...just keep your snotty little comments to yourself. If you've not been paying attention lately, it's been quite some time since I was like that and I finally got sick and tired of wisecracks to the contrary this last RenFaire season. Comments to that effect from ANYBODY will result in a big 'fuck you and fuck off' from me, and then me ignoring you for pretty much the rest of time.--

So...into the classroom we went, after breakfast. Most of the morning was spent in one briefing after another. We had the obligatory "Welcome to PEC, here's what you can and can't do." briefing, then we sat through a mind-numbing hour of information on all the vast education benefits provided by the National Guard. Now...I am delighted that the National Guard provides so well for soldiers seeking an education...but most of that hour, I sat there wondering, "What the HELL does this have to do with Military Funeral Honors?" Nothing...I know. I know that this was an hour of instruction that EVERY class at PEC receives while there, but I felt like valuable time was being wasted on something that MY STATE should be doing.

After that, we sat through 75 minutes of discussion with two therapists on Stress Management. Turns out that doing funerals every day is a very stressful job. During this little session, I discovered that I'd done more funerals than pretty much anyone else in the room, what with having done 1 or more, on the average of 5 days a week since mid-September. I listened to other folks talk about how the most stress they dealt with was finding people to do the funerals that were requested...stuff like that. I countered with, "You know what stresses me out? When I'm about to present the flag to the son or grandson of a deceased WWII hero, and the little THUG hasn't even bothered to dress he's sitting there in his oversized jeans that hang down to his ass, his basketball jersey and his fucking baseball hat all tilted to the side, and the PUNK doesn't even bother to SIT UP STRAIGHT as I present his folded flag to him! STRESS is what happens when I choke down the impulse to kick his chair out from under him, send his punk-ass flying ass-over-teakettle and call him a disgrace to his grandfather's memory."

Everyone just sat quietly for a moment before the therapist said something like, "Yes...I can see where that might be stressful."

Afterwards, during lunch, several of us sat together swapping stories like that.

After lunch, we finally got into what we came here to do. We learned a bit of history in regards to Miltary Funeral Honors, and the began training. The hardest part for most folks is going to be un-learning most of the TRADITIONAL drill movements that the Army taught them so they can learn the very different drill movements used for Funeral ceremony.

All in all, however, a smile played around my face all day, just barely, because I am truly in awe of my instructors...these guys...GENUINE "Old Guard" soldiers...Silent Sentinels, guarding the gates of Valhalla.

This school is going to be one of the toughest I've ever done.


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