Nobody's perfect, but that's pretty hard to justify in the armed forces. Training brings out the weird in these new recruits, and the Drill Sergeants who worked with them had some especially bizarre encounters! Content has been edited fro clarity.
A Spongey Surprise
“There was a basic list for new Air Force recruits of things we needed to memorize. They would regularly be quizzed on them. They had to know the name and rank of every person in our chain of command, from new recruits to the president, ranks and insignia, and a bunch fo air force trivia. At the end of our dining hall line was what we called the ‘snake pit’, where all the drill instructors sat. We would regularly stop trainees to ask them such questions. While I was passing the table, I overheard one drill instructor brag to another that a girl in her flight had every single answer memorized well before most people do. That flight was behind me in the dining hall. As I sat down, they stopped that female recruit, and one drill instructor started drilling her with these specific questions. She answered every single one perfectly and quickly. After twenty or so questions, that drill instructor asked, ‘Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?’
The recruit paused for a minute and replied, ‘Excuse me, sir?’
The instructor yelled at the top of his lungs, ‘WHO LIVES IN A PINEAPPLE UNDER THE SEA?!’
The poor girl is just frozen while the other drill instructors shout, ‘SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!’
They dismiss her, and the instructor who was asking the questions continues to shout the next several lines of the theme song. I never imagined this delightfully quotable children’s TV show would come up in a very strict Air Force work setting!”
The Best Possible View
“At the USMC Boot Camp in San Diego, there was a recruit who was a local from San Diego, and he had a reputation of being a funny guy. This recruit, who I’ll call Recruit W, was very squared away and had both a near 300 PFT (an excellent fitness score) and was an expert shot. The other instructors gave him so slack when he made a quick joke as a result. By now, it was a well known fact in our community that Recruit W was from San Diego.
We were on the third phase of boot camp, and we were back in the MCRD San Diego, where recruits were going through a run of the Confidence Course, which is the iconic obstacle course with rope slides and tall climbs. You’ve definitely seen it in movies. Recruit W was climbing the Stairway to Heaven, which is this very tall, ladder-like structure. When he reaches the top of the structure, he called out to the instructor below, ‘Sir! Recruit W requests permission to speak to Drill Instructor, sir!’
That instructor gave the recruit permission to speak. The recruit replied, ‘Sir, this recruit can see his house from here, sir!’
The drill instructor down below lost his composure and had to laugh out loud. Unfortunately, Recruit W had to do some extra push ups and bends and thrusts when he got off of that obstacle.”
No One Was Allowed To Laugh
“Recruits had just finished their obstacle course and were lined up in the squad bay, getting ready to be hazed for sure. The guide for the entire process couldn’t complete the course, so instructors were very upset. The main instructor asked the group who wanted to be the guide. Everyone was so quiet, you could only hear the previous guide getting quarterdecked, which meant that he was forced to do exercises while other men yelled at him. We also heard the distant sounds of other recruits yelling in other squad bays. Out of nowhere, this dude says, ‘I think ‘The Rock’ should be the guide.’ The drill instructor snapped a turn and got right on his face. Then asked him who the heck was ‘The Rock’? At this point another recruit closed his eyes and cursed under his breath. I had no idea it would be so obvious, even at boot camp. People had always told this guy that he looked like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
This guy proceeded to say the dude’s name, and then the drill instructor got right on his face and asked him to do the eyebrow. Now this guy was known for doing it jokingly with friends and family, but this time it was an order. No one would be able to laugh afterwards.
He had the hardest face while looking at the recruit, and he proceeded to do the eyebrow. The instructor was seriously trying to hold his laughter in, and a few of the other recruits also smirked. They couldn’t help it. The instructor put his fingers up to the recruit’s face without saying anything, and then he walked away. Everyone was still quiet, and nobody moved. A minute later, he returned with two other drill instructors. They asked the recruit to do the eyebrow thing again, all looking like they hated this person. He did the eyebrow. They all smirked and tried so, so hard not to laugh. They proceeded to walk away from towards the office as fast as they could. Once in there, you could hear their huge laughs. The entire mood changed for the better that day. The recruits still got hazed and yelled at, but at least this was a pretty positive memory to hold onto!”
