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December 4th, 2009
09:24 AM ET

A Soldier's Story: 24 hours in the Army

Editor's Note: "A Soldier's Story" is a new original series by CNN's "American Morning" that will track three military recruits from their final days as civilians through deployment. Our Jason Carroll has been given unprecedented access by the Pentagon as the president outlines a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. In part two, a new recruit spends his first 24 hours in the Army.

By Adam Reiss

As 18-year-old Will McLain leaves home for the first time there are tearful goodbyes with his parents. His mother Lori certainly did not want this day to come.

Will and his recruiter Sgt. Sheldon Rivers take the two hour drive to the processing center in Los Angeles where Will registers for the Army. He is asked about his tattoo and his medical records are thoroughly checked before he heads into the seminar to learn proper procedures for standing at attention.

"Sir yes sir!" Will is taught how to keep shoulders back and his stomach tucked in.

"I'm anxious, but I'm glad it's finally starting – like one of those days you don't think it will come and like bam it's here," says Will.

"Does anyone have any doubts, reservations or restrictions about joining the military?" shouts the drill instructor. "No sir" is the response from everyone.

"When I tell you to you are going to exit this bus quickly and safely, but the key word being quickly. Do you understand!," barks drill sergeant Crystal Scott as Will's bus arrives at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It's two hours outside of St. Louis and a world away from his home outside Los Angeles. More than 200 soldiers reported for duty with Will on his first day. 30,000 a year go through the 43rd AG Reception Station, at 600 a week.

Here he has several days of orientation before the real work sets in as he goes through thirteen weeks of basic training. There are a lot of drill sergeants screaming orders in every direction and Will appears a little dazed, if not from the new environment than certainly from the lack of sleep traveling for the past day. He will be required to give up his personal belongings, including his cell phone – his last point of contact with the outside world. Then it's time to collect his bedding, and lights out before they are back on a little more than four hours later.

Breakfast looks good – the only problem is he has less than three minutes to devour it before heading off to his next assignment. Will is 5'9" and 228 pounds, so he will definitley have to lose some weight. Drill sergeant Crystal Scott says she is sure he will lose it.

"We have ways to do it, you can be sure he will lose that weight."

Next he goes through more orientation, gets his gear, immunizations shots, and has his eyes tested. It turns out Will's eyesight is not 20/20, so he will be fitted with glasses.

Soon he is on a long line for the barber shop and the obligatory cut. He takes it like a man and can barely muster up the courage to look at himself in the mirror. It's Will in the mirror, but he's not yet the soldier he has set out to be.

"Not yet. I haven't been through boot. I won't even claim being a soldier until I'm done with that."


Filed under: A Soldier's Story • Military
soundoff (267 Responses)
  1. Michael

    I like how all of these people get on here and talk about how the Marines are better when they haven't even served themselves.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  2. LS

    Marine boot makes Marines, but they don't actually receive as much grunt training as soldiers do during basic training, that happens for a Marine after boot. It's absurd to compare the separate forces, unless you're still buying into that indoctrination. Each service has its hard core tough guys, its smart guys, and its geeks. And each person in that service plays an important role in the military.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  3. RowdySailor

    G.I. Beans and G.I. Gravy. G.I. wish I'd joined the Navy!

    December 4, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  4. thinker

    Seems the ex-marines on here always have to claim they had it harder than everyone else. All the branches of the military put their recruits through a lot. Some of us were smart enough to pick a branch of service that required thinking, unlike the marines.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  5. Sgt Shirey, Eric

    This is a nice article to give the average person who has nothing to do with the military an idea of what its like to be in the military. Yes i could point out the differences between the Army and Marine way of boot camp, like we do call our drill instructors (not sgt's) sir and its the one and only way to address them when asked a question, but that would be pointless im excited to see young people signing up and people that harp on the "you've been misled or branwished", Dave, you really have no idea what yoru talking about and most military people are encouraged to free though alot harder then you would think. So get off it.

    Sgt Shirey USMC

    December 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  6. duane

    In the marines, you say Sir,yes,Sir.. as in the army you say Yes, Drill Sergeant!! to all of those joining, Good Luck! I joined in 99 and went to Ft. Benning for my basic training. Its not that bad, just keep a good head and stay motivation.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  7. For Real

    I love reading the comments... funy stuff!

    Who cares about which initial entry training is harder? If any of you are so tough, then why are you posting stupid comments on the internet. Shouldn't you be out in a trench fighting for your life? Apparently none of our armed forces departments are effective enough to end the drug war on our national border, or rid the world of the taliban. What we need are fewer world war III grunts and more special forces operators and covert intelligence agents.

    ooh aah, I got yelled at more than you in my training... I'm more bad a@# than you. Funny stuff!!

