So you’ve decided to join the armed forces. Welcome aboard, recruit! Whether you joined to defend your country, to learn skills to better yourself as a human being, or simply because you wanted to shoot stuff, you have a promising career ahead of you.
As you get off the bus and walk into your new life, you may want to take a good look at the other faces around you. For the next few months, these will be the faces of your best friends and brothers as you forge on through basic training together. They come from all walks of life. Some of them are fresh out of high school while others are just a few short years away from the mandatory age-of-retirement. Some of them are highly educated while others are dumb as bricks. Some have had to leave their lives behind, while for others, this is truly the beginning of the rest of their lives.
Many of them will likely be one of the following:
1. Blank Slate Billy
Billy is a true Tabula Rasa. His pre-military life is inconsequential. Between leaving his mother’s womb and arriving for his first day of basic training, Billy’s life has been devoid of meaning. Billy typically joins the forces at age 18 when his parents allow the military to do the one task they could never accomplish: raise their child.
Billy is young, impressionable, and has the demeanor of a baby deer: easily spooked and utterly helpless on his own. His wide eyes quietly cry for help and beg for acceptance.
It’s a mystery as to why Billy was allowed to grow up so clueless. Perhaps he was allowed to spend most of his childhood in a sequestered room in his home watching TV and playing video games. Or maybe his parents had tried to teach Billy, but Billy didn’t want to (or simply couldn’t) learn. In either case, you can tell Billy didn’t play much “catch” with his dad.
Billy lacks basic life skills, let alone any talents which he never developed. Much to the discontent of his platoon, his fellow soldiers will be less like brothers and more like fathers and mothers. They will have to wake him up in the morning, watch him make his bed, clothe him, teach him how to shave, and help him prep for inspection every damn morning. He must be micromanaged at all times, ensuring he has all parts of his kit with him everywhere he goes. If not, he will likely misplace or lose something, ensuring communal punishment for the entire platoon.
Billy needs to be told what to do at all times. Without constant guidance and hand-holding, Billy tends to freeze up until he is provided with clear, concise instruction. Even then, he struggles. One must have patience with Billy and remember that trying to get him to do anything is like teaching a child how to tie his shoes for the first time.
2. Sketchy Skeeter
Skeeter is usually in his mid 20s to early 30s. One can’t help but get the feeling that he joined the military to get away from something, and that thing is most likely an armed drug dealer who doesn’t take well to being in debt.
Skeeter doesn’t like to talk much about his past. Oh, he’ll mention his hometown, and what school he attended to obtain his bullshit bachelor of arts degree. As you get to know him, pieces of his life fall out like lost parts of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. Yet if you try to solve the puzzle, the pieces never seem to fit coherently (wait, was he a counselor at a rehab clinic, or a patient? Or both? How many ex-wives does he have? Or is it just the one? Was he even ever married? Then who did he have his son with? Or is it his daughter? Just how many kids does this guy have?).
It’s best to leave Skeeter’s past life to Skeeter. He’s not a bad guy, but he is a bit strange, and should one pry too much, they may find themselves irreversibly trapped in his world. A simple evening out for a couple drinks will turn into a full-blown night of bad decisions: no, Skeeter, I don’t know which strip club in town is most likely a front for selling coke. I’m also not sure what we’re doing outside a liquor store with these handguns, but it can’t be good.
Skeeter won’t necessarily be a terrible soldier. He also won’t be an outstanding one. That’s because Skeeter’s trying his best to not be noticed by your superiors. He’s perfectly content as the grey-man. However, Skeeter does attract attention, though not because of his work. He just gives that vibe, and you can bet the staff are keeping an eye on him, if only to ensure he doesn’t have a grow-op or isn’t running a meth ring on base.
3. Grandpa Gus
Gus just joined the military, and has most likely only the one contract until retirement.
His kids are off to college, and his wife is waiting for him in a house he built with his own two hands.