His Soul Flew Out Of His Body
“This happened in the Navy basic training back in early 2000s. Recruits had just come from Freedom Hall and were finally going to the NEX for their first phone calls since they arrived. The RDCs put on their most menacing faces and told the recruits exactly how it would go, and that no matter how tempting or how clever we thought we were, we were not to touch the nearby candy machines, or we would be caught. It’s now my division’s turn, and there were about 120 or so recruits. We get there and line up and just wait our turns for the phone booths. Everything seems to be going smooth, and we’re almost done when I notice one of the RDCs is just eyeballing this one guy and practically breathing down his neck. That RDC bent down, and in a quiet voice that naturally we all heard, says, ‘Were those M&Ms in your hand?’
You would think this dude’s soul flew out his body. His face turned red and just dropped. He was terrified and practically shaking. For the rest of the day, the RDCs followed him around, making comments about M&Ms. The next morning we wake up to go start Physical Training, and that recruit is gone. No one says anything about it. We get to Freedom Hall, and there is that recruit and the RDC that caught him. The poor recruit has been doing rifleman drills since 5 a.m. He hasn’t eaten and is about to puke. He joins us for our next hour of Physical Training. I don’t think he ever looked at an M&M the same after that.
Honestly, I have no idea how he was caught. He must have gotten them from one of those quarter candy machines that you crank the handle to make it dispense. It was set right in the middle of the room with the phone booths, like some kind of trap, and it wasn’t a very quiet machine. I’m betting as soon as that first click happened, the RDC zeroed in on him and just watched the whole thing, to let him think he got away with it.”
Let Us Hear That Roar!
“This was in the U.S. Air Force basic training, in the fall of 2002. One of the training instructors from another flight in the squadron liked to command his flight to do ‘war cries’, where they would just scream. It seemed kind of dumb to most of us, but they still did it. One afternoon, we were all in formation on the pads, and the war cry flight was next to mine. That particular training instructor asked his flight to do their thing, and I saw two other instructors lean in and exchange words with a smirk. At that point, the war cry instructor looked at me, and I sort of smirked at him too. THat was when he yelled for me to come over. I walked over and reported as ordered. He leaned in and whispered to me, ‘When I ask you to give me a war cry, I want to hear the wimpiest, worst war cry you can manage.’
I smiled and nodded and returned to the formation. He bellowed for me to let him hear my war cry. I exclaimed, ‘”AHhhoOOoOoooOOO Waaaaaah OOOOOO!’
Another training instructor smiled and nodded and looked over at the war cry instructor, who just pursed his lips. No one else really understood what was happening, but we didn’t have to hear any other war cries after that.”
The Weirdest Solution Possible
“One of my very good buddies has some truly amazing stories from his extensive experience as a drill sergeant. My favorite story of his was when a pair of recruits was walking down the sidewalk towards an officer. The first recruit was carrying a large box with both hands, and the second recruit was walking with nothin in his hands. The officer was getting ready to send off a salute to the two recruits, which they knew was incoming. The two recruits were visibly freaking out. How could the first one salute with both of his hands full? He had to do something, and very fast!
The second recruit had the especially bright idea to salute with his right hand, and he would salute for his fellow recruit with his own left hand and a very loud, ‘GOOD MORNING, SIR!’
Picture someone dabbing with a lot of serious enthusiasm, and you can imagine what this silly recruit actually looked like. The other drill sergeants were falling over each other to go and tear these two recruits apart, dying with laughter the entire time. It was truly the most absurd response possible. Like why not just set the box down and salute your sergeant?!”
Don’t Look Like Hammered Dog Turds
“In basic training, there was a huge amount of importance put on ironing creases. This was back before the Navy switched from Utilities to Digis. The recruits were all doing their routine morning inspection, having ironed their clothing some time during the night, when the Senior Chief saw some random recruit walking through the hallway looking totally wrecked. The Chief called the recruit into our compartment and had him take part in our inspection. This recruit’s uniform looked like it had been balled up and steamed. To this day, I still can’t fathom how he managed to look so messed up. So Chief looked at this kid and his messy uniform and started laying into him with the usual, ‘You look like hammered dog turds!’ Did you iron even a single article of clothing since you’ve arrived?’
Now this recruit replied, ‘CHIEF, I IRONED MY SKIVVIES, CHIEF!’
