Friday, October 30, 2015

Boot Camp

In early May of 1982, two of my closest friends and I boarded a plane destined for Florida. Our final destination; the Naval Training Center in Orlando. The 3 of us, along with 77 other guys, would become members of Company 136 in what used to be referred to as boot camp.

Our fellow recruits got a lot of mileage out of the fact that three of us had come from way up North in South Dakota. I don't know how many times I personally heard someone say something to the effect of "gee, I didn't know covered wagons traveled this far South". Ha. Ha. Hilarious ;)

The photo below was taken while the three of us were trying on our newly issued uniforms. That's me on the far right. Next to me is Steve Baker, and next to him is Brian Scholten. We were all smiles here, but that enthusiasm was short lived. Boot camp wasn't the picnic we thought it would be.

One of my favorite memories of the whole boot camp experience surrounds events that occurred on our first night, and which played out rather similarly on our last night. The contrast in what followed those events is what makes them memorable.

The first night was preceded by an entire day of shuffling from place to place and from line to line as we were vaccinated and issued our clothing and other supplies. When the lights in the barracks were turned out for the evening, many of us were eager to get some sleep, as we had been told that the next day would begin very early. For some however, the day wasn't over, and so a a dozen or so of the guys continued to talk and joke and laugh.

The horseplay continued for about 5 or 10 minutes after the lights were out, until, as I remember it, a loud booming voice with a thick Southern drawl yelled "have a little respect for your fellow shipmates, and shut the fuck up!"

The place went silent immediately. Not another peep was heard from anyone for the rest of that night. Nor do I recall any significant horseplay taking place after lights out from that point forward. I later learned that the loud booming voice belonged to one Marvin Hyde, one of my fellow recruits,

Now fast forward through 8 weeks of basic training. It was our last night in the barracks. The following morning would send the 80 of us in separate directions into futures that were big unknowns. The lights were out, and the silence on this night was deafening.

Suddenly, out of the silence, came a loud booming voice with a thick Southern drawl that yelled "have a little respect for your fellow shipmates, and shut the fuck up!"

The place erupted. Suddenly everyone was laughing hysterically. Then others began to shout out reminders of those things that had bonded us together as a group for the last 8 weeks. The reminiscing went on for probably an hour or more, and when it finally died down, I think it was exhaustion from laughing that put us all to sleep.

There were other interesting things that occurred during our 8 weeks of Boot Camp; like when one of our company commanders (William Brandon) got himself into trouble for shaving one of my fellow recruits with a cigarette lighter, or when one of my fellow recruits (Orlando Ward) dislocated his shoulder after slipping in his own sweat while doing 8 count body builders, or when four of my fellow recruits posed for a photograph wearing nothing but garbage cans on their heads to conceal their identities, then passed that photo off to some girls in our sister company. Those events were interesting, but none reached epic status like Hyde's respect comment did. Hyde had not only made our last night into our best night, he had elevated himself to legendary status.

If you're out there somewhere Marvin, my hat is off to you. Well played sir, well played.