On this very day in 2003, I got a chance to write in Triumphs & Tribulations III for the first time in 10 weeks. As I settled into my dorm room at Sheppard Air Force Base, where I attended technical training school, I took a moment to write in my journal. It was a long entry. I only wrote about one thing. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: basic military training.
How I first came across this moment? Me ending up in basic military training started with Grandma Sallie. She wanted me to serve in the military even though my heart was set on going to college. I initially sought out a commission to the United States Air Force Academy but my asshole Congressman—Earl Hilliard is his name—didn’t give me the nod and it’s debatable if he actually took a peek at my package. Anyway, I decided to go the enlisted route and I ended up at Lackland in the Summer of 2003. It was supposed to be 6 ½ weeks of training, transforming me from Mr. AnJuan Thomas to Airman AnJuan Thomas, but I ended up getting recycled into another training flight after failing the red line inspection…over a f’n ruffle in my BDU undershirt, no less. As a result, I spent an extra week in training. I got through that summer and made it to graduation, where my father was proud of the achievement.
What it meant to me then? Back then, in 2003, I absolutely hated basic military training. I felt it was some straight-up bulls***. In that September 20 entry I wrote in Triumphs & Tribulations III, I expressed that the training instructors “got a thrill out of making our lives a living hell from 5:30am until 9pm”. I honestly felt like quitting but the untold secret about Air Force basic military training is that the fastest way out of Lackland is to graduate. I learned that when I suffered an ankle injury in training. The doctor offered to put me on profile but cautioned me that I could get recycled into another flight in order to complete all of the activities I would miss. I decided to tough it out. When I write that I hated basic military training, man…I HATED THAT S***.
What it means to me now? The old saying “hindsight is 20/20” applies here. My entire experience in basic military training—from being hazed because I was from Alabama to being recycled over that damn shirt to being stripped of my dignity as an American in some respects—had a major effect on the 10 years I did in the Air Force and the 6 years I’ve enjoyed as a civilian after independence. I don’t think I have the kind of chip I always had on my shoulder during my career if not for what I experienced in basic training. For that reason, I’m appreciative of the experience though I still actually hate it. Oh yeah, if you’re looking for me, check out the guy in the 3rd row from the top, 2nd from the left.