Keep in mind everyone was all standing at parade rest as this was transpiring. That means you couldn’t move or make a sound. So Chief, hearing that this kid ironed his skivvies, made him dress down to his undies and march around the compartment saying, ‘I IRONED MY SKIVVIES, CHIEF!’ We almost died from holding in all of that laughter.
There was another time during basic training that was pretty good too. That chief had a whole arsenal of insults at his disposal. But his favorite was definitely calling someone a bag of turds. So this guy is running track, and he’s struggling to keep a good pace. Chief starts motivating him with insults. I can’t quite remember the earlier ones, but eventually Chief called this guy a dumpster fire. That’s when this recruit replied, ‘I would prefer a bag of turds, Chief!’
Basic training is some of the most fun anyone can have in the military.”
Snickers Snuck Up On Him!
“So this happened way back in the mid 80-‘s in Marine Boot Camp. As the Drill Sergeant, I received a letter from one of the recruit’s mom. Apparently, she desperately wanted to send her only son something, maybe like a care package. I replied to the mom on behalf of the recruit and wrote her, ‘Don’t do this. The last guy who received a package got yelled at while the instructors shared the package amongst themselves. The rest of us all watched.’
It was brutal, but I wanted to be honest with her and hopefully save some headache. But I definitely was not expecting her response. She was way more clever than I would have expected, I’ll give her that. This mom mailed me one hundred and seven Snickers candy bars. She mailed us all one for each of the one hundred and three recruits, and she added four extra ones for all of the drill instructors. I was the one who had to open up that package in front of my entire group. As you can imagine, this package full of over one hundred candy bars was immensely heavy. I feel bad for the poor mail person who had to deliver it! Opening up the package and showing my group the contents made them all burst out into laughter. THat was the very first time I had actually heard any of them laugh like that. Unfortunately, I got yelled at by some higher-ups, but all of us did get to slowly enjoy our new Snickers candy bars. I not hate Snickers candy bars and have such a weirdly negative memory of them.”
The Deadly Humiliation
“It wasn’t necessarily what a recruit said but had to do. Imagine this. The recruits were all in physical training formation, and all of them were dressed int he proper uniform. This included the requisite gray shirt, blue shorts, white socks, and a shiny pair of New Balance dad shoes. THat is. everyone except for Dummy Recruit (obviously not his real title). Dummy Recruit realized he didn’t have any clean white socks while getting ready, and he thought it would be okay to simply join the formation in knee high green socks. The following conversation transpired with another drill sergeant:
Drill Sergeant: Dummy Recruit, what the heck do you have on?!
Dummy Recruit: Ma’am, I didn’t have clean white socks, so I used my uniform socks instead.
Drill Sergeant: Do you know what covert ops is?
Dummy Recruit: Yes ma’am!
Drill Sergeant: I want you to covert ops your sorry butt over to the barracks and acquire a pair of white socks from your laundry bag!
The Dummy Recruit simply stared blankly at this furious woman.
Drill Sergeant: LOW CRAWL YOUR BUTT TO THE BARRACKS AND GET THE CORRECT PAIR OF SOCKS ON YOUR DARN FEET!
The Dummy Recruit did what he was told and low crawled nearly a mile to the barracks. He nearly died from exhaustion and humiliation. It was incredible to watch. This was seriously a Herculean feat of strength, and I was surprised that he was able to stand up and function like a human being afterwards!”
All This Commotion Over What?
“We had a strict rule to write official documents with a blue pen. It is a NATO standard and has its excuses, but all in all, it’s one of those things. I had checked about 200 lines of weapons check-ins and check-outs when at the bottom of the page, there was one entry in black. As you would imagine, I found out who it was pretty quickly, given the entry had his name and weapon number staring right at me. Now the military has this thing where you go through ‘basic training’ for everything. I mean, if you are given a pair of speakers, you are mandated to read the safety and usage instructions and give a signature for it, so they can’t be held liable to some degree. This absolute piece of twig and sap looks at me with the most uncanny look when I confronted him about it. After a bit of friendly banter in front of his whole room, I ask, ‘So what is your excuse for using black ink?’
He replied, ‘Sir, I’ve yet to get the formal safety and usage training for the blue pen, sir!’
He rewrote all 100 entries in blue pen that evening, after being the only soldier to get training to use a blue pen instead of a black one. That was a special moment where all the muscles in my face were fighting so hard not to laugh. The reason he had to rewrite 100 is due to the system in place for keeping track of weapons and ammo. Can’t say much, but there are certain ways to get info faster if you set it up in a certain way. I definitely didn’t want to cross out something and deal with my Commanding Officer, that was a huge no-no. It would have been much easier with our organized system to keep track of stuff by rewriting all of these lines out. Some people might this this is beyond petty, and it is. But it’s part of a system that works, and who am I to question it?”
He Had No Idea How Wrong He Was
“The first year at this military college was known as ‘Knob year’, where the freshman year consisted of one very long boot camp. Some students were standing in line, waiting to go into lunch formation, when we had a couple upperclassmen come to yell at one of the freshmen. Apparently, he had requested extra time off around Thanksgiving. The upperclassman asked what the meaning of this special leave was. The Knob replied, ‘Sir, my stepbrother is in a band and about to go on tour. This will be the last time he is home for a year, sir!’
The upperclassman asked what band it was. Knob replied, ‘Sir, they are opening for motley Crue, sir!’
‘What was the name of his band?’
‘Sir, GNR, Sir!’ Knob replied.
The upperclassman exclaimed, ‘God, what an awful name! They will never make it!’
This was of course before GNR went on to become one of the most famous bands of all time. At the end of that Knob Year, that freshman decided not to come back to school. Instead, he went out to become a roadie with his step-brother’s little band.”
Please Don’t Poop In My Hat!
“I had a particularly troublesome private who (for a long, complicated set of reasons involving a massive lack of judgment) I had required to stand fire picket outside of a port-a-john immediately adjacent to the brigade CP I was running. I gave him a clip-board with an approved access list and required him to log all authorized visitors in and out of the john, which was the only real (read not a hole in the ground) facility anywhere for at least ten kilometers. He didn’t much like his job, but that was kind of the point.
Being the CP for the whole FTX, VIP visitors were to be expected. We had the brigade commander pull up and take the usual tour of CP. She looked at the master event list, checked where everybody was, and called someone on the radio ‘to make sure that it worked’. That done, she excused herself to take advantage of the only toilette in the AOO. She returned a surprisingly long while later, made a cryptic comment about the facilities, collected her sergeant major, and left. It was at that point that I remembered that I had left a borderline idiot posted up outside of the port-a-john. When I asked him what had happened, he told me how the colonel wanted to use the john. I told him that was fine, but why did it take her so long? He replied, ‘I refused her access, sergeant!’
I was about to ask him why the apocryphal heck anyone would do such a thing, when I saw his white knuckles on the clip-board, and the answer became obvious: he had questionable judgment and she hadn’t been on the access list. Trying to keep my cool, I asked him what she had thought about that. He replied, ‘She was very nice sergeant, said I was right to challenge her on that! Then she told me to get the heck out of her way or she would poop in my hat, sergeant!’
They don’t teach common sense in the army apparently. I could not believe this guy’s line of thinking!”
Never Stop The Pinching
“This reminds me of a story I had at OCS. Our RDC loved to yell and would often find any excuse to grab the other RDCs to join in with him berating a candidate. One morning during Physical Training, we had a transitional exercise between exercise stations, where we had to bear crawl, broad jump, and crab walk between stations.
So this RDC loved to make people uncomfortable by getting right in their face and screaming during the transitional exercise. So he went up to my 6’2″ 230 lb buddy and got right in his face. This RDC screamed at this recruit to crab walk immediately. He didn’t look phased at all, while the rest of the recruits started to crab walk. For those who don’t know, this is where you walk on all fours with your hands behind you. The next thing we notice is the RDC losing his mind with laughter and expletives. He kept asking this recruit what on earth he was doing. His voice started to squeak from the strain. So the rest of us stop and turn to see what’s happening while the other RDCs are rushing over to join in on the fun and yell at my buddy. When I turn around, I see three RDCs with red faces berating, screaming, and holding back laughter right in the face of this 6’2″ 230 lb guy. He is side stepping down the field crouched down, with his hands making pinching crab claws. During all of this, he’s screaming, ‘I’m crab walking, Senior Chief!’
The rest of us immediately started laughing while this guy had to ‘crab walk’ like this thirty yards down the field. This was my funniest memory at OCS by far. His hands never stopped making the pinching motions. They still do crab walking in gym classes, right? how could he not have ever encountered this technique in the outside world before?!”