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Chapter 20: Onision Graduates USAF Basic

In Basic Training I felt like I was getting some of the experience I signed up for, and some of it, not so much. For instance, I didn’t expect strange situations like the following to occur…

Me: *piles bread, mashed potatoes and milk on tray in lunch room*

Sergeant: Trainee! Me: Airman Daniel reports. Sergeant: Why do you have so much bread on your tray!? Me: Because I like… bread, sergeant.

Sergeant: …very well! Go eat your bread!

Or this one…

Sergeant: What is wrong with you trainee? Can you do anything right? Me: Airman Daniel reports, I am trying my very best sergeant. Sergeant: Very well!

Me: *stands awkwardly*

Sergeant: *walks away awkwardly*

Then there was that time my hot training instructor got so red in the face that it looked like she was going to burst. She was upset about our formation on a hot sunny Texas day. She couldn’t stand that we couldn’t get things right as we stood out there, listening to her screaming at us on the blazing asphalt. So she threw her hat down and yelled at what incompetent people she felt we were. It seemed more about her own mental issues than us really.

Back then I thought to myself “Man, she’s really losing it.” And “If we’re failing as students, doesn’t that mean she’s not teaching us correctly?”

Later on, that same training instructor showed some real personal issues, and not just the ones where she’d make Airmen like me humiliate themselves in front of her friends as she laughed and pointed sadistically. I saw that same training instructor taking a break outside the facility we all stayed in. Turns out: She was a smoker. This would not be a huge problem if she didn’t also have asthma. I found out she had asthma when she “fell out” of the Airmen’s run multiple times. The Airmen’s run being hyped up constantly by training instructors as a challenge, when in reality, it was just a subtle jog.

There were a number of Sergeants, I would learn, who served their country still despite having disqualifying medical issues. One man I would later find had only one leg, but because he could wear a fake leg, he was able to stay in the military as an instructor. As I understood, he lost his leg on duty.

I was told down the line that the same hot smoker asthma TI was removed from the Air Force after losing her cool to such an extent to where she punched a trainee in the face. Personally? I would take that punch. Because I’m an idiot guy, and she was hot. Regardless, it did confirm one thing: I didn’t get the standard training experience that the Air Force intended.

The mental torment that instructor put use through, it was so dark, unnecessary, cold, manipulative, sadistic and not at all in any Air Force training book. But it’s like I said, she was hot. It’s like how even serial killers have fangirls. My TI was clearly a horrible person, but, at least she was a looker.

Anyway, Basic Training wore on, and as I recall, we were set to leave our normal sleeping area to huff it in nature, with tents and everything. This is Texas in the approaching summer, so it was quite hot and humid. The tents we were introduced to reminded me of the TV show M.A.S.H. (An old military comedy show, where people lived in tents just like the one I was now living in). There was a ridiculous moment on this retreat, where they were telling us all how to eat M.R.E’s (which are meals ready to eat). They specifically instructed us to pour water into a bag, the bag would then heat the water up while the bag sat next to our entrée (thus providing us with a hot meal). They stated very loudly and clearly that we should not drink the heated up water, as we could die.

Moments later, almost cutting the person warning us about the heated up water, an airman fell on his face from the sitting position as if God himself took the life right out of the man. As it turns out, while they were warning him not to drink the water, he was actively drinking the water.

In that same camp, we learned how to treat combat wounds, how to handle deployments and embrace the “suck” life. It wasn’t fun for me, none of Basic was, but I still focused on graduation, and hoped I would not wind up like some others who had already been washed back a week. Being washed back means you have to do the whole week over, and that’s just… insane to me. The amount of stress you go through every week, was not something I wanted to repeat.

In Air Force basic, the most you get to see from the outside world was little headlines you can briefly look at as you stand in line to get chow. Seeing a woman, other than your training instructor, was extra rare in the sense that they did a pretty good job keeping the genders separated. Even when you did see a woman, she was normally wearing a very baggy uniform, but your imagination did all the work.

The man I flew from Seattle to Texas with, he wound up getting washed back because he would constantly make really dumb errors and the whole flight would wind up making fun of him, and hating him for it. The errors involved things like, putting his shoes on the wrong feet, putting his uniform top on inside out, and being completely incapable of proper grooming. The man was a literal mess and dumb as a pile of rocks. We were most all so grateful when he was no longer part of our group because he was causing us all to be punished extensively due to his regular errors.

One Airman can cause an entire flight a world of pain. It’s part of why I stopped cackling in formation. I knew if I kept laughing at what the training instructors said, the entire flight would truly hate me and want me washed back too. I was the comedian of the group, but Basic had no place for jokes.

In basic I was so cut off from the outside world that I was nearly brought to tears by an Evanescence song I heard playing while getting my dry cleaning from a closet sized shop running out of the same building my sleep area was in. My stress was so intense in Basic that I literally shit blood at one point. I went to the doctor on base and he said he couldn’t find anything wrong with me, even stuck his finger up my butt, still, nothing. It was kind of funny telling my male training instructor that I was shitting blood, I still remember the confused look on his face.