While not necessarily a grandpa, or even that old (late 40s to mid 50s), Granpda Gus is as old as you can get while still being a member of the military.
Why did he join the military? Perhaps it’s because we’re going to war, and this old timer ain’t too old to give ’em what-for! Or perhaps he just joined for the retirement benefits.
Gus is often, surprisingly, in some of the best shape of the whole platoon. That’s because he’s lived well to his age through proper exercise, sleep, and nutrition. He’s spent every morning of his life waking up at 6 am for 5 km runs before eating eggs, toast, and beans while half the kids on your basic training platoon have spent their pre-army lives oversleeping until noon, playing five hours of xbox, and subsiding on pop-tarts and microwave noodles.
Gus has accomplished more in the last year than most of us have in our entire lives. He is a font of wisdom, willing to share all he knows with all who ask. Army life will be a challenge to Gus, but it will be no more or less than yet another of life’s challenges, of which he has faced so many of.
4. Pompous Pete
Usually in his late 20s to mid 30s, Pete certainly has accomplished more than most fresh-faced recruits, and he knows it.
He can barely even remember graduating high school. Since then he’s managed to go to college, work a few part-time jobs, and even hold down something close to a career. He’s experienced in carpentry, mechanics, agriculture, business, law, politics, and brain surgery. The only thing Pete doesn’t seem to know is how to shut the hell up.
Pete sees himself as a Grandpa Gus: older, wiser, and more experienced. However, he demonstrates none of Gus’s controlled reserve. Quite the opposite: he absolutely must give his input whenever possible. You may not ask for his help, but that won’t stop him from coming over to show you how something is done his way. He leaps halfway into conversations he was never a part of just so you can hear his thoughts about ISIS and Ebola, when all you and your buddy were talking about were pets you had at home.
Though he does well as a soldier and never fails an older, the instructors dislike Pete. This is because Pete thinks he’s better than everyone else, and has a hard time accepting rank. He speaks when not spoken to, frequently to challenge every little thing the instructor says (“we shouldn’t be doing those kinds of stretches before a run, Sergeant. We should be doing these stretches instead. This is what I learnt back when I was…”).
Pete is most likely to suffer a smoke-bomb related prank when the platoon hits the field.
5. Redneck Randall
Randall barely qualifies to use a fork, let alone join the military. He completed the bare-minimum requirements for his GED and immediately submitted his application into the armed forces.
Randall can’t add 1 + 1 or even write his full name down. At first, everyone’s going to be really worried about the day this guy is trusted with an automatic rifle. However, weapons class is when he truly shines. He will deconstruct and rebuild his weapon in under a minute. He will be able to name every part of his rifle, and the parts of their parts. His rifle will be the cleanest rifle of the entire platoon.
Furthermore, he’ll most likely be the best mark. Randall has spent hours shooting squirrels and sparrows in his dad’s backyard the way most kids learn to play a musical instrument or play video games.
He knows everything and anything there is to know about all guns ever created in the history of existence, and then some. Guns are the one thing which Pompous Pete will never challenge Randall on, if only because he’d fear getting shot.
Randall will never be a leader. He’ll never be asked to spell the word “leader.” Randall knows three things: chewing dip, spitting, and guns.
6. Arty the Angry Virgin
Arty is that feeble, skinny ginger kid that everyone picked on in high school. He’s never been laid or invited to parties. He’s spent the majority of his free time playing ‘Call of Duty’ while downing one massive can of Monster after another. He joined the military because he wanted the respect which came with having a uniform and a gun.
Arty is out to get everyone who made him inferior in his life.
He does not immediately respond to ridicule or abuse. When one makes a joke at Arty’s expense, Arty just quietly sits there and stares ahead as he mentally checks your name on an ever-growing list.
Arty is most likely to be kept under closest supervision when the platoon goes to the range, as he’s deemed most likely to go Private Pyle, depending how much the rest of the course members have been making fun of him.