US Military Cadence: Short Choppy Steps

US Military Cadence: Short Choppy Steps

               My basic flight did what all flights do during the sixth week; we got cocky.  One day on the drill pad across from the lovely 321st dorms we practiced drill; of course.  I couldn’t help but think about how over the weeks the drill pad was synonymous with a prison yard in my opinion.  Being in the 321st meant being located next to the perimeter fence, and standing tall above the crowd.  Basic felt like hell, but seeing the real world through the fence daily made the experience worse.  I particularly remember—it’s funny now—one TI, during morning PT stretches would say, “Stretch towards the golden arches!”  What a jerk, constantly throwing the lack of fast food in our face!  Anyway, the drill pad encompassed so many horrible experiences over the previous five weeks, but not anymore.

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               We were sixth weekers, we had our shit tight, we knew what our TI was going to call before she did, and soon the AF would be ours.  So, looking sharp in our blues, we marched our happy asses out to the pad.  Chest out thinking we were hot shit.  We passed by some babies and as if in sequence we all puffed up even more with pride—yeah bitches.  In sequence we move toward the drill pad for final practice.  Little did we know one final lesson would be dealt out.

               Once we reached the starting line our TI called for a hault.  We abliged with a solid Stomp.  She called for a left face.  We answered with a single, fluid, left movement and Stomp.  She gave us a speech about not being fuck ups.  She ensured use that we were not the worst flight ever but definitely not the best either.  I cracked a smile, in my head of course, comparing this to Major Payne.  “I have made it,” I thought, as I am sure my wingmen did.  Once the speech ended she called us back to attention and barked a right face.  We did not disappoint.

               Time to move had come.  We calmly awaited command when our TI called for a cover.  Little did she know, obviously, that we already had our cover—no movement.  Now, some of you might be too old and far from basic days to realize where we fucked up so I will tell you.  We did not short choppy step when commanded because we were already there.

               She was not amused.

               She called out the dorm chief.  “Dorm Chief, can you tell me why no one moved when I said cover?!”  The dorm chief replied, “Ma’am, Trainee numbnuts reports as ordered.  We already have cover.”

               She laughed.

               “So, stupid ones, because you have cover you don’t think you need to short choppy step?” She replied to the group.


               She then told the Guidon bearer to run to the far side of the drill pad.  He moved instantly with a, “Yes, Ma’am!”  We all stood confused at what would come next.

               “Since you are all in pretty blues I won’t make you do pushups.  So instead I have another way to teach you a lesson,” she barked.  We all stood at attention, confused.

               Then it happened.

               She called cover.

               Over the next three minutes my flight moved in sequence as the largest group of overgrown penguins toward the guidon bearer.  Short choppy steps from one end of the drill pad to the other seemed like hell in the Texas heat.  Of course, we had to be out in blues for all the babies to see us being punished.  In our sixth week we did not think such embarrassment could be done.  In retrospect it must have been hard for my TI to keep a straight face. 

               So what was the lesson?  The lesson is to never forget you are never above protocol.  When someone gives a command always take the time to ensure things are in order and you are following protocol.

Do you have any funny lessons learned from basic training?

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