Wednesday, October 16, 2013
And you had to attend regular Army basic training for nine weeks and then learn your assigned skill for another ten.
October 16th was my reporting day and now every year on that date I pause and think to myself, “No matter where I am or what I’m doing, at least I’m not in the Army.” So it’s my “Thanksgiving Day.” (Note: this is not to dissuade any of you thinking of enlisting. You’ll love the military. Really. It’s just me.)
When I watched ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK on Netflix I thought, “Oh my God! This is just like me in basic training except with no cunnilingus.” Cut off from the world, being processed in, living in open barracks with maniacs, Jesus freaks, illiterates, rednecks, Rambos, and chronic snorers.
Like the main character Piper who had trouble adjusting, I found that being a princess did not help me fit in to Army life. A guy who’s not good with his hands shouldn’t be assembling rifles and throwing grenades. (Again, if you’re reading this at the recruiter’s office, you should be fine. And there’s great camaraderie when four of your buddies are doing their business in open stalls as you brush your teeth two feet away.)
Just like in OITNB, everyone was referred to by their last names. Mispronunciation was common. For instance, I pronounce my name Lee-Vine, but they thought it was Fuckhead.
The ruthless guards might as well have been drill sergeants. Both were equally stupid. And both called everyone “ladies, women, and pussies.”
We all had lights out at the same time and awoke early every morning. We had inspections, roll call, bad food (C-rations at one point -- muffins canned in 1962 that lost their freshness in 1970), and of course – communal showers (which made for terrible acoustics when you tried to sing).
There were some differences between the show and my experience. No one ever visited me. No Jewish parent misses their child enough to go to the fucking Ozarks. And if any recruit listened to NPR he’d probably be fragged.
I only had to put up with this for nine weeks. Imagine being sentenced to several years. As it is, I give thanks that I’m not doing it now.
Of course, I did meet my writing partner in the Reserves, and I never would have been able to write MASH without being exposed to the military way of thinking. Damn! I owe a great deal of my career to being in the Army. (Don’t leave that recruiting office just yet.)
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM