After our morning runs, we had a small amount of time to accomplish a large amount of tasks. What I didn’t realize in the beginning of basic training, but realized towards the end, was the “task list” was a goal. Early on we never met the goal. Goals that were not achieved were treated with verbal abuse, push ups … and sometimes a “re-do”. Our squad leaders (recruits appointed by the Drill Sergeants) assigned us our tasks and we were expected to work as a team. “Teamwork” in Basic Training was a learning process. Leadership was something we were taught and following orders was sometimes very very ugly. A good visual for the morning task list work is imagining the Three Stooges…only this would be the Forty Stooges. We were to shower, eat, prepare our “living area” for inspection (foot lockers, sweep, mop and buff the floor, latrine cleaning, uniform preparation and inspection and be standing outside the barracks, dress right dress, in formation at the position of attention) within an hour. An impossible task in the beginning… ESPECIALLY the day “the Apple” and I met Rudy.
The platoon was released from our run formation, squad leaders were issuing assignments, and I watched the Apple try to sneak off with the rest of the “potatoes” into the barracks. He and I were firmly told by our Drill Sergeant to stand fast after the platoon was released. After 50 push ups.. the Apple came back and stood next to me.. shoulder to shoulder. (one half of the battle buddy does push ups… both halves do push ups) We were told to go to the Drill Sergeant’s office and stand by his desk at the position of attention until he got there. Ten minutes later… he showed up.. with five other Drill Sergeants from other platoons. This was the happiest I ever saw these six men.
A M16 rifle, weights a little over 7lbs when it is not loaded with a magazine. It weighs a little over 8lbs fully loaded (full metal jacket). It is made of 7075 aluminum alloy, a light metal, and can be disassembled and reassembled into 10 or 12 different parts (depending on whether or not you disassemble the hand grips). We were beginning to learn about the rifles, however, marksman qualification wasn’t until phase III of basic training, we were just starting phase I… and according to our Drill Sergeants… we were an embarrassment to them, the United States Army and our familial ancestors. NEVER, in the history of modern warfare, had two potatoes met Rudy in phase I. This was a first… we were told… which is why we had an audience of Drill Sergeants.
Rudy, as it turned out, was a solid rubber model M16. He weighed nearly 25lbs. There were two models, both models were a battle buddy… named Rudy. I thought this was an unfortunate coincidence. I was given one… the Apple was given one. Over the next 45minutes we marched around the Drill Sergeants desk, holding Rudy over our heads, doing 20 “pop outs” or squats every time they told us. They told us to pop out about every 3 minutes. We couldn’t lower Rudy below our chin or, GOD FORBID under ANY circumstances, drop Rudy. We couldn’t cry, we couldn’t scream for our mamas… and most importantly… We could never ever speak of Rudy during Basic Training. Rudy was secret. Neither the Apple nor I dropped Rudy below our chins, cried or called for mama. As the 45 minutes came to an end we were sweaty, out of breath, our lungs burned and we were riddled with pain beyond the point of muscle failure… but we didn’t fail.
The biggest problem with meeting Rudy early in the morning was we still had a full day of abuse to take… and we were both completely wiped out by 0800… 8am.
Lights out in the barracks weren’t until 2200hrs… 10pm.