I was always told that Air Force Basic was the easiest Basic to get through, only to find my step-brother, who was in the Navy, got to literally watch TV while he was in Basic. If they were so lax they would let their trainees watch TV, how hard could the rest be? Were the Seamen also shitting blood from overwhelming stress?

Showers in Basic were ridiculous. Most the Airmen would do everything they could to avoid showers or even using sinks in the massive community bathroom because they knew, when they were done showering, they’d have to clean it all up. That means, drying everything with a towel from top to bottom, and if there’s any scuffs? Take a spray bottle and clean that up too.

Most Airmen almost never showered, which made the place stink like nothing else. At some point I refused to live like they did, and got yelled at for going off to shower by myself. It wasn’t like your personal shower, you were expected to strip down in front of everyone else, and shower among them. So I’m in this massive showering room all alone, with Airmen yelling at me about how I’m not allowed to clean my own body because they’ll have to clean the shower up when I’m done. As the other Airmen yelled at me in the middle of the night about how I was forcing them to work more for the sake of my hygiene, I planted my foot, completely naked, and roared back “I’ll clean it myself, don’t you worry you whiners!” And the hallways either went silent, or erupted with laughter. Either way, my point was heard. I finished my rejuvenation and cleaned the shower by myself.

From that point on, I was the nice smelling guy who showered a lot. One thing I can’t get over, is the man who threatened to punch our short, hot, TI in the face? He was the only dude I saw covering up his junk as we showered. How did I see? Well, when we were all taking off our clothes to shower, he was the only dude hunched forward with his arms in front of him. Naturally, I looked to see what his arms were doing, and I saw that his hands were covering up his junk, he was cupping it.

Goes to support the idea that men who threaten women, are doing so out of their own insecurities. It suggests men who threaten women, are threatened by them and probably everyone else. Kind of odd considering he was taller than me, yet here he is, in all reality, feeling smaller than all of us.

I and the other guys stood rather proudly in that shower, just not caring if people saw our junk. It was just that one guy. Poor little insecure fella.

It was extra weird because his package looked normal. Literally no one I saw in my peripheral vision seemed oddly shaped or otherwise abnormal. We were just a bunch of average dudes with one odd ball who seemed to think he was a deformed unicorn.

In Basic we heard a story about an Airman trying to get out of washing the sinks by using toilet water to brush his teeth. You might call that person a moron, but that would just be adding insult to injury. According to the story, his face began to melt off. Apparently the bacteria in the bowl didn’t agree with him, and began to claim the skin on his face.

I can only assume he used the water to shave too, which may have really sped the deterioration up.

That was just the other boys bullying me for showering in a different outfit. Laziness sacrificing hygiene.

There were also rumors going around about past scandals of training instructors sleeping with trainees. Specifically male trainers, sleeping with female trainees. We never saw anything like that while we were in, but we of course were almost never around female trainees.

Then there was the constant warning from training instructors, telling us to drink water, but not too much. The instructors repeatedly warned us that one person had managed to drink themselves to death. They were, allegedly, so hydrated, that the water content and their blood became so high, they died. So that was in our heads the whole time “Hydrate, or you will die, but don’t hydrate too much, or you will die.”

My brain in basic was pretty fried in general. I broke down crying for the first and only time for passing a locker inspection. When I say I “broke down” I mean a tear fell from my eye and I wiped it away before anyone could see. That was a break down for me… that’s how strict my standards were for myself.

If I didn’t pass that locker inspection, I would risk getting in big trouble, and maybe eventually getting washed back (if the trouble stacked high enough). I let a tear fall over the locker inspection because it was the most critical and final inspection. It because it basically meant, I was probably home free. Graduation was an open door after that.

Despite me asking people not to write me, people did. My sister wrote me, my female friend wrote me, and my mom wrote me. All of them said things about life back home and it sounded like such a lovely place. It was so strange thinking of life before the military because most everything I knew was taken away so quickly. What my life was replaced with was an environment of training instructor rage, so much suffering and overwhelming mind-games.

I did graduate on time, but without achieving the goal I set out for. I would not graduate with honors like I hoped. Instead I was fighting for my survival, and massively underestimated the challenges of Basic.

I did wind up increasing my pull ups to over 21, which was pretty awesome. I was top of my flight in that aspect, but everywhere else, I was just a regular trainee.

Fortunately I didn’t get horrible sicknesses like some other Airmen did.

When you’re in Basic, you are mixing all your bacteria from wherever you’re from, with the bacteria of everyone else in your group. As a result, we all got shots in the ass, and other places, but still, some would become ill. One boy was stuck in his bed, shaking for days with the chills as a result of being subjected to everyone else’s foreign bacteria. I wasn’t sure at the time if I envied or pitied him. He got to lay in bed all day, but was also fighting for his own well-being. He made it look pretty awful… but later in life I had something similar, and to me it was no big deal. You just look and feel ridiculous shivering like a tree blowing in the winter wind all the time. The teeth chattering was a hilarious experience for me as well. It’s like 75 degrees out and you’re body is telling you you’re about to freeze.

When my mom, female friend and sister arrived to see me graduate, I was numb and not acting like the same person I was before. I still felt a training instructor was off somewhere, watching me. In my head, I had to keep my composure and maintain my “bearing”. We went to downtown San Antonio where I quickly had a panic attack. No one really noticed I was freaking out, but I asked if I could sit down for a minute, and I did, in the middle of a food court at some random table. I was so used to seeing people walk everywhere in formation, and having everything so quiet, that the noise from the mall, and everyone walking without any order, screwed with my head. I was practicing deep breathing to calm myself down.

Once I regained my composure, we spent the rest of the day catching up. My mom and my sister spent the afternoon running around together while my female friend and I hung out at the hotel.

This woman and I, had been dating just shortly before I left for basic. The problem is, I had broken up with her because I had realized exactly what I told her when I ended things “I can never make you happy.”

She was often sad for seemingly no reason, she would say and do depressing things that seemed to make no sense to me. I knew other people who were really happy a lot, and she was the opposite. Some people seemed so impossible to upset, while she seemed impossible to not upset.

Oddly, her social tendencies were what made me want to talk to her in the first place when we originally met, but later? I realized making this person whole, happy… essentially “fixing” them, wasn’t possible. Not for me, or anyone I could think of.

Regardless, this woman and I had been friends before we ever dated, and when we saw each other, it was like we had never even broken up. She had been writing me such loving letters while I was in Basic that it made me think “She is depressed and depressing like all the time, but… at least she cares about me. Maybe I should give this a chance?”

When they left, I was set to get on bus that would take us all off, one step closer to our careers in the Air Force. We were all lined up in front of this bus, getting on one by one. There were about 12 or so Airmen in front of me, all looking like wounded animals as they walked past the training instructors. Both the Mr. Clean training instructor and the little hot piece of ass TI stood by and watched us get on.

I didn’t want to walk past these training instructors like a beat dog. I wasn’t playing the game like the men in front of me, so when I approached the Mr. Clean TI, I reached out my hand to shake his. The look in his eyes was priceless. His whole face gave me the idea he had no expectation of me doing what I did. He went from serious, and focus, to absolutely, enthusiastically… delighted. I mean, for him, his face changed a lot… for him. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in my life.

In that moment, the entire experience was summed up from his perspective. He was just a trainer, doing his job, and he didn’t want to hurt any of us. He couldn’t reach out to shake our hands because he probably thought, after all the abuse, maybe we wouldn’t want to shake his back. Also, him reaching out to shake our hands, might show weakness, so? One of us had to stand up, and take one for the team. He shook my hand firmly said “Airman Daniel”, and I moved on to the female TI to shake her hand as well. The instructor just saying “Airman Daniel” was actually a big deal… they had been calling us “Trainee” the whole time we were in basic. Calling me “Airman” was confirmation, that I was in fact qualified and deserving of the title “Airman”. This was after it had been made clear I was scum, unworthy of ever being called “Airman”. Cool huh?

That moment was one of the better moments in my Air Force career. It almost made everything I had gone through hurt less. Fact of the matter is, we all get lazy and off track, sometimes TI’s lose their perfection and make mistakes. Personally I’m not happy that the female TI ever lost her job later, but humans will be human, and she was a little more unhinged than the rest of us. Did I mention she was smoking hot? I mean come on! She had a nice tan, freckles, beautiful eyes, ugh… but such a psycho. Maybe that’s just my type because I’m a damn fool.

The real reason I reached out to shake my instructors hand in our very last moment together, is because I reminded myself that the two people who were beating me up this whole time, were still just people. I reminded myself that they didn’t actually hate me, and that they too were serving their country. These people deserved a hand shake because I didn’t believe malice consumed their hearts. I’m glad I gave them that credit.

As I got on the bus, I saw that every Airman after me was shaking the training instructors’ hands now.

If only I had been in the front of the line, instead of the 13th man back, the other 12 Airmen might have got those silver lining handshakes as well.

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4 comentarios

Miembro desconocido
28 ago 2022

Good on you for graduating despite how hard/stressful it must have been at times. Great chapter and the way you write can really bring a person in. Keep up the good work :)

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Miembro desconocido
28 ago 2022
Contestando a

That's cool :) I'm glad you felt that way.

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Miembro desconocido
28 ago 2022

This chapter was very insightful and interesting. It was even "heartfelt" at times. I've noticed your writing style is very intimate in some instances, as though the reader is there with you, which only creates a more meaningful experience overall. I am thoroughly enjoying every chapter so far and I Thank You, as always, for sharing.

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Miembro desconocido
28 ago 2022
Contestando a

Thank you for your continuous feedback :)

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