    December 4, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  8. AF_A1C

    The game we play is hurry up and wait.

    it starts the second you step off that bus and continues on well into your first actual duty station.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  9. Nikki

    Thank you so much for following this story. My son PVT Jonathon Jones started boot camp Oct. 26 2009 at Ft. Knox Kentucky. This helps me to visually see what he has gone through. Now that my son has willingly enlisted in the Army, it brings this war much closer to my heart. Thank you again.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  10. Michael

    Mr. and Mrs. McLain, I hope you read all the comments posted here, especially the ones praising your son Will and praying for his safety, along with all of those training and serving with him. I am sure that you love him, and yet wanted his decision to enlist to be his own. Now that he has followed through with his decision, you support him – as do most of us. Your son has already shown that he is a remarkable man, and you should be very, very proud of him. While I do not know you or anyone who has posted comments here, I would like to apologize for those comments that are less than kind regarding your son's story. Your nation will always be grateful for his courage and commitment.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  11. Nyal

    * To all that say CNN should goto Fort this, Fort that, I ask you, are the same soldiers from Fort Lost-In-The-Woods, Jackson, etc, not fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan the same as combat soldiers? Aren't IED's on convoys the main cause of death, not small arms combat and raids? Is SSG Keith Maupin, the killed POW, not as real of a soldier as your average leg soldier because he was in transportation? Please.

    * FYI, this segment only shows the reception area and holding unit at Fort Leonard Wood. This stage determines who are just fit enough to start basic, and who must goto "fat camp" for some weight reduction first. In a couple days, they will be heading out to the actual barracks and then Day Zero of real basic training begins.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  12. Hellz

    first off, lets clarify some things....

    in the Marines... Recruits DO call thier DI's by "Sir/Maam"

    in the Army.. recruits call their DI by' Drill Sargent"

    thats it...

    December 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  13. peter salamorandoshirestonworth

    i am a seventeen year old future enlister of the marine corps. however from what ive seen and heard basic training is much easier than it was for my granmps and uncles. this story is not helping. hazing is now illegal and my cousin who just started his military carreer told me about some organization mothers have to keep their kids from being hazed and instructors from being to hard on their sons. the worst part is they are getting there way. this is b.s. do they not realize that these kids are being trained for war? do they not know what war is? these recruits need to be hardened. prepared for battle. prepared to to be subject to much more than hazing and being talked down to. shame on the government for allowing a bunch of ignorant naive women to control them. i just saay this because i am worried about the quality of my training and that of other future recruits. will it be up to par??

    December 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  14. Soldiers Wife

    Gregory Hamilton....what a flippn idiot!..."dying in the streets" these MEN are fighting in a real war....my gosh....how ignorant!.....take some in the head.....for being such a disgrace and a major part of the problem in the world!

    December 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  15. Karen Diorio

    My son's stint in basic at Fort Jackson in SC was harder on me than on him because I had no way to talk to him. I sat down every night when I got home from work and wrote him a letter and it didn't matter what it was about either, he was grateful to get those letters from home and still does, however he is now stationed in Germany.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  16. Charles Marcinko

    Congrats Will and good luck.

    Reading about your first few hours in the army reminded me of mine back in May of 85 at Fort Knox. I loved my experience and fondly remember it. Maybe not all the 3 minute meals, but I did enjoy it.

    You sound positive and thats a great sign. Just remember to not take anything personnal. The DI's are their to teach you all the basics. Listen to them and you will be find.

    December 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  17. Mike

    End DADT Now !

    December 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  18. Kelly

    Thanks Will for the service to our country. I am in the Air Force myself, however it's not the Army like you, I know what you are experiencing in Basic Training. Sounds much like our boot camp, even in the AF. Just keep your head up high, make great friends with your peers, and keep a positive attitude throughout your whole experience in Basic! No matter what the Drill Sergeants say or do, they are there for building your strength, courage and motivation as a soldier, even in times where it may seem that they are trying to "break you down". They are always there for you. Good luck, god bless you.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  19. Gary

    If we can see this and learn what happens then so can the enemy.

    I don't care how much freedom of the press you think we need we have a greater need of privacy for security purposes.

    Telling the enemy how we train, or where we have holes in our nation's borders, etc. is dumb.

    signed – 14 year Viet Nam and Gulf War Vet

    December 4, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  20. 1LT Lytle

    I went through Combat Engineer OSUT in Ft Leonard Wood 7 years ago, and last year, I got the chance to go to Ft Benning for a year during which time I observed in much of the Basic Training there.

    Honestly, it's not really so much "Ft Bennin is hardcore, and all other training locations are not" or "Marines are hardcore", yes Infantry training is physically more demanding than any other occupational speciality, but the primary reason why everyone is making fun of how easy Basic Training is now is that the Army wants numbers. Since Congress tells the Army to grow, but does not authorize higher salaries, then the only way the Army can meet that goal is to grant more waivers and make training easier. 7 years ago, I remember running 10 minute 2 milers. Today, I frequently have Soldiers come back from Basic & AIT unable to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test. Their discipline and respect has diminished as well. I have personally seen this happen, there is a movement that is attempting to remove the notorious Drill Sergeant hat, stop them from yelling, and act more like a Squad Leader than an instructor. This downward trend is happening accross all training installations.

    Overseas, Marines and Soldiers frequently conduct joint missions, going together on patrols. Now, for everyone that is saying that Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard basic training is almost the same as Army, thank you for making me laugh.

    Bottom line is that our dysfunctional congress needs to fund other incentives for a big Army, instead of letting the Standards go down.

    If "pro" is the opposite of "con", then there should be no surprise that the opposite of "progress" is...congress:)

    December 4, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  21. Mike

    Tom is right. If this kid is really in the Army, there is no way he was addressing the Drills as, "Sir."

    December 4, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  22. Ric

    I would think that a parent of any service member would appreciate all branches of service but I guess i was wrong. Buzz, your son may have joined the Marine Corps which I am thankful for but that does not make him better than any other soldier. This has been going on for years. One branch of service is better than another but when someone makes a statement, he (Buzz) better make sure he can back it up.

    Buzz, you claim that the Marines secure the landing zone (beach?) so the Army can safely come ashore. Did the Marines storm Normandy during WWII? Have you any tactical knowledge? I seem to remember my fellow Rangers and SF soldiers securing our own landing zone.

    All I ask is that we ALL be grateful. No one parent or soldier is better or making a greater sacrifice. They are all equal.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  23. LISA

    Cute video. Best of luck and thanks to the soldiers for everything they do-every day.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  24. Breonna Pepaj

    i miss you will ❤ :/ i cant wait to see you again i ish i could have seenyou before you left. o and i think you left a shirt at charleys house. i wonder how much ur going to change you alreadylook so different. and i relieze your not going to read this but it makes me miss you less if i pretend like you can.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  25. Army Vet

    It is interesting to see the number of people who want to use this article as a stance for running down other branches of the military than their own (noticed a couple of Marines, there) or griping about the wars we are currently engaged in.

    Howsabout we focus on the article. There is a young man who decided, for whatever reason, to join the Army. The article is covering his progress and what he will have to go through.

    Sure, some of the minor details are wrong. In the Marines, their drill instructors are referred to as "Sir", in the Army, it is "Drill Sergeant". Last I heard, Army basic training was 9 weeks long, but that could have changed...I don't know.

    I have several Marine veteran friends who will die believing they are indeed the baddest mofo's to walk the face of the earth. They are indeed bad mofo's and I truely believe Marines have the hardest basic training (boot) of all the services. However, the Army, Airforce, and Navy have some bad mofo's of their own who can and do kick hindparts and take names. And for the non-support veterans who are dogging on those people didn't decide to go into a combat MOS....I'll tell you what.....go get into a fight and see how long you last when you run out of beans and bullets. (yes, i was a REMF...and proud of it. I was in communications. "You can talk about us, but you can't talk without us!") C'mon guys....let's stop running each other down and realize we're all part of the same team.

    People who are using this forum to gripe about the war. War sucks...I agree. But, don't downplay someones willingness to sacrifice their personal freedom to serve their country. I hate that our servicemen and women are put into harms way.....but that is part of the job and they knew it when they signed up.

    Not that I really believe this will change anyones mind....but I feel better saying it.

    Happy Holidays to all.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  26. Matt

    Say Dale, ever stop to consider his IQ was too high for Marine Corps requirements? Perhaps he didn't want the shame of being attached to the Dept of the Navy?(Everyone knows you guys require Adult supervision)
    Having served in the Army, and now, being in, as most call it, the "Chair Force" I still have a healthy respect for my Brothers and Sisters in the Corps, even if they are on the lower end of the IQ spectrum 🙂

    *Please note, inter branch mockery is a Veteran's/Active/Family Members only priveledge, and is done in a very sibling-rivalry kind of way, like any good family member, I will happily pound the snot out of any civvies making fun of folks that are not "Family" and yes, that includes the brave men and women of the USCG

    December 4, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  27. Dean

    A female drill instructor?? I wonder what phrases she will use to "motivate" the new recruit when he appears to be slacking. They surely will not be the ones used in 1965. I guess Obama isn't the only change we are going thru.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  28. Toya

    Next stop, Iraq! See ya later...

    December 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  29. Oscar

    @Jay: It's not about Pro-War, it's about Pro-Support your fellow Americans for making a decision to keep you safe whether you realize it or not. I would hope that what we are getting out of this is avoiding another attack like 9/11, which sadly it seems most of America has forgotten. Yes, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers are enlisting for many different reasons. Yes, families are also burying their loved ones at the price of this conflist, but they made a choice to fight for something they believed in. None of us have the right to question that, frown upon that, or anything in that regard. What are we getting out of this? The ability to post our comments on this article in peace and safety for starters.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  30. What's your MOS?

    Hate to break it to you, Chelsea, but FLW is H-U-G-E. You might encounter some of the cadre at Reception, but you'll only be there for 2-3 days at most, and then off to your training battalion. The likelihood of you running across any of the drill instructors is pretty small. And just as a friendly piece of advice – if you DO recognize them, keep it to yourself, at least until you've been there long enough to build a relationship with your drill sergeant – otherwise, you're just asking to be put in your place.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  31. Chris

    As an "ordinary" citizen, I want to thank Will and all of you who made the choice to defend my freedom and keep my family safe. Rest assured, you are all appreciated by most Americans, even those like the many posters on this blog who are trying to convince the rest of us that those who don't serve in the USMC, or do their training at Benning, etc. are somehow less worthy. Men and women like Will are a huge part of what is GOOD about this country!

    December 4, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  32. Duane

    Ah Fort Leaonard Wood. This is where I went for OSUT, and loved it! This soldier will do just fine, some of the best DSGT's there to take care of him.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  33. Jo Ann

    I know exactly how his Mom felt saying goodbye! But, now that my son is serving our country I couldn't be more proud! May God bless those who selflessly serve our country, especially those who sign up knowing our country is at war.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  34. Lee

    I went to Ft. Benning in 2003, it is ALOT different from anywhere else. But as a Recruiter I am proud of this young man to make this serious decision to better him self and to challenge him self in so many different ways. But i disagree with CNN for following him to Basic Training. It is meant to be a shock to form civilians to become an American Soldier. I have read alot of these comments and some of them just doesn't make any sense, like some people thinking we are "brainwashed". I am sorry but if we didn't have people like young Will, who would give you the freedom to write what you think without retribution and have any of the other freedoms that you have. You should be thankful and proud that there are people who are willing to risk there lives to keep America free and not have it like some countries that make it mandetory for ALL young men to serve in there military.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  35. James

    I'm going to Fort Leonardwood also, it's pretty cool to see what everything looks like before I actually head out.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  36. Bruce

    i was drafted back in 72 and no women drill sargents then, looks like the DI's were taking it easy on the boots because of the camera crew.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  37. Ben

    Buzz, get your facts straight. If by landing zone you mean beach head, you are off the mark. If you recall from history class, the Army landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, without the Marines. This was after Navy gun batteries barraged the beaches, and after the Army Air Corps (no AF back then) bombed the area to soften defenses.

    If by landing zone you mean austere air strip you are wrong again. Air Force Combat Controllers are deployed to enter a hostile area, develop a landing zone, and control air craft. They are a Special Tactics force who go through much more challenging training than any Marine recruit ever will.

    I understand the pride you must feel for you child, and as a member of the miiltary I respect that. What I am saying is this: Each branch of the military is unique in it's own way, and brings something different to the fight. Without each branch, the US Military would not be as powerful or capable as it is today.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  38. Kevin

    3 minutes for breakfast? not a chance, try 30 seconds if that.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  39. dflowers

    I wonder what Will MOS is?

    December 4, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  40. David Lugo

    Sounds pretty accurate...but they left out a lot of what the drill sergeants REALLY say to these recruits...and you don't call the drill sergeants SIR...if you do that, they'll tell you Sir is for officers and they WORK for a living...unlike officers...LOL

    December 4, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  41. Harney

    Thank you Reaper7G!!!! Thats right Leanord Wood is not army training. You want the good stuff, the kind that really turns you into a soldier? Then you want to go to Fort Benning. And all you guys thinking about joining think through a few things first: Were you a tough guy in school or were you picked on? If you were picked on don't even think about joining, you'll wuss out in the first week. Second, loose the girlfriend/fiance THEY WILL CHEAT ON YOU!!!! Every soldier in my platoon without exception lost his "love" before the culmination of training.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  42. Tim

    What about the gay men and women that serve in the military? That is the the real story. These men and women deny their own sexuality just to serve their country. I salute them all. Don't ask Don;t Tell will end and our armed forces will enter the modern world. Untill them I urge all the gay and lesbians in the military to hang in there.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  43. Rayshundra

    As the proud wife of a soldier, I applaud this young man. The Army needs more men and women like him. Young people who are willing to protect this country. My husband has deployed 4 times in the past 5 years and am grateful that someone else is willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers who are seeing multiple deployements. Stand proud and our prayers are with the new recruits.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  44. Tim

    Yeah! I remember going through reception there back in October 1996. Watch out for those immunization shots, the penicillen was the worst! Good memories

    December 4, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  45. Gordon Richard

    Tom Grant you Sir are wrong.

    I was in the Air Force and in BMTS (boot), we had to call our drill seageants Sir. This was only in boot and they explained that to us in a very clear and loud manner.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  46. David

    During my son's first 24 hours, the US Army broke every one of the promises the recruiters made to him. He was supposed to be in military intellegence in Europe or Asia. He denied that because of his service to his country in the Peace Corps. (Go figure) He ended up in Iraq. When I asked the commanding officer of the recruiters on what happened he said that recruiters did not handle the case correctly and should have known that my son did not qualify and should have told him so before he enlisted. . He said the recruiters were not the smartest bunch around! (He actually said that to us.) So we have men and women going off to war who were enlisted by recruiters who don't know what they are doing and making false promises. Any way that is what happened with my son. Good news is he is home from I raq.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  47. Joyla

    My sister is at Fort Leonard Wood and is coming home in two weeks, then going back and then off to Officer School. It's good to see a little of what she experienced while she was there.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  48. SGT

    basic training is a joke now. Go Fort Knox...." pain is tempory but Pride is forever"

    December 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  49. NDH

    I think it will be great to see his impressions of Basic; however, I do agree that there are parts that should remain a mystery to civilians. If you want to know ALL about the military, join.

    My son is 16 and wants to join the military. He has been in the Young Marines for 3 years and he loves it. He spent a week at Parris Island 2 summers ago working with Marine DIs. Of course, it was nowhere near what actual recruits experience, but it was a sneek peak. All of the kids loved it and came back better people for it.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  50. Robert, Pittsburgh, PA

    Since when is the Basic Traing for the Army 13 weeks, that is for the Marines....Army Basic Training is only for 8 weeks and when I was in the Army if you called an enlisted soldier (Drill Sargent) in this example, you got dropped (push ups) right on the spot, only officers are referred to as Sir or Mam.......I think the author may have his facts a little messed up......(Ft. Jackson, Columbia SC 1994 Basic Training here, Ft. Gordon, Augusta, GA for my AIT)

    December 4, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  51. Winter Soldier

    War has nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with power, greed, and control over natural resources. It was the working class who fought and died during the Labor Movement and Civil RIghts Movement that brought about any kind of true democracy in this country.

    "The problem with America is that when the dollar only makes 6% over here it goes over seas for 100%. The flag follows the dollar, and the soldier follows the flag." Major Genderal Smedley D. Butler, USMC.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  52. Justin

    I just have a couple things to say. I was a recruiter in my last 2 years in the Army before I got out. EVERYONE, is scared when they go through basic training! Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy no matter. Everyone has been in this kids shoes if you have been in the service. So this is the part where Joe Marine and Jack Army remind themselves of how it was way back when they were in. If you retired a Soldier, my hat is off to ya! If you were like me and got out for whatever reason, keep your glory days in your home because, Benning, Sill, Knox, Jackson, Leonardwood, they all teach the same thing: Army Basic. The only difference is that there are places where being hard a$$ and dumb a$$ are just an accident away.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  53. Ant

    Reaper7G, you are mistaken. They are all about the same...and that also includes other branches of service. So please go back to the kiddie table and do not get up until I tell you to.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  54. Been there, done that

    Went through basic at Fort Hood, TX, in the late fifties. Elvis was right down the street doing the same thing. When anyone griped, the response was, "Good training, 'cruit." All of the NCOs were WW-II and/or Korea vets. What I learned there kept me alive in Vietnam, especially surviving in the heat. (Was 110 that summer in Texas.)

    The "attitude adjustment" is a necessary, if not the most important, part of what is now called BCT (Basic Combat Training.) Combat skills are essential, but it's the team attitude that gets you through alive. Be a casualty is an inherent risk of service, but a poor attitude almost guarantees it.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  55. Adam

    From what I understand the military has already gotten soft. This stress card crap they are allowed these days is a bunch of crap. I am a veteran of both the Navy and the Army. That mess didn't exist back in the day.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  56. Joe

    The hard part hasn't started. I can tell you from when I went in I very much doubt they would give you access to the first few weeks. There are things that go on that would suprise many civilians, but it works out in the end because your confident and well trained. My old fort no longer does basic if that's any consolation.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  57. Lynn

    Hmm – I guess Will didn't get to play "pick em up put em down" with his bags. Maybe the Army Drill Sergeants don't run that game? Or maybe it's just been too long since I went through Basic in the Air Force.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  58. Dray22

    Good luck with this journey. The other comment I want to make is directed at Gregory Hamilton. You sit back and compare STREET thugs to our amred forces...It takes guts to do what that Armed forces do day in and day out...but ignorance to be a hood rat. You should be sent to a Foreign country to never be heard from again.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  59. Chris

    Hey Tom,

    Actually, when I did boot, albeit a lot of years ago, the DS's had us respond that way, but only to teach us how to react properly to officers. Once we left boot, responded with Sergeant instead of Sir. You are entirely correct about the response to enlisted NCO's in the real world military, we worked for a living. So it might not be off that they are still doing it.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  60. Oscar

    @Katie: Coast Guard Basic Training is located in Cape May, NJ. Training among the services is DEFINITELY not the same. Every service outside of Marine Corps Boot Camp runs for about 7-9 weeks. The level of intensity, compromise, and demand varies as I stated in an earlier post based on mission requirements of that service.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  61. Dale is the loser

    It wasn't "Dave" that made the comment but "Dale" who has to be a total jerk.
    Thank you to all the military putting their lives on the line for me and whenever I see you I will ALWAYS give you respect.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  62. JimmyS

    Dave, I can only imagine how alone you really are in your little world.

    These young men and women are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that you may sit idly upon your thumb.
    Those who have/or will make that sacrifice will go on and though action, live forever.
    Fortunately for the rest of us, when you go you'll just go away.

    USMC
    93-01

    December 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  63. hankdatank

    No matter what branch of the service you're in.....Thank You! Im in the Air Force and I see all this talk about which branch is harder blah blah blah, but the fact of the matter is we all signed up to serve our country and we do it with honor. We go through the hardships. We serve side by side. When it comes down to it, I'd trust any military member whether they are Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army, etc to have my back in combat. So yes basic is hard because we all have to say goodbye to our families and become the Service Member we want to be. That requires sacrifice. We all signed up to be in the service and we know the consequences. So to everyone in the service, CONUS or OCONUS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMITMENT AND SACRIFICE TO YOUR COUNTRY!

    December 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  64. Rick

    Try NOT calling a DI "SIR" while in Marine Corps boot camp! I dare ya...

    December 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  65. Terrance

    It's good to read a story like this, BCT was great experience for me, the hardest part was leaving all my battle buddies knowing that as we all go to AIT some of us will be deployed and never return. Military life is hard but ever so rewarding, you get a chance to see just how much reserve and drive you really have. PFC Carroll fox trot 213 , 3rd platoon blackhawks...Fort Jackson

    December 4, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  66. robert

    He will be man in a fast manner – all boys should serve 2 years in the services. i went in as a cocky athlete and boy did get humbled fast.
    There are no stars in boot camp. good luck to all recruits. and god bless you.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  67. William

    I did basic at that EXACT same post 10 years ago. Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri (aka Ft. Lost In The Woods, Misery) is no easy truck to ride out, but if he stays focused, he'll be fine. He's in for some cold weather, but I'm sure he'll be fine as long as he stays away from the milk and dairy products before the gas chamber lol.

    Good luck, Private.

    Hooah.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  68. Jonathan

    Reaper7G – Real soldiers – or even anyone has been to Ft. Benning – would likely know how to spell it. I suspect you are neither. My brother – who did boot at Ft. Leonard Wood – is an 8 year veteran and combat veteran. I can't help but think you've never spent a day in uniform, or you wouldn't talk the way you do about people who defended your freedom and your nation.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  69. Greg

    As somebody who went through Marine basic, I never once said "Sir, Yes Sir". It was either "Yes Sir, No Sir, Yes Ma'am, No Ma'am", and they were drill instructors, not drill sergeants. Call them a drill sergeant and you're asking to suck sand in the pit. Since when is Army basic 13 weeks? I was always under the impression it was 10(counting the week of processing).

    December 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  70. tom

    Hey Grant in the real boot camp which is the Corps we said Sir Yes Sir, but since this guy went into the Army he'll be graduated and home by next weekend anyway.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  71. Old School

    Sir, yes, sir? He'd be doing a lot of pushups for referring to an enlisted NCO in that way back when I went in (Vietnam era). The response from a drill sergeant was always the same, "I work for a living!" (As opposed to some soft officer type.) The haircuts are the same and the GI glasses are still as abominable – we called them Birth Control Glasses because "if you're wearing them, you ain't getting any". God bless him and his fellow troops.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  72. Chris

    I have to first say that its great that he decided to go in the military during a time of "war." Second, its interesting to read these comments. Especially since half these people dont know what their talking about. Buzz you are right, Marines are tools. The army doesnt come ashore. thats the Navy. We fly. Well these days we do. Look up some history if you want to post things like that. WWII, 82nd and 101st jumped in behind enemy lines before D-day to take out 88mm guns so the Marines and the rest of the army didnt get creamed. I think Ive made my point. The army doesnt need the marines to do its dirty work. Oh and theres a reason that the marines dont have nice things. The Department of the Navy doesnt care about them. Thats why there the few.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  73. Retired NCO

    Brings back memories of over 20 years ago when I went through Fort Leonard Wood! It was segregated by sex then still, I don’t think I saw a single woman for 2 months. It was cold, wet, miserable, and yea, it was great! We became Soldiers. It helped prepare me for my 20 year Army Career with tours all over the world including Afghanistan. It can be a good life, definitely not all fun and games, but overall I loved it and miss some of it and the many friends I made.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  74. DS

    Michael December 4th, 2009 11:25 am ET

    That's a far cry from the bootcamp I experienced at Ft Knox in 1983. Man. Have times changed.

    To Michael- Sorry guy, I work with SiT's (Soldiers in training)-We aren't allowed to call them trainees anymore, at Ft. Knox and yes. times have changed. I don't think for the better, either. It is a "kinder, gentler Army now. WAY different that when i first was exposed to it at Ft. Dix, NJ. My son, currently active duty, went through basic at Ft. Benning 12 years ago, and he is not fond of the "new" methods either. My boys that I work with on Sunday's do not realize how good they actually have it. 🙂

    December 4, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  75. A1C

    LOL first chow is always the most memorable. I didn't even want to eat in AF boot camp. I was so tired and wanted to get out of the Chow hall as fast as I could so I wouldn't have a TI in my face. HAHAHAHAHA it's quite an experience!

    December 4, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  76. Becky

    when I went thru basic training it was 10 wks at ft jackson and i spent 11 days in reception but the actual basic it's self was 10 wks it doesn't matter where you go to basic once your deployed ive seen all walks of like go thru diff basics and it's all the same im a army brat and i was in myself how ever in reception we were smoked during the night stood in formation for hours and it was the same when we were bussed to our company area after reception so this artical in my opinion is what happens. I give props for the men and woman of the us military no matter what brance my brother is a CG my dad was in the navy 2uncles in marines i was in the army and my step sister was in the marines and let me tell you for a female she did better than half the men girls can do it to!

    December 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  77. Roger

    Tom Grant – that is an incorrect statement. I enlisted in the Marines in 1986. A Marine recruit has always referred to "Drill Instructor" not "Drill Sergeant"... additionally, a Marine recruit never refers to himself as "I"... always "This Recruit"... Last but not least, I would never think of addressing the Drill Instructor without the respectful "Sir, yes sir", "Sir, aye sir", "Sir, no sir"... Once you graduate boot camp and have earned the title Marine, then you no longer address senior enlisted as Sir or Ma'am.... but only then.

    After talking to a close buddy of mine that served as an Army Drill Sergeant, he said that in receiving they get new recruits used to saying "Sir, yes sir" first because it is not as "foreign" to a new recruit as "Yes, Drill Sergeant". This kid is obviously still in receiving, and they are just beginning the process of instilling discipline.

    I am extremely respectful of those who followed before me, and eternally grateful for those that follow after me. Good luck!

    December 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  78. Jeff W

    Dave, What's with "He fell for it. Hook, line and sinker. Brainwashed..."? Why don't you give it a try yourself. Seems like you could stand to have some discipline in your life. Everybody that goes in is a volunteer! I personally feel that every young man and woman should serve in the military some time after high school. It sure would straighten out quite a few of these kids these days. And in case you are wondering, yes I serve with pride for 13 years in the Air Force. Yeah, I know, should have gone for 20, right? Well, back in 1992 Clinton fixed that for me and the military basically had a huge lay-off. Thanks Bill! The Air force was a career for me! So then a nice liberal like Bill (sounds like you, too, Dave!) took care of my carrer for me. Funny thing though. A couple of years later, when the USA was straightened up again, the government suddendly realized they had done a not-so-good thing. I'm sure that with the current man in office the same thing will happen again. Anyway, good for you Will. As stated by others you are just starting a new adventure. Take advantage of it while you can!

    December 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  79. Nicole

    My husband is finishing up BT and AIT at Fort Benning right now, I heard all about the 3 minutes meals, haircuts, drill sargents, etc through his letters. It was nice to see he isn't the only one who was shocked by his new haircut! This was my husbands dream, he was an electrician for years before deciding to fulfill his dream this year. Good luck to Will and his family. I am proud of my husband, Will and all of our soliders.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  80. Be There - Done That

    I appreciate his service to our country, but I want to put it out there now: he's in for a lot! He thinks he's been yelled at so far, ha! He has another 4 weeks of that before it lets up. And he has only made it to in-processing. Like he said, he hasn't made it to boot yet. When he gets there, he will have a totally different experience. It won't be a bus ride he's taking and he's going to carry all of his belongings for a long while. Not to mention the many, many push-ups you have to do in the meantime. I think they try to make you lose half your weight that first day! Lol. And he better not think about sleep because it's not going to happen until late and he should expect to be up, dressed and toeing the line by 5 am! I hope his recruiter prepped him well. Even so, nothing makes since until you see it for yourself! I wish him the best in the Army. 🙂

    December 4, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  81. Buzz

    Good Luck Will

    Aren't many of the USAF Combat Controllers actually former Marines? I seem recall the the rigorous nature of that job called for something a bit stronger.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  82. Katie

    lol, why join if you're just going to get out a year or so later? It's not right. We need people like him.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  83. barry g

    I remember entering the AF at the induction center at 5 am in downtown Los Angeles in January 1966. Stayed there all day then flew to Amarillo, TX for basic training arriving in the snow at 3 am. First time on a plane and what an experience the next 8 weeks brought. I remember it well reading this article! Go Blue (AF)!!

    December 4, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  84. We the sheeple

    Looks like corporate america needs some more troops to fight for their greed!!

    Welcome to the United States of Lemmings

    December 4, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  85. SSG G

    I have been in the Army for almost 11 years and am seriously getting tired of the "my service is better than yours." Although having a certain amount of pride for your branch of service is definitely warranted and expected, it's completely childish to be that immature. The bottom line is that Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines all serve under the same flag! We all work together to safeguard our values and freedoms. So, if you are a Marine sitting in a bar next to a Soldier, buy him a beer for the sacrifice he has made, not talk down to him for the choice of branch he has chosen to serve. Boot camp and basic training are each different, but serve the same purpose. That is to mold civilians into American Warriors. Who cares if one is longer than the other. Having Marine friends, I know that they really aren't that much different from one another (at least when I went through). So, take this response as you will. Join your branch, serve with honor, retire with memories!!!

    December 4, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  86. MAO

    This author needs to review their information and be much more accurate. Not to mention, he needs to transition better between actions.

    BCT for the Army is 9 weeks not 13. This trainee may be doing OSUT which at FLW would either be 14 or 19 weeks long. This is not including reception.

    Also at 5'9 and 228lbs, this trainee would be way above weight standards and probably would not be able to meet the body fat percentage either....which makes me curious as well.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  87. Austin Tyler

    Why is CNN following a story on a POG or in other words a person other than a grunt. The infantry leads the way in all conflicts and is the true soldier not some paper pusher. Why dont they make a real story and follow an infantryman through is journey not just through basic but at his unit, where all the real training happens. Basic training is a joke and if any person fails there not man enough to defend AMERICA.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  88. Pete

    I did basic at Leonardwood in 93 in Delta 2-10 – Back when it was not co-ed and the drill instructors were still allowed to curse and slap you around a bit. Ahhh the memories. Hu-ah! Go Army! Be safe ladies and gents!

    December 4, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  89. Tom

    Been their, done that ! Best time of my life, gave the ARMY 7 years. HOOAH !

    December 4, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  90. Soldier for Life

    An NCO is never called "Sir". They work for a living.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  91. veteran

    curtis said
    "Why did CNN choose a soldier who's going to be in a support role? Couldn't CNN have found a young man who's going to be the infantry and actually fighting? Come on, CNN, give us stories about the men actually doing the fighting. Get serious and go to Ft. Benning."

    Speaking as an MP who is considered "support", I spent 19 months protecting convoys thru Baghdad. In 04-05 the biggest threat was IEDs and killed a lot of good MPs. Infantry aren't the only ones doing the dying in a war that doesn't have front lines. Think about the men who have died before you make your comments.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  92. Larry

    Young Man, thanks for serving our Country.

    It was December 2, 1966 I arrived at Fort Lenoard Wood for basic training. I am sure Boot Camp is different today than it was 43 years ago.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  93. Bdawg

    While all of you are comparing each of the different branches. I was in the Air Force and though basic was not phyically tough, but very mentally challenging. I was sent to train as an Air Combat Controller (ACC) and I will tell you this training to second to the Navy Seals.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  94. Buzz

    Army Ranger, or Marine? I think I have my facts straight.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  95. Thomas

    I went through Navy boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinios. It was 42 below degrees below zero when, I arrived at Chicago's O' Hare airport. The recruit class started with 218 men only 104 men graduated including myself. Will has'nt done or went through anything!!

    December 4, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  96. Jeff

    This brings back memories for me both good and bad! haha I did my basic training at Ft. Jackson, SC in 1990. Thanks for the story. Godspeed Will.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  97. Phil

    Oh and if you call a Drill Sergeant "sir" he'll tell you "WHAT!? I WORK FOR A LIVING!" and you will push.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  98. Screaming Eagle

    This is another example of why the military had become so soft. Im currently deployed to Iraq. Im on my first tour and so far it been great, but at the same time i see how many soldiers take advantage of the new army. A soft army, an army that want to please the public opinion. I see females soldiers getting away with alot of BS, because of the new army. Is depressing when you see a soldier going to combat stress the second week on the ground and then seen the soldier without a wepon for the rest of the deployment, because the army say he is not mental stable to carry a weapon. All this things happen because of this new rules that are in place to please the public opinion. PPL when your kids sing their contract, the are told about the expectations the army have for them. I believe on a stronger Basic Combat Training, a stronger Advance Individual Training and and stronger regulations once the soldier in training become a SOLDIER.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  99. veteran

    Don't ever take the word of a soldier when it comes to basic training. Its an old past time to sit around and try to "outdo" each other's basic stories. Come on guys we all know the fun doesn't start until AIT.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  100. Alex

    It takes guts to enlist. He'll have to be tough mentally as much as physically.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:48 am |
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