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Becoming Soldiers: Army Basic Training and the Negotiation of Identity

By John W. Bornmann
Master of Science, May 2002, George Washington University
Bachelor of Arts, December 1998, University of Pittsburgh

A Dissertation submitted to
The Faculty of
Columbian College of the Arts and Sciences
of The George Washington University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
May 17, 2009
Dissertation directed by
Roy Richard Grinker
Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs

UMI Number: 3349632
Copyright 2009 by
Bornmann, John W.
All rights reserved
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dissertation.

Becoming Soldiers: Army Basic Training and the Negotiation of Identity
John W. Bornmann

Dissertation Research Committee:
Roy Richard Grinker, Professor of Anthropology and International
Affairs, Dissertation Director
Alfred Hiltebeitel, Professor of Religion, Committee Member
Ronald Weitzer, Professor of Sociology, Committee Member

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Dedication
For my father, whose spirit exists in every word I have written.

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Acknowledgements
The process of writing a dissertation is difficult, complex, and arduous. Over the
course of my studies, many people have been helpful in many different ways, and I could
not possibly thank them all. My committee deserves special thanks for their consistently
patient and understanding feedback as I attempted to process the varied and numerous
different elements of Basic Training into some coherent whole. All of my committee
members kept me on track, thinking, and challenging my preconceptions. Richard
Grinker provided prompt and thoughtful responses to my various drafts, kept me focused
on my final goal and ultimately believed in my work when it truly mattered. Alfred
Hiltebeitel provided constant support and many needed criticisms when I ventured too far
into speculative territory. Ronald Weitzer provided many hours of discussion and
directed down avenues which I never would have noticed without his help.
I would also like to pay my respects to all of the soldiers I have served with. So
many of your voices exist in this dissertation, and unfortunately I can not identify you
here without giving you away. Special thanks do go to the members of my team during
my deployment. As I mention in this dissertation, the bonds of soldiers who have served
together go deeper than friendship, and you will always be my brothers.
Many of my friends and associates also deserve particular recognition. Dr. Lucy
Laufe provided a constant friendly ear and positive encouragement when desperately
needed, even if she didn’t know how much it mattered at the time. The opportunities for
teaching and leadership she provided also forced me to return to my basics in ways which

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were more helpful than I can express. Daniel Singer was always available for assistance
with every element of my work, from grammar to advice on how to deal with academic
bureaucracy. The entire Thursday Night Gaming Group provided not only much needed
decompression, but also some remarkably astute insights into the world of the military.
And finally, for putting up with my long hours, late nights, and overall stress, eight
months in Iraq, and countless hours of necessary solitude, my partner, Carrie Blank.

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Abstract of Dissertation
Becoming Soldiers: Army Basic Training and the Negotiation of Identity

This dissertation examines the process of Basic Training and how that process
works to convert civilian recruits into soldiers. The common conception of Basic
Training is that the Army “breaks you down and builds you back up again.” However,
the nine week process of Basic Training is hardly enough to overcome a minimum of
eighteen years of prior life experience. Rather, Basic Training is an introduction to the
institution of Army life, through the accumulation of skills and knowledge of how to
properly negotiate that institution. Throughout Basic Training, recruits accumulate social
capital through their performance of the role of soldier, emulating Drill Sergeants as well
as mythical heroes from film and literature who they think best epitomize what a soldier
should be. Thus, the definition of soldier is unique to each individual, learned before
Basic Training, and performed by each soldier as he continues his career into the regular
Army.

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Table of Contents
Dedication …………………………………………………………………………..……iii
Acknowledgements ………………………………………………………………………iv
Abstract of Dissertation ………………………………………………………………….vi
Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………………..vii
Chapter One: Introduction and Literature Review…………………..………..…………...1
Chapter Two: Language and Mythology ………………………………………………..71
Chapter Three: Basic Training as Rite of Passage ………………………..…………....126
Chapter Four: Sacrifice and Basic Training …………………………………..……..…191
Chapter Five: The Soldier, His Rifle, and the 21st Century Battlefield …………..…...256
Chapter Six: Military Revolutions and the Field Training Exercise ………………...…301
Chapter Seven: Fictive Kinship in the United States Army ………………………..….353
Chapter Eight: The Contemporary Soldier in the Field ………………………………..390
Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………..……428
References ………………………….. ………………………………………………... 437
Appendix .……………………………………………………………………………....461

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Chapter 1: Introduction

The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been underway for almost seven
years, and take up a large part of the considerations of our media and public
consciousness. However, despite the large numbers of journalistic and first person
accounts of those wars, there has been very little academic discussion of the military, and
more importantly, the soldiers and other servicemembers which make it up. A proper
understanding of the military, and particularly the Army, is essential in a new era when
so many of our American citizens are deployed overseas in combat assignments.
As I began my research, it seemed to me that a good first step in studying the
military would be to study the first step of most soldiers joining the military, namely to
go through Basic Training and experience the events firsthand, then examine those events
to see what type of instruction was received, how incoming soldiers received that
instruction, and whether there were any other elements of Basic Training which could not
be easily described in a day by day recitation of the events which occurred. As such, I
entered Basic Training as a private, proceeding through a recruiter to enlistment, and
eventually shipped off to Basic Training in the summer of 2002. My experiences at Basic
Training were highly charged, as the environment is very emotional, intense, and
stressful. However, the immersion in the environment provided me insight which an
outside observer would likely miss, and allowed me to build rapport with other privates
in my Basic Training class as an equal in their worlds, and provided me with the shared
history essential to speaking with other soldiers about their own experiences.

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Since World War II there have been a limited number of academic studies of the
military or the Army, and less than a handful of examinations of the process of Basic
Training itself. Although the truism that the Army “breaks you down and builds you
back up again,” remains common, there has been little study of the process itself, and
whether or not it actually does serve this function. If the goal of the Army was to turn out
identical soldiers from its Basic Training program, in my case this most definitively
failed. Instead, each individual in my Basic Training class continues to express himself
as an individual, even if within the structure of the military itself.
According to our Drill Sergeants, the Basic Training class to which I was assigned
was not particularly different from any other class they had instructed. The composition
of our Basic Training class was wide and varied, with every region of the country
represented, and ages ranging from eighteen to thirty four years old. Each of these
individuals dealt with the environment of Basic Training differently, and although each
individual changed over the course of the nine week training, there were very few
changes which were similar from one person to the next, and out of 57 individuals who
entered Basic Training with me, 57 individuals graduated.
If Basic Training did not produce the typical or ideal “soldier,” then what is the
purpose of the training program? I argue that the indoctrination process of Basic
Training is not designed to produce a “soldier,” nor could it, but is instead designed to
teach incoming recruits the proper way to perform as a soldier. Specifically, in an
institution constructed on restrictive and often contradictory rules, Basic Training teaches
individuals how to manipulate and negotiate the rule structure and maintain their
individuality. Although modeled after a traditional rite of passage in many ways, Basic

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Training is more of a process of becoming a soldier through the constant and reiterated
performance of the soldier role.
This approach has a number of far reaching implications, as the Army is one of
the most restrictive institutions within American society. If individuals find ways of
expressing themselves within this rigid institution, then it follows that in other arenas
which present even fewer rules agency is both possible and likely. Over the course of
this work, I will show how Army recruits challenge boundaries and negotiate rules
through the performance of their assigned role, “soldier,” and express their individuality
despite the rules imposed upon them.
Sociologists and political scientists have both looked at the differences between
military and civilian culture. In journalism and quasi-scientific studies, a large focus of
military writing has focused on the elites of the military establishment: Special Forces,
Navy SEALS, or Army Rangers. Historically, a number of academic studies have
examined the makeup, psychological or sociological, of the combat infantryman, the man
who “closes with the enemy” and kills him. Although the psychological and social
consequences of legally sanctioned violence, generally censured in the rest of American
society, are important, there is a very large subset of the United States military which is
underrepresented in studies of the military.
The vast majority of members of all the military services, and the Army in
particular, are not infantrymen but soldiers whose primary purpose on the battlefield is to
render logistical support to the infantry, whether through analysis of intelligence,
processing paperwork, or putting food on tables in a war zone. Any examination of
military life which focuses on the infantry, on the killing engaged in by the U.S. military,

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ignores the vast majority of soldiers who will not fire their weapon in anger nor engage
the enemy. Although the emblem of military culture is that of the infantryman, soldiers
create their own identity by choosing those elements of military imagery that appeal to
them and negotiating their own way through the bureaucracy of the Army institution.
The question of agency is one which sits at the very heart of military service. A
structural view of society argues that many of our decisions are made in advance of our
actual choices, based on the larger cultural and institutional conditions into which we find
ourselves put. Thus, although the contemporary military is most commonly referred to as
a volunteer one, “the All-Volunteer Force, some critics claim, has merely replaced a
system of forced conscription that was biased against the poor with one of ‘economic
conscription’ in which those who enlist are those to whom society has presented no
attractive alternatives” (Congressional Report on Social Representation, 1989, p. 9). This
does hold true to some extent as one anecdote from my first day at Basic Training will
demonstrate.
After the “shark attack” (which will be discussed in Chapter Three), the drill
sergeants set all of my new platoon down on the floor of the barracks and began
introductions, with each recruit identifying their name, where they were from, and why
they joined the Army. In one case, Private Marshall stated that he was from Alabama,
and “I joined the Army to get out of Alabama.” This comment was met by laughter from
the remainder of the group, but the Drill Sergeants simply nodded and moved on to the
next person as if this response were completely normal. However, this was a single
recruit out of almost sixty, the rest of whom expressed their intentions to join the Army

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for reasons which, although occasionally including money for education or job training,
predominantly focused on ideas of patriotism.
The particular time frame of my training, six months after the events of
September 11th, may have had an effect on these responses. This timeframe also shows
the problem with the quote from the Congressional Report mentioned above. Prior to
September 11th, joining the Army may have been seen as an opportunity to simply
achieve a college education or vocational training for Americans who had few other
options. However, this was also a period when there were few deployments overseas,
and these few deployments were almost always voluntary (even fought over). Although
in 2002 many of the soldiers already in the Army had joined under these “peacetime”
conditions, in my training cycle there were only two recruits who had joined prior to
September 11th, and they held this distinction up with pride, noting that they were the
“true” volunteers who had joined the Army, rather than those who had simply responded
to a national emergency.
Regardless of their reasons, recruits who join the Army do so with the
understanding that they have joined an institution which is distinct from a corporation or
even another government entity. In the modern world, institutions and organizations
abound, with a variety of rules and restrictions. For most organizations, restrictions on a
member’s behavior and attempts to mold members’ identities are limited to those
elements which directly affect the institution. However, an organization such as the
United States Army restricts the entire universe of its members. Rules and restrictions on
fashion, residence, behavior, and even acceptable presentation of a soldier’s body are
imposed on soldiers, an expression of the total institution developed by Erving Goffman.

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These restrictions shape the roles associated with a distinct identity, that of the soldier,
and the sets of values which it attempts to inculcate in all of its members. Basic Training
is a shared experience of most soldiers in the Army, and all enlisted 1 members have gone
through it. Basic Training, then, is the touchstone of Army life, a common point of
reference with which soldiers can bond together and form a group identity.
After Basic Training, recruits move to specialized training and focus on more
specific tasks distinct to their particular occupations within the Army. Most of these
occupations, as noted above, are not infantry or combat based. However, the military is
an institution designed around the infantryman, and around the action of killing. The
Army has a number of disparaging slang terms for those members who are not on the
battlefield, such as REMF (Rear Echelon Mother Fucker), Fobbit 2 , or Pog (a generic term
for an out of shape or otherwise substandard soldier, pronounced pōg). These terms are
opposed to the killers on the battlefield, the infantry, the armor, the artillerymen
(collectively, these three specialties are termed “combat arms”).
Even among the combat arms, pride of place is granted to the infantryman, whose
job, as defined by the British military is “to close with and kill the enemy.” 3 In other
words, the infantryman will experience death firsthand, and be under threat of death from
the enemy in a way which other soldiers, even artillery and armor soldiers, are not.
Infantry are granted certain symbolic privileges that other members of the military are not
allowed, such as the Combat Infantry Badge, a blue braid on the shoulder of the “Class

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Except for the very few soldiers in the Army who have come from other branches.
Fobbit is a combination of “hobbit” and FOB, or Forward Operating Base. Thus, a Fobbit is a small weak
soldier who remains on the FOB and never leaves the safety of the base.
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The strength of this phrase is such that it is often used by American soldiers as well as British. In fact, in
2004 there were rumors that non-infantry soldiers would be eligible to receive the Combat Infantry Badge,
and the arguments against this were summed up by my platoon sergeant with this exact phrase.
2

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A” uniform, and for drill sergeants, a blue disc around the Drill Sergeant Insignia on the
drill sergeant hat. With so much importance attached to the infantry, it is hardly
surprising that the infantry forms the strongest mythological and symbolic figure in
military discussion.
The strength of this imagery can be seen in the term “trigger puller.” Although a
direct reference to shooting a weapon (and therefore shooting an enemy), trigger pullers
do not have to be infantry, they are simply those members of a unit that are seen as the
ones least likely to hesitate if given the order to kill another person. Within most units,
trigger pullers are seen as “better” soldiers than others, and even within infantry units,
some soldiers are given the label while others are denied it. The vast majority of military
members are not infantry, however. The majority of jobs in the US Army involve
inventory and accountability, and for those that don’t, they require a simple, if critical,
focus on the job at hand.
A study of military indoctrination, the methods by which a civilian is transformed
into a soldier, lays the foundation for an understanding of military culture as a whole.
The indoctrination process highlights those elements of military culture which make it a
unique subculture within our modern society. An ethnography of this process reveals not
only the changes occurring within those recruits going through it, but what the meanings
of those changes, and the symbols adopted by the military establishment, are to the
participants.
This dissertation examines the formation of the identity of soldier, by focusing on
the ways in which individual recruits rebel and adapt to the rules and conventions of
Basic Training. Those recruits labeled “problem children” form the basis of a sizable

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portion of this study, due to their visible position and the degree of attention they receive
from drill sergeants. Functionally, these problem children become symbols of
unacceptable behavior, and the ways in which they are censured by both the authorities
and their fellow recruits identify what recruits and drill sergeants find acceptable and
unacceptable within the role of soldier.
These interactions alone are not sufficient for a proper understanding of the
formation of the soldier identity in Basic Training, however. In addition to the
interactions between recruits at Basic, examinations of military history and the techniques
used by previous soldiers to adapt to their lives in the total institution of military life will
show how the modern military is itself adapting to new challenges, new missions, and
new soldiers. The selective enforcement of rules by drill sergeants, acting as the
representatives of the institution, informs privates of which rules they will be allowed to
break, and which they won’t. The discipline associated with certain activities, such as
handling a rifle, highlights the importance of those activities for the institution, and
connects soldiers not only with the institution, but with other soldiers the world over.

Military and Civilian Attitudes
In the past fifty years, there have been few academic studies of military
indoctrination procedures. Well known military sociologists such as Charles Moskos and
Morris Janowitz have traditionally focused on broader topics such as the organization of
the military, individuals who are already soldiers, and the ways in which the military as
an institution functions, a tradition which holds true for other social scientists as well
(Lutz, 2002; Moskos, 1970; Simons, 1997). Outside academia, a number of books have

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been written about Marine Corps Boot Camp (Ricks, 1998; Woulfe, 2000; Da Cruz,
1987) but few about Basic Combat Training (Mann, 2002).
The role of indoctrination is suggested in a number of these studies, although
never the focus of the research. There is strong evidence that enlistees 4 in the military
already possess ideological feelings in support of the military. The Monitoring the Future
Project surveys high school seniors about a number of attitudes. David Segal and others
have analyzed these data for trends relating to military attitudes among high schoolers
(Bachman et. al., Summer 2001). The authors divided the respondents into different
groups based on time period, and on whether respondents were college bound, enlisting
in the military, or working professionally after high school.
There were a number of interesting results of this study. First, Segal found that
high schoolers planning on enlisting in the military already possessed many pro-military
attitudes. These attitudes increased in strength in follow-up studies, but enlisting students
were already significantly more in favor of military spending and military involvement in
foreign affairs by their senior year. The authors also discovered that enlistees feelings
that a soldier should blindly follow orders actually decreased after time was spent within
the military. With the exception of following orders, the authors conclude that among
military personnel, “the attitudes associated with this culture are not so much inculcated
by the armed forces (i.e., socialized) as they are developed by young civilians who are
then influenced by them in their vocational choices (i.e., self-selection)” (Bachman et al.,
Summer 2000, p. 579).

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Enlistee refers to those members of the Armed Forces who will be entering as enlisted personnel. By
definition, officers do not “enlist” in the military. The term private will later be used to identify those
individuals who are currently undergoing Basic Training.

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In the course of this study, the authors split the twenty year period of the MTF
Project into two decades, and studied trends across these decades. The results of this
analysis showed significant changes across time, in both the enlisting, college bound, and
professionally bound students. The entire sample of respondents, for example, increased
in support of U.S. military involvement in other countries from the first decade to the
second, even though enlisting respondents still scored higher in general. Other trends
followed this same pattern, suggesting that attitude changes occur regardless of career
choice. Thus, the military as an institution does not shape or define the attitudes, and by
extension the identities, of soldiers. These attitudes instead reflect the wider American
culture in which the respondents spent the majority of their lives up to that point.
Unfortunately, the Monitoring the Future Project is not one which focuses on
military attitudes, it is instead a secondary source. Bachman, et. al. have used the data
from the Project as well as they could but this data is limited. Although there are
suggestions of socialization through indoctrination, the Project can not tell researchers
whether further socialization beyond the first few years will affect their attitudes.
Larry Ingraham performed an ethnographic study of Army barracks life in the
early 1980s, mainly noting the predominant drug and alcohol use extant among soldiers
of the time. However, he also noted a number of social dynamics which still hold true in
the current Army. Most of these dynamics are specific to the realm of Active Duty
experience, but some are relevant even to the hyper-restrictive environment of Basic
Training. Ingraham noted four major social affiliations in the Regular Army: Work
Group, Rank, Residence, Race (Ingraham, 1984, pp. 58-66). At Basic Training there is
no rank structure outside of the Drill Sergeants and the recruits. However, Work Group

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in order to always have a “buddy” at hand when necessary. special duties. and personal business insure that there will be many times when one’s buddy is unavailable for companionship. Each barracks resident assumed the position of a partner in a dyadic relationship.” (Ingraham.(typically squads). but due to the practicalities of training. but also functioned as the third in numerous other relationships. 66) and in the contemporary military ethnic considerations such as Hispanic groups are beginning to predominate. 1984. and weaker ones with a number of others.). The beginnings of this social structure appear in Basic Training. but must always be accompanied by another soldier.and threesomes would then be bonded together into what Ingraham calls a “loosely bounded clique.” with “overlapping memberships” allowing a structured yet dynamic system to emerge (ibid. privates quickly learn to negotiate the rule. Army requirements for the “Buddy System” still continue in Basic Training. The tendency of soldiers to run in threes provided stability and continuity in social relationships at Fort Marshall. cannot do so with the same private at every moment. implemented after the Vietnam War. “Leave. Ingraham also discusses the “buddy system”. Ingraham only discusses White versus Black interactions in his study (Ingraham. as privates are required to rigidly adhere to the buddy system rule. At Basic the main divisions seemed to be along linguistic and not racial lines. in which soldiers are not allowed to be alone. However. Residence (platoons) and Race figure prominently into the group dynamics at Basic Training. 71) These two. p. Thus. it is not always possible to have the same “buddy” at all times. p. 1984. 11 . developing strong relationships with two or three other recruits.

be it college. which roughly mimic Turner’s three phases of rite of passage (Bourne. that there is nothing unique about military indoctrination compared to other developmental avenues pursued by young people. Peter Bourne examines the effects of the stressful environment of Basic Training. or vocational education. Thus. even as they progress through the military hierarchy. 1998). 1987). for both officers and enlisted. 1975). Weitzel. 1978. Value changes at military academies compared with those at civilian universities also appear to be similar (Priest & Beach. mainly journal articles rather than monographs. 1976). and there is evidence that officers are also influenced by civilian values. General officers (Generals and Admirals) are found to have attitudes roughly equivalent to the attitudes of civilian Americans (Dowd 2001). dividing the process into four stages. the wider civilian culture seems to have a stronger influence on attitude than military indoctrination. Research on Basic Training The actual process of Basic Training has been the object of only a few studies. 12 . employment. We can infer. not Basic Training. William Weitzel’s analysis of Basic Training also notes its similarity to a rite of passage in the minds of volunteer recruits. 2000). Army officers leading combat units are highly aware of the interconnectedness of military missions and civilian expectations (Avant & Lebovic.Officers in the military go through a different process than enlistees. A number of other studies have noted the ritual aspects of Basic Training (Arkin. 1976. therefore. and focuses upon the ways in which this ritual fails for some of the incoming recruits (Weitzel. Bernstein. Many such studies have been performed by military personnel for the Department of the Army.

as one soldier reported eight weeks of Basic Training. most training was conducted in haphazard fashion at hastily constructed locations. However. based mainly on rites of animal training based on repetition and negative reinforcement (O’Connell. usually on larger bases such as Fort Benning and Fort Dix. while Sergeant 13 . usually thirteen weeks long. Basic Training in its current form was established in 1973 with the formation of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). fashion. However. or academic achievement (Janowitz. trainees were assigned to a division or other large unit and conducted eight weeks of “basic training” and participation in military exercises with that unit. Even in the years between 1973 and 2003. training continued at designated training centers. 1989). Prior to that. 1991) During the 19th Century. the form and focus of Basic Training has shifted in response to institutional needs. This program of training shifted slightly prior to World War II. 1972). as well. the training was still not standardized. when the Army conducted training at Recruit Training Centers. The physical discipline of these early training programs were later supplemented by psychological discipline. it was during the Enlightenment that military training began to be codified. Even hunter-gatherer societies train their young men in proper hunting techniques (Gilmore. especially status markers such as criminal activity. After the beginning of the war. most military training was conducted by the junior officers and NCOs of the unit a soldier was assigned to. without any standardized form. (Chapman. with attempts to de-emphasize prior social characteristics. however.Of course. for as long as people have been organized into fighting groups. 1990). After the war. they needed to be trained in proper techniques and procedures.

the largest difference between Basic Training today and Basic Training during this time was the shared training of all potential soldiers. Some men wore civilian shirts with fatigue pants. the environment of Basic Training has changed significantly over the years. or take and be what I did. before even signing his enlistment contract. pp. we all went through the same Basic Training. 2004. Additionally. Today. Then you would take your test to find out what you were gonna be. This was most likely due to the assignment of a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) after the completion of Basic Training rather than at the time of enlistment. with his start date for Basic Training based on when his other training will begin.” (Morton. As if we were a species of herding animals. when I went in. most notably through an increase in the privacy available to privates in Basic Training. The level of military dress was not the same. No one was there to tell us what to do.Banks related: “in 1969. This will be discussed fully later. 13-15) As I shall show later. which will not be changed until after graduation. The first day of Army life focuses on the receipt of the military haircut and military uniform. but the removal of open bathrooms and 14 . the very idea of mingling civilian and military uniforms is taboo during Basic Training today. you went through the same three months. Institutionally. . Military shoes and boots were intermingled with a variety of civilian footwear. Others had the reverse.” Jerry Morton’s memoir of his own training in 1966 shows a haphazard approach to the assignment and training of incoming soldiers: “the lit building was the only place to go. Whether you were gonna take and be a sniper. our group assumed a subtle movement. a potential soldier will know which MOS he will be assigned to (and sometimes even his assigned unit). .

attitudes towards the institutional aspects of military life and of authority figures in the Army (officers and ‘noncoms’) became more negative (Christie. For many recruits. 79-80) The loss of respect for authority in this study highlights the failure of Basic Training to fully indoctrinate soldiers into the mechanized institution it appears to be. but ways in which to deal with these challenges. Thus basic training did succeed in developing self esteem and a sense of social solidarity among recruits. and at some locations the introduction of dormitory style rooms rather than the open barracks.shower stalls. which found that: “One of the effects of basic training was an improvement in the recruit’s personal adjustment – as measured by his perception of himself as being in good physical and psychological condition – and in positive relations with his peers. Pamela Martin showed how recruits in Basic Training dealt with stress over the course o their nine weeks of training. and found that dropout rates from Basic were unrelated to any factor besides age (older recruits were less likely to drop out). and therefore a stronger feeling of selfdetermination during the training process. Alfonso. as well as a sense of accomplishment after overcoming them. allows for greater privacy. Williamson. & Ryan. Basic Training is more than simply a rite of passage into the Army life. and “of particular interest. [the] study also suggests that recruits with higher levels of initial psychological distress show more reduction in distress by the end of basic training. but take in the 15 . The rituals of indoctrination practiced in many different armies and historical periods suggests that Arnold van Gennep’s analysis of cross-cultural rites of passage still maintains in the modern world. p. On the other hand. reported in Janowitz. 1974. Basic Training is the first time in their lives they are challenged. 1953. 159) These findings reinforce earlier results from a study at Fort Dix. and through those challenges learn not only a sense of self-worth. In many ways. pp. of course. Recruits are not programmed during Basic Training. 2006.” (Martin.

the washed out recruits have been shown to express their failure in ways they find more socially acceptable. Thus. and then make their own decisions based on that new information. Conversely. 1953). 1990) and the role the drill sergeants must play as a role model rather than a martinet in the new all-volunteer force (Faris. As symbols of rebellion. 1984). When failures do occur. failing recruits reflect the unbreakable rules of the military. often these privates’ failures serve to draw the remaining privates together as a stronger group (Schneider. Violence and the Military 16 . and which will not. Unlike the recruits discussed by Schroeder. the most obvious symbol of this authoritarian system is the drill sergeant. when presented with leaders who give contradictory commands and seem to disrupt the lives of recruits for no purpose (a common occurrence at Basic Training). and their symbolism is based on these interactions. recruits will respond with greater distrust of the authoritarian system they live within. the “problem child” or consistently underperforming recruit symbolizes the rebellion against this authority. During Basic Training. the problem child is a private who fails at Basic Training. blaming outside influences rather than their own flaws (Schroeder. the problem child typically remain among the others. 1975).information presented to them. Studies have focused on how drill sergeants represent total control to the recruits under them (Katz. In contrast to the ideal of the drill sergeant. and represent to other recruits what violations will be overlooked and condoned.

which is still to wage war for the United States. 1991. For example. Martin van Creveld notes how the language of the military serves to prevent an association of violence and killing with the use of a weapon designed for that purpose). most researchers do not believe that war is simply animal aggression writ large. Of course. but rather a continuation of a human tradition from ages past. However. a new thing. not tragic. admired by its practitioners.For as long as science has turned its eye on war and violence. there have been arguments regarding its origins. 1990. Violence is obviously a part of any predator’s genetic heritage. Wrangham. This is not. spend only so much time on the death of its heroes in order to make those deaths spectacular. Some even trace warfare to the raiding activity of our primate ancestors. and lauded in song and cultural memory. Some researchers believe that warfare began as a result of group organization to resist attacks by stronger predators (Ehrenreich. 1996). 292294). provide “antipersonnel capability. there are many different theories about the origins of organized violence. in some sense. and human beings are no different. 1971). and weapons “engage” or “suppress” the enemy.” and are often put on display as if they are simply toys for grown ups to play with in the same way as water pistols and remote control cars are played with by children (Van Creveld. for instance. the change from “War Department” to “Department of Defense” belies the actual purpose of the office. The epic poems of Beowulf and the Iliad. he elides the fact that before mass media war itself was glossed over in this way. individual combat before mass warfare originated (Gabriel. Turney-High. 17 . Instead. 1996). pp. to disguise our killing selves. based on evidence of chimpanzee violence and paleontological evidence (Gabriel. or that warfare was preceded by a long period of ritual. 1990.

were the first to tame the war machine. and were constantly overwhelmed by the horsemen of the plains.Perhaps the best known philosopher of war is Carl von Clausewitz. These horsemen. The agriculturalists. Although Clausewitz never saw Total War. 18 . On War. he comes to one very important conclusion about the existence of warfare in human culture. In any organized society. which Clausewitz hypothesizes but claims has not yet existed. who embodied it. Nuclear strategy is predicated upon the impossibility of Total War (Kaplan. Total War. is the unleashing of the complete destructive power of an army upon its enemy (Clausewitz. 1987). deals specifically with strategy and tactics. In contrast. as the first organized society. Total War is total violence. it has been argued by many military strategists of the Nuclear Age that World War II saw the dawning of Total War on human culture (Roseman. a Prussian army officer from the Napoleonic Wars. the military represents the war machine tamed by the State. when considering the longue duree of warfare. unconstrained by law. purely for the society’s own survival. 1976). Van Creveld. it would be essential to prevent the warrior classes from unleashing rampant destruction. Although most of his opus. code. an assumption that has held true through sixty years of proxy wars conducted under the threat of nuclear response. one can see that the system itself works to limit violence from spiraling into Clausewitz’s Total War. However. have given Deleuze and Guattari a name for their theoretical position: nomadology. 2000. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari name the basic destructive force which would drive Total War the “war machine. or tradition. 1983). 1989).” the chaotic drive inherent in all humans (Deleuze & Guattari. “coopted” into its service. or nomads.

Based upon readings of military history. psychological as well as physical. and the Nomad. emotion. Striated space is that which has been measured. the frontier. physical and symbolic. For Deleuze and Guattari. is restricted and ordered. to linear directions. this is the explanation for the traditional success of “barbarians” over civilization in a constant cycle of invasion and incorporation.According to Deleuze and Guattari. there is striated and smooth space. the concept of space as seen by Deleuze and Guattari must be discussed. those people who refuse to subjugate themselves to the State and instead live in the border areas. lives in the striated space of control of movement. In terms of the Nomad and the State. land without a map. In terms of military history. predetermining his decisions and restricting his movement. Due to his existence in smooth space the Nomad is unfettered in his approach to the world. and smooth space is the open plain. and activity. The State.” (Deleuze & Guattari 1987. In order to understand the concept of the war machine. emotion. feeding off of it without contributing to it. with successive waves of invaders conquering and then assimilating into the civilization they supposedly conquered and being invaded by a new wave of “advancing hordes. Toynbee. 1950) Without the restrictions of striated space limiting the inventiveness and 19 . however. Deleuze and Guattari found that these Nomad groups were more successful in the prosecution of warfare against a rigid State. or in the case of modern civilization. the Nomad lives entirely in smooth space. controlled by the State. without borders or arbitrary lines imposed by humanity. the history of conflict can be seen as a conflict between the State. on the other hand. unbounded by structural rules limiting movement. whose universe. from Sumeria to the British Empire. compared to the member of the State.

and its soldiers. Military historian John Keegan claims that eventually the agricultural communities developed a “critical mass” of population that allowed them to organize society and technology to resist these invaders (Keegan. is that the war machine is not necessarily the drive for violence. The State. the Nomad embodies the war machine. and focused for the needs of the State. questioning authority. the military requires its soldiers to remain within the rigid set of rules it has set up to ensure 20 . represents the taming of the war machine. disciplined. however. and the conversion of its destructive power to an instrument of the State. the war machine was eventually overcome by the State. the war machine is not removed so much as constrained. Questioning rules. removing them from smooth space and onto striated space. and the soldier who represents it. to move the warrior from smooth space to striated space. instead. a metaphor for the creative. It is. and through that discipline able to overcome those forces which use the raw power of the war machine without the strategies of the State. attempts to categorize and delineate not just the land. but the people on that land. outside of the chaos of that situation. 1993). In his account. The military is the State’s attempt to control the war machine itself. While these are effective traits for soldiers to have in battle. The important point about this. acting in accordance with one’s own needs rather than the needs of the State are all expressions of the war machine. in the same way as the frontier is that land which has not yet become striated by the State.adaptability of the Nomad. By living on this frontier. coopted by it. their success in warfare was virtually guaranteed. The war machine is that chaos which has not yet been delineated by the State. The military then. adaptive aspect of the human psyche. For the military.

that its status as a positive institution is not blemished. and questioning of authority that is the war machine has to be harnessed. The “laws of war” are a modern invention with ancient roots that attempts to control the actions of soldiers. as an outsider of some sort becomes the focus of the aggression and disorder of the community. and the destructive measures it uses to achieve its goals. the necessity for discipline to harness the war machine is discussed often. that randomness. 1957). and is sacrificed in place of 21 . Therefore. The scapegoat is the essential element of a sacrifice. Samuel Huntington views the military officer as a professional. which will provide soldiers with the grounding necessary to maintain their equilibrium in ambiguous situations (Stockdale. within the soldier. although as we shall see. chaos. Rites of Passage Destruction and violence form the basis of Rene Girard’s discussion of sacrifice in his work Violence and the Sacred (1972). 1986). and many of Girard’s ideas are relevant to this discussion. Within military theory. the military wants soldiers who can harness their inner war machine and then release it when given the command. not to create it (Huntington. Admiral James Stockdale stresses the absolute necessity for integrity among military personnel. The military does not want its soldiers to be stone cold killers. its soldiers. the ability to kill if necessary is valued by members of the military. 1970). All of these works are examples of how the military has attempted to control itself. one whose job is to control violence. Sacrifice is a running motif in much of military literature and rhetoric. Instead. limiting their ability to wage war to certain situations and against certain people (Taylor.

He sees the liminal in this way as separated because of their propensity for violence. The first phase is separation. Girard also identifies differentiation. as inspiring a sacrificial crisis. In addition. hardly surprising considering Girard’s realization of the importance of sacrifice to deal with fractures in society. The ritual violence of a sacrifice is also frequently required when an act of non-ritual violence sparks an upward spiraling pattern of violent retribution. 22 . usually through a discrete ritual that announces to the participants and to the society who the new members are. Once the transition is completed. the participants must be reintegrated into society with their new status. death is a powerful symbol in many rites of passage. in which the participants move from their prior status and are trained and prepared for their new position. The uncontrolled violence of the war machine mirrors the spiraling violence of Girard. The resolution of this contradiction will not be found here. rather than Victor Turner’s idea that the liminal by its very nature can cause a social crisis. as it is sufficient merely to note that the liminal status of the initiate in a rite of passage is associated with a perception of social danger. A simple framework derived from Van Gennep’s approach separates the rite of passage into three phases. Van Gennep’s discussion of rites of passage points out that symbolic death is a means of severing the connection to the previous “life” and moving on to the next. Second is the transitional phase. in which the ritual participants are removed from the outside society in preparation for their change in status. and that they have officially been transferred to their new status. releasing it from the community and returning it to harmony.that displaced aggression. which returns us to Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the war machine. or more precisely the lack thereof.

who isolated one class of rituals in his work Rites of Passage. and all initiands are equal. or some other marked status. and before and after their separation and incorporation profane and capable of interacting with the real world. into three parts. whether as men. Victor Turner developed the association between the sacred and the transitional phase. which causes an evocation of what Turner calls 23 . shamans. His attention was focused upon the activities that occurred during the transitional phase. and finally a reincorporation where the initiands are returned to society in their new statuses. 1960). both for the initiands and for the society they were welcomed back into. These distinctions are important for the regular conduct of society. when the initiands are removed from regular society. First there is separation. feeling that it was during this phase that the significant activities occurred. Turner builds off of the work of Arnold van Gennep. women. or threshold. normal hierarchies are broken down.This chaos and separation is the hallmark of Victor Turner’s work on ritual. then a transition where the initiands learn their new roles and the importance of structure for the community. or rites of passage. what van Gennep called the liminal. During the transitional phase. According to van Gennep’s analysis. typically the transition period being one in which the initiands are considered sacred. a ritual must be performed in order to remove the person from the first state and re-instate him to the next. These three phases are also marked by varying associations with the sacred. Van Gennep divides these rites of reinstatement. among less complex societies the distinctions among social classes are more marked than among those more complex societies (Van Gennep. and when an individual is moved from one state to another.

Turner notes that on its own a form of structure does arise. the inverse of the complete equality of the initiands (Turner. a number of points are particularly relevant. recruits wear identical uniforms 5 . and an attempt to make the neophytes into a tabula rasa upon which the rules of society may be written. The drill sergeant at Basic Training. there is uniform clothing worn by the neophytes. In the first place. This authority is the exemplar of how the initiands will fit into society once they are reintegrated. These two factors. communitas and liminality are central to the analysis of most rites of passage. and commands total control over the actions of recruits during Basic Training.communitas. receive identical haircuts. Although the transitional phase is supposedly without structure. Recruits are only allowed to speak in specific situations. These all fall along the lines of a separation from the regular structure of society. 5 With the singular exception of the nametape over the right chest pocket 24 . 1982). is this exemplar of military identity. the liminal period is one in which the initiands realize that the structure of society is the right and proper way for society to be organized. and all recruits wearing eyeglasses are issued identical glasses. Although his list is long. liminal structure is characterized by complete submission of the initiands to their instructors. First. Turner uses a structuralist model of binary oppositions to explain the difference between liminal situations and the regular structure of society. and especially during punishment must stoically accept their punishment without complaint or dispute. He calls this anti-structure. 1987). since it is usually different in noticeable ways from the regular structure of society. as we shall see. During Basic Training. as well as silence and an acceptance of pain and suffering (Turner.

wear distinct outfits. soldiers are separated from the civilian world. Although there may be differences between an accountant and a clerk. there are few roles which exhibit this definition. or an executive and a mailroom attendant. Police officers. The first thing that happens to recruits is that they are taken from their civilian lives. Thus. the ways in which society controls its members is through the use of rites of passage (Van Gennep. soldiers have one privilege that most civilians do not: they are allowed to kill. Army Basic Training appears to be a classic example of a rite of passage because of the process that accompanies it. for example. of course. their lives are lived along the same lines. it appears to follow the typical. society will have some way to control the violent members of its group. Nonetheless. Ideally. given freely to members of the military. 1960). or granted exclusively to them.Rites of passage are traditionally found in less complex societies. In modern society. in the same places. Traditionally. so it is not surprising that the military rite of passage has remained extant in modern culture when many other rites of passage have disappeared. their 25 . frequently simplified template developed by Turner and van Gennep. Painting the event with a broad brush. especially those in which roles are clearly defined. then. the roles of civilian and soldier are strongly differentiated. This ability to kill is not. and transitions from one role to another require a public identification of the transition. for example. and live under a completely different set of rules (the Uniform Code of Military Justice). the capacity for violence is something which must be dealt with by society. On the other hand. are also granted the ability to use lethal force in certain situations. In addition. and with the same general rules. Soldiers are also highly restricted in how and when they are allowed to use lethal force.

or legal anthropology. however. Ben-Ari. 1999). 26 . 1997). With a limited body of ethnographic literature on military life. 2001. typically calling up ancient traditions and heritage to incorporate the soldiers not just into the Army today. the “baldy” 6 as it is called in Army parlance. or discussed the effects of the military and/or violence on those surrounded by it (Simons. Although there have been a few recent exceptions (Ambrose. that the military often seems a polluting. each recruit is taught to interact with the other members of his platoon and company.” another military haircut is only common after graduation from Basic Training. Each recruit is issued standard uniforms. and placed into their training battalions. 2001) Finally. after Basic Training is completed. Through the transition of Basic Training. but into the long line of soldiers that have gone. the majority of anthropological and ethnographic work touching upon military affairs has focused on a reified idea of violence. element in the 6 The “high and tight. such as medical. the recruits are placed into their training companies and allowed to mix with one another.civilian roles.” (Ambrose. then. Critical Anthropology The rise in anthropology of the subfield of critical anthropology has accomplished a great amount in exposing power dynamics and hidden messages and problems within institutional systems of various sorts. and each is given the exact same haircut. under the all-seeing eye of the drill instructor. most critical anthropologies. Gusterson. Simons. 1991. is made into a member of a “Band of Brothers. Once separated from their previous lives. corporate. 1998. However. profane. It is hardly surprising. 1992. recruits are integrated into Army society with a graduation ceremony. and died before. have followed on the heels of more descriptive ethnography. critical military anthropology proceeds first from theory rather than data. Hawkins.

The issue at hand is the value attached to those views and lifestyles. Lawrence Radine discusses the means that the military uses to indoctrinate and control its soldiers. Similarly. 2001. 1977). but it must be remembered that soldiers themselves are not the institution of the military. 27 . On the one hand there are those who appear to see the military as an institutional force. 2004. A balanced analysis of military life is a difficult endeavor in today’s world. there are certainly elements of liminality. arises from the anthropologists’ attempts to explain those activities through the eyes of those members of the culture which practice them. and whether military culture should be accorded the same objectivity as other cultures studied by anthropologists. self-awareness and self-esteem (Radine. without any examination of the positive aspects of social control generally accepted by the academic community. critical military anthropology can be blinded by a preconception of the military as evil and contagious. There is no question that the military lifestyle is different in numerous ways from the civilian lifestyle. to soldiers. such as selfdiscipline. Previous studies of the military by some anthropologists have fallen into this trap. Cultural relativism. 2002. For instance in a number of articles and books Catherine Lutz describes the negative aspects of military life. or life near the military. 2005). almost exclusively (Lutz. or that members of the military have a number of different and distinct views compared to the general population of whatever culture they come from. As I will discuss in the remainder of this dissertation. but simply members of it.lives of those it touches. and therefore an Other-ness. which can allow for tribal practices most Americans would view with disgust or horror. Without preliminary attempts at description and a particularist approach to military culture.

the rhetoric of modern America has also shifted post-Vietnam and individual soldiers are no longer held accountable for the pollution of their spiritual selves. some of whom find drug dealers. cross the threshold into the realm of killer. However. respectively). As academics they are frequently looked at as purely abstract and distinctly unhelpful people by those who would simply advise the military on strategy. 2004. Rhodes. of course. the military should be used as a the first line of offense in every situation. violent prisoners. tactics. For these analysts. 2008). there are an abundance of strategists and military consultants who seem to view the military as the only organization large enough and prepared to deal with international events on behalf of the United States. Military anthropologists who abjure the critical approach and use a more empirical one. and most importantly. As military theorists. instead. or fraternity gang rape all worthy subjects of study (Bourgois. which will be discussed later. There is an element of pollution that is attached to such a crossing. On the other hand. however. These polar approaches can only hamper any efforts to study the military in an objective fashion. 1996. or could. Sanday. 28 . Soldiers are. a distinct group within American society. For the most part these critics are in the academic field. and the effectiveness of that armed force. In terms of boundaries. This does not imply that these works glamorize their subject matter. that all that matters is strategy. but is simply a note that these subjects are considered acceptable in academia in a way which studies of the military do not seem to be.almost contagious in its influence over soldiers as well as civilians. are thus facing attacks on both fronts. they are those who have. 1990. they are viewed as collaborators with the military establishment by academics. the pollution has been shifted to the institution itself (Huebner.

Hanoi Jane. but I try to show those places in which symbolism arises from the military system. in actual fact it removes from them any responsibility or agency and reduces them to unthinking nodes with the institutional structure. 1987. but is rarely informed by it. 1987. which may be tempered with data. Ong. Sociological studies of the military are common. The advantage of an anthropological study of the military is the particular advantage that anthropology brings to any study. and those places in which what 29 . et al. Works such as Catherine Lutz’s Homefront (2001). most non-quantifiable studies of the military have been heavily theory driven. but tend to focus on quantifiable data without investigation into the meanings attributed to the data by the subjects. discussions of other subaltern groups show how resistance can be found even within rigid power structures (Bhabha. I have attempted to express as much ethnographic data as possible to support my arguments. and varied. Scott. and Carol Burke’s Camp All-American.).Although it may seem as if this approach advances the cause of the individual soldier. those places in which the military system delivers symbolism to its new recruits. 1994. Carolyn Marvin and David Ingle’s Blood Sacrifice and the Nation (1999). and I have even see soldiers directly disobey legal orders when those orders appeared to put their units at risk. anthropology allows a researcher to combine theory and data in a way which other studies do not allow. On the other hand. Although within the legal structure of the Army soldiers can be ordered to perform actions they would otherwise choose not to do (cleaning toilets being a classic example in film and literature). Soldiers are also expected to disobey illegal orders. Symbolism exists everywhere. and the High-and-Tight (2004) are based on a theoretical idea. By its very exploratory nature. In this study however.

and agency.” (Lutz et al. have other subaltern. 2006. we believe.for anthropologists to have an opinion on “the 30 . p. 2007. As pointed out by Laura McNamara. ideas. marginalized. The discipline can. Although they may be constrained by the institution. who make it their job to listen carefully and closely to a wide array of voices within the military ranks and do justice to their diversity. One of the best ways to do this is to begin with studies of the military from an ethnographic perspective.might be perceived as symbolic or deep structure is in actuality simply a fallout from the bureaucracy within which military members must live. It is easy commonplace .. it cannot be forgotten that soldiers in the Army are individuals. with their own thoughts. the lack of anthropologists willing to engage with the military can actually result in a military that assumes a cultural approach that is incorrect. disruptive ways of knowing. In addition. the recent release of films discussing Iraq from the soldier’s perspective should inspire “others to consider taking seriously military voices in the way that we. 327) She continues: But so far as we know. 13). and are at the end of the day the ones who must risk themselves in support of the institution. and the political leaders of the nation who direct it. as anthropologists. As Catherine Lutz points out in an editorial comment. It is thus an imperative for any moralist to actually engage with military leaders rather than boycotting a system which they feel is somehow morally corrupt. there are no anthropologists now writing about the war in Iraq in English or whose work has been translated into English. p. and potentially more damaging to the people they engage with around the world than if anthropologists were willing to approach military leaders and strategists (McNamara. studying the institution as such removes the identity and voice of the soldiers who make it up. learn something from filmmakers like Deborah Scranton (The War Tapes [2006]) and journalists like Thomas Ricks (2006).

as McNamara points out it is through engagement that meaningful dialogue and understanding will be created between the anthropological and military communities. formed in protest to the development of the Human Terrain System. whose importance we. to assess individual difference. have worked so hard to promote. Although there are definitely problems with the current makeup of the Human Terrain System. as an engagement and description of the ways in which the enlisted soldier negotiates the bureaucracy of the Army and his own identity. yet open-minded. and practice. and war in general. Methodology The predominance of sociological studies of military life leave a very particular gap in the evaluation of military life. and will carry further if they are shaped by the kind of close. As Pamela Martin points out in her study of dropouts from Basic Training. But those opinions are more informed. 159) The limitation mentioned by Martin is common among many sociological studies. a program to place anthropologists within those same “ground-level realities” which she states will produce stronger arguments regarding the War in Iraq in particular. and it is the value of ethnography to focus on the 31 . less than six months later this same author was one of the founding members of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.war” and to think that our opinions are worth hearing. encounters with ground-level realities. Future studies may extend the work in this area by being able to more specifically monitor and target particularly vulnerable individuals. This work is hopefully a preliminary step in that process. An additional limitation was the inability to track individual soldiers over time. “no information regarding reasons for dropping out is available for this study. 2006.) Unfortunately. p.” (Martin. nuanced. (ibid. and our disciplinary forebears.

participant observation. and examine the differences from one individual to the next. As such. and how soldiers themselves create and maintain their identities as soldiers. Fort Leonard Wood. Anthropology is at heart the study of people in their own words and in the actions of their own lives. 1949). in 2002 I enlisted in the US Army Reserves. which considering the dearth of knowledge regarding Basic Training at this time. Soldiers in Active Duty. SC. MO. and it is through Basic Training that incoming soldiers learn what it means to be a soldier. In order to capture the experience of Basic Training. GA. while the other two bases perform mixed gender training. Fort Knox and Fort Benning are male only training establishments. and left for Basic Training at Fort Benning on July 23rd.individuals of a group. and how to appropriately act as a soldier. opens up the subject for continued study. in order to understand the soldiers of the United States Army. beginning my training to become an Army soldier. and National Guard are all trained in the same locations. KY. provides an understanding of the deep structure of Army life. Fort Knox. and Fort Jackson. As there has not been a thorough study of Basic Training since the end of World War II (Stouffer et al. being a soldier is more a performative act than a state of being. Of these.. is invaluable in an exploratory capacity. living with and joining with soldiers in their lives. and in the same platoons. Army Reserve. As I shall discuss further below. The first and most obvious lack of discussion is a multi-faceted 32 . there are too many elements of Basic Training to examine in a single study. The in depth knowledge that ethnography provides of its subject matter. at one of four Basic Training locations: Fort Benning. in this case Basic Training.

Martone. Although there is the occasional mention of a private’s background as an illuminating feature. As much as Basic Training is wrapped in the possibility of combat. have truly been diverse. the experience. Second. The particular backgrounds of individual recruits are also left out of this discussion. 2008. 1995. Soldiers in support roles. the scope of this research is more concerned with other elements. 2005. racial and ethnic backgrounds are not considered. However. Specifically. and my study would not add much of value to these discussions. and how those soldiers deflect such impositions and express their own agency within the context of such a large and near-total institution. as one 33 .examination of gender issues in the U. and not with the failing privates themselves. my project is to examine how Basic Training attempts to impose an identity on incoming soldiers. As objectifying as this approach might be. Army. and some symptoms. although stressful. did not seem significant enough to cause post-traumatic symptoms among privates. it is only in relation to this that gender is discussed. The lack of discussion of PTSD among soldiers is also significant. First. discussions of females or feminism do not apply directly to my subject matter. may have been expressions of this. as Fort Benning is predominantly male.S. Nadelson. to name a few). such as Private Evans’ and Private Jackson’s emotional outbursts. which are the topic of this study. There are two reasons for this. In the same way. Although I discuss masculinity as central to the identity of the soldier. It is a possibility that the failure of certain privates to adapt is reflective of PTSD. the focus of this discussion is instead on the dynamics of the other members of the platoon with these privates. other researchers have addressed this issue well enough (Grossman. the Basic Training class I belonged to truly was a cross-section of the civilian world.

As with socio-economic backgrounds. however. there are a number of elements of Basic Training itself which are not addressed. After Basic Training. and it is only through separation that it becomes an issue for privates in Basic Training. Anthropological Locations Although anthropology was traditionally the study of the exotic. but does not compare in symbolic value to the rifle. climbing tower. or become. preferably in locales far removed from the society of the researcher. and FTX. in the social interactions among privates at Basic Training. During Basic. this paradigm has shifted in the past decades. are not as important to the dynamics between the recruit and institution as the gas chamber. rifle qualification. and night-fire course. while important milestones in the progression through Basic Training. soldiers who are. Finally. the obstacle course. the imposition of family life into the military world is disallowed. ethnic heritage did not seem to significantly affect those interactions. grenade training is one of the significant elements of Basic after rifle training is completed. bayonet training. have to learn to deal with a new set of bureaucratic challenges. The effects of military life on family relationships is only discussed in terms of how a recruit is separated from those relationships through indoctrination. married. or poorly addressed. in this study. commendably laid out by John Hawkins (2001) in his discussion of soldiers deployed during the Cold War. For instance.of the main elements of Basic Training is the removal of these features through uniformity and general de-emphasis of these traits. Similarly. with more anthropological work conducted “at home” in the same culture 34 . and is therefore not discussed.

The notions of “primitive” and “civilized” have been called into question with such force that many studies eschew the attempt to locate the pristine native. 2001). These studies are influenced by the examination of what the field of anthropology should be. p. and instead look at the developed world (Grinker. who anthropologists had granted “a sort of monopoly on the study of the present. also challenges the idea that “foreign” or different groups must be found in geographically distant areas. studies such as Phillipe Bourgois’ In Search of Respect (1996) look to urbanized citizens as subject matter to develop ideas regarding the dynamics of power and powerlessness in American culture. Marc Abeles notes that anthropology in France has incorporated discussions of modern French culture into its literature. Even basic concepts such as what constitutes a “remote” location versus a “close” location are challenged as symbolic interpretations rather than geographical definitions (Ardener.” (Abeles. as the illusions of discrete areas and cultures are more difficult to maintain. reclaiming intellectual territory from French sociologists. McDonald. 1999. or at the very least not far removed. Ardener’s study appeared in the Association of Social Anthropologists’ collection. 1987).” and the implications for anthropologists of varying ethnicities and backgrounds in focusing the anthropological lens at their own cultures. Maryon McDonald (1987) points out how the focus on studying our own cultures has actually led to a more robust level of analysis. 1998. 1992. Hawkins. 407) Closer to home. Borneman. 1997. The imaginary boundaries separating two cultures within the same geographic areas are just as “real” to 35 .as the anthropologist in question. and how historical assumptions about the subject matter could interfere with the robustness of the discipline. which came out of an entire conference devoted to “anthropology at home. like Ardener.

there are other identifying features of this change. at the same time military culture is distinct from “normal” culture in ways distinct from other subcultures. there are frequently distinct changes in geography from the civilian world to the military.the members of those cultures as a political boundary or even a geographic one such as a river or mountain. Research Techniques Rather than being a cultural critique of American culture. 36 . As such. supplemented by later interviews with five of my former drill sergeants and sixteen soldiers I had developed strong affiliations with. In addition to these primary informants. 2002).” On one hand. However. this boundary is identified by a number of features. There are many similarities between “normal” American culture and military culture. this research embarks on the more modest attempt to add to our understanding of the Army subculture. the military is part of modern American culture. I relied primarily on the techniques of participant observation in collecting data. On a symbolic level. both unmistakable (the military uniform) and subtle (the military haircut). This ethnography approaches the study of the military from a more traditional approach. With reference to military versus civilian culture. and members of the military live in and interact with those of mainstream culture. such as a clear line of landscaping marking the point at which the ordered military world ends and the disordered civilian world begins (Lutz. The environment of the military is one which straddles the two realms of “traditional” anthropology and anthropology “at home. At the geographical level. as an attempt to understand a culture about which there is currently little ethnographic knowledge.

both literally and figuratively. 1986). As a method of data collection among military personnel. 1990).ongoing conversations and discussions with numerous other soldiers at my Reserve unit and while deployed added to the background data for this project. distinct from the participants. Katz. 2007). By embracing the soldier role. in a way which I would not have been able to had I followed a more traditional approach of observation balanced by participation. In these cases. I was able to engage with my subject matter. directly (Favret-Saada. from the point of view of the troops themselves. emotion. by being caught up in the experience. “war stories” of various sorts told from one soldier to another. and an immediacy which can only be shared by other soldiers. Participant observation allowed me to build up what Charles Briggs has called meta-communicative competence. 1988. Moskos. participant observation in this frame provided an insider’s view of Basic Training. not only allowed me to build rapport with my subjects. participant observation has been successfully used in a number of previous studies (Simons. 1997. These experiences are built from physical pain. The military experience is one which is based on shared experiences. Cromer. 37 . but provided me with a sense of experience which a more detached approach could not have allowed for. life in Basic Training. and the subjects. Just as Jeanne Favret-Saada argues that understanding the emotionally charged atmosphere of Bocage witchcraft is only possible through engagement with the subject matter. the researcher has been a separate figure in the research. an understanding of the background ideas and assumptions of a culture (Briggs. 1970. Traveling with the other members of my Basic Training platoon. going through Basic Training and experiencing the same things in the same way as other soldiers. In addition.

However. Immersion in an “exotic” culture allows a deeper understanding of the subject matter than simple observation or quantitative data analysis could hope to obtain. and thus his own conceptions of the world (West. 38 . brings a fuller understanding of the subject of study. West discussed how his original attempts to examine Makonde sorcery “scientifically” fail. and it is only after he immerses himself in his informants’ worlds. Looking back at Basic Training. Basic Training is an emotionally and physically draining environment. reexamining his own approach to his data. 2007). is typical of most anthropological studies. that he gains the necessary insight into the world of his subjects. Although the military may not be as exotic as other cultures in the world. the only real emotion I can clearly recall is a general and overwhelming sense of frustration. and reject the importance of objectivity as typically understood. My own approach corresponds with these. and at this point I must address the challenges posed by this mode of research. it is distinctly different from mainstream American culture. becoming my own informant.The balance of these two elements of research. Vincent Crapanzano discussed how his interaction with a key informant deepened as soon as he removed the distinction between observing the life around him and engaging with it (Crapanzano. The level of immersion of my fieldwork did pose a potential problem. 2007). a number of scholars have begun to question this dichotomy. participation and observation. The advantages of this approach have already been discussed above. as my own immersion. The distinction between researcher and subject is one which has been seen as an artificial one in anthropology. often in surprising and novel ways. which works to maintain the hegemony of a Western. positivistic approach to social science (Ewing. 1994).

These frustrations built up such that by the end of Basic Training. As a private at Basic Training. and on one occasion listed the “Top Ten” things I hated about the Army: I hate not being able to sleep if I need it.Sleep deprivation combined with the lack of any sense of control created great interpersonal friction. I hate listening to conversations about cars. or how someone wants to beat up the guy who slept with their girlfriend. I hate 39 . farts. and many of my field notes express the frustration I felt at the environment I was in. my feelings of frustration and anger would quickly swing from negative to positive emotion. I hate not being alone. I hate not being able to eat or drink when I want to. I hate standing in formation for hours. it also meant that in addition to being the object of my research. I used the word “hate” 22 different times in the notes I sent home from Basic. Although this granted me tremendous insight into the lives of privates in Basic Training. I also grew increasingly frustrated with the inability of many fellow privates to simply stand still in formation or otherwise follow rules which I found simple. and anger without any particular focus. I was also a subject. and often within the same hour. I was more excited about getting away from my fellow soldiers than having any sense of accomplishment. one of the greatest fears I wrote about was that the actions of my fellow privates would not only get the platoon in trouble. but would cause the drill sergeants to remove the small privileges we had been granted. These swings in attitude were consistently overshadowed by a lack of trust in many of my fellow soldiers. As my stress level grew. the experience of Basic Training was overwhelming. At times. and I would feel accomplishment and pride in the other members of my platoon. although I made strong friends. Over the course of nine weeks. I did not have the ability during the process to step back from my participation. At the same time. For example.

As one can see. there are actually eleven items in my list. I hate the misogyny displayed by everyone. I hate group punishment. Due to these conflicts. as like many older privates in Basic Training. Group punishment in particular aggravated many interpersonal relationships. as I was so overwhelmed in writing this note that I failed to keep track of how many things there were. especially those labeled as problem children through the course of the training cycle. My personal feelings regarding the experiences at Basic Training fluctuated over the course of nine weeks. Although this may limit my perspective. The majority of privates graduate from Basic Training without even being known by name by the drill sergeants. with only a few privates standing out. I hate immaturity in general. I hate formations. These personal feelings developed into interpersonal conflicts with other members of the training platoon. especially with regard to the apparently mercurial whims of drill sergeants. These privates typically 40 . there is a lack of data in my field notes. I feel it is also reflective of the dynamics of Basic Training. from the problem children themselves. I hate cleaning up other people’s messes. the focus of this work is on the ways in which “proper” soldiers dealt with the problem child.the fan. I quickly became frustrated with the apparent inability of younger privates to simply keep their heads down and avoid punishment. I hate fart jokes. There were periods of intense frustration. which soured many of my feelings about Basic Training. and in many ways my own experience reflected the experiences of other soldiers going through Basic with me. Rather. and this dissertation.

how the group interacts with these particular individuals is the focus of my research. using whatever methods they have at hand: physical ability. I was offended by these comments. Looking back on this experience. This emotion was tempered later as I was able to remove myself more from the 41 .” However. etc. At the completion of Basic Training. mental ability. such as Drill Sergeant Saburi who always displayed a fondness for those he called his “college boys. I set out to make my dissertation as critical of the experience as possible. I realized that many times drill sergeants would actually go out of their way to assist soldiers who could not perform properly. The emotional stress of Basic Training also affected my perceptions of the drill sergeants and their training methods. as with the events of Basic Training still fresh in my mind. As a study of the social dynamics of Basic Training. as drill sergeants in general will attempt to demean every private. personal hygiene. but consistently made the effort. I was off-put by the ignorance displayed by most of the drill sergeants. I likely took these comments too personally.stand out as a result of drastic failures or remarkable excellence. At the time. there was very little positive I found I could say about it. and defend them against insults from other privates. and other privates and I were sometimes even insulted with regard to our education. and quickly lost respect for the drill sergeants who made them. For the most part. There were a few notable exceptions to this. As I was removed further from the experience. however. drill sergeants at Basic Training come across as uneducated and uninterested in any knowledge beyond their own soldier skillsets. coming out of graduate school and joining the Army.

although emotionally draining. however. Following Basic Training and AIT. my method allowed me to observe and understand the events in Basic Training in a way which a more formal or quantitative approach would not provide. Although quantitative data can be enlightening.experience. After stepping back and removing myself from the experience. This does not mean that I have 42 . my experience at Basic Training. The ethnographic approach I used. and especially after a combat deployment. but over the course of the last years. many times they fail to address any underlying reasons for observed events. I developed the strongest relationships with these soldiers. As I mentioned previously. or even immediately after. of the privates going through the training process. I began to notice elements of Basic Training which were positive in their influence on incoming soldiers. I was able to examine not only the dynamics of other soldiers. but myself. many of these reflections were far from positive. and those soldiers who I only knew from Basic Training were less receptive to follow-up interviews. There is no question that had I written this dissertation during. to the point that a number of privates I had gone through Basic Training with remarked during my AIT that I was a much calmer and more likable person. I feel that despite the problems. provided me with a deeper understanding of the processes and interactions. As a result. the backstage performances. I returned to my civilian life as a graduate student and was able to critically reflect on my experiences at Basic. the emotional impact of the event would have overshadowed the data I collected. simply positing likelihoods based on other results within the data.

and as such I joined. that I would never fire my weapon in anger. with the full expectation of a deployment to Afghanistan in my foreseeable future. When joining the Army. as well as my choice to join the Army in the first place (although most privates in Basic Training go through that doubt).” I have also managed to serve my time in the Army without having fired my weapon in anything other than a training situation. or anger. To this day. the military specialty which seemed most suited to such an outlook. should be an option of last resort.been completely objective. I do feel that the combination of intense immersion followed by separation and reflection provides the element of reflexivity essential to the ethnographic process. I did so with the understanding as an academic that the military after these events would be pivotal to the American viewpoint of other countries. Although I can not claim complete objectivity in this research. fear. nor should it. The emotional impact of the event is one of the basic building blocks of the event itself. 43 . as a Reservist. I did believe that violence. At the same time. During Basic Training I had many doubts about my choice of career path. allowed me to connect with other soldiers and my source material more strongly than had I simply observed the events as they occurred. I did so in response to the attacks of September 11th. a philosophy which sets me apart from most soldiers. after fourteen years and three deployments. and their viewpoint of ours. Although I would not characterize myself as a pacifist. whether they be pride. I have managed to maintain that. but it was at AIT when the words of an instructor hit home to me and reassured me that I had made the correct choice: “When I joined the Army I had one goal. and the my own emotions. even from the military.

as each weekend of drill I would have to mentally prepare myself to play the role of soldier. A Marine Reservist. able to reflect on my experiences in Basic and over drill weekends. was a very distinct and real step for me. and then back to civilian. although in one sense. I always attempted to maintain an emotional distance from the events occurring around me. This same process held true after my deployment. Thus. describes his drill weekends as a process of constant reintegration. unlike Active Duty soldiers. from civilian to Marine. While serving. however. not to mention any of the multitude of other roles which each person plays over the course of their lives. go through a week-long decompression process upon their return and are officially released from Active Duty in the same way as any soldier leaving the Army after the completion of their contract. this distance has been easier to maintain. All Army Reservists negotiate two identities during their service. as when they are not deployed (an admittedly frustratingly common occurrence). Buzz Williams. Joining the Army. they must maintain a civilian career while surrendering one weekend a month and two weeks a year to the Army.” after that training was complete I returned to my life as a civilian. This process holds true for Army reservists as well. reflecting on those events as much as possible. as I was only required to act as soldier for one weekend a month. As a Reservist rather than an Active Duty soldier. a process which began with my first discussion with a recruiter in the summer of 2001. and then return to the role of civilian (and graduate student) every Sunday night. After a few 44 . and could return to the life of graduate student and scholar upon the completion of a drill weekend.combat arms or support personnel. as Reservists. going through Army Basic Training was an act of “going native.

he is expected to either help other privates. Even should a private complete a task early. and the choice to remove discussion of gender dynamics from my study was based in part on being assigned an all-male training location rather than an integrated one. This approach was a double edged sword. I was able to refine my perception of punishments and separate out those which were “real” from those which drill sergeants seemed to impose simply out of whim or as an excuse for more physical training. Thus.months of administrative processing. The choice of site was not my own. I would use such opportunities as I could to take notes in the field. but will also praise recruits so sparingly that had I focused on that element my field notes would have been too short to gather any workable data. a decision which I realize now was short sighted. and then record them in the 45 . privates are expected to carry a notebook with them to take notes on instruction. and every evening privates are allowed an hour or two of free time to write letters home and take care of personal business. During Basic Training. I departed for my Basic Training site the end of the next summer and began a total immersion in Army life as seen through Basic Training. or clean his weapon or equipment. as the military indoctrination process begins not with Basic Training but with the first conversation with a recruiter. choosing to focus on those activities which were censured by the authorities rather than those which were praised. Be that as it may. for example. upon arrival at Fort Benning I did my best to note incidents of infraction and punishment. as drill sergeants and other instructors will punish recruits for even the slightest infraction. especially in the early weeks of Basic. Over the course of ten weeks. I began taking field notes immediately upon my departure from my home. However. if not earlier. there is very little free time for any private.

During my stay at Basic Training. would have distinctly changed the interactions between recruits. as the knowledge of my research. during fireguard 7 duty or other administrative assignments. I took the opportunity to copy out notes and expand on ideas I did not have the time to discuss in my other notes. each morning I mailed my notes in a previously addressed and posted letter to my home. and studying Basic Training while performing as a private provides unequaled opportunities to build such rapport. I informed every member of my platoon about my research. This modification to the standard research protocol was approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board and recommended by the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command authority. In order to ensure privacy. I did inform the Battalion’s Chaplain of my research so that one person in the command structure would be aware of it should any problems occur. Upon my arrival at Basic Training. I also informed them completely of my purpose. I kept my research hidden from the other privates and the drill sergeants. 46 . The process of building rapport with research subjects is essential to the work of ethnography. one private will clean the barracks while the other must sit at the door to the barracks to “guard” against intruders. and other Army personnel. During these fireguard duties.evenings. drill sergeants. and that I had been taking notes on their activities as well as the other recruits during my time at Fort Benning. In addition. On the final evening of Basic Training. however. even more so in the emotionally charged atmosphere in Basic Training than in many other field sites. When contacting drill sergeants for later interviews. and collected their contact information in order to contact them after my completion of AIT for further interviews and research. The main technique used to build rapport 7 Fireguard is a requirement during Basic Training when two privates must be awake at any given time.

is to share the experiences of the research subjects (Bernard. Thus. and frequently perform training as an entire platoon of sixty privates. all privates share positive and negative experiences. Fifteen members of my platoon were Psychological Operations or Civil Affairs specialists. and we joined a class of almost ninety students at Fort Bragg from other Basic Training locations. Privates during Basic Training live in austere shared conditions. the privates from Fort Benning quickly established themselves as leaders in the social hierarchy of the class. The results of this rapport could be seen vividly when those members of my platoon who shared my military specialty attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT). privates are not allowed to be alone for any reason. 47 . 2000). Thus. I shared the punishment. with 30 bunkbeds in one large room. a bathroom with six stalls and four urinals. any time my platoon was punished. and when the platoon was rewarded. Despite our minority representation. During Basic Training. privates are assigned to Basic Training platoons independent of these job choices. as over the course of nine stressful weeks it is sublimely difficult for any person to maintain the public/private distinction so common in regular life. and by extension the institution of the Army. or at the very least as a squad of fifteen. and thus do not build the social capital which privates at Fort Benning appear to do. however. I has no choice but to do. 8 8 During Basic Training at Fort Benning. whereas at other locations. which as a private under the authority of the Drill Sergeants. This seemed to be a direct result of the social capital accumulated during Basic Training. as well as being assigned official leadership positions by the drill sergeants. During each day. privates are separated into platoons based on their specialties. as part of the team building program designed by the Army. acquiring access to the “backstage” performances of other privates was relatively easy to obtain. and eight open showers. I shared the reward.

rather than an outside observer who would occasionally cooperate in experiences with the privates. Interview techniques have been used in a number of previous analyses of military attitudes (Avant & Lebovic. As a participant of Basic Training. Army life consists of more than a shared set of values or skills. Basic Training indoctrinates new recruits into how things are done “the Army way. the rapport built quickly and easily with other members of my platoon. and thus Basic Training is imbued with rapport building experiences. likely to an extent not found in many other research locations. Instead. and a soldier’s ability to use appropriate terms builds what Sarah Thornton calls “subcultural capital” for the soldier. Although a number of privates are familiar with Army language and other elements of Army culture upon entrance to Basic Training. After graduation from AIT. a “private” in the terms of the drill sergeants. Basic Training is at its foundation the introduction of civilians with limited or no experience with military life to the institution of the Army. I arranged to return to Fort Benning to interview drill sergeants and my former company commander regarding their ideas of Basic Training and what they perceived of privates during each cycle. 48 . 2000. Perhaps one of the most distinctive elements of Army life in this case is the introduction to the new language utilized by the Army. even when there were inevitable personality clashes. this is a time when all members of group learn the particulars of Army life.” which includes everything from personal hygiene to interpersonal relationships. As we shall see in Chapter Two. Army language is a distinct element of the soldier identity.Another advantage to the social dynamics of going through Basic Training with other recruits is that almost all of the members of my Basic Training platoon lacked specific knowledge of Army life and culture.

Interviews with drill sergeants focused on their techniques of instruction. as either positive or negative features. this time from the perspective of a graduate from the training. Interviews were semi-structured in order to allow me to touch upon the important subjects for each interview. I interviewed each drill sergeant as they were available. Each interview lasted approximately forty five minutes. and how these qualities are dealt with. I also had the opportunity to interview my former Company Commander and receive an officer’s view of the Basic Training experience. all personal interviews were conducted in civilian clothes to separate the researcher and the participant from any institutional affiliation with the military. In addition to these interviews. Although I could not deny my military affiliation to my informants. 2000). 2001). Most of my former drill sergeants were very helpful. why they handled recruits in specific ways. After graduating from Basic Training. at an hour and fifteen minutes and an hour and a half. but allow the individuals to expand upon their own personal experiences when they care to (Bernard. and knowing that I would 49 . although two lasted significantly longer. while some were conducted in offices separated from other distractions. This experience was one which enlightened me to the extent of my own indoctrination into Army culture. and upon arrival at Fort Benning I was provided with access to drill sergeants whenever they were not required for training duties. Drill sergeants and the company commander were also asked about what qualities they look for in recruits. I had an additional opportunity to observe the dynamic of Basic Training. which resulted in some interviews being performed in public and loud places. and what they were hoping to accomplish with their instruction.Dowd.

I did take notes on observations and relevant statements from soldiers deployed in the various companies I was attached to. I received deployment orders to Iraq for the next year. but one which allowed me to approach my subject with more self-awareness and understanding of the processes involved in Basic Training. distanced. Although this took me away from academic research. Many of these observations highlighted the differences in 9 The association of Iraq with the current military is so strong that Afghanistan is still frequently referred to by military theorists as “the other war. my first response upon seeing a private being punished by a drill sergeant (including the apparently requisite yelling by the drill sergeant in question) simply inspired a feeling of amusement. Like my visit to Fort Benning. 9 A second deployment in 2007 served the same purpose. although there was limited time to do in depth research. not only as an instructional exercise but an indoctrinating one. I had promised myself that I would remain empathetic towards the recruits going through Basic after me. this deployment served to make me more aware of the importance of Basic Training. I found myself relishing the fact that I had undergone the same discipline and would not need to do so again.” or occasionally “the forgotten war. than if I had simply analyzed my field notes without a second. This was a disturbing realization.” 50 . as after my own graduation I had realized that the experience of Basic Training. I capitalized on the opportunity to expand my insights into the identity of the soldier in the post-September 11th world. Rather than empathizing with the recruit being punished. was in many respects simply absurd in afterthought. while exhausting and agonizing at the time. During these deployments.return for a more distanced view of the experience through interviews and strict observation. visit to my field site. However. which is more encompassed in the combat experience and specifically the war in Iraq. After conducting these interviews in the summer of 2003.

Many military bloggers. as well as serendipitously meeting a soldier in my Reserve unit who had been in my same training company. and many of these works I use as virtual informants in addition to those informants I made direct contact. all of these interviews were conducted over the telephone. These secondary accounts also highlight an attitude I found almost ubiquitous among my informants: the desire to get knowledge of military culture into the mainstream.outlook between older soldiers who had joined prior to September 11th and younger ones who had joined afterwards. although I have followed up with a number of respondents in non-recorded conversations or via email. for example. I made contact with the members of my platoon for further interviews. and frequently had to be cut short due to limitations on respondents’ time. These observations guided my thinking with regard to the ever-changing identity of the contemporary soldier. there are a large number of military blogs detailing not only combat experiences. In the same way. Each interview lasted more than an hour. which I also use as supporting data for this account. Due to geographic separation. firsthand and journalistic accounts of military training and combat experiences form a large part of the data for this project. but a different platoon. who also agreed to an interview. but general experiences with Army life and Basic Training as well. These accounts are becoming increasingly common in the popular press. tape recorded and transcribed later. are attempting to get out the story of 51 . Upon return from this deployment. and how that identity is created by the individuals involved and not determined by an external structure. In addition to participant observation during Basic Training and overseas deployments.

The interest which soldiers seem to have in getting their stories out. 11 In addition. 11 52 . organized. from the labor of her informants. which they see as being missed by the mainstream press (Memmott. which is commanded by a lieutenant. 10 Also. All names in this dissertation are pseudonyms. some even stating that they wanted their real names specifically associated with their quotes about the Army. as the researcher will benefit. positive and negative. Data Analysis Analysis of field notes from participant observation were analyzed for changes in experience over the course of training. A squad is typically ten men. however. and usually contain three platoons. as I myself performed the same physical and emotional labor in training as they did. overseen by a sergeant or corporal. These analyses were facilitated by the fact that my field notes were a combination of analytical and emotional responses to the Basic Training environment. barracks arrangement. 2005). Marilyn Strathern notes a tension between informants and researchers based on a capitalistic approach to the idea of labor. The atmosphere of Basic Training was such that even my best attempts to maintain impartiality with 10 A request which I did not feel I could honestly honor. even if only in a symbolic way (Strathern. Companies are commanded by a captain. and schedules were examined to refresh my own memory of the Basic Training experience. how recruits are categorized. physical descriptions of camp life. On a broad level. and divided into platoons and squads. There are typically three or four squads in a platoon. seems to belie this tension in my research. 1987). Every single one of my informants expressed strong support for my research project. the rapport and shared experiences of Basic likely mitigated any idea of labor possessed by my informants. I first looked at the structure of Basic Training.their own missions and experiences in combat zones.

interpersonal conflicts will occur. as a helpful hint. incoming soldiers’ attitudes and beliefs. Interactions among recruits were also important for determining how Basic Training acts to change. and by the end of Basic Training these conflicts will be resolved so that all soldiers will view themselves as belonging to one team. but also my participation.regard to drill sergeants and fellow recruits were often doomed to failure. How instructors chose to impart information is also important in this analysis. Whether information is imparted in a classroom setting. The interactions between the recruits and representatives of the Army were originally analyzed not only for methods of instruction. as were the frequencies of which recruits received punishment. Also of note were the differences between how a drill sergeant interacted with his own platoon versus how he interacted with other platoons. but for disciplinary techniques. or whether a drill sergeant screamed orders at a recruit were noted. as the emotion expressed in my notes assisted me in remembering not only my observations. and whether those punishments were individual or group punishments. The common view of Basic is that recruits will get together and a pecking order will be established. and part of the mythology of American culture in which the 53 . or fail to change. This template is mirrored in many of the films describing both military indoctrination and combat missions. This served me well in my analysis. As we shall see in the next chapter. The sanctions and punishments imposed on recruits were analyzed for similarities. The ways in which soldiers and their instructors interacted formed a large part of my analysis. however. the resolution of differences and realization that all members of the group are “on the same team” is a standard of military films. and to see if they followed general trends.

but many of these statements reflected a direct desire to inflict violence on the under-performing recruits. One of the main themes discovered in this analysis was the recurring notions of violence. whether negative or positive experiences. Basic 54 .military is a reflection of the civilian culture. Discussions of violence of various sort obviously permeate military language. especially with regard to feelings regarding the under-performing recruits at Basic Training. soldiers discussing Basic Training also frequently focus on the ways in which Drill Sergeants performed their roles. How this process actually occurs. and the similarities of Basic Training to specific reenactments in popular films. Rather than a standard background of knowledge. and a symbol of it’s ability to overcome adversity. those actions would reflect the attitudes most often encountered and that most often impede or advance the process of Basic Training. those events are the ones which were most important in the transition from civilian to soldier. In addition to violence. was one of the main foci of my analysis. especially the emergent structure of interactions between recruits. If the events remembered by many different soldiers were consistent. These preliminary analyses then led to deeper realizations about the underlying structure of Basic. or whether it truly occurred at all. if drill sergeants consistently mentioned the same actions of recruits. then. as well as reenacting those films in their own performances as soldiers. as that is at its heart the focus of the institution. Those memories which were best remembered. In the same way. should reflect the experiences which had the most impact upon the psyches of new recruits. Interviews were analyzed for the memories of soldiers about their own experiences at Basic Training.

al. identity formation begins before Basic Training. but it does show that Basic Training is not the crucible in which soldiers’ identities are formed. and continues after it. If it is possible to change the habitus. Theoretical Approach A number of theories are relevant to a study of military training and indoctrination. Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the habitus allows for an individual to have a certain background that is resistant to. to more empirical studies such as those done by Moskos and Segal. it would likely be through an intense conditioning program such as Army Basic Training. from heavily theory laden approaches such as those taken by Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari. Most of the values and attitudes possessed by individuals are established prior to enlistment in the military at age eighteen. This does not preclude the possibility that additional socialization occurs during Basic Training. Given the flux of soldiers into and out of military life. have shown. as the studies by Bachman et. formed by previous encounters and responses. military recruits are frequently socialized before entering military service. Instead. Responses to stimuli are habitually organized. 55 . but not impervious to. this is hardly surprising. which I believe it does. However. changes in resultant behavior. In the works of many authors. the military is often seen as a mirror of the larger society.Training rather seems to impart to incoming soldiers a collection of techniques and devices with which they can create their own identities as soldiers. not socialized during indoctrination. especially considering the high percentage of servicemembers returning to the civilian world after World War II in both America and Europe.

these elements are present. Although Foucault does not explicitly draw the connection. the actions of individual recruits during Basic. Foucault sees society as more and more organized over the last few hundred years rationalization and mechanization of society acting through the control of the body and therefore. from individuals being in control of the their bodies to individuals being subjected to the gaze of the overseeing power framework. challenging rules of dress and style. A study of the modern American army is effective in highlighting the ways in which this pattern continues to hold true in the modern world. However. Foucault uses two institutions for examples of this – the prison and the army. as the military world is one in which concepts such as discipline and structure are the focus of the institution. through “discipline. non-conforming recruits who would be labeled as deviant in other contexts due to their expressive and public acts of resistance to the 56 . shows how the attempts to rationalize/mechanize the modern body fails. structure. he sees the same sort of change. The works of Foucault utilize examples from military history to elucidate his concepts of order. This is hardly surprising. each a part in an industrial era factory to produce war. Even in this most rigid institution. However. challenging the structure and rules imposed on them by the institution. Foucault (1977) touches briefly upon the discipline of the military changing from one stressing personal heroism to one in which each soldier acts as if they are part of a machine. and chaos. there is also a great deal of resistance to the institutional structure. During Basic Training. behavioral limits.” the social structure itself is rationalized. when he then discusses the changes in regular (civilian) society. and subjection to authority. and will likely always fail.In his book Discipline and Punish. soldiers press against accepted boundaries.

in fact. and attacked again by new nomads. the “war machine” as Deleuze and Guattari designate it. existing in striated space with regulations and boundaries. military indoctrination 57 . and deviance. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari see a barely restrained chaos. but are in fact. which continues to exist in regulated society by expressions of individuality. The military. would focus on. Under this framework. these nomads are then incorporated into the structure of the striated space they have moved into. Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the war machine would also elucidate what the goals of military training. is chaotic. Inherent to the success of the nomads in this conception is the war machine. Where Foucault sees society wrapping itself more and more closely around individuals. A nomadological evaluation of the military would require that the military is not. and contrary to any organized system run by the State. is the way in which the State harnesses and controls the violent and destructive tendencies of its citizens. training them not to use violence. resulting in a society reminiscent of Goffman’s total institution. in their view. Violence. rebellion. but due to its nature will always break free of the boundaries set upon it by the outside structure of society. Deleuze and Guattari use examples from military history to highlight their ideas of the body and discipline.accepted rules of the group. training enlistees to use violence. However. Like Foucault. volatile. what values the military is actually attempting to instill in its soldiers. and the nomads or barbarians who are constantly moving in from the borders (smooth space which has not been regulated) and taking over the land controlled by these agriculturalists. chaos sublimated to the rule of society. They see the history of civilization as a constant interaction between agricultural society.

loyalty. this adaptation is not perfect. and the “regular” privates 12 – those who do properly adapt. other than to express greater self-control and discipline. 12 Private is a generic term during Basic Training to describe all recruits. will prevent a soldier from disobeying orders. and generally releasing any aggression or violence upon unsuspecting targets. For example. typically referred to as the problem child. each soldier will learn through Basic Training and after how to manipulate rules and negotiate the institution. discipline. Instead. whether to a soldier or to a country. and how the recruits can harness their inherent aggressive tendencies. However. or from officers. the structure itself is always in flux. but to harness it. changing and adapting. Recruits finishing Basic Training and continuing in military life should not be significantly different in attitude from civilian members of society. Thus. even among those recruits who socialize properly to Army life. If the purpose of the military is as Deleuze and Guattari imagine it.would focus on controlling the enlistee’s violence. if there are significant differences in values. This adaptation comes from the inherent differences which even the uniformity of appearance and action enforced during Basic Training cannot overcome. The war machine is expressed in Basic Training by those who fail to adapt. it is likely that those values are the ones which the military sees as the best for control of violent tendencies. moving on his own. then Basic Training should not be focused on skills training. training the soldier not to release his aggression. and there is always chaos amidst the structure. but should instead focus on control. 58 . Although some recruits will adapt better than others. Additionally. the total institution of the Army will never “totalize” its members into cookie-cutter soldiers in an ideal form.

outside the accepted and prescribed routes 59 . modeled not only against the impositions from above. new recruits are indoctrinated into what the institution of the Army desires to define as “soldier. The Army creates a family separate from what Americans understand as “family. but are free to make their own choices. the recruits themselves pushed back against this imposition and attempted to create their own identities. and the ways in which those complexities are negotiated and even created by the members of a group. Despite attempts by the drill sergeants at Basic Training to impose order and discipline upon recruits. such that change is impossible. these nodes are not fixed in any given pattern or route.” The Army trains privates to perform the one act which is generally considered taboo by every culture. but based on their own previous life experiences and preconceived notions of what a soldier should be.The Army highlights this complexity of modern institutions. In this analysis no structure is so rigid.” At the same time.unordered) space. Although still structural in their approach. moves through smooth space. and thus to change the system itself. and to create the identity of soldier. as each person in an organization would make up a “node” in the structure. no institution fixed. These challenges to the institutional definitions of soldier are indicative of Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of nomadology and the war machine. During Basic Training. shifting to adapt to new situations. concepts which hold true at both the individual and institutional level. in constant movement and change. embodiment of the war machine. They utilize the metaphors of striated (ordered) and smooth . and then trains them to hold it back. Rather than structure. they create the identity of the soldier for themselves by choosing which of the accepted elements of Army indoctrination to take with them to later Army life. Deleuze and Guattari see organizations as rhizomes. The nomad.

as not only do soldiers act out their fantasies. and replay their own amateur action movies. of 60 . and government which had been occurring since the sixteenth century (Childs. screaming and yelling. edit. Both Deleuze and Guattari and Michel Foucault use the military as an analogy to discuss the changes in civilian society. from members of my own Reserve unit and from other veterans. on the other hand.given by society. for example. These performances are recursive. as well. Thus the increased rationalization discussed by Foucault with regard to the military is also a metaphor for the increased rationalization of society as a whole.” for example. rather than acting appropriately as soldiers in a counter-insurgency or peacekeeping mission. Action movies are now the template for the proper behavior of soldiers. Many of the actions of American soldiers in Iraq are informed by the movies and television shows (and personal Youtube videos) depicting military and para-military personnel in action. 2000). progresses Foucault’s analogies of 19th Century life (mechanization of production as a metaphor for the mechanization of individuals) into the 21st Century (networked computer systems as a metaphor for networked individuals). I have seen numerous homemade films. These metaphors are frequently used by military theorists discussing contemporary missions and technologies. even unjustified killings – shows how soldiers are still performing as if they are characters in war films such as Black Hawk Down. are the embodiment of the war machine coopted by the State to serve its own purpose. Looking at the complaints of Iraqis about the behavior of American soldiers – breaking in doors. is merely reflective of a lengthy incorporation of military. business. they then film. “Network centric warfare. Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex. Soldiers.

Army Basic Training can be seen as a classic example of the rite of passage. especially those things. and apparently robotic ways. Actions that would be met with quick and harsh censure in the beginning of Basic Training are slowly accepted by the drill sergeants. Military change will reflect civilian change because the habitus is not substantially different between the groups. the gas chamber. however. and before indoctrination into the military. recruits slowly accumulate symbolic capital. it is simply a slow change as new generations are raised and change the habitus as they feel necessary and appropriate. Also. 1990) Using the habitus.spliced images and hand-held footage put to corresponding heavy metal music in a montage of “action scenes” that are reminiscent of Hollywood war films. The habitus allows humans to have agency while allowing for them to act in measurable. (Bourdieu. The habitus is a means for resolving the dichotomy between free will and programming by society. usually identified after graduation by specific achieved milestones. since the habitus would be formed during childhood and adolescence. there is Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus. weapons qualification. rather than invent new patterns at every instance. Change is possible.” which are desired in soldiers at war. complete with inversions of regular structures and absurdities such as sweeping a lawn 61 . Over the course of Basic Training. The indoctrination elements of Basic Training also serve to highlight the ways in which individuals create their own meanings and complicate any standardized approach to the indoctrination process. and the FTX are seen as points “after which” they were more accepted by the drill sergeants. Thus. individuals are then more likely to follow standard patterns of behavior. repeatable. such as “initiative.

the first military haircut. This process does not begin with a trip to Basic.” separated from their families and friends. in which initiates do not move from one status to another. Thus. there again a series of steps towards acceptance as a proper soldier: becoming an NCO. should they stay in the Army. Nor does it end with graduation from Basic Training. Basic Training is a series of stages through which recruits become encultured. and popular fiction. recruits move to Advanced Individual Training (AIT). rather than having any specific beginning or end. it begins with enculturation and the acceptance of modern mythological stories about the military. the rite of passage is considerably more complex than the simple template frequently accredited to Turner and van Gennep. or swearing an oath. soldiers must then establish themselves within a unit.and the ever repeated “hurry up and wait” (Pellegrini. but rather build their soldier identity slowly. and remain in their liminal status. over the course of numerous interactions and small steps towards indoctrination. presented through films. deployment. or a senior NCO. 1999). At the end of Basic Training. Instead. etc. In addition. and placed in a strict hierarchy imposed on them by the authorities 62 . identity creation is a slow process of repeated interactions with other soldiers and slow acceptance within the military community. After graduation from AIT. the symbolic values of certain careers and their association with the pinnacle of military identity. television. the combat infantry. Basic Training as a rite of passage is a phased process. Rather. affect how much of a “soldier” a soldier is perceived to be. Recruits are regulated from wake up to “lights out. Rather than a simple three-stage process. although these are convenient milestones. It is likely that some of this complication is due to the nature of the total institution which is Basic Training. However.

come home at six. of recruits in Basic Training reflects the struggle of the individual to create meaning and express their individuality within any ordered system. In addition to this. just like everywhere else. or monasteries. and after graduation from Basic and AIT.” within the constraints of Central Hospital (Goffman. p.” (Goffman. 5) The key fact of these institutions is the “handling of many human needs by the bureaucratic organization of whole blocks of people. However. Goffman’s idea of total institution also includes “institutions purportedly established the better to pursue some worklike task . The only difference is you all wear the same clothes and do some exercise in the morning. You get up. Goffman’s total institution. p. army barracks. in the contemporary Army.” (Goffman. . these blocks are the Company and platoon level groups. go to work at nine. in-between and unstructured existence. . Goffman’s total institution is challenged by Turner as much as Turner is challenged by Goffman. 1961. mental asylums. The interaction between the institutional imperatives. drill sergeants describe Army life as “the easiest job in the world.of the institution. p. not soldiers yet. and the liminal. in that the “inmates” at Basic 63 . Although his dominant focus was on asylums. the experience of Basic Training is different from many of the total institutions discussed by Goffman such as prison.” The other item which belies the idea of the Army as a total institution is the status of inductees during Basic Training. he found numerous examples of inmates who “worked the system. 6) in the case of Basic Training. 1961. it is only Basic Training that conforms to such rigid control over a soldier’s life. 1961. These privates are in the process of becoming soldiers. Even in the total institutions which Goffman studied. 219). and going through Turner’s liminal stage of transition.

For example. Incoming recruits do remain liminal to some extent throughout their process through both Basic and Advanced Individual Training (AIT). a hierarchy imposed on the recruits by the institution into which they are joining.Training are being incorporated into the group of “staff. anti-structure is also developed as soldiers create symbolic capital through their understanding and use of appropriate Army phrases and social capital as they form their own primary groups and hierarchies outside of the imposed structure of squads and platoons from the drill sergeants. Structure is imposed on the platoon through the use of platoon guides and squad leaders. At Fort Benning. Sand Hill is the area which hosts all of Basic 64 . Turner’s structure and anti-structure reflects the dynamic between institution/organization and chaos. developed areas are constantly adapting to new situations. for example) there is a structure which exists in basic.” not permanently assigned to or departing from the institution at the end of service. including the structure of society from which recruits come. this presentation of the rite of passage elides the complex and intricate nature of the rite of passage as seen through the eyes of participants. and symbolically. Turner’s concepts of liminality are applicable in some specific instances. industrialized. and the rites of passage in this community (America) are heavily influenced by external factors. especially one conducted in the modern. However. Just as rituals among developing cultures are changing in response to development. world. Although in theory all recruits are equal in Basic training (all called privates. both spatially within a base. but do not completely define the existence of the recruit during Basic Training. However. The loss of any outside structure leads to liminality in the ideal form of the ritual – and thus to anti-structure.

behavior which pushes these boundaries too far is labeled deviant (Erikson.Training. referred to in Army slang as “permanent party” are not allowed to interact with recruits in any way besides official instruction. 1966). assertion that every society has its deviants holds true as much for the United States military as it does for New York City street culture. It is these deviants. individual soldiers express themselves through a variety of means. As with Durkheimian functionalist theory applied to crime and social control. recruits) are likely to push at the boundaries of expected roles to varying degrees. who define themselves through their negotiation of the institution and often by their successful breaking of military rules. of course. These expressions reflect the larger tension between individual and institution. people (here. and later Edgerton’s. contrasted with “main post” where soldiers who have completed their indoctrination reside and work. Although the institution of the military attempts through indoctrination with Basic Training to define that identity and codify it. the exemplars of the soldier identity and the representation of military authority. here played out through the socialization process. resulting in punishments for both recruits and permanent party soldiers. these rules are constantly challenged by recruits and soldiers. These soldiers. The only soldiers allowed to interact with recruits outside official training are the Drill Sergeants. However. 65 . Discussion The identity of the soldier then. and violations do occur. As with the other rules defining Basic Training. These rules are not always followed. A large part of the process of Basic Training is learning what boundaries can be successfully pushed and what can not. Durkheim’s. is one in constant flux.

Concepts such as bravery. the United States Army would still be attempting to fight a conventional war in Iraq (and very likely causing excessive casualties to American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. as well as killing insurgents). The military must constantly adapt to new situations. Historically. Leaders. the rules and boundaries of the structure which provide the motivation for change. 66 . for example. it is the training of individuals in the rules of drill which allowed for the mechanization of armies and the technological advance of gunpowder to be effectively utilized by the military. are frequently examined to the exclusion of the individual soldiers comprising their armies. figures like these were at the forefront of military revolutions. Although these figures exist in Basic Training. in that it is deviance which allows for the existence of the rhizome. if at all. This deferment can benefit the military however. and new technologies. of soldier removed from the institution. the institution maintains the ability to adapt more quickly to external changes by allowing for internal change. On the modern battlefield. especially as the new technologies required different attitudes and beliefs. By maintaining a small group of deviants within its ranks. the military would be doomed to failure. generals and leaders such as Napoleon and Gustavus Adolphus. Returning to Foucault.challenging the status quo. and identity. although important. These new techniques required a change of identity among soldiers. What a soldier was expected to be in a post-gunpowder military. Were soldiers who did not fit the mold. without soldiers like David Petraeus or Paul Yingling. official punishment is usually deferred to a later stage in their indoctrination. for example. new enemies. changed with the introduction of gunpowder and the increase in distance between combatants.

their identities. soldiers must be trained for counter-insurgency -. they each forge their own unique identities. Today. which mirrors the tension between the identity of soldiers and the institution. and especially with the current war in Iraq. 13 The Fulda Gap is an area between East and West Germany where Cold War theorists expected a conventional war between the United States and the Soviet Union occurs. A soldier’s ability. The mythological battle of the Fulda Gap 13 was what the military focused on training its soldiers for. and thus the military’s ability. 67 .and diplomacy. As the recruits go through Basic Training. After September 11th.combat outside the comfortable doctrine 14 of large formations -. 14 A set of rules and accepted practices for officers to perform under. This tension between old and new paradigms is played out in the training received at Basic Training. the recruits bring to Basic Training previously held ideas and desires for what they wish to become upon completion of the rite. The soldier identity was previously based predominantly on the ability to engage in combat in a maneuver warfare situation. to adapt to these changes is based on the failure of complete indoctrination. whereas frustrations reported by drill sergeants and instructors tend to lament the loss of a traditional Basic Training experience such as they went through ten or twenty years earlier. Those soldiers who have been less than ideal under one paradigm can easily become the paragon under the next. drawing from both their previously held ideas and the new ideas they are exposed to by the institutional structure. Frustrations with Basic Training reported by recruits tend to focus on the outdated and irrelevant training received. While the drill sergeants express the traditional views of the institution. the military is undergoing a new revolution. changed in response to new technologies and revolutions. however.

Thus. this chapter will also discuss some of the formative myths of the modern soldier. As with other rituals. and each chapter will approach the theoretical questions discussed above with a specific focus on important events at each phase of training. to enhance their own position within the loose hierarchy of Basic Training. Chapters Three and Four discuss the initial separation of recruits from their civilian lives. through the use of appropriate jargon as well as behavior. such as books or movies. identity can be seen as performative rather than fixed. Thus in addition to language. in which recruits act out the roles they have decided a soldier should play based on prior experience. and sometimes within a specific branch. and how privates at Basic Training act out those myths in their own performances. Learning military jargon is a combination of mimicry from various sources. There is a large amount of slang and jargon used among members of the military. Even the ritual itself can be seen as a performative experience.Order of the Dissertation Chapter two introduces the language specific to the military and discusses the ways in which privates play with language as they enter into the environment of Basic Training. and elements from a private’s past. and the processes that slang refers to. other privates. sometimes across branches. As recruits act like soldiers. The remainder of the dissertation is ordered chronologically. and their progression through inprocessing into the Army to the experience of the gas chamber. In conjunction with this. the interaction with both performance and mythology form a substrate upon which the ritual is built. Privates use their knowledge of military slang. which completes the first 68 . Drill Sergeants. and the Army. their identity as soldiers becomes more entrenched.

Chapter Five moves forward to the next phase of training. Probably the most common metaphor used to describe the death of a soldier is the “ultimate sacrifice. in this case with the culminating event of Basic Training.S. and the needs of the future. both in Europe and the United States. it is the individual soldiers who will provide a bridge between the soldiers of the past. sacrifice is also used in lesser forms. As the U. and often times mythological ideas of warfare. This training is juxtaposed with the battlefield situations in Iraq and Afghanistan to highlight the ways in which the institution of the Army holds on to outdated.phase of indoctrination towards becoming a soldier. symbolized through the rifle each soldier carries. The problem child. fails to perform properly in the role of soldier. These changes are contrasted again. the Field 69 . Army modifies its practices to deal with new styles of warfare. in which recruits are taught to handle their rifle and perform in combat conditions. Chapter Six continues this idea of changes in warfare to discuss revolutionary changes in the military.” However. Chapter Three will discuss how the simple template so often used to discuss a rite of passage does not maintain in the complex environment of a contemporary initiation rite. I argue instead that Basic Training is a progression along the path to the soldier identity. and as such becomes ostracized by those members of the platoon who have chosen to perform as soldiers. Chapter Four addresses one of the most common themes of military life: sacrifice. who chooses to not embrace the soldier identity. Rather than viewing Basic Training as a single event forging the soldier identity. to signify the personal freedoms that a soldier must give up in order to truly live the identity of “soldier.” This concept of sacrifice is acted out in the ritual through the symbolic sacrifice of the problem child and the platoon guide.

Although mirroring traditional kinship to some extent. and thus to the identity the soldier must perform. Chapter Seven begins with a discussion of the graduation ceremony from Basic Training. military kinship is also novel and innovative. modeling themselves on historical. if not more. Chapter Eight concludes with a discussion of deployed soldiers. Part of Basic Training is learning how this new kinship system works. are just as. significant than technological changes. the experience of a deployment allows them to perform on the most proper stage available: war. as well as exploring the different facets of fictive kinship defined by the Army.Training Exercise. and the recruits’ introduction to their civilian families and friends as soldiers. and contemporary figures that they perceive to be “true” soldiers. This chapter discusses the ideology of the American soldier as well as his history. As such. the choices that soldiers make in the field will be the ones which will affect how the Army changes in the future. beginning in Basic Training but extending throughout their Army careers. who now belong to a new “family” in the Army. Finally. literary. and how changes in that ideology. Despite political rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum. Soldiers construct these fictive kinship relationships over the course of their lives. soldiers in the field perform as they desire. 70 . including reassignments and deployments. Basic Training provides a set of skills and an ideology which many soldiers feel require full expression in a combat environment. As soldiers perform their identities.

71 . I will not use euphemisms or replacement characters in quotes or discussions of Army life. as the rank distinctions between captains (Company Commanders). at Basic Training this social structure is flattened: all enlisted above E5 rank are “sergeants” (or “drill sergeant”) and all enlisted below E5 are “privates. after which only the acronym will be used. Much of the language that soldiers use every day among themselves is sexualized and graphic. I have attempted to keep to the terms used by soldiers and privates as closely as possible. lieutenant colonels (Battalion Commanders). I will also use the non-abbreviated address for all ranks. so that any soldier from the rank of E5 (sergeant) to E8 (master sergeant) will be identified simply as “sergeant. and in order to convey that to readers.” Those few times when officers are mentioned.Chapter 2: The Use of Language in Basic Training A Note on Army Terms In order to better express the environment of Basic Training. it will remain lower case. such as sergeants or captains. For acronyms. One consequence of this is that the vulgarity inherent in most military slang remains in this text. ranks will be used. when a rank or title is used to refer to a specific person. With regard to capitalization.” Although the specific distinctions between enlisted ranks are important among active duty soldiers. followed by a definition in a footnote. In addition. thus Drill Sergeant Redmond or Captain Curry. there are many distinct Army terms used by both drill sergeants and privates. If the term is instead used to refer to a class of soldiers. that word is capitalized. upon the first instance of these terms I have used italics to indicate that the term is used in Army jargon distinctly from the standard definition of the term. the first instance of an acronym will be defined.

However. the majority of recruits are male. Through this work. I will attempt to indicate the importance of tone both in the descriptive text and within direct quotes through the use of standard grammatical 72 . Instead. Although there are females in the military in all services. In fact. regardless of rank. and at the TMC. all incoming soldiers. Finally. intonation and prosody are important elements of military speech. as I will show later. my study does not include females. Many expressions are repeated from drill sergeant to private not only word for word. are called “private” by the drill sergeants and other cadre. over the course of nine weeks. it would be overly complex and distracting to attempt to write out quotes in the International Phonetic Alphabet. During Basic Training. as this is not a detailed work on linguistics. I use the broader term recruit to incorporate potential soldiers. the soldier identity is enmeshed within the masculine. Finally. if infrequent. airmen. or Troop Medical Center. and on a more practical note. as Fort Benning is a male-only training camp and only male privates attend. I use the masculine pronoun to refer to military personnel. The term private deserves some special attention. during Basic Training. where all females were civilians. and.and colonels (Brigade Commanders) remain relevant. sailors. where two of the medics at the center were female NCOs. or marines. At times when I refer to the category of potential military members. These forms of expression are essential for a number of linguistic features of military language. the only interactions with any females occurred in the dining facility. but tone for tone. I have continued the use of that term when referencing all incoming soldiers to Basic Training.

and show how they are utilized by privates to create and express their identities as soldiers. language is not composed of individuals with set behaviors expressing variation. Mikhail Bakhtin’s notions of heteroglossia and dialogism underlie most discussions in this chapter. such as periods. that a separate book could be written on military speech alone. commas. who place their own work within the context of speakers who manipulate language and use it for their own selfdetermined purposes. Coupland approaches language as a performance by the speaker to identify themselves to others and build their own identities. as privates and drill sergeants frequently self-consciously perform the role of soldier seen in films and literature. so much in fact. Coupland 73 . When necessary. but rather individuals performing acts of speech as social practice (Coupland. Language as Performance There are many different forms of military speech that could be discussed. 2001). family members. and ellipses. and Richard Schechner. Turner and Schechter’s emphases on performance also inform much of the thought for this chapter. My approach to language as a performative act is strongly informed by the works of linguists such as Nikolas Coupland and Penelope Eckert. Victor Turner. and literature and film. but rather previously informed about military life by coworkers. I will also use “↑” and “↓” to indicate rising or falling intonation. For Coupland. This research will instead focus on discrete examples of some of these forms. supported by other works on language and performance. Here I rely predominantly on the theory of Mikhail Bakhtin. as privates enter the military without a clean slate.identifiers.

hanging out in the courtyard. p. and in the smaller primary groups of friends who interact intensely with one another. He quotes frequently from Penelope Eckert’s ethnographic analysis Detroit adolescents. I will separate my discussions of stylistic performance. 2000. Eckert grounds most of her discussion in linguistic practice. but also addresses the social situations surrounding most of those practices. Eckert locates most of these expressions of identity outside of these larger social groups however. 74 . Coupland takes the position that authenticity of speech is instead constructed discursively. Linguistic Variation as Social Practice (2000). p. 171) In other words. a joint style.” while “standard” speech is seen as somehow inauthentic (Coupland. participating in the extracurricular social and athletic sphere.” and “vernacular speech [is] thought to be an anchor for solidarity and local affiliation. overlapping clusters of individuals are also the most intense arena for identity creation in Basic Training. a mutual set of values and orientations to the world.challenges the idea “vernaculars are authentic speech products. and her descriptions of how youths in Detroit construct their identities out of stereotypical as well as innovative acts. a means for creating identity in reference to social groups. through the actions of individuals performing that speech. discussing linguistic performance in this section. 183). linguistic and social activities are expressions of group solidarity. As we shall see in the next chapter’s discussion of buddy groups. and delay the discussion of other styles of performance for later in the discussion. Instead. “cruising.” (Eckert. these smaller. 2007. and doing academics [which have] meaning in virtue of [their] association with a broader practice. Like Eckert.

officers. they are also learning and experimenting with descriptive language and new forms of expression which drill sergeants. one of the primary lessons of Basic Training is not the set of soldier skills that are taught. privates entering Basic Training bring with them their own preconceptions and background. but rather instruction on how to negotiate the large bureaucracy which is the military institution. Privates entering the military act similarly to those joining other subcultures. The first major element of military language. Slang and Jargon In much the same way as Rabinow discusses the need to learn a new language for his study of microbiologists (Rabinow.Although privates in Basic Training are learning prescribed language (military jargon). using language. p. or the indoctrination of a specific mindset. The institution of the Army creates bounded rules for acceptable speech. As we shall see in this and later chapters. Learning and playing with language is one of the ways in which privates establish themselves within the military hierarchy while at the same time expressing their individuality. clothing. 17). In many ways. studying the Army also requires the learning of a new language. but this frequently fails as soldiers continue to act and speak in the ways which they themselves consider appropriate to the role of soldier. and they themselves have invented and modified in response to new experiences. and other elements of style to express their identity within the prescribed limitations of the subcultural structure. 1996. and choose to incorporate elements encountered in Basic Training to create their own identity of soldier. and the most 75 . attempting to remove sexist and demeaning language from a soldier’s lexicon.

with new job codes added or changed seemingly every month. For instance. Army companies are identified by letter.obvious. As acronyms. typically A. these words are also used in regular conversation between soldiers in place of single letters. comes from the learning of proper radio language. after a soldier has identified his MOS code. it is impossible to know every code. but will instead reply with the number-letter combination specific to their MOS. etc. each job in the Army is given a corresponding number-letter code that identifies that specific job and its responsibilities. 15 Each letter is given a specific associated word. A similar means for expressing 15 See Appendix for the complete alphabet. and as ways to avoid direct cursing. Thus. Frequently. For example. letters are used as identifiers for units. B. It is interesting that this response is so ingrained in soldiers that even though there are over one hundred and fifty careers possible in the Army 17 . the most common “expletive” used by privates who are not instinctively cursing is “whiskey tango foxtrot. when asked about a soldier’s MOS 16 .com 16 76 . or sometimes even from a drill sergeant to a private. most soldiers will not reply with a description or title. but rather in the relation of stories from one private to another. soldiers are taught a phonetic alphabet unique to the military. Military Occupational Specialty. and pronounced alpha company. standing for “what the fuck?” In this case.” the phonetic abbreviation for WTF. in acronyms. many phonetic letters are used to exert the soldier identity among the speaker and his audience. there is always a follow-up description of the actual job identified by the code. the utterance is performative as it is almost never used in a situation of actual stress or pain. In addition to MOS. 17 According to http://www. while a medic would be a 68-whiskey. bravo company. an infantryman is an 11-bravo.goarmy. and in addition to radio communication. In order to maintain clarity in radio transmissions. or C.

linguistic style while playing with language is the use of the term “Blue Falcon. the term refers to the similarly initialed “Buddy Fucker” – a soldier who will look after his own interests even when those interests result in negative results for his fellows. which stands for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle. Learning these terms. exercise is always referred to in the Army as PT (“pee-tee”). a private mishearing a word or phrase and then repeating it in a very loud game of “telephone. physical training. although many civilians will describe the military truck as a Humvee. and then expressing that knowledge through socially acceptable speech. Other common forms of military jargon are initialisms and acronyms.” 18 Similarly. Although misinterpretation is frequently seen as a form of resistance (Bhabha. For example. is an important element of displaying a private’s knowledge of the military world. in actuality the abbreviation is HMMWV.” 77 . During Basic Training.” This is not to deny the possibility that 18 After Basic Training. 1994). when soldiers are in units or deployed. simply becomes “meps” in military speak. Both “blue falcon” and “whiskey tango foxtrot” are predominantly used by privates playing with their new language. during Basic Training it is much more likely that misinterpretation is simply that. These new words are frequently mangled or misinterpreted by privates.” Although not expressed in phonetic alphabet. expressing themselves as soldiers and displaying their prowess with a new form of cultural capital. frequently as a direction from the drill sergeants on where to go or what to yell at a particular point during training. and many other acronyms become initialisms. or Military Entrance Processing Station. privates are exposed to many new words and phrases. and it is only the pronunciation which is “hum-vee. such that the MEPS. a HMMWV is most often referred to simply as a “truck.

Although marching and running cadences reflect these military language codes. and limit my discussion here to the importance and effects of slang on group and individual identity. despite its depiction of Marine Corps Boot Camp. originally a term from the Marine Corps. however. The difference between Army language and “standard” English is only subtle. mainly defined through insults and mocking of other soldiers. a movie which many privates view as the “truest” version of Basic Training. and frequently the misinterpretations lead to original and spontaneous new terms. In addition to the idioms of military life. 78 . there is also a particular diction and coding used in Basic Training which carries over into a soldier’s Army career. The dominant metaphors used in these insults are feminization and infantilism. There are many different forms of military speech. I will discuss these different elements later in the chapter. this is likely borrowed from the film Full Metal Jacket. especially among soldiers who have previously accumulated symbolic capital. during. and after Basic Training. when privates have learned what they can “get away with” around drill sergeants and what they can’t. typically combined to equate one with the other. or in some case. As we shall see later. the inculcation of these phrases comes through experiences of privates before. but this typically occurs later in the training cycle. There is no codified system of instruction. and their peers. with a patrol cap or “PC” often referred to as a “cover. popular movies. Privates learn this new language through repetition of drill sergeants.misinterpretation can be used as a form of resistance by privates. The use of terms from other branches is quite common as well. the civilian world.

but can also be used to establish position within a group or institution. what Sarah Thornton refers to as “subcultural capital. Although Coupland does not completely eschew William Labov’s scientific approach to the study of linguistic variation. p. he does suggest that sociolinguistics needs to move past description of the speech acts and include discussions of the sociocultural context in which speech is performed. hackers use their particular slang and jargon not only to assert their identity. Through studying linguistic utterances. it is possible for a researcher to determine “social identities and social relationships with sufficient flexibility and dynamism to capture some of the qualities of late-modern social life. Linguistic proficiency is not only used to express identity.” (Eckert. the “style” of their speech as it were. 41) That these descriptions of linguistic style mimic the sociocultural work of Erving Goffman is hardly surprising considering the influence he has had on social investigation. arguing that “stylistic production is. in other words. then.” (Coupland. he maintains that language is performed by speakers. p. the terrain for the negotiation of social meaning and identity. but to establish their position in a virtual pecking order (Mizrach. most significantly in his book. 2000. 1997). Style: Language Variation and Identity. deliberate acts which speakers use to identify themselves to others. Linguistic ability. 2007. For instance.” 79 . In this text. can be seen as a variant of Bourdieu’s cultural capital. and I will attempt to follow in their footsteps and apply these ideas of style and variation to the realms of language and performance in military life. Penelope Eckert shares this approach in her discussion of high school speech patterns. 30) This is primarily accomplished through the examination of how people speak.Nikolas Coupland has discussed the identity forming nature of slang in jargon in a number of works.

familiarity with military language places some privates in better positions to interpret for others. As Dick Hebdige discussed in his work on British punk. As Basic Training progresses. 1996) Much like Bourdieu’s cultural capital. Although Thornton specifically discusses the use of subcultural capital within an “accepted” subculture. the military is also a specific group of individuals operating with a different set of rules. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. symbols. At Basic Training. expressions of style are one of the main ways in which a member of a subculture expresses himself. and those privates who do not have the experience work quickly to learn the language in order to accumulate their own symbolic capital. Chapter Five will discuss the importance of the military uniform. It is not simply vocabulary which is important for the establishment of this subcultural capital. we should not ignore more subtle means that privates use to establish their identities. As such. privates who have prior experience with these linguistic forms use that experience to develop their subcultural capital. Another way in which privates build up their subcultural capital is 80 . as a form of linguistic style which serves to establish a soldier’s credentials within the military subculture. however.(Thornton. other forms of symbolic capital will become more important. I will borrow Thornton’s idea of subcultural capital and apply it in this specific case. and accepted behavior from the larger society surrounding it. including those personal decorations which soldiers are allowed to wear with it. Language is not the only form of subcultural capital available to privates. the British rave scene. but in the beginning stages of Basic Training. as well see. we will see how the use of military slang and jargon is used in the same way. Here. and thereby gain a symbolic level of prestige within the platoon. subcultural capital is specific to the subculture in which such accumulations occur.

the “prone unsupported” and “foxhole supported” positions. The processes by which these styles of intonation are created are varied. 19 Live fire refers to actually firing a loaded weapon. and range from simple repetition and imitation of other soldiers. and lock and load↓.through the use of proper linguistic intonation. Many phrases are repeated in military speech. take up a good supported firing position. but without it being loaded. too. Military intonation is almost standardized in many of its uses. . harch!” are two of the most common examples of this style of speech. The full details of these positions will be discussed in Chapter Six. Ready in the center? Ready in the center. . . to specific training in proper military dialect. Privates. during which a soldier mimics the act of firing a weapon. fower!” and “forrard. secure one↑ twenty round magazine . and often repeated in precisely the same way. During Basic Training. there is both a script and near-scripted performance that accompanies the opening of live fire events. at this time . In this case. This is contrasted with a number of “dry fire” exercises. the commonly heard military “grunt” performed during marching and commands is specifically taught at Army leadership courses: “hun. . A counterpoint to this. . Ready on the left? Ready on the left. at this time . soldiers conduct live fire at over a dozen different ranges. however. typically in two positions. . they are mentioned here only to explain the following script used by range control officers prior to firing: Privates. For instance. 81 . is the imitation which leads to the similarities in intonation used by firing range control officers during live fire 19 at every range I have been to (at three different bases over six different visits). tree. Ready on the right? Ready on the right.

Thus. Although this may be part of the instruction at the Safety Officer course. as in “Private Smith. at Basic it is also used to identify a class: those soldiers who have not yet graduated from Basic Training. As Coupland and others have pointed out. Although this word typically denotes a rank. and in this case the context is such that the utterance moves from a simple descriptor of rank or class into an insult with implications of stupidity and laziness. the meaning of an utterance is dependent not only on the grammatical structure of that utterance. . he never mentioned any specific training in the script. either lower rank making fun of overly controlling leaders.You may switch your selector switch from safe to semi . it is pronounced more as “praah-vits” in this context. What is distinctive about its use in this context is the drawl that typically accompanies the utterance. as I never heard a range control officer deviate from the marked intonations and pauses detailed above.” the drawl is rarely pronounced. when asking Sergeant Massey (my Reserve unit’s range safety officer). or leaders making fun of a careless mistake made by a lower rank soldier. . When used as a rank. your lane↓. and watch↑ . . 82 . Although there may be some slight variation to this script. This intonation is also frequently used by soldiers in the active military in a pastiche. However. it is the intonations which are of particular import. . but also on the context. when addressing a group of privates during Basic. Another important intonation accompanies the pronunciation of the word “private” by drill sergeant at Basic Training. It seems more likely that this is simply an example of mimicry. drill sergeants will extend the vowels and shorten their pronunciation.

that a person expresses their own sense of self. and asked him “what is your major malfunction. the term “soup sandwich” is frequently used to refer to a soldier who does not know his job. For example. The use of “drill sergeant speech” among soldiers outside of Basic Training shows how individuals pick and choose from the heteroglossic nature of their identity. it is precisely through the play of these different voices. style. Sergeant Walstrom from my Reserve unit was known as an easy going leader. The drill sergeants are also the primary source from which privates learn military slang. This term is actually a shortening of a 83 . prah-vit?” he was using drill sergeant speech as a point of reference to express his dislike of this stereotypical Army approach to dealing with mistakes. The use of the term individual in this context may seem a paradox. Slang and insults are particularly intertwined. mocking the typical drill sergeant approach of demeaning privates during Basic Training. Under Bakhtin’s analysis humans are heteroglossic. When Sergeant Walstrom slipped into a southern drawl to call out a soldier on his failure to properly clean a bathroom. mimicking a person from their past in order to incorporate that person’s voice into their own expression of identity. acts inappropriately. or dresses inappropriately. as the majority of slang learned from drill sergeants are insulting terms used to describe privates who have failed to properly conduct themselves in maintaining their selves or equipment.This repetition of both words and style is indicative of Bakhtin’s heteroglossia. picking and choosing from the variety of voices they have encountered over their lifetimes to create their own individual identity. For example. but as Coupland and Eckert have pointed out. and almost never used direct insults or punishment. the multitude of voices which informs the behaviors of individuals.

longer term. depending on the schedule the drill sergeant have worked 20 The platoon guide is a private from the platoon designated to act as the leader of the platoon. However. or DFAC. before entering the chow hall. “ate up like a soup and sandwich. The DFAC sits at the center of the Battalion area. is so that other privates in the platoon or company can hear what is going on and learn from another private’s mistakes. a soldier who makes a careless mistake or fails to dress appropriately on a single occasion can be referred to as a soup sandwich. Privates should sound off whenever they speak. 84 . and a company will use only one or the other. Each platoon is marched to the door of the DFAC either by drill sergeants (during the first three weeks of Basic) or the platoon guides 20 (during the last six). and to shouting various slogans and phrases at predetermined times in their training. each platoon must shout command and response slogans. for this chapter. the privacy of a private’s punishment.” which is split into two predominant insults: soup sandwich. and for the yelling of drill sergeant while punishing a private. Thus. For instance. while “ate up” was only used as a direct insult. although “soup sandwich” was occasionally used in jest. or sounding off is another common feature of military language. One stated reason for this. while a soldier who establishes a pattern of mistakes is much more likely to be referred to as ate up. These insults can be used interchangeably. and ate up. There are two entrances on either side of the DFAC. the effects of sounding off will be the only feature discussed. Sounding off can also refer to calling cadence. which will be discussed later. As we shall see in a later chapter. this presents a conflict with another directive during Basic Training. and all five training companies in the Battalion use it. Sounding Off Yelling.

The drill sergeant or platoon guide will call cadences even when moving privates less than five hundred yards in formation. the drill sergeants march each platoon from the company area to the DFAC. hi-ghly dedicated Wardogs coming to the DFAC door now!” The first two privates in line shout in succession: “One Wardog on the way!” “Two Wardog on the way!” At this point the two privates guarding the doors to the DFAC open the double doors and allow the first two privates in line to enter. 85 . I will defer the discussion of cadence calling for later in this chapter. and this holds true for the short march to the DFAC. hi-ghly motivated. referred to as total control 21 . obtaining a weapon from the arms room. or responding to a formal formation. Wardogs to the DFAC door now!” The platoon responds: “We’ve got two. and for now simply focus on some of the ritualized sounding off which occurs at Basic Training. Sometime after the first three weeks. This does not end the ritual. however. the command-response phrases for entering the DFAC were as follows: The two privates at the door shout: “I need two. Upon 21 During the first three weeks of Basic. when only one drill sergeant per platoon is assigned to the platoon. There will be a more complete description of this process in chapter Three.out with the Battalion. all three drill sergeants are with the platoon at all times. the platoon guide is responsible for marching the platoon. Each platoon is responsible for inventing their own phrases for many events. although there are also some phrases prescribed by the drill sergeants and taught to the platoons. The drill sergeants oversee everything the privates do at this stage. In the case of second platoon. whether they are for entering the DFAC. except at night. privates are moved off “total control” and there is only one drill sergeant in the company after hours and platoon guides and squad leaders are responsible for overseeing the activities of the platoons. Most of these phrases are incorporated into miniature rituals performed at various points over the course of Basic Training. hi-ghly dedicated. hi-ghly motivated. For the first three weeks of Basic Training. after this period.

the privates call out “one zero. privates respond with the number of repetitions that have been performed. typically what is called a “four count”: “one. so after the ninth repetition.” This is. is most clear. I will use it throughout my examples. upon which the privates respond by repeating the name of the exercise. “the pushup!” 22 by the drill sergeants.entering the DFAC. Whenever privates perform physical training. If the exercise is part of scheduled training. It is during these times that the combination of the two meanings of sounding off. not the only ritualized form of speech during Basic. almost every group event is accompanied by some form of ritualized speech. each exercise is preceded by a declaration of the exercise. both speaking loud and performing the ritualized speech itself.” “one one. Note that because of this counting. Since there is no particular standard for 22 There are a huge variety of exercises performed during both disciplinary and scheduled exercise. At the fourth count. the exercise begins in a slightly different manner. Since the pushup is the most common exercise.” For the pushup. Depending on the reason for the exercise (punishment or scheduled training). two. the command-response phrases proceed along similar lines. of course. when counting. beginning with one and incrementing one for each successful repetition. whether it is during the scheduled morning PT or while being punished by drill sergeants. and then assuming the start position for the exercise. however. or physical training. each repetition is in fact two pushups. is replete with ritualized statements. each private is required to approach the desk at which a civilian employee sits and “sound off” with their name and the last four digits of their social security number. 86 . three. at each count the private goes either up or down. After this. Like using words rather than letters.” but instead will name each digit in the number. As I mentioned. the drill sergeant will begin to count the exercise. referred to in the military by the shorthand “name and last 4.” etc. soldiers will not say “ten. PT.

“front leaning rest position .” or the drill sergeant may begin the four count. as the counts do not usually go above twenty or twenty five. Each of these commands carries with it a hidden meaning. as on a number of occasions. this signifies that the punishment is likely going to be harsh. .” Army slang for the starting pushup position. If a punishment is in a group which is in formation. Depending on the inclination of the drill sergeant. be ordered “down. privates drop to the ground and assume the “front leaning rest position. privates may simply be held in this position for an extended period of time. drill sergeants punished privates in excess of fifteen minutes counting a four count.the number of repetitions that will be performed. three↑!” There are a number of variations on this pattern when exercise is a disciplinary measure. the drill sergeant will typically insult and harangue the privates for the offense which caused the punishment. or otherwise in a more formal position. and the pushups will be accompanied by insults from the drill 87 . Even if a private can not keep up with the drill sergeant’s count in these situations. If a drill sergeant begins a four count. although frequently insulting the private for his lack of ability. two↓. speaking in a different tone: “one↑. . the drill sergeants signify the final repetition by changing their intonation on the final four count. punishment is typically preceded by the dreaded. at attention. if the command “down” is given. If no order follows. with the back straight and arms extended. Finally. as they each signify the likely extent of the punishment that is going to occur. move!” After this command. This does not always hold true however. it is typically an indicator that the punishment will be light. the drill sergeant will continue to count at the same speed for the duration of the punishment.

I have a family at home.sergeants for the duration. and the drill sergeant maintains his power over the privates as he has unrestricted access to their bodies and activities. I said keep the bay clean. the enforcement of the drill sergeants. Keep your back straight! I am not going to get my daughter sick because you privates don’t know how to clean. you close enough? Up. wherein the privates are not allowed to look at the drill sergeant as he punishes them. You all see the dirt now. or to keep his body off the floor. A typical situation would proceed as follows (all statements are from the drill sergeant): Down. Here we have a virtual version of Bentham’s panopticon. that’s fine. privates? Why can you not follow a simple order? Up. Maybe you don’t believe me. including those moments when he gives specific orders to a private to keep his back straight. Thus many privates will rest 88 . he is in actuality addressing every statement to the entire group. Get off the floor! Don’t think I can’t see you resting on the floor there. . the drill sergeant uses both language and the gaze to exert his control over the privates. There’s sixty of you swinging dicks in this one room. mine are just fine. Up. What is your malfunction. Down. Down. Shut up! I don’t think this bay is clean. I have a little girl who is the light of my life. and I’m not gonna let you get me sick. or at a different private in the group. Up . Maybe you need to get closer to the floor to see the dirt. is constantly challenged by privates. that’s a lot of fucking dirt you track in. as no private knows for certain whether a statement is addressed directly at him. Your arms getting tired. . I told you to sweep and mop every night. Back straight! Why don’t you take another look. who quickly learn to use their peripheral vision to monitor the drill sergeant while they are being punished. Down. You see it? That’s filth. do you think the bay is clean. too. You see the dirt now? You see the filth? I have to live in this shit. In this way. and I won’t have it. Of course. as we shall see repeatedly throughout this work. Although the drill sergeant in this example seems to be speaking to specific privates at various points.

” despite its popularity in fiction. the volume of this phrase seems to determine whether the punishment will continue. Occasionally a drill sergeant will be specific with the number of pushups required. was never used during my rotation at Basic Training. privates are allowed to stand back up. If a private is not in formation. or arch or bow their back while in the up position to relieve the pain and stress of the position.” After this command. 89 .” or a similar phrase. we love it. there are a number of other commands used by drill sergeants to order a private to prepare for disciplinary exercise.their body on the ground for a few moments to rest. sneaking glances at the drill sergeant to be certain he is not looking when they are doing so.” Both of these commands typically mean that a private must do twenty five pushups. more PT We like it. After the exercise is complete.” or “on your feet. privates must remain on the ground in their exercise position. If the privates shout loudly enough. and then repeat the following phrase: More PT drill sergeant. we want some more of it Make it hurt drill sergeant.” followed by the more poetic “beat your face. until the drill sergeant gives the command of “recover. make it hurt SMOKE ME!!! If the exercise was disciplinary. The most common command is simply “drop. The phrase “drop and give me twenty. the drill sergeants will usually allow them to return to their previous activity. although occasionally a drill sergeant will tell the private after he has completed his pushups. “I didn’t tell you to stop. most commonly “two-five” or twenty five pushups. make it hurt (double beat) Make it hurt drill sergeant. although this is not guaranteed.

you get pumped. And you know that we were plainly having a good time out there. even dropping his “pissed off routine” while the smoking session continued. the volume of 3rd platoon’s shouting served to move the grass drills from a punishment into a game. It’s some good shit hearing that. This event was used the next day by Drill Sergeant West as an example for how privates show loyalty to the drill sergeants by sounding off loudly for them. Sounding off properly can even avert a punishment. “when you sound off. stating that we had showed “loyalty to our platoon. with the drill sergeant playing along. He was enjoying the fact that we were yelling back ten times louder than he could yell to us. in the Army 90 . but do you remember him smiling at the end of that? He was getting into it. for several weeks he’s really pissed off at us routine. and we get pumped. DS Wright used 3rd platoon’s chanting as an example during his class on Loyalty. and we were getting so. typically a severe one. Private Silber remembers: “Drill Sergeant Saburi took us out right after dinner and did grass drills with us.” even though we had challenged the drill sergeants. too.This happened on a number of occasions. you know. we stopped feeling sorry for ourselves and started getting into it. and getting loud when he was calling stuff. as for example when 3rd platoon lost the pugil stick competition and began to chant “bullshit” at the drill sergeants who were refereeing the competition.” On another occasion. In his words.” In this situation. and he was doing. and relented after fifteen minutes as the company’s responses to his count simply increased in volume as the punishment progressed. Later that day. 23 Smoking refers to any punishment of calisthenics. including once when Drill Sergeant Prince smoked 23 the entire company for some unknown mistake.

the insults are rarely performed. 91 . Drill Sergeant Saburi even admitted a mistake. ostensibly to show their superiority to the privates being punished. On one occasion. as he showed himself to be willing to accept his own mistakes. whereas during a punishment when the drill sergeant performs the punishments along with the privates. there are distinct notes of anger in the drill sergeants’ voice. there is also one command which precedes the front leaning rest position: “half right. There are also times when the drill sergeants will “join in” with a punishment. the half right face was never performed without the drill sergeants ordering the platoon into the front leaning rest position. Most of the times when a drill sergeant does not join in.If a group of privates is punished while in formation. With the exception of actual drill and ceremony. and punishment for the same. I made a mistake 3rd platoon. allows privates a moment to anticipate the upcoming punishment. which in itself carries a subtextual meaning. Joining in also helps to build group cohesion. as the drill sergeants “shares” in the punishment with the privates. The half right face command is frequently followed by a long pause from the drill sergeants. increasing the distance between each private so that privates can perform pushups without falling over one another. However. face!” The half right face command requires the privates to turn forty five degrees to their right. and then proceeded to do twenty five pushups in front of the platoon for his mistake: “No.” This act increased the respect the privates held for Drill Sergeant Saburi. the joining in can also be seen as an expression of the drill sergeants’ failure to properly instruct privates. I drop myself for you. in the same way as he expected the privates to accept their punishments. The “pregnant pause” as it were. as well as a moment to prepare a “landing spot” for the upcoming command to drop to the ground.

this approach is both more relevant and more appealing.Performativity As I will show in the next chapter. slang is used less frequently than when there are less intimate friends in the group. Eble suggests that slang in this situation is necessary to “promote their identities as students and their solidarity with each other. as there is nothing inherent within an individual which can confirm a single identity. as an individual chooses to act in accordance or not with a certain idea of what those acts entail (Snyder. Connie Eble’s discussion of college student slang shows how students use slang performatively.” 92 . as a way for college students to identify to outsiders how they view their own identity. must be constantly reenacted. In that sense identity is at its heart performative rather than static. 1999. 4). who adapts the concept developed by Judith Butler. injecting it with individual agency. Thus. Given that the identity of soldier and the role of soldier are tightly intertwined. demonstrations of solidarity are unnecessary. and particularly masculine identity. however. In discussing performativity I follow the interpretation of R. it is hardly surprising then that using military language is a performative act that reinforces the identity of soldiers. serving as an identifier for others who share the knowledge of the military vocabulary. and I will discuss other forms later in this work. Snyder stresses the agentive nature of a performative identity. Claire Snyder. As language is such a recognizable element of any performance. identity. among close friends or lovers. p. Language is but one of many tools used to perform identity. Individuals must constantly perform their roles for their audience to reinforce their identity to that audience. among close friends.

although as we shall see in Chapter Seven.(Frazer.” privates will always respond with “hooah. assuming that a habitual or immediate response is a Pavlovian one is a mistake.” However. Many consider the immediate response to orders a primary facet of what it means to be a soldier. It is true. 861) Privates in Basic Training perform in a similar fashion. typically in a louder voice than when not using military slang. However. tracking!” or when a drill sergeant uses the “Army grunt” of “hooah. this assumption is currently being challenged from both within and without the military. Almost unfailingly. 1997. and pauses around the terms to highlight the use of it. As we saw above. at Basic Training privates are trained to respond with certain pre-scripted utterances when prompted by the drill sergeants. In addition to cadence calls and the commandresponse utterances. Linguistically. that much of the training a soldier undergoes is designed to create a quick and instinctive response to specific stimuli. privates do provide these appropriate responses. however. 24 Do you understand? 93 . Thus. Drill Sergeant” is welcome. the use of terms such as “blue falcon” and “whiskey tango foxtrot. and the knowledge of the performer of the phrase. Habitual responses are also a strong element of the soldier identity. is complemented by an increase in volume. and during Basic. For instance. and for many privates the opportunity to say something besides “yes. these responses provide variety in a strongly uniform environment. when a drill sergeant asks a private “tracking?” 24 privates respond with “tracking drill sergeant. privates at Basic Training receive a number of predetermined statements that they must say at various points over the course of training. evoking military slang the most when they are outside their primary groups. p. there are also a set of predetermined responses to other statements by drill sergeant and instructors.” mentioned above.

this innovation pays extra dividends. It would be foolish to assume that any one of these influences can fully account for the identity of an individual. As an example of this. they incorporate the new language into their own self identity. one soldier in my unit. For instance. by publicly displaying his proficiency with military language and culture. During Basic Training. such as the expletive “whiskey tango foxtrot. in this case soldiers and privates. and the indoctrination of Basic Training itself. enculturation.” In this way.All of these discussions so far have pointed to one of the most important elements of military identity – that it is at its very nature performative.” A profile is an instruction received from a military doctor which limits the tasks which a soldier can perform. as a soldier can show off his skill with military language. and how they want to see themselves. soldiers take the military jargon they have learned and create new slang. Soldiers in today’s Army perform in similar ways. literature. acting out the roles they have incorporated into themselves through film. and subcultural capital. Sergeant Redmond invented a new marching cadence mocking soldiers who are “on profile. While cadence calling. Instead. pick and choose from their prior experiences and create their own identities based on how they see themselves. as well as boost his subcultural capital in the realm of performance. and soldiers deliberately play at innovative language. individuals. well received cadences can acquire increased reputation. soldiers in the Vietnam War expressed themselves as performing their roles in the ways they saw in film and literature. the most common profiles were “soft shoe” profiles. A soldier who creates new. As we will see below. The ability to perform these innovations reflects new status within the military subculture. meaning that 94 .

As we shall discuss in Chapter 4. 95 . and frequently seen as “less of a soldier” than others. especially when that punishment was perceived as unfair. Cadences Much like sounding off during punishment. both of these factors held true. First. and profiles which restricted a specific exercise. as 3rd platoon would sound off louder for our own drill sergeants. he showed an understanding of the poetry needed to construct the proper rhythm for a marching cadence.a private could not wear boots for a set period of time due to injuries to the feet. soldiers who can not keep up with the other members of the unit physically or mentally are looked down upon. On one occasion. During Bravo Company’s rotation. we were almost punished for not sounding off until our platoon guide explained the situation to the drill sergeant. It is also perceived by them to reflect the respect the privates have for the drill sergeants. When a drill sergeant from another platoon marched the company and did not hear 3rd platoon. cadence calling is frequently used as a metric by drill sergeants for assessing the morale and drive of the privates in their platoon. Sergeant Robertson increased his subcultural capital in the unit. 3rd platoon was even forbidden to call cadence as punishment for some slight done to a drill sergeant. By inventing this new cadence. and then combined that with the proper understanding of the feelings most soldiers have for soldiers on profile. and would not sound off as loudly when we had just been punished. such as pushups or running. as other soldiers looked to him for advice on issues unrelated to his ability to write cadence. By playing with military language and incorporating new elements into a standard cadence. Sergeant Robertson displayed his skill with military performance in a number of ways.

usually in an ironic way.Cadences replace the role of music among many privates in the Army. During the final two evenings at Fort Benning it was much more common to see privates with earbuds or earphones than not as they indulged in the pleasure of hearing “real” music for the first time in two months. For most new privates. music has been an integral part of their lives. and as Carol Burke points out. There are likely some performative aspects to this as well. However. privates begin to replace pop songs with the cadences they have been learning over Basic Training. During the last few days of Basic. among the first things broken out by everyone in 3rd platoon were CD players and mp3 players. the only form of “music” allowed to privates during their ten weeks of Basic Training. One of the ways in which sexuality is displayed is through the use of offensive or misogynistic cadences. Cadences serve a number of purposes. 1989). 96 . when privates were allowed access to their personal items. are frequently censored or edited when released to the civilian world in books or CDs to remove the most offensive elements. as privates use the cadence calling to reinforce to themselves their new identities as soldiers. the sexualization of language is an important element in the development of privates during Basic Training. In addition. and to assist in separating the new private from his civilian life. cadences are frequently used to express dissatisfaction with military life. Many privates who had not brought these items with them purchased them at the PX on one of the trips granted to the platoons by their drill sergeants. and the removal of popular music from their world is seen by many as almost physically painful. The real music here is contrasted with the military cadence. The military cadence has been used in the US military since at least World War II (Burke. Over the course of nine weeks.

Private Jackson. The ubiquity of this figure in early cadences was such that a common synonym for a cadence itself is a jody. possibly especially. but it is important to note that the Jody theme plays out in Army life. or otherwise young enough to still be considered adolescents by most standards. Private Darren took great delight in using the term Jody in conversation without explanation. and demonstrate their superiority over other privates. simply knowing the term “Jody” provides symbolic capital to the privates who are then able to share that knowledge. and the drill sergeants had to explain to a number of privates what Jody actually referred to in one of the cadences that was sung. most privates at Basic Training are just out of high school. and one member of the platoon. many of whom will receive letters from the girlfriends breaking up with them. Second. Private Jackson’s actions. and are not necessary for this work. and are likely to suffer emotionally when their girlfriends break up with them during their absence. at least six members of my platoon received “Dear John” letters at Basic Training. and their results. and has been commented on not only in reference to Army culture but also to black popular culture (Hanchard. the archetype for the civilian who will steal the soldier’s girlfriend while the soldier is away at war. will be discussed more fully in Chapter Four. The origins of “Jody” as a symbolic figure have not been recorded. 1998) and American folk music (Jackson 1967). 97 . was so worried about his wife leaving him that he broke the rules almost every night to sneak downstairs and use the telephones to call her. During my time at Fort Benning. even. at Basic Training. The Jody figure has been around for years. “Jody” remains a strong symbol of the worry of privates. First. in two major ways.Many cadences center around “Jody”.

and presumably understood and accepted by both partners. I did not hear a single cadence call mentioning the word. During Basic Training. female to male. the blame is entirely on the weakness of the woman in succumbing to the seductive nature of the ubiquitous Jody. is reaffirming that both females and civilian males are incorporated into the category of feminine. “Jody is never ‘all man’. Hanchard has to work to find instances of Jody in modern music. not men. 1998.Hanchard suggests that the phantom nature of Jody removes the blame for a breakdown in romantic relationships from any structural or institutional system. and the mention of Jody in cadence calling is vastly diminished from World War II. and instead the fault is in the inherent passions of human beings. p. and his separation. 487).” (Hanchard. During my entire nine weeks at Fort Benning. this analysis highlights the distinction between the masculine military world and the feminine civilian one. contrasted with the masculine identity of the American soldier. in Army culture. but through the symbolism of the phantom Jody. distinct from the masculine soldier. the term 98 . Jody is not a specific figure. Should a girlfriend succumb to Jody in these instances. Rather. The comparison is particularly telling when one considers that Hanchard’s description of Jody is a man who is somehow feminine. who leaves him for Jody. According to Hanchard. the private is set apart from these inherent passions. his identity is generated and implemented by women. The private’s girlfriend. from his female partner are willing. emotionally and physically. From a military perspective. interpreting lyrics and meanings to find the hidden and unnamed Jody described in the music. Similarly. is not simply being unfaithful.

During these moments. the cadence caller will revert to a standard marching call. p. 1989. Left. Carol Burke’s discussion of cadence calling mentions some of the practical uses of cadence calling as well. or stop calling a cadence as the platoon approaches their destination. volume and intensity were significantly higher than before the punishment had been delivered. As platoons march. When privates are not calling cadence. after the first day. which improves the running time on the PT tests conducted over the course of Basic. privates can more quickly learn to place the proper foot down at the proper time in a formation march. This can be seen in one of the “punishments” handed down from Drill Sergeant Saburi. such as to “ease strain by diverting attention from monotonous and often strenuous labor or training” (Burke. who prevented 3rd platoon from singing cadence for three days.was used by drill sergeants and other privates to refer to the unnamed man who would steal away the private’s girlfriend. During Bravo Company’s training. cadences worked not only to keep everyone in step. Leftright. and occasionally get into arguments. members of 3rd platoon began to feel the stigma. marking the foot which is supposed to hit the ground: “Left.” In addition. Since almost every cadence follows a standard 4:4 beat. Another practical use of cadence calling which Burke underemphasizes is the use of cadence to keep soldiers in step as they march. drill sergeants and platoon guides will have to switch from one cadence to another. Although at first this did not even seem to be a punishment. 424). but to keep everyone silent. they almost invariably chat with one another. and when Drill Sergeant Saburi finally allowed the platoon to call cadence again. running cadences serve to physically train privates how to control their breathing during running. When calling 99 .

it was after dark and the anonymity the dark provided allowed privates to speak to one another without fear of being noticed or punished. rather than calling cadence. and as people bumped into one another in the dark.cadence. returning from a monthly concert. especially those of younger age. most of the members of 3rd platoon instead spoke with one another. This theme will repeat itself numerous times over the course of my discussion. privates get caught up in the sounding off and do not have the opportunity to engage in outside conversations. and sounding off in a cadence allows them to make this noise while still maintaining the discipline required by the military. have the need to make noise of some sort. In addition. However. from language to control over the body and even expressions of individuality. 100 . it was very difficult to hear the one being called by Drill Sergeant Saburi. anger began to rise. in this case the urge to make noise. On one level. it is almost as if privates in Basic Training. his cadences identifiable. as the other companies began to disperse and head back to their respective barracks. In one instance. 3rd platoon was being marched by Drill Sergeant Saburi back to the company barracks with the other platoons in the company as well as three or four other companies returning from the concert. which seeks to harness the chaotic drives in individuals. As a result. however. This is a prime example of Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the military. As there was a large amount of overlap in cadences. to a point where threats began to be exchanged. and turn them to the purpose of the organized State. Drill Sergeant Saburi’s voice became more clear. The ability of cadence to control the group of privates can be seen in other ways as well. and the developing arguments were quickly forgotten as the platoon began to call cadences with the drill sergeant.

Although a number of the cadences Burke describes in her article are recognizable 101 . Most previous studies of military language. McDavid. and rather than simply listing slang terms and definitions. and to express dissatisfaction with Army life. Even for an institution like the Army which relies heavily on tradition and heritage. which we will see later are essential elements of the soldier identity. albeit frequently with a touch of irony. These articles are predominantly a discussion of the various slang terms used in different branches. however. past and present. 1945. Although I disagree with some of the finer points of their arguments. Berger. and only thirteen years later. as does elitism and aggression. and cadences frequently shift over time. and create the military identity out of these elements. conjure up a mythical past. rarely touch on the ways in which that vulgarity serves to create identity (Carey. The vulgar elements of cadences. in 2002. and the meanings of those terms. 1965. they approach the use of military language and how it is used to enhance gender disparities. and military language in general. many of the extended cadences seem to have been forgotten by the generation of drill sergeants who grew up with the Vietnam experience second hand. Sexism pervades many cadences as well. Howard.Symbolically cadences serve to unite privates with other soldiers. are more complex than a simple misogynistic or racist attempt to dehumanize the Other for incoming privates. it is undeniably true that the vulgar language and objectification of women is a large part of military cadence. while stressing the importance of vulgarity to military identity. language is a constantly changing field. 1939). 1956. Carol Burke’s discussion of Vietnam centered cadences was published in 1989. Carol Burke’s Marching to Vietnam and Susanna Trnka’s Living a Life of Sex and Danger are more contemporary studies of military language.

where we come from So we tell them. a cadence I will call “They say that in the Army” follows a recognizable 102 .n . By far the most common cadences are those which mock Army life. people wanna know . to mock Army life.by certain key lines. or the starkness of it. to celebrate Army life.tough Bravo Straight shooting Bravo Better than Alpha. mighty mighty Bravo This cadence is typically only called while marching near the other companies. For example. Typical cadences in this style comment on the false promises of Army life. expressly to challenge the other companies for recognition as the “best” company in the battalion. they are severely shortened in Basic Training. There are admittedly many other categories of effect which cadences could be placed into. icky icky Echo We are Bravo. A number of cadences are used to establish the primacy of the cadence calling unit over other units in their vicinity. For example. Following Burke’s analysis. I will relate one cadence which typifies the style. chicken chicken Charlie Better than Delta. dumb-dumb Delta Better than Echo. while others seem to have expanded since her research was completed. I will break down the cadences heard at Fort Benning based on their symbolic purpose: to create group identity. big dumb Alpha Better than Charlie. a standard cadence from Bravo is as follows: Everywhere we go – oh. but these four categories seem to reflect the most common styles of cadence. and to assert the primacy of the masculine. For each category.oh Who we are. we are Bravo Mighty Mighty Bravo Rough .

bunks. as each phrase begins with that phrase. They say that in the Army. Oh lord I want to go home.pattern.” Cadences discussing the positive elements of Army life are rarer than those which mock it. They give you a hundred dollars. and then is followed by a series of pointcounterpoint responses: They say that in the Army. many of these cadences also contrast civilian life with Army life. etc. and a celebratory feel at the points when the privates call out the relevant phrases. However. In addition to contrasting promises. these cadences are almost always sung with full awareness of the irony. the pay is mighty fine. and can be used to discuss food. but they won’t let me go. The days being counted are not days until the soldier is finished with the Army. coffee. One cadence which looks at first glance to be derogatory. barracks. and take back ninety-nine. even this cadence typically has a chorus of: “Oh lord I want to go. Here we go again Same old shit again Marching down the avenue [X] more days and we'll be through I won't have to look at you So. the women are mighty fine. and are frequently posed in the same point-counterpoint manner which might make it appear to denigrate the Army. You ask for size eleven. They say that in the Army. but rather is a countdown of whichever school or base to which 103 . I'll be glad and so will you must be understood in context. as language is predominantly based on context. they give you a size nine. and in fact. This cadence continues in this pattern. They look like Phyllis Diller. the boots are mighty fine. and march like Frankenstein.

was that violating the Army sexual harassment policy is acceptable 104 . The clandestine approach of the drill sergeant to this cadence reveals the amount of concern which the Army has for even hints of sexual harassment. In this instance. These cadences are not heard as frequently today as they were in the past. while “safely” within the barracks: I wish all the girls were bricks in a pile. mentioned by Burke and never sung officially at Fort Benning. and the promise of a more relaxed life as a soldier upon graduation. Finally. institutional rules and individual behaviors rarely coincide. While marching soldiers during AIT. I wish all the girls were pies on a shelf. many cadence calls are expressly misogynistic or objectifying. And I was a baker I’d eat ‘em all myself. and frequently repeated “off the record” by drill sergeants and other cadre.the soldier is assigned.” the drill sergeants. can be seen to break the rules of Basic Training on occasion. Of course. And I was a mason. even the exemplars of “military bearing. especially through the use of sexualized language and misogynistic comments. Thus.” before breaking into the cadence typically known as “Napalm Sticks to Kids. this cadence in actual fact reveals an ironic affection for the difficulties of Army life. I’d lay em all in style. but what the hell. I’m gonna get in trouble for this one. and during Basic Training this held true in many ways. and expressed later in the co-ed environment of AIT. and by doing so.” Drill Sergeant Redmond sang one cadence. the message received by many privates. one drill sergeant even stated “all right. but they are still known. Given the constant immanence of graduation from Basic Training. they instruct privates in appropriate and inappropriate methods of rule-breaking within the institution.

This can be contrasted with the drill sergeant mentioned above. it also must be established that the identity of a soldier is one that has been. but remains a private performance among only men in the military. Claire Snyder’s Citizen Soldiers and Manly Warriors (1995). The extreme sexism of military language has been discussed by many. it would be deficient not to discuss it. but I do feel that as this language and symbolism is essential to Army life and to Army identity. The female drill sergeant expressed to the soldiers at AIT that rule-breaking in this context. as ethnography is a practice in which the voice of the native should be privileged as much as possible. who was female.so long as it is not performed publicly. whose calling of the Napalm Sticks to Kids cadence also violated Army norms. Sexualized Language Sexualized language is so much a part of Army life that to ignore it or gloss it over would be to strip the interpretive power of any discussion of Army language. was acceptable in a way which the misogynistic cadence of Drill Sergeant Redmond was not. equating everything from knives to rifles with male genitalia. and sexism and the objectification of women are reflected in military slang. and the firing of a rifle round as the equivalent of male ejaculate (Trnka. and still is. Although this is one interpretation. I will not edit the quotes or slang words discussed. In addition. 1995). public display of extreme violence. and it is easy to view everything in military slang through a distinct Freudian lens. Snyder examines the history of the concept 105 . This is the central point of R. I will not attempt to justify any of the speech discussed below. almost exclusively masculine.

The performative argument proceeds that civic virtue. This attitude. as it is constructed through the actions of individuals. Citizenship is constructed from the actions of the individual citizen. Snyder’s gender argument is that manly virtue. Although there are some female soldiers who hold on to their femininity. is something which is created through acts of civic duty. being a citizen. or going to see the fireworks. a female soldier in my Reserve unit. They’re [females who get 106 . serving in the Army. A citizen soldier expresses his citizenship by serving in the military. I will discuss these elements further in a later section of this chapter. not endowed in that individual through place of birth or even the citizenship of parents. These could be voting. and must be. but you can’t expect to be in the Army and not hear that kind of stuff. Most of the female soldiers I have spoken with accept the requirement that in order to perform properly as a soldier. feeds upon itself. performative and gender. soldiering follows the same process. expressed the following disdain for what she perceived as “feminine” identity after being in the room during a particularly ribald series of jokes: “I guess there are some females who would get offended. that soldiers are. is one of the predominant ways that societies have used to construct citizenship. specifically soldiering. or at the very least attempt to remove it from their “on stage” performance.of “citizen. one must behave in masculine ways. through two separate arguments. As we shall see. and the assumption of a male gendered identity for soldiers is then expressed a priori. of course. Private Rohrbaugh. Serving in the military is also a manly thing to do. male. most relinquish it while in uniform.” in essence a member of a nation who is allowed full rights and responsibilities. and not bestowed upon them through the simple process of completing Basic Training.

” Indeed. and seems to include period relevant insults. On one occasion. sexist phrases and misogyny predominate. Private Rohrbaugh attended a party with other members of her Reserve unit. While speaking with the other drill sergeant Drill Sergeant Redmond told him: “No.” This tradition holds over from previous years. showing how important her lack of femininity was to her identity as a soldier. such as Shirlies and dollies from the Vietnam era (Ebert. On one occasion after inspecting a particularly well cleaned weapon. I was assigned to a detail while a drill sergeant spoke on the phone to a fellow drill sergeant at a different Basic Training location. girl. In terms of military language. and you don’t have to worry about that PC [political correctness] shit. 1993). words like pussy.” or “stone cold. and apologized for wearing a dress to the event. Bravo Company’s Executive Officer proclaimed. especially when contrasted with compliments in which a good soldier is said to be a “real man. “seeing a weapon like this gives me a hard on!” Foul language is a signature characteristic of military personnel (to swear like a sailor or soldier is a common phrase in the modern lexicon). Thus.” Drill Sergeant Redmond was specifically referring to the need to keep sexualized language out of his statements in order to avoid the implication of sexual harassment. man. and drill sergeants exemplify this more than most soldiers. the deprecation of the feminine occurs most often by conflating a soldier’s masculinity with his ability to perform as a soldier. and vagina were the most frequent insults heard in Basic Training. 107 . Just a bunch of swinging dicks. Especially in the environment of Basic Training at Fort Benning. here at Benning it’s all guys. in which there are almost no female soldiers present. on one occasion.offended] just stupid.

were it not for the fact that originally there were no women present to turn it into a sexual event. elements that would be sexualized. that “horseplay”. By forcing male cadets to consider the implications of these actions if performed on a female cadet. becomes seen in a sexual light. The process by which this occurs is one which elides the masculine/feminine dynamic while reinforcing it. the liminal state of privates with regard to other soldiers and civilians is aggressively enforced by military regulation and the oversight of drill sergeant. The dynamic which Snyder exposes in her discussion of hazing at the Citadel carries through to experiences at Basic Training. As one of the few remaining traditional rites of passage in modern America. By setting the feminine apart from the role of soldier.The fear of sexual harassment charges permeates the hyper-masculine environment of Basic Training at Fort Benning. which would be overtly sexual. The interaction of sexualized language. are stripped of that power and are simply viewed as expressions of likes or dislikes. and the recreation of the gender duality. and associating the feminine with civilian life. underlying the surface message is the 108 . Among the all-male environment at Fort Benning. It is only with the introduction of women. gendered insults. including group showering. the identity of soldier becomes imbued with hyper-masculine status. the sexuality of the actions comes to light. even overtly sexualized horseplay which is reported to include such events as anal sex with a banana and naked oil wrestling. wrestling. and even giving foot rubs. Snyder discusses the hazing which occurs every year at the Citadel military academy. and misogynistic comments serves to buffer the threat of femininity from the privates going through Basic Training. However.

frequently combined with other terms to expand the range of possibilities open to the speaker. sexualized words. further separating them from what they once were in preparation for assigning them new roles as masculine soldiers.” metaphorically.” This dynamic between the feminine civilian and the masculine soldier serves to enforce the identity of the privates going through Basic Training. “get your hand off your dick and pay attention. officer. The ubiquity of the term. and other personnel at Basic Training who are not privates. insults. I have heard it used literally. although not unique to Basic Training. 109 . 25 Instructors. Although these roles are based around more than sexism. The civilian world is frequently portrayed as feminine. pussy. This is more likely an attempt by drill sergeants to use the term without censure. The inherent sexuality of language pervades Basic Training.implication that the feminine has no place in the world of the soldier. drill sergeants. or range cadre. or dick ubiquitously. sexist language and performance does form a significant part of the soldier role.” At one point.” and metonymically. Range cadre refers to instructors and other soldiers who are not drill sergeants but are in charge of privates while they are on the cadre’s respective training ranges. “be careful who you stick your dick in when you’re back on the block. In fact the term dick is likely the most common vulgar slang used in the Army. as the most apparent biological identifier of maleness becomes used as a symbol of the soldier himself. and slang are part and parcel of the Basic Training experience. such that many cadre 25 use terms like hard on. Whether drill sergeant. as the feminine equates to the civilian. “I want every swinging dick downstairs by zero-fivehundred. who “will fuck you over. highlights the equality of the soldier with the masculine. During my time at Basic Training. the abode of girlfriends and wives. Private Anders even attempted to explain that dick was an acronym for Dedicated Infantry Combat Killer.

1995). mainly addressing issues of masculinity and manhood. the sexualized double entendre of “perform his duties” is apparent. and would have required extensive locution to avoid. the plaintiff in a sexual harassment case was a straight male filing suit against another straight male.” will likely be more aggressive towards less masculine males than will men who do not believe in these ideals. males who do not properly perform their gender roles as expected have experienced ostracism. (2) violence as manly. The use of language to feminize nonconforming males is not limited to the military. It is interesting that even in my description. and calling to question the masculinity and manhood of those privates who are not successful at a task. In one case.Finally. factories. Donald Mosher and Mark Sirkin detailed a significant correlation between masculinity and dominance and aggression in a 1984 study (Mosher & Sirkin.” A brokedick in Army slang is a soldier who is either sick or injured. including teasing. It is also 110 . The use of hypermasculine behavior and language has been used in car dealerships. who had been harassed simply due to his non-masculine-conforming appearance. “brokedick. and is thus unable to physically perform his duties as a soldier. the feminization of those privates who fail to conform is hardly surprising. This sexualized language serves a number of purposes. and (3) danger as exciting. 2003). with young males being discouraged from displaying any “feminine” traits such as emotion or intimacy (Pollack. 1984). The inculcation of proper gender roles begins at a young age. 1999). bullying. They conclude that men who are disposed to believe in: “(1) entitlement to callous sex. the term is used in one of the common insults during Basic Training. and even landscaping companies (Talbot. and possibly even physical violence (Rofes. As such. athletic competitions. During childhood and adolescence.

when a female will wear BDUs that are too small and tight. The dynamic at Basic Training in fact works in both directions. warning the company that “women will fuck you over. p. “Especially in the earlier stages of boot camp. the sexual undertones of most discourse reveal the same trends. so that not only are soldiers who are effeminate ridiculed. the term “girls” was much more common than more graphic terms. although there is very little directly stated misogyny or homophobia. Richard Moser quotes from a Marine discussing his experiences at Boot Camp. but many homosexual males also report strong dislike for effeminate acting males (Bergling.” (Moser. the standard camouflage uniform worn by soldiers. He also described what he called a “BDU 26 skirt”. regardless of sexual orientation. and were even once warned away from female soldiers.interesting to note that the dislike of non-masculine males is not restricted to heterosexual men. 2001). 1996. when people are real confused and disorganized. Drill Sergeant Priest called a special 26 Battle Dress Uniform. although on a number of occasions privates who disliked each other would refer to their counterparts as “pussy. “Girls – you cunts – pussies. but privates who are not perceived as “good soldiers” are feminized and insulted. During Basic Training. 111 . so that the hem of the top rides above the middle of the buttocks. displaying more of this area than is technically allowed under regulations.” Privates are also warned about the corrupting influence of women in general. The negative reaction to the violation of gender roles is thus not limited to “hetero” society. Drill Sergeant West gave one extemporaneous speech during a lull in training.” and a good soldier has no need of them.” or imply menstruation and femininity through such insults as “his pussy hurts. 27) During my time at Basic Training. they always said. It is also likely that the extreme social pressure to perform in the hyper-masculine role of the soldier precludes privates from expressing themselves in an effeminate manner.

formation one evening during the third week of Basic Training and lectured all the privates on ignoring the “Dear John” letters which they had or would receive.” Drill Sergeant Priest’s comments get to one final point I feel the need to discuss before moving on to my discussion of the origin of many of the ideas and preconceptions regarding military masculinity begin. and potentially expensive for the Army in loss of effectiveness and reputation should something untoward occur between soldiers. you got better and more important things to concentrate on. the 112 . “tell her to recite the general orders. as after graduation they would be in “pussy heaven.” and if any private’s girlfriend broke up with them they should blow it off. warnings such as Drill Sergeant West’s. Throughout the remainder of this work. Tell her to take the PT test. As much as the misogyny extant in the military and feminizing speech serves to reinforce the cult of masculinity (which it does). According to the drill sergeant. privates shouldn’t worry about their girlfriends back home. to avoid women entirely. Mythology In addition to language. it also serves a more practical purpose for the drill sergeants and the institutional Army they represent. although on one level expresses a misogynistic form of fraternity. soldiers use many other tools to perform their roles as soldiers and thus create their identities. In addition. By putting down women and the feminine. privates are less likely to be emotionally hurt by the almost inevitable breakups which occur over the course of Basic and AIT. Fuck her. also serves on a practical level to reinforce a guideline of behavior in which sexual contact between soldiers is seen to be detrimental to unit morale.

and the war in Vietnam (Bellah. . is a meta-commentary on the major social dramas of its social context. 27 Schechner diagrams a feedback loop between social drama and aesthetic drama (drama as played out in film and theater). viewing mythology not only as a charter of belief in Malinowski’s interpretation. Birth of a Nation. p.different ways in which privates perform as soldiers will be discussed at length. . 300) 27 Turner and Schechner collaborated on a presentation of African ritual in a theatrical setting. the cinema. 2005). but also as a charter for performance. so it is not surprising that many of their views would overlap. Turner states: “the stage drama . a set of scripts which individuals follow in order to properly perform their roles in society. while one of the first films made. Life itself now becomes a mirror held up to art.” (Turner. 113 . World War II. I refer to the mythological presentation of soldiers in one of our modern mythological constructs. By mythical. and the living now perform their lives. but its message and its rhetoric feed back into the latent processual structure of the social drama and partly accounts for its ready ritualization [which causes permanent change in the audience]. but both before and after Basic through their interactions with other soldiers. Robert Bellah sees three wars in American history as the major turning points for American civil religion: the Civil War. both real and mythical. 1985. the films made about those conflicts have formed a mythological framework for understanding the social drama of a national war. Not only that. was based on the effects of the Civil War. Privates create their identities as soldiers based not only on their experiences in Basic Training. Victor Turner and Richard Schechner both develop ideas regarding how social dramas are played out. Here I would like to discuss the idea of mythology as a foundation for many of the performances I observed during Basic Training. and it is hardly surprising that of the two which occurred after the invention of film.

they began to perform as they felt investigators “should. 1993) Out of an entire class of Marine Corps cadets. is all about. 1985) When one considers that only 500. as many of the “voices” which make up identity come from both the performances of our peers and the performances of our cinematic counterparts. or John Wayne. John Keegan. were sent to Vietnam at its 114 . out of an American population of 250 million. computes that only 30% of those who served in Vietnam were combat soldiers. (Wetta.Thus. in Turner’s words. and many other Vietnam veterans state that they went to war thinking they were Audie Murphy. 1992. Devine. (Wetta. Or. it would not be too strong a statement to say that a generation of soldiers is inspired and molded by the war films of the previous generation. “there was a lot of Perry Mason in Watergate. or inclinations. Philip Caputo.” meaning that when investigators into the Watergate scandal realized they were in a high profile situation. 1995. Since the proportion of the American population that has actually encountered combat is so low. the act of seeing a stage drama (or in this case. 1992. film rather than stage). and it is likely that those who actually saw action was less than half that. that they will follow when they encounter the social situation which the film discussed. Ebert. a military historian. 45) Thus. p.” based on their prior exposure to crime dramas on television. An amazing number of soldiers in Vietnam have commented on their thoughts and influences when they served their tours there. Oliver Stone.000 troops. (Keegan. This also returns us to Bakhtin. provides the audience with a set of scripts. when asked by director Delbert Mann why they joined the Marines. Ron Kovic. over half of them responded that they were inspired by John Wayne movies. it is mainly through films that people gain an understanding of what war. and combat.

Full Metal Jacket and Platoon.” and “we were the good guys. it is only a very small portion of the population that has seen combat first hand. Filmmaker and Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone states about his experiences in Vietnam. 243) Rather than acting like soldiers. break from this tradition. only approximately 2. many Vietnam soldiers acted like John Wayne acting like a soldier. until they encountered true combat. Two of the most popular films depicting Vietnam. it is the war film which brings to us the knowledge of what war is like. At least. veterans were frequently portrayed as mentally unstable due to their experiences.5 million servicemembers deployed to Vietnam. while others provide a means for these soldiers to symbolically “win” the war by leading expeditions to Vietnam to recover MIA veterans in Vietnamese labor camps. 1995. 243) Over the years. only to discover that what he had thought was a bullet was actually a bone. we were going to win. (Devine. 28 Instead. the “failure” of the Vietnam War blamed on the political rather than military leadership. Seeing what looked like a bullet still in the wound. he remembered John Wayne in Green Berets (1968) biting a bullet out with his teeth. as we shall see below. that is. and attempted to perform the same action. Some of these present the soldier as a victim of circumstance. (Devine. many different narratives have been constructed regarding the Vietnam War. although as with the symbolic victory of prisoner rescues. p.” (Devine. he was truly in a war. 1995) In many films.height. It was at that point that the soldier realized he was not in a movie. One veteran describes a situation in which he was shot in his first firefight. 115 . 28 Even considering the entire scope of the war. “I believed in the John Wayne image of America. redemption was frequently available through proper reintroduction to society. p. 1995. just over 10% of the population. however.

focusing instead on what films mean for the audience. On the public. Andrew Huebner discusses the changes in depictions of American soldiers from World War II to Vietnam.g.mv?adjusted+ByAG 116 . arguably the founders of the Vietnam sub-genre of the war film. Lyden does not discuss the genre of war films. and that only when adjusted for inflation 29 . will bring with it the complex definitions of civilized life. and we know that he has done what is right for he had no alternative. only one. discarding psychological and ideological approaches to modern film. . Huebner shows that in most narratives of the Second World 29 Reported online at http://www. 2003. and a clear delineation between good and evil. these films stand out as exemplars of how a soldier should act. Although the traditional western was often “based around a moral question regarding when (or whether) it was justified to attack the bad guys .Film as Mythology John Lyden address the issue of film as mythology in his book Film as Religion. in recent years. Full Metal Jacket and Platoon. are not widely accepted among the general population in the way films such as Star Wars or Batman are. Apocalypse Now. Among the audience of current or potential soldiers. and civilization. The Unforgiven). p.” (Lyden.com/thrsdir/alltime. in the end. especially as the imminent arrival of the railroad. as both express ideals of masculine behavior and violence. . the western is the closest approximation of the war film. the western hero always does attack. and in action films in general heroes became more nuanced and more psychologically conflicted. 142) This idea of a clear separation between good and evil was eclipsed even in westerns (e. an understandable exception as despite critical acclaim for a number of these movies. is among the top 100 grossing movies of American history. civilian stage. however.the-movie-times.

Equations between the military in the 19th Century and its slaughter of Native Americans. Robert Bellah’s article “Civil Religion in America” (2005) laid the groundwork for an understanding of how civil religion is a distinct and separate element of American culture from traditional religion. p. sometimes even leading to the deaths of innocents.” (130) shifted to depictions of soldiers as heroic due to their suffering during war. and 117 . they also become team players. Bellah discusses the effects of major points in American history. Huebner shows that the depiction of soldiers as “a cultural hero just because of his contribution to a worthy collective effort. but also set the groundwork for the identity of the soldier within the larger sphere of American life. evil narratives of World War II. especially civilians. frequently with direct parallels between those slaughters and My Lai (Huebner. The Vietnam War did shift the narrative to one in which even the heroes would have flaws and commit serious errors.War. however. the Civil War and World War II. 2001). especially those of Vietnam. and soldiers in Vietnam are prevalent during this period. and rituals. “as soldiers become hardened by war.” (Huebner. as will be discussed in Chapter Eight. on civil religion. 251). but here we will simply focus on the mythical elements of the soldier as portrayed in modern film. 2008. symbols. Films from after the Vietnam era play with these parallels. p. suggesting that conflict and war are too complex and varied to be depicted in the simplistic good vs. These films not only serve to inform soldiers of proper behavior. This topic will be more fully addressed in later chapters. as the equation of suffering and sacrifice is frequently made within the military community (Hawkins. Soldiers and other servicemembers are mythic symbols in American civil religion. 78) In Vietnam narratives. and forms its own myths. 2008.

specifically from the Black American’s perspective.would precipitate a major new set of symbolic forms. Salter sees Oscar Micheaux’s Within our Gates as a competing narrative of American identity.the attainment of some kind of viable and coherent world order .” or Vietnam. the narratives which emerge from Vietnam are those of failure. This sacrifice is not as simple as it first appears. as we have seen. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. This film can be seen as one of the first mythological films in American history. is that the hardship and struggle which Salter discusses is directly linked to the struggles of Blacks in the various wars of American history – it is through their sacrifices as soldiers that their identity as equal Americans is created.W. This topic will be discussed further in later chapters. Richard Salter (2004) uses Bellah’s idea of civil religion to discuss his interpretation of D. In Micheaux’s work. the major symbols of the American civil religion. p. however. it seems obvious now that there has not been a successful negotiation of the “third time of trial. blame. but we can see here that the conflation of sacrifice and military service is a running theme in mythological presentations of the military. 2005. We will see in Chapter Four how the varieties of sacrifice are played out among privates and drill sergeants. 54) Looking back thirty years. Instead.posits that Vietnam will be a third major turning point in American history: “Out of the first and second times of trial have come. not common whiteness as presented in Birth of a Nation. In counterpoint to this film. There seems little doubt that a successful negotiation of this third time of trial . and turmoil.” (Bellah. Its narrative attempts to redefine the identity of American through a retelling of history. Perhaps the most interesting point of Micheaux’s view. but even in the 118 . the American identity is one of common hardship and struggle.

as it is through a sacrificial act that the violence of the system is brought back into proper alignment. the sacrifice of both Private Pyle and Drill Instructor Hartmann serve as an awakening for Private Joker. and correctly (Platoon) to resolve the internal conflicts of the main character and redeem him. In Platoon. a cathartic release for a desire they are not allowed to express while in Basic Training. and why their reactions seems to differ so starkly from civilian viewers of the films. For soldiers viewing the film. Focusing on Full Metal Jacket. however. solidified by his own participation in a sacrificial act at the end of the film. Full Metal Jacket as the Myth of Basic Training 119 . Sergeant Elias is murdered by Sergeant Barnes. setting the stage for a classic social drama which is only resolved with Chris’ murder/sacrifice of Sergeant Barnes at the end of the film. Both of these examples return to Deleuze and Guattari’s idea that the military is the harnessing of chaos and violence for the use of the State. there is a second effect. The mythological themes of sacrifice developed by Girard can also be seen here. or civilization: the violence is here applied incorrectly (Full Metal Jacket) and results in failure and death. Full Metal Jacket is such a popular film among the soldiers I have met. Private Pyle sacrifices both his drill sergeant and himself in his failed attempt to become a proper Marine. for example. as Private Pyle’s death seems to serve as an outlet for their own repressed anger at the problem children in their training platoons. In Full Metal Jacket.mythological films we have mentioned. the sacrifice of the characters is varied. as I will discuss below. This might be why.

at the very least. including descriptors like “cover” (hat) and “get some” when firing a weapon. emulating the murderous door gunner 30 Squad Automatic Weapon – a light machine gun 120 . As Basic Training is a rite of passage. And that depiction. however.The role of film as a mythological construct also helps to explain the performance of privates and drill sergeants at Basic Training. When asked by my civilian friends which training film most accurately depicts Basic Training. As we shall see later. Privates will often mimic the actors in Full Metal Jacket. is Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. This was especially prevalent during the SAW 30 fire range. it is clear to me that soldiers find different meanings in the film from most civilian viewers. and that drill sergeants and privates in Basic Training will repeat many of the attitudes. Should a soldier hear this response. After multiple viewings of Full Metal Jacket individually and with other soldiers. each Basic Training base has its own reputation for toughness which is built into the identity of the soldiers graduating from it. far and away the choice of most soldiers. Many of the lines in the movie are repeated by privates throughout Basic Training. This emotional response I believe comes from the light presentation of Basic Training depicted in Renaissance Man. when privates would regularly shout it as they fired the machine gun. language and behaviors in the film. it is hardly surprising that there will be films that carry mythological and definitive weight in the Basic Training environment. and sometimes even a full argument. my response is always the same: Renaissance Man starring Danny Devito. a refutation. The mythological story of Basic Training is not the description of it as it is. and we have seen that ritual enacts the mythological ideals. Soldiers do not like to be reminded of how easy Basic Training actually was. but rather of how soldiers wish it would be. there is always.

I must fire my rifle true. This is for fighting this is for fun. the drill instructor depicted in the film. as the day after weapons were issued to the platoons for training. My rifle is my best friend. is the antagonist for the first half of 121 . It is my life. Also. Like the soldiers in the Vietnam War who acted like the depictions of World War II soldiers. Private Darren repeated word for word the “prayer” the recruits say before going to sleep: This is my rifle. either. Drill sergeants will also reduce the stress level during rifle training. but peace. who is trying to kill me. I must master it as I must master my life. Drill sergeants are not immune to this mimicry. reminiscent of a fear that one of the privates at Basic could go insane in the same way as Private Pyle and shoot a drill sergeant with a loaded weapon. we are the masters of our enemy. this is my gun. until there is no enemy. my rifle is useless. Many of his signature phrases. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country.” while simultaneously yanking on their penises on the second half of each statement. Amen. and in fact seem to model themselves specifically after Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann. There are many like it but this one is mine. So be it. I must shoot straighter than my enemy. in Full Metal Jacket. we are the saviors of my life.from the film.” are frequently repeated by the drill sergeants. soldiers today learn how to act based on the depictions of the Vietnam War. Without my rifle I am useless. Rifles at Basic Training are never referred to as a gun. the misfit. I will. there is almost always a repeat of the scene in the film in which the recruits march around the barracks chanting “this is my rifle. Deliberate imitation is also prevalent. Without me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. Private Pyle. unlike most other films in which the misfit is portrayed as the hero of the film. and if a private should slip up. including “holy dogshit!” “what is your major malfunction?” and “unfuck yourself.

and laugh when he wants the audience to be horrified. is more accurate to the feelings of privates in Basic Training towards those soldiers who match the type that Pyle represents. although an outsider. Joker himself is no longer even an outsider. Soldiers watching Full Metal Jacket cheer when Kubrick wants the audience to cry. These experiences occurred on two other occasions while watching the film with members of my Reserve unit. when Private Pyle is being brutalized by his fellow Marine recruits. the privates cheered. For example. in which the fall of the 122 . and even excels such that he is assigned a leadership position in his training unit. expressing little remorse. While for most viewers it would seem that this moment should bring about the catharsis of an Oedipus Rex. then. the attending nurse played this film for the privates confined to the infirmary. but has seen combat and become a true Marine. The most striking element of viewing the film in the military context is the distinctly different approach to the meaning of the film which soldiers bring. On the other hand. the Marine which his Drill Instructor has wanted him to be: a killer. much to their delight. It was apparent that most of the privates had already seen the movie multiple times. and maintained an ongoing commentary during the entire screening. The depiction of Pyle. as they would frequently proclaim lines before or with the actors. always manages to perform his military duties properly. killing the enemy in cold blood and finding himself “in a world of shit. Private Joker.the film. and also laughed during the penultimate scene of the movie. It is at this point that Joker has become a true Marine.” During my stay at the infirmary in the fourth week of Basic. in which Private Joker shoots the female Vietcong sniper. At the end of the film. until his death at his own hands.

Rather. Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann and Gunnery Sergeant Foley.tragic hero is complete. cheering as the door gunner shoots down Vietnamese villagers. are performed by drill sergeants. Jr. Basic Training is not a simple transition from a civilian identity to one of soldier. Of course. in the role of Foley. Although it is likely that this phrase existed well before Officer and a Gentleman. it is multiple events occurring simultaneously for both privates and drill 123 . the intonation and speech patterns of the drill sergeant are strikingly reminiscent of Lou Gossett. Rather than accept the reading of war and combat which Kubrick is attempting to force on them. soldiers take this mythological story and have adapted it for their own purposes. the crossing of the border of death. The tragic heroes become epic ones. As each act of violence adds to the next. perhaps because they viewed this as their own path as well. One of the most common phrases used by drill sergeant to dominate privates is “Are you eyeballing me?” or some variation thereof. one in which the military is a dehumanizing institution. and the narrative of a dehumanizing military becomes one of ascendance. These two iconic figures. these privates proclaimed in louder voices. and laughing when Private Joker kills a Vietnamese sniper in cold blood. while Gregory Hines’ Drill Sergeant Cass from Renaissance Man was never emulated by drill sergeants during my training. for many soldiers this is the climax of a journey which they themselves are pursuing. It appeared to me that these potential soldiers were not horrified by the transformation of Joker into killer. Full Metal Jacket is not the only film to provide a script for drill sergeants and privates performances.

The idea of sacrifice permeates the literature. they bring with them the narratives and mythologies they have encountered prior to joining the Army. but Basic Training forms a common narrative for soldiers to use as a touchstone in their relationships with other soldiers. which will be discussed more fully in the remainder of this work. a point of reference from which they can choose to 124 . By mimicking. and even the performances of the drill sergeants. Many of the performances of privates during Basic Training. and contrasting. for the examination of Basic Training which will be conducted over the remaining chapters. and history of the military. Basic Training is a period in which they are surrounded by other individuals with similar opinions regarding the use of violence and masculinity such that they can use that knowledge to build up subcultural capital. as I will argue. Although a number of privates enter Basic Training with prior knowledge of military life. This chapter sets the stage. they are also learning and exploring a new world of language and performance. and mimicking both their instructors and mythological figures in their construction of their own identity. In addition. the immediacy of events during Basic Training provides a context for them to learn about military life. albeit in slowly changing ways as new soldiers enter the military and bring their own ideas with them. While privates are undergoing a rite of passage. are based on the performances seen in these narratives. film. and begin their transition to soldiers. then. soldiers express their own identities as closer to or further from the ideal of “soldier. Privates are learning what acceptable and unacceptable behavior will be in their new roles. the performances of drill sergeants. no matter their previous exposure.” This ideal can never be achieved.sergeants. As privates enter Basic Training. One element of that identity which we have not properly discussed is the notion of sacrifice.

125 . The next chapter examines the first stage of Basic Training. the separation of privates from their prior lives.define themselves. and their indoctrination into Army life.

Also. a shared experience which serves as a touchstone for soldiers to develop primary-group bonds and camaraderie. The Basic Training program mirrors the framework of the rite of passage described by Arnold van Gennep and elaborated upon by Victor Turner. transition. Locating the ways in which Basic 126 . the simplistic three stage process of separation. in fact. and then a reincorporation in the graduation ceremony at the end of Basic. and replaces them with privileges not granted to civilians. does not change the identity of an individual from civilian to soldier. Army Basic Training can be seen in this way. and is not completed upon graduation. However. who act to complicate the ritual by interacting with each other and with the instructors in novel ways. separation from civilian life. On one level. and reincorporation which is most often perceived as the rite of passage is. This is only the surface of the process.Chapter 3: Basic Training as rite of passage Basic Training is the indoctrination process through which most civilians must travel in order to be recognized as a soldier of the United States Army. The identity of soldier removes certain freedoms which our civilian society views as inherent rights. but rather provides that individual with the tools for him to create his own identity as he wishes. although an essential part of the creation of a soldier. and in actuality Basic Training is a series of stages through which privates become accepted as more “soldier-like” by the Drill Sergeants. a transition through Basic Training. Basic Training does not follow any template for a rite of passage due to the desires and behaviors of the initiates themselves. though. but is rather a defining symbol in the creation of the soldier. This process begins before the entry into Basic Training. more complex. the experience itself.

a conclusion which is always deferred to the next phase of a soldier’s existence. a ritual must be performed in order to remove the person from the first state and re-instate him to the next. Thus. then is more a horizon toward which a person travels. these 127 . once a private graduates Basic Training. This does not make him a soldier yet. however. Van Gennep’s classic schema of the rite of passage begins with a separation from the initiate’s community. Instead. just as the ritual of Basic Training is affected by the privates. The rite of passage of Basic Training itself is actually a series of progressions towards the goal of becoming a soldier. than a threshold over which he can step. These distinctions are important for the regular conduct of society. repeatedly reaffirming his identity. This schema has become the template by which many rites of passage are viewed. The most immediate evidence that Basic Training does not fit the classic model is the partition of the event into smaller stages. although in specific cases such ideal patterns rarely hold. he must go to Advanced Individual Training. the institution of the Army is also affected by them. followed by a period of transition. among less complex societies the distinctions among social classes are more marked than among more complex societies (van Gennep 1960). and when an individual is moved from one state to another. as he must constantly perform as a soldier. and ending with a reincorporation phase.Training does not conform to the expectations of the institution (as a single rite of passage from civilian to soldier) is the first wedge in my attempt to show how even total institutions are not as rigid as they may seem at first glance. In industrialized countries. and the deferment of soldier status until well after the completion of Basic Training. The identity of soldier. in order to be accepted as such. According to van Gennep’s analysis.

rites of incorporation into the sacred environment.” which “provides an orientation for understanding the intricacies” of the new role (192). 128 . p. rites of separation from the local sacred environment. p. 1960. However. Van Gennep discusses a number of different rites in his book. during their required weekend training. However. 1960. in ways I will discuss later.” (82) These passages in social status are also often “identified with a territorial passage . the distinctions between soldier and civilian remain highly marked. The multiple layers of Reservist identity are only touched upon in this work in the context of my own position as an outsider in examining the military. rites of incorporation into the usual environment. The process of initiation can be generalized as “a double series: rites of separation from the usual environment. a change of social categories involves a change of residence. and as such require a more rigorous transition exemplified in Basic Training. . a transitional period. 26). the “internal partitions” of society are thinner and the “doors of communication” are opened wider (van Gennep. As van Gennep describes it. and I will draw mainly from his discussion of initiation rites. Van Gennep details the distinctions between social and physical puberty. 31 Reservist and National Guard soldiers obviously do not live on base. 31 The transitional period itself develops “a certain autonomy. clearly seen in the move of the private from his civilian home to a new home on an Army base as an active duty soldier.” (192). a term he prefers to the more frequently used “puberty rites” by his contemporaries (van Gennep.distinctions tend to be less marked. showing how the rites of initiation to adulthood can occur both before and after physiological puberty. even in “modern” societies such as Europe (66). and the ideology of social mobility serves to erode class and status distinctions even further. 68). . they frequently remain overnight with their units.

where they are still overseen by drill sergeants and separated from the remainder of the Army. 1993). Basic Training ends with two graduation ceremonies.” in which Drill Sergeants initiate new privates into their training company in the typical way seen in film. Privates are first processed through an entrance center and then flown or bussed to their training location. During Basic Training the process is also not as simple as it might seem. this graduation ceremony does not end the induction process of the military. and other administrative processing. most privates today proceed directly from Basic Training to AIT without leaving the confines of “Initial Entry Training” and the special status it conveys to other soldiers. inoculations. After arrival. This would correspond to van Gennep’s first rite of separation. Following Basic Training. accompanied by shouting. privates are sent through at least a week in a Reception Battalion. one for the privates alone. However. Although previously privates have been granted leave between Basic Training and AIT (Ebert. This period is outside the frame covered by this work. intimidation. The first of these stages will be 129 . where they receive their first military haircuts. all soldiers move on to their respective career training. and a public graduation ceremony approximately a week later to reintroduce the now-soldiers to their families in their new status. as the process of induction into the military is in actuality more complex than many movies and books portray. nor is the transitional period a single period of instruction. followed by what is known in the Army as the “shark attack. as a number of events highlight internal stages in the development of soldiers from privates. however. and physical punishments.The overall schedule of Basic Training follows this series of stages.

Private Anders. although uniform standards are sometimes relaxed. This does not mean. On one occasion.discussed below. 1982). there are still certain rules enforced by the chain of command. uniform clothing worn by the neophytes. but is often maintained after Basic Training. In every situation I encountered at Basic Training. and the later chapters of this work will discuss the later stages in more detail. down to how far the trousers may extend below the top of the boot (no further than the third eye down). that all initiates will follow these rules. sewed his nametape 32 This rule does not appear in the uniform regulations. After Basic Training. privates wear the exact same uniform. However. distinguish them from members of regular society (Turner. as well as silence and an acceptance of pain and suffering. 670-1. Many drill sergeants at Basic Training even create their own rules for wear of the uniform. no lower than the top of the cargo pocket). privates were ordered to lace their boots right over left 32 . identifying the proper way to lace the combat boots. shorn of any distinctive markings except for a nametape above the right breast. For example. 130 . as I will discuss later. and the length of the uniform top (no higher than the end of the hip pocket. uses a structuralist model of binary oppositions to explain the difference between liminal situations and the regular structure of society. and his focus on the transitional phase of these rituals. of course. frustrated by the orders of drill sergeants to fix his uniform but not provided with proper tools. even a number of the “standard” rules of military apparel are challenged by privates and soldiers in their Army lives. Throughout Basic Training.R. Victor Turner’s expansion of van Gennep’s work. and even into their Army careers. are easily identifiable features of Basic Training. and instead many privates will challenge these rules repeatedly through Basic Training. The wear of the uniform is rigidly defined in A.

During my own time at Basic Training. Turner notes that a form of structure does arise. and accept the punishments meted out by the drill sergeants without complaint. many privates in Basic Training seemed incapable of following this rule. the most common reason for a punishment was the failure of privates to remain silent while standing in formation.” Despite the apparent simplicity of the task. Drill sergeants also frequently 33 The standard rule of thumb for all military apparel is “all buttons buttoned. As one Master Sergeant complained to me my second time in Iraq about young soldiers not maintaining the uniform standards for the new uniform: “I mean how hard is it to just follow the rules? Zip up your coat. man.” 33 Silence and the acceptance of pain and suffering are interweaving elements of life during Basic Training. then they win! That ain’t gonna happen. with small rebellions against regulations that soldiers feel are silly or stupid. In Basic Training. doing what they want. When I asked him why he did it. This rule was constantly challenged by privates. If I stop talking. Privates are expected to remain silent at all times. since it is usually different in noticeable ways from the regular structure of society. despite the imposed hierarchy of the drill sergeants in assigning squad and platoon leaders. This attitude continues in the Active Duty Army in a number of ways. anti-structure develops as privates form their own social groups. Although the transitional phase might appear to be without structure. Fuck them. no matter how simple they might be. especially Private Huntley. unless spoken to by a drill sergeant. He calls this anti-structure.” referring to the drill sergeants. man. who saw talking in formation as a means of rebellion against the drill sergeants: “you don’t get it.” 131 . almost spontaneously and without reference to the rules of the outside world.on to his uniform incorrectly in a deliberate act of defiance. all zippers zipped. his response was “it’s fucked up.

but consistently scored high on PT tests and was recognized by the drill sergeants for this and placed in charge of instructing weaker privates in proper exercise and strength training. who attended both Basic and AIT with me. such as through proper performance as discussed in the previous chapter. such that the spontaneous development of leaders from within the platoon is inevitable. After graduation from Basic. such as Argent and Parker. both symbolically through the proper use of slang and appropriate action. and achievement in physical competitions. The Army tradition is to enforce a complete break with the civilian world.change these leaders over the course of the training cycle. based on the recommendations of other soldiers who had gone through Basic with him. Private Brown was never assigned an official leadership role during Basic Training. and maintained that position for most of the fourteen weeks of AIT. These leaders achieve their positions through the accumulation of various forms of symbolic capital. not only in terms of clothing and hairstyle. The development of this symbolic rank can be seen in the example of Private Brown. Brown was assigned as platoon guide for his AIT platoon. In addition. but also through the development of social capital as privates form their own buddy pairs and other primary groups and establish themselves as better or worse soldiers. Thus. the privates who perform properly. The liminal status of privates in Basic Training is also highlighted by their separation from both the civilian and military worlds. but 132 . gain more respect from the other privates and achieve symbolic rank independent of any official rank assigned by the institution. Brown formed relationships with privates within the platoon who were assigned leadership positions.

Basic Training itself is divided into three phases. 1974). it could be argued. and “BRM” or Basic Rifle Marksmanship. In one incident during my AIT. The final three week phase was 133 . and may only receive letters from them. with strict regulations regarding how indoctrinated soldiers may interact with incoming privates. Breakdown of the Model Basic Training. and blue phase. as their identities change from civilian to soldier. In the parlance of much of Basic Training. Privates are also separated from any active duty soldiers besides drill sergeants.also contact with the civilian world (Janowitz. a sergeant in a personal relationship with a private was demoted. On two separate occasions my training platoon was punished for interacting with indoctrinated soldiers outside the boundaries of instruction. these punishments were both a result of Private Darren’s actions. and yet not-quite soldier. is a distinct period of transition for incoming privates. Privates are rarely allowed to call their families. this is true. as the second period of three weeks. white. Interestingly. two of these three phases are identified as “total control” the first phase of three weeks. and then discharged from the Army for his offense. given six weeks of janitorial duties. but within Basic Training there are many intermediate transitional points at which a private gains a level of status that is not-quite private. as red. Private Darren was one of the platoon’s problem children. Drill sergeants in both phases of indoctrination stress that privates must not talk to soldiers. To some extent. as he approached an active duty helicopter pilot on one occasion. and members of his Reserve unit on another without permission from the drill sergeants. a status that will be discussed in the next chapter. identified by color. and will be punished if they do so. however.

and the maintenance of a large standing Army for the first time in American history. however. and then sent into the field together with their instructors (who were usually experienced soldiers). 2004). In the Nineteenth century. training was sporadic. and yelling drill instructors (Morton. his own sense of 134 . incongruous tasks. 2008). 2001).rarely referred to by any specific title. with soldiers arriving at a central location for training and then moving from there to their assigned units. and ends with the graduation of the privates from Basic Training. the Army began to develop a training system similar to the modern Basic Training program. Missing from Morton’s descriptions. Formalized punishment also entered Basic Training at approximately the same time. but was still frequently performed by active duty units. although it was still distinct from the previous two phases in terms of interactions with drill sergeants and cadre. as dedicated instructors needed to quickly establish control over recruits. are the formalized training phases used by the Army today. and often units would be created. trained. This training was so haphazard that in 1917 General Pershing refused to allow American soldiers to fight in World War I until they had received proper training (Baker. Morton does describe. as the institution has shifted in response to external and internal pressures. and at the discretion of that unit’s commanding officer (Ambrose. Jerry Morton discusses his experiences in Basic Training in 1966. including many scenes that would be familiar to a private going through Basic Training today: random punishments. This formalized approach to Basic Training has been slow in development. During World War II. however. which developed in the post-Vietnam era. the training process became more formalized. Following World War II.

35 Even though Basic Training is stated as a “nine week” program. privates are bussed downrange 34 to join their Basic Training Company. which they will belong to for the next ten weeks. downrange at Basic refers to AIT. from first encounter with a recruiter through the “Reception Battalion” where privates are issued their equipment. it begins with “Week 0. and receive their first military haircut. This is a second ritual of separation. This constitutes the closest equivalent to van Gennep’s “separation” stage. and take their first oath. Thus. however.accomplishment at various points in his training. as there are marked phases before and after Reception which are also elements of the rite of passage. 135 . as immediately after their visit there. sign their paperwork.” and is in actuality ten calendar weeks long. Reception is not truly the beginning of Basic Training. downrange at Reception is Basic. get their shots. The station is also where privates begin their separation from the civilian world. The MEPS Station is where incoming privates receive their physicals. 35 This experience is begun with a vigorous hazing known as the “shark attack” in which drill sergeants yell and threaten privates as soon as the bus ride from the Reception area to the Company area is complete. Upon completion of Reception. there is also the preliminary stage of induction into the Army. similar to the identifying moments discussed in this work. likely performatively so. etc. from hair to boots. Privates are separated from their families and thrown together in a common uniform. This shark attack is almost exactly the same as the situations depicted in movies about Basic Training and Boot Camp. In addition to these three phases of Basic Training. privates are sent to their Basic Training locations and inducted into the Reception Battalion. identifying to the privates that they are now “really” in Basic 34 Downrange refers to the next phase in a soldier’s career.

To some extent. it serves as a ritual between the first stage of Basic and the second. and it is one of the strongest memories of soldiers discussing Basic Training. the importance of things like brushing your teeth and showering every day. the gas chamber. The second stage of Basic is Basic Rifle Marksmanship. then. and introductions to Army heritage and culture. the end of these first three weeks typically coincides with the next major event in the development of privates. The second three weeks of Basic Training is almost entirely devoted to learning how to operate and maintain the M-16. Although some privates will not successfully qualify on the first day. those who fail on the first day are sent back to the range in the 136 . and how to properly aim and fire it. This phase is completed with “Qualification Day. Going through the gas chamber is mandatory for all privates to graduate Basic Training. The first three weeks of Basic Training follow this pattern. with drill sergeants acting in the appropriate drill sergeant role in front of privates. how to take it apart and clean it. The majority of the privates’ days are taken up with classes teaching privates about how the Army works. and establishing the dominance of the drill sergeants over their lives in the weeks to come. As with the gas chamber. only occasionally dropping the performance while in the barracks with their individual platoons. Drill sergeants give classes on the various mechanical parts of the weapon. Although the calendar cycle mandates a three week period of total control from the drill sergeants.Training.” another ritual in which the entire company is taken to the official qualification range and each private must successfully hit twenty three out of forty targets to qualify. qualifying with the M-16 rifle is mandatory for every private at Basic.

these periods seem to remain roughly similar from cycle to cycle and base to base. During this phase. Thus.” even though their transition through the training process is not yet complete. 137 . although I suspect it is the same. Instead. Leonard Wood. 36 This holds true for my AIT experience. privates earn the title “soldiers. and preparing for the Field Training Exercise (FTX) that signifies the end of training. The completion of the third phase and graduation from Basic is the point at which privates are no longer referred to with that all-inclusive term. certain training elements such as the obstacle and confidence courses will be placed somewhere in the second or third week of training.” including throwing grenades. However. practicing squad movement techniques. whether conducted at Fort Benning.following days until every single private in the company has qualified on the range. or Knox. the major events of each cycle have followed the same pattern. the rite of passage that is Basic Training can here be seen not as one point of separation. Most of the focus of training at this point is on the events leading up to the final FTX and graduation from Basic. etc. Upon beginning AIT. In all accounts I have read or in discussions with other soldiers. the gas chamber might come earlier or later in the first three weeks. a long phase of transition. Jackson. and if referred to at all is simply referred to as “Blue Phase” by drill sergeants and privates. it is a series of stages. many privates report feeling more respected by the drill sergeants. I do not know the appellations used at other AITs. 36 Although there are always slight differences from Company to Company depending on the training schedule and availability of different training areas. The third stage of Basic Training has no specific name in the common parlance of Basic. and then a point of reincorporation. Privates practice drill and ceremony and “combat skills.

and Blue Phase. However. beginning with the first conversation with a recruiter and progressing through to the moment when a private is finally assigned to a Basic Training company and begins Basic Training. when in fact the recruiter was either unknowledgeable or unable to actually deliver on the promises he made. as soldiers. drill sergeants treat the privates with a bit more respect. Thus. cheat. privates are still within the Army hierarchy. Of course. no particular ritual which can be pointed to as the moment when a civilian begins the transition to soldier. Reception is characterized by its own rite in miniature. Instead. They allege that recruiters told them blatant lies in order to get them to join. Although my own personal experience with my recruiter was not as negative as some others. Soldiers almost always express negative feelings about their recruiters. even I felt that I had been “sold” on certain things by my recruiter.with each stage marked by a smaller ritual symbolizing the end of one phase and movement onto the next. There is a feeling within the Army that recruiters will lie. BRM. many soldiers describe even worse experiences with their recruiters. as is Total Control. until graduation when they are officially accepted as soldiers. this period is a process. or steal in order to get young men and women to sign up for the military. and drill sergeants continue to enforce discipline and punish infractions right up to the moment the privates board their busses to depart from Basic MEPS The “separation” process for a new private has no definitive start point. bonus money or GI Bill 138 . As each of these nested rites are completed. such as promising a choice of unit.

The building appears like any other office building in the small office park where it is located. 37 The entrance to the MEPS station outside of Baltimore is not particularly striking. the recruiter informs recruits to wait until their name is called. and Fort Knox. At this point.money that they did not receive. The recruiter checks in and registers the recruit or recruits he has brought with him. or waits outside in the lounge for the recruit to complete the process. Fort Benning. and a single pair of double doors which leads into the main section of the station. This phrase is used throughout the Army to describe the rushing of soldiers to a place in order to remain on schedule. and then either leaves the station to return to work. This is also likely to be the first introduction of a recruit to the Army’s “hurry up and wait” mentality. more recently. the first trip entails the processing and paperwork required. while the second trip is simply to wait for travel to whichever Basic Training location the recruit is assigned to. Fort Leonard Wood. Typically. There are either one or two trips to the MEPS. and then conducts them through the doors to a central waiting room to begin the inprocessing. depending on when the recruit is scheduled to depart for Basic Training. where they go through a process of “prodding and poking” in order to complete the bureaucratic requirements of joining the Army. 139 . or. the only exception being the three or four uniformed personnel sitting behind the equivalent of the reception desk. promise that deployment will not occur for a set period of time after graduation. only to wait in line as there is almost always a bureaucratic delay with the group before them. Fort Sill also conducts Basic Training for soldiers who will be in artillery units. The recruiter brings each recruit to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). With the exception of answering general questions and 37 There are currently four sites where non-combat arms soldiers go through Basic Training: Fort Jackson. There is a small waiting room with a lunch room off to one side.

Each recruit has his fingerprints recorded. and there were at least six empty rooms with space for over a dozen more soldiers. recruits are sent once more to the waiting area to wait to see a career counselor who will actually prepare their contract with the military. Upon arrival at AIT. and typically the longest. There are two main segments of the MEPS processing procedure. The process of dealing with an Army career counselor is much like purchasing an automobile. Recruits receive a full physical examination. 140 . and what is available based on ASVAB scores and (supposedly) how full an AIT training class is in the near future 39 . Those recruits who have not yet taken the ASVAB 38 do so. a standardized test used by the Army to determine which career fields a recruit can sign up for. and have their blood drawn for HIV testing and blood typing. our class was informed we were one of the smallest classes they had received.driving the recruit to the MEPS for the second time. The first. and a sergeant checks that each recruit has a government issued ID. which is approximately forty pages long. recruits then go through the administrative portion of the processing. but the role of the career counselor in finalizing any promises the recruiter may have made to the recruit 38 Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. which are stored on file and matched up against the FBI database to check for a criminal record. The career counselor will consult with the recruit and determine which career fields the recruit desires. after this the recruiter has no official contact with the recruit. verifying information for the eventual issue of a military ID at Basic Training. I have mentioned that most soldiers dislike their recruiters. including a test for hernia. The counselor then prints out the contract. After this stage. however. I was informed when I signed up that I took one of the last openings for my AIT training. and goes over each page and each requirement the recruit needs to fulfill or will receive from the Army in return for service. 39 For example. After the medical exam. is the medical examination.

US Code.mil/faq/oaths. pointing out where the recruit must sign or initial. they are adjourned one final time to the waiting area to wait for their last. On one level. <name>. The career counselor flips through each page quickly. Sergeant Brigman expressed his frustration with the career counselors’ practices. do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies. and recruits are lined up in the room and wait for the MEPS station commander to enter and administer the oath to the group.army. according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me. sat down. freshly painted and with insignia of various units on the walls. foreign and domestic. the speed with which the career counselor goes over the contract with the recruit is also reminiscent of car sales.history. Although I do not know under what guidelines career counselors create contracts.is frequently overlooked. and gives a very brief description of the relevant paragraphs.htm) as the following: "I. “I am the only Psyop-er I ever met who didn’t get a bonus." It is significant that the oath ceremony is given after the paperwork has been signed. Groups of ten to twenty recruits are called and brought into the only well decorated room in the center. this could merely represent the fact that the Army does not want to waste time 141 . and potentially final. Act of 5 May 1960 (http://www. After the recruits sign their contracts. So help me God. they seem to avoid informing recruits of the full range of options at the time they sign the contract. The oath for enlisted soldiers was established in 1960 under the Title 10. And I’m sure it was because I walked in.” In addition to possibly leaving items out of a contract. and she didn’t. action at the MEPS. and said ‘I want to do Psyop’ to the counselor. On one wall is a slightly raised area with a podium and a large American flag. that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. so she didn’t have to sell me on it or offer me anything.

speech insofar as it accomplishes tasks rather than merely describing them. p. as described by Austin. the MEPS station wants to be certain that the ritual act of joining the military is complete. and if a recruit happened to have missed swearing the oath during their first visit. more than any other make use of what [Austin] calls ‘performative utterance. the oath also represents the “true” intent of the recruit and is one of the most publicly known examples of J. his answer was “up until you swear the oath. 283) I would argue that in actuality. becoming a military servicemember simply by stating one’s intent to do so. However. This second ceremony highlights the importance of the verbal act of swearing to “support and defend the Constitution. 1990. requires the correct audience to receive the utterance. especially rites of passage 142 . The oath swearing ceremony is also repeated on the recruit’s second visit to MEPS. but does so with force of intent.” implying that even after I had signed legal paperwork pledging my intent to join the Army. the second visit assures that the oath has been sworn. The social environment in which this oath occurs is also important. it was the ritual act of oath-taking itself which was the essential element of joining the Army. rituals. and thus every recruit who ships to Basic Training must take it. Austin’s performative utterances.” (Grimes. before traveling to Basic Training. in which the recruit not only speaks. Although Ronald Grimes states that “ritual contexts.’ that is.with the oath until the recruit has made a legal declaration of his intent to serve in the military. Specifically. as social statuses are inherently public things. A performative utterance. it is a perlocutionary act.” Even if a recruit has signed a legal document.L. Swearing this oath without the correct trappings would not be performative. When I asked the recruiter at what point I could walk away from the process.

” the term used during Basic itself. but are in fact made from them. Erving Goffman’s studies of social interaction highlight the importance of the social element. It is during 40 From this point on. and the public display of identity on the “front stage” of the social world. we were met by a Fort Benning representative who collected the privates flying in from various locations on that day and directed them to busses waiting to drive them the next three hours to Fort Benning. Reception forms the second phase in the multi-phased process of military indoctrination. and essentially meaningless. Being a soldier is what John Searle (1995) would call an institutional fact: a “fact” which is recognized by the community. it is only so many words. not one which is independent of that recognition. it is only on the plane of the publicly accepted and conventional definition of what “soldier” is that a person can become a soldier.which change a person’s status. Prior to leaving the MEPS station. Thus. however. the location of our Basic Training. the closest airport to Fort Benning. those recruits going to Army Basic Training will be referred to as “privates. recruits from all different branches were processed together. Once the procedural matters of joining the Army have been taken care of. three other privates and I were driven to the airport with our bags and paperwork and given tickets to fly to Atlanta airport. In my case. The oath is a public expression of one’s own stated purpose to become a soldier. Without an audience to receive the oath. do not make use of performative utterances. privates may be provided with either bus or plane tickets for travel. a locutionary act. 120 miles to the south. necessitating the broader term. Reception Upon arrival at Fort Benning privates are sent to Reception. 143 . privates 40 are provided transport to the Basic Training site that has been selected for them. Depending on the distance from the MEPS to the Basic Training base. Once at Atlanta.

Nervously. These are what the Army calls the “Seven Army Values. Respect. and the “brown round” or campaign hat which identifies drill sergeants at Basic Training.S. over half the bus was asleep. One indicator of this is that privates at Reception are not allowed to exercise. The environment at Reception is also at odds with the common conception of Basic Training. no drill sergeants jumped on the bus yelling and screaming. the rest staring dead eyed out the windows at the featureless land that makes up that area of Georgia. For most privates.” The building was early seventies architecture. Duty. A pair of sergeants in patrol caps 41 stepped onto the bus and explained that we were to get off the bus and line up with our bags. Honor. By the time the bus arrived at Fort Benning. privates have removed themselves from the civilian world. The distinction in this case is that between the patrol cap. Along the pathway that led from the bus stop to the doors were a set of seven signs that would become very familiar over the next ten weeks. As the bus pulled up to the Fort Benning Reception Hall. At every Army base. there was no pushing. Despite depictions in films. pulling. but have not yet even entered the liminal world bounded by Basic Training. Integrity. as this illustration from my field notes demonstrates: The bus arrived a little past midnight. assignment of next of kin for life insurance. and complete the administrative paperwork required of all soldiers. Loyalty.Reception that privates receive their vaccinations. brick and cement set at non-right angles. Army. 41 A patrol cap is the short brimmed cap worn by soldiers in the field. there was a strange calm. Personal Courage. and other documents typical of any new employee. or serious rush. Above the doors were black metal letters that read “Welcome to the U. such as financial records. equipment and uniforms. there had been five or six hours of flying before a three hour bus ride from Atlanta airport.” After a sexual assault scandal at Aberdeen Proving Ground. While at Reception. we filed off the bus and lined up in front of a set of large glass doors. Selfless Service. for training or regular duty. which is worn by instructors and personnel who are not drill sergeants. 144 . the Army invented these seven values as the core of a moral definition of a good soldier. perhaps the most identifying feature of Basic Training.

you show your loyalty to your unit. By wearing the uniform of the U. These items are not only ubiquitous at Basic Training. Selfless service is larger than just one person. we pledge to 'treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same. Doing your duty means more than carrying out your assigned tasks. Army is a complex combination of missions. the Army. The work of the U. Each value also has a short definition attached to it. as they are even found on bases in Iraq. all in constant motion. your unit and other Soldiers. • RESPECT Treat people as they should be treated.S. In the Soldier's Code. Army you are expressing your loyalty. which results from knowing you have put forth your best effort. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty. And by doing your share. A loyal Soldier is one who supports the leadership and stands up for fellow Soldiers. In serving your country. Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone. which is not displayed on the signs scattered around Fort Benning.S. tasks and responsibilities. • DUTY Fulfill your obligations. but is displayed on the posters which hang on most walls around the base: • LOYALTY Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.soldiers are inundated with signs and posters listing the seven values. The Army is one team and each of us has something to contribute. the Army and your subordinates before your own. And self-respect is a vital ingredient with the Army value of respect.' Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Constitution. • SELFLESS SERVICE Put the welfare of the Nation. You fulfill your obligations as a part of your unit every time you resist the temptation to take 'shortcuts' that might undermine the integrity of the final product. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of 145 . Our work entails building one assignment onto another. you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain.S. Duty means being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team. but at every Army base and facility around the world.

danger or adversity (physical or moral). finally. The Nation's highest military award is The Medal of Honor. This accords with many other elements of the soldier identity. duty.goarmy. and solidify that habit with every value choice they make. As your integrity grows.” A drill sergeant also described the values as follows: “look. endure a little longer. It requires that you do and say nothing that deceives others. the more this highly prized value will affect your relationships with family and friends. This award goes to Soldiers who make honor a matter of daily living. Honor is a matter of carrying out. In addition to the signs displayed.com/life/living_the_army_values. selfless service. and living the values of respect. if you didn’t come here with them. • INTEGRITY Do what's right. acting. the fundamental acceptance of yourself.each team member to go a little further. 146 . soldiers are required to wear an “Army Values Tag” along with their ID tags on a chain around their neck. as a wasted effort. (obtained from http://www. privates must bring with them the proper predispositions to “live” the Army Values. and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort. which one private described as “stupid fucking bullshit.jsp) The attempt by the Army to indoctrinate privates with these values is seen by many. With physical courage. Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. both privates and drill sergeants. so does the trust others place in you. • PERSONAL COURAGE Face fear. Personal courage has long been associated with our Army. slow process of continuing forward on the right path. it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. integrity and personal courage in everything you do. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long. and. especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. legally and morally. The more choices you make based on integrity. • HONOR Live up to Army values. we can’t put them in you. loyalty. Soldiers who develop the habit of being honorable. You can build your personal courage by daily standing up for and acting upon the things that you know are honorable.” In other words.

We were not supposed to bring any of a long list of restricted items with us to Basic Training. an 11-week training program which is reportedly a repeat of Basic Training.in which the socialization process into Army life begins well before Basic Training. although he still didn’t yell. performative step to change status. it seems as if it is something taught at Drill Sergeant’s School. and Basic Training is simply a public. alcohol (including mouthwash or aftershave). firearms. who was 6’ 4” tall. but stricter. The infantry privates were directed to one set. than the standard support soldier. The drill sergeant’s look of disdain is so standard and effective. tobacco. more attention. As we stood behind a bench. marveled at the ability of a drill sergeant to stare him down: “I’m still trying to figure out how that guy who was damn near a foot shorter than me managed to look down on me. Before they examined our stuff. two drill sergeants exited the building and stared us down.” One of the drill sergeants spoke to us in a loud voice. not to change belief. That is an impressive trick and I am still trying to figure that one out. This was to be our first experience with the elitism in the Army in which infantry (and to a lesser extent Armor and Artillery) soldiers are given more respect. and the rest of us were directed to the next. Once we had separated. knives or scissors. each private was sent into the amnesty room where he could throw away anything he might have that 147 . including but not limited to: pornography. He told us to split into two groups. infantry and non-infantry. we dumped our personal bags out onto the bench in front of us so the drill sergeants and other sergeants (called cadre) could examine our stuff for contraband. and more honors. we were marched into the reception hall where there were two rows of wooden benches. As we waited in line. Private Argent.

no questions asked. A line was determined by what day you had arrived.he was not supposed to. detailing where he is supposed to be and for what dates. Lines were only used while at reception. The breakfast menu was always the same: Scrambled eggs Bacon. Once our bags were searched (which took about an hour). both in the United States and overseas. Each private’s name was called out by one of the cadre. we were separated into lines. and whether you were infantry or support. bacon. In line. biscuits and gravy. no one spoke as we quickly ate our eggs. the infantry and non-infantry to the DFAC (dining facility). Once all of the orders had been handed out. we moved to the more traditional squad-platoon-company organization. In the amnesty room there was also a screen similar to that in a Catholic confessional where a private could admit to a soldier on the other side any disqualifying condition that he might have gotten past the recruiter and MEPS personnel. the drill sergeant informed us that we would be given some food and then sent to our racks 43 . Although we were not specifically told to remain silent. The first meal at reception is typical of every meal I would have from then on. once transferred to the actual Basic Training program. in fact the Army is awash in flux and chaos when it comes to the details of 42 Every soldier has a set of printed orders which he must carry with him at all times. who then handed him a copy of his orders 42 with his line number written on the top. we were sent in two groups. or French toast (one choice would be presented) Although supposedly a rigid bureaucracy in which all of a soldier’s life is planned beforehand. 43 Beds 148 . sausage or gravy (only one meat allowed) Biscuit Pancakes. waffle.

and for some privates as long as three weeks. and run a mile in less than eight and a half minutes. In addition to the “regular” line. plus breads.” and there are a number of events that can cause a private to be held. one of which was required by Army regulation to not be pork. Privates must be able to perform 13 pushups. The regularity of Army breakfast is the only constant in an Army day. receive their first military haircut. which a private could choose one of. 25 sit-ups.an individual soldier at a specific time. and grilled cheese sandwiches. It is at Reception that privates get their shots. and are issued their uniforms. the most common being the inability to pass the physical requirements to move from Reception to Basic. potatoes or other starches. Over the course of Reception. Menus for lunch or dinner would vary by the day. and I have since joked with other soldiers that the Army maintains this one standard meal in order to keep one regular event for soldiers to look forward to in the midst of constantly changing orders and missions while deployed. or a “sandwich” line which would have cold deli meats on white or wheat bread. although the standards remained the same. and a salad bar which typically had jello and puddings as well as typical salad vegetables. privates would also have the option of “short order” which included hamburgers. privates begin their first step into becoming a soldier.” 149 . The privates who remain at Reception for an extended period are referred to as “excess. This process takes at least three days. hotdogs. Drill sergeants administer a PT test at the end of every week to identify the privates that must be kept in Reception until they are in good enough shape to move “downrange. There would always be a choice of three meats. have their medical records built.

while women are allowed to grow their hair but wear it up and off the collar while in uniform. their heads. either at the time (the haircut). and Kobena Mercer’s analysis of the African-American hairstyle (Mercer. Hair The importance of hair in different cultures has been the subject of many studies. especially the one in the buttocks). as it would “bring attention to their gender.” This restriction has apparently been lifted in recent years. The most likely reason for this is the 150 . or almost shave. however.Although the exact schedule differs as groups enter Reception at different times and have to be inserted into the process as they can be. in which men must shave. In fact. there are two main symbolic events that occur during Reception: the first haircut and the immunizations. that are just as important from a procedural viewpoint. during my training.” The military haircut is one of the defining features of joining the military in most modern films about Basic Training or Boot Camp. 2005). There are other events. it was widely believed that women were forbidden to shave their heads like male soldiers do. as I have since seen a number of female soldiers with shaved heads or a “high and tight. Edmund Leach’s discussion of the psychoanalytic approach to hairstyle (Leach 1967) and Obeyesekere’s response (Obeyesekere. 1981). Burke notes the double standards of hairstyle requirements for men and women in the military. such as being issued uniforms and boots. or in recollection (the shots. including Carol Burke’s analysis of historical hairstyles and masculinity (Burke. but these two seem to be the formative elements of Reception for privates. 1994).

In addition. this change is doubly abrupt. and even AIT. whether it be the “baldy” as referred to by privates at Fort Benning.” called so because they look so bad no woman would want to have sex with him. such as uniforms or boots. Hair serves a very symbolic purpose among many societies. 44 “Birth Control Glasses. and how a haircut can be a performative act. Personally. I will show how the hair and hairstyle of privates during Basic Training can be examined as both a symbol of public affiliation and private expression. the haircut drastically changes their personal appearance from what it was before. I found myself not recognizing myself in the mirror for the first few days after receiving the haircut. For those who wear glasses or contact lenses. with the styling of it reflecting internal conflicts and outward manifestations of those conflicts. The dispute between Edmund Leach and Gananath Obeyesekere over the meaning of ascetics’ hair highlights the symbolic importance of hair. as medical personnel issue military eyeglasses. every private must wear military issue glasses and sport the bald haircut. 151 . the so called BCGs 44 within the first two days of Reception.element of permanence involved in cutting one’s hair to the military style. there is no way to reverse or walk away from that effect. whereas the uniforms are not issued until three or four days later. and is received before any of the other trappings of military life are given to the recruit. Although in the regular Army.” during Basic Training. For many privates. once a private has had his head shaved. or the “high and tight” style preferred by many soldiers. Following these two theorists. as the haircut is received on the first day at Reception. the military haircut is one of the most distinct haircuts in the United States. Unlike receiving shots or putting on a uniform. as well. soldiers are allowed to wear glasses of their own choosing and cut their hair to a number of styles within the regulations of “proper appearance.

presents a scenario for which psychoanalytic theory emerges as a valid analytic approach. and any attempt to describe the hairstyle as “self- 152 . Berg uses his own clinical experience as well as anthropological evidence to support this claim. 1954). 82). is honest enough to point this out. 1950. as well as the removal of hair as a personal symbol and replaced with an institutional one. 1967. and styling that is implicitly or explicitly sexual (Hutton. 81) Hair cutting and shaving. A number of works. 2005). although disputing a number of Berg’s claims. cutting. show a relationship between hair growth. 82). p. if reined in from overanalysis by the by the researcher. 90). arena of the hair (Berg. especially when one considers the separate grooming standards for females in the Army (Burke.” (Leach. 1967. and the sexuality implicit in them. are forms of selfcastration and attempting to control aggression (Berg. Psychoanalyst Charles Berg considers hair to be “universally a symbol of the genital organs. and these have been noted by anthropologists from the beginning of the discipline (Leach. However. Topley. 1928. p. from studies of headhunters to analysis of lesbian nuns. Freudian conflict can then be laid out in the context of ritual haircutting and hairstyling. It is undeniable that the hairstyle at Basic Training also has sexual connotations. which show that hair stands for the personality of the affected member (Leach 1967.The sexuality implicit in the term BCG’s. Leach compares psychoanalytical ideas of id and super-ego. but imposed on him by the institution. as the struggle between the id and super-ego is played out in the socially visible. p. 1950. and Edmund Leach. 94). in this situation the hairstyle is not the choice of the individual. then. and important. He admits that hair rituals have sexual associations. p. p. with these studies.

” to use Leach’s example. Leach disputes psychoanalysis in its efforts to place the individual at the center of culture by distinguishing a difference between private and public symbols. Private symbols are unique to the user. Leach argues that this is an ethnocentric argument. 85). p. 1967. p. Leach then discusses in detail his own and Berg’s views of ascetics in India and Sri Lanka. 71). 14). Gananath Obeyesekere takes Leach to task in his discussion of ascetic hair. they are not unknown to the ascetic who ignores his hair. 1967. These ascetics are characterized by neglected hair which soon grows into heavy matted locks. which Berg views as an unconscious representation of the neglected penis in those who are renouncing earthly things (Berg. stating that this person has refused certain worldly ideas. fails in the face of that situation. and in the context of Hindu culture. Although the wearing of matted hair is a public symbol. it is constantly reaffirmed and recreated by individuals acting in society 153 . and that he has used Berg’s work as a straw man to attack all of psychoanalysis (Obeyesekere. 1981. but rather from its constant use and acceptance. since the rules regarding ascetics are clearly laid down in the Hindu scriptures. 1981. and the sexual overtones are included in those rules (Leach. at the same time. The matted hair is a public symbol in Indian society.castration. and “alters the emotional state of the performer. 1950. He claims that Leach ignores the possibility that public symbolic communication can.” whereas public symbolism says something about the state of affairs (Leach. 17). the power of the symbol comes not from the repression of the members of society. Thus. 95). have individual psychological meaning (Obeyesekere. Obeyesekere addresses one further aspect of the symbolic actions that Leach has discussed in his essay. Although there may be sexual overtones. p. p. p. should be treated appropriately.

” At the same time. and even some discussion as to whether it was even a legal order. is purely symbolic. I don’t care what you want.(Obeyesekere. and barely enough hair had grown in to even be seen. I got something for 3rd platoon. The actual hairstyle requested by each private was practically irrelevant at this stage in Basic Training. The importance placed on this haircut by Drill Sergeant Saburi. soldiers often act out their own identities in a similar way through their hairstyle. These ascetics are performing their identities on a public stage. through the changing of the hairstyle for 3rd platoon. However.” A “high and tight” is a distinctive military haircut that seems to be preferred by older soldiers. in which the hair is allowed to grow longer on the top of the head (high). p. that we had passed from being simple privates to being soldiers. as Obeyesekere and Berg would point out. 33). The high and tight represents. the entire platoon was given direct orders from Drill Sergeant Saburi that “you will all get a high and tight. There was quite a bit of griping about that command. but shorn close to the skin on any vertical surface of the head (tight). The symbolic importance of the military haircut was highlighted at the end of Basic. 1981. Although there are constraints on the display of hairstyle in the military. Anyone comes back without the high and tight. the choice of hairstyle in the Army is one of the few fashion decisions 154 . acting out their identities through the adornment of their hair. all the privates had received a standard Basic Training haircut (shorn to the skin). Prior to the FTX the week before. and the resistance from privates to the order. let alone styled. it is likely Drill Sergeant Saburi was attempting to establish. when for graduation privates went to the barber one final time before appearing in front of their families. In 3rd platoon. the return of the soldier’s symbolic genitalia as he moves out of the status of “private” and into that of “soldier.

The individual makes private choices displayed on the public stage within the structural rules of the institution. or even Africa. as one of the most visible elements of blackness. what amounts to the same thing. Arguing from a historical perspective. 1994. She argues this against the view that “because it involves straightening. an article in The Black Voice implied that the Afro or Dreadlocks were the more authentic black hairstyles. 1994. The interaction between public and private mirrors the interaction between structure and individual in the creation of the Army as an institution. Mercer counters. p. However. 111). Instead. so long as the hair conforms to the shape of the head. is used as a symbol for black identity. her conclusions differ from Obeyesekere’s with regard to the psychological causes of hairstyling (Mercer. despite popular opinion to the contrary. 97) In an argument against white supremacy. Mercer wants to point out that there is no natural hairstyle for blacks in America. 1994. a diseased state of black consciousness. hair is often used in the military as a symbol of military identity. and does 155 . and take on the identity of soldier through one of the few means of public symbolic expression available to them. p.” (Mercer. Instead. 99). the curly-perm hairstyle represents either a wretched imitation of white people’s hair or. Mercer suggests that hair. for example. After graduation from Basic Training. and by resisting Drill Sergeant Saburi’s order. the privates were beginning to express themselves as such. hairstyles in both Africa and America have run the gamut from shaven heads to complex styles of weaving and braiding (Mercer. as we saw above with the emotional response to an order regarding hairstyle.allowed to soldiers. In the same way. soldiers are given more latitude in their hairstyles. p. Kobena Mercer’s discussion of black hairstyles in modern America also reflects the tension between public and private symbolization.

not fall below the ears, eyebrows, or collar (AR 670-1). In practice, however, there are
really only two similar, and easily recognizable, hairstyles: shaved to the skull or styled
into the “high and tight.” The military hairstyle is so iconic, in fact, that even when
traveling, soldiers can easily recognize one another. For instance, on a trip home from
Iraq for leave, and wearing civilian clothes, I was waiting in Kuwait airport when an
American man approached me and asked for a light for his cigarette. He was also
wearing civilian clothes, but his hair was styled in the “high and tight” style, and to me
was instantly identifiable as a fellow soldier. After sitting down in the chair across from
me, he mused, “I don’t know why they have us travel in civilian clothes, we can be seen
from a mile away.” Stripped of uniform, and even with civilian facial hair, my hairstyle
alone was enough for a fellow soldier to recognize our shared status.

Immunization
The immunizations are the second strongest memory of Reception for most
soldiers. Unlike the haircut, this is likely due more to the anticipation and fear of
multiple shots than any inherent symbolism. Given that many people in the United States
express a fear of needles, it is hardly surprising the trepidation with which incoming
soldiers view seven shots all at one sitting. These seven shots are all standard medical
vaccinations, usually received by privates in their childhood, but due to the differing
standards of healthcare among incoming privates, the Army requires that all incoming
privates receive the following immunizations: influenza, measles, mumps, rubella,
meningococcal, polio, and a tetanus shot (Army Regulation 40-52). In addition, the “butt
shot” is notorious among privates, likely due to its lingering pain and soreness. The

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physician who administers the shot advises each private that the soreness will last two or
three days, and can be alleviated by massaging the area for a few minutes each night. I
do not know which shot the privates receive in the buttocks, although it is likely
penicillin or another antibiotic, although this is not required by the regulation discussed
above.
The assembly line nature of this procedure is typical of many elements of Army
life. As a large bureaucracy, the Army frequently fails to conceive of its members as
meaningful individuals, but rather as items which need to be processed as efficiently as
possible. Robert Denhardt’s In The Shadow Of Organization (1981) examines this aspect
of bureaucracies, and identifies the increasing organization of society as a potential
problem in the development of individual identity. Michel Foucault uses the example of
military training for this good reason in his discussions of rationalization. However, as
noted in Chapter 1, the military stands apart from other institutions in the magnitude of
loss should the institution and its organization fail.
The efficiency of the Army, then, is not just organizational efficiency, but also the
attempt to minimize the risk of death for its members. In addition to this, although the
organization of the military is one of rigid production, the interpersonal interactions
between the subject and object of this organization must be taken into account to properly
understand the extent of alienation the organization inflicts on its members. There are
varying amounts of this alienation during Basic Training, and there are certainly some
elements of the training program in which a private’s psychological and social well-being
is repressed for the success of the organization. It would be a mistake to label every
organized experience at Basic Training with this broad brush, however.

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Although the administration of shots is organized in the fashion of an assembly
line, this should not be overanalyzed. It is true that soldiers are rarely viewed as
individuals, but as moving parts in a larger system. When administering shots for
example, each soldier goes from one stage to the next around a room in which every
piece of hardware is laid out prior, such that neither private nor medic needs to actually
think about the actions they are performing. Although this could be seen as mindless
repetition, and simply efficiency at the expense of identity, the social dynamics of the
situation must be taken into account.
In the case of the immunizations at Reception, the interpersonal interactions
between medical personnel and privates highlight the lack of alienation that the assembly
line process would suggest. Although privates are not allowed to talk to each other while
waiting in line, which I will admit adds to the alienation factor in this case, once each
private enters the room to receive his shots, the restriction on talking is essentially lifted.
There is one medic at the entrance to the room who interacts personally with each private,
in addition to verifying a name and social security number, the medic chatted with the
privates in our line, asking where they were from, and explaining the process they were
about to go through. Each private would move down a line of stations, organized around
the three walls of the room, receiving shots alternately in the left and right arm as they
traveled. At each station the medic assigned to that station was also friendly, politely
requesting the private shift their arm or body correctly to receive the various shots. 45 The
floor of the room was covered in gymnastic mats, and the medic at the first station
informed each private that if they should feel queasy or weak, they were able and
expected to lie down on the mats until they felt better. The final shot was delivered
45

Some shots are given in the bicep, some in the deltoid, and some in the tricep.

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behind a privacy screen, and although there were some female medics at other stations,
only male medics delivered the “butt shot.”

Drill Sergeants
It is also at Reception that privates get their first introductions to drill sergeants,
and some of the mystique which surrounds the drill sergeant. This exposure is minimal
compared to the experience of privates downrange at Basic Training, but sets the stage
for those upcoming experiences. There were three drill sergeants at Reception that our
line came into contact with, Drill Sergeant Thomas, Drill Sergeant Douglas, and a third
drill sergeant whose name I never managed to get. Much like the drill sergeants at Basic,
the Reception drill sergeants seemed to have roles that they played within the context of
the training environment. Drill Sergeant Douglas was the most approachable of the drill
sergeants, and would frequently chat and be friendly with incoming privates, even to the
point of surrendering personal information. At one point, the support 46 privates were
waiting to attend a monthly concert and Drill Sergeant Douglas had moved them all out
of the sunshine and into the shade, expressing his dissatisfaction with the other drill
sergeants:

Drill Sergeant Douglas: Well, they can do what they like with the infantry
guys, that’s their responsibility but you’re mine, and I don’t see any need
to have you standing out in the sun getting heatstroke.
Private: How long have you been a drill sergeant, Drill Sergeant Douglas?
46

“support” refers to soldiers who are not combat arms. In the case of Fort Benning, there is a distinction
made between support and infantry. In the regular Army, the distinction is usually drawn with the term
“soldiers” or “personnel” after the word support. In the context of Basic Training, all recruits are referred
to as private, regardless of rank, and therefore I use the term “support privates.” This is not a term used
within the context of Reception or Basic Training, as the distinction does not exist within the Basic
Training company, which are all either infantry or support personnel.

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Drill Sergeant Douglas: I’ve been on the trail four years. Last year was
supposed to be my last, but I told them I’d do another one.
Private: Why was that?
Drill Sergeant Douglas: I like working with soldiers. All you guys, you’re
new, I like showing you guys how things are gonna work. I didn’t want to
do Basic, so I told them I’d do another year, but only if I was here at
Reception.
In contrast to Drill Sergeant Douglas, Drill Sergeant Thomas was infantry, and carried
himself with aloofness and occasional disdain. Drill Sergeant Thomas was representative
of another element of the Army Drill Sergeant, as well, in that he was the source of much
rumor and storytelling. The main rumor circulating about him was that he had been in
Somalia during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and had killed three people with his Etool 47 . This was all based on the fact that there was a Sergeant Thomas mentioned in
Black Hawk Down. At the time, even I believed this rumor, at least that he had been in
Mogadishu, but later reflection easily reveals how this could not have been true. Drill
Sergeant Thomas wore no patch on his right shoulder, the so called “combat patch,” and
there is actually a picture of the Sergeant Thomas mentioned in the book, which looked
nothing like Drill Sergeant Thomas. However, the mystique of the drill sergeant is such
that these items of fact never seem to figure in to the adoration of young soldiers.
Another story floating around Reception regarding Drill Sergeant Thomas was that at
some point one private had gone up to him to ask him a question, and the drill sergeant
had warned him to “stay out of my kill zone.” The implied threat fit the rumor of Drill
Sergeant Thomas as both crazy and a killer, and added to his reputation.

Shark Attack
47

“Entrenching Tool” – a small foldable hand spade

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After the privates have completed Reception, they are organized into groups to be
sent downrange to the “real” Basic Training. At each Friday formation, the names of
those privates who would be leaving Reception are read off by the drill sergeants.
Privates pack all of their gear into a duffel bag and the civilian bag carried to Reception
from home, and then they carry their bags to the Breezeway to line them up along the
wall and wait with them until busses arrive to take them to the Basic Training area.
Much like fireguard 48 duty, there are elements of the nightwatch or vigils that are seen in
many historic European rites of passage (Eliade, 1958, p. 125). Privates are not allowed
to leave their duffel bags without another private to watch it, and are expected to spend
the night sitting with their bags until the busses arrive to pick them up first thing in the
morning.
When the busses arrive, the drill sergeants from Reception yell at the privates to
quickly pick up their gear and move to the bus. Military busses are all the same type of
bus as the yellow school bus used to drive children to and from school, although they are
often painted white and blue rather than yellow. Each bus has 11 rows of seats, so that 44
people can sit on the bus at one time. The drive from Reception to Basic is the only time
that there are 44 privates assigned to each bus, the usual number is 55, as drill sergeants
will cram an extra person into the aisle to stand while the bus is moving. Also, many
times privates are carried around base in cattle cars, literally tractor trailers with a trailer
designed to carry cattle which as many privates as possible are crammed into for travel

48

During Basic Training, and much of active duty life, an overnight fireguard composed of two soldiers
must stay awake and ready to respond to potential hazards.

161

(supposedly 100) 49 . However, even with two per seat on the bus ride to Basic, the bus is
still cramped, as each private must carry his duffel bag and civilian bag with him on the
bus.
I was positioned in a seat near the front of the bus and managed to overhear the
conversation between one of the Basic Training drill sergeants and the bus driver. It is
interesting how much different this interaction was from any other time I saw a drill
sergeant, as it was a calm and quiet conversation about how the drill sergeant was new to
“the trail” and this was his first cycle. It was so out of the ordinary, in fact, that it was not
until I had graduated Basic and returned home that I remembered the conversation at all.
In the over-stressed environment of Basic Training, I did not even remember it that
evening to record in my field notes.
This is also likely due to the first memorable event at “actual” Basic Training: the
Shark Attack. The shark attack is the term for the first encounter privates have with their
new lives and instructors at Basic Training. As the busses pull up to the barracks which
will house the new training company for the next nine weeks, the drill sergeants prepare
themselves to launch a surprise attack on the new privates. Although I expected it to
occur at Reception, it is at this point that the drill sergeant stands up on the front of the
bus and yells: “Get off my bus!”
The drill sergeants jump onto the bus and begin screaming at the privates to get
off the bus and line up on lines laid out on the grass. As each private manages to squirm
his way off the bus, another drill sergeant is waiting at the door of the bus to scream at
him some more, as well as two or three more drill sergeants waiting in the wings to
49

These cattle cars are so common that at the end of AIT, when busses were provided for our transportation
to our graduation ceremony, another private in my platoon exclaimed, “Oh yeah, busses!” paused, and then
reflected, “Wow, you know something’s wrong when a school bus is your idea of a luxury ride.”

162

chastise those who they don’t think are moving fast enough. Privates are carrying
whatever luggage they brought with them to Basic Training, plus a duffel bag full of all
their uniforms and equipment they were issued at reception, and will frequently drop or
trip over their bags, only to be yelled at by more drill sergeants. It is not unknown for
drill sergeants from other companies to join in on a shark attack to be certain that there
are enough voices yelling at the new privates.
Once a private is off the bus, he is directed to stand at attention on one of the lines
laid out on the grass with his bags in front of him. As soon as all privates are off the
buses and assembled on the lines, there is a moment of silence. The first sergeant for the
company then introduces himself, and the drill sergeants, to the new privates. He then
instructs the privates to pick up their duffel bags and hold them over their heads. Once
the privates begin to lose their grip, he instructs them to place them back down in front of
them dress right dress 50 . Once the privates have dropped their duffel bags, the first
sergeant asks the drill sergeants if the privates have completed the task correctly.
Inevitably, the answer is negative. This cycle is repeated until the privates have
performed the task to the satisfaction of the drill sergeants. It is unclear at what point the
drill sergeants are satisfied, and most privates believe the drill sergeants will simply
continue this exercise until they are tired of it.
Once the drill sergeants have announced to the First Sergeant that the privates
have performed acceptably, the First Sergeant calls out the names of privates. When a
name is called each private is told to respond with the appropriate “Yes First Sergeant!”
50

Dress right dress is a common slang term in the Army for laying everything out in order, whether it be
items for inventory or soldiers in a formation. “Dressing” is a drill and ceremony term for being lined up
exactly with the men beside you, dress right is the standard, in which a soldier looks to his right and lines
himself up with the man on his right, ensuring as each soldier adjusts his position that the soldiers will be
properly in line with one another.

163

pick up his bags, and double-time 51 to the front of the formation. Once 60 (or however
large each platoon is) privates are called, they are moved from the grass into the
Company Area 52 to stand with their platoon. Four platoons are assigned in this way to
each company, numbered from 1st to 4th.
The first entry into the barracks is usually quiet. Privates have been exhausted by
their exertions on the field below, ready to be assigned bunks and wary of tortures to
come. The next assignment from drill sergeants is to get in alphabetical order, based on
the nametags that each private wears on his now sweat-soaked uniform. As with
everything that will be encountered from this point on, there is a time limit on the
instruction. Privates have one minute to get properly ordered in front of their bunks.
When the privates inevitably fail to complete the required task in time, they are
dropped 53 . While being screamed at by drill sergeants that the task assigned was simple,
and the platoon must be a bunch of idiots for failing to complete it, they are forced to stay
in the front leaning rest position. Private Fletcher’s memory of this is particularly vivid,
as he was personally involved in one of the failures:
the very first day, the drill sergeants, like, well we were supposed to give,
they took our id cards, we were supposed to be standing alphabetical, and
they took our id cards, and when he took mine instead of putting it on top,
he put it on the bottom of the stack. To this day I think he did it on
purpose, and so then when they called out our names, I was out of order,
and they called me out, and I had to stand out in the middle, not in the
killzone 54 , but by that big post that was by the killzone, and everyone was
doing pushups while I was watching. It was a combination of the drill
sergeant and Grissom’s fault, I still remember that, because I tried to
51

Army slang for running
The open cement area where the company meets for formations and other company wide events.
53
While “smoking” refers to any physical punishment, being dropped specifically refers to being ordered to
drop to the ground and prepare to do pushups. Note that when a private is dropped, he is not supposed to
begin doing pushups, that is a separate order. Leaving privates in the pushup position is frequently used by
drill sergeants as a punishment rather than having them actually do pushups. This position is named the
“front leaning rest position,” likely sarcastically.
54
The killzone is a marked off area in the center of the barracks which privates are not allowed to enter
52

164

but he didn’t believe that I was an F.” Once they are released from this position. and I’ve only been here like ten minutes. In addition. I was like “look. all these guys are gonna hate me already. and intimidate the various soldiers by speaking whispered threats or comments in their ears about what they can or will do to the privates if they mess up. The drill sergeants wander around the barracks while the privates have everything on the floor to be certain that everything is correct. drill sergeants give the privates one minute to get all of their gear packed back up into their duffel bag. As usual. and get Grissom to move down one bunk. I was so ready to go home that first day. you’re Grissom. any shampoo. or any other non-issue piece of equipment must be placed back in the personal bag to be locked up. usually failing two or three times before the task is complete. the privates are ordered to repeat the task. especially since after dumping all of their equipment on the floor. After the personal bags are packed up. I remember that. privates will fail this.” And he was like “No no I’m supposed to be here. and he was like “no. I’m supposed to be here. soap. I was like “what the hell am I doing here?” My first day there and I was like “fuck. and being dropped in between each iteration.squeeze in between Grissom and Evans where I was supposed to be. When the privates have finally assembled themselves in alphabetical order. like. a lot of it has been 165 . the drill sergeant put me here. the drill sergeants order them to open their duffel bags and personal bags and spill everything out on the floor.” He didn’t believe you were an “F”? No no no. They are then told that this is their last chance to surrender any contraband they may have left over from reception. which he did but the drill sergeant had the id cards wrong So when they came to pass out all the stuff I was in the wrong spot. that’s Evans.

typically cleaning an area outside the usual Company Area or assisting in setting up a classroom or training area. 166 . Army drill sergeants see themselves not only as disciplinarians. one private raised his hand and asked permission to use the restroom. Each set of bunk beds has two lockers between it and the wall. and are willing to relax within the privacy of the barracks or sometimes on a detail 56 . At this point. however. just go. they are sent to the rear of the barracks and sit down on the floor.” This is the first exposure most privates have to the personal side of their drill sergeants. “Of course you can. but also substitute parents for many of the privates. approximately 4 cubic feet in size. privates place the duffel bags in a locker behind each pair of bunk beds. the drill sergeants are still on Goffman’s front stage. It must be noted that in both cases. Folders are handed out to each private with paperwork to fill out. you need to go to the bathroom. 56 Extra-curricular assignment. the privates are no longer even capable of talking. after more smoking 55 . standing about seven feet high with two doors and a lockable latch. the appearance of friendliness is often used by drill sergeants to stay abreast of rumors and problems within their platoons and maintain the illusion of omniscience: 55 Smoking refers to both physical punishment.mixed with other privates’. Once the privates have been introduced to the harassment and punishments of the drill sergeants. they are simply playing two subtly different roles. Once the task is accomplished. The drill sergeant responded to this question. Exhausted. including medical information and personal information. and the experience of being exercised so much that a private is exhausted. you don’t need permission to do every little thing here. Listen up. Although Marine drill instructors will never lower their façade. In fact. Inside the locker is a small three drawer chest for storing clothes and personal items. men.

The gas chamber occurs sometime during the first four weeks of Basic Training. depending on the schedule and availability of the facilities. Drill Sergeant West expressed the fears of many soldiers about biological and chemical attack from Saddam Hussein should the United States invade Iraq. is also staged. There weren’t no secrets from the drill sergeants. The gas chamber is a requirement for all privates to graduate Basic Training. they be nicer to you. 167 . Both roles are variations on American father roles. a topic which will be discussed in chapter seven. and is also a frequent point of reference and source of stories for soldiers later in their careers. telling the 57 Charge of Quarters – essentially overnight duty to answer the phones or respond to emergencies. Finding out the stuff you thought you were keeping secret. typically during details when privates from different companies work together.“When you were on CQ 57 . the drill sergeants. It is alternately dreaded and desired by privates. with drill sergeants taking on different roles as necessary.” Gas Chamber The first major threshold which privates pass through at Basic Training is the gas chamber. This belief comes from conversations privates have with those from other training companies.” “They were feeling you out. both in public and private. they did.” “They ask you questions? See how you were doing?” “Yes. we’ve been doing this a lot longer than you guys. calm you down?” “Yes. in one sense to get the experience out of the way.” The stricter role played by the drill sergeant. but also because privates frequently see the experience as a step towards acceptance by the drill sergeants. and performative expressions of the “proper soldier. at brigade.

of course.company during NBC training that “this is the one thing you need to pay attention to. In my case. but at Basic these were not provided.” Nine seconds is the amount of time the Army sets as the standard for correctly donning the pro-mask 58 . Chemical (NBC) range for training. In order to get a proper seal on the mask. this meant that while walking to the gas chamber I could not see more than five feet in front of me. This range is frequently also the first encounter that privates have with the range cadre without the presence of drill sergeants. like attempting to breathe through your nose with both sinuses stuffed up. in a really fucked up way. Bravo Company marched on foot to the Nuclear. correcting the hood and fastening it under the chin. As with almost every experience at Basic Training. the pro mask is supposed to be equipped with eyeglass lens inserts for soldiers who require glasses to see. you better get it. Although there is originally an illusion that the drill sergeants and the other cadre members speak with a single voice (that of the Army as an institution). the conflicts between cadre and drill sergeants became 58 The current gas mask used by the Army is referred to as a “protective mask. by removing the drill sergeants and asserting their own authority. Biological. This is counted from the moment a soldier hears the alarm to when he has his mask on and properly sealed. You don’t know how to do this stuff. adding to my overall loss of equilibrium. the gas mask is uncomfortable and claustrophobic. so he is restricted to whatever his natural sight may be. 168 . After that a soldier has an additional six seconds to complete the procedure.” most often shortened to pro-mask. a private can’t wear glasses under the mask. Once on. In addition. Over the remainder of the training cycle. Nine seconds. the cadre at this range also showed the privates that this single voice was a fiction. you’re gonna be dead. as breathing through the filter on the mask can be difficult.

When given permission to enter. Thus. As the drill sergeants and instructors are the only information resource available to privates. instruction. telling this to privates at Basic Training allows the authorities to maintain control over privates. although it seems likely that it is in fact untrue 60 . as the CS gas could melt the contact lens to the privates’ eyes if he were wearing them. After a “safety brief” in which the instructors detailed the potential hazards to privates (including not only potential problems from the CS 59 gas used in the chamber but also snakes. but that that institution is multivocal. privates were lined up by platoon.com. and asked the privates in the company if anyone was wearing contact lenses. comprised of individuals with their own approaches to knowledge. Regardless of the truthfulness of the statement. and other animal threats). spiders. and soldiering. through control of information and knowledge. As mentioned before. the CS gas will damage the contacts and potentially worsen the experience for the recruit as the eye will not be able to properly flush out the gas from the eye if there is a contact lens on the eye. and the interior of the chamber was already somewhat filled with smoke. and thus to some extent their behavior. including Mythbusters. Basic Training instructs privates not only how to negotiate the institution. 60 169 .more obvious as I developed a better sense of subtle (and not so subtle) cues of the conflicts which existed between the two groups. 3rd platoon went through the chamber last. the instructors sent away the drill sergeants. and each platoon broken down into their squads. The veracity of this comment is disputed by a number of different sources. rumors and urban legends are commonplace throughout Basic Training. and this is yet another example. is complete. their control over privates’ understanding. After this briefing. each squad entered 59 Tear Gas Based on a number of non-medical websites. with each squad going through the chamber separately.

through a set of double doors on the front of the building. The drill sergeant then ordered privates to “break the seal” of their mask and allow the CS gas into the mask and against the face. In 1966. Depending on the order in which privates go through the chamber. This likely contributed to a number of problems that we encountered. At the center of the chamber was a metal desk with a small stand to hold the CS canister. Once 61 Last four is a common abbreviation used by the Army to refer to the last four digits of the soldier’s social security number. Your mask is still in its case. privates are then instructed to reseal their mask and “clear” it. The CS gas also began to affect our exposed skin before we broke the seal of our masks. the gas filled the chamber so heavily that we could not see more than a foot or two in front of us. and circled the interior wall of the building until they are all lined up along the walls. most notably misunderstanding the instructions of the drill sergeant and breaking the mask seal early. After the seal is broken. which is approximately 20 feet by 20 feet. blowing out and pushing the contaminated air out of the mask. hanging at your side. and the front rank then removes their mask. 170 . the drill sergeants direct the privates to stand in lines four people wide. After a few moments. and must shout their name and last four 61 to the drill sergeant before being allowed to leave the chamber. the concentration of the gas can be enough to begin burning the skin. After the drill sergeant lit the CS canister. In addition to serving as symbol of progression through Basic Training. the gas chamber is also an example of how Basic Training has changed over the years to become more codified and formal. Jerry Morton describes his gas chamber experience as much more haphazard: A couple of sergeants who are already masked walk you and a few others in the chamber.

the sunlight outside caused my eyes to water even more and upset my sense of balance. so I removed it and did my best to work my way forward to announce my information to the drill sergeant and leave the chamber. and formalized stages of wearing the mask. According to Morton. I had already begun streaming saliva and snot from eyes. replete as it is with the theater of the drill sergeants and instructors. 2004. let alone shout my name to the drill sergeant. the gas chamber experience also ends when the privates find and open the door. 171 . 74) This description is vastly different from the ritualized gas chamber experience of Basic Training today. and could barely breathe to croak. As soon as I started coughing. fail to comply with instructions. (Morton. rather than as prescribed. Immediately you stop breathing and put on your mask. In the thirty seconds which it took me to make my way to the drill sergeant. 3rd platoon fell into more of a mob than ranks. In the inevitable confusion of the smoke filled chamber. nostrils. and mouth. privates scramble for position. as opposed to my experience with a drill sergeant serving as gatekeeper to the exit. I realized that resealing the mask would be ineffective. Unfortunately. especially considering the claustrophobic nature of the mask. someone opens a small hole in one of the walls and tosses in a tear-gas canister. Although privates were supposed to line up in orderly rows. and generally act as they want.everyone is inside and the door to the little building has been closed. p. Of course. the ritual of the gas chamber is not as ordered and regular as the drill sergeants would like to make it. cracking the seal once. the drill sergeant allowed me to leave the chamber. after we were given the order. and I personally broke the seal of my mask early and inhaled a small amount of CS gas before I was supposed to. However. and then removing it. The sergeant’s muffled cry of ‘Gas!’ can be heard.

2002. most privates were dripping snot and saliva from their mouths and noses. and could barely see from the excessive tearing caused by the CS gas. There was a desk in the center of the room. . and spitting. We were packed in. my eyes. So much pain! The Drill Sergeant is screaming at me: “Where are you from. A canister was burning on it. Never have I felt such burning in my lungs. With exposure to air. . Saliva is dripping from my mouth. and related his experiences: “We were all marched into this dark.After leaving the gas chamber. And that’s the whole point. The first three guys were told to remove their masks. They all started vomiting. In addition. 36) 172 . every private’s uniform had to be washed that evening to get the CS residue out of it. CS gas was coming out. with much trepidation. My experience in the gas chamber was not as bad as some reported. hot. however. instructors order privates to carry their mask and weapon and circle three times around a large dirt field called “Ground Zero.” (Mann. We all had our masks on.” Upon leaving the gas chamber. Monroe Mann published his journal of his own Basic Training experience in 2002. I was feeling great until I took it off. tiny building. and shaving the next morning burned my skin. I couldn’t speak. and by the third lap around the field. although my chest hurt for the next couple days. I felt almost completely recovered. p. I barely had enough oxygen to speak. Private?” “What’s your first general order?” “ANSWER ME!” Those are the questions I was asked. Snot is flowing from my nose. The pain! I was so . the CS gas clears quickly out of the system. “All I can say is we all know how well our protective masks work now. and screaming. For the 1st second I thought I’d be ok. I’m tearing. I took off my mask. otherwise the next day the private’s skin would begin itching again and he would smell of CS gas. Then it began. I will always have faith in my mask. I felt like I would die. I couldn’t breath! [sic] I’m choking.

173 . It took a lot to do what we did today. the drill sergeants told us we were a bunch of wimps because we needed masks. another soldier in the group responded with: “When I went through. then. but a proud day. these are accompanied by one-upsmanship. as each soldier tries to outdo the other with how bad their particular experience was. And finally. I believe it. there is rarely as much CS gas in the chamber. Let me tell you something.” (Mann. some of us. not only because the soldier is already experienced with it. so there are fewer CS canisters lit in the chamber. most units allow soldiers to choose their own pace to leave the gas chamber after breaking the seal of their masks. p. The Basic Training experience is. It was horrible. Typically. but because the actual physical environment is not as powerful. so we were like. talking to one of his drill sergeants. Also. remembered more vividly than later gas chamber experiences. 59) This is true for every soldier I have encountered since Basic Training: the gas chamber is one of the most memorable moments of their Basic Training experience. That was some shit. 2002. it has appeared to me both times I have been through as a soldier that they use less CS gas in the room itself than they did in Basic Training.” In response to this comment. when I went through we had to go through without masks. as well.” while other soldiers like to swap stories about their gas chamber experiences. A contributing factor to this is that the gas chamber experiences after Basic Training are typically easier. First. he reports that “Mavie said we’ll remember today – the day we were gassed – for the rest of our lives. as a regular company is approximately half the size of a Basic Training company. Private Fletcher remembered his as “like the worst experience I ever had in my life. One soldier relayed his experience in the context of military confusion: “Only about half of our platoon got issued masks at Basic.Later.

fuck that. and he’s like ‘I don’t know I couldn’t find it’ and they’re like ‘well you need to go back in there and get it’ and he just turns around and was like ‘I’ll just buy a new one!’ and that was just so funny. and I just remember them going.” This was then topped by Sergeant Pirelli’s story: “My old drill sergeant. You wanna see someone high?’” For 3rd platoon. So they catch him. you know ‘Private Hanson where’s the rest of your mask. each private must carry his rifle in one hand and his complete mask in the other. In the case of 3rd platoon. and they start screaming at him. ‘you wanna hear a story? We had a cycle. I saw him at Sill before deploying. 174 . Upon leaving the gas chamber. I remember rich boy from California. and he goes in and he takes off his mask and he freaks out and drops all his equipment and runs right out of the chamber. one private forgot his mask in the chamber and was forced to return for it. prompting ridicule from a number of privates in his platoon: Private Hanson goes through there. he must return to and find them without wearing a mask. the drill sergeants catch him and they start screaming at him.yeah. he grabs all of his equipment that he can and he goes out. All privates must maintain control of their weapon and their mask at all times. He misses the hood to his mask. fucking he goes there. so when I opened it it all shot up into my face. And I still tell that story to this day. I was demonstrating the gas chamber outside and I had the grenade upside down. and they throw his ass back in the chamber to go get his equipment. they being the drill sergeants. and it always makes me smile to think about that. he was like. Just the misery and suffering of others I guess. If a private forgets any items in the chamber. the experience in the gas chamber is often remembered in relation to the experience of Private Huntley. I don’t know why. So he runs in there. so we dropped all our masks right there and walked into the chamber. who left his equipment inside the chamber and had to return to fetch it multiple time.

and especially after September 11th and the invasion of Iraq. Hanson was known in 3rd platoon as a problem child. and 175 . they yelled at him and told him to go back into the chamber to retrieve his equipment. The mistake by Private Hanson was dealt with in two ways by the drill sergeants. You hold your head up high. is an essential element within the identity of the modern soldier. “that’s all right. After he had done so. Drill Sergeant West asked the platoon who had run out of the gas chamber. Drill Sergeant West told him. and on numerous occasions privates from 3rd platoon expressed satisfaction or happiness when Hanson was punished in some way.Private Ricardo’s enjoyment of the “misery and suffering of others” is specifically linked to the suffering of Private Hanson. First. the possibility of any soldier seeing combat was very limited. and typically on a strictly volunteer basis. however. The specifics of the problem child relationship will be discussed later in this work. later in the day. and when Hanson raised his hand and admitted to it. private. as over the course of nine weeks of Basic and fourteen of AIT. Ricardo and Hanson consistently failed to get along. you got a war story now. This was especially true during my cycle at Basic Training. Prior to September 11th. most of the time these deployments were fought for. the drill sergeant in this case was also drawing a connection between the experience of the gas chamber and the ultimate purpose of the soldier: war. This connection is one of the essential elements of Basic Training. In fact. at this point it is sufficient to note that Ricardo’s enjoyment of Hanson’s failure in the gas chamber stemmed from his dislike of the other private. as related above.” In addition to helping Private Hanson feel better about his experience. as the war in Iraq had not yet started but was ramping up. a private who does not adapt well to Basic Training and causes problems for the rest of the platoon.

One of the main comparisons made between the Army and other institutions is as a national vocational education program. War was. but it is also an essential part of the soldier’s skill set on the modern battlefield. and continues to shift. but the beginning of the socialization process. and some which fall outside the scope of this work (the obstacle and confidence courses). the institution of the military “offers opportunities that fundamentally distinguish it from 176 . rifle qualification). in response to global events. It is also a process of incorporation and socialization. a mythological element of the soldier’s identity. however. At the same time. are relevant here. although this attitude was shifting. As we shall see later. and its parallels with other Western socialization processes.g. then. the gas chamber takes on a practical as well as a symbolic significance. In this context. We will delay discussion of continued incorporation after graduation for a later chapter. and moved further down the path towards the soldier identity. and not a practical one. some which will be discussed (e. Not only is it a point of reference and source of stories for soldiers. the gas chamber is but one of the marked moments in Basic Training when privates feel they have accomplished something of themselves. which begins before the first day of processing and does not end until after graduation. there are a number of other moments of accomplishment. However. and college benefits.awarded on a merit basis. rather than involuntary deployments. Negotiation of the Ritual Performance Basic Training is more than simply a rite of passage. skills development. Recruitment advertisements frequently stress job training.

being accepted socially as a “man” and being legally adult are two separate cultural constructs. and production. In essence. but in terms of social acceptance) – points out 3 examples: Irish in Civil War. but our own. protection. Gilmore argues that. these transformations are: • • • • • It transforms boys into men It enfranchises the politically disenfranchised . Many other examples could be cited.not just in terms of voting. Interestingly. It confers legitimate careers on those from groups that hold marginal social and economic positions in the country . David Gilmore’s study of masculinity in a cross-cultural context. It transforms provincials into nationals – removes an individual from a local environment and globalizes his viewpoints It provides a legitimate moratorium – young men/women who don’t want to go to college don’t have to “go to work” when they join the military.Legitimate might not necessarily mean “respected”. blacks in Vietnam. but the distinction between criminal and solider is still a very strong one. However the vast majority of recruits are 18 years of age or older. 2) According to Berryman. 177 . however. illuminates not only other cultures’ ideas of masculinity. These opportunities are best thought of as status transformations. 1988. 1988) The final four transformations will be discussed in later chapters.” (Berryman. with the exception of consuming alcohol. but the first transformation in particular highlights the feelings held by many Americans that Basic Training is a remnant rite of passage similar to other manhood rituals around the world. Gilmore’s definition of the masculine is complex. incorporating aggression. 62 However. (Berryman. Poles in WWI.domestic welfare programs. the initiates into the Basic Training ritual are already considered legally adult by any standard of American culture. Manhood in the Making (1990). 62 There are a very few recruits who enter the Army at age 17 with their parents’ permission. p.

acting masculine or appearing to act so.” there is no biological definition of masculinity. Gilmore’s definition of the masculine equates quite closely with the image of the soldier expressed by drill sergeants and privates during Basic Training. even if limited to this Western mythology. It is this challenging. 1990. in which the archetypal activity of the male. and Gilmore’s analysis. winner-take all aspect of the male roles that demands the kinds of toughness and autonomy that need special motivation. 1995). masculinity is an institutional fact.unlike “womanhood. and how closely tied performance is to masculinity.” (Gilmore. and it may be bigger and stronger than the hunter. 120) Although the idea of Man the Hunter has been increasingly called into question. the appearance of energetic 178 . is just as important to the definition of masculine as any inherent quality of strength or power. as we saw in Chapter 2. dependent on the perceptions and agreements of other members of the group as much as on any actual activity (Searle. Much of this. Among the Mehinaku. Performative masculinity. and the universality of Gilmore’s idea is thus problematic. Gilmore uses an example from the Mehinaku of Brazil. Like soldiering. is quite useful in discovering the underlying symbolism and motivation for many soldiers. it is hard to deny that in Western European culture this mythology holds. hunting. The mythological power of masculinity pervades the military. p. but with activity. could come from the evolutionary history of human beings. to show that the association of masculinity is not only with provision. is a situation in which “the man tries to kill an animal much more mobile than he. his quarry uses all its cunning and strength to escape. and based on the ability of a man to separate himself from the feminine and provide defense and resources for his family. he suggests. but it is instead constructed and performed repetitively.

p. as we have seen. or sense of self. and not going to sleep until after privates have been ordered to their beds. 124) The experience of the gas chamber is one of these steps. there is not one single process of van Gennep’s separation-transition-incorporation. being properly and fully dressed when waking up privates in the morning. confer upon the individual simultaneously an ego-identity. a progression along the slow development of the soldier identity. the symbolic elements of Reception. including the legal induction through the MEPS station. when transversed. Privates quickly learn how to “sham” or pretend to be working when they are actually doing nothing.activity is just as effective as actually performing the work. Drill sergeants must always maintain the appearance of energy. Practical Elements of Basic Training Within Basic Training. and how to “sound off” properly and loudly regardless of whether they are being punished or rewarded. and the first phase of Basic Training. typically ending with the experience of the gas chamber. but a series of stages through which a soldier progresses. they must simply be perceived as active.” He interprets this as a “step by step sequences of growth. 179 . and a cultural identity appropriate to his or her time and place. such as appearing focused intently on weapon cleaning or boot shining when the item is already properly maintained. In this chapter we have focused on the early stages of incorporation. David Gilmore uses Erik Erikson’s concept of “epigenetic stages of psychosocial development.” (Gilmore. 1990. During Basic Training. this holds true for both privates and drill sergeants. which.

is also an essential training experience for privates in Basic. Dealing with other soldiers. this was the only way for these instructors to keep privates exercising. It is only after a combat deployment. The stress itself is one example of this.” Finally. or even one hour to the next. Learning to deal with this chaos and the capriciousness of officer’s orders is an essential skill for any soldier. in actual fact. For many soldiers. however. as Drill Sergeant Gould related: “Look. that I realized how important the skills of negotiating the Army institution were for a soldier. for example. And we can only do PT for a half hour in the morning. Due to recruiting goals. even without seeing an actual firefight. So we give you pushups. so you can pass that PT test. we got nine weeks to get you guys in shape. the contradictory commands and unclear orders force privates to adapt to the chaos which is prevalent on a battlefield. the realization that Basic Training was more than an extended hazing ritual marks a defining moment of their achievement of the status of soldier. This concept extended to Basic Training as well. and remember that Basic Training is also intended to train privates in the mechanics of life in the Army and how to properly fit in to the institution of the Army. and only realized later. The practical lessons of Basic Training are frequently lost on privates in the stressful conditions which mark Basic Training. so we gotta get some other way to get you exercise. especially those you don’t like or don’t respect. During Reception. Although at first this may seem petty. Sergeant Wells and other instructors would deliberately issue contradictory instructions in order to punish groups with pushups.We should be wary. many privates are admitted to Basic Training who likely should not be there for various 180 . as there is no regular PT at Reception. as missions and orders will constantly change from one day.

but I don’t know. It sucks. but whatcha gonna do?” In an interview. I don’t know. Two of the best known memoirs of Operation Desert Storm relate the feelings of soldiers and marines about the uselessness of their NBC equipment. Especially today. One infantry soldier expressed his view on this. and just like overall stress management. Private Ricardo’s comment about Afghanistan parallels the infantry soldier’s comment that experiences in Basic Training are to prepare any soldier for combat. Like I used to freak out when I was a civilian and now stuff doesn’t really get to me. when Private Ricardo was asked what he felt he had accomplished he replied: I learned how to deal with really ignorant people. I wouldn’t go so far as to say anger problems because I wouldn’t like go and lash out or anything. but he is. because when we’re in Afghanistan. I don’t want that guy watching my back. the specter of a combat deployment informs everything a soldier learns and does at Basic Training. and the more qualified soldiers will have to deal with their limitations at that point.reasons. but little small thing would just disturb the shit out of me. What do you mean freak out? Oh. and I wish he wasn’t. regardless of their military specialty. so you get as much experience as possible. I don’t know like I’d just get frustrated and angry. they pour on so much stuff that after a while your stress tolerance and I guess it actually helps you. But when I went through basic it kinda did in the beginning. but it didn’t really get to me as much as I thought it was gonna. stuff was really hectic. “well. These privates will eventually graduate and go on to other units. only to discover the importance upon deployment 181 . I figure you’re gonna have to learn how to deal with them. so I have to know how to take care of him and watch my back with him around. it might as well start here.

2003). Dealing with the stench is just the beginning of being ready for combat.(Williams. Swofford. If the waves don’t get to you. however. every LBE 63 must be worn the same. including every piece of field gear owned by the private. every rucksack must be packed in the same way. I had entered into a contract when I hit the yellow footprints. is a set of suspenders and a belt made of webbing from which a private hangs his canteens. As with other requirements. Marines will start to puke their guts up.” As he speaks with the civilian. Your drill instructors are giving you the tools you will need to survive. 2004.” The civilian explains to him the practical purpose behind this abusive punishment: “you’ve never been in a troop carrier making a beach landing. We agreed to take it. 182 . . The drill instructors agreed to provide emotional and physical stress. also called an LBV or Load Bearing Vest. but to teach a soldier to trust his gas mask to filter contaminated air on the battlefield. pp. The importance of the gas chamber is not only to experience the pain and discomfort seemingly ubiquitous in rites of passage. When that thing hits the waves. this seems unnecessarily authoritarian at 63 LBE – Load Bearing Equipment. and then we exercised in it. ammo pouches. He describes his worst experience: “we were forced to drink water until we puked. and other standard items. the vomit in your lap will. Buzz Williams also describes a conversation he had with a former Marine while going through Boot Camp at Parris Island. . whether hanging in a locker or worn. Thus. first aid kit.” (Williams. 4042) The rigid conformity imposed on privates also serves a practical purpose tied to combat. he begins to get a sense of the practical nature of the punishment delivered by the drill instructors at parries Island. 2004. During Basic Training every soldier’s uniforms must be exactly the same. He prefaces his conversation with the following thought: “I thought I understood what was happening on the Island. In his memoir.

this is a convenient way to identify one another. he’s wounded. to find his first aid pouch. in Turner’s paradigm. there’s a firefight. due to the size of the bureaucracy of the Army. Also. “at least it’s not Sand Hill. Even the sleep deprivation enforced at Basic Training will eventually serve the privates should they be deployed to combat. oh. dress his wound. Overall. as all privates refer to each other by last name. as privates exist within the much larger bureaucracy of the Army. I come up on my buddy. being able to follow instructions from an officer. Although it will not matter how you fold your socks.first. or line up your uniforms. “let’s say it’s dark.” Finally. or perform a task in a standard manner. The very uniformity of soldiers requires them to develop an alternative method of identifying one another. That’s why we do it. as Sergeant Brigman did. does. however. Learning techniques for staying awake during monotonous boring lectures will assist a soldier to stay awake when on guard duty or overseeing a radio during a long night. As every soldier’s uniform displays his rank and last name. The uniformity of soldiers serves to create a group mentality and. I can grab it. the entire “bad” experience of Basic Training. following orders to the letter is essential to relieving some of the chaos mentioned above. the heat to the humidity. most activities in Basic Training serve both practical and symbolic purposes. and not expose myself. also has a practical use. it is 183 . and refer to instructors by their rank. by enforcing a standard of wear for each soldier. I don’t want to go through his pockets. Separating a private from his name.” In addition. from the gas chamber to the punishments. creates the liminality and communitas necessary for a rite of passage. no. that’s his compass. serve to allow a soldier to compare whatever situation he may be in to his experience at basic Training and say.

and that it would not necessarily be the same 30% from engagement to engagement who fired. 1988) 184 . In the first case. by looking at the rank and nametape on the uniform rather than being given a description which could necessitate numerous attempts at delivery in an attempt to identify the correct person. who would always know his whereabouts. (Moskos. Rather. Marshall learned the importance of primary groups on the performance of soldiers in combat. The battle buddy system was also developed as a practical response by the Army to a number of different problems. the best predictor of whether a soldier would fire his weapon was how much that soldier felt his fellow soldiers were relying on him. Marshall in his ethnographic work Men Under Fire (2000). perhaps even the riflery taught in the second phase of Basic. The importance of the primary group.very helpful to be able to identify an unknown soldier. is a more likely predictor of combat success for a soldier than combat training or even prior combat. as detailed by S. The importance of Basic Training and the socialization which occurs in Basic Training has perhaps its greatest importance in the ultimate purpose of the soldier: combat. Army leaders and scholars. The creation of primary groups in Basic Training is more essential to this than any of the skills learned in Basic.A. when each soldier would be assigned two other soldiers to be his battle buddy.L.A. as for instance when tasked with delivering a message. This resulted in the adoption of the “battle buddy” system in Vietnam. Marshall found that less than 30% of any given combat unit would fire their weapon during World War II engagements. This system was implemented for accountability in case of an attack. such as S. and one of whom would be with him at all times.L. and to help new soldiers incorporate into existing units.

the assigned battle buddies shift away from the imposed assignments and drift towards actual pair bonds and friendships among soldiers. that’s for your protection and ours. This is likely because. privates were simply yelled at and ordered to get another private immediately. which can ruin a drill sergeant’s career in the Army. the importance of the battle buddy is to protect the drill sergeants. the battle buddy serves to keep soldiers.During Basic Training. I did not hear of any private being physically punished 64 for doing something alone.” drill sergeants carry a constant fear of being falsely accused of physical abuse by a private. usually a private’s bunkmate. we drill sergeants want to have another drill sergeant with us. both privates and drill sergeants. p. 1957. Their value lies precisely in their independence of formal organization. since “primary groups are by definition a system of informal interpersonal relationships. although there were occasional violations of the policy. especially during the first three weeks. then. safe. However. at least during Basic Training. over the course of the next weeks. You watch. Drill Sergeant Saburi explained this to 3rd platoon after a private tried to enter the Drill Sergeant office: “look. 84) The 64 By physical punishment I refer only to ordering the private to do calisthenics or other heavy work. you got to understand. It is expressly against the rules for a drill sergeant to touch a private at Basic Training 185 . So we always have to have that other private with you. You get it?” On a practical level. Interestingly. We don’t want anybody saying anything might have happened with a drill sergeant and lying. too. the battle buddy system was strictly enforced by the drill sergeants. The battle buddy system. In a variation on Turner’s “power of the weak. however.” (Masland. this is hardly surprising. Just in case. Rather. As the battle buddy system is designed to improve the development of primary groups. Battle buddies are assigned to each private on the first day of Basic Training.

they essentially condoned this act of rebellion against the authority of Basic Training. p. 2002. in the words of Monroe Mann “follow orders!” (Mann. 107) In Basic Training. Privates are introduced to these rules only when they fail to follow them. p.structure the Army attempts to force upon the privates.” (Edgerton. the knowledge of the drill sergeants provides them with a great deal of power. “they lend themselves to argument manipulation and negotiation. of course. This brings us to the theme of organizational negotiation. except. and the ability to manipulate the privates as they need by selectively choosing which rules to enforce and which to ignore. every society incorporates sets of rules which are “complex. rules are so constituted that at least some people can manipulate them to their advantage. Basic Training is rigid with institutionally imposed rules and regulations. . Even this instruction is frequently problematic as drill sergeants will give contradictory orders to privates. sometimes deliberately. On one occasion 3rd platoon was ordered down to the firing range. 1976. As the drill sergeants for Bravo Company did not seem particularly interested in the specific battle buddy any given private was accompanied by. or ambiguous. The ambiguity of rules is not restricted to Basic Training. contradictory.” and that in these situations. Basic Training is still the exemplar of Erving Goffman’s total institution. As Robert Edgerton points out. 56). . is counteracted by the liminal nature of the Basic Training environment. there is no presentation of the rules. down to naming who their friends will be. Although regular Army life is much more relaxed than it was in previous years. then turned back by the range 186 . and sometimes as a result of mixed or incomplete messages from other drill sergeants or instructors.

our platoon guide 65 responded “Nothing. 3rd platoon had been punished twice for violating this rule. his response was simply. “what do you think?” repeated every time I attempted to ascertain an answer. When one of privates asked him what was going on. doing the right thing was being punished in that particular case and that really. when drill sergeants are attempting to establish their dominance over the privates as well as condition the privates physically by imposing as much exercise as they can.cadre in charge. Drill Sergeant Saburi yelled at the platoon for not being on the range. but now I’m being punished for those very things. This ambiguity can also lead to problems later in a soldier’s Army career. because my person integrity. once for wearing hats indoors. and once for not wearing our hats indoors.” 65 Platoon Guide: the private assigned to be in charge of the platoon 187 . one of the universal rules in the United States military is that a servicemember will not wear his hat indoors unless he is armed. as Private Argent related: “Any time you’re doing the right thing they’ll figure out a way to make it the wrong thing. .” This is particularly a problem during the first three weeks of Basic Training. it’s like well. what the fuck? So it just kind of left me spinning. really upset me greatly. . I can not let myself do a substandard job. When we returned to the holding area. you know I have to do the best job that I can in a given situation and that was being. For instance. both times while carrying an unloaded weapon. and I can trace that directly back to the drill sergeants always making whatever I did the wrong answer. you know what am I supposed to do? I want to succeed and I want to do the things that I’m being asked. motivation. When I attempted to determine the exact rule for this by asking the drill sergeant whether we counted as armed with an unloaded weapon. emotionally. or OCD is such that I just. And that didn’t teach me what ultimately was the right way to handle certain situations in the Army. I still don’t know exactly how to get along with a sergeant. You know. That kind of thing. to this day. just typical drill sergeant bullshit.

Here look. Drill Sergeant Saburi would repeatedly tell 3rd platoon: “The illusion of work is as good as work itself. you look like you’re slacking. Just try to look busy. ‘look. when you really only needed like ten guys.” privates are establishing their own identity as the masculine soldier. not necessarily activity itself. But when you point. given to privates 188 . if you’re just standing and talking.” (at this point Sergeant Brigman mimed pointing to various places in the parking lot) It was also not uncommon for the drill sergeants themselves to be in on shamming. The first technique is “shamming. typically cleaning or grounds maintenance. privates slowly do learn how to negotiate the new and frequently unknown regulations surrounding their lives. watch. Here. So everybody would stand around.” avoiding doing exercises during PT by watching the drill sergeants and resting when they are not looking in your direction. and then the drill sergeants would come out and smoke us for it. Shamming extends to other activities as well. but they do exist. working without complete knowledge of the 66 A detail is an assignment. such as the numerous details 66 privates are assigned to. So our platoon guide. masculinity is dependent on the appearance of activity. By providing “the illusion of work. Both privates and drill sergeants negotiate their way through the rules and regulations imposed on them by the Army institution. Privates. The techniques used by drill sergeants are often subtle. He said to us. you look like you’re busy.” As we saw above. of course. just point. he was smart. and frequently less necessary due to their higher standing in the hierarchy. you always had an entire platoon out doing grass detail. I know there’s too many people out here. Sergeant Brigman related the following story: “When I was at Basic.’ And he was right.Over the course of Basic Training. as well as keeping the image of the drill sergeants properly reinforced as well. you know.

of course. As a touchstone event for almost every soldier in the Army. and violation of seemingly ridiculous rules is met with swift punishment. 189 . Basic Training is layered with practical and symbolic lessons. and constantly adapt successful strategies as different drill sergeants will respond in different ways to the same situations. Negotiation of Identity Basic Training roughly follows the pattern of a rite of passage. In addition to its ritualistic elements. Rather than a simple transition from one identity to another. There is definitely a transition involved in the course of Basic Training.system they have been thrust in to. it serves as a tool for communicating with other soldiers one’s status and chosen identity. from learning to deal with disruptive soldiers to embracing a new hairstyle and the expressions that hairstyle makes. Basic Training is simply one phase. or more precisely multiple phases. for whom Basic Training is not a step towards the proper identity. and have their introduction to the performances which will be necessary for them to maintain their identity. Privates at Basic Training also learn how to negotiate the complex bureaucracy they will be faced with as they perform their new role of soldier. one in which every decision is predetermined by outside forces. in the passage a person takes as they shift their identity from civilian to soldier. Privates must learn to adapt to their new environment. As with any institution. there are those who will not be able to adapt. although with more layers and variations than a simple template would suggest. must test out different strategies. but rather highlights their failure to take those steps.

As the cycle progresses however. These privates are typically placed in the role of “platoon guide”. and are perceived as natural leaders and proper soldiers by the institutions representatives. there will be those who counter the problem child. In the anti-structure which develops over Basic Training. at least in the beginning of Basic training. the drill sergeants. soldier’s identities will remain in flux.As privates learn to negotiate Basic Training and their identities. the problem child will typically fall towards the bottom of the new hierarchy. and some problem children will adapt and be reincorporated into the group. typically known as “problem children” face stigma and the label of deviant. In addition. the nominal leaders of each platoon. in the new and unknown environment. these failed privates. 190 .

as privates are overseen every moment by at least one drill sergeant per platoon. the problem child plays a more symbolic one. In addition.” During these first three weeks. The platoon guide is the position granted to one private in each platoon to act as the leader of the platoon. as I will discuss later. and is frequently ostracized because 191 . one of the main assumptions of his work. The problem child. the defining element of the soldier identity. then. he is a deviant within the micro-culture of Basic Training. and thereby to violence. The soldier’s role is. studies of masculinity show the associations of many male roles with violence. Although Girard’s work is an effective tool for examining cycles of violence. This stress is intended to emulate the stress of combat. While the platoon guide plays a predominantly practical role in the platoon. wherever violence exists it will feed upon itself. is a private who consistently fails to adapt to Basic Training or fails to perform correctly. that the scapegoat used by society is randomly drawn from that society. and frequently by three drill sergeants. and how individuals repeatedly perform those roles on a public stage to establish themselves as proper “men. a violent act which stands outside and thus brings to a halt the cycle of retributive violence. resulting in greater and more extreme cycles of violent retribution unless dealt with by sacrificial violence. has been questioned by more recent literature. two iconic figures of Basic Training are identified by the drill sergeants: the platoon guide and the problem child. As outlined by Rene Girard in Violence and the Sacred (1972). inherently linked to combat. As a private who constantly stands out by making mistakes. as well. on the other hand.Chapter 4: Sacrifice and Basic Training The first three weeks of Basic Training are the most intense and stressful.

However.of it. at least not any authority recognized by the other privates. Although he has no rank or other authority. The first is the symbol of the civilian world. there are two distinct roles within each platoon that are always noticed by the cadre. The ways in which the platoon deals with these two figures. By providing the private with a symbolic example of either civilian life or military life. The problem child is the label given to those 192 . highlights the ways in which privates choose their own paths in the construction of their new identities as soldiers. During Basic Training. The second is the platoon guide. Although these “sacrifices” are only symbolic. The platoon guide or “PG” is the single private ostensibly in charge of the training platoon. the nominal leader of each Basic Training unit who serves as a focus for the aggressive response of privates to the apparently random orders inflicted on them by the authorities. There are two distinct types of scapegoat during Basic Training. and who serves as a scapegoat for the drill sergeants when the platoon he is leading makes a mistake that group punishment is not appropriate for. he is responsible for the platoon’s behavior and obedience. Platoon Guide and Problem Child The platoon guide and the problem child both fulfill roles as ritual sacrifices in the mold of Girard’s ritual and sacrificial victims. these figures provide an outlet for the stress-induced emotions of Basic Training. and with the drill sergeants as well. They also serve a symbolic purpose. they allow privates to negotiate the ritual of Basic Training and the transition from civilian to soldier with greater ease. what is called the “problem child” by most soldiers. most privates will be nameless and faceless bodies to the drill sergeants and other supervisors.

At Basic Training. a member of third platoon had failed to lock his wall locker. resulting in anger and verbal aggression toward the problem child. with a single latch on the outer door. drill sergeants go through the barracks to make certain that it is properly cleaned. The top drawer of this chest is allocated for “personal gear” and has a small hasp to lock it closed. Especially during the first few weeks of training. In addition to uniforms and other issued gear. On one occasion during the second week of training. Inside the wall locker is a bar for hanging uniforms and a three drawer chest for storing small items. and the drill sergeant not only pulled all of the private’s uniforms and gear from the wall locker and scattered them across the barracks.privates in a platoon who are not capable of adapting to or completing properly the demands of Basic Training. The first combination lock is to lock the personal drawer while the second should be used to lock the entire wall locker. drill sergeants pay close attention to the state of the barracks to enforce both regularity and safety. swept. Due to the use of group punishment during Basic Training. which they then use to secure their belongings. A common example of this is when a private fails to keep his locker locked. When the platoon fails a task or does not perform as expected. approximately three feet wide by six feet high. All privates are required to purchase two combination locks while they are at Reception. and all wall lockers have been locked closed. After privates have left for morning PT (physical training). items such as laundry detergent and boot shining kits are also kept in the private’s wall locker. the entire platoon is almost always punished for the mistakes made by the problem child. he also 193 . rather than focusing on the individual soldiers who failed in their tasks. each private is assigned a standing wall locker. the drill sergeants will punish the entire platoon for the failure.

his battle buddy’s bunk. whereupon he ordered the platoon to fix the barracks. and in many cases privates were not even aware that platoon guides or squad leaders had been punished. Stories of lockers being thrown out windows or down stairs. On one occasion. the platoon guide will be called into the drill sergeant Office or the Day Room 67 and punished privately. rumors spread throughout Bravo Company of things the drill sergeants from Bravo and other companies had done to privates and platoons that had failed to maintain their barracks. or when the drill sergeants see a mistake as a problem with the leadership of the platoon. and then rewaxed the floor.opened the private’s bottle of laundry soap and poured it all over his bunk. many times the platoon guide is punished on his own for the mistakes of the platoon. when the company returned from PT. all the members of 3rd platoon were required to remain in the barracks and clean the mess before they were allowed to go to breakfast. These punishments are usually delivered when an individual in a platoon can be isolated as the one making the mistake. When a platoon makes a mistake which can not be labeled as a specific private’s fault. bunks being toppled over. 1993). wrote “Stupid” on the floor in kiwi. In addition to this specific example. In the case of 67 A room in the Company Area reserved for drill sergeants 194 . However. and kiwi (boot shining wax) wiped across the barracks abounded during Basic. as veterans report that they were punished in private when they were leaders in their training groups (Ebert. an exercise requiring them to remain awake throughout the rest of the night. Thus. 3rd platoon had supposedly been forced to watch while a drill sergeant stripped the wax from the floor of the barracks. and across the floor of the barracks. This tradition extends back at least as far as Vietnam. Specifics of these punishments were never mentioned to the other privates.

In the case of 3rd platoon.3rd platoon. with Private Parker the assigned platoon guide for most of the training cycle. who are in charge of ten to fifteen man squads. from week six to week nine. You don’t even know. while yelling at the platoon as whole. mentioned that Private Parker (the platoon guide) had taken “so much punishment for you guys. The number of battalions in a Basic Training Brigade was unclear during Basic Training. 195 . even in 3rd platoon. the recognized right to discipline and control the platoon. in actual fact their leadership is usually based more on influence. the organization of Army units outside of Basic Training. the drill sergeants placed a nominal platoon guide in charge of the platoon.” However. Private Parker was reassured by Drill Sergeant Saburi that he was still “really the PG. in 1st.” The platoon guide is assisted by the squad leaders. the platoon guide creates schedules for cleaning. and still is. the platoon guide remained relatively constant. however. It is a standard procedure for the drill sergeants to change the platoon guide frequently. Although the platoon guide and the squad leaders are supposed to have authority. and five companies per battalion. and on a number of occasions the drill sergeants would tell him that learning to deal with 3rd platoon would be “good training. There are four platoons per company. responsibilities. and other tasks assigned to the platoon. The Basic Training setup mimics. 3rd. 68 Working with the squad leaders.” One of the major conflicts which occurs within Basic Training is the disputed relationships of influence and authority within the platoon. with each platoon numbering between 40 and 60 soldiers. also appointed by the drill sergeants. and 4th platoons it appeared to members of 3rd platoon that they had a new platoon guide every week. it was not until week 5 that Drill Sergeant Saburi. but is not the same as. and is dependent on how many active battalions there might be at a given base at any time. 68 In Basic Training the squad is 10-15 people. Private Parker was going straight from Basic Training to Officer Candidate School. After the first change in the platoon guide.

most platoons have unofficial positions referred to as the problem child. such that even when he was removed from the position. This resistance is typical of Army life. highlights an important distinction between the problem child and the other privates. the other privates at first refused to accept him. privates from 3rd platoon continued to look to him for guidance. Private Huntley on the other hand. while Private Huntley tended to fail as a platoon guide because of his lack of respect from the rest of the platoon. The incident mentioned by Private Fletcher in the third chapter. in the sense that although I almost never knew who the platoon guides were for any platoon besides 3rd platoon. Where the platoon guide is often a strongly performing private. being forced to stand in front of the platoon while they were being punished. I was aware of many of the problem children from other platoons. In particular. in which the authority of a leader must be combined with influence in order to be effective. and the platoon is frequently punished for it.Thus Private Parker was generally successful as a platoon guide due to the strength of his personality. had not gained respect from the platoon prior to his appointment to platoon guide. The problem child’s mistakes most frequently get the entire platoon punished. Private 196 . As it turned out. The problem child is a more visible figure in Basic Training. and despite the authority of that position. challenging the rules of the institution. Although mistakes are made by every soldier throughout Basic Training. Private Sands of 1st platoon was notorious throughout the company for being mentally incompetent. there is a qualitative difference in response from both drill sergeants and other privates depending on who makes these mistakes and how often they are made. Parker was successful as a platoon guide primarily because of the respect he was given from the other privates.

informed me that. Private Cruz. Total Control The first three weeks of Basic are referred to as “Total Control. I’m here. as well as one or two more assigned to the company at large. Ricardo stated: “he would intentionally get us in trouble.” During Total Control. man. we were never off Total Control. We just wouldn’t do what the drills wanted us to do.” This is not always the case. and you do it. there is always one drill sergeant per platoon with the privates. after the first three weeks. When we first got here I was like. but on many occasions the problem children in 3rd platoon were perceived to be helpless or unfortunate.” In this case. as privates in Charlie Company (a different company in my battalion) later reported that they had never been taken off of Total Control for their entire nine week training cycle. on the other hand. While at AIT. that’s 197 . he wouldn’t clean up his stuff. and I just wanted to kill him. “no. and frequently gets the whole platoon punished. and later became both a squad leader and platoon guide for 3rd platoon. a little shit eating smile on his face. he’d constantly talk back. the problem child was perceived as deliberately enjoying getting the platoon in trouble. The problem child. makes mistakes consistently. a private from Charlie Company. Discussing Private Darren. Usually. one of the most disliked privates in 3rd platoon. he didn’t want to participate in anything. and the punishment from that first day was never mentioned. however. if still a problem. the strict oversight of the drill sergeants is relaxed and the privates are said to be “off total control. [at AIT] and the drill sergeants say do something. but he’d do it all with a smile.Fletcher did not cause any other major punishments for the platoon.

In this case. and are more likely to punish privates for mistakes. The platoon had to collect all of the boots and redistribute them back through the platoon. You don’t get punished as much as we did. then informed the platoon that they had done so because the platoon had failed to properly shine their boots the night before. for example. Down. Look at the floor! Can you see the dirt on that floor? Get your face down closer. During the second week of Basic Training. but must instead hold his chest off the ground by at least a centimeter. The commands of “down” and “up” are used when drill sergeants do not demand a specific number of pushups.weird. while the platoon was doing pushups. who thinks the barracks is clean? Let’s take a look. where they can be trusted by the drill sergeants to properly maintain their own boundaries and enforce the norms the drill sergeants have required of them. the stated reason for the punishment was actually that the barracks was not properly clean rather than the mistake with the boots. Although the drill sergeant explained why the boots had been thrown into the Company Area. when a private is “down” he is not allowed to rest on the ground. Drill Sergeant Redmond called the entire platoon to “toe the line” 69 and then dropped the entire platoon. Up. the implication of moving “off Total Control” is that the company has progressed to a more mature point in their rite of passage. but will instead order privates down and up according to their whim. Should a drill sergeant catch a private resting on the ground. they were told: “get down there. in a good way. In this case. like. 70 I told you I want this barracks clean before you go out for PT. 70 198 . Down. Total Control implies more than simply oversight from the drill sergeants. “You know. he will stand directly over that private and yell at him if he does not keep himself off the ground. the drill sergeants enforce the rules of Basic Training more strictly. he responded. Also. drill sergeants threw 3rd platoon’s boots out of the barracks.” When I asked what he meant by weird. Once that had been accomplished.” In other words. When a company is under Total Control. Now.” The lack of cleanliness in the 69 To “toe the line” is to assemble around the marked off killzone in the center of the barracks.

or when training time is eclipsed by “busy work” or “mickey mouse. such as when Private Hanson would make a mistake during a drill and ceremony class or the platoon was not prepared for a class on time. One of the truisms of military life is that morale suffers when soldiers are given nothing to do. although group punishment continued.” and thereby use an excuse to punish you or the platoon. most of these punishments only occur during the first three weeks of training. In fact. “yeah. but especially during Basic 199 . On many occasions. This aspect of Total Control is the source of many private comments regarding random or thoughtless punishments from the drill sergeants. we will give you an order. Drill Sergeant Saburi informed me. of course. For instance. he points out that boredom is one of the potential causes for deviance. p. or that they felt. drill sergeants would punish the platoon for specific mistakes rather than seeming to invent mistakes to provoke punishment.” In Edgerton’s analysis of deviance. most of the punishments are directly related to the infraction which occurred. 98). After Total Control. and we know you can’t do it. Many privates refer to getting “fucked with” by the drill sergeants. Drill Sergeants smoke privates for failing to perform a task which is basically impossible. 1976. During all phases of military life.” However. was partly due to the fact that 3rd platoon had to devote extra time to sorting out the boots rather than cleaning the barracks. if you don’t we smoke you even more. But we want to see that you try.barracks. “any time you’re doing the right thing they’ll figure out a way to make it the wrong thing. as people will seek out new and different experiences when they find themselves unchallenged by their current situation (Edgerton. Disorganization is kept to a minimum through the active policing of the drill sergeants over the activities of the privates.

privates will ignore the new rules of Basic Training and military life not yet enculturated into them. “ate up like a soup sandwich.” are all variations on this theme of cleanliness. as the organization has not yet been created in the initiates. that the collapse into disorganization. and then deviant activity. Basic Training is a nine-week period of liminality and anti-structure.” “soup sandwich. can be controlled. and it is only through constant monitoring of the social interactions of privates. the Company Commander replied: “The things that I think make a good private? Social skills. Thus. such as when a uniform is dirty or not worn correctly. even the basics of showering. Even during the privates’ “off hours” in the evening.” or the complete.Training. military leadership actively works to prevent deviance from occurring by keeping soldiers and privates busy. Some of these kids come in and it’s like they don’t even know how to take a shower. from 5:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night. especially during Total Control. The phrases can be used to describe the physical appearance of a soldier. When asked about the most important elements of a new private. Another symbolic aspect of tight social organization is the association between cleanliness and being a good soldier. the environment at Basic Training is already symbolically disorganized. they are kept busy shining boots and cleaning their uniforms for the next day. You need to know how to interact with other soldiers. and sometimes later.” In other words. privates are kept constantly moving and working. but it is also frequently used to describe a soldier 200 . And hygiene. knowing how to remain clean. As shown already in chapter three. the phrases “ate up. are as important for proper integration in Basic Training as knowing how to interact with people. Within military slang. During Basic. be part of a team. Without the regular rules to follow.

or because they were being carried. As a symbol of military life. he remembered him by his nickname in the platoon. I can’t remember their names. Three people. I think it was. Do you think that they did that on purpose. Being “ate up” is most often used in reference to a problem child. on numerous occasions the drill sergeants would refer to those companies as “ate up. including Private 201 . But there were other people who completely relied on the team to get them through basic training. When asked about the people in the platoon he disliked. Although Ricardo did not remember Hanson by name. “Doofy.” From platoon to platoon within Bravo Company. the phrase can even be used to refer to an entire military unit.” and referred to him as “the first actual dumb person” he had ever met. I’d go so far as to say ignorant for someone who can’t even make up their own bed after being taught every single day for nine weeks. In fact.” or “messed up. .” For instance. it stands out in many films and stories.or private who is performing below the expectations of his unit. when referring to Charlie and Delta companies.” although “soup sandwich” was almost always reserved for descriptions of an individual soldier. and is frequently employed to create a sense of identity in comparison with other units who are “ate up. Making a bed in Basic Training is both simple and incredibly complex. one of them being Huntley. other platoons would also be frequently referred to as “ate up. they never learned how to do it on their own? I think a few people may have acted like that. and it was this private Ricardo meant when he referred to a person who could not learn to make his bed. Ricardo stated: I think we all had to be carried one way or another by other person’s strengths. there were two other people. .

Biloxi Blues. Ideally. or received bed clothes that were damaged or torn. Each bunk must be made properly each morning. Each private is assigned one of a pair of bunk beds. In addition the practice of maintaining the required regularity in the barracks is made more complicated by the fact that many privates did not receive a full complement of bed clothes. Privates who share a bunk bed are supposed to be “battle buddies”. but Drill Sergeant Redmond didn’t care about that. two cotton sheets. Some drill sergeants will require that these sheets be folded with hospital corners. and the extra sheet extends over the head of the mattress and is folded under. The next sheet is lined up with the top of the bunk and the excess tucked under the foot of the mattress. and two wool blankets. a mattress pad. For this reason. Again. a private places the mattress pad on top of the mattress. a pillow and pillowcase. and Full Metal Jacket. On top of that goes one sheet. then cover both with the mattress cover (which holds the mattress pad in place) and tie that off. sleeping on top 202 .Benjamin. the specifications for how each bunk must be made are so exacting and specific that the simple enterprise becomes very complex and difficult. hospital corners are required by some drill sergeants but not those of 3rd platoon. I will refer to privates who sleep next to one another as bunkmates. Although there are only these six elements to make a bunk. Also. This bottom sheet is lined up with the foot of the bed. The bed clothes for an army bunk are one mattress cover. basically a large pillowcase that wraps around the plastic mattress and ties at two corners. but in actuality most battle buddy pairs are formed by choice among the soldiers in the general area of a private’s bunk. some drill sergeants require the top sheet to go over the pillow (presumably to prevent the privates from pulling the pillow out at night. a completely etic term.

of the bunk. while there is leeway allowed for the placement of the sheets on the bunk. down to the fifth spring of the frame. This was true for every soldier in 203 . For the blanket. the first blanket is laid on top of the bunk in the same way as the top sheet. lined up with the head of the bed and with enough excess tucked under the foot of the bed to allow for a hospital corner. The second blanket is then folded in half and placed over the pillow. and then exactly six inches of blanket and sheet together are folded a second time. Since privates are not allowed items such as rulers. The hospital corners need to be made here. the blanket should be lined up exactly even on the middle of the bunk. Since the blankets are frequently barely wide enough to cover the bunk. the private should climb underneath the mattress frame and pull all the blankets tight through the springs of the frame. In addition. the blanket must be lined up even on both sides and the top edge must be perpendicular to sides of the mattress. Drill Sergeant Briggs told 3rd platoon that you can’t get through Basic without scraping your fingers at least once on the metal frame. as well. and then sliding it back underneath in the morning so the private doesn’t have to make his bunk). most privates will use a dollar bill from their wallet. Once the sheets are finished. hospital corners are required. The sheet is folded once over the top edge of the blanket. After all this is done. which is six inches in length. since they can actually be observed during an inspection of the barracks. and frequently a private has to fight with the blanket to get the two inches of slack on either side to stay wedged between the mattress and the bed frame to maintain the even appearance. and the excess tucked into the top of the bunk.

3rd platoon. Social disorganization theory states that an environment in 204 . social disorganization theory focuses on the realms in which deviance seems to prosper (Weitzer. making a bunk seems relatively simple. rather than how any private may have learned to make a bed prior to Basic Training.” uniform and regular. making a bunk at Basic Training is one of the many processes which seems simple but due to the extreme rigidness in acceptable behavior can quickly become complicated. it is hardly surprising that the inability to make a bunk is pointed out by privates as an example of a poor soldier. Instead. A blanket must not be placed on the bed such that the “US” which is printed on them is facing upward. however. Social Disorganization Theory The stress on proper maintenance and strict control in the beginning of Basic Training is representative of a belief that deviance increases as social organization collapses. to do so requires skill which many privates do not attain over nine weeks of training. The standardization of the process. Although it is possible to make a bunk properly on one’s own. however. After three or four times. it is the most important element of learning how to perform “the Army way. makes it surprisingly easy to learn for most new privates. battle buddy pairs cooperate to make each of their bunks in turn. This is only done when a soldier has died. 2002). Another important element of making a bunk is that it almost always a joint process for two privates. Thus. Thus. After shining one’s boots. reinforcing the ideals of teamwork and assistance that are the watchwords of drill sergeants. Departing from an idea that people or personalities are the cause of deviant behavior. and after two weeks it is almost second nature.

Here. if you have to take out the garbage. Beginning 205 . If social disorganization theory should be true. Basic Training should exhibit very few. and dilapidation (Stark. poverty. drill sergeants at Basic Training are attempting to remove any possibility of deviance from their areas of control.which norms are perceived as easily broken will exhibit more norm violations. incidences of deviance as it is so rigidly organized and overseen. The fifth element of Stark’s analysis becomes the focus for drill sergeants. Even references to “good soldiers” seem to revert back to an idea that cleanliness and waste management are two of the most important factors in a private: What should soldiers get out of Basic Training? A sense of duty. 2002). Drill sergeants rigidly enforce cleanliness and maintenance of this limited area. then. if any. The processes described by Stark seem to be consciously rather than subconsciously applied to the prevention of deviant activity by the drill sergeants and other cadre. mixed use. At Basic Training only one of these elements is present in any strength: density. the Company Commander for Bravo Company expresses the “sense of duty” that soldiers should receive from Basic Training in terms of cleaning the barracks. In any Basic Training class there are between fifty and sixty men in each platoon sharing a barracks space approximately fifty by one hundred feet in size. This area is further reduced by the killzone in the center of the barracks which removes almost half of the available living area. or deviance. Rodney Stark’s first development of social disorganization theory outlines five causes of crime incidence in urban communities: density. in which any hint that dilapidation could occur in the barracks is quickly dealt with through punishment and lecture. you will do it the best. If you have to wax the floor. you will do it the best. By enforcing strict standards of cleanliness. transience.

If boots are not properly shined. just as Stark’s social disorganization can be seen as a symbol of the psychological disorganization that can lead to deviance.” An extension of this is the stress that drill sergeants place on proper shining of the soldier’s boots. inverted rifle. During basic Training.” (Army FM 7-21. drill sergeants attempt to maintain psychological order. drill sergeants are enforcing strict and exacting rules of behavior among privates.” while the soldier’s rifle is often seen as a reflection of the soldier himself. ID tags. Soldiers who are not “airborne qualified” 71 are metonymically referred to as “legs. the Army attempts to reduce the freedom of choice. and boots. The combat boots represent the final march of the last battle. By limiting the freedom of activity of privates. from them. drill sergeants stress to privates that they must take care of their feet. each with a specific symbolic message: “The helmet and identification tags signify the fallen soldier. after training for the day is complete and before mail call or lights out. a break in the action to pay tribute to our comrade. 71 Airborne units are units which are trained to parachute out of military planes.with the shark attack on the first day. Appendix C). During Basic Training. this is another occasion for punishment from the drill sergeants. 206 . The inverted rifle with bayonet signals a time for prayer. On one occasion. the boots and rifle take on an additional symbolism as the basic tools of the soldier’s trade. since “a soldier’s feet is how he makes a living. by rigidly maintaining standards of cleanliness and order. and thus deviancy.13. Anywhere from two to four hours every night are devoted to properly shining boots. some private. and generally considered to be elite units. Cleanliness is reflected in two of the most common symbols of the soldier’s identity: his boots and his rifle. a military memorial is composed of helmet. In the same way. Cleanliness becomes iconic for proper behavior. According to the Army Soldier’s Manual.

A spit shine is time consuming.” a soft cotton square approximately 4” by 6”. A new kit will also include a “shine cloth. this ideal is actually obtainable by most privates. In response. In order to spit shine. a 207 . However. most Basic Training platoons demand that the toe and heel of each boot be spit shined.” Presumably this is because the mirror effect of the spit shine can be seen more easily than the matte effect that a brush shine produces. Ideally. and a small circular “applicator” brush. a large square “horsehair” brush. Over the course of the first few days. water was recommended by the drill sergeants of Bravo Company as a more effective agent. whereas a spit shine can require up to three hours to complete properly. According to Private Jones. as a brush shine can be done in minutes. although as the cycle progresses dirt and mud build up in the folds of the leather and make this effect more difficult to attain. there are some Basic Training platoons where the only requirement placed on privates for maintenance of their boots is a simple brush shine. A proper boot shine is “spit shined” on the front toe of the boot and the heel.and it was never made clear who the particular offender was. had not properly shined his boots the night before. but many privates use one of the brown t-shirts they have been issued as a shine cloth. During the first few weeks of Basic Training. drill sergeants teach privates the “proper” way to shine the black leather boots issued to them at Reception. Although the term suggests that saliva is used as an application agent. and issue a shoe shine kit to each private which includes a tin of Kiwi (boot shining wax). as a spit shine is not “tactical. the drill sergeants gathered up every boot in the platoon and threw them off the balcony into the company area. the toe of the boot should be shined to a point that a soldier can see his reflection on the boot. and brush shined on the remaining leather.

and q-tips and pipe cleaners to get to awkward and small areas of the rifle which a rag or brush which will not reach. Lubricating. A clean rifle is stressed as the most important element of a soldier’s identity in many units. The next element of soldier identity is the rifle each private is issued during the second week of training. The standard for privates in Bravo Company was a spit shined toe and heel. including a collapsible metal rod and metal brushes. each private is issued a “weapons cleaning kit” which contains a number of different cleaning instruments. the first thing they do is disassemble the rifle and clean every moving part within it. the drill sergeant would “give” the privates one hundred pushups. As with the shoe shine kit. and a small bottle of a liquid named CLP (Cleaning. In addition to these. The drill sergeant bet the platoon that if any private could shine his boots better than Drill Sergeant Saburi’s. Although no private won the bet. Even more important than a properly shined boot in Basic Training is a properly cleaned rifle.small amount of Kiwi is dabbed onto the shine cloth and the cloth is then dipped into the water and briskly rubbed in a circular pattern around the area being spit shined. but it is possible to spit shine the entire boot if desired. Protecting). Within 3rd platoon the importance of a well shined boot can be seen by a “bet” that Drill Sergeant Saburi made with the entire platoon. some privates. privates use a t-shirt or other rag to wipe down pieces of the rifle. One accepted fact about cleaning a rifle is that it will never be clean. When asked by a company commander how long he thought it would take to clean the company’s 208 . After privates return from training every day. such as Demina and Rodriguez. focused as much of their free time as they could on shining their boots in an attempt to win the bet. fabric swatches.

weapons after a training exercise an NCO’s reply was brutally honest: “The amount of time it takes to clean weapons is always the same: however long there is between when we start cleaning and when we have to turn them in. Should a private clean a rifle particularly well. as privates do not graduate when they are ready to become soldiers. This can be metaphorically applied to Basic Training as well. positive response were not 209 . combined with the truism that weapons are never clean. means that at Basic Training privates will frequently be punished for not having their rifles clean even after an extended period of cleaning. The limitations of these cleaning kits. Although each private is issued a weapons cleaning kit. the tools included in those kits are inherently limited. One of the limiting factors on weapons cleaning at Basic Training is the limited amount of proper cleaning supplies. weapons cleaning is not complete when a weapon is clean. usually with the threat that if a drill sergeant or instructor found a problem with the rifle.” In other words. the private would be given push-ups. it is complete when there is no more time to spend cleaning it. but rather when their prescribed time at Basic Training is complete. however. especially if inspected toward the end of the allotted cleaning time. Although the members of Bravo Company had spent the entire four hours cleaning. and after Basic training many soldiers purchase their own cleaning kits. Drill Sergeants and even Company officers frequently inspect the rifles during the course of a cleaning session. which include items such as dental picks and extra brushes to better clean the elements of the rifle. At one point Bravo Company was smoked for “wasting time” and not having their weapons clean after four hours. the rifles were not “clean enough” for Drill Sergeant Priest.

the two remaining drawers and the uniforms hanging along the bar must be laid out exactly the same. socks. Everything about the barracks must be completely regular as well. seeing a weapon this clean gives me a hard on!” This dynamic was quickly exploited by privates during Basic Training. preferably all of “small” size in order to enhance the regularity and to prevent a private from actually choosing to wear the displayed item. However. The personal drawer is the only area in the locker which does not have to be exactly the same as every other privates. all of the other elements in the barracks are highly regulated and must be ordered. In the middle drawer of the cabinet the toiletries of the private must be laid out. as many would wait until the final ten minutes of allotted cleaning time to present their weapons for inspection. and underwear to “tight roll” and leave in place in the clothing drawer. In the bottom drawer of the cabinet the shirts. and clean. who would punish the private. t-shirts. In order to maintain regularity. and other clothing items are also laid out. 210 . As we have seen with the regulation of the bunk. and remain in the drawer for the entire nine week period. It is not simply the equipment of a private in Basic Training which must be clean and regular. The lockers of each private must be laid out in exactly the same way. regardless of how much extra time a private spent cleaning it. It was guaranteed that a weapon presented before this period would be found “dirty” by the drill sergeants.uncommon. Drill sergeants even recommended to 3rd platoon to purchase an additional set of socks. uniform. “man. these clothing items are never worn. a weapon presented just before the end of a cleaning period would almost always be accepted. On one occasion. the Company XO (second in command) after inspecting a weapon remarked. However.

Sergeant Matthews. Although each private had a slightly different issue of equipment (some privates received three sets of PT uniforms. one of the most easy-going sergeants I had ever met. Simply put. summer BDUs. called out a soldier who had mixed uniforms and informed him. winter PTs. a private had to display summer PTs. in order to enhance the regular and uncluttered appearance of the drawer. which actually had to be explained by the drill sergeants during the first week. especially between the summer and winter BDUs. The winter cap is made of a more nylon type cloth with a flap that runs around the back of the head to each ear which can be flipped down for more insulation if the weather should be cold. however. although there is a technique to roll t-shirts and underwear in such a way that they will remain rolled. is the cap that is worn. 72 Green duct tape used by the Army 211 . The distinctions between these uniforms were subtle. the summer BDU fabric has visible threads in a small square pattern built into the fabric while the winter uniform appears solid and has a corduroy-like pattern to the fabric. each locker had to be laid out in the same order as all other lockers. some two for example). Hanging from the bar are all of the uniforms issued to the privates. At my reserve unit. the clothing is instead rolled and then taped tight with a piece of the ubiquitous ninety-mile-an-hour tape 72 . “Man. look. which is one of the cardinal sins of military life. The most important distinction between the two uniforms. it tended to lose shape and appear collapsed. some privates would wear the summer cap with the winter BDUs. The summer cap is made of the same fabric as the summer uniform and tends to be more rigid and maintain its shape. this meant that from right to left. For this reason. Due to the softer fabric of the winter cap. In the case of 3rd platoon. and winter BDUs.In addition.

While in the locker. and even a minor infraction such as wearing a summer cap with winter BDUs is met with rigid enforcement. they also learn which rules they cannot. Sergeant Matthews was known for not worrying about “proper soldier behavior. especially during the first three weeks of training. It would be better to wear different color boots than to mix summer and winter.” and his response was noteworthy as one of very few times he would intervene to correct a soldier. Any deviation from this exact layout can precipitate punishments from the drill sergeants. is sacrosanct. and highlights the importance of the uniform for the soldier identity. Sloppiness and the Problem Child Although there is a general acceptance that being a soldier involves working as a member of a team. The taboo of mixing uniforms also shows the ways in which privates learn to negotiate the bureaucracy of the Army. and the top button and top button only of each uniform fastened. As mentioned previously.” Although there was no physical punishment. the only important distinction between the two uniforms is where they sit in the locker. The uniform pants should be buttoned all the way up and draped over the bottom of the hanger that holds its respective top. The uniform. however. there are so many regulations within the Army that it is virtually impossible to not break any rules.you can’t do that. here we can see that in the view of other soldiers. however. and even drill sergeants will deliberately bend or break the rules as they see fit. in many ways being 212 . The crotch of all the pants faces the front of the locker when the uniform is hung up. The front of all uniforms must be faced to the left. Just as privates learn which rules they can ignore during Basic Training.

Hanson’s locker was notorious for its lack of organization. Private Hanson was also frequently identified as a problem child. When the boot laces were eventually found stuffed inside his locker. In order to clear a path for Private Sands. he would simply throw his equipment and uniforms into his locker and close it without hanging up or organizing his clothing and equipment. Hanson’s personal sloppiness is reflected in his inability to keep track of essential items. First.” for his mistake. Within 3rd platoon. This event became a defining moment in the construction of Sands as a problem child. all of whom saw Sands come out of the stall. In response to this.” or a “dumb-shit. but for failing to maintain proper standards of cleanliness and order for themselves and their areas. On one occasion. calling him “stupid. he misplaced his boot laces and left his boots out for display completely unlaced. numerous privates in 3rd platoon verbally assaulted him. At the time there were over twenty privates in the latrine. I had to call attention to his situation to be certain that no one would accidentally bump into the private while he made his way to the sink to wash his hands. nicknamed “Doofy” by the rest of the platoon. Problem children are known not only for making mistakes. he was known for being sloppy and not properly maintaining his locker or personal areas. On one occasion during a break between lectures.a successful member of a team requires cleanliness. Any time Hanson would have to go somewhere. to such a degree that his status as such was known not only to his own platoon. Three specific examples of Hanson’s mistakes will be discussed here in relation to the construction of the problem child as sloppy. but to the entire company. In the case of Hanson. this 213 . after going to the latrine. Private Sands used his hand to wipe himself since there was no toilet paper in the latrines. and walked out of the bathroom stall with his hand soiled.

Rather than punish Hanson for his mistake. Hanson was seen as mentally sloppy. Failing to lock his locker was viewed as just one of many mistakes 214 . In losing his boot laces. Drill Sergeant Saburi punished the entire platoon. this was again tied to insults and comments about Hanson’s status as a problem child and as a “fuck-up. When Hanson realized his equipment was missing. early in the cycle private Hanson precipitated a group punishment for his failure to properly maintain the standards of military address. took the opportunity to berate Hanson for his lack of cleanliness. Second. drill sergeants must always be addressed as “Drill Sergeant [name]. calling us out into the company area and forcing us to do pushups. he demonstrated that he was not properly organized. Hanson referred to Drill Sergeant Redmond simply by his last name. saying that he was “ate up.” First. he became very upset and broke down in tears. Thus. Although the platoon quickly relented and returned Hanson’s equipment. Even Private Lee. Although it is acceptable to refer to other privates simply by their last name.” While speaking with Drill Sergeant Saburi.” about most things. These three examples show three different ways in which the problem child is seen as sloppy or “ate up. this practice is strictly forbidden when talking to or about any non-private associated with the company.again provided an opportunity for privates to insult him. recognized by the platoon as being “laid back” or “cool. Hanson left his locker unlocked when the platoon traveled to the field for training.” and insisting that he clean his locker every night and make certain it was organized. and when they were discovered the state of his locker was blamed for the mistake. On another occasion. 3rd platoon took his uniforms and gear out of his locker and hid them in other lockers around the barracks. Hanson was seen as physically sloppy.” Finally. On this occasion.

Finally. or not performing according to the prescribed norms of Basic Training life. and as a result by the end of the cycle Hanson was given menial tasks such as sweeping or cleaning any time the platoon had to organize a detail. By failing to adapt to the requirements of Basic Training. Hanson was seen as socially sloppy. Functionalist Theory The very existence of the problem child indicates that despite the drill sergeants’ attempts to enforce rigid organization. and when those areas are properly maintained. By failing to properly follow the rules. deviance does still occur. 215 . The responses of the platoon to the problem child mirror the effects of the deviant as discussed by sociologists Kai Erikson and Rodney Stark. The functionalist theory of Kai Erikson claims that the deviant. and by repressing the deviant activity. Other problem children demonstrated similar forms of sloppiness over the course of the cycle and in many ways this sloppiness was what defined them as problem children. deviant activity will concurrently decrease. the problem child embodies the social disorganization which the military seems to be so terrified of. especially the rigid standards of regularity.that he had made. it is possible to see the problem child as the deviant among the Basic Training platoons. by challenging the accepted norms of society. not paying attention to the proper forms of address and the rules of interaction between soldiers. the group can reaffirm its own belief system. draws attention to those norms. Rodney Stark’s social disorganization theory suggests that deviance arises from undisciplined areas.

73. there will always be some members of any culture who do not act in accordance with the norms espoused by the majority of the group.” sublimating their own desires. 10) Edgerton agrees with Erikson and Durkheim that as a result of the inherent variation among human beings.The study of deviance has been a major field in sociology. needs.” (Edgerton. “deviance occurs in all societies. It would thus be foolish to assume that deviance does not also occur in the military. but as one in which the members have already been “totalized. 1992. However. p. 1992. The functionalist argument here is not being used to explain the existence of deviants within the Basic Training platoon. p. For this examination. that deviance is ubiquitous. 1961). Robert points that although “the vast majority of individuals in any society will be able to conform to the dominant type of that society. Those few who cannot be molded will be deviants. but rather to explain the interactions that occur between privates and drill sergeants and then relate those back to Girard’s concepts of scapegoating. 216 . based on Erikson’s modifications to Durkheim’s theory. italics original). presenting the military not only as a total institution. He states unequivocally that due to this. then.” (Edgerton. and actions to the demands of the institution itself (Goffman. What is of more concern is how the Basic Training platoon deals with the inevitable deviants its members discover during the training cycle. Accepting Edgerton’s conclusion. has particular merit. a discussion of the origins of deviance within Basic Training would be superfluous. since most temperaments will be sufficiently plastic to be molded by the force of that society. yet sociological studies of the military tend to ignore the effects and often the existence of deviant members of a military unit. the functionalist approach to deviance.

Functionalism is an amalgous theory that grew out of Emile Durkheim’s turn-ofthe-century work in French sociology. Society is founded on cohesively interacting groups. punishment must also be public. could not be performed. 1966). 217 . Arguably. the deviant causes the non-deviant members of society to come together in protection of those rules which were broken. and thereby draws attention to those rules (Erikson. crime and deviance have to serve a cohesive. For the same reason. then. What deviance does for the system is to inform the members of society what the acceptable patterns of behavior and social norms are. By violating these rules. Without deviance. who each work to keep society working. since Durkheim’s hypothesis was that deviance existed in order to strengthen community bonds in the face of deviance. Under this framework. Durkheim believed that every aspect of society performed a function. Durkheim worked under a number of assumptions which must be taken into account for any examination of functionalism. or if they only interact among themselves. the interactions between the deviant and the authorities are vital to the maintenance and control of boundaries. Within this context. that there must be a reason for subcultures and deviance. as a deviant violates accepted rules of conduct. It is this coming together that is essential to functionalism. positive purpose for society. the first major attempt was by Kai Erikson in his article “The Sociology of Deviance. A number of theorists have applied Durkheim’s functionalism to the study of deviance. and boundary maintenance.” The purpose of deviance is to reinforce the norms of the greater society. they are irrelevant to the maintenance of the social system. If deviants are hidden. the boundaries could not be known. deviants must be observed violating the rules of society. an essential of aspect of society.

violating rules. it was immediately seized upon as an opportunity to highlight to the rest of 3rd platoon that deviant activity. failing to learn basic tasks like making a bed. By not adjusting properly to Army life. It is most often a prelude to a platoon-wide punishment. the boundaries would not be upheld. the problem child at Basic Training acts as the deviant. 218 . glaring at each private. but would let us off. whether not cohering with the training platoon.The functional process is highlighted by significant deviant acts. otherwise they do not inform the group’s members of the boundaries. Although Randal maintained later that he had simply drawn the board because he was bored. Five minutes later. When these acts are observed they must be dealt with publicly. created by this participation. or losing personal equipment. would not be accepted. The entire platoon was ordered to “toe the line. the problem child represents the failure any private might suffer if he does not actively engage in incorporating Army values and identity. Drill Sergeant Redmond then stated that he would not be punishing us for Randal’s mistake. Under the functionalist framework.” 73 while Drill Sergeant Redmond placed Randal in the center of the killzone and stalked from private to private with the offending drawer in his hand. occasionally laughing. Private Randal was discovered with a checkerboard drawn on the bottom of his personal drawer. Drill Sergeant Saburi entered 73 “toeing the line” means that all privates must stand with their toes on the line separating the killzone from the remainder of the barracks. Drill sergeants will focus on problem children in their platoons when dealing out punishment pointing out to the entire platoon that it is “Private Darren’s” or “Private Huntley’s” fault that the platoon is being punished. On one occasion. Without identification with the boundaries of the community. The censure and punishment of deviants must be very public acts in which the members of the group participate to illuminate and ratify normative boundaries.

even if it is negative. By highlighting the private’s mistake.the barracks and again ordered everyone to toe the line. artificially creating the deviant role envisioned in Functionalist theory. as discussed in chapter two. or dancing (McNeill. group punishment was the method of choice for mistakes of both individuals and groups. First. especially during the first few weeks of Basic Training. There are likely a number of reasons for this. which David Schneider shows is a distinct possibility (Schneider. in which Private Pyle’s mistakes become cause for punishment for the entire platoon. when the individual responsible for the punishment is separated from the group during it. whether it be punishment. As noted before with Private Fletcher. However. that individual’s mistake or deviance is highlighted for the group. Drill Sergeant Saburi then ordered the entire platoon to the “front leaning rest position” and ordered Randal to smoke us. and then forcing him to stand while the remainder of the platoon is punished. group performance of any sort enhances the feeling of group solidarity. even if he is not being physically punished. they become complicit in the censure applied to the deviant. This isolation is necessary to prevent privates from sympathizing with him. it should be noted that the isolation of the failing 219 . he eventually acceded to the drill sergeant’s order and began the ordered counting typical while performing pushups. the mythological presentation of military training is Full Metal Jacket. With only a few exceptions. and as they engage in group activity. as William McNeill argues. Also. 1995). Finally. the practice of punishing everyone in the platoon except for the offending private is a standard practice for drill sergeants. the drill sergeant isolates him from the rest of the platoon. Although at first Randal balked. 1947). marching.

but were still uncertain about which privates would require extra discipline.private sets the scene for Erikson’s rite of transition. Fletcher was punished at a time when most privates still did not know each other. moving the offender away from the other privates both literally and figuratively. after the drill sergeants had established themselves as the authority. There is one another important contrast between the experiences of Fletcher and Randal. Fletcher’s punishment occurred on the first day of Basic Training. one significant rite of transition during the seventh week of training highlights the way in which drill sergeants identify deviants and then 220 . following on the heels of the “shark attack” and in the context of the drill sergeants asserting their dominance over the platoon. even in the uniform environment of Basic Training. In contrast with Evans’ processual change from private to problem child. was punished after the privates knew each other. Private Randal. and in the midst of a dozen other punishments (I do not actually remember the event which Fletcher recalls so clearly). and over the course of six weeks was progressively isolated and demeaned by the drill sergeants and the rest of the platoon. and which would eventually incorporate properly into the group. and could thus stand out as an individual. Private Randal’s punishment occurred at the beginning of Week 3. Also. Although the mechanics of his punishment were similar to Randal’s the social context of the punishment had a strong influence on the effect of the punishment on the other privates. Two other occurrences in Bravo Company’s training cycle highlight the way in which the drill sergeants isolated problem children and presented them as deviants to the rest of the platoon in order to achieve this reinforcement of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. on the other hand. Private Evans was one of the first problem children identified by the drill sergeants.

Evans broke into tears when the drill sergeants informed the platoon that they would not be allowed to see their families between Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training.” and it was difficult when one of “my boys is older than me. What the hell is that?” By crying. First. Although this act of weeping was not mentioned for the next six weeks. Evans was put on “suicide watch” and forced to wear a bright orange vest at all times. were released for medical reasons. however. and a third private.explicitly hold those deviants up as symbols of what the military does not want its soldiers to be. Private Nicholas. by the second week his separation from the rest of the platoon was officially begun when Drill Sergeant Briggs informed 3rd platoon that they should avoid him and not let him affect us. and then he breaks down crying in front of you. Over the course of the next four weeks. the drill sergeants began to separate him physically as well. Next. Although there was no specific moment at which Evans was identified as a problem child. when Evans was finally released. Evans was failing to properly perform the role of the masculine ideal of soldier. who was only with the platoon for three days and whose name is not recorded or remembered by any members of 3rd platoon. Evans was more and more isolated as the drill sergeants encouraged the other members of the platoon to avoid him. After Evans was separated from the rest of the platoon symbolically. Drill Sergeant Briggs mentioned that he thought of the platoon as “his boys. the drill sergeants had 3rd platoon move his entire bunk 221 . that Evans was explicitly identified as a problem child by the drill sergeants and the rest of the platoon. Private Evans was one of only three privates that were removed from Basic Training. On the first day of Basic Training. It was not until later.

Two soldiers carried Evans’s wall locker across the barracks. and some of the rumors that were circulating about him. The exaggerated response to Evans’s deviance was a result of his claims that the drill sergeants were abusing him. like. Drill Sergeant Redmond called the platoon around the killzone to discuss Evans. And I think that Evans definitely confused that with. That whole choking thing was. rumors that seemed to develop outside of anything Evans had said himself. Various rumors circulated about what Evans had claimed the drill sergeants had done to him. attempt at choking. the drill sergeants wanted to make certain that there would be an abundance of supporting statements from other privates that no abuse had occurred. But locked in a heated van thing I never heard of.away from the other privates and placed in a special location just outside the drill sergeant’s office. what’d he say. I never heard Evans say the Drill Sergeant tried to choke him. but like to just get his attention. like high on his shoulder. with four privates separating Evans’ top bunk from Fletcher’s bottom bunk and carrying it across the barracks to the office. sort of aggressive. and he had never even heard some of the rumors: I never heard the heated van. The entire event was almost celebratory. He mentioned that Evans had claimed that Drill Sergeant Briggs had attempted to choke him. he put his hands on him when he shouldn’t have. I heard him say that he. 222 . handled him inappropriately. was that he put his hand on his shoulder. like. And the drill sergeant. In order to protect themselves from official censure or reprimand. like I don’t know. Evans basically said that the drill sergeant. Private Fletcher was Evans’s assigned battle buddy from the beginning of the training cycle. On one occasion. meaning that. the way he explained it. as well. The mattress and bedclothes were taken off the bunk and then it was carried carefully so as to avoid stepping on the wax of the killzone in the center of the barracks. and that Drill Sergeant Gould had locked him in a van with the heat on during one field exercise. near the neck not choking.

however. “it was something that I think Evans always knew. stating “he said that Drill Sergeant Gould locked him in the van with the heat on. and I went to them. complained to the drill sergeants: “they saw it was kinda wearing on me. I was missing like rifle training. the drill sergeants would also take the opportunity to denigrate Evans. Evans was isolated from the platoon. the fear of the platoon losing morale was strong enough that contact with Evans was restricted and he was isolated from the rest of the platoon to keep his pollution to a minimum. How do you get locked in a fucking van? You just open the goddam door if you’re too hot.He immediately discounted the rumors. this idea of pollution was quite true. like that would have been his out.” These rumors were also discounted by other privates later. and that the members of 3rd platoon should not associate with him as if his inability to adapt to Basic Training were a pollutant that could pass from Evans to other privates. the rumors required the drill sergeants to take extra precautions when dealing with Evans. I’m not. so he never pursued it. In some ways. if they had done something like that he would have really. sort of. and I was like look. But Evans knew that there was no kind of factual basis for any of that. Concurrently with these acts of isolation. that he was a cry-baby. I didn’t say this but basically I was trying to tell them that I’m not his babysitter and they need to put someone else on him. 223 .” Regardless of the facts of the matter. Through these events. like I was missing a lot of the classes. as Fletcher. assigned to be with Evans more than any other private. pointing out that he was not a good soldier.” Although it is not clear whether the drill sergeants’ concern was based on Fletcher’s complaints or previous experience with privates similar to Evans.

In 224 . men. and calling them out and physically isolating them from the other privates. Darren. and he then called out Randal. These men can be good soldiers. one can see how the drill sergeants actively place the problem children into the role of deviant. However. he then stated “I don’t think we’ll have to do that. In these two events. most of the platoon named one or two in their response. Parker. In this case. Now. Huntley.The second event occurred with four privates identified as problem children by the drill sergeants. Of the four privates Drill Sergeant Briggs had called out. The problem child is the example the drill sergeants use to teach the privates going through Basic Training what unacceptable behavior for a soldier will be. is there anyone in this platoon you want to kick their ass?” After the first private. Evans’s isolation and the “black-balling” ritual. the four privates were pulled out from the other members of the platoon during the seventh week of training. After a theatrical pause. Drill Sergeant Briggs then went around the platoon asking each private to answer the same question. The processes described by functionalists can be clearly seen in the isolated community of a training platoon during Basic Training. they can also be a symbol of acceptable rule breaking. the drill sergeants create the process which Erikson and other functionalists observed operating naturally in society. volunteered an answer. Drill Sergeant Briggs then explained that the Army has a policy called “blackballing” in which members of a unit can unanimously vote a soldier out of a unit. and Jackson to the center of the killzone. they just need some help. as most problem children will graduate from Basic Training. All the members of 3rd platoon were ordered to toe the line by Drill Sergeant Briggs. By highlighting the ways in which these privates were failing to properly embody the soldier identity.

the “fuckups”. Expressions of violence towards or regarding a problem child are relatively common in discussions when this figure is mentioned. he wouldn’t do shit. is held up as the symbol for what privates do not want to become. Stories shared by soldiers are almost always of those people in their units. and with the drill sergeants and all. or the problem child.” Private Brown expressed his dissatisfaction with Private Victor. it’d be Victor. “If there’s one guy I would never want to be in a foxhole with. while Private Huntley was seen as wasted potential: a good soldier waiting to be developed. in both interviews and casual conversations. despite his graduation. I think I’d shoot myself first. who are the “failures”. I just went off on the guy. Violence and Masculinity The interaction of deviance and social control in Basic Training will only get us so far in an analysis of the underlying themes of Basic Training and the transition from civilian to soldier. physical punishment is frequently 225 . from Basic to retirement. disappeared on his own.” The dissatisfaction is also frequently discussed in terms of retributive violence: “there was this one guy. then what process do those privates use prevent themselves from doing so? The answer to this question necessitates a shift away from a study of deviance and towards Girard’s theory of the scapegoat. save the enemy the trouble.” or “there was this one guy. at reception. man. Y’know. was seen as a failed soldier. I was already tense because I hadn’t had a cigarette in a week. he’d wander off. We’d stand in formation. couldn’t do anything right. I wanted to kill that guy so bad. If the deviant. Private Hanson. the “problem children. pushed him against his bunk and screaming at him to get his shit together.” During Basic Training itself.3rd platoon.

but he notes the 226 . An interesting counterpoint to Gilmore’s discussion here is Susan Jeffords’ Remasculinization of America (1989). being a “man” is something which must be earned and maintained through a constant effort. Manhood in the Making (1990). as opposed to the female. For a male. especially one who then contributes back to society. not one who withdraws from it. David Gilmore’s cross cultural examination of manhood. Gilmore’s discussion of masculinity highlights the ways in which a “male” is created culturally. both Gilmore and Jeffords are essentially pointing out the same fact: a “man” in our culture is one who contributes to the life cycle. however. Many of Gilmore’s findings are particularly relevant to the rite of passage of Basic Training. independent individual.threatened against a problem child. especially his realization that a large portion of “manhood” in most cultures comes from a separation of the “boy” from his maternal relationships and the development of a new. and her discussion of Vietnam as a symbolic mechanism for American maleness to gain control of the reproductive process. shows not only a striking similarity between definitions of manhood in human groups from band to states and foragers to industrialists. especially by facing danger. The association between violence and manhood is prevalent in much anthropological literature. which cross culturally is based predominantly on biological markers such as secondary sexual characteristics and the act of childbirth. Gilmore accepts that events like childbirth or menstruation can be both dangerous and frightening for a woman. from both a biological (nature) and cultural (nurture) approach. such as “blanket parties” as depicted in the film Full Metal Jacket. Although approaching the issue from two different theoretical viewpoints.

the focus on the combat elite of various militaries in previous scholarship is likely due to our mythological idea of the military and an attempt to connect to that mythological narrative. Gilles Deleuze. the sociological and psychological viewpoints of Pierre Bourdieu. the prior selves of the privates. It is through this sacrifice of the self that the rite of passage can be completed. the role of the warrior. exemplified in myth. Turner. As previously discussed. the soldier. Although an anthropological analysis. using Girard. and others can account for some of the factors involved in this transformation. especially the warrior as a hero of Western myth.important distinction that male initiation and maintenance is based on a purely voluntary exposure to danger. In Basic Training. from the sacrifice of warmth and food to the sacrifice of the freedom to live life on your own terms. provides a counterpoint to the role of the soldier presented to privates during Basic Training. In addition. Georges Dumezil’s analysis of the warrior in Western myth. the way in which that violence is constrained or released is a focal point for the difference between these two categories. Although both the warrior and the soldier embody the use of violence.” and be prepared to act in his new role in society. are sacrificed in order to emerge from Basic Training as a new self. their civilian roles. 227 . The elements of the private that are sacrificed range from the mundane to the spiritual. he can properly transform into a “soldier. Once a private has sacrificed the civilian elements of himself. and Felix Guattari are also useful theoretical constructs with which to view the process of military indoctrination. must be explicitly contrasted to the modern soldier.

is that violence comes from a cultural situation in which there is a lack of differentiation between group members. or any rite of passage. In other words. Specifically. Girard was postulating a mechanism by which societies used ritual to prevent the spread of retributive violence by taking the violent act itself and placing it in the hands of authority. Driver. as paraphrased by Tom E. “the disappearance of natural differences can thus bring to mind the dissolution of regulations pertaining to the 228 . In Girard’s words. By removing the individuality of the private. Girard discusses the scapegoat. In Girard’s original analysis. In order to stem the cycle of revenge killings and retributions created by an “original” violent act. 103). “the violence in sacrificial ritual takes the place of violent acts that would otherwise be committed against members of society. Since the sacrifice itself could be any member of the community. one of the most important features of any rite of passage is precisely that lack of differentiation. and one that is particularly relevant during Basic Training. In his work. Another important point that Girard makes.” (Driver. 1998. that figure which becomes the focus of a community’s aggression and violence. and by removing the rules of the civilian world. he claims that this scapegoat is somehow randomly chosen. this rite of passage provokes a sacrificial crisis. As shown in the last chapter. p. down to underwear and socks. and are trained to walk and talk the same.Rene Girard and Sacrifice Cycles of violence are the main focus of Violence and the Sacred (1972). all of the members of the community identify with the sacrificial victim and through his sacrifice are expunged of their own violence. the group uses the abstract violence of a ritual killing. and it is this randomness which makes the ritual sacrifice so effective. All privates in Basic Training wear the same clothes.

can instigate a sacrificial crisis.” (Girard. In his discussion of theater and ritual. as we will see later. Although. Instead. the most evident being the sacrifice of the self discussed above. This critique is legitimate. an actor can stand in for the scapegoat through the cathartic theatrical experience. his analysis of the use of violence to prevent violence has been used by many later researchers to study diverse topics sexuality to the unification of post-Cold War Germany. 56) This sacrificial crisis is resolved in a number of ways during Basic Training. specifically in those areas of society in which violence is a prevalent subject. there have been criticisms of Girard’s approach. Many authors have taken parts of Girard’s theories and reworked them to better fit the social situation they were examining. as with any work. however. The symbolic sacrifice of the civilian self in Basic Training bears out Schechner’s ideas that the sacrifice does not need to be literal in order to create an effect in the group participating. In addition.individual’s proper place in society – that is. Of particular importance to the study of the modern military and Army Basic Training are performance theorist Richard Schechner and anthropologist John Borneman. p. there are many situations in which Girard’s analysis of scapegoating is highly useful. the 229 . Schechner (1988) proposes that the violent sacrificial act does not have to be real. 1972. Richard Schechner’s incorporation of Girard’s theory into his own work on performance suggests another means for modifying Girard’s original ideas and bringing them more into line with the needs of modern researchers. or enacted upon a real person at all. The majority of critiques of Girard’s work focus on his attempt to transfer the concept of scapegoating to every social institution.

is also a deliberately chosen member of the group. Borneman points out that “the choices of sacrificial groups have been predictable and hardly random: most often gypsies. avoiding the assumption that Girard has made that violence is somehow inherent in human nature (21). Discussing the collapse of the Berlin Wall in Germany. constantly denigrated and compared unfavorably with the new self as the soldier in the US Army.” The lives of privates in Basic Training are always compared to life “back on the block. constantly reminds the privates in Basic Training of their previous lives. Jews. and perceived foreigners. 230 . John Borneman points out another flawed assumption in Girard’s claim that the sacrificial victim is selected at random. as “pansies. 20). 1997. and privates had “no discipline.” or a “brokedick. they are referred to in feminized and sexualized ways. the sacrificial victims were also deliberately chosen. and as such. The problem child usually personifies the failure to complete the transition from civilian to soldier. Borneman proposes a modification to Girard’s theory to account for the deliberate choice of sacrificial victim by a group. The civilian self is the focus of the sacrificial efforts of the drill sergeants. achieving Girard’s effect with the necessity to resort to actual violence.” As we saw previously with the discussion of Jody.” (Borneman. and thus represents the failure of the private to properly sacrifice his civilian self.problem child is scapegoated symbolically and fantastically by soldiers in Basic Training. When privates are physically injured and cannot complete their training. During the training cycle of Bravo Company.” “pussies. The problem child.” where life was unregimented. who will be discussed later. p. the feminized male is symbolic of the civilian male.

The barracks must also be clean and beds made by this time as well. or being told to “toe the line. Living quarters at Reception is a trailer jammed with as many bunk beds as possible. but is also interrupted for various overnight duties and at the whims of the drill sergeants.” In addition. “getting smoked at 2 o’clock in the morning. when the soldier first arrives at his Basic Training location. privates are supposed to be awake.Sacrifice of the Self At Reception. and the duffel bag that holds all of the military clothing and equipment they have been given is locked through the bars of each soldier’s bunk bed. soldiers lose the first part of themselves to the military machine: privacy. Therefore. Sleep is not only highly regulated. One reason for this is the fireguard duties discussed in the last chapter.” is that the privates were heavily punished for this offense. There are no lockers or any other way for privates to store their personal possessions. the Training and Doctrine Command requires that a soldier be provided with only four hours of sleep per night.” or also. One of the strongest memories of Private Fletcher is. The only personal possessions allowed to be unlocked are boots. and wake up is at 0500 (5:00 AM). In addition. 231 . dressed. “when we were all pulled out to the killzone 74 at like ass o’clock just because somebody didn’t clean the laundry room. a rule which is frequently imposed. In addition to his privacy the new soldier must also sacrifice his creature comforts. Although technically lights out in the barracks is at 2100 (9:00 PM). although 0500 is the official wake up time. most platoons will wake themselves up at 0400 or 0430 74 The implication of being called to the killzone. and ready to move downstairs to formation at 0500. in actuality most privates will not get to sleep until after 2200 and will wake up well before 0500. according to the drill sergeants. running shoes and shower shoes. in actual practice. which are placed under the bed.

Exposure to the elements is a running theme in Basic Training. clean themselves and clean the barracks before the official wakeup time. only more cold. such as a warm building or clothing. Army officer Andrew Exum points out that “many who have been in the military have experienced a different kind of cold. This ideal of ignoring the weather is highlighted by the most frequently repeated drill sergeant mantra. rain is simply one more factor which makes a soldier’s life miserable. With that exception. thing that soldiers are required to sacrifice for the Army. privates are only given one extra hour to sleep in the morning. A cold that is not transitory. Cold and heat are also elements that a soldier is expected to take in stride. 2004. are sacrificed to the Army during Basic Training. these sacrifices will be necessary again. Sleep is not the only. the training was ended early due to an incoming hurricane. just prior to the graduation ceremony. and drill sergeants and cadre will conduct training regardless of the weather conditions on a particular day. 232 . p. In the civilian world. while deployed or perhaps only “in the field” on training missions. we ain’t training!” This statement sums up the approach drill sergeants have towards Basic Training and the privates’ responsibilities. as well. or even the most significant. In the military one. weather never prevented the Company from completing its scheduled training.” (Exum. A cold for which there is not a light at the end of the tunnel. 27) Even the very basics of what civilians take for granted. In his description of military life.in order to have the time for all privates to get up. with official wake-up at 0600. The expectation. During Bravo Company’s Field Training Exercise. no warm department store a few hundred meters ahead. is that at some point. Even on Sundays. rain shuts down the world. “if it ain’t raining.

Without phone access. In the civilian world. it was a standard procedure for a drill sergeant to require push-ups for every letter received by a private. or offensive. and on another occasion a private received pushups for a letter from his mother with flowers on the outside of the envelope. The ritual of “mail call” on most evenings becomes a highlight of the Basic Training experience. with last names reserved for those of higher status levels. It is interesting that with the development of modern technologies. on one occasion a private received a letter with “Specialist” rather than “Private” on the address label. If the status difference between two 233 . For example. In addition. if an address on the outside of a letter showed something that the drill sergeant could find upsetting. with the specific honorific tied to the soldier’s rank attached. In the military. with the exception of a single phone call home at the beginning of Basic Training to let families know that you have arrived at training safely. Mail call. thus becomes another instance in which the Army works to remove the civilian aspects of the private’s personality. the accepted method of receiving communication from the civilian world is through regular postal mail. Phone privileges are rarely granted to privates. however. he would give the private extra push-ups. supposedly the private’s link to the civilian world. amusing. for which the drill sergeant gave him twenty-five pushups. last names are used almost exclusively. the informal first name is used to refer to someone of the same or lower status level. In Bravo Company. even soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan usually have better email and telephone access than privates in Basic Training.Privates are also separated from their civilian lives through the restriction of telephone calls. The private’s name is another link to the civilian world which is removed from him at Basic Training.

While he was punishing the platoon. You need to show that respect to us for that. the honorific is required at all times. to the naming conventions in military language itself.” The formality of the military extends beyond honorifics. On one occasion. Among privates at Basic. Drill Sergeant Saburi explained in an atypically calm fashion that. of course. A person’s first name represents a number of things about being a civilian. and we earned respect for that. “I’m a drill sergeant. is that 234 . privates at Fort Benning were punished for violating this rule of military culture. even when speaking with a lower rank NCO. However. the last name becomes the standard to refer to another private when speaking to them or about them. The prime example is the stereotypical mistake of privates and civilians to call a sergeant “sir.soldiers is not too great. or a lower ranking sergeant. and especially during Basic Training. so is drill sergeant Redmond. even when the NCOs are of the same rank. In front of enlisted soldiers. a soldier who fails to use the honorific for an NCO or Officer will receive a command to repeat himself. First. a higher rank soldier (such as a sergeant or staff sergeant) may refer to an enlisted soldier by their last name only. At both Reception and Basic Training. the response made to privates is “I work for a living” while the private is forced to do push-ups in front of the offended NCO. More frequently. physical punishment is the standard response to the failure of a private to use a drill sergeant’s full title.” The response made to civilians is the standard “I work for a living” response seen in film and television. At the very least. but with the attainment of NCO rank the honorific “Sergeant” is almost mandatory. the entire 3rd platoon was punished by Drill Sergeant Saburi simply based on the rumor that they had been using the last name only of drill sergeants.

Another symbolic sacrifice made by privates. is in direct contrast to the informal civilian identity. Even when a private is not training. and the last one to be discussed here. The regulation of a soldier’s time extends to more than simply a prioritized training schedule.” The ability of the private to deal with all of these changes is not the same for each new soldier. prior identity. sleep patterns. is the association with the first name and the private’s old status as a member of a group of individuals that know him well enough to know his first name. there are specific tasks assigned. by removing the first name. Even activities which would be considered enjoyable by most privates in the civilian world are now so regulated that the enjoyment is “leeched out” of it. some sacrifice must be made. and civilian relationships will be weaker or stronger in each private depending on these differences. however. In the military. Firing a rifle may be fun. In addition. the formality of military associations. the Army takes the fun out of it. For every private. Exposure to Army life. whether it is shining boots (a daily requirement).the first name is the way in which he has been referred to by other members of his civilian life. 235 . Second. but after two weeks of constant drills. is the sacrifice of leisure activity. privates at Basic Training begin the separation of their old civilian selves from their psyche. According to one informant. I was hating the thought of firing a rifle. the last name removes that element of individuality and the association with the civilian world it symbolizes. Thus. and is thus representative of that civilian world. each will make a different adjustment to the requirements of military life. or Brigade offices. “anything that’s fun in the civilian world. Depending on the upbringing and attitudes of the privates. Battalion. with the use of honorifics and formal naming conventions. or performing extra duties at the Company.

Choice The most important element of the contemporary military is its status as an AllVolunteer force. the amount of prior exposure each private has had to military life will affect how much they need to sacrifice in order to properly perform as a soldier. they have surrendered the 236 . such as when soldiers sleeping during sick call were informed by the sergeant on duty “yeah.” and sometimes it is merely implied. The orientation which the civilian society gives to privates – officers and enlisted men – will either assist or retard their assimilation of military roles. The sacrifice to the greater good allows military values to be more readily internalized for the private. and to surrender themselves to the needs and jurisdiction of the military organization. Sometimes this threat is specific. there is no legal or authoritative punishment involved in the choice to avoid military life as there was during the half of the 20th century that draft existed. 67) In other words.Janowitz points out that “it is a fundamental error to assume that the military establishment is some sort of self-contained organism which digests and assimilates foreign bodies.” (Janowitz. p. The punishments for making mistakes are almost always accompanied by a threat that the mistake will cause the death of a fellow soldier. 1974. such as when a drill sergeant yells at privates for not properly responding to orders quickly enough. it’s only sick call so what? You know what? What if you’re sleeping on duty and somebody sneaks up and kills your buddies? They don’t care if you’re sick. Although there may be debate about the structural elements of American culture that led to this choice. to put themselves through the rigors of Basic Training. In the same way. Privates in the contemporary Army have volunteered to join.

For many younger privates. this results in their perception of Basic Training as a “game” in which the drill sergeants will “win” if they should start acting in accordance with the drill sergeants’ desires. Instead. The rite of passage in Basic Training is a series of eliminations. which the drill sergeants are more than happy to exploit. but the ability of the drill sergeants to inflict any punishment is actually in the hands of the private himself. or administrative punishments. in the military the “recognized right” inherent in the authority figure is granted by the subject himself. is the realization that the private used to be a civilian. there was only one incident in which a drill sergeant reportedly physically overpowered a private.ability to make decisions regarding their lives to the drill sergeants. separating the old civilian from the new soldier. Unlike the in the civilian world. The agency of the privates in Basic Training is a very important element of the sacrifices which occur through their rite of passage. and will be a soldier. imposed simply by verbal threat and force of personality. The sacrifice itself could not be made were the privates unwilling to make it. even this incident occurred out of sight of the other privates. During the entire nine weeks of Bravo Company’s Basic Training. There is always the threat of violence hanging over the private-drill sergeant relationship. the punishments meted out by drill sergeants are predominantly exercises such as push-ups and other calisthenics. 237 . however. where a citizen is born into and must accept the structure of authority surrounding him. However. The reason for this is that the sacrifice is of and from the private himself. Essential to this shift. Each elimination of self moves the private closer to his new status as soldier. in fact.

is frequently an attempt to remove a part of himself 238 . and thus to think in accord with the Army’s wishes (McNeill. By changing both physically and mentally over the course of Basic Training. Beginning with a sacrifice of individual appearance. while creating a new fictive kinship with his fellow privates. Military identity is frequently seen as defined against its civilian counterpart.In his discussion of politics and ritual. As the drill sergeants insult his connections with the civilian world. both romantic and genealogical. especially of a ritual sort. It would be more accurate to say that the military is more correctly defined as “former civilian” rather than “not civilian. the private sacrifices parts of himself to the needs of the military. At Basic Training there must be the sacrificial victim. the private will eventually sacrifice his civilian relationships. highlights the psychological effects of violence upon the body. and comfort. private is forced to act in accord with the Army’s wishes. 1989. 13). p. to move when the he is told. to get to a new person. and would not be possible were it not for the existence of specific ritual victims in the Basic Training environment.” The mechanisms for this sacrifice are many and varied. The physical punishments demanded by the drill sergeants are essential to this process of sacrifice. Armando Favazza’s description of self-mutilation. The first sacrificial victim is the soldier himself. Favazza (1998) discusses how selfmutilation. that such a new beginning would actually be impossible without the memory of what came before (Connerton. rest. 1995). By standing in formation for extended periods and walking in step with one another. Paul Connerton notes that there is no new beginning without a recollection of the original. the memory of who you were. the military then asks the private to sacrifice time.

and his old habits and behaviors are no longer appropriate in his new environment. . The new private has been separated from his previous. and it is the lack of differentiation. p. then. Combining these two ideas. to act in a way that is appropriate to his new surroundings. 1972. as the deviant becomes the ritual sacrifice. he also highlights the fact that the group remains differentiated. 56). he must “kill off’ these elements in order to properly transition to his new role of soldier. the deviant does indeed highlight the rules which need to be followed. a similar transition occurs. and emotional distress from stress. and constant emotional assault from the drill sergeants. but rather. as pointed out by Lawrence Leshan in his book The 239 . The mutilator is not killing himself. we can see how the scapegoating process works to bring a society back into line. for as long as the deviant is allowed to exist within the group. those elements of his psyche that are inappropriate must be removed. privates can kill off their prior selves. life. is composed of many different heterogeneous parts. In order to adapt. using Girard’s understanding of scapegoating. civilian. fatigue from lack of sleep. that leads to conflict (Girard. the problem child is often cast as the deviant in a functional sense. Scapegoating The fantasies of violence against the problem child highlight his status as the ritual victim of Girard’s theory. is attempting to kill something inside of him. Girard views the differentiation of society as essential to its maintenance of social order. The lack of differentiation is also an essential element of warfare. By being different from the group. During Basic Training. In addition. Through the pain of physical punishment. overwork. However. of deviance. Symbolically.through physical pain.

or problem child.Psychology of War (2002).” Differences in both populations are eliminated in the drive to war. Leshan’s idea of the mythological timeframe will be discussed in detail later. However. and a large part of that identity is to engage in warfare when told to do so. Both involve an individual chosen from the group to represent the violation of the rules of that society. but in brief. It must not be forgotten that Basic Training is about the construction of the soldier identity. the worldview of that group shifts from one based on reality and realization of difference to one in which everyone is assigned into one of two groups. However. The resolution to the sacrificial crisis is sacrificial violence. who becomes the ritual sacrifice in Girard’s discussion. when a group mobilizes for war. at the same time. The deviant. highlights the problems of society. this is rarely successful. the removal of differences also initiates Girard’s sacrificial crisis. as a symbol to other privates of what will happen to them should they also decide to rebel against the system. in which a scapegoat becomes the focus of the community’s violence and is killed in order to remove the sins of the community return to a harmonious existence. and by removing the deviant from 240 . and when deviance does occur. drill sergeants then use the deviant. drill sergeants and other instructors attempt to remove deviants from the group by strictly policing that environment and preventing any privates from expressing deviant behavior. “us” and “them. who is then separated and removed from the community in order to reinforce the lines of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Thus. During Basic Training. The parallels between functionalist theory and Girard’s schema are relatively obvious. the removal of differences in the American Army is an essential element of preparing privates for warfare during Basic Training.

solidarity is restored to the group. one which also represents the military world as well. The crisis is ideally resolved by a ritual sacrifice which will reinforce the solidarity of the group as well as allow them to maintain some of their differentiation. erasing previously held norms. the lack of differentiation can quickly lead to Girard’s sacrificial crisis. such a purely symbolic act is not likely to overcome a minimum of eighteen years of enculturation in the civilian world. statuses. Thus. then. the soldier identity is constructed over a large period of time: growing up (everyone I have interviewed so far has a family member who was in the military). the rite of passage. privates are supposed to become undifferentiated. ideally. as seen under van Gennep and Turner’s outline. creates solidarity by standing outside the group. and otherwise express himself through his physical appearance. Privates must all look the same and. one which directly represents the civilian world and. moves initiates out of the regular rules of society. However. It is highly unlikely that two months worth of any kind of training will overcome such an established identity that most privates have. and to some extent personal histories. In addition. without identifying social features in the same way as the uniformity of appearance breaks down physical features. Instead. in the highly organized and uniform environment created in Basic Training. act the same. This uniformity is marked as the drill sergeants specifically restrict the private’s ability to dress. all initiates are the same. Without this guiding framework. A more tangible sacrifice is needed. style his hair. by marking the lack of differentiation among the other members of the group. The sacrifice in Basic is symbolically the civilian self of the private. During Basic Training. as a surrogate victim. choice (even given 241 .society. the deviant. Thus.

and in many ways becomes the symbolic sacrifice. yet is still seen as a member of the group (Girard. the ritual victim of the Basic Training ritual. such as a king or chief. due to his separation from the community the sacrificial victim is insufficient as a surrogate for the sins or shortcomings of the group. This victim should. and then straighten up and do 242 . There also needs to be a victim who is a member of the community itself. This person stands out from the group. This is frequently a successful tactic. therefore. I’d tell them to fuck up real bad in the beginning. be chosen from the training unit at Basic. and constant exposure after Basic Training. The problem child fulfills this role admirably.structural considerations. To hasten the process. “if I could give advice to anyone going to Basic. who stands in as a surrogate for this ritual victim. joining the military is a decision made by each private). 1972). the platoon. opposed to the surrogate victim. One technique drill sergeants use to encourage conformity among privates who are not learning their soldier roles as well as others is to place them in the role of platoon guide. but should represent those elements of the civilian world which the Army wishes to remove from its privates. this victim is typically a leader or other powerful figure in the group. Girard’s term for this figure is the ritual victim. a symbolic ritual sacrifice is necessary. A platoon guide is frequently a problem child who has been assigned to the role in the hopes that the leadership and responsibility will help the private to better assimilate into Army culture. to the point that one informant stated. then. However. The problem child and the platoon guide are the embodiments of these two roles: the surrogate and the ritual victim. In Girard’s readings of history and ethnography.

You’re not supposed to like him. As the representative of what soldiers should 75 One soldier from each Company (4 platoons) is granted the “Soldier of the Cycle” award. That’s how you win soldier of the cycle. Symbolically. and as such can not be sacrificed by the platoon. but at the same time set apart. the platoon guide is also the representation of the Army to the platoons. The problem child is typically the source of punishments received by the platoon. The platoon guides are frequently given punishment by the drill sergeants for the mistakes of the platoon. outside of the regular social interactions that create the group unity in the first place. If he’s doing his job right. out front. the platoons. Private Marko. 76 Punished with push-ups or other physical exercises to the point of exhaustion. you won’t like him. Although there are no specific benefits for this award.” The duties of the platoon guide place him in a separate category from the other privates. it looks good on a soldier’s record when he is being considered for promotion. drill sergeant!” Asked of the platoon: “Does anybody like Private Marko?” Silence. and suffers in place of the rest of the platoon as the ritual victim. This distinction can be seen in the following interaction between a drill sergeant and the platoon guide for 1st platoon: “Private Marko. private Huntley. one of the main problem children. became much more focused and did not get “smoked” 76 once by the drill sergeants. However. you shouldn’t. then. The platoon guide is a member of the platoon. “Good. and the drill sergeants focus on the problem child. do you care if these privates like you?” “No drill sergeant!” “Good.everything right. 243 .” 75 In 3rd platoon. the platoon guide takes on the sins of the rest of the platoon. and is disliked because of it. was actually placed in this leadership position and for the two days he held it. Instead.” “Moving.

Platoon guides are frequently punished by the drill sergeants. I can’t tell you how many times I was down in the front leaning rest 77 for something one of the guys in my platoon had done. on one occasion Private Huntley was called out by Drill Sergeant Prince for talking in formation and told to do side-straddle hops and grass drills 77 The “front leaning rest” is the misnamed starting position for a pushup. While the platoon guides take on the sins (mistakes) of the platoon. According to Private Oldman.not be. During Bravo Company’s entire training cycle.” As mentioned above. Drill Sergeants will order “Front leaning rest position – move!” Although pushups will sometimes follow. are conducted in public and in full view of other units or individuals that happen to be nearby. For instance. If a private is caught watching a punishment. When a punishment session is going to begin. however. the problem child becomes the surrogate victim. with the exception of the one instance in which Drill Sergeant Saburi mentioned it. as even though public punishment is the standard. This interchange is played out in the punishments at Basic themselves. but almost always in private. and sometimes occurs completely without their knowledge. it is also quite common for a Drill Sergeant to simply leave the private in the position for an extended period of time. a lot of stuff went on in the drill sergeant office that the other guys didn’t really see. This raises an interesting dilemma for privates during Basic. however. 244 . there is a veil of privacy created by the drill sergeants through the use of “joining” the punishment session. he is asked to “join” the session with those privates being punished for the original offense. this “suffering” does not occur where the platoon can see it occur. these punishments are almost never discussed with the rest of the platoon. The punishments of the problem children. “Yeah. and suffer for it. I never heard about any of these private punishments. replacing the old civilian self and the platoon guide as the actual victim of the sacrifice.

next to the company area. Private Brand was caught watching the session by Drill
Sergeant Prince and called over and forced to join Huntley in his punishment. Due to this
technique, it is possible for anyone to be included in a punishment for a soldier’s
mistakes. In contrast, because the platoon guides are punished behind closed doors, their
punishment is never shared by other members of the platoon.
Private Evans separated himself from the other members of the platoon from the
very beginning of Basic Training, and thus was never truly seen as a member of 3rd
platoon. However his status as an outsider was enhanced by the extra separation
prescribed by the drill sergeants. Because of this separation, 3rd platoon was never
punished for any actions of Evans. The other five privates were distinctive in their
inability to conform to the new standards of basic and consistently got the platoon in
trouble due to their actions. After one punishment Private Huntley, who had provoked
the punishment, expressed no sense of remorse that his actions had caused the other
members of his squad to be punished along with him: “You don’t get it. I can’t be
smoked. Whatever they do. If I don’t talk, or do what they want, then they win.” In this
case, the problem child refused to conform to the group standards, either from the
perspective of listening to authority, or imagining that his actions could affect the other
members of his group. Private Hanson was known in 3rd platoon as ineffective, forgetful,
and sometimes referred to as “an idiot,” or “retarded” by the other members of the
platoon. Hanson, however, was viewed as not responsible for his own actions, and
although one private expressed “how in the hell are they gonna let that guy graduate? He
hasn’t done shit here!” he was also supported by the rest of the platoon, albeit in a
manner that reinforced his inability to conduct himself as a soldier: “If I have to, I’ll

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fucking carry him out of the FTX on my back. I just want to get through this, graduate,
and get the hell out of here.” In contrast to Hanson, Private Randal was viewed as a
problem child purely based on his ability to get the remainder of the platoon punished.
After being smoked for thirty minutes after the drill sergeants found a contraband item in
his personal drawer, his bunkmate stated, “He just doesn’t care. They can pull him out
and embarrass him. And he’ll stop it for a few days, but he’s just not worried about it.”
Finally, Private Darren was viewed by 3rd platoon as dangerous due to his almost
sociopathic self-involvement. Darren was suspected of having stolen money from
another private, and was frequently seen as a malingerer. On Sunday afternoons, the
platoon would perform the “big clean,” wiping down, sweeping, and mopping the entire
barracks from the ceiling to the floor. Darren would frequently avoid helping out with
this work, and on numerous occasions would violate direct orders from drill sergeants for
no obvious reasons.
The blackballing ritual described above is exemplary of the ways in which
feelings regarding the problem child are expressed. Drill Sergeant Briggs placed the
discussion in terms of physical violence, terms to which the privates of 3rd platoon
quickly adhered. Although Jackson was rarely mentioned, Randal, Darren, and Huntley
were frequently named as the privates the other members of the platoon would most want
to “beat up.” Drill Sergeant Briggs then asked the platoon who they thought were
“redeemable,” and could be “made into good soldiers.” He put it to a vote, asking the
platoon as a whole to raise their hands as he went through each of the four soldiers he had
pulled out into the killzone. Of the four, Randal, Huntley, and Jackson received almost
unanimous votes, while Darren was voted for by less than half of the platoon, including

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two of his bunkmates and Private Parker, the platoon’s PG. According to the two
bunkmates, “he’s not gonna change, man,” and “After that, he came up to me and said ‘I
noticed you didn’t say yes,” and I looked him right in the eye and said, ‘no, I didn’t.’
He’s useless.”
These problem children go through a process of support and then isolation that
has been detailed in previous work on Basic Training by anthropologist David Schneider.
In Schneider’s analysis, when soldiers enter Basic Training, they are all focused on
dislike of the authorities. Due to this focus on the drill sergeants and instructors, those
soldiers who have chronic physical problems, labeled as “the sick” in Schneider’s
account, become a symbol of the authorities’ attempts to make everyone do the things
they don’t want to do. When the sick express complaint, they usually have the support of
the platoon in the beginning of the training. However, as the training progresses, and the
remainder of the group realizes that they are capable of performing the tasks set by the
drill sergeants, the amount of sympathy decreases, and the sick become isolated as the
platoon gains more new experiences of Army life which the sick are not able to share in.
In the training cycle of Bravo Company, this pattern of support and isolation
extended not only to the physically deficient of 3rd platoon, but the other types of problem
children as well. The experiences of Private Evans are an excellent example of this
pattern. In the beginning of the training cycle, following the pattern that Schneider
detailed, Evans was supported and given positive feedback from other privates and the
drill sergeants. Although the drill sergeants’ support was behind closed doors, according
to Evans’s battle buddy, “I definitely think they [the drill sergeants] tried to help him out
in the beginning,” and that “in the beginning all of us were talking to him, even Grissom

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after he had a scuffle with him would talk to him, and Huntley I remember, and you
know even the drill sergeants at first, the captain, he met with the chaplain once, and you
know all these people.”
After the first three or four weeks of Basic, the interaction between Evans and the
rest of the platoon shifted to one of isolation and insult. Describing Private Evans, “I
think he like over dramatized a lot of stuff,” or that he was “being a baby about it.”
Private Fletcher even told the drill sergeants that he was not “his babysitter.” The insults
directed against Evans were also very feminizing, describing him as the opposite of the
ideal masculinity that a soldier should exhibit. Evans was described as “whiny,” or a
“pussy.” The identity of the soldier is so tied up with masculinity that comparing a
private to a female is not simply an insult, but a reflection of the private’s status as a
potential soldier. Even the drill sergeants in their interactions with other privates would
single private Evans out as “a punk, you know, he was a girl.” On one occasion, 3rd
platoon was instructed by Drill Sergeant Briggs, “don’t listen to Evans, he’s a little crazy.
Just stay away from him and don’t let him affect you.”
Although not as clearly highlighted as Evans’s interactions with the platoon, the
other problem children were also separated and isolated in various ways over the cycle.
Henry and Victor, the physically deficient, were frequently labeled as “girls” or “pussies”
by the other members of the platoon. Private Henry’s experience was the classic example
of Schneider’s analysis, as his chronic pain originally received sympathy from the
platoon and specifically his squad mates, but as the training cycle progressed, he became
more isolated and ridiculed by the other members of the platoon, including gratuitous
nicknames such as “shin splints” or “that pansy,” in the words of another private in 3rd

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platoon. Private Victor was frequently teased about his sexual preferences, being referred
to as a “faggot” by one private during Basic, and as a “girl” or a “wimp” by another.
Schneider suggests that when people don’t adjust well to military life, they will
use these chronic problems as a way to keep themselves from conforming to the Army
lifestyle, separating themselves from the rest of the platoon. The isolation of the “sick”
soldiers is only seen among those who exhibit chronic problems “most frequently,
rheumatic, asthenic [chronic weakness], gastro-intestinal complaints, and occasionally
cardiovascular complaints, and ‘chronic headaches.’” (Schneider, 1947, p. 324) Privates
with acute problems, such as “tooth extractions, athlete’s foot, mild nearsightedness or
farsightedness, minor abrasions, and so forth are never observed to function socially,” in
the same way as the “sick” privates are (ibid.). Chronic problems are the ones focused on
by other privates not due to the type of physical disability, but because the private
expressing those problems is isolating himself, whether intentionally or unintentionally,
from the rest of the platoon. The sick private is not joining with the other privates or
progressing in the transition from civilian to soldier. Instead, the sick are seen to be
holding on to the civilian element of themselves by not joining in the transition of the
other privates. For the other varieties of problem child detailed here, the civilian
symbolism holds true as well.
Schneider sees a practical outcome of this process, in which privates with
psychological problems express their dissatisfaction and psychological distress through
physical complaints, such that the Army can use the process of physical disqualification
to weed out the psychologically as well as physically unfit soldiers. (Schneider, 1947, p.
328) In addition, to this, however, another effect in the training platoon occurs, via the

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isolation of the sick privates. The sick private becomes isolated both socially and
psychologically from the rest of the group. This isolation creates the scenario which is
essential to the creation of Girard’s surrogate victim. The surrogate victim must come
from outside the group involved in the sacrificial ritual (Girard, 1972, p. 102). By
isolating the sick private, that private becomes separated from the group itself, allowing
him to become the surrogate victim.
This isolation rather than assault accords with the main focus of Army training,
which is not to unearth or enhance the violent tendencies of privates, but to train them to
focus that violence and control it appropriately. The technique of isolation rather than
retribution serves to train privates to avoid releasing their anger and violence at an
incorrect victim, a fellow soldier. Schneider notes that “the sick are not actively and
aggressively sought out and attacked by the group,” which “is functionally congruent
with the psychological orientation of aggression in army basic training. The social value
is on aggression against the enemy, not amongst the group. If the group members attack
each other indiscriminately, this may have the effect of heightening the general level of
aggression, but it will also militate against co-operative team work.” (Schneider, 1947, p.
331)
It is at this stage of Basic Training that the ritual process begins to fall apart.
Although an essential element of Girard’s schema is that retributive violence can not
occur, otherwise the violence will feed upon itself, the proper use of violence is sacrificial
violence, which serves to move the aggression and violence of the group away from
itself. If privates were to simply vent their anger on one another at will, expressing their
violent tendencies without control, the sacrificial act would never occur. The problem

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child is isolated from the rest of the group, made to appear feminine and weak, those
attributes of the civilian world which the military is trying to remove from its privates.
However, there is no ritual sacrifice, either tangible or symbolic that completes the ritual.
During the training cycle, the requirements of the ritual and the requirements of the Army
come into conflict.
Army Basic Training, in addition to being a rite of passage, is also an
institutional training program in which there are institutional and bureaucratic goals
which inform the process. The first obstruction that the ritual process encounters is the
inability of privates to express their dissatisfaction with the problem child. One
technique used by the drill sergeants to maintain order is to imply that the other members
of a platoon will physically punish a problem child. When a problem child messes up, it
is a standard to punish everyone in the platoon except for the offender, who is forced to
stand in front of the platoon as they are punished, or in some cases, actually lead the
punishment itself. While this is occurring, the drill sergeants will threaten the offender
with an implied physical response from the platoon in retaliation for the group
punishment: “if you don’t straighten up, we’ll be doing this [punishing the entire platoon]
every day. And I can guarantee you, these guys are gonna get pissed at you, and peer
pressure can be a bitch” (italics added).
However, it is generally known that such punishments do not occur. The “blanket
party” seen in the film Full Metal Jacket in which all the members of the platoon beat on
Private Pyle, their problem child, with soap wrapped in socks, does not seem to happen in
Basic Training. During Bravo Company’s entire cycle, blanket parties were only
mentioned in the context of threats or desire. During a stay in the infirmary, the film was

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shown to sick privates, and the blanket party scene was greeted with cheers by all the
privates in the infirmary, as if they were cathartically releasing their own dislike of the
problem children in their various training units, which they knew they would not be
allowed to actually perform. The idea of the blanket party as punishment for a private’s
mistakes was a constant specter over 3rd platoon’s training, despite specific orders from
the drill sergeant and officers that if one should occur those responsible would be
immediately kicked out of the Army. These direct orders were frequently belied by the
implications in many statements by the drill sergeants when delivering group
punishments, or threatening the same. Drill Sergeant Briggs would frequently make
mention that after the drill sergeants went home for the evening, “who knows what might
happen up here. If we find out about it, we’ll have to take action,” the implication being
that if the drill sergeants did not find out about it, no action would be taken. Also, the
threats of blanket parties were frequently used by privates to attempt to monitor their
peers and prevent them from violating the internal rules of the platoon.

Failed Sacrifice
The desire for a sacrifice is unfulfilled, as problem children of all sorts are
graduated from Basic and moved to their next phase of training. According to the Bravo
Company Commander:
There’s a problem getting rid of privates from here, and it
frustrates the drill sergeants. There’s a lot of men that they
want to get rid of, but that all has to go through the First
Sergeant, and he’s got to answer to me and the Sergeant
Major, and we have a directive to keep people here as much
as we can. The Army needs people, and we have pressure
to graduate as many as we can. And, really, there’s a lot of

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privates that the drill sergeants want to get rid of in the
beginning of the cycle that turn out all right at the end.
The Army, then, has institutional needs that overshadow the ritual needs of the process
itself. These institutional needs can create tension not only in a failure of the Basic
Training ritual, but in a general sense of distrust in the institution by the soldiers
themselves.
Private Darren is seen by many members of 3rd platoon as a failure of the Army.
Darren was known as a liar and was suspected of having stolen money from another
private at Basic, a cardinal sin and one which could have gotten him discharged from the
Army if it was proven. While interviewing a number of members of the platoon, their
dissatisfaction was evident. One private stated, “don’t get me started on Darren, man.
I’m so happy he’s out,” while another, upon learning of his discharge said simply, “better
late than never, I guess.” Even a drill sergeant expressed his dissatisfaction with both
Darren and the institutional rules which prevented them from removing him from Basic
Training: “Yeah, some of the guys from your platoon were down here when they came
through for airborne. They said Darren had been kicked out for stealing. I wish we could
have done something about him here, but we got a lot of pressure to get these kids
through, y’know?” 78 In fact, news of Darren’s eventual discharge was met with evident
glee by Ricardo, and his frustration with Darren’s graduation from both Basic and AIT
are also expressed in the following interview:
I heard it through a big chain of events, and I think McClelland and I went
out drinking that night.
To celebrate, or just happened to be going out drinking?
78

In fact, Darren had not been discharged at that point, this was simply rumor or miscommunication.

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Do you think the drill sergeants should have? Yes. his departure was quiet and unmentioned. The failure to sacrifice the problem child. Why they didn’t. the army is a better place without Darren in it. right after we graduated. and this is one of the things I have against the military. Do you think he should have been kicked out earlier? Oh my god. and he should have been kicked out as soon as he started doing all this stuff in basic. in AIT or airborne school. Because I’m sorry. acting as an administrative assistant to the commander and the drill sergeants. or everyplace else. only two privates were discharged from Basic Training. I would have kicked his ass out in Basic. don’t be like Evans and give up. they should have been like “I’m sorry you didn’t qualify. or should get kicked out don’t.” Private Nicholas was diagnosed with a physical disorder within his first week of Basic that prevented his completion of the training. either symbolically or literally. It always seemed to me that no matter what. Evans and Nicholas. they’re kicked out. remain with the company for six weeks. or whatever. I don’t know. Even the leaders at Basic 254 . Evans has been discussed previously. but the people who really do want to be in there. for as much as a lot of people don’t like the military and there’s a lot of negative aspects to it.To celebrate. the drill sergeants continued to evoke his memory in an attempt to create a ritual victim: “all right men. although it is important to note that even after his departure. This can be seen in the lack of any consistent description of what Basic Training does for the privates. Although constantly disparaged by the drill sergeants for his physical deficiencies. get the fuck out” In the case of 3rd platoon. thus results in a problem for the entire ritual. but for some whatever reason whether its medical or mental. I think like right after basic. look. is that people who legitimately want to get out. And that’s one thing I don’t agree with. Nicholas did. however.

that’s not what Basic is for. in actuality. but potentially his life. is predominantly about teaching privates how to negotiate their way through the Army institution. 255 . and to Army life more than introducing them to any specific knowledge. a ritual sacrifice of his own. sacrificing not only his civilian world. in the interests of the nation.Training. as the first introduction for many to life in the Army. Although more than 90% of soldiers are non-combat troops.” The ambiguity of Captain Hunter’s responses is telling. which is to kill those people their commanders tell them to kill. Noncombat soldiers incorporate the ideals of the infantry into their own identity. the soldier is. In one interview the Bravo Company Commander responded with different answers regarding the purpose of Basic Training: “no. so it should be hard. the identity of being a soldier is defined by the purpose of the military. Basic is just for getting those basic skills into a soldier. but his third response returns me to the theme of this work.” “This is a rite of passage. to such an extent that it is essential to understand what the definition of a soldier actually is. Perhaps one problem that occurs in the discussions of the purpose of Basic Training is that the concept of a soldier is not clearly defined. Basic Training. Following the framework developed here. the officers and the drill sergeants seem confused as to the purpose of the training.” and “Basic is about introducing soldiers to the Army.

my discussions with soldiers who have graduated Basic Training in the past two years suggest that these changes are not as significant as reported. During Basic Training immediately after September 11th. his Rifle. The rifle (or musket) has been the weapon of the soldier since the introduction of gunpowder and the innovations of the 16th Century when militaries became predominantly national institutions rather than privately owned mercenary companies. the Army has claimed to have increased the exposure of privates in Basic Training to weapons such as the SAW machine gun. AT-4 rocket launcher. In recent years. of course. The rifle. and the resistance. and Claymore mine. while the next chapter will address the other weapons learned at Basic Training. and show how the rifle forms the basis for an identification of 256 . However. however. while here I will discuss the importance of the rifle to the contemporary soldier. One significant difference between Basic Training in 2002 and Basic Training in 2007 highlights the attempt. is the standard weapon of every soldier. I will devote the majority of this chapter to discussing this phase of Basic Training. The fundamental basis of rifle training. remains the same. from cook to infantryman. and the changing Battlefield of the 21st Century The second three weeks of Basic Training are almost exclusively devoted to learning how to handle the M-16 assault rifle. This chapter will focus on the rifle training at Basic. The full details of these changes will be discussed in the next chapter. the training program was essentially the same as before that event. As the focus of soldier identity.Chapter 5: The Soldier. and also serves as a link to soldiers of other countries and other times. to shift training to more directly applicable skills for incoming soldiers.

As will be discussed later. or Revolutionary War Minuteman. The Rifle The rifle in the Army is always referred to as a weapon or occasionally as a rifle. Thus. such as the invention 257 . through the use of this distinct term. 1989). The history of warfare is one in which opposing militaries engage in a dynamic of response and counterresponse: armor leads to heavier weapons which leads to heavier armor. Whether discussing a Roman legionary. and can refer to any number of firearms.” and especially to the overly generic “gun” creates a connection with soldiers from the past. A weapon. but also in the mythic past. These links extend beyond the naming of the rifle. the term “weapon” refers to that which all soldiers have in common. the right to carry a weapon and use it at the order of their commander. ad infinitum (O’Connell. With the exception of certain drastic changes. as a “gun” is carried by civilians. a large part of military indoctrination is incorporating the new soldier into his fictive kin network. It is unclear whether this specificity comes from an actual Army requirement. or from films such as Full Metal Jacket. This network includes not only the fictive kin group of the present. never a gun.soldiers with their new roles. By referring to the M16 as a “weapon” the military culture can become more tightly knit. and how that identification is shifting in response to a number of new approaches to warfare. medieval knight. Using the term “weapon” rather than “rifle. regardless of where or when that soldier serves. on the other hand. the rifle as weapon creates a symbolic link between the modern soldier and other soldiers throughout history. namely. however. is the instrument of a soldier.

These drastic changes. and attempt to live within certain mythological frames distinct from the civilian world. but it should be noted that even with revolutionary changes. language can also be used to set apart from the military from the civilian world. this is the dynamic which drives most military innovation. As we have seen. 1991).” The “clip” in the military refers to the container on which bullets are strung and packed for shipment. and will consistently return to the expectations of that culture. often as mythological heroes figures such as John Wayne or Audi Murphy. Soldiers prefer to see themselves in mythic terms.” A clip is often referred to in police and even military movies as the ammunition holder for a gun. in the Army. the ammunition holder for a rifle is always referred to as a “magazine. are the subject of the next chapter. In the case of an M16. soldiers riding in armored tanks are the equivalent of knights riding armored warhorses. the military uses many elements of language to separate incoming privates from their 258 . The Army insists on the specific differences between a “clip” and a “magazine.of gunpowder. For example. modern soldiers wearing Interceptor Body Armor in Iraq are the equivalent of men-at-arms in the Middle Ages wearing breastplate and helmet on the fields of Crecy or Agincourt. a clip holds 10 bullets. a city wall of computerized and magnetic particles that protects our citizens from incoming weapon fire (de Landa. which can hold thirty bullets. or revolutions. and is used to load a magazine. As we saw in Chapter Two. warfare and other forms of organized violence are grounded in the culture of the groups performing the fighting. Manuel de Landa takes this analogy to an even more abstract level when he compares modern radar to a siege fortification. However. At the core. certain fundamentals return to the development of arms and armor over the ages.

previous lives. there is a ritual associated with it. and signs his weapon out. the language surrounding the rifle is very specific. it also opens the dust cover on the weapon so that the chamber of the weapon can be seen. Once all the soldiers of a platoon are lined up. From the very first time touching a rifle. each soldier enters the arms room. As the rifle itself is such a strong symbol of being a soldier. and then the arms detail shouts the serial number of his weapon. entailing shouting various slogans such as “We need one Bulldawg to the Armory now!” This call is then responded by the next soldier in line “Number 1 on his way” (etc. Just as the soldier himself must be disciplined and restrained. Although the Army does not incorporate the soldier to his rifle as powerfully as the Marine Corps. which is then repeated to him by the arms detail. for instance.) who moves from formation to the line waiting to get into the arms room where the weapons are held under lock and key by a Company armorer. where he must shout out his name and last 4. 259 . the soldier reads and confirms that the serial number of the weapon he is given is the same as the one that is on the paper list. pulls it off the rack. it is still often viewed as an extension of the soldier himself. As with everything done in Basic Training. Once the soldier has his weapon. Issuing the weapon at Basic Training is a complicated process. he leaves the arms room and immediately clears the weapon by pulling the charging handle 79 to the rear and visually inspecting the chamber to be certain there is no round in the chamber that could be accidentally fired 79 The charging handle is a handle on the back of the weapon which pulls the bolt back to prepare for loading the weapon. a soldier is expected to conform to the rules of the Army in handling it. the rules and regulations prescribing proper action with the rifle are very strict. the rifle is the extension of a soldier and must be just as disciplined. During Basic.

and is one of the basic positions the weapon is held in while carrying a weapon during Drill and Ceremony). At parade rest the weapon is held in the right hand leaning slightly forward while the other hand is pressed into the small of the back. and like the ubiquity of the term “weapon.” reflects a universalizing attempt by 80 A large barrel full of sand to provide a safe place if a round should accidentally fire after the weapon has been cleared. 81 This is a drill and ceremony order calling for a salute. After the weapon has been cleared. the weapon is held directly vertically in front of the soldier with the top of the weapon directed towards his body. Attention and parade rest are simply modifications to the standard drill and ceremony movements. The fear of an accidental discharge is such that deployed soldiers are punished for an AD under any circumstances. soldiers in formation must modify a number of their standard drill and ceremony maneuvers. and present arms (saluting) are different when a soldier carries his weapon. Present arms 81 is performed by holding the weapon diagonally in front of the body so that the barrel of the weapon points straight up and over the right shoulder (this position is called Order Arms. parade rest. the soldier is allowed to return to his formation. with the barrel or front sight post in his right hand and the butt of the weapon on the ground. At attention. however. While carrying a weapon. and there are also several new drill and ceremony movements that a soldier must learn with his weapon. in which the hand carrying the rifle must be modified to reflect carrying something in that hand. rather than saluting.(called an accidental discharge or AD). The difference in present arms is more significant. even when firing into the clearing barrels 80 designed to catch a bullet if a weapon is not properly cleared before entering a base. 260 . Attention. and then on the given order. the weapon is held along the leg of the soldier.

however. 261 . the performances learned by a private connect him to other soldiers in other armies past and present. the connection between privates learning drill and ceremony and the founding myth of the United States Army is explicitly drawn: “many drill procedures used by the United States Army today were developed during the Revolutionary War. the orders “present arms” and “order arms” are orders to salute and drop a salute. in the manual given to privates. but most traditions mention knights greeting each other by raising visors and the tradition of doffing a hat to show respect (Soldier’s Handbook. then. according to the Army’s Field Manual for Drill and Ceremony.the military to bring together disparate historical elements of soldierhood. respectively. Given this extreme discipline. or some other arcane weapon. K-5). this file must be broken off on the first day of Basic Training. regardless of the weapon involved. if the clippers brought to Basic Training include an attached nail file. it is hardly surprising that while handling a rifle. Thus. In fact. and privates are not even allowed to keep a nail file attached to their nail clippers. For a soldier without a weapon. 1-14). With a weapon. The two commands for a soldier carrying a sword or saber rather than a rifle directly mimic the salutes seen between fencers in film or at official competitions (FM 22-5. the present arms and order arms commands are directly linked to a swordsman’s salute. rifle. This holds true as much for scissors as it does for the rifle. 4-3) The handling of any weapon in Basic Training is one of the most controlled acts for privates. sword. Although clippers are required at Basic to keep finger and toe nails properly trimmed. drill sergeants strictly monitor and manage the actions of privates.” (Soldier’s Handbook. The exact origin of the salute is unknown.

privates use this prior knowledge to attempt to build symbolic capital among their fellow privates. barrel. grip. unlike linguistic expression. from the very basic first steps of trigger. and all the other parts of the weapon. Once seated. playing with firearms is strictly censured in the military. After the first day of instruction. During this first day. The first day with a weapon is completely classroom instruction on the weapon itself. the drill sergeant ordered the privates to place their weapons down on the table with the barrel pointing to the right. which is the military prescribed way of laying down a weapon. there are oversized 82 See Appendix 262 . In order to stop privates from moving outside the accepted boundaries of behavior with regard to their weapons. However. Like the expressions of linguistic ability discussed in Chapter Two. over a dozen privates had already begun playing with the rifle. On every firing range on every base I have seen. Drill Sergeant Redmond ordered all privates to place their hands on their heads while delivering the course of instruction on the various parts of the weapon. the next week of Basic Training is devoted to training drills to accustom the private to the weapon and familiarize him with the basics of marksmanship. The symbolic value of the rifle is such that within moments after Drill Sergeant Redmond gave that order. down to the incredibly specific such as the bolt cam pin and the firing pin retaining pin 82 . This results in the dust cover always facing up.On the first day that privates were given their weapons. This playing was predominantly in the context of showing off. they reported immediately to the classroom. expressing the prior knowledge these privates had with military life. privates are not even allowed to touch their weapon after laying it on the desk in front of them.

This book compiles all of the information required for an enlisted soldier to know. and Trigger Squeeze. Drill Sergeant Redmond told privates: “I want to put your nose right up against that charging handle. Breathing Control. Don’t get scared of breaking your nose. During Basic Training. and Expert. Sharpshooter. it means you’re good. and short biographies of military figures and medal recipients. During 3rd platoon’s BRM training. with the sight of the weapon aligned on the exact center 83 The “Smart Book” is the term drill sergeants use to refer to the IET Manual given to all privates their first day of Basic Training.” Unlike the discipline of handling a weapon. however. My score went up six points. where to aim a weapon while firing is also a subject of debate and individual preference. a target should be aimed either low or center mass. Remember in Basic. ‘cause if you do. the Code of Conduct and Soldier’s Creed. followed by Sharpshooter and then Marksman. The cheek-to-stock weld is one of the most important features of Army Training. Like the cheek-to-stick weld.” This technique is not perfect. In addition to these principles. that’s good. Depending on the range to the target and the style of the instructor. there are a number of fundamentals taught by drill sergeants and other instructors. as well as introductions to Army life. as Sergeant Brigman reported later in his career after scoring his first Sharpshooter84 qualification: “Those MPs are good. and one of the most difficult for privates to master. Aiming. 263 . then. The only other reading material allowed during Basic Training is religious literature of a private’s respective faith. the technique most often taught to establish a good position is to place the nose against the charging handle at the rear of the weapon. 84 There are three levels of qualification for any weapon in the Army: Marksman. Expert is the highest rank. they told you to put your nose up against the charging handle? He told me to pull my face back a bit and just be comfortable. These basics are also in the Smart Book 83 that all privates are required to keep on their person at all times. the predominant one being the cheek-to-stock weld.displays of the four principles of proper marksmanship: Steady Position. the specifics of marksmanship technique are mostly up to each individual soldier.

but not necessarily improve their marksmanship. These variations were subtle. the drill sergeants do not interfere with his technique. the instructor who told our squad to aim low couched it in terms of scoring better on the range. privates are taught marksmanship techniques which will improve their scores on qualifications. For instance. what is gonna happen if you hit that berm? You’re gonna kick up some rocks and dirt. although restricting the 264 . but that rock might. it was only when a private was not properly performing that they would correct his actions.of the target. so long as privates were performing properly. Thus. their individual differences were not of issue to the drill sergeants. aim low. if a private is consistently qualifying on ranges. Maybe you don’t hit the target. different soldiers apply different techniques to this standard task. Most people buck a bit. the drill sergeants focused on them and forced them to perform as closely as possible to the instructions given in the training manuals. Just as high school students are often taught test-taking techniques to improve scores on standardized tests that do not reflect any increase in knowledge. The structural requirements. and reflect individual differences in the approach to firing a weapon. although when privates such as Hanson or Prince consistently failed. the target goes down. A number of these techniques also relate to manipulating the system in order to appear more proficient. That’s what we’re aiming for here. not improving our chances of hitting the target: “Look. Also think. right?” Also. anyways. in this case. During 3rd platoon’s time at Basic. right? So a lot of you are going too high. Despite a mandatory “Army way” of firing a weapon described in the IET Manual and training manuals. depending on the drill sergeant or the range instructor at the time. we were instructed in a variety of techniques.

and the drill sergeants. we can see in this dynamic Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of the military. although play is permissible in some instances. is accepted and occasionally encouraged. for example. In the dime/washer drill. On the other hand. As with camouflage face paint. which will be discussed later. and thus does not require the same regulation as the handling of the weapon. Rifle Training The main two drills used to instruct privates are “dime/washer drills” and “shadow box” drills. A weapon. to pick and choose from a variety of techniques to properly fire their weapon. make this clear to privates through intensive training and strict discipline. the firer gets in the prone (or any firing position. really. they are severely restricted in how they are allowed to act while holding it.boundaries of privates’ performance. which is the potential violence of the war machine restrained by the needs of the State. but at Basic it is done in the prone) and assumes 265 . the practicality of handing loaded weapons to teenagers. on the one hand. as representatives of the Army. On the other hand. do not prevent the exercise of individual decisions with regard to even this important skill. as the symbol of soldiers throughout history. must be treated with respect. in others it is not. Both drills are done with partners. Soldiers are allowed. Although playing with language. The strict discipline of weapon handling is also indicative of how drill sergeants inform privates of acceptable versus unacceptable behavior within the Army. playing at being a soldier is not. The means by which a soldier uses his weapon is the release of the war machine. This reflects. and expected.

the firer should be relaxed enough that he does not jerk the weapon as he pulls the trigger. whether or not the dime falls from the barrel is a matter of how well placed it is. The speed with which the partner moves the silhouette can also affect the results. If the partner has placed it on the center of the barrel. and is fastened securely with Velcro straps. Ideally. which grips the weapon at the hand guard and the pistol grip. This piece of paper is (ideally) stapled to another box. destroying the sight picture you had just set up. and settle for a good enough. left or right. 266 . Shadow box drills are performed with the firer and partner approximately 25 meters away from each other. It is very easy to get frustrated with this drill. although this exercise is meant to practice getting a good sight picture. In addition. instructs his partner to mark the spot. The firer motions with his hand for the partner to move the silhouette up. If placed to one side or the other. The weapon is placed securely on a special box. allowing the hammer to fall. The hand signals are not standardized. The firer gets in a prone position and sights on a piece of paper held by his partner. as well. The partner places a dime or small washer on the end of the weapon’s barrel.a firing position. the vibration of the hammer falling will likely rattle it off the end of the weapon regardless of ability. and the firer pulls the trigger on his weapon. it will likely not fall. and there is much confusion as to whether one should use a thumb or a finger to point a direction. and when the silhouette is centered in the weapon’s sights. as it can affect the concentration of the firer. moving your arm too much to signal your partner can result in a shift of either your body or the box the weapon is on. and the partner is also given a plastic silhouette with a hole in the center. down. The procedure is repeated three times. In practice. approximately evenly weighted.

such that by the end of the phase. and most soldiers relax and carry on conversations while performing for the public audience. so the remainder of the company spent the day practicing dime/washer drills and shadow box drills while waiting to use the Weaponeer. For the entire three weeks of BRM. soldiers with weapons will almost always be seen performing dime/washer drills or disassembling and cleaning their weapons. and almost 250 privates. soldiers quickly learn how to respond to those rules. privates will “perform” dime washer drills while wasting time. publicly performing as necessary but in actuality acting as they wish within the disciplinary constraints. Bravo Company spent a day at the Weaponeer range. However much the Army attempts to enforce its rules on soldiers. privates are usually completely sick of the drills. these are almost always busywork. which is a computer with a rifle attached to a pressurized air system to mimic the “kick” of a rifle and a laser to simulate the fired bullet.” As discussed in Chapter Three.and to “qualify” the firer must place his three marks within the large circle. As both a regular soldier and during Basic Training. Thus. 267 . putting on a façade of work while frequently spending the time talking or resting. soldiers must always maintain the appearance of busyness. cannot prepare the private for the actual firing of the weapon. The dime/washer drill is also an example of the directive of Basic Training to “look busy. From within that performance. which is 4 cm in diameter. These two practices. however. and ideally they should be within a 1cm circle. Before firing rounds on a live range. There were only ten systems available for use. these two drills are practiced during any extended period of dead time. however.

to prevent the soldier’s body from shifting in response to the recoil of the rifle. Drill sergeants in Bravo Company informed privates to open their left hand while firing. which are supposed to form a “tripod” with the hips to support the soldier.As a practical matter. In the prone position. these positions can be labeled supported or unsupported. a position which is painful. His left hand supports the barrel of the rifle and the soldier’s weight rests on his elbows. for some soldiers. drill sergeants focus on certain exercises to strengthen the muscles in the arms 85 This was true in 2002. the elbows of every private begin to get sore. as the left hand should simply support the weapon barrel vertically and the right hand and arm should pull the rifle tightly into the shoulder. and instead uses a prone position and a kneeling position. The soldier’s ankles should rest on the ground with both feet pointed outwards. In addition. In addition. or sometimes impossible. Basic Training no longer teaches the foxhole position. the soldier lies on the ground with his body slightly angled to the left 86 . After a few minutes in this position. and the butt of the rifle pressed against his right shoulder with his right hand on the pistol grip and his index finger extended straight along the side of the rifle so that it does not touch the trigger. 268 . the dime/washer drills not only serve to waste time in a culturally appropriate way. the instructions are reversed. In order to prepare privates and keep them from enduring too much pain. If a private is left handed. the tip of the elbow is forced into the ground. but also teach soldiers how to hold themselves in the proper position to fire on a qualification range. According to newly graduated soldiers. the prone and foxhole positions. There are two main firing positions taught at Basic Training 85 . The small of the back is arched tightly and will frequently cramp up after an extended period. The rifle should be held high enough above the ground that the soldier’s head does not have to dip in order to see through the sights and therefore disrupt a natural point of aim. frequently gravel rather than sand or softer dirt. 86 This description assumes a right handed soldier.

the back and stomach muscles begin to stress and get painful. Leaning onto the elbows drives them into the ground and creates painful stress on the joints. Although technically privates are not allowed to wear any equipment not issued to them in Basic Training. In addition to push-ups. Like other examples of rule breaking discussed earlier (misogynist language. push-ups and other calisthenics. After holding the body in this position for a few moments. but also on what rules they are allowed to violate. However.and back. it is possible to hold the body off the ground for an extended period. there are specialized exercises to strengthen the small of the back and the shoulders for support during firing a rifle. after performing this exercise numerous times. for example). and ideally. drill sergeants will allow privates to purchase elbow pads to wear under their uniforms. stressing by example that performance on the firing ranges is more important than some of the rules of Basic Training. Strength training can only assist with part of the pain of the prone position. The private then lifts his body off the ground so that only his elbows and the toes of his boots are touching the ground. So long as the elbow pads are worn under the uniform. the main exercise used to strengthen the arms and back in preparation for this position is to place the elbows of the private on the ground. to stay in the prone firing position for extended periods without affecting your firing position. through selective enforcement drill sergeants instruct privates not only on the rules of the Army. drill sergeants will allow privates to wear them. 269 . shamming work. and group leadership. and place the heels of both hands under the chin. In addition to sit-ups. frequently exasperated by hard-packed dirt or even gravel in most of the areas where training occurs. and thus can not be seen.

The difficulty of developing a proper foxhole position is one of the reasons why firing from the foxhole is usually less accurate for a soldier firing on the range than firing from the prone. or is used to pull the rifle tighter against the shoulder by pressing against the magazine well. as it demonstrated his ability with the weapon even while distracted by his bodily requirements. there are wood pallets or boxes to stand on and elevate the soldier’s body high enough to place his elbows outside the foxhole. since with the barrel of the weapon supported it will shift less. For shorter soldiers. the soldier stands in a foxhole. forcing the soldier to either perch them on the lip of the foxhole. Acquiring the textbook position is difficult. the foxhole position should be the more accurate. or to leave his rear elbow unsupported.In the foxhole position. Where the soldier’s left hand is placed during shooting is again up to the individual soldier. However. at most firing ranges actually a cement sewer pipe approximately four and a half feet high placed vertically into the ground. because of the difficulties associated with firing from the foxhole. Private Christopher actually urinated in the foxhole while firing by using his left hand to unbutton his trousers and simply used his shoulders and right hand to shift the weapon to each target 87 . Theoretically. Most foxhole firing is performed from a supported position. The position that the drill sergeants tell privates to acquire in the foxhole is with the hip opposite the firing hand pressed up against the side of the foxhole with the back leg braced as strongly as possible against the bottom of the foxhole. in which the barrel of the rifle is not supported by the soldier’s arm. leaning against the front of the pipe and resting his arms on the ground outside the foxhole. and the fact the privates constantly 87 This story earned Private Christopher a substantial amount of subcultural capital as well. but is instead rested on top of sandbags. On one occasion. but is typically either placed between the sandbag and the barrel. 270 . as frequently the soldier’s elbows can not rest properly on the ground.

An entire day was devoted just to grouping. A soldier must score three shots within a 4cm circle in order to qualify. Zeroing and grouping are both done in the prone supported position. Stealing the example back from statistics textbooks. but to get the private familiar with the rifle and to establish the muscle memory for a good sight picture 89 . and typically means that the soldier is positioned properly while holding the weapon. and some privates had still not qualified by the end of the day. as the purpose of these ranges is not to establish the accuracy of the soldier. 88 Pulling the trigger and allowing the firing hammer to fall on an empty chamber. typically the privates will perform better in that position. only the tightness with which the holes are formed. Each private fires at a 25 meter target. and can easily see through the firing sight of the weapon to the target without shifting his position. The first ranges were 25 meter ranges to practice zeroing and grouping. Zeroing is firing for accuracy and precision.train in the prone unsupported position. grouping is firing for precision. and it is essentially the same as the shadow box drills. attempting to hit the same point on the target as many times in a row as possible. in which the position of the bullet holes on the target does not matter. in which the barrel of the rifle rests on sandbags as in the foxhole position described above. A “good sight picture” is a generic term in Army marksmanship. and is used to adjust the sights of the weapon to each individual soldier for proper targeting. 89 271 . Grouping must be accomplished first. This is to provide the best stability for the rifle. There are a number of different ranges used to practice firing. After a week training without rounds and dry firing 88 their weapons. and to date I have found no explanation for why there was such a variety. They continued into the next day while the majority of soldiers moved on to zeroing. privates are ready for firing with live rounds.

right. drill sergeants are more relaxed than during the first three weeks of training. and if you fuck around like this. we don’t want you to be stressed out. after next week. Over the course of three weeks of BRM. whether he were jerking the weapon. According to Drill Sergeant Saburi: “We don’t want you guys to fail. This is important. however. During this phase. During zeroing. the subtext of this 90 Basic Rifle Marksmanship. and then displaying competence in the performance. up. the drill sergeants tell a private what he was doing wrong. the privates must learn to do so by first mimicking drill sergeants. I will smoke you ‘til you drop!” The importance of qualification. when 3rd platoon had left a locker unlocked. the three week block of Basic Training which focuses almost exclusively on shooting a rifle. 272 .During zeroing. in addition to these criticisms. Drill sergeants almost never specifically instruct privates on how to adjust their sights. or whatever the problem was. As with shooting below the target on a range. (left. is highlighted by this relaxation of discipline. drill sergeants will slowly allow privates to adjust the sights on their own weapon. there is usually more interaction with the drill sergeants. or not breathing correctly. but in the beginning of the cycle. in which drill sergeants will tell a private to remember a set of numbers. we have to get everybody through this. or down) and then repeat it to them when they came to adjust the rifle’s sights. we’re back in Drill Sergeant mode. and of the rifle itself. During the grouping phase. they will not allow a private to touch his weapon on the range except to pick it up and pull the trigger.” During the training cycle. Drill Sergeant Briggs yelled at the platoon and warned them: “You guys are getting off easy! But you better straighten up. You saw we were nicer to you during BRM 90 . there is also a more direct interaction. performing properly as soldier.

they stress the fact that they are more willing to cross over the line into violence if necessary. When 3rd platoon went to the first live fire range. Drill Sergeant Redmond stated “When we’re on the range. Drill Sergeant Briggs’s statement is particularly enlightening since he implies that on the range. drill sergeants do not completely forego strict discipline. etc. Drill Sergeant Briggs described the following: “A couple cycles ago. and the drill sergeant is allowed to strike a private he does not like.” In the same way.message was that qualification with the rifle. M-16. who are not drill sergeants but are responsible for teaching privates the specific skills when drill sergeants are unavailable or unqualified to do so. and this little shit. I will fucking kill you if you point that weapon at me or anybody else. his expression of willingness to cross that line 91 Range cadre are those instructors at each range. On one occasion. 273 . in fact. drill sergeant.” Although I believe that Drill Sergeant Redmond’s death threat was. However. I fumbled my weapon and accidentally pointed it at the tower which sits above every range so that the range cadre 91 can oversee the shooting.” when we were preparing to march to our first live fire range. idle.. and maintain their appearance of surliness and skirting the edge of violence.’ Don’t think I will hesitate to fuck you up if you fuck up on the range. all three drill sergeants related stories about attacking a private who was not acting appropriately on the range. I grabbed the weapon out of his hands and knocked him over faster than shit and the colonel just looked at me and said ‘good job. gas chamber. be it grenades. probably the core skill for any soldier. and Drill Sergeant Redmond directly threatened my life should I “fuck up again. the usual rules of non-contact between drill sergeants and privates are lifted. the Battalion Commander comes up to him and he points his goddam weapon at him. although the drill sergeants are not as confrontational with privates during BRM. In some ways. we were on the range. was more important than perfect discipline.

which almost always follow the same script with the exact same intonation. Procedures on the range. In general practice. although soldiers are expected to maintain their own discipline and are not subjected to the strict oversight of drill sergeants. usually found behind a firing range at Basic Training. it is formed when piling the dirt from a ditch alongside the ditch. They are organized in lanes. as indicated by the performances of drill sergeants. each lane is numbered. 150. In addition to the six distances already mentioned. the continuation of the term is another example of the symbolic connections between modern soldiers and their historic forebears. Each target is set behind a berm 92 which hides the machinery which moves the target up and down. and performance on the range is scripted much more rigidly in this situation than almost any other. 274 . The abundance of distinct terms on a firing range also highlights the importance of this place to the Army as a whole. This discipline continues in the regular Army. and then one of each at 100. Safety and discipline on the firing range are two of the “unbreakable rules” of Army life. usually from one to thirty. also reflect the strict discipline of Basic Training. many ranges have additional targets at other distances for specific purposes that were never used at basic Training. The standard ranges in the Army have “pop up” targets. This rigid scripting likely accounts for the similarities across the Army in such things as commands from the tower. Most firing ranges are laid out in a standard way.exemplifies how seriously drill sergeants and other instructors take safety procedures on the firing range. 200. although their own sergeants are expected to maintain safety. Each lane has two 50m targets. Originally used in medieval military engineering. 250. which I discussed in Chapter Two. 92 A berm is a large mound of dirt. and 300 meter distances. except for two unique ranges that Bravo Company fired on.

On most ranges there are approximately thirty positions for soldiers to fire at targets from. The Army calls this a “range walk” and defines it that one foot must always be on the ground at all times. and given a number which identifies it. with the butt of their weapons pressed into their stomach and holding the weapon so the muzzle is pointing towards the range and up in the air.” The private walks quickly towards a range safety. This position is a standard for the Army. where a detail of privates is assigned to filling magazines. Soldiers advance into the range through only a designated area (usually two red posts towards the center of the range). The soldiers then walk to the ammo point. but speed is encouraged. Each point is designated as a lane. Range walks are different for each soldier but it is generally agreed that if done properly it always looks somewhat ridiculous. soldiers must put in their ear protection and they are each designated a firing order and a firing point. and every time a soldier goes to the range. and obtain two magazines of twenty bullets each.Before entering the range. In order to accomplish this. 275 . The privates are usually lined up in two rows. and head out to their firing points. a long metal rod. who uses a clearing rod. second. the bolt of the weapon is pulled back to show there is no round in the chamber. Running is never allowed on the range. to slide down the muzzle and tap the bolt of the weapon to be certain there is no bullet in the weapon. third) and the firing point is the location on the range where the soldier will be firing from. so that one line can turn right and the other left and spread out from the center of the range. even after Basic Training. Firing order is the group that each soldier will be firing with (first. he is ordered to “keep your weapons up and downrange at all times.

at this time. which is placed to the rear and left of the foxhole.” The range cadre all have the same inflection. remove his magazine. this holds true across the entire army. and load. Once all privates have made it to their positions.The foxhole is covered by a wooden lid. your lanes. and lock the bolt to the rear.” “Privates.” “Ready on the right? Right side is ready. Ideally. preparing the sandbags as best they can. the tower issues commands to the privates: “Privates. left side is ready. Switch your selector switch from safe to semi and watch. the rushed feeling is still left over enough that the sandbags are rarely positioned perfectly. the soldier must put the safety back on his weapon. and the drill sergeants use a white or red paddle to let the tower know yes or no. Ready on the left. the tower asks each side if they are ready. as the private should have fired all 276 . and each soldier places his weapon on the lid (ejection port cover skyward) and stand back behind the trail that runs from the entry point of the range to the firing points. As soon as the sandbags are positioned properly. enter the foxhole and take up a good foxhole supported firing position. First. the soldiers obtain their weapons and magazines and get into the foxhole. Once shooting has finished. take one twenty round magazine and. It must be noted that I have never heard of a drill sergeant rushing a soldier getting ready. There are standard steps for each stage of the firing process. and talking with soldiers from other Basic Training sites. and the command to perform each step is given from the control tower. and I have heard them yelling at range cadre for starting the targets without waiting for their notification. at this time. lock. there should be no more rounds left at the end of each round of shooting. Although soldiers are always told to take as much time as possible.

and then repeats the orders to lock and load and then to watch their lanes. the targets pop up forty times in a pre-determined sequence. One piece of information that the drill sergeants did relay to 3rd platoon. the weapon is placed next to the foxhole and the soldier steps to the rear of the foxhole away from the weapon. I have noticed that on almost every safety paddle the target sequence is written out in pen or marker. that are placed behind small mounds (berms) which presumably conceal the activating mechanism. although I have not heard of any soldier memorizing the sequence. is that the 50 meter “left” target is always the first target to popup. it seems that the act of qualification. the sequence of targets is the same on every range in the Army when a soldier fires for official qualification. inspects each weapon to be certain there is not a round remaining in it. the emblem of ability rather than the ability itself. For a qualification. After locking the bolt to the rear. Again.twenty rounds from the magazine. and that this holds true of every range in the US Army. as with the aiming point. After this is done. in this case informing each other of the targets which are due to pop up on the range to give the firing soldier an extra second or two to prepare to fire. Although marksmanship is important. however. A range safety. soldiers will negotiate the rules of the Army. the tower gives the order to get in the prone position. regardless of the pattern. This information is openly available on the internet as the standard score card. and then signals the tower to move to the next phase. Although it was never made clear during Basic Training. usually one of the drill sergeants. torso and head. However. is more important. The targets are green plastic dummies. when personally serving as a range safety (the position which drill sergeants serve during basic Training). One drill sergeant in Bravo Company for 4th Platoon inspired his platoon with a shout of “Kill Plasticman!” 277 .

drill sergeant. but there were also human influences. Although this is usually by accident. On a number of ranges these factors were environmental. The end result of this was that the privates in Bravo Company sat for an hour on covered bleachers until the rain stopped and the drill sergeants won the argument by default. as when rain caused the range instructors to attempt to close a range we were on at the time. it does still happen. and also rumors that drill sergeants themselves would take over for a private to get him to pass BRM. of course. No matter how much discipline the Army tries to enforce on a firing range. a number of times two targets will appear at the same time. the longer it stays up for. 278 . so you can have some idea about whether or not you hit it. and range instructor approached the activity at the firing range with his own desires and behaviors. When the target has been hit by a bullet. The targets remain upright for different lengths of time. Running between each lane are red and white posts that designate the boundaries of your lane and your neighbors’. there were consistently rumors of drill sergeants instructing previously qualified privates to enter the range and fire on another private’s lane in order to get him to pass.every time they prepared to go to the range. During the sequence. there are always factors which will affect the structure of the environment. Many times the human and environmental factors would interact. as each private. depending on the distance. while the drill sergeants argued to keep the range open. the farther a target is. Although they are supposed to prevent you from firing into someone else’s lane. it drops back down. requiring not only accuracy but some amount of thinking on the part of the soldier to decide which target to shoot at.

Each magazine is hand loaded by the “ammo detail” chosen by the drill sergeants. it is easy for a soldier to fill a magazine with one clip. In addition. it is never possible to be missing an odd number of bullets from a magazine as this is readily apparent. Although each magazine was supposed to have twenty rounds. so much of the range was covered in waist high grass that the Captain and the First Sergeant grabbed privates’ gloves and e-tools and began cutting down the grass so that the targets would be visible. there is a “speed loader” attached to each clip of bullets as they come out of the box. Another problem encountered during range fire was an inaccurate amount of bullets in a magazine. at others the entire target is. Second. as mentioned before.The berms at different ranges have varying degrees of exposure. or sometimes ten. and then move on to the next magazine thinking the one he was working is complete. not necessarily an improvement in actual marksmanship ability. That the two highest ranking soldiers in the Company were willing to engage in what would otherwise be work for privates highlights two factors about firing ranges in Basic Training. the discipline of firing ranges is such that privates could not be allowed onto the range except for in the prescribed firing locations. the instructors at Basic Training will do whatever they can to insure a good “score” on qualification ranges. Since bullets come in clips of ten. At one infamous range. First. so that only the drill sergeants and other instructors could be allowed onto the range itself to conduct this clearing procedure. at some ranges only the head of the target is visible. allowing a soldier to line the clip up with the magazine and use his hand or the edge of a table to quickly slide all the bullets into the magazine. many times a soldier would be shorted two or four rounds. the top bullet would be on the wrong side. 279 . Because the bullets alternate as they go into the magazine.

Tap the forward assist. Not even considering the complexities of an actual combat environment. the myth of the ordered military machine quickly collapses. deployment is what it took to show me that it doesn’t work like that at all.” The issue of deployment will be discussed in the final chapter. they jam quite frequently. The United States Army is one of the largest bureaucracies in the country. or some other incident prevents him from having a reasonable chance of shooting all the targets. as usually a jammed round was seated tightly in the firing chamber and the weapon had to be completely turned over and shaken in order to get it to come out. an acronym that the Army uses for: Slap the magazine. sometimes as many as five or six times in a firing sequence. the task of providing for more than two hundred soldiers on a single firing range is so complex it seems to guarantee mistakes. As one soldier from my unit discussed: “I joined the Army thinking that it would make sense. Because the weapons used in Basic are old and heavily used. Also. on those occasions when a magazine was incorrectly loaded. and from the perspective of the privates in Basic Training. a jam would be cleared by the use of SPORTS. however. you know. Rarely was a soldier able to get past Observe. he could receive an alibi as well. a soldier can get an “alibi” if he has a serious malfunction. Supposedly. I guess. All of these problems highlight the difficulties of attempting to impose order on the chaotic system of the Army. Release the charging handle. Observe a round being ejected.During firing. everything dress right dress. But. Pull the charging handle. orders issued and followed. I needed. but the counterpoint to this statement was the response from the soldier’s team leader: “You 280 . It’s kind of depressing. if a private could get the attention of a drill sergeant quickly enough and convince the drill sergeant he had not been given a proper load of ammunition. Squeeze the trigger.

Before being rodded off. either fired or unfired. a barrel rod (any long metal rod that fits down the barrel of the weapon) must be inserted down the barrel and tap the back of the firing chamber to insure that there are no bullets remaining in the weapon by mistake. all privates must remove their helmets. 281 . most soldiers realize during Basic Training that the rules of the organization are often contradictory. “Semper gumby” is a catchphrase used in many military units. and even fluid as the smaller elements of the organization. empty their pockets into the helmet. are expected to break the rules in order to accomplish the task assigned to them. he must grab his (empty) magazines and his weapon and range walk to the exit point. Once all privates have qualified on a range. and never pointed at the tower or the cadre while being rodded off 93 . During this procedure. This process is one of the few times when drill sergeants and privates 93 Before leaving the range. platoons and squads. After firing on the range. both Army and other branches. or the range instructors have decided to shut down the range. each platoon forms up for the final “shakedown” before leaving the range. Attempting to remove a round. reflecting the necessity to remain flexible and adapt to the environment rather than rely on the arcane and inflexible rules the Army supposedly maintains. is a serious crime during Basic Training. There is a milk crate to deposit the magazines. privates spend the remainder of these days cleaning their weapons. Once the soldier has fired his rounds at the target. For the shakedown. the soldier must state “no brass no ammo!” in a loud voice. or pretending to do so. and then he must get “rodded off” the range in the same way as when he got “rodded on”. and the threat of court-martial for an offense was raised by both drill sergeants and Captain Hunter. and wait for a drill sergeant to pat them down and examine the contents of their helmet. the weapon must still be pointed up and downrange.didn’t figure that out at Basic?” In other words.

leaving the privates standing in the sun. which looked ten or fifteen years old. It is also one of the few times when drill sergeants will actually physically touch privates during their training. After a private has qualified on the range. Although sometimes painful. ejected from the rifle as it is fired. and then the drill sergeant walked away. although this was never confirmed. however. the entire company was called out to stand at attention in a mass formation. but many times not even bothering with that. as everyone who has finished qualifying is called out by the drill sergeant and forced to do some kind of corrective training. On one occasion. privates would simply sit around and talk to each other. following from the distinction mentioned above that during BRM. it usually results in group punishment.seem to break down their barriers and enjoy themselves. a tradition which continues in regular Army life. When a drill sergeant catches a private not cleaning his weapon. but along with this the boundaries between private and drill sergeant are also relaxed. and each range had two or three tables. Drill Sergeant Rivers assembled the entire company who had already qualified and yelled at them for not cleaning their weapons. simply expression of playful masculine aggression. and smack privates as they “pat down” the private for brass 94 . 94 The casing of a bullet. There were usually trees and shade of some sort. 282 . then smoked the entire company for fifteen minutes. I did not see any malice between the drill sergeants and privates. The drill sergeants will push. on which a soldier could lay out weapon. Halfway through the day of qualification. It was rumored later that Captain Hunter had caught one of the privates sleeping underneath a tree. sometimes pretending to clean their weapons. he must spend the remainder of his time cleaning his weapon until everyone else has finished qualifying. pull. drill sergeants will relax some disciplinary oversight. Many times.

and once BRM is completed. Trained Killers As we saw with the gas chamber discussed in Chapter Three. shaving cream. privates learn in Basic Training how to negotiate the rules of the Army. although many soldiers will use brake cleaner. and.Weapon cleaning is also a time when privates first begin to break rules. now. As with so much of Army life. The implement of death 283 . On one occasion. most importantly. and/or a plastic toothbrush. These unapproved techniques for cleaning are often an open secret among soldiers. Basic Training is more a set of stages along a path toward becoming a soldier than a single rite of passage. how to best break the rules without getting caught. BRM represents the next major stage in this process. or other non-authorized agents. which rules can be broken. When an M-16 is “broken down” to be cleaned there are eight separate parts that must be rubbed down and then scrubbed with a rag.” At the conclusion of BRM. You’re all trained killers. “You can be proud. privates used a pressurized stream of hot water from the laundry room sink to rinse the dirt and carbon out of the barrel. The Army authorizes only the use of “CLP” solution to break down the carbon and dirt that can build up on a weapon when fired. and drill sergeants for 3rd platoon even obtained brake cleaner on one occasion to speed the cleaning process at the end of the Field Training Exercise. sometimes with the assistance of drill sergeants. a wire brush. which can be bent.” The element of killing is inherent to the definition of soldier. Drill Sergeant Redmond called 3rd platoon to the barracks and told us proudly. when all the privates had passed the qualification. the private again moves closer to the identity of “soldier.

The training in these weapons for Bravo Company was notoriously sparse. and thus the domain of the infantry. On the modern battlefield. however. those distinctions are becoming less clear. the drill sergeants.” (Exum. Rather than classic maneuver warfare typified by early 20th century missions. support personnel are no longer behind the lines. privates still train heavily on the M-16. such as the SAW or the AT-4. Before 2003. like the current war in Iraq and the wars most likely to be fought in the future. In low intensity conflict. 95) Here. almost every soldier deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan is issued an M-4 rifle. it should be said. even in the face of the facts on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Andrew Exum discusses the prevalence of the “trigger puller” in his experience as an officer in an infantry unit: “most servicemen. its sociological implications are also particularly relevant. but reportedly receive more intensive training on the other infantry weapons. seven men and women exist to fill supporting roles behind him. and are much more under threat 95 Since upgraded to the M-4.’ For every man who pulls a trigger in combat. This is actually another example of the symbolic shift of soldier identity in the Army. Once privates have completed BRM. only Special Operations and Airborne infantry units were issued the M-4. The notion of the trigger puller has been mentioned previously. However. in reference to the role of death in the identity of the soldier. are not ‘trigger-pullers. the elite combat soldiers of the Army. however. p. and been trained in the use of that instrument. Today. the operations in Iraq are predominantly counter-insurgency and nation building. 2004. they can be accorded more respect by the fully initiated soldiers. as they are viewed as combat weapons. who are training them. Exum is simply noting the ratio of combat arms personnel to support personnel. these missions are consistently avoided by the US Army. a variant on the M-16 which is smaller and lighter. 284 .which the American soldier uses is the M-16 rifle 95 . Today.

just stand around and point. as a link to other soldiers. Sandbagging details. As jobs for support soldiers become less common. for instance.of contacting enemy forces. is augmented by the practical importance of the weapon. are now frequently performed by contracted workers rather than soldiers.” In Iraq. or food service and other housekeeping staff. cleaned latrines. these duties are performed by hired contractors. the Combat Action Badge for “actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy. As such. Sergeant Brigman remembers: “There were fifty guys and a hundred square feet of grass. however.” (HQDA Letter 600-05-1. and other tasks are also significant memories of soldiers from Basic Training. Although preparing sandbags was not a significant element of life during my Basic Training experience. landscaping. the imagery of soldiers detailed to fill sandbags in order to fill time is a common one in the army. it makes you look busy. “Grass detail” is one memory that stands out in many informants minds. these workers filled sandbags. In fact. but you’re not actually doing anything. Typically Filipino or Indonesian during my tour. Cleaning latrines. the symbolic importance of the rifle. contractors in Iraq are thought of as either Blackwater paramilitary professionals. How are you gonna find space for all them? That was when our PG showed me a trick. For instance. contractors take over many other roles previously performed by soldiers themselves around their camp. there have been so many occurrences of non-combat arms soldiers engaging in combat that the Army created a new medal in 2005. these support soldiers will be placed more and more into combat roles. and contractors take over the roles support soldiers used to play. However. 2) Most often. 285 .

is the second-in-command to the Commanding Officer. The material from this class did not appear on any Basic Training tests. This was the only class taught by an officer. soldiers are freed from these tasks normally associated with military life.” Thus.and cleaned laundry under the supervision of American contractors. regardless of the “scale” of the weapon. clearly demarcated by uniforms and other traditions formalized in the Geneva Conventions and other elements of the Law of Land Warfare. These rules were presented to Bravo Company in a single class. or look after themselves. the military’s job is to engage with the enemy. the only piece of information I remember from the class is that weapons must be appropriate to the target being fired at. all they are is “trigger-pullers. entitled “The Law of Land Warfare” on one day of the training cycle. as it is a designated “anti-vehicle” weapon. 286 . Traditionally. and one American soldier assigned to “guard duty. and so the drill sergeants did not reinforce the lessons. and more of their focus is directed towards combat and combat operations. To return to Exum’s term. and any number of soldiers I spoke with while deployed expressed the opinion that they would fire any and all weapons at an enemy in combat. a tank’s cannon cannot be legally used to fire at a human being. when soldiers no longer have to provide for themselves. Another example of rule bending applies to the rules for taking prisoners in a conflict. Soldiers constantly manipulate these rules in the field. For instance.” The weapon and the soldier become one and the same. After the first squad runs through the enemy position 96 The Executive Officer. Considering the new missions being performed by the military. or XO. this identity of trigger-puller can become problematic. and discussed treatment of prisoners. the Executive Officer 96 of the Company. and other topics. A standard tactic discussed during my training was one in which two squads overrun an enemy position. use of weapons. however. To this day.

the rifle is also symbolic of the importance of the individual soldier in these battles. its unwillingness or inability to easily change to new situation. as even on an institutional level.and shoots the enemy. But the engagement isn’t over until that second squad stops moving. The modern conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan. as one informant put it: “Once the engagement is over. Counter-Insurgency and the Loss of the Rifle The importance of the rifle as a symbolic connection with the past brings up an unfortunate element of Army bureaucracy. the Army is slowly changing to embrace the realities of the new battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. characterized by counter-insurgency and police actions. This tactic manages to avoid the rules of the Geneva Convention. 287 . This does not mean that change is impossible. you have to take prisoners. and can potentially be used to avoid the temptations of the “technophilic” strategy of focusing on high cost military gadgets rather than face to face interactions between soldiers and civilians. get it?” By interpreting the rules in their favor. it is easy to continue to think in these ways. the second squad advances and shoots each body once as they move through. These types of conflict require a much different set of strategies and tactics than those of maneuver warfare. The rifle is symbolic of the maneuver warfare battles historically fought in the wars in Europe. will be predominantly “low-intensity” conflict. Luckily. By connecting with the soldiers and wars of the past. since. soldiers negotiate their roles with regard to the overarching institutional imperatives. as well as the likely conflicts the Army will be engaged in in the future. with World War II being the most symbolic of these.

The deviance of the problem child. Historically. there would be no innovation or adaptation. 318).Of course.” (Krepinevich. especially when those strategies fly in the face of three hundred years of training. Especially after Vietnam. even when they are engaged in conflicts which necessitate these changes. maneuver units are finding it difficult to shift their strategy from combat to counter-insurgency (Gentile. in the 16th Century. The Appearance of Soldiers Although the wear of the Army uniform may seem like an insignificant factor in effecting institutional change within the military. and cling to possibilities of control and discipline even more strongly. As Krepinevich points out: “to date.S. Military decision makers are notoriously slow to shift their positions on tactics or equipment. the military does not shift quickly to new strategies. forces in Iraq have largely concentrated their efforts on hunting down and killing insurgents. a close look at the history of the uniform. 2008). It is here that the importance of the problem child becomes apparent. military leaders have avoided performing counter-insurgency or stabilization missions rather than training in what was likely to be the primary conflict of the new age (Boot. The idea of such operations is to erode the enemy's strength by killing fighters more quickly than replacements can be recruited. 2002. Were every soldier to follow the rules of the Army to the letter. and as such change the institution around them. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden 288 . 2005) Even three years later. especially one such as Huntley who is reincorporated to some extent back into the group. p. and its effectiveness (or failure) as a symbol of institutional identity highlights the ways in which soldiers express their individuality. U. allows for the institution to have some internal flexibility.

a unit patch on the left shoulder. so if I get pulled over. and rank insignia on the collar. and at the same time as only a potential member of the military. I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket since joining the Reserves. Uniform decoration is not allowed at Basic Training. I note it here to point out that even something as simple as shared clothing can serve to change the fundamental elements of a bureaucratic institution. While the standard for regular soldiers includes an American flag on the right shoulder.” Brigman is expressing his confidence that the connection between his uniform-wearing identity and the uniform wearing policeman has prevented him from receiving a ticket. I will discuss the revolutionary aspects of this change in the next chapter. As Sergeant Brigman expressed. “I keep my BDUs in the back of my car. and there is even an association between uniform wearing professions outside the military. The uniform at Basic Training is an important symbol of the private’s new status as both a member of the military. one of the most obvious of which is the introduction of a standard uniform for all soldiers in his army. simply based on the existence of a uniform. this fictive kinship group is the entire military. but to other soldiers around the world. One need only look at the controversies over school uniforms in public schools to see this same idea fought out in the civilian world. In the case of the modern Army. The uniform is an essential element of the soldier identity. the similarities in uniform are more striking than the differences. In fact. the beret is not 289 . the cop will see it. at Basic Training privates are only allowed to wear a nametape and the “US Army” tape on their uniform. tying him not only to the mythical past.ushered in one of the first military revolutions through a number of innovative changes to the Swedish Army. In addition. even though each branch maintains a subtly different uniform.

after actually experiencing combat. Army uniform. the Army instituted the Combat Medic Badge to honor medics who were assigned to infantry units. Additionally. However. but who fail to qualify for the other awards which indicate such an elevated status. the Army also created the Combat Action Badge. or in the case of the CIB. In addition to this. title 10. tabs such as Ranger or Special Forces Tabs. no person except a member of the U. 290 . but because they were not in actuality infantry.S. Army may wear a uniform. Most of these items are only earned after attending a special school. to be awarded to soldiers who were not medics or infantry who had seen combat. set the privates apart from a civilian wearing a camouflage suit in a very distinctive way.S. The importance of these are such that during World War II. this badge is to elevate soldiers who have crossed the border and touched death. or a distinctive part of the uniform of the U. could not earn the CIB.S. according to the Army Regulation prescribing the proper wear of the Army uniform. Army unless otherwise authorized by law. section 771. “In accordance with chapter 45. any part of which is similar to a distinctive part of the U. there are a number of items of regalia which a soldier must earn to wear.” The nametape and US Army tape on the breast of the uniform top. To return to Carolyn Marvin for a moment.authorized for wear by Army privates going through either Basic Training or AIT. no person except a member of the U. and badges such as the Expert Infantry (EIB) or Combat Infantry Badges (CIB) are also important identifiers of the authenticity of a soldier’s identity. Although ribbons and medals fall into this category. United States Code (10 USC 771). During the war in Iraq.S. Army may wear the uniform. as a distinctive part of the uniform.

turkey shoots. Whether a lion hunting gazelle or a man hunting a deer. The symmetric response in warfare is the development of a weapon roughly equivalent to the weapons of the enemy. the uniform symbolizes maneuver warfare. O’Connell describes “the exaggeratedly predatory nature” of the Pacific War during WWII: flushing Japanese out. predatory activities are characterized by an increase of lethality based on the desire to kill the opponent as quickly as possible. and then M-16. to stay with the theme of this chapter. fighter jets with fighter jets. It is interesting to compare this with the hunting metaphors used today in the discussion of the 291 . during the Cold War the Soviet Union developed the AK-47 assault rifle. or a response in which military technology (here meaning any means by which humans modify their natural environment) is designed to counter the enemy’s weapons. German submarines were known for traveling in “wolf packs. or. and so forth. rather than simply outdo them. and the ritualized aggression that goes along with it. international terrorism has responded to American military power with a counter-response. One of the elements of this ritual warfare is the symmetric response discussed by Robert O’Connell in Of Arms and Men (1999).Response and Counter-Response As clear symbols of a national and military organization. Tanks are met with tanks. as O’Connell succinctly puts it.” and today the counter-submarine technology such as sonar and infrared detection is still referred to frequently as submarine hunting. and “shot down like running quail” are metaphors used by American soldiers in their descriptions of Pacific War combat (O’Connell. p. assault rifle in response. Thus. 292). As a symbol of the paradigm shift in warfare. however. 1989. hunting. This type of response is usually reserved for inter-species conflict. which was met with the American M-14.

predominantly due to the establishment of Robert Gates and General Petraeus. especially when carried by women or children. such as suicide bombs. One contemporary example of this is the further mechanization and impersonalization of warfare on a battlefield which demands greater and greater personalization. we condemn them using our own understanding of appropriate and inappropriate behavior. there are no targets for the military’s impressive array of firepower to focus on.War on Terror begun in 2001. the first HMMWV I was issued in Iraq came with a “Terrorist Hunting License” affixed to the front windshield. forcing the conflict back into our own definitions of what the conflict should be. 2004. The author continues by discussing how bin Laden has completely changed the face of warfare. Michael Scheuer discusses the ways in which the American government. many are not so optimistic.” (Scheuer. which a Sergeant Major stopped to “examine” for its expiration date on one occasion. or regular military. In fact. 292 . John Keegan discusses the development of mechanized troop carriers. recent changes. and how little military leaders still understand it. Donald Rumsfeld’s now-famous statement that “there are no good targets in Afghanistan. p. create an image for production and dissemination to higher authorities: “it is a process of interpreting the world so it makes sense to us. 165) Thus. suggest that perhaps the military has finally shifted its tactics to meet the new battlefield. when opponents use tactics that seem strange to us. In this instance. homeland. Of course.” suggests how much the battlefield has changed. cities. a process yielding a world in which few events seem alien because we Americanize their components. Without economy. and especially its intelligence and military departments. In Iraq.

and to fight in combat. desire to deploy. 1976. and by extension. 340) This impersonalization continues today. 293 . Soldiers. the soldier. and information operations by both sides in an attempt to keep civilians from getting hurt. 1976. with the 1114 HMMWV variant or the even more heavily armored MRAPs that allow soldiers to sit comfortably within the armored box of a truck and not need to interact with anyone outside the truck. p. face to face combat between two soldiers. are a series of quick potshots by insurgents. and truly turns warfare into a Nintendo game. an automated system with which soldiers can control a heavy machine gun from inside their HMMWV without ever needing to even look out the windows. weapon systems today are symbolically linked with the weaponry of soldiers in the past. “Mounted” patrols are conducted by miniature mobile fortresses in which the soldiers shelter comfortably inside armored walls. 343) To some extent this is correct. as there are no more “battles” as Keegan describes in his book: man to man. raids by the Coalition. the software in the system?” (Keegan. in general. As noted above with Manuel de Landa. Modern combat. a steeper reduction of his status to that of a mere adjunct to machinery. Keegan continues in his discussion of the impersonalization of warfare.lauded as a means to carry soldiers to battle in comfort: “a greater alienation of the soldier from anything recognizably human or natural on the field of battle.” (Keegan. such as the battles in Iraq. These operations are rarely embraced by Army units as they essentially remove the rifle from the equation. p. and to keep them favoring whichever side is putting out the information. suspecting that “battle has already abolished itself. The turret itself becomes even more impersonalized with weapon systems such as the CROW. protected by a 21st Century turret which oversees the defenses.

such as when “to make a more exciting newsreel. 1994. After Vietnam the military shifted its focus to the importance of information. the military fed the media that information it wanted known. This fake footage became part of the official record of San Juan Hill. filming amphibious operations was the precursor to a feint 294 . and how to control that information. be that soldier in combat or merely supporting it. For example. Over the last century. p. Information Warfare The media figures heavily into our understanding of contemporary warfare. Information warfare. then choreographed an American charge against them. and our presentation of war itself. This idea will be fully explored in the final chapter.Proximity to combat is what gains a soldier status in the military community. despite modern attempts to deny this.” (Gibson. journalists and photographers have worked hand in hand with military units to produce reports of combat and victory. became one of the buzzwords for the 1991 Operation Desert Storm. already being adopted by the military. Rather than allowing the media to control their actions. 20) This continued through World War II with the flag raising on Iwo Jima and it was only after Vietnam that the relationship between these two institutions became more confrontational than collective. they gave captured Spanish troops guns whose cartridges had gunpowder but no bullets. The press and the military have always had a relationship. the Vitagraph photographers and the Rough Riders then staged a mock battle at Santiago Bay after the real fight was over. and for now I shall move on to the next removal of the soldier from the battlefield.

Realizing that it cannot control the flow of information. the military has worked to incorporate the press into its units through the process of “embedding.” One interesting element of the embedding process required of the press is a “mini Boot Camp” that reporters go through before joining units. who desire to go into battle. however. Every soldier. the soldier is also removed from the mechanization of the military. The origin of the soldier’s firearm was based on coordinated volleys of fire. Following complaints of being “handled” during the Persian Gulf War. from four star general to the lowest private.by naval forces on the day of the invasion. this approach denies the desires of the soldiers themselves. however. In addition to preparing reporters for working alongside servicemembers. an additional amount of misdirection the military used to disrupt the Iraqi battle plan (Jeffords. this separation can be seen to increase the agency and freewill of soldiers within the military organization. and thus by removing the rifle from the soldier identity. Although there are still complaints of “handling. training them to be aware of what information is important and what is not. 97 This increase in information operations over combat operations. restricting soldiers’ abilities to blog or email “sensitive information” which includes any information regarding operations suggests that the military is returning to the attempt to control information flow. From a structuralist viewpoint. than previously. as they now have experiences to share akin to the experiences shared by soldiers who have all gone through Basic Training. and much more important. the military has advocated the empowerment of individual soldiers. receives training on how to talk to the press before deploying to Iraq. in fact. However. It is not only officers in Iraq who desire combat missions and a visible enemy 97 A recent dictate by the Army. 295 . it also builds a rapport between reporters and the military. removes the rifle from the identity of the soldier.” the military sees its relationship with reporters as more positive. 1994).

All of these authors share a view of the United States as standing on the threshold 296 . 2001).” providing commanders computerized access to the scope of the battlefield (Owens. while proving the abilities of many of our high-tech developments. Many of the changes predicted by these thinkers. on the battlefield itself. it is also the soldiers themselves. are untenable in the face of the future enemy. hide behind civilians. The conflict between the needs of the military (performing counter-insurgency and stability operations) and its desires (maneuver warfare) continues to play out. both military and civilian. instinct. George and Meredith Friedman see a battlefield full of integrated systems. professional and amateur. In a collection of wargames among different branches of the military. but will skulk in shadows. 1996). Prophecies of integrated systems. and the human ability to come up with creative solutions at a glance. however. computerized data processing. and unmanned vehicles (Friedman & Friedman. typified by the development of the Army’s Land Warrior system (Adams. an enemy which will not face an American army on a clean battlefield. and likely will for many more years.to fight. Adams sees the development of a new soldier. The battlefield is also changing in response to other factors as well. William Owens sees technology as a means to lift the “fog of war. have also shown the limitations of technology when our forces rely upon it too heavily. AI assisted command structures. rather than relying on training. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 1998). and even science-fiction fusion-powered armored exoskeletons have dominated this future world. Over the past two decades the appearance and organization of the military has been examined by many scholars. and use other camouflage and guerilla tactics to accomplish its mission.

2002. Virtual reality training and drone systems. in which inherent capabilities with computers. it must be destructive. The importance of actual physical damage can not be stressed enough when engaging in conflict. nor will its loss result in a public outcry and recall of forces form the combat zone. 1997. Given the desires of soldiers to be on the battlefield. weapons technology. the death of its citizens. 2005). carries with it a power that the destruction of a robot will never convey. A remotely piloted battle machine would not be mourned by family or friends if it should die.” both safe in friendly territory. The physical destruction of a nation. However. It would be the perfect soldier. expendable and interconnected. and other developments will provide America with the tools to dominate the next century. there would be no delays in transmission due to filters between soldier and commander.of a new era. Bellah. in order for war to be effective. to be a solution to problems aroused between two nations. in harm’s way. 297 . Hedges. it is not likely that these prophetic visions will come true any time soon. What they fail to discuss is that their advances would remove the requirement for soldiers on the battlefield. such as the current Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). would remove the soldier from the battlefield in an even more concrete way than the shift to information warfare. War. a power which is almost religious in its impact on the human psyche (Ehrenreich. since an officer could as easily access the information obtained by such a machine as the “pilot. Although ideally two nations at war could release armies of robots rather than human soldiers (or resolve their disputes with a chess match) this will never happen. in the words of journalist Chris Hedges. is a force that gives us meaning.

Looking at American history. he also goes in to great detail describing the violence and bloodiness of the cockfight. and it just as likely that it is this.710. which includes debilitating injuries as well as mortal ones. enables him to become accepted in his village (Geertz. Clifford Geertz implies that his lie to the authorities. Korean War: 157. covering for his neighbors.094. 87) In his discussion of the Balinese cockfight. and Vietnam claimed the greatest number of American lives. the Civil War. World War II. while World War I and the Persian Gulf War claimed a significantly smaller number 98 . intuitive analyses. For Marvin and Ingle. and to decide on a course of action is essential to the waging of war. 1973. 453.000 more wounded in Vietnam. The likelihood of two forces meeting on a battlefield is becoming smaller and smaller as other nations realize that in such a situation. World War II: 1. 079. while there were 50. Comparing wars. Marvin and Ingle’s touching of blood and the potential shared victimization by the police. American forces will always emerge victorious. p. the amount of casualties incurred during events seems to increase the mythological value of those events.Carolyn Marvin and David Ingle discuss the importance of death. World War I: 320. 298 . The second reason that human soldiers will continue to be essential to the battlefield is that the ability of a human being on the ground to make creative choices. Persian Gulf War: 843. It is likely not the actual death of a soldier which creates symbolic power. Until 98 From Marvin and Ingle: Civil War: 1. 1999. Vietnam War: 211. “the ability of a violent event to create identity is based on how many bodies touch blood directly and how many other bodies are linked by personal ties of blood and affection to them. These are totals of wounded and dead. This is especially true in the wars that will likely be waged in the future. 119. 416) However. which creates this bond with the Balinese for Geertz. in creating mythological stories which serve to form a totem for the group.454.” (Marvin & Ingle. and the link between death and sacrifice. It is interesting to note that the difference between Korea and Vietnam in total losses is only 1500 soldiers. but the symbolic death.771. p.

recently, military wargames, training exercises in preparation for deployment, were
played against armored columns, conventional combatants, and not special forces or
guerilla enemies (Adams, 1998). The importance of human common sense in these
wargames has also been stressed, common sense that goes above and beyond anything a
computer would be able to compute.
Especially with the recent confirmation of General Petraeus as commander of the
United States Central Command, the importance of the individual soldier has returned to
the calculations of military theorists. Fighting counter-insurgencies requires a thinking,
breathing individual on the ground, not only to respond to potential attack, but to be
empathetic with the local population and interact with them as one human being to
another (FM 3-24: Counterinsurgency). Despite rapid advances in technology, the
necessity for these interactions remains vital, as does the possibility that people, on either
side of the conflict, can potentially die.
The contemporary soldier, then, looks remarkably like the soldiers from any point
in history. He is between the ages of 18 and 30, in good physical condition. As John
Keegan has pointed out, the experience of the soldier himself has not changed much in
the history of military conflict. On the level of the individual soldier, the experience of
battle does not significantly change. Whether combat is conducted with swords, rifles, or
precision-guided missiles, the soldier still carries fifty to sixty pounds of equipment, a
weapon with which to kill the enemy, and the fear that he will be the one that is killed. In
essence, a soldier is still simply a sacrifice for his nation.
The full extent of the sacrifice motif will be discussed in the final chapter, but as
we have seen in Chapters Three and Four, and have seen in this discussion, the ideas of

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sacrifice and violence permeate the military, and are introduced to privates at Basic
Training. Whether it be a symbolic sacrifice of the civilian self, or a sacrifice fantasy of
the problem child, group identity is formed and reformed out of the choices and actions
of the individuals in that group. The weapon of the soldier ties him to other soldiers –
sacrifices – throughout history, and to the sacrifices which they made. This bond is the
subject of Chapter Seven, as the full range of weapons available to the soldier has not
been completely discussed, and will be the subject of the next chapter.

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Chapter 6: Military Revolutions and the Field Training Exercise

Although not a stated purpose of any training, over the course of eight weeks,
privates have learned from their drill sergeants not only what the Army requires them to
know, but also how the Army requires them to act. Within these constraints, privates
have also learned what rules they can bend or break, and the proper ways in which to
break them. By learning what activities the drill sergeants punish for, what the drill
sergeants dislike, and what the drill sergeants deliberately overlook, privates quickly
learn how to challenge the structure of Army regulations. As a culminating exercise, the
FTX, then, also highlights the ways in which privates have learned to negotiate Army
culture over the previous weeks.
The Field Training Exercise, or FTX, is the penultimate event of Basic Training,
and represents the culmination of the skills taught over the course of nine weeks of
training. It is during the FTX that privates get to act as “real” soldiers and perform the
roles that they have been trained for. As the closest representation of actual warfare at
Basic Training, the FTX simulates the experience of combat for new soldiers, and
supposedly allows them to act as soldiers for the first time, assuming the new identity
which will be conferred upon them at the completion of their training. However, the
FTX presents a battlefield more appropriate to the early twentieth century than the early
twenty-first. Most of the assumptions of Basic Training, culminated in this FTX, seem to
be based on an idea that warfare does not change, and the tactics used by soldiers
therefore also need not change.

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The changes on the modern battlefield are not unique to the current era. Over the
past centuries, advances in weaponry and other technology have required changes in the
way which armies engage in warfare. These changes then affect the roles and identity of
soldiers as they work within the institution of the military. In addition to technology,
however, changes in ideology have also cause significant changes in the way warfare is
conducted. At its fundamental level, as we saw in the last chapter, warfare is about
violence and sacrifice, and thus ideological changes will affect the military as much, if
not more than, technological changes.
Even when the Army does change, it often changes only in response to new
technologies, and many military historians view those technological advances as the
causes of changes in military techniques. The current battlefields in Iraq and
Afghanistan, however, reflect a change in warfare as significant as the invention of the
nuclear bomb, and not due to technology, but ideology. By providing privates outdated
tactics, reflecting outdated ideologies of warfare, the Army fails to properly prepare those
privates for the realities of the battlefields they will find themselves fighting for their
lives on.
Before moving on to the discussion of the Field Training Exercise, and its import
to the identity of a soldier in the contemporary Army, I must step back a moment to one
of the first things a soldier is required to learn at Basic Training. In addition to the chain
of command discussed in the next chapter, each private is required to memorize the
Soldier’s Creed:
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United
States and live the Army Values.

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I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in
my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment
and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United
States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier. 99
(Army Website: http://www.army.mil/thewayahead/creed.html)
It should be noted that the Soldier’s Code of Conduct is also provided to privates in their
IET Manual, but was not required for memorization during my training. The Soldier’s
Code of Conduct is a list of required actions for military personnel to perform in different
situations whereas the Soldier’s Creed symbolically ties each new private to the other
soldiers in his unit, the Army, and history. In the same way, the chain-of-command ties a
soldier exactly into his military hierarchy and informs him of his proper place in the new
universe that he will occupy when he attains the status of soldier.
The Soldier’s Creed attempts to define for the private who he should be, and
provide a broad set of guidelines for proper behavior as a soldier. Learning the role of
the soldier, however, is conducted over the nine weeks of training, and culminates in an
extended overnight exercise in which privates are supposed to put in to practice the skills
they have learned over nine weeks of Basic. On one level it is simply an extended “final
exam” of the learning environment of Basic Training. However, this final Field Training
Exercise (FTX) is also emblematic of the new status of privates as potential soldiers, and

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This Soldier’s Creed is the current one being used at Basic Training. During my time at Basic Training,
we were ordered to memorize a different creed, based on the idea of the soldier as a person who follows
orders and acts correctly. The impact of the change to the Creed will be discussed in the final chapter.

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the final event of the exercise is a private “graduation” of the privates, separate from the
public graduation event which occurs a few days later. During this private ceremony,
privates are presented with a button to be worn on the lapel of the Class A’s 100 by the
drill sergeants.
The FTX also represents to a number of soldiers the failure of Basic Training to
prepare them for their upcoming responsibilities as soldiers. The tactics and training
received during Basic Training appear to be left over from World War II and Vietnam,
and there is often no relevance to the tactics needed on the battlefield in Iraq or
Afghanistan. Although this is not entirely true, there is some justification in the belief,
which will be discussed later. The problem here is that the military has undergone what
is referred to by military historians as a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) after the
events of September 11th and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The concept of the
RMA will be fully discussed later, but at its heart, an RMA is a paradigmatic shift,
similar to Kuhn’s scientific revolution, in the way a military conducts warfare. The most
frequently used examples of an RMA are technological advancements such as
gunpowder, the automobile, and nuclear weapons. However, social changes can also
serve to fundamentally change the nature of warfare, which this chapter will focus on.
Prior to Vietnam there was typically a clear delineation between the combat
soldiers who fought the enemy and the support soldiers (cooks, clerks, and other
institutional roles) who provided for those combat soldiers. This delineation was based
on the possibility that the combat soldier would be killed in service to his country, which
was much less likely for soldiers in support or “in the rear” roles. During Vietnam, of
100

The Class A uniform is the green dress uniform which resembles a modern business suit. A soldier
wears all appropriate medals and awards on his Class A’s, and before the introduction of the black beret for
all soldiers, wore a different hat than the cap worn with the BDUs or “Class C” uniform.

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course, the use of insurgency tactics by the Vietnamese meant that any soldier could
potentially be killed. As we shall see, however, military culture after Vietnam changed
very little in response to that war, and the support soldier remained relegated to a second
class position. Although the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in greater
acceptance of support soldiers, there is still a hierarchy in which infantry soldiers are
considered the most important and most valued, followed by other combat specialties
such as tankers or artillery, and then support.

Standardization of Equipment
During Basic Training, privates are supposed to be trained in the standard tactics
which have been in use in the military since before World War II, mentioned above. At
the end of Basic Training, during the final rite of passage, privates conduct their Field
Training Exercise (FTX) which is supposed to “[combine] all previously taught basic
combat training skills” (“Basic Training Overview”). The ceremonial aspects of this
event will be discussed later in the chapter, but at this point the events occurring during
the training exercise itself require specific attention. Each Basic Training base performs
its own version of the Field Training Exercise. The most well known is Victory Forge at
Fort Jackson, but at Fort Benning the name for the event is Cold Steel. For the remainder
of this discussion, generic descriptions of the event, apparently common to all bases, will
be referred to as FTX, while events specific to Fort Benning’s event will be referred to
with the proper name of Cold Steel.
Cold Steel officially began at 0600 on the morning of the 24th of September, but
preparations actually began well before that. Over the two days prior to the FTX,

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privates are marched to a specialized training site and instructed in the proper ways to
perform many of the tasks that will be required. The two most memorable classes were
how to apply proper military face paint and how to build a hasty position. These
techniques will be discussed later in detail, but at this point it must be noted that in the
past ten years almost no soldiers in the United States Army have been in a situation
necessitating the application of woodland pattern face paint, nor has the construction of
hasty positions been a necessary element in constructing a defensive position. With the
integration of civilian support, large contracting firms, and other elements of the
rationalization of the modern military, defensive positions are more often than not
constructed of piled HESCO barriers (wire mesh covered bags filled with sand) put in
place by bulldozers and front end loaders. Patrols are almost always conducted in
HMMWVs, and the presence of soldiers is to be highlighted, not camouflaged, in the
stabilization and police actions conducted in the 21st century. I simply mention this here
to highlight the outdated techniques taught for the Basic Training FTX.
The entire day of the 23rd of September was spent preparing rucksacks and
LBEs 101 for the FTX. Standardization of all equipment, such as the lockers, boots, and
bedding previously discussed is one of the most important rules of Basic Training. For
the FTX, this enforced standardization extends to each soldier’s personal gear as well.
The rucksack is an external frame backpack with three large exterior pockets and
top flap which is secured by two straps. Sewn along the sides and the back are various
pieces of webbing to allow for “alice clips” 102 to attach extra pieces of equipment to the

101

Load Bearing Equipment, essentially a vest worn outside the uniform that holds extra gear.
An alice-clip is a metal oval with a movable locking side. The alice-clip is used by sliding the strap of
the item you wish to label inside the oval, and then sliding the movable metal strip through the webbing on

102

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outside of the rucksack. This expandability is essential, as it is almost impossible to fit
everything you need inside the rucksack. In addition, the rucksack is pear-shaped,
rounded on the inside and along the bottom of the main storage area, which means that
items such as boots, canteens, or other solid items must be surrounded by uniforms and
other soft material to fill out the shape. Luckily for privates, the interior of the rucksack
does not need to be standardized, simply the outside.
The standardization of equipment is particular to each platoon, likely due to the
hierarchy of the military. Since a drill sergeant is responsible for the training and
indoctrination of one and only one platoon, and he inspects the gear of only that platoon,
then so long as that platoon’s gear is standardized within itself, the requirements are met.
In the case of 3rd platoon, the three outside pockets were assigned to the privates’
poncho, gore-tex jacket, and gore-tex pants. On the right side of the rucksack was a 2
quart canteen, and on the left side was the “entrenching tool.” The entrenching tool,
usually referred to as an “e-tool” in the army, is a small foldable shovel. When stored, it
measures less than a square foot, and expands to slightly longer than two feet when it is
used by a soldier. The size of the entrenching tool is frequently a source of humor for
privates at Basic Training, such as when Barrett stated while digging a trench,
“Entrenching tool. Let’s call a spade a spade, and call this what it is, a spoon.” Stored
inside the rucksack were extra uniforms, boots, soap and other toiletries, chemical suit,
and any other gear that the privates were not wearing into the field.
In addition to the rucksack, the other standard gear that privates must wear on
their marches are a helmet, the LBE, an M-16, and Pro-Mask. Prior to the FTX, the LBE

the rucksack and locking it closed. The alice-clip can also be used to attach pieces of equipment to a pistol
belt, a vest, or any other piece of equipment.

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and helmet are also prepared. elevating the private’s head just enough for comfort. In addition. Attached to the belt is a pair of 1 quart size canteens in wool insulated “canteen carriers. rucksack. and the three items. a sealed and sterilized pouch containing a padded bandage. The straps and webbing attached to all of these items are adjustable to allow the equipment to be worn by any size soldier. called “ninety-mile an hour” tape. attached to an adjustable belt (“pistol belt”) by a pair of metal hooks that clip through a series of metal rivet holes spaced regularly around the length of the belt. padded around the shoulders.” Inside one of the canteen carriers is a metal cup. LBE. The LBE is a pair of webbing suspenders. Attached to the suspenders is a single first-aid kit. shaped to mold itself around the canteen. the army uses a variety of green tape very much like duct-tape. the last step in standardizing equipment is to tape down every adjustable strap once it is adjusted for the private and to “dummy-cord” every piece of loose equipment. squared off pouches just large enough to hold three M-16 magazines. When Private 103 “Field expedient” is a phrase often used to describe any piece of equipment or jerry-rigged device used to emulate an item which is not readily available when a soldier is “in the field” or away from his barracks or regular living arrangements and does not have access to the proper equipment. Each canteen is slightly curved to allow it to rest against the private’s hip more comfortably. For taping. and will frequently dangle or hang down from the soldier’s equipment. many of the items of equipment. as the back of the head rests comfortably inside it when laying down. This curve also makes the canteen a very effective “field expedient 103 ” pillow. Also attached to the pistol belt is a pair of magazine holders. Because of this. such as canteens or the helmet strap can be easily lost during the running and crawling that privates are expected to perform during field training. and helmet are then laid out in the Company Area in the same order as the company stands in formation. 308 .

I fully expected the drill sergeant to begin yelling at me for damaging the equipment as the canteen was dragged in the dirt and rocks of the trail I was running 309 . the dummy cord will prevent it from becoming lost. if the canteen should slip out from its holder. Although these measures may seem extreme. a loop of cord is tied around the neck of the canteen and then tightened so that it will not be able to slip off the threading of the cap above the neck. the canteen which was dummy corded to my belt was pulled along with me. As a result. in the field environment when soldiers are running. is dummy corded to some other piece of equipment. 550 Cord is a very versatile nylon cord of thicker green fibers wrapped around a center core of smaller white fibers. When I jumped up to begin running down the dirt track. To create a “dummy cord” for a canteen. The other end of the cord is then looped around the pistol belt.” apparently named such because it carries a tensile weight of five hundred and fifty pounds. the dummy cord and taped straps prevent many accidents from occurring. When I reached the next resting point. either the LBE or rucksack. and otherwise placing stress on their equipment. diving. Similarly.Brand asked Drill Sergeant Redmond why it was called ninety-mile an hour tape. On one particular occasion.” The nylon string used to attach equipment to rucksacks and LBEs is referred to in the Army as “five-fifty cord. Drill Sergeant Redmond’s response was “because it won’t come off when you go ninety miles an hour. my own canteen cover became unsnapped during a training exercise and the canteen slipped out while I was lying on my side. knotted. rolling around in mud and dirt. It is then tied in a double knot and the knot itself is melted with a lighter to be certain it will not slip. including every piece of equipment attached together with an alice-clip. and melted in the same way. all other equipment. wrestling. for example.

After all equipment was assembled and laid out. this is usually not considered “theft” or a violation of a social norm for military life. as 3rd platoon was the only platoon to have been given that instruction by our own drill sergeants. Instead. it was also a response to the fact that I had shown the initiative to secure my gear before heading into the field. privates pilfered equipment from other platoons. Since many privates had either lost equipment. This response was most likely the result of the drill sergeant (a two week replacement for one of the regular drill sergeants on leave) being surprised that I had dummy corded the equipment in the first place. the idea of stealing an item of equipment from another soldier is usually given the label “acquiring” to 310 . down to which canteen carrier holds the canteen cup and which suspender carries the first-aid kit. the platoons were sent to their barracks to prepare for bed. Ownership Within the military community. The M-16 and the Pro-Mask are received the morning of the FTX and are not stored with the rest of the gear. All of these items must be laid out exactly the same for each platoon. the night before the FTX. or maintained that they had never been issued a piece of equipment. he calmly told me to put the canteen back in its cover and continue the training. On the morning of the FTX. each platoon’s drill sergeants inspected the privates’ gear to make certain that every private had their complete gear in proper order.along. Within the military. many items in the inventory of equipment are not found in the FTX preparation. However. Knowing that an inspection would be coming in the morning.

however. so long as that command structure did not “officially” know about the theft (Ingraham. there are certain rules. 3rd platoon has CQ tonight. This actually occurred as three members of 3rd platoon at various times over the course of that evening snuck down to the company area after midnight and sorted through other platoon’s gear to find a piece of equipment they were missing. such that on the night before the FTX. all Captains. as seen in Chapter Five. and is learned at Basic Training. serve to prevent the accumulation of “wealth” and disrupt the egalitarian and socialist nature of military life (Sillitoe. These spheres of exchange. At Basic Training the theft norm applies. as well as all Sergeants. theft was acceptable so long as the theft was not from a soldier who shared your barracks. like those in other cultures. and they’ll be watching the gear for the whole company. in addition to the sphere of symbolic capital discussed in Chapter 3. These distinctions are most often displayed on the soldier’s uniform. issued gear and personal gear. but you do what you need to do. 3rd platoon was informed by Drill Sergeant Redmond. 311 . all privates should be the same. According to Ingraham. with the only distinctions being those given by the institution itself.” The implication in this statement is that the members of 3rd platoon were supposed to steal any equipment they might be missing from one of the other platoons. of course. at work in the military. 2006). Within the realm of “acquiring”. Even after Basic Training. “Every soldier in this platoon will have every piece of their TA-50 tomorrow morning. etc. This is. In 1984 Larry Ingraham detailed a pattern of acceptable theft in active-duty Army life that continues today.distinguish it from actual theft. and was frequently supported by the command structure. I don’t care how it happens. 1974). There are thus two different spheres of exchange.

he also was aware of the limitations of the military bureaucracy. One of the first rules of Basic Training is to write your name in permanent marker on every single one of these items of “personal gear” in order to prevent theft. In Ingraham’s study. However. and if a soldier is caught pilfering. Drill Sergeant Redmond could not directly order the privates to steal the equipment they might be missing. personal items of any sort were outside the definition of “acquire.This approach to “ownership” is hardly surprising considering that at Basic Training.” although issued gear was within the sphere. Each private’s locker must be padlocked at all times for the same reason. there is no easy comparison to make here. and had 3rd platoon not been standing guard over the equipment. it is not accepted de jure. and that a number of privates most likely had not been issued a complete set of equipment. This is likely due to the lack of personal property at Basic compared with life in the active duty Army. even items such as a car battery are within the sphere of exchange of “acquiring” so long as the original owner was outside the acquirer’s immediate circle. it is not actually theft to take an item of equipment from another soldier and claim it as your own. soldiers do not actually own any equipment (or anything at all) of their own except for their uniforms and other clothing. It must be noted that although acquiring is accepted de facto. This held true for privates from other platoons as well. The permissible theft detailed by Ingraham is more extensive than that performed in Basic Training. At Basic. However. Thus. it could not have occurred. Since every piece of military equipment is actually “owned” by the Army. who would also 312 . as privates at Basic do not “own” anything outside of their personal gear. then. there will be a punishment.

The ongoing pattern of theft in the military is such that there was even a joke made about it by one of the instructors: “How many thieves are there in the Army? Just one. Karl von Clausewitz and his book On War. receive scrambled or outdated orders.” The pattern of theft. Strategy and Military Revolution The concept of friction is fundamental in discussions of strategy. According to Clausewitz. everyone else is just getting their stuff back. however. and means of mitigating its effects are central to the most recent idea of the RMA. though. The pilfering stopped at approximately 3:00 in the morning. and generally have to provide for themselves and their own 313 . when one of the drill sergeants from 3rd Platoon entered the company area and began going through his platoon’s gear and inspecting it. or not taped and dummy-corded properly. displays the abilities of people in bureaucratic institutions to negotiate the rules of those institutions in order to achieve a desired effect. The idea of the “fog of war” or “friction” extends back to the famous Western touchstone of military theory. Although it is not entirely clear what Drill Sergeant Richards was doing at the time. When the Army has failed to properly equip soldiers. during any battle. soldiers take into their own hands the process of equipping themselves. after the event occurred members of 3rd Platoon informed me that he was going through all of their gear and if he found an LBE or rucksack that was not laid out in the proper order. units will lose contact with their command hierarchy. Due to the inherent disorder and mutability of the battlefield.watch for opportunities to acquire items that they were missing. a breakdown in communication is guaranteed to occur. he had torn the private’s gear apart and scattered it around the Company Area.

It is more commonly known as the “fog of war. most of the discussions of a new military revolution focused on the evolution of battle tactics incorporating information networks. This idea of positive chaos develops from Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas of the war machine. Although related. These works all commit one major mistake. and chaos can. they are separate concepts. and distributing the information collected using computers and trained professionals. The idea of a connection between technology and warfare. however. 314 . work to alleviate friction on the battlefield. processing. and especially that military’s adeptness at manipulating the flow of information from the battlefield to the headquarters units. This occurrence is what Clausewitz labeled as friction. conflating the concepts of friction and chaos. Many theorists between 1991 and 2001 focused on the massive technological advances made in communications. is broadly accepted by many members of the military community. Many theorists at the turn of the millennium looked at the success of the first Iraq War and interpreted that success as the result of a vastly improved technology of the American military.” More important to the military.defense. were the advancement of technology and the integration of that technology into strategy and tactics. at least in the time prior to the September 11th attacks. in fact. just prior to the September 11th attacks. computers. satellite imagery. especially as a driving force behind a military revolution. and other enhanced technologies. In the beginning of the 21st Century. and the cybernetics of collecting. and from those headquarters units to the viewing audience in the United States.

with the radio. which required a dispersion of troops across the battlefield. or. in the 20th century the combination of the conoidal bullet. Maneuver warfare. individual soldiers and small units were forced to take initiative on their own. De Landa points out that the success of the D-Day invasion was likely a direct result of the mistakes that occurred in the airborne drops on June 5th. The machinic phylum is that point at which a collection of entities. In this case. this machinic phylum was crossed in the 16th century with the development of effective artillery and the rifled bullet. With the leadership’s plan destroyed. the symbol is not of a clockwork mechanism. a crossing of the machinic phylum. and specifically a distributed network. be they organic or not. which allowed those troops to be symbolically linked together. precipitated a new machinic phylum to be crossed. In the analysis of the military. or a motor. Nomad. The machinic phylum is a central theme in de Landa’s work. in other words. Similarly. acting without the total supervision previously thought to be essential to successful warfare. the development of computers and the additional processing power they represent is provoking another shift. a new machinic phylum to appear on the virtual horizon. By being allowed to 315 . but a computer itself. come together to form a collective that is more than the sum of its parts. In the 21st Century.Manuel de Landa’s War in the Age of Intelligent Machines (1991) borrows heavily from Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas of State. represents a new machine. the military term for the tactics developed at the end of World War I and carried into World War II and beyond. resulting in a military in which the destructive power of the distanced artillery made individual soldiers useless. and the rifled bullet kept soldiers as a unit from being obsolete. and War Machine. a military revolution.

But just thinking about his personality and stuff like that I’ll bet he wouldn’t make a bad platoon leader at all. assimilating back into the unit for a short period.make their own decisions. was what made the American forces so successful. Remembering my yelling at him and stuff at AIT when I put him in a room and I said you fuck-tard the reason I’m always pissed off at you and yelling at you is that you’re capable of so much more than this bullshit that you’re doing and that really offends me. but it was that very chaos. The realization that distributed friction and chaos is a preferable option is still not completely accepted by much of the Army. then. most military units are still modeled as a top-down. Indeed. as one of the platoon’s problem children. despite much talk of network-centric warfare and other metaphors. Were soldiers completely subsumed into the military institution. the “friction” of the operation was distributed across the entire network and thus easily overcome. properly harnessed. I actually believe that. that Argent saw in Hansen as a potential leader. In fact. such that their agency no longer existed. he did attempt to perform properly as a leader. there were constant complaints about “Big Army” and their controlling approach to ordering their units on the battlefield. Returning to our idea of the problem child.” Hansen. these individual decisions could not be made. as we saw in Chapter 4. when Hansen was assigned the role of platoon guide. hierarchical structure with officers controlling a battlefield via radio and email rather than allowing the soldiers and small 316 . allowing soldiers to make their own decisions within a broader institutional framework. was chaotic and undisciplined. Human agency. I’ll bet Hansen would make a pretty good officer. Even today. as a soldier deployed with a unit which was part of the Special Operations Command. it is hardly surprising that Private Argent said of Private Hansen: “the other day I caught myself thinking with all seriousness.

but is instead attempting to create a more efficient bureaucratic organization by increasing the amount of information available to commanders without surrendering any of that commander’s control over subordinate units. however. As armies get larger and larger. All of these units specifically operated in the network model described by de Landa. It is hardly surprising. the cumulative effect of that friction is drastically reduced. 80). de Landa points out that the modern military is not moving to the network model. 2002). that the success rates of missions in Vietnam were highest among Special Forces. once made by trained professionals who were part of the war machine. These decisions. even taking into account the extra training these elite forces had (Boot. Navy SEALs. today’s military commander surrenders more and more of his autonomy and decision to computerized processes of data analysis and data sorting.” De Landa. and Marine CAP units. but the act of processing requires decisions regarding which information and which is important. In order to handle this increase in information. Only Special Operations units are granted the privilege of independent operation with an understanding of the desired end state. much as the modern internet breaks large files into smaller packets and thus avoids “congestion” as these files are sent across the internet.” (de Landa. 317 . Computer analysis assists in this management by receiving and processing large amounts of data. points out that by distributing Clausewitz’s friction across the entire war machine. Unfortunately. p. the amount of information a commander needs to assess also increases. small units with little direction and the expectation of personal initiative. 1991. but simply “a manager of information flows. given this model and de Landa’s evidence. to a point at which most military commanders are no longer leaders. the “big picture.squads to conduct themselves as they felt appropriate.

the network of soldiers making up the military. The SAW can fire 750 rounds per minute. only slightly larger than the M-16 and not much more than twice as heavy. although with smaller bullets. the experience of firing the SAW has stood out in the minds of a majority of my informants. and Squad Automatic Weapon (“SAW”). thus the SAW makes up for its smaller bullets by firing more of them. The Machine Gun This technological ideal can be symbolized by the machine gun. Although not originally embraced by the military. a separate program) received on the weapon. the more damage it does to an enemy. One day of Basic Training was devoted to learning the “infantry” weapons: AT-4 Rocket Launcher. At Basic Training the importance of the machine gun and the importance of the support soldier are starkly contrasted. Claymore Mine. and faster than the other main machine gun used by the Army. the M240. as it 318 . The support soldier’s lack of value to the military is shown by the very limited training that soldiers at Basic Training (rather than Infantry Training. are now being made by computers programmed with strict logic and no connection to the war machine. De Landa’s theoretical analysis thus returns to the same concerns that more straightforward analysts have regarding technology: the surrender of human decision making to a technological ideal. compared to three weeks of training with the M-16. the Gatling Gun and its successors eventually became the weapon of choice for infantry units. The SAW is a small machine gun by military standards. Of the three. these traits make it an advantageous weapon. For a small unit. The larger the caliber of a weapon. significantly faster than a standard assault rifle.

hold it steady with his non-firing hand across the top of the weapon’s stock and use his non-firing hand to move the safety switch. The instructors on the range would open the top feed tray for the private. in which Drill Sergeants and instructors were patient and would rarely yell at a private. select soldiers were chosen to fire one AT-4 round and one Claymore round apiece to demonstrate the effectiveness of these weapons. There were four SAWs set up along a line facing towards the tanks. a large truck. each private would lie down and place his shoulder into the butt of the weapon. Instructors yelled at privates to hurry. and a Russian Armored Personnel Carrier.can be easily carried and ammunition can be borrowed from soldiers carrying M-16s if necessary. The only requirement when firing the SAW was to pull the trigger. The targets at Fort Benning were four destroyed vehicles. Then. The SAWs were not to be touched by the privates for any reason other than to aim the weapon at the target. two Russian tanks. firing the SAW was chaotic. In contrast to the training with the M-16. stand up. and then while firing would yell at privates in order 319 . These targets were placed in a large field over 200 meters from the firing points and painted bright yellow to help them to stand out. One belt of ammunition for the SAW however. was provided to each private to fire at targets on the firing range. and rushed. There were enough bullets on each belt to fire three or four times. Of the three infantry weapons. loud. only the SAW was fired by everyone in the company. there was no instruction on how to aim the weapon or what to do should the weapon malfunction. and move away from the weapon to allow the next private to fire. who would take his belt of ammunition and load it into the feed tray and then close the tray. and then the range instructors would hurry a private to put the safety switch back on.

It seems that drill sergeants and instructors don’t particularly care about the level of instruction privates received on these weapons. you’re never gonna use it. the physical proximity of the soldiers to warfare is stressed. A soldier’s apparent value is frequently based on his proximity to the enemy.” This proximity to the enemy is tied up in the idea that a soldier is a ritual sacrifice for his nation.” When a private was finished firing. the instructor would then yell at him to move away from the weapon as quickly as he could. drill sergeants are chosen from any number of different specialties. “I don’t know why we’re training you on this stuff.” or made similar disparaging remarks about the status of Basic Training privates who were not infantry. 320 . extending back to the beginnings of the military. since they will not be using them in their career as soldiers. as the most frequent of these “border crossers” represents the truest expression of the soldier. Military Police. The association with infantry is one of the strongest elements of the soldier identity. crossing the border of life into the realm of death (Marvin & Ingle. and other soldiers are then ranked according to their own proximity to these infantrymen. are frequently reminded that they are the most deployed 104 At Basic Training. During AIT. Private Argent expressed his dissatisfaction with the approach of some drill sergeants at Basic who told him. At AIT. 1999). or what is referred to in the military as “the tip of the spear. drill sergeants and instructors are specific to the specialties being trained. the possibility of killing or dying makes the soldier into a liminal figure. for example. etc. Thus. the infantryman. Alternately.to “simulate the battlefield. all drill sergeants will be Communications Specialists. or to the border itself. so at Communications AIT. which will be discussed more fully in Chapter Eight. Briefly here. instructors and drill sergeants104 will reinforce to privates that their MOS is important because of the importance of the support they will provide to the infantry soldier.

The machine gun. were more likely to engage the enemy than soldiers armed with just a rifle due to the responsibility they felt they had in carrying the heavy weapon (Marshall. SLA Marshall found during World War II that after primary group loyalty. A historical approach that focuses more exclusively on the soldiers involved in combat is John Keegan’s Face of Battle. Since the only soldier who will carry a machine gun is one who will be engaging the enemy. The machine gun is thus important not only for its sheer killing power. The full importance of this symbolism will be discussed later in this chapter with the discussion of the military uniform. but also the psychological state of the soldier wielding it. 2000. thus carries special significance. Its focus on battle as seen by the individual soldier is particularly noteworthy and highlights the importance of military revolutions for the soldiers themselves. rather than for the policy makers and generals who are preparing grand strategy based on a rationalized army. This holds true for other technologies perceived as revolutionary as well. as the symbolism of uniform decoration highlights this distinction. The technology (the machine gun) will actually affect not only the mechanical ability of the soldier to perform his job.specialty in the Army. p. as a device exclusively for dealing death on the battlefield. and are just as likely as the infantry to encounter combat on the modern battlefield. the gun itself becomes a symbol for the proximity to combat which is so valued by soldiers. Keegan examines three major battles in 321 . Soldiers assigned to heavy weapons. the feeling that an individual soldier mattered was the next most important factor in whether he would fire his weapon at the enemy and remain fighting a difficult combat. but as a symbol of the importance of the soldier carrying it. in World War II the Browning Automatic Rifle or BAR. 76).

many soldiers refused to use the weapon. but also because the internal combustion engine and the machine gun are more important for their use to the soldiers than technology in and of itself.history. p. Keegan describes the failure of the artillery bombardment before the battle itself. no longer drawing direct support from their comrades beside and behind them in the massed battles which had preceded World War I. and the eventual result was a change in tactics by soldiers to disperse. artillery versus infantry. 246) It is the machine-gun which makes the Somme such a historically relevant battle. In addition to its dislike among Army bureaucrats. The technological power of the weapon vastly outstripped any weapons which had previously existed. and infantry versus infantry – though. 1976. The Battle of the Somme is the most relevant here.” (Keegan. was invented in 1861 to assist the Union Army in the Civil War. The first workable machine gun in the United States. However. The machine gun also serves as an example of how soldiers can affect institutional change. and often used in place of artillery rather than as a direct support weapon for infantry. it was only purchased by individual commanders. as it discusses not only the style of warfare closest to the experience of the Basic Training private. battles which are also frequently identified as highlights of military revolution: Agincourt. as they felt that it 322 . Waterloo. we also get infantry versus machine-gunners and artillery versus machine-gunners. the Gatling Gun. and then proceeds to discuss each type of encounter at the battle: “artillery versus artillery. and even the most remarkable technology can fail when misapplied. despite its technological achievement. if we treat machine-gunners as a separate category. and Somme.

323 . and in the tradition of military war games are the soldiers who role-play adversaries. 2008) The Professional Military The FTX is representative of the traditional and outdated top-down approach to conflict still practiced by the Army. however. The FTX itself is three days worth of training and running simulation small-unit missions against a group of privates chosen from the company that are designated as OPFOR.” Other privates. dig a hole. (Keller.” while at Basic. especially in reference to the FTX. and that he was “disappointed that our FTX didn’t go all the way through. There was that hurricane warning and we all got pulled back from the field. Day 2. being reserved for Indian Wars and other colonial engagements before that. was the lack of proper combat training conducted at Basic Training. allies. Here’s what mine was: Day 1. however. 105 As it undoubtedly did. fill the hole back up.removed the heroics from combat. Sergeant Brigman described it as. stand in the hole. Day 3. Private Fletcher felt that he was “being cheated on stuff. OPFOR stands for Opposing Forces. and I don’t know. [But] I did feel like I did accomplish something. “FTX was so stupid. Another major concern. I was kinda disappointed by that. and soldiers interviewed at later dates. who felt that the FTX was critical to his “bragging rights” in the Army.” The mixture of responses to the FTX was echoed by many privates during Basic. enjoyed the experience and expressed a desire for similar or more training during Basic. and any other battlefield personnel who are not from the force going through the training. 105 It wasn’t until World War I that the weapon began to be used in large battles. The FTX is seen by many privates as useless or silly. This sentiment was shared by Private Ricardo.

Thus. Although the negative treatment of Vietnam veterans is often presented as an aberration in history. Since the 1960’s the United States Army has been changing in its approach to recruitment and requirements of its soldiers. two of the five most frequently deployed specialties. In addition to these attempts. and as we saw in Chapter Two. 106 Rear Echelon Mother Fucker. following the Vietnam War a number of attempts were made in film and literature to rehabilitate the image of the American Army and the American soldier. just as the current set of recruits will reflect the attitudes of the new millennium. this glorification set up the mythological frame for the proper treatment of soldiers. The insult specifically refers to the status of support personnel as being far removed from the front line of combat and thus not truly “soldiers. and it was the glorification of World War II veterans which was the outlier in the historical trend (Moskos. there is a constant flux in the membership of the military. The cause of this is another military revolution. the institution of the Army is by its very nature affected by changes in the civilian culture which surrounds it. and each new cohort of recruits brings with it its own backgrounds and cultural ideals. p. 179). the recruits in the 1950s would reflect the attitudes of the civilian population of the 1950s. but stays “in the rear. the professionalization of the military. and when deployed are assigned either to an infantry unit or a Special Forces unit. that instead soldiers should be honored for their service to their country. However. A soldier who does not go onto the battlefield. this was in actual fact the standard treatment of American soldiers. 1970.” In 3rd platoon this attitude raised much ire as a preponderance of privates were Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs soldiers.” 324 .Private Argent claimed that he had actually heard some drill sergeants refer to the privates as REMFs 106 . As the majority of soldiers serve for a limited time.

scientific Administrative.1% 14. Question IV (Nature of Military Duties). the amount of soldiers in “Civilian Type” fields increased steadily over one hundred years.2% 13. laborers Military type Civi l War Spanish America n War 0.5% 10.5% 15.5% 0. As noted above.6% 8.5% 12.8% 16. clerical Skilled mechanics. Occupational Specialization in Army Enlisted Personnel.5% 9. maintenance.7% 8.2% 14. December 28.2 % 86.6% 8.4% 93.1% 36.2% 20.1% World War I 3. As can be clearly seen from the chart. etc. Civil War to 1954 Occupational Group Civilian Type Technical.9% 2.7% 19. it must be noted that World War I was also a transitional moment for another element of the military: the aristocratic leadership.7% 11. p.6% 34.5% 17.The difference in the institutional nature of the Army can be seen in Table 1.6% 1. infantrymen and other combat arms.3% 2.7% 0. World War I was a revolutionary period for the military. decreased in response.2% 33. 1955. (reprinted in Janowitz.1% 28.2% 0. The drastic reduction of military type soldiers in World War I is reflective of the removal of cavalry from the 325 . and this can be seen in the table below as well.4% 6.5% 3.6% Korea n Confl ict Year 1954 10.8% Source: Report on Conditions of Military Service for the President’s Commission on Veterans’ Pensions.4% 2. which shows the changes in technical versus combat positions from the Civil War to after the Korean War. 1974. while the number of “Military Type” soldiers.0% World War II 10. With the introduction of the new technologies mentioned above. as the number of combat professionals drops precipitously from the Spanish-American War to World War I. Service Workers Operative. the Army required a greater number of technicians to operate the new machineries available.9% 20.1% 21. 47) Also.

ROTC. Sometimes associated with Robert McNamara’s changes when he was Secretary of Defense. are assumed to be motivated by an expectation that their participation in a collective enterprise will benefit them individually. Workers. or other programs. Where prior to World War II. The task of the managers is the more abstract one of allocating resources within the organization toward the fulfillment of organizational goals. the shift from a leadership to a management focus in Army officers is reflective of this interaction between the civilian and military worlds.ranks of the Army. For managers themselves. Traditionally from the wealthier classes. the management orientation has focused on the desire of the individual to maximize payoffs. and their removal presaged the later changes in the American military following World War II and the introduction of the GI Bill. David Segal discusses the two different management styles employed by military officers: Rather than on a concern with having social groups strive together to achieve collective goals. by making decisions based upon a rational calculus. Thus the traditional management model does not assume that individuals are committed to group goals. on the 20th Century battlefield. This middle class was then able to send their own children to college. allowing soldiers to attend college and increasing the size of the American middle class. these units were no longer relevant. Army officers were primarily composed of graduates from West Point or other military academies. The managers need not themselves be participants in the group processes that are oriented toward goal attainment. following that war. in turn. the motivation is the maximization of the profit. it merely assumes that they will have individual interests in the fulfillment of these goals. The fact that scientific management has been displaced by the human-relations approach to management in the 326 . and a number of those students joined the military as officers through OCS. more officers brought technical and management degrees to their military service than the leadership training which was a focus of the academies.

1989) During the FTX. they are constantly expressing themselves and 107 It is interesting to note that after graduation from Basic Training and AIT. 56) Although the management approach appears to cater to human agency more than the leadership style does. but based on preconceived ideas of economic maximization. which also has the responsibility for purchasing and tracking equipment. they can be viewed in the collective. company commanders. career soldiers (those intending to remain in the military until retirement) do view their career choice as a “calling” compared with noncareer soldiers who view the military as a vocational training experience. balancing his economic security with his devotion to national service. rather than on organizational productivity. this pattern is reversed. 1989. the leaders of a unit (platoon leaders. and it is assumed that these soldiers will make decisions not out of any true personal choice. as further resources the manager can allocate to achieve organizational goals. privates are not considering their devotion to country versus their economic welfare. Each soldier. 107 Further. in other units. The human-relations approach focuses primarily on individual needs. In the management approach. then. recruits are removed from the umbrella of the Training and Doctrine Command and placed under the Army Materiel Command. Segal notes that soldiers themselves perceive their own position in the military institution almost independently of their chosen career paths. p. etc. later in his work. (Segal. However. (Segal.military and civilian work places makes management no less individualistic. In some units. while noncareer soldiers view service as a calling. makes his own decisions. the truth is in fact the opposite. of course. 327 . Rather than viewing soldiers as individual agents who can choose to identify with an entity larger than themselves.). However. are removed from any decision making process of the soldiers under them. such that career soldiers view service as a job.

In actual practice. Digging a hasty is difficult and tiring. he is supposed to carry the extra dirt away from the position itself. approximately six feet long and two feet wide. cut through. Even after nine weeks of physical training and exercise. Even something as simple as building a hasty fighting position highlights the ability of an individual soldier to manipulate the institutional rules for his own benefit. tree roots and rocks must be moved out of the way. and due to the size of the E-tool. resulting in the ground filling in the hasty almost as fast as it is being dug. Once the position is deep enough. digging the hasty position results in shoulder and back pain and physical exhaustion. in order to hide the existence of the position from the enemy as much as possible. Although the name refers to the speed with which it is supposed to be dug. or hasty. however. According to the 328 . The hasty position took this long to complete since most of the digging must be done with the E-tool. As the private digs his hasty. the hasty positions would probably have taken even longer to construct. pickaxes. At Fort Benning. the ground is mostly loose sand or clay. is a small trench. or if a drill sergeant’s pickaxe is available. however. very painful on the back and shoulders of the privates. the extra dirt is used to build up the area around the hasty position in order to make it appear deeper than it actually is. in actuality the privates digging the hasty positions took about five hours to dig a position deep enough to satisfy the drill sergeants. dug deep enough to get a soldier’s head and shoulders below the level of the ground around him. A hasty fighting position. Had the drill sergeants not brought out four sets of shovels.their negotiation of the institution through their actions. In addition. privates camouflage the position with dead trees and broken tree branches from around their area and lay them on top of the position. and axes.

and supposedly allow for quicker response and greater control by those commanders. is that the new technologies are only effective in revolutionizing warfare if they are properly incorporated by the military itself. Of course. however. These technologies are often seen as a revolutionary new direction for soldiers on the ground. bringing their own techniques and ideas 329 . the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. it is most often built by contractors using state-of-the-art construction equipment. these innovations come from the adaptive strategies of the members of the organization. complete with GPS tracking systems and onboard computers. these new vehicles even include remote controlled weapon systems so that even gunners will not be required to stand outside the vehicle to engage an enemy. new ideas of resource management of bureaucratic control. and likely most wars to come for the United States. In some cases. One thing that many proponents of new technologies agree on. As I noted with the Gatling Gun. In fact. as noted above. this serves a double purpose: in camouflaging the hasty position with brush and debris.drill sergeants. and other innovations are not being trained to new soldiers at Basic Training. will not be fought on undeveloped land requiring a hasty position. Even the ubiquitous sandbag has been replaced for the most part by a more efficient system of four foot tall cages filled with sand and dirt by dump trucks. Rather. The new information technologies. Improved radios and other computerized communications equipment allows commanders to see the locations of every unit under their control. a technology which is misapplied is essentially useless. the privates have also cleared a killing ground in front of their positions where they have a clear line of sight to an approaching enemy. if a fighting position is necessary. as mentioned previously. Soldiers run patrols in armored HMMWVs which are essentially miniature tanks.

but is also aware of the other computer’s roles as well. one similar to a distributed computer network in which each computer is assigned a role in the process of problem solving. These new tactics are not typical of a military still discussing the importance of the F-22 Strike Fighter or the Crusader Artillery Platform on the modern battlefield. tactics when encountering an enemy (“movement to contact”). 108 (Simons. martial artists. many of the tactics taught by Special Forces soldiers are based on an understanding of the physical and cultural locations where combat is most likely to occur. Many of these techniques actually came from other reservists who were policemen.” 330 . and different tactics for operations in the enclosed urban environment in which our soldiers are currently operating in Iraq.into the institution rather than being programmed with those approved by the institution. and place no importance on an individual soldier understanding what the import of his particular assignment might be. and is frequently used by critics of the military. They are strongly based on a trust in the hierarchy. as opposed to the woodland training that the Army continues to provide its Basic Training troops in case the Red Army should advance across the German plain. and their resources can be borrowed as necessary to make the entire process more efficient. The tactics a private learns at Basic Training are part of the maneuver warfare history of the last hundred years of the American military. As a reservist who has been deployed. The tactics taught by Special Forces and other experienced fighters are based on a different paradigm. replacing “fighting the last war. In addition.” with “fighting the Fulda Gap. and those who had been deployed with Special Forces or Ranger units in the past. I have been instructed in dozens of new and different techniques for small unit movement. 1997) 108 This theoretical scenario was referred to by military planners as the Battle for Fulda Gap.

neck. 331 . I have personally seen this poster at every Army base or building I have been to in the last four years. such that shadowed or darkened areas are supposed to be painted in light green and raised areas are painted in dark green. and tan pallet of paste for covering the exposed skin. The Seven Army Values are in the foreground.” The face paint is used to even out the three dimensional aspects of the face. Face painting is one of the more light-hearted events for privates. recruiting videos. but for Navy and Marine Corps recruits also feature active soldiers conducting armed missions while covered in face paint.Playing Soldier with Face Paint The application of face paint is another outdated. In addition to this. only light and dark green are allowed to be worn during Basic Training. and under the chin and nose. dark green. back of the head. and the American Flag flies in the background. who enjoy the opportunity to finally look like they think a soldier should look. Seen below is one of the standard recruiting posters for the Army. While instructing privates in the proper application of face paint. but highly symbolic action taught to privates during Basic Training. very similar to a woman’s “compact” with a light green. with the soldier in the foreground. Even though there is a tan paste included in the kit. posters. its ubiquity suggests the attempt by the Army to symbolize for both new and current soldiers what they should aspire to. Privates are provided with a small paint kit. it is supposedly more difficult to discern a soldier’s face in the woods. the drill sergeants threatened punishment if they “see anybody with brown or black on their face. including hands. and commercials not only for the Army. By thus flattening the contours of the face. All exposed skin is supposed to be covered with face paint.

The use of the shelter half encourages primary group development. The shelter half is a large trapezoid of grey treated canvas that is supposedly waterproof. although they were required to keep the shelter half and sleeping mat properly rolled and stored on the top of their rucksacks at all times. The sleeping mat is a half-inch thick foam mat similar to those purchasable in any outdoor supply store. Included with this canvas sheet are three modular metal poles and four metal stakes. The proper way to roll a shelter half is 332 .. as two soldiers need to combine their halves to create a single tent. and have to combine their efforts to properly roll and store the equipment.” In addition to the other gear previously mentioned each private carries strapped to the outside of his rucksack a shelter half and sleeping mat.After the hasty positions are dug the “buddy pairs” who are to share the position then assemble their “shelter. It was not until Bravo Company’s FTX that privates learned that these poles and stakes were to assemble a sleeping tent.

333 . Drill Sergeant Briggs brought a commercially purchased nylon 109 A generic term for the extra gear worn during a combat mission. the two sleeping mats are laid inside. although two are expected to share it. This is usually a two-person job. Each tent is barely large enough to hold one soldier. The eight stakes are then used to secure the tent. In addition. resulting in most privates having to choose whether to leave feet or head sticking out from the tent. as the roll will continually slide to one side and must be constantly adjusted. This group building is even more extreme during the FTX. and the two shelter halves are snapped together lengthwise with a small flap of canvas extending over the seam to ensure that rain water will not drip into the tent. and after assembly ends up being only five feet long from pole to pole. the privates move to the partner’s shelter half and store that one as well. and the E-tool is used to dig a small rainwater trench around the outside of the tent to prevent groundwater from seeping into the tent. In the case of 3rd platoon. as it did during Bravo Company’s FTX. the choice is usually the feet. when the shelter halves are assembled into a single tent that the two privates will share. so one private’s job is typically to roll the mat. The tent poles are assembled. one private’s per side of the tent. while the other is to keep the shelter half cinched tight around it. the roll should be as tight as possible. as privates sleep fully clothed and in battle-rattle 109 and boots in case they should need to quickly respond to an “attack” by the OPFOR. It is notable that drill sergeants will not share these conditions with the privates. If it should rain. Once one shelter half has been rolled.to lay it out flat on the ground and then place the sleeping mat inside the canvas and wrap it once so that the two are laying flat together on the ground. Then the four stakes and three tent poles are placed at equal intervals on top of the sleeping mat and the entire collection is rolled into a cylinder.

For the first mission. my squad was told we were to perform a foot patrol to two points on the map and then return to the camp. Missions were run by squad and not by platoon during the FTX.” The drill sergeant mystique discussed in an earlier chapter continued to hold even at the end of Basic Training. sipping at his coffee. Although 3rd platoon did relatively well during these missions. and a prisoner of war scenario. and on each mission the drill sergeants selected a new squad leader to run the mission. privates conduct training missions and simulations. During Bravo Company’s Cold Steel. a casualty rescue mission. While each squad was out on a mission. once they have graduated and become proper soldiers. this display of privilege seemed to reinforce to privates that they would soon be able to do the same. the three missions performed by 3rd platoon included a foot patrol (with a staged ambush). counterparts from their platoon would watch their equipment. as the threat of theft mentioned above remained a possibility.pup tent to sleep in while the FTX was occurring. Rather. Although Drill Sergeant Briggs essentially used privates as a personal labor force. Outdated Missions On Days One and Two of the Cold Steel event. Finally. and made a point of displaying his relaxation in his tent. the squad was to “relieve” another squad of their prisoner and return him to camp 334 . The second mission was to move to a position identified by the drill sergeants and “rescue” a “casualty” we would find there. there were still plenty of mistakes that were made and could have been corrected. there did not appear to be any resentment at his actions. which he made the privates from 3rd platoon set up for him while he “went to get some coffee.

During this final mission. a set of electronic sensors which would respond to a laser attached to barrel of another soldier’s weapon. “you can always tell the good generals in a movie. The third mission. and not reflective of the sorts of counter-insurgency missions which the Army is currently involved in. and to state that the training received at Basic Training was insufficient in this arena. the prisoner was to run away from the squad and attempt to escape. 335 . the equipment was not working properly. and is seen by some as such a cliché that a friend of mine once commented. with one team moving to the side of the enemy and firing at them from a different angle to catch them in a crossfire. Prior to the mission. After taking control of the prisoner on this mission. this mission is based on the premise of holding an area against a conventional enemy. Although the company was supposed to perform these missions while wearing MILES Gear.to be interrogated. as will be discussed in greater detail below. Private Ball shot him as he ran away from the squad. The second mission was to reinforce map reading. The purpose of the first mission was to practice map reading and land navigation and combat skills. This technique has been a standard of military operations for as long as recorded history. and was left behind for all of the missions on our FTX. and to practice first aid techniques on the role-played casualty. interestingly. each squad was refreshed on the proper procedures for attacking an enemy. was to reinforce the training on the Law of Warfare and learn how to deal with prisoners in a battlefield environment.” Unfortunately. because they know about the flanking maneuver. I point this out simply because of the significance the Abu Ghraib scandal still has for the Army. which included splitting into two fire teams.

and after he gets out. Another example of this is flatulence. all privates had to be up and ready. and walks toward me. It just was what it was. the changed view of the body. between 5 AM and 7 AM.” Brown’s recollection of what could have been a very disgusting event highlights another element of Basic Training. Private Brown was assigned to the OPFOR for our FTX. Overnight there were two staged attacks by the OPFOR 110 . so I just sat there. Then. Before dawn. who was 32 when he entered Basic. by the end. he stands up.That evening each private was allowed four hours of sleep over eight hours. three feet from me. when a conventional enemy is most likely to attack. what to do. the other four to be spent in the hasty position on guard against a possible attack. and he comes to. it wasn’t embarrassing.” 110 OPposing FORces. and I started making jokes with it. dumb fuck. And then I was surrounded by all these kids. and then he almost peed on me. We weren’t supposed to be seen. The Army term for any role players in a simulation who are not the soldiers being trained. it was like they dragged me down to their level. where I was-was hiding under a bush. privates’ views of flatulence spanned the gamut from humor to embarrassment. “I started out being a bit embarrassed. and I didn’t know. 336 . as in any simulation of a maneuver warfare battle. stuff like that. like. during what the drill sergeants called the stand to. Private Gorotti. you know. and Bryan comes out of his hasty and crawls toward me. Then after a few weeks. I never liked fart jokes. It wasn’t funny. I just didn’t care anymore. I had to fart. and especially during Reception. ready to throw a flash-bang. Originally. I’m sitting there. I hated them for it. who thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Prior to Basic. and remembers one incident in particular: “We were sneaking up. these role players were enemies. That was some shit. First. I did it. described his change in attitude.

jammed and the OPFOR private managed to “shoot” both of us. which goes from being a pleasure in civilian life to a means for ingesting calories in the Army. then. in the position next to mine. Prior to this. of course. Sergeant Brigman 337 . it was not so much a disconnect between body and self that occurred over two weeks. During the FTX. Lee was very apologetic. Like food.Although one could view this approach to the body as potentially damaging psychologically. a final attack was staged by the OPFOR. It sucks that I died. but due to inclement weather. “If I ever go to war. the armorer at my Reserve Unit. Bravo Company was told to pack up a day early and prepare to march back to the barracks. or even properly learn the techniques being taught. “it’s a bitch to get ammunition out of the armory. it is also a practical attempt by the drill sergeants to expend all of the ammunition that has been signed out of the armory. According to Sergeant Thomas. however. but was rather a shift in the perception of the body and its functions. I’m cleaning that fucker every day.” During this final attack I was “killed” by one of the OPFOR when Private Lee’s weapon. man. and then said. but I couldn’t handle having somebody else get killed because of that. Ideally. the FTX does teach privates what it means to trust in your equipment and in each other. there would have been three more missions on the following day of the exercise. and there was no chance to incorporate the education from the failure and perform the task a second time to improve.” Much like the gas chamber discussed earlier. Although ostensibly this was to continue our training in combat maneuvers. but it is a hundred times harder to get it back in. the body becomes a delivery mechanism for the self. each mission was only run once. You know the shit you have to go through for that? Let’s just fire it off.

Colonel Bill Gallagher. explains that the Army has realized. When asked about how much extra time she was granted to train on the SAW and other “infantry weapons. commander of the Basic Combat Training Brigade at Fort Benning. if at all.” (Shanker. good. and these programs are rarely implemented completely. 338 . Soldiers of all specialties will face direct contact with an adversary. far from direct contact with the enemy [but now] there is no front. good. combat support specialists had been in the rear of the battlefield. 2004). unfortunately. Who cares if you actually learned anything? You went to PLDC. “we got a couple days to use them. with more time devoted to weapons which were only momentarily handled. The bureaucracy of the military.expressed his dislike of this style of instruction when he stated. You got the briefing. 2006). it still does not compare to the three weeks worth of training on the rifle discussed in the previous chapter. Changes to this system are supposedly underway at Basic Training posts. as it was obvious that the drill sergeants did not care very much whether we learned the techniques they were showing us. simply that we completed the mission so that they could move on to the next. Who cares if you’re actually ready to be a sergeant now?” The feeling of disdain was also evident during this instruction. then. although two days is more than one day of instruction. Check the box.” Thus. the instruction at Basic Training is shifting to meet new challenges. “it’s just so typical of the Army.” a new soldier in my Reserve Unit replied. extra time is spent learning the variety of machine guns and other “heavy weapons” previously only used by infantry soldiers (Gonzalez. In addition. by the members of Bravo Company. there is no rear. prevents a quick reaction to change. Due to these changes in the battlefield. “historically.

revolutionizing the battlefield. However. On my own deployment. and purchased cell phones for their leaders using unit funds rather than attempt to force a technology on soldiers unwilling to use it. It is hardly surprising. of course. 339 . are ultimately the response to choices by individuals at every level of the military establishment. despite a multi-million dollar radio system provided by the Army. Radios. then. These cultural changes of course. there were a number of technological gadgets provided by the Army which were discarded by soldiers. Technology is. commanders must see the proper application of new technologies. the technological advances have frequently been useless or even resulted in catastrophic defeats for the army utilizing the new technology. that discussions of new technologies are some of the most common topics of books on the new military transformation.Most historians have focused on the technological changes in military history to the exclusion of the cultural. off the shelf cell phones in Iraq are the most common means of communication. procurement officers must recognize the potentials of new technologies and purchase them. and each individual soldier must be prepared to use them. In order for a new piece of technology to be effective. but frequently not in the ways projected by military theorists or even the builders of the technology. without the cultural changes themselves. and ignoring the military issued equipment. or more often replaced by better commercially available versions. For instance. and even body armor was regularly purchased by soldiers who disdained the quality of military equipment. Some commanders have given in to this trend. Soldiers are instead making their own decisions regarding what equipment is essential for a deployment. as we will show below. GPS devices.

the Chinese central government. the lack of a single political entity in Western Europe resulted in a strong interaction between market forces and military development. systematically prevented the rise of individual investors who could potentially bankroll the speculative ventures necessary for the development of cannon and ships. The marketization of warfare allowed for a faster development of new military technology as national leaders had to turn wars into investments for moneylenders and therefore there was a stronger drive to implement more efficient methods and more effective technology. Officers were incorporated into this process as bureaucratic managers of the military machines that developed in response to the market forces driving military innovation.The Fetish of Technology William McNeill. The national armies that developed in the 16th Century continued this trend. focused on Confucian ideals that disparaged personal accumulation of wealth. For McNeill the history of warfare in Western Europe is one of increased marketization and eventually bureaucratization of the military. He points out frequently that although China had an industrial basis equivalent to Western Europe. McNeill’s bureaucratization is remarkably similar to 340 . in The Pursuit of Power (1982). Specifically. and removing the individualistic elements of warfare from the process of military engagement. In contrast. discusses the importance of the market forces in Western culture to the technological advances identified by many historians as revolutionary. and the result was a military that focused on integrating soldiers and weaponry together to make them more efficient. and at times superior to it. it was only the differences in Eastern and Western culture that allowed such rapid technological advances in weaponry. symbols of revolutionary progress in warfare.

p.” (Keegan. and allowed a soldier wielding it to deliver firepower orders of magnitude greater than even a volley of fire from a company of musketeers. between the soldier and his enemy. both analyses even use the same engravings to discuss this development. This combination of increased distance. John Keegan discusses how the machine gun drastically increased the distance between a soldier and his target. the effect of drill on individual identity and the importance of individuals on the battlefield. and the magnitude of destruction “had not so much disciplined the act of killing – which was what seventeenth century drill had done – as mechanized or industrialized it. shifting battlefield formations from a large block of soldiers gaining support from men to their immediate right and left to more dispersed formations. necessitating a change in the ideology of militaries as well as technique. with McNeill discussing only the technical aspects and avoiding discussion of the social implications of the market forces that led to these developments. In his history of soldiers. 341 . The main difference between the two is ideological. separation. With regard to warfare itself.Foucault’s idea of discipline and the rationalization of military units. and both use similar metaphors in their discussion of military history. while Foucault’s analysis includes an inherent critique of the changes in society reflected by McNeill’s “bureaucratization” of warfare. the machine gun necessitated a change in military tactics and training. Both describe the mechanization of soldiers in the 16th Century. 1976. the machine gun stands out as one of the strongest symbols of the shifts in military organization to a mechanistic or rationalized form. 234) In addition to this mechanization.

but to improve the morale. Thus. 42-43) The primary group for Marshall is essential to the effectiveness of a military unit. Samuel Stouffer’s study showed that “loyalty to your buddies. 1949. “I hold it to be one of the simplest truths of war that the thing which enables an infantry soldier to keep going with his weapons is the near presence or the presumed presence of a comrade.. 136).” were the strongest motivators for men in combat to continue fighting (Stouffer.” (Marshall. providing the soldier wielding it with the feeling that his fellow soldiers were relying on him and improving his chances of firing his weapon in battle. concluding that.He is sustained by his fellows primarily and by his weapons secondarily.” and the feeling “that you couldn’t let the other men down.Both Samuel Stouffer and SLA Marshall studied the motivations of soldiers during World War II. as I discussed above. The use of the machine gun. requiring a closer emotional distance to maintain the morale of soldiers in battle. the advantage of moving men to a difficult firefight is not predominantly to increase the amount of firepower in that area. Stouffer’s study was conducted after the end of World War II. p. was both cause and effect of these changes. while SLA Marshall interviewed many soldiers immediately after combat engagements during the course of the war. Its firepower necessitated greater physical distance between soldiers in battle. of the men in that firefight. pp. Marshall’s findings were very similar to Stouffer’s despite this difference in timeframe. and therefore the fighting ability. The importance of the 342 . 2000.. and both found that abstract ideas of patriotism or ideology were secondary to the importance that soldiers placed on the soldiers around them. The machine gun then became one of the sources for this reduction in emotional distance.

symmetrically balanced forces contesting strength on an open battlefield using the tactics of maneuver warfare. According to Google Scholar. For van Creveld.’s article and does not cite it even once. and Gary Wilson espoused what they termed Fourth Generation Warfare in a USMC Gazette Article in 1989. John F Schmitt. even this brief look at the citations on the admittedly limited Google Scholar database shows that the importance of technology vice culture on modern warfare was biased in favor of the technological influences of computer networks.weapon in combat also led to its development as a symbol for the destructive power of the military force wielding it. satellite imagery. Although almost twenty years old. and other wonders of modern technology. Although not a true meta-study of the impact of this article. al. It is interesting that the second major contribution to the idea that the shift in modern war is not technological but ideological was published two years after Lind et al. Keith Nightengale. twenty one were written after September 11th (Google Scholar). While the successes of technological advancement are frequently lauded by authors discussing Desert Storm. Martin van Creveld discusses the development of Low Intensity Conflict as the paradigm for contemporary warfare. military analysts William Lind.’s concepts have only recently been picked up in the military theory community. In his work Transformation of War. Lind et. 343 . Ideological Revolutions Eschewing the idea of “revolutions” in military affairs. Desert Storm is a last gasp of Modern warfare. with Vietnam as the best example of what warfare will be like in the coming century rather than Operation Desert Storm. of twenty four works citing their original article.

the infantry forces. Unfortunately. focused on the ideological changes among potential military enemies. or even the surrounding technology..van Creveld situated his book in the context of military history and technology. This is likely because. ships. and fighter-bombers will be no match for a small ideologically driven force of guerillas or revolutionaries in a Third World nation. those same technological advancements will hinder a nation-state military when it attempts to conduct any type of warfare besides that of State vs. will be the most important actors on the contemporary battlefield. it took years for the weapon to be properly used. Robert O’Connell’s work Of Arms and Men discusses the impact of culture and cultural constraints on the technology of warfare itself. although since the events of September 11th much more has been written using the “Fourth Generation” framework than previously. while Lind et al. based on technologically advanced artillery. The top-down hierarchical military. Van Creveld’s arguments received much more consideration between 1991 and 2001 than Lind et al. human 344 . but the ability of the military to adapt new strategy to incorporate the advantages of that new technology. Instead. in fact. it is not new technology which spurs military revolution. as van Creveld proposes. Even technological revolutions are driven by the culture which surrounds them. it changed the face of warfare. State conflict. as O’Connell points out. According to O’Connell. wielding what is essentially the same weapon that has been carried by infantrymen for the last four hundred years.van Creveld argues that.the rise of guerilla and insurgent warfare and the increase of non-State actors engaging in organized violence -. topics already discussed extensively in multiple literatures. and of soldiering. although once it was. although the two books discuss the same topic -. As we saw with the Gatling Gun.

A strong example of this form of revolution is the development of uniforms for soldiers in the 17th century by Gustavus Adolphus. In his final analysis. O’Connell analyzes warfare as predominantly an extension of the intraspecific conflict of all animals. Heavily grounded in sociobiology. or rams. This reflects another major component of intra-species competition: the ritualization of combat which occurs regularly among male animals during mate competition. or how often they can be used. leading to opposing armies that look roughly equivalent squaring off (literally as well as figuratively in many cases) with one another and engaging in a Yanomamo chest beating competition on a massive scale. that a change in military activity that is non-technological will also provoke a military revolution.warfare is driven by a desire for symmetry. and we engage in aggression in a similar way. antlers. then. It is for this reason that the history of Western European militaries is commonly seen as long periods of equivalence broken by short bursts of massive change. in their use they are frequently limited by rules limiting when. The revolution. Borrowing from Edward O. human beings are animals as much as elk. It follows. O’Connell compares weapons development with the development of horns. where. O’Connell argues that warfare is ritualized and symmetrical in the same way that mate competition is ritualized and symmetrical. O’Connell’s concept of symmetry resonates beyond a simple analysis of the technology of warfare. then. Wilson and other biologists. 345 . is not so much a response to technological advancement as many historians claim. but a response to an opponent who achieves a strategic advantage by essentially breaking the rules of the military game. Although many human weapons are inspired by predatory animals. caribou. and other specialized instruments of mate competition.

The historical Italian term condottiere and the English term company both refer to this basic unit of military 346 . however. These extra troops. These small bands were actually the beginning of the commodification of warfare. The introduction of the uniform. allowed Napoleon to forego standards of strategy previously held to be inviolable. and the shift from mercenary to professional standing armies. predated the French Revolution by 200 years. The community. due to the sheer size of his army. Since the definition of courage changed in the 18th century (O'Connell.Although a very simple concept. This community identity is essential to the modern conception of the soldier. a tactic which would have been suicide for a smaller force moving through enemy territory. is what empowers soldiers with the control necessary to stand and fight when retreat is such a more appealing option. the modern soldier needs some reason to embrace that stoic acceptance. and were just as much an introduction of ideology into military forces as the levee en masse was. For example. usually run by a single charismatic leader. as they were small mercenary units hired by landowners or townships as contractors. Prior to a professional army. whether it is the French Revolution’s ideological fraternity or SLA Marshall’s theory of primary group loyalty. 1989) from heroic aggression to stoic acceptance. The introduction of ideology is generally credited to the French Revolution and the levee en masse which provided Napoleon with unprecedented numbers of troops. soldiers wearing uniforms form an identity based on community that overpowers their individual identity. most military units were two or three hundred soldiers strong. Napoleon could bypass enemy fortifications and continue his movement into the hearts of enemy territories. the argument goes.

these buttons hold particular significance based on the time they are first received. the interaction between these two worlds results in a strengthening of the identity of the soldier as sacrifice.organization and its origins as a business enterprise rather than a patriotic one. but for his consanguineal family as well. as we will see in the next chapter. Upon completing the FTX. isolated from other kinship systems and from each other. 1982. 107) Although McNeill’s comparison of the mercenary company with a replacement family is only mentioned briefly in his book. Cold Steel The importance of the uniform in building strong bonds among soldiers was discussed in the previous chapter. this fictive kinship builds a strong bond between soldiers.S. he does so not only for the members of his fictive family. especially when those soldiers are together veterans of combat. privates are given a private ceremony during which the drill sergeants and other company leaders welcome them into 347 . the military maintains this tradition of fictive kinship. Although a minor element of the Class A uniform. Most of these mercenary companies were made up of men who had abandoned their families for various reasons. but we must return to it one more time to complete our discussion of the FTX. Army” or a skill designator may only be worn by soldiers who have properly completed Basic or AIT. and the company served as a replacement family for the new soldier. These mercenary companies were. (McNeill. In the modern Army. p. however. as when a soldier fights in a professional army. with fellow soldiers perceived as members of an extended kinship group. Uniform buttons with “U. Although the modern military is more connected with the civilian world than soldiers in the 16th Century.

and is frequently referred to by itself as Cold Steel. After packing up our gear. there was a large oil drum with a large flame coming out of it. perceptions of the event as it happened. At the time. On the object was an anvil with a hammer.the fraternity of soldiers. the Company was held in the parking lot outside the barracks for approximately an hour while the Cold Steel ceremony was prepared. Once the hill had been crested. a solid piece of metal. At Fort Benning. and likely the rest of my platoon’s. Upon arriving at the Company Area. the First Sergeant began the ceremony. I have not been able to get an 348 . however. this march is so essential to the event that even with an incoming hurricane. Bravo Company marched most of the way back to the barracks along the road. Due to the restriction on recording devices. is the march up the hill called “Stairway to Heaven” by the soldiers stationed there. The final event of the Cold Steel exercise. prior to the ceremony itself. this ritual completes the Cold Steel exercise. and an altar-like object set up behind it. It is likely that the constant buildup of rumor and discussion about the steepness of the hill had influence my. trucks were provided to drive us back to the Company Area. Upon returning to Fort Benning for interviews the next year. Once the entire company was formed up in ranks on either side of the fire. However it might have occurred. imagining in my mind’s eye that I could have touched the ground in front of me as I worked my way up the hill. Bravo Company was required to march to the top of the hill. and a cavalry saber. After completing the FTX proper. I recall being amazed by the steepness and length of the Stairway to Heaven. however. the unit marches back to the company area for the final ceremony. I almost failed to realize that I was on the hill which had loomed so strongly in my memory. Once we were allowed to enter the Company Area.

The first soldier said the soldier’s creed. the man on your left and on your right. you were simply a bar of iron. You are Cold Steel!” After the First Sergeant’s speech. you learned to fire your weapon true. three soldiers came out carrying boots. Now. shared by a number of other older soldiers. with at least six privates admitting that they cried when the drill sergeants pinned the US Army button to their 349 . When you arrived here. waiting to be molded. because you took on a challenge. My reaction.exact transcription of the words. but you were also more than civilians. You are now soldiers. your drill sergeants. you have endured pain. the symbols of the soldier. You were raw. the challenge to come here to Fort Benning. to become soldiers. (The First Sergeant holds up the metal bar). You will always remember what you went through with them. although what follows is a rough approximation based on my field notes and notes from my later interviews: “When you first entered Basic Training. you. and then the First Sergeant told us that these three items were. and to become more than civilians. you were civilians. Over the last eight weeks you have been tested. you learned how to act as a team. and you have just completed your final challenge. When you arrived you were like this bar of iron. (Drill Sergeant Priest picks up the hammer and hits the anvil at each pause). waiting to be molded. and have been. and a bayonet. and they will always be by your side. The younger members of the platoon. which we now were. was a simple desire to end the ceremony as quickly as possible. we are brothers. however. (The First Sergeant throws the metal bar into the fire). a helmet. responded more emotionally. Once that was complete. the drill sergeants for each platoon pinned a button with “US” emblazoned on it to each private’s chest. The privates in 3rd platoon reacted differently to this ceremony depending on their ages and levels of maturity. sometimes with a word or two of praise. you went through the gas chamber. you are a forged blade (The First Sergeant holds up the saber).

The Cold Steel ceremony is different from the later public graduation which will occur in front of the families of the privates. the distinction of “soldier” is still deferred for the completion of AIT. drill sergeants do appear to relax more around the privates. privates had learned how to negotiate the barriers of regulations set up around them by the Army institution. with privates transitioned from “not soldiers” to “almost soldiers. However. or whatever extra training might be included in each individual’s contract. such as walking through the DFAC instead of being required to sidestep down the line. privates are still referred to as privates. seemed as varied as the fifty-five different members of the platoon. since each private must continue on to their respective AITs before becoming officially a soldier. and are still under the command and control of the drill sergeants. privates were also allowed to purchase CD players and music to listen to in the barracks. Privates also receive more privileges. airborne school. or other forms of junk food. in fact. and how to properly perform as soldiers. during the week following the Cold Steel ceremony. This event marked the final event in the process of Basic Training. and are more joking. For the week after the ceremony. ranging from boredom to disappointment to rapture. and being allowed to talk softly while eating. Perhaps the most appreciated privilege granted to privates after the FTX is the ability to go to the base Post Exchange (PX) and purchase soda.” After eight weeks of instruction. Also. it is still not the reincorporation expected from the ritual of Basic Training. language school. However.uniform. despite the words of the First Sergeant. The range of responses. Each private in this case reacted to the events based on his own individual background and prior experience. candy bars. Toward the end of this final week. 350 .

whether a soldier is support or combat arms.The military revolutions of both times past and today define where the military is. is not material but psychological. and the achievement of some aim over which other men are ready to kill them. State warfare from the options available to military commanders. And in the words of John Keegan: “what battles have in common is human: the behavior of men struggling to reconcile their instinct for self-preservation. soldiers fighting battles against other soldiers. their sense of honour. states succinctly that while “it is possible to argue that while the mechanization of armies has produced a revolution in warfare. in his discussion of World War I. viewed by many historians as the last revolution in military affairs before the atomic bomb removed State vs. the real consequence. or precision guided munitions launched in real time five hundred miles from the actual combat zone have all been seen as influences on military revolution. John Keegan. 299) These psychological shifts in the approach to warfare are a frequently overlooked element of military revolution. even the automobile and machine gun of World War I. rigorous and repetitive drill.” (Keegan. The symbolism of the military. and the quest for the ultimate weapon system that soldiers will use to fight those battles. strategies employed by commanding generals and politicians. 1976. p. 351 . and what duties it trains its soldiers for. is the experience of warfare. Advancing technology. or just as likely. its effective potential for change. 303) The influence of regular soldiers on the outcomes of battles throughout history is frequently overlooked in the search for global historical trends.” (Keegan. are less important than the sociological and psychological changes brought about by new technologies. However. new ideologies. p. Even van Creveld and Lind. 1976.

and thus the military one. Today the shift from an institutional army to a professional army is changing our very definitions of warfare. However. but are an extension of that population into a foreign country. The changes in the identities of soldiers are a result of changing technologies as well as changing social factors. The war in Vietnam has shifted the political landscape. fail to recognize many significant shifts in strategy based on the psychological changes in soldiers and their approach to military service. and combat. every technological change must be accompanied by a change within the culture of the Army on the level of the individual soldier wielding the new technology. enemies. and expected to act not only as soldiers. The soldier has gone through a number of changes over the course of history. but as representatives as well. Soldiers are no longer expected to “die for their country” but to come home alive and unscarred. 352 .proponents of military revolution based on cultural changes. Soldiers are no longer a sacrificial scapegoat for the civilian population. and the soldier identity expressed in Basic Training is linked to the past through both symbolic and performative means. such that the Army leadership believes that a war without casualties is the only war that the American citizenry will allow.

it would be useful to point out at this 353 . to a point which I would easily term fraternal in any anthropological or layman sense. AIT. Basic Training provides an introduction into an organization in which primary group loyalty and strong interpersonal networks are almost sacrosanct. and overseas deployment in each other’s company. privates have approximately a week to prepare for their upcoming graduation ceremony. with a small ceremony before the first day (“Family Day”) when privates are allowed to spend time with their families. and highlights the importance of the new bonds developed over the nine weeks of training. The graduation ceremony is spread out over two days. as the fictive kinship network in the United States Army does not truly develop until a soldier graduates from Basic and moves to his assigned unit. from MEPS through Basic Training. and a larger ceremony the next day. unit assignment. A complete work on the fictive kinship of the military has not been written. another private and I went through the entire Basic Training experience.Chapter 7: Fictive Kinship in the United States Army After the completion of the FTX. In my own personal experience. after which privates must return to their barracks and will usually not see their families again until after graduation from Advanced Individual Training. The bond begun at the MEPS station was continually enhanced over the course of this travel. The strength of the interpersonal networks developed in Basic Training and extending through the rest of military life is such that a fictive kinship network is created. and in the context of a study of Basic Training would be extraneous. This graduation ceremony presents the new soldiers to their families as soldiers. However.

“Tribalism” of Military Culture Despite some of the inconsistencies in Basic Training. Nonetheless. Although predominantly practical. he discusses his realization that a soldier’s unit is almost sacred in its symbolism for soldiers: “My regimental friends – the ready friendship extended by warriors is one of their most endearing qualities – were 354 . with other members of the Basic Training platoon. A History of Warfare.point that the training that occurs at Basic Training does set up the conditions for an “enduring. these dual chains serve another purpose: to tie a soldier into the fictive family of the Army. one element which remains constant is the introduction of the new social network which privates have entered. it is true. The support chain is the line of Non-Commissioned Officers from the platoon sergeant all the way to the Sergeant Major of the Army.” The chain of command is the succession of officers from the company commander all the way up to the President of the United States who can give a private a direct order. he must memorize his complete “chain of command” and “support chain. especially those who have been through combat. In addition to learning the names and ranks of the training company the private is assigned to. The idea that the military creates a bond of fictive kinship among soldiers is so common that the very idea was satirized in the World War II epic Saving Private Ryan. John Keegan asserts in his seminal work. that the military is fundamentally “tribal”. that strong bonds do form among soldiers. or some other stressful situation. even if a truism. diffuse solidarity.” to use Schneider’s terms. it is obvious who will fill in for that role. In his introduction to that book. should an officer in a soldier’s chain of command be killed.

indeed would never be uttered. the shedding of blood is a ritual act which creates meaning for a group. while Michael Weisskopf named his account of wounded soldiers Blood Brothers. This metaphor of brotherhood was picked up by Stephen Ambrose and used as the title of his historiography of an elite airborne unit in World War II. novels. Regimental loyalty was the touchstone of their lives. that 355 . Larry Ingraham discusses how active duty soldiers form social groups based on unit loyalty. he refers to his army at Agincourt as a “band of brothers. Although the American military is not quite as grounded in regimental loyalty as the British. These examples all share a common theme beyond fictive kinship: the importance of sacrifice. but his point remains the same. In addition. scene 3). but they were brothers only up to a point. The similar term “brothers in arms” has been used as the title for pop songs. so deeply would such a thing touch the values of the tribe.brothers-in-arms. It is hardly surprising. then. such that certain norms accepted among soldiers (such as theft) are only accepted when the victim of the theft is from outside of the unit (Ingraham. A personal difference might be forgiven the next day.” (Act IV. and with the same symbolic strength. for he who sheds his blood with me this day shall be my brother. 1993. there are still strong elements of group loyalty demonstrated by soldiers. In Henry V’s speech. as most consanguineal relationships. the metaphor of brotherhood is particularly strong in most military traditions. the iconography of military units is based on the idea of brotherhood. As we saw in chapter five.” (Keegan. xv) Keegan uses the term tribal when a more precise definition would be segmentary. soldiers connect with one another in the same ways. A slur on the regiment would never be forgotten. 1984). From the classical drama of Shakespeare to the pop music of Dire Straits. and even video games.

For instance. kinship organization replaced the political structure found in the Western world (Stone. The very construct of “problem child” seen in chapter four suggests the parental role played by drill sergeants. there have been very few discussions of the actual kinship constructions that exist in the military. one of the reasons why kinship studies stood out from other subjects of study was its supposed use as a political organizing tool for cultures which did not have the complexity and specialization of industrialized cultures. with kinship based on the biological act of sexual reproduction (Fox. According to Linda Stone. and to some extent the fraternal role played by other privates. and it is within Basic Training that the beginnings of this fictive kinship system are created. History of Kinship Studies Traditionally in anthropology the focus of kinship studies has been on the consanguineal ties between members of a culture. Robin Fox argues that bureaucracy and kinship are two parts of a binary structure. drill sergeants are seen as playing the role of “mother” or “father” depending on how they interact with the platoon. in opposition with one another.the fictive kinship displayed among soldiers appears as strong as kinship based on blood relations. but come out in the phrases and descriptions of Basic Training by the privates themselves. Supposedly. based on our folk-models of those roles. The end result of the rite of passage of Basic Training is membership in the United States Army. 1983) This is remarkably similar to Schneider’s discussion of the American family: “Sexual 356 . Although there have been many of these invocations of fictive kinship. 2001). Many times these roles are seen not only from an external analysis.

so too is our ability to realize who is related to us.intercourse (the act of procreation) is the symbol which provides the distinctive features in terms of which both members of the family as relatives and the family as a cultural unit are defined and differentiated. in spite of the blood relationship (Fox. 357 . In terms of abstract thought. Especially in those groups on the margins of regular society. 2002). or Appalachian families (Rice. 2004). whereas in a bureaucratic system those primary obligations should be to the work group or other social group. street gangs (Decker et al. Fox draws a distinction between a social system based on kinship and one based on bureaucracy. Fox bases his analysis of kinship on an evolutionary idea. p. humans have evolved kinship as a way of organizing those worlds. 31) Kinship is explicitly tied with biology in a similar way to language. In the same way as a capacity for language or a capacity for abstract reasoning is tied into our evolutionary development. p. In order to negotiate both the natural and social worlds.. such as among drug dealers (Bourgois. this is a relatively simplistic way to look at things. the social world of kinship shows that humans were capable of incredibly complex analyses of social environment and how to manipulate that environment. 1980. and would thus have an interest in supporting us by donating resources or other survival necessities. in Fox’s view. 14). and it is interesting that he seems to extend that idea into a bias regarding evolution of social structure. 1983. one’s first obligations are supposed to be to blood relations. 1982). Within a kinship system. kinship ties will frequently overshadow concerns of law or politics. Of course. as many people in a bureaucratic system continue to value kinship ties over bureaucratic ties.” (Schneider.

Following from that was the realization that. In brief. asserting that the study of kinship should be no more privileged than the study of any other cultural system. Although it was previously held that kinship was unlike most other systems due to its grounding in biological facts while other cultural elements such as religion or economics had no such grounding. like other subfields of study. Schneider stated that he could explain the social structure properly using either method.” (Stone. 2) It is therefore imperative that Schneider’s arguments. Analyzing the social system of the Yap from two different perspectives. Schneider’s critique of kinship theory developed from his fieldwork among the Yap of Micronesia. and those that follow it. Schneider’s analyses of kinship have become touchstones for any researcher studying the topic. kinship was therefore driven by theory rather than fact. but the role of David Schneider in this transformation cannot be understated. be discussed before a proper discussion of any kinship system can be attempted. The critique of kinship began with David Schneider’s analysis of Yap kinship and continues to this day with certain deconstructions of kinship and biology and a more constructivist response to kinship theory. p. kinship as a concentration within anthropology began to decline. This was likely due to a combination of factors.In the late twentieth century. . Schneider showed that in fact kinship was separate from any “real world” as much as other topics. it was just as fragile as other subfields. 358 . . Schneider takes a critical position towards commonly held kinship theory. 2001. each independent of the other. economic and kin-based. not a single textbook on kinship was published. and as pointed out by Linda Stone. after Schneider kinship fell into such disrepute that for “more than twenty years . For that reason. however.

it in fact opens up that study to other options. Instead of viewing kinship as biologically based. 2001). claiming that analyses of kinship in non-Western cultures is analyzed only through our Euro-centric bias. McKinley points out that kinship is about more than simply interactions with consanguineal and affinal relatives. to view cultures on their own terms. whether based on genetic association or not. However. Robert McKinley points out that kinship is tied up with so many other elements of culture that attempting to remove it from study would necessitate the removal of the other institutions as well. McKinley points out that all kinship is metaphor. theory drives his interpretation of kinship as much as it drives his interpretation of economics or religion. if an anthropologists’ theory of kinship is incorrect.Since ethnography is always an interpretation of the anthropologist. rather than disputed it. There have been some critiques of Schneider’s examination. as Martin Ottenheimer points out. and therefore removing biology from the equation does not invalidate the study of it. Schneider has simply replaced the Euro-centric bias with a local-centric bias. then she must be fluent with both the local-centric emic ideas as well as the Euro-centric etic ones in order to properly translate (Ottenheimer. not on ours. but with supernatural entities and possibly even institutions within society. and it is the job of anthropologists to try and remove that bias as much as possible. Thus. If the job of the anthropologist is to interpret events she sees. For instance. Schneider has in fact reaffirmed that importance. his entire ethnographic analysis of kinship is incorrect as well. once viewed as mimicry of consanguineal ties. becomes the equal partner to 359 . Schneider has devalued the Western approach to kinship studies. By basing his critique on the importance of biology. fictive kinship. In addition.

when an anthropologist observes a relationship between two people. 2001. discussed in Stone 2001). but rather analyses which show that the Western association can be used as a tool with which to understand social relationships. Thus. that relationship will be perceived as a kinship relationship regardless of the biological basis (Gellner. p. According to Gellner. These are not direct connections. 187. we should not discount the power of that association. Stone uses Ernest Gellner’s “blip relationship” as an example of this approach. Janet Carsten draws distinct parallels 360 . which the locals call “blip. Another alternative to basing kinship primarily on genetic or biological associations are seen in modern discussions of new reproductive technologies (NRTs) and new medical technologies. 1960. a blip-relationship in a particular culture would be classifiable as ‘kinship’ if the people themselves understand it as a ‘genealogical connection. For instance. (McKinley.” should that relationship overlap some physical kinship relationship. Gellner’s approach is specifically etic.’ that is. 4). the separation of biology and kinship proposed by Schneider is disputed by many other theorists of kinship.” (Stone. a connection based on the people’s own folk-culture theory of human reproduction. almost unrepentantly so. Linda Stone outlines some of the ways in which anthropologists have drawn new connections between kinship and biology. p. when soldiers express their relationships with one another as fraternal. 2001) Finally.consanguineal or affinal kinship in a study of the interconnections between people in society. to which Stone contrasts Harold Scheffler’s propositions regarding kinship: “in Scheffler’s formulation. with the assumption that the Western idea of kinship and genetics is known by local people.

However. The transference of bodily “stuff” continues regardless of any genetic link between source and recipient. To use an extreme example. as perceived by most researchers.between genetic kinship and other physical elements of the body. Fictive Kinship It is easy to overlook or downplay the role of fictive kinship in much of the modern world. we can see that the fictive kin relationships discussed here illuminate not only the importance of strong social bonds during ritual ceremonies. 2004. As Janet Carsten points out. p. but in society at large. Fictive kinship is frequently seen as a mirror of consanguineal relationships. However. if we take note of one simple fact. is characterized by some formalization of the social relationship into one which is metaphorically consanguineal. Carsten points out this element of inheritance would be just as applicable should a child literally have his father’s eyes through organ donation. fictive kinship. Carsten uses the topic of organ donation to highlight some of the ways in which people create kinship relationships that seem inappropriate for the standard definition of kinship as genetic material. Thus. and affinal kinship a counterpart. there is an assumption of “normality” in our commonly held ideas of consanguineal or affinal relationships that we exclude from many other relationships. blood 361 . a child is frequently referred to as “having his father’s eyes. an idea that Kath Weston confronts in her book Families We Choose. However.” a symbolic association. or should he have anyone’s eyes. 103). Carsten points out that many times recipients are seen as carrying on an element of the donor in a way similar to how a child carries on elements of his biological family (Carsten.

brotherhood.). It is through the sacrifice of the private’s civilian self that the development of fictive kinship is instigated. process to create the fictive bond. although Private Hanson was a consistent underachiever at Basic Training. Thus. Fictive relationships are rarely mentioned in classical kinship studies. Therefore. Many times fictive kinship is perceived to be a metaphorical extension of consanguineal ties (brothers. was labeled as a problem child predominantly because of his inability to make this sacrifice. Privates who fail to properly separate themselves from their civilian lives are just as likely to be labeled “problem child” as those who fail to perform properly. it is hardly surprising that in the liminal environment of Basic Training (and combat). he still made the attempt to fit in with the rest of the platoon. adoption. 362 . typically ritual. and social networks. and fostering require some formal. but begins the process of constructing it. on the other hand. Mario Davila notes that the importance of the compadrazgo increased following the influence of Western European domination and the collapse of traditional social systems as they were replaced by European systems (Davila. the Army essentially forces him to build new social networks in Basic Training with fellow privates. etc. Private Jackson. and are only recently gaining attention. parents. This is not sufficient for the development of any true solidarity. fictive kinship among soldiers is a common development. 1971). The fictive kinship system developed as an element of anti-structure in the liminal state of changing cultural systems after the European discovery of the New World. By removing the private from most contact with his previous life.

When privates arrive at Basic they are given five minutes to call home and let their family know that they have arrived safely. and it was. but at the same time became a symbol of their separation and transition to their new status as soldiers. the only time he did not sneak out of the barracks in the middle of the night was when he was placed under “suicide watch” and was required to be checked once an hour by the fireguard to be certain he was still in his bunk. privates at Fort Benning were not allowed to make a phone call home for another two weeks into training.” In the case of Recruit Evans. and I can’t remember now if it was his mom or his dad. This separation caused a lot of anxiety for privates. the time allowed for these phone calls is severely limited by the drill sergeants during Basic Training. one of the symbols that he was not properly transitioning to being a soldier was the contact his family continued to make with the unit itself. one of them had some health issues. like heart problems.Even when privates are allowed to make phone calls to their families and friends. “I remember when Jackson was put on suicide watch. In Jackson’s case. According to Recruit Fletcher. The phones became a symbol of the sacrifice they were making to become soldiers in the US Army. After that initial contact. and it kinda pissed me off. Those were the only nights he didn’t get up in the middle of the night. also. Two of the problem children in Bravo Company were Privates Jackson and Evans. he slept like a fucking baby. The inability to create that separation was frequently seen as a problem by other privates and by the cadre. All he really wanted was attention I think. who were both incapable of removing themselves from this contact. According to Private Bennett.” Both 363 . too. he appeared to be incapable of not calling home to speak with his wife. he wasn’t diagnosed with it. it was hereditary. but he thought he could have it. Evans “had his wife and his mom call. like he didn’t.

E. Evans-Pritchard’s work among the Nuer has not been mentioned.Jackson and Evans were not properly removing themselves from their civilian lives and this was essential to their status as a platoon problem child.E. each of these smaller units incorporates norms of conduct and loyalty against the other units in the larger grouping. This trend continues down from the Branch identification all the way to the platoon identification. creates bonds of loyalty as each component of the Army attempts to express its symbolic superiority. There have even been suggestions that Evans-Pritchard’s own experience in the British Army colored his perception of Nuer kinship (Selmeski: personal communication). Although all service members share something in common. The reason for this is the direct relevance between military fictive kinship and the segmentary lineage system Evans-Pritchard discussed in his analysis of the Nuer. Similarly. the similarities between Evans-Pritchard’s segmentary lineage and modern military life are quite striking. 364 . Artillery. Segmentary Lineage and Fictive Kinship in the Army One might note at this point that except for a brief note in the introduction to this chapter. as the lens focuses more tightly down the scale of military unit from Branch to Platoon. Thus. etc. the distinction between Armor. soldiers and Marines both recognize each other as members of the military. and will unite to defend the nation. Infantry. but there is intense rivalry between the two branches. Although based in the notions of “fictive” kinship.

there is traditionally an expectation of dislike between brothers of the byre. the element of Evans-Pritchard’s analysis that applies particularly well is his discussion of half-brothers in the Nuer community. so named because the byre is the central element of the Nuer village. helping each other even to 365 . there is a strong difference between the expected social attitudes between “brothers of the hut” and “brothers of the byre.” Brothers of the hut are those young boys who share a single mother. the Nuer identify two distinct types of brotherhood at work. very similar to our own expectations of family tension between halfor step-siblings: “whereas full brothers pool their resources. Thus. this term comes from the fact that young boys are raised by their mothers until initiation. Brothers of the byre are those men who have the same father but different mothers. Due to the polygynous marriage system practiced by the Nuer and the multi-local pattern of postmarital residence. although all children of the same father are considered “brothers” in a sense.At Basic Training. In fact. In the words of the Nuer. the distinction between half-brothers of the same father but different mothers is important.

but incredibly arcane to the privates involved. 142). soldiers in the military act in the same way with members of other units as the Nuer are seen to do between half-siblings. members of 3rd platoon were distinct because of the in-group loyalty that existed in contrast to the rivalry and often dislike that accompanied the relations with other platoons. Some privates seemed to have a better sense of who was winning than others. As seen above with Ingraham’s study. doing for each other what their self-interest demands of them” (Evans Pritchard. PT scores. Inter-platoon rivalry is one of the most common themes during Basic Training. creating a group identity based on opposition to the other groups in the training company. During Basic Training. For instance. both official and unofficial. The majority opinion was that the honor platoon competition was based on the drill and ceremony competition. and their scores figured into the competition for “honor platoon. the drill and ceremony competition was an official contest in which each platoon would perform company formation movements around a small area of blacktop at the orders of one of the platoon’s drill sergeants.” The honor platoon competition was also official.the point of forging their rights. between platoons. as platoons are encouraged to compete against one another. Each platoon was scored based on how well they performed. this dynamic is even more marked. For instance. rifle marksmanship. paternal half-brothers insist on their rights and try to avoid their obligations. but no one seemed to have any clear sense of what each platoon was being graded on. p. During Bravo Company’s training cycle. and a number of inspections over the course 366 . 1990. there were a number of different competitions.

of the cycle. Consider the following exchange between members of various platoons: Demina (2nd): Drill Sergeant Redmond is one of just three sergeants in the Army who’s certified as a Master Hand to Hand trainer Michaels (3rd): Yeah. Unofficial competitions were also frequent during Basic Training. Demina: Whatever. The obstacle course and confidence course were two examples of this type of competition. 367 . In addition to these. but the exact makeup of the competition was never made known to the platoons. Argent (2nd): Drill Sergeant Redmond did say that Drill Sergeant Richards was pretty good though. the most common subject of conversation during boot-shining time was whose drill sergeant would win in a fight. using methods such as footraces or pushup competitions to pit platoons against one another. I’ve seen Drill Sergeant Richards do some stuff. as no official scores were ever kept. in which during marches or running. he’s a badass. he would worry about taking Drill Sergeant Richards or Drill Sergeant West. Michaels: I’d like to see who would win. though. Drill Sergeant Redmond would kick his ass. He told us that of all the drill sergeants here. Sounding off was one of the most common forms of competition between platoons. This inter-platoon rivalry extends past officially sanctioned competitions and into the realm of underground competition. but Redmond went through the special training. Demina: Yeah. for instance. These conversations were very reminiscent of the “my brother can beat up your brother” conversations common on school playgrounds. platoons would attempt to yell over one another the various cadences being sung. at numerous times during the cycle platoons would be placed into competition with one another during regular morning PT. During our two day instruction in hand-to-hand fighting. but Drill Sergeant Richards’s pretty good.

I still think Drill Sergeant Richards would do good. Platoon loyalty is stressed more than Company loyalty during Basic. likely because the training cycle continued to push privates through Basic.Michaels: Yeah. Only a few privates actually submitted the paper. he still ordered the platoon to submit the next day “I will be loyal to my drill sergeant” three hundred times. and those that did. Despite Drill Sergeant Saburi’s threats of punishment. are arguing about whose drill sergeant is better at hand to hand combat. Although the platoon protested that they did not know the private Drill Sergeant Saburi was looking for. Privates Demina and Michaels. Drill Sergeant Saburi accused 3rd platoon of covering for a soldier in another platoon to help him avoid punishment. Private Argent acts as a mediator in this exchange. On one occasion. though. which prompted Drill Sergeant Saburi to increase the requirement to one thousand. no extra punishment was ever handed down for this lapse. For instance. and then ten thousand. allowing Private Michaels to “escape with his dignity” by admitting that Drill Sergeant Richards is the second best fighter in the Company. Companies within a training Battalion 368 . only a few privates had turned in the assignment. For the most part. on only one occasion during the training cycle did a Drill Sergeant (Drill Sergeant Briggs) encourage interaction with a different company in the Battalion by calling a teasing cadence that disparaged the other Company. The norm of platoon loyalty is specifically fashioned by the drill sergeants. although a lesser amount of Company loyalty is also encouraged. from different platoons. In this exchange. although Argent still maintains his platoon loyalty to Drill Sergeant Redmond. then five thousand. did not complete the ten thousand requirement. By the end of the training cycle.

except as the privates group themselves. As the smallest unit of organization typical in the Army. platoon loyalty is predominant. with Company loyalty above that. You a 37? 111 Matthews: 31 Papa. etc. though? Matthews: Yeah. 369 . Thus. “37” refers to Psychological Operations. with the sole exception of details. and finally by Basic Training location. Although all training is conducted by platoon. such as during the gas chamber. “38” Civil Affairs. This is one of the few opportunities for privates to speak with those who are further along the training cycle and get a better sense of what the upcoming weeks will entail. through Basic Training we can see the beginnings of the “segmentary lineage” system which the Army mimics. Brigman: What’s that? Matthews: Microwave Systems Operator-Maintainer. when each Company contributes between two and eight privates to serve on various duties around the base. “11” refers to infantry. and by company that each day’s events are recounted. couple weeks ago. the standard evening activity. There is frequently crossover during these evenings. it is by company that each training area is marched to. It is predominantly through these conversations that privates can share stories about the drill sergeants and engage in interactions like the one seen above. For instance. Brigman: Where’d you go to Basic? Matthews: Benning. as privates who knew each other during Reception will talk with one another and share stories. Boot shining. consider the following interaction between Sergeant Brigman and a new inductee into his Reserve Unit: Brigman: Good to have you here. [pause] You just got out of AIT. 111 Soldiers often refer to their jobs by the numerical designation supplied by the Army. Company loyalty is predominantly created by engaging in training and performance as a complete Company unit.stay separated. Brigman: Uh-huh. then Battalion. occurs without regard for platoon breakdowns.

Bornmann: Drill Sergeant. . I was in 1st. as we had gone through different schools later for our AIT. 4-82. but did not share a battalion. Bulldawgs. At this point the conversation moved to a discussion of the training post at Fort Benning. he was manic-depressive. but in establishing the extent of our segmentary lineage. Michaels: Huh. too. Bravo 4-82. . Michaels: I was in Bravo Company. Rivers. Captain Hunter? Michaels: Yeah. once he had established that he and Matthews had gone through a different AIT school.Brigman: Yeah? Me. This can be contrasted with the conversation I had with Private Michaels upon my entry into my Reserve Unit: Bornmann: Where’d you go? Michaels: Benning. Bornmann: I was Bravo. Bornmann: No shit! I was 01-03. as Brigman already knew he had nothing in common. One interesting point is that Brigman. 370 . honestly. we focused tighter and tighter on shared unit identification before coming to the realization we had been in the same training company. Matthews: I was Delta 3-54. jumped immediately to a question regarding Matthews’s Basic Training experience. I think. What platoon? Bornmann: 3rd. Was he there when you went through? Michaels: Yeah. both soldiers had trained at the same Basic Training post. Neither Michaels nor I recognized one another. he was there. Bornmann: He still crazy? Michaels: I don’t think he was crazy. as the extent of the segmentary connection was established. Bornmann: When did you go through? Michaels: Class 01-03. he was just. Any other questions about Matthews’s AIT experience would have been irrelevant.

Janet Carsten discusses how the Langkawi create kinship not only through biological processes such as birth. In all of these conceptions. Kinship Practices as Performance Although not discounting biology. social ties. or 371 . Carsten sees kinship among the Langkawi as “made in houses through the intimate sharing of space. 35. Just as Basic Training does not create soldiers. italics original). Rather. and nurturance. In this view. but through a constant cycle of sharing food and living together (Carsten. food. and social obligations. However. Without a constant reinforcement of sharing. kinship is frequently seen as a process rather than a monolithic structure into which people are born or placed. it does not create fictive kinship among privates. as soldiers express their feelings using kinship-based metaphors. 2004. it does provide a touchstone for both in the creation of an Army community which uses kinship terms to maintain the bonds between soldiers.” (Carsten. the form of these conversations is simply the process by which soldiers begin to develop the bonds necessary for the eventual creation of fictive kinship bonds. p. In fact.I am not claiming that the use of shared geography is sufficient to create a fictive kinship bond. 1997). Obviously these conversations and analyses occur among graduates of the same university. residents of the same home town. many anthropologists have also shown how kinship ties are frequently conceived by the people involved as extension of other practices. 1976). For instance. social obligations. kinship is seen as something that can be both created or destroyed. etc. This same pattern of food sharing is seen by Andrew Strathern among residents of New Guinea (Strathern. regardless of any “inherent” biological referent.

other process. The private memorizes the battle history of his new unit. During Captain Hunter’s speech. “I want to tell you about these guys. Captain Hunter is establishing the fact that the privates “belong” to the Army. so we definitely appreciate that. stating “it means a lot to us as cadre members. the kinship relationship between two people is subject to a waning and ultimate extinction. for example. so much that on my own deployment I spent at least ninety hours a week in the company of the two other members of my team. he thanked the families of graduating privates for coming to Family Day. Kinship rhetoric is prevalent during these ceremonies. as they are now “our soldiers. but now they are better men for the 372 . as the Company Commander reads to the audience the important elements of the soldier’s supplemental family to the consanguineal families of the private sitting in the audience. You raised them. and it means a lot for our soldiers. Fictive kinship is reinforced by the rhetoric and requirements of the drill sergeants and other instructors during Basic Training as well. This history is specifically discussed during the graduation ceremony from Basic Training.” and implies that the bonds between soldiers and families can continue. The sharing of space and food in Basic Training is extreme. soldiers during deployment will share quarters and food. with sixty privates sharing a single barracks and eating at the same dining facility every day for nine weeks. your support for our nation. but only in the mutual support for the nation.” Here. In the same manner. from its founding to its current state as a training company. Hunter continued. as the firm establishment of privates as separated from their families and incorporated into the new “Army family” is necessary to complete the process of Basic Training. and no longer to their old families.

last nine weeks.” This statement reiterates that although the privates began life with one family. these Medal of Honor winners. Robert Gould of the 54th Infantry Regiment 112 . 1999) A significant number of Medal of Honor awards are posthumous: 73% of non-officers in Vietnam and 77% of non-officers in Korea were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously (Blake 1973). 1798. or Remus. October 21. Like Prometheus.” in which “the scapegoated alien becomes a founding figure for the community. Throughout Basic Training. should consider themselves as a band of brothers. these stories represent what is for Girard a “founding sacrifice. 1999. and they’re better men for it. In fact. but now. by virtue of their 112 The All-Black Regiment most famously known from the film Glory. and the whole Army. 373 . These figures include George Washington.” (Quote from letter to Henry Knox. we took ‘em for nine weeks. and five Medal of Honor recipients killed in the line of duty. the heroes and mythological figures of the military are memorized by new privates. belonging to one group.” (Kearney. Quoted in Marvin & Ingle. the private’s IET manual has an anecdote discussing one of these “founding ancestors” of the United States Army. willing and ready to die for each other. p. George Washington himself used the rhetoric of kinship in a discussion of fellow soldiers: “My first wish would be that my military family. Osiris. their manhood is a result of their experiences in the Army. For each of the Seven Army Values. sacrifice is a large part of the identity of the soldier. As we have seen. after their experiences in Basic Training. However. You guys did a great job. 107) It is hardly surprising that these were the choices made by the Army Training and Doctrine Command which publishes the IET manual for Basic Training privates.

sacrifice. and impeccably dressed.” The ranges he was referring to are the various Rifle Marksmanship ranges that privates must fire on before passing the Basic Rifle Marksmanship section of 374 . but the “soldier” element of their identity. like kinship terms. p. according to one drill sergeant from Bravo Company. or failing exams on proper behavior and decorum (Katz. the metaphorical transference of identity is. to sleep after them. 469). 1990). it can be done. The non-commissioned officer in general is supposed to serve as a role model for younger soldiers. their drill sergeant hats slightly out of alignment. however. p. 1990. In addition. At Basic Training. There are a number of other processes that mimic genealogical kinship. 318) As the role model for young privates. drill sergeants are even more pressured to act as a role model for young privates. “I’ve scored expert on every Range here. as with everything else. drill sergeants portray the soldier they expect the privates to become. both explicit and implicit.” (Grossman. always awake before the privates. Segmentary lineage and totemism are only part of the fictive kinship that exists at Basic Training. While learning to be a drill sergeant. soldiers are punished for having the slightest fold out of place. As Dave Grossman states in his book On Killing: “The drill sergeant is a role model. He is the ultimate role model. this role is sharpened and clarified. form not only the founding mythology of their culture. Just as Carsten points out that kinship can be seen as transference of “stuff” rather than a descent based system of genetic inheritance. and must be perfect in that role (Katz. As the first NCO that most privates will have encountered. the drill sergeants at Basic Training are attempting to pass on not only their knowledge and discipline to a new private. but actually create the culture itself by becoming a founding ancestor. At Basic Training. 1995.

choose a drill sergeant. and tutelage than that between the children and fathers. just one of us. Watch how he acts. Radcliffe Brown. A second correlation between “traditional” kinship studies and the United States Army concerns the role of the maternal uncle in patrilineal societies. “if you want to succeed in the Army. just as children emulate parents. According to A. Thus. the maternal uncle and nephew share a special relationship characterized by a stronger emotional bond.” Although on one level. This perfection should be emulated by privates who are under the drill sergeants’ control. by emulating drill sergeants. the privates are being brought into the fictive kin group of the Army. in the same manner as elements of personality or appearance are taken on by children from their parents. what he does. As rifle marksmanship is such an important element of Basic Training. Drill Sergeant Saburi was telling privates to imitate a drill sergeant. Do what he does.R. play. acts as a ‘male mother’ to the young man. Drill Sergeant Saburi informed 3rd platoon. and you emulate him. and thus all the emotional attachments expected of 375 . as a member of the maternal group. Radcliffe-Brown’s explanation for this is that the mother’s brother. the drill sergeant was in essence saying that he was perfect not only in his appearance. During Bravo Company’s training cycle.Basic Training. In his book Structure and Function in Primitive Society RadcliffeBrown discusses how the relationship with one’s mother’s brother is characterized by affection and indulgence. It don’t have to be me. whereas the relationships with the paternal family are usually characterized by rigid rules of respect and social regulation. but in his soldier identity. he was also informing them to take on the elements of a drill sergeant.

in this case communication and selfless consideration.” This statement comes from the beginning of the third and final paragraph. as a male. Analysis of the NCO creed shows the similarities between the expectations of the female role. the NCOs interactions with officers are laid out in the Creed: “Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties. female gendered roles are espoused as the responsibility of the NCO. I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment. and the expectations of the Army NCO. they will not have to accomplish mine. like the Soldier’s Creed mentioned earlier.” In this section.accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers” (italics mine). In addition. again. whose 376 . I will communicate consistently with my soldiers and never leave them uninformed. the NCO takes on the role of both primary disciplinarian and giver of rewards. First. while at the same time that maternal uncle is still. Finally. typically reserved for the mother in the standard American household. be it housewife or mother. and again echoes the expectations of the stereotypical housewife in modern America. highlights the important responsibilities and identity of the NCO. an authority figure and a figure of respect. from the second paragraph of the creed: “My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind -. The social dynamics between junior enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) mimic that between the nephew and maternal uncle.a man to his mother are then extended to his maternal uncle as well. The NCO Creed. Here we can see that nurturing and the well-being of junior enlisted are the express responsibility of the NCO in the US Army. The Creed continues in this vein: “I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own.

36) Thus.” (Schneider.” (Schneider. officers represent the masculine. as the administrators of the unit. and other executive activities of the unit. In addition. his activities as Bravo Company’s commander were “to plan training. p. paternal element of the military. First. officers are responsible for the scheduling. Captain Hunter saw his job as similar to the head of household. planning and overseeing activities. 1968. not just someone with male genitalia and a stipulated number of years on earth. During Basic Training the performance of the officers mimics the role of the father in the American family. because I’m not so intimately involved with the privates I can stay objective in case of altercations. Inherent in that thought is the implication that he is then the final arbiter in those disputes.” Thus. 86) This authority is vested in many of the metaphors used to discuss the “father” in American parlance.responsibilities are frequently seen as nurturing and supportive not only of her children but of her husband. Also. Schneider states that “to speak of ‘the man of the house’ or ‘the man of the family’ or ‘who wears the pants’ is to speak of one who is naturally best able to take authority and responsibility for the family. he saw himself as “objective” in disputes between drill sergeants and privates. again reflecting the idea that as officer he plays the role of head of household. it is the performance of the father role that creates the father figure. David Schneider’s discussion of the American family poses the idea that “’father’ has formality and authority respect implications which ‘mother’ does not share. p. financing. Continuing the analogy. According to Captain Hunter. 1968. make certain that standards are met. 377 .

The Article 15 is an administrative punishment in the Army in which an officer can punish the soldiers in his command with detention. as it is the Article 15 which can lead to the court martial. either a more senior NCO or an officer. demotion. During Bravo Company’s cycle. Although both “on the spot” punishment meted out by NCOs and administrative punishment are authoritative. Section 815. In the practice of being a soldier. and which is the only “official” punishment that a soldier can receive. there is nothing he can do should the soldier decline except remand the discipline to a higher authority. there is a slight distortion of the “traditional” roles in regular Army life. In both of these cases. However. it is the officer who is the final authority on punishment. the image of authority is vested more heavily in the administrative punishment. the officer is also the person responsible for resolving problems within his commanded unit. the soldier is rigidly under the authority of the military. Although NCOs are responsible for the day to day discipline of troops. rather than being 378 . or loss of pay (UCMJ. To some. while push-ups or other physical punishments are seen as unofficial. and should “on the spot corrections” of NCOs not serve to properly discipline a soldier.In arbitrating these disputes. an Article 15 punishment must be accepted or the soldier can choose to go to a court-martial for his offense. this preliminary experience at Basic Training was so distorted that they “still don’t know how to interact with a sergeant.” or potentially court-martial. As with many other things at Basic. Article 15). should a NCO order an enlisted soldier to do push-ups.” This is because the drill sergeants at Basic were not playing the maternal role of NCO. the officer is the authority figure who deals out the ‘heavy’ punishment: the “Article 15. but were instead predominantly playing the father role.

Although there was a valid institutional reason for this (on the day before that order fortyseven privates from Bravo Company had reported to sick call). the company commander was almost always in the field with the company during training.“father” figures. Captain Hunter also ordered drill sergeants to allow privates eight hours of sleep for two days straight. as Drill Sergeant Briggs expressed: “he was too much in our faces. the two officers played significant feminine. The drill sergeants for privates usually play both the harder “father” role as well as the “softer” mother role to young privates. I think he was a nice guy. and Captain Hunter’s signature “hot chow!” was almost always greeted with smiles by privates in the company. after which I heard the First Sergeant complain to the Captain that he was undermining the drill sergeants’ authority. to which the Captain responded: “I just don’t see the point of smoking them on the hottest day of the year out in the sun. This approach was not appreciated by the drill sergeants.” or “worried” about the privates in the company.” On a number of other occasions. as the dyad between drill sergeants and privates is the predominant one. These roles are usually specifically assigned by the drill sergeants before 379 . In addition. the Captain would also order them to overlook infractions or to mete out punishments less severe than the drill sergeants would have liked. these interactions between officers and privates are limited. on one occasion stopping the drill sergeants from smoking the company. There was limited interaction between officers and privates during Basic. However. and usually only when a private needed to see a chaplain. An officer should trust the NCOs. Captain Hunter would look after the general welfare of the privates. not be all up in their business. but maybe too nice. it was perceived by many privates as evidence that Captain Hunter “cared.” Of course. emotionally supportive roles.

“I like it better. were. in contrast to Drill Sergeant Saburi’s role as the “mother. in fact. where he was the senior drill sergeant for a new platoon. Right?” He followed up with. we. Both drill sergeants were seen by the members of 3rd platoon as “father” figures. Drill Sergeant Briggs had been moved away from Bravo Company altogether and assigned to a new company. however. When asked how much of his performance as a drill sergeant was “real” and how much was “acting” Drill Sergeant Saburi responded: “Some of us. either as a civilian interviewing a soldier. you know.” This dynamic apparently worked quite well as six months after Bravo Company’s training cycle. 113 From the perspective of a private within 3rd platoon. When interviewed. they’ll move us around. Drill Sergeant Redmond. they were still the drill sergeants in charge of 3rd platoon. I work well with him. we have to put up a face for you guys. we see the segmentary lineage imagery.” Thus. We had some differences about what your platoon should have been doing. or as a soldier interviewing a drill sergeant. many privates 113 Again. Drill Sergeant Saburi’s natural temperament lent itself to being counterpoint Drill Sergeant Redmond’s “toughness. he explained.” When asked what those differences. In contrast. until they think it works right. I was still seen as outside their sub-unit. Even though I had gone through Basic Training with these drill sergeants.” During the training cycle. Drill Sergeant Briggs avoided the question and moved the discussion to the topic of other privates from Bravo Company. I get to run the platoon my way. or the commander and first sergeant assign drill sergeants in particular groupings in order to facilitate the development of these roles. because I’m nicer. it is hardly surprising that Drill Sergeant Briggs and Drill Sergeant Redmond were not a good fit. 380 .each cycle. “The First Sergeant and the Commander. he does good when he can be tough.

like.” They are figures of authority.” especially as a direct contrast to those times when he would refer to the privates as “men. is ‘based on’ the fact that he is male. as with Schneider’s analysis of American kinship. Drill Sergeants act in the specific role of fathers to young men. the juvenile phrases occurred predominantly during those times when Drill 381 . don’t worry about it. as Drill Sergeant Saburi did for 3rd platoon. The view of Drill Sergeants as fathers is more than loose metaphor. This role is frequently seen not only through the punishments and discipline that drill sergeants impose on new privates but also in their interactions. it was like story time kinda thing. and specifically Drill Sergeant Redmond being away. and this authority.” (Schneider. that he is older. p. 36) Although there is usually a drill sergeant perceived to play the “maternal” role. We were all sitting in a horseshoe around him. just basically being the mentor at that time. I think he was sitting on one of the racks and he was just talking about. like. 1968. Drill Sergeant Briggs’s ability to be a “mentor” properly was dependent on the other drill sergeants in the platoon not being around. however. he has the right to set the proper course of action for the members of his family and expect compliance with it. so he was able to do it his way. that his experience is wider. Drill Sergeant Briggs would frequently refer to privates in 3rd platoon as “his boys. Because he could. Thus. that by virtue of his size and his sex.picked up on the friction between Drill Sergeant Redmond and Drill Sergeant Briggs. so yeah this is happening in Iraq. we’re invading Iraq whatever. this maternal role is more like the maternal uncle in Radcliffe-Brown’s schema than a true maternal figure. In many ways. the other drills weren’t around. pointing out that when Drill Sergeant Briggs would take us upstairs in the bay and he was. in the true sense of Schneider’s “order-of-law.” During the training cycle.

like they were parents. Drill Sergeant Briggs would also explicitly refer to himself as a parental figure. Ricardo explains that over the course of Basic Training. despite his specific order: “You want to be treated like adults. Privates at Basic Training also see the Drill Sergeants as father or mother figures. I don’t know how to word this.” On the other hand. sometimes. Many times. as after Drill Sergeant Briggs ordered 3rd platoon up to the barracks and had us “toe the line” around the killzone. or in response to a specific action of a problem child. such as when discussing Evans: “I think of you guys as my kids. either during or after Basic Training. I guess? They were trying to look after us and teach us shit. this perception is explicit in the eyes of privates. I 382 . The black-balling ritual again shows this element of Basic Training. and you’d better do it when we tell you. his feelings about the drill sergeants shifted from dislike to a feeling of being protected: “While we might look at it as them just trying to get rid of it. he called out the four problem children by name.Sergeant Briggs was punishing the platoon. That’s what I thought. and then referred to the remainder of the platoon: “men. especially when he’s crying.” It is not only the drill sergeants who see themselves in these parental roles. and I remember feeling really glad when he came back. such as when 1st Squad failed to wear helmets while loading a truck for a day a the range. It was almost sort of like a parental. Drill Sergeant Briggs would often use the term “men” when praising or rewarding the platoon. you better start acting like it. you could look at it as them trying to defend us from having to do this stuff.” Private Fletcher echoes those comments: “you know Drill Sergeant Redmond went away. do you know what black-balling is?” At times. There’s a reason we tell you to do things. But it’s hard to be a father to someone who’s older than you.

the privates themselves often specifically see these parental roles in the drill sergeants.” Shared Space as Kinship Bond There is one further element of fictive kinship which needs to be addresses to show how and why Basic Training privates construct these fictive kin groups. and children to feel appropriate (Schneider. they had their thing. in which there must be a mother. you didn’t see him very often. he was like the dad. 1968). Drill Sergeant Saburi was like the mom. I think he cares the most. Fletcher felt that there had been something missing from his experience at Basic. Considering Ebaugh and Curry’s analysis of the compadrazgo in immigrant communities.” Private Munson used the same explanation: “All the drill sergeants. Drill Sergeant Saburi would frequently play the mother role.kinda missed sort of having the hard ass around. but of all the drill sergeants. For 3rd platoon. 383 . and throw a fit about the little things. Both inner city gangs and privates in Basic Training construct fictive kinship out of shared space. you know? He can be mean sometimes. As seen above. 1927). Drill Sergeant Redmond. Without Drill Sergeant Redmond. During one discussion at Basic Training Private Bennett stated. There is almost always a counterpart to the father figure among the drill sergeants as well. as he himself identified above. the authoritarian father figure. “I like Drill Sergeant Saburi. father. Fictive kinship among gang members was thought to be based on transplanted ethnic groups reacting against the heterogeneous nature of American city life (Thrasher. he was the one you could talk to.” Fletcher expresses the desire for a “complete” family. and he was real hardcore. as discussed by Schneider. and then we got smoked when he came back. He’s like your mom.

.” or “this was at Jackson. et al. time is not seen in a calendrical manner. specifics of officers and drill sergeants typically follow as well. Moore. there is inevitably a discussion of the specifics of that training.” or “when I was in Germany” instead of when events occurred (Hawkins. and thus to fictive kinship. also holds true within the military. but to associate with the fictive segmentary kin group of Army life. as gang violence has shifted in the last eighty years from inter-ethnic to intra-ethnic (Moore. “when I was stationed at Fort Hood. and even posit an idea of “fictive residence” in which a gang member’s “home” is frequently different from the place where his family resides (191).” frequently precurse a Basic Training story. However. 1983). “what unit were you in?” and should increased similarity be discovered. . asked “were you on Sand Hill or. For most soldiers. what was that other one . As seen above. Vigil. “Basic Training” stories almost always begin with an identification of which base the soldier trained at: “when I was at Benning. should a soldier in the audience have trained at the same base. 2001). Soldier’s memories are based on where they were. upon learning that I had just returned from Basic Training at the same location as he had been to. My cousin. he nodded and began to share stories about his own 384 . Kelly Hill?” When I informed him that Kelly Hill is no longer used for Basic Training.this is likely to have occurred. however the date of Thrasher’s study suggests that the dynamics of gang life in contemporary America have likely shifted. The significance of residence to gang membership. discuss the creations of gangs based on territoriality as well as kinship and fictive kinship ties. & Garcia. but rather is based on the physical location of the soldier. Residence for a soldier serves not only to create an imagined community as Benedict Anderson perceives it. another common point of relation is the locales in which training occurred.

literally and figuratively. I think one of our guys got lost on a run and ended up near your barracks. it’s supposed to challenge you. Geographic similarities are frequently used thus to reinforce the segmentary bonds of Basic Training location. Private Deangelo. Brigman: Oh. make you think you accomplished something. Brigman: You guys still do the Stairway to Heaven? That fucking thing kicked my ass. You probably had something similar at Jackson. At the end of the Field 385 . of the “Cold Steel” Field Training Exercise. Deangelo: What’s the Stairway to Heaven? Matthews: On the way back from FTX – Brigman: This big-ass hill about mile four. asks about the geographic location the two other soldiers share stories about. The “Stairway to Heaven” is one of the fundamental geographic locations for creating this identity of “Benning-hood. Matthews: [smiling] Yeah. in the middle of nowhere. right? Matthews: Yeah. By the Eagle Tower. Brigman is establishing a relationship between all three soldiers. a third soldier. The Stairway to Heaven is a large hill that is approximately a half mile long and a vertical rise of maybe three hundred feet. The interaction between Brigman and Matthews from above continued in the following vein: Brigman: Was that down near the Med Center. specifically the difficulties of digging in the sand during FTX and on the bivouac site. that’s the one.” as it is not only a distinct location which every Benning private must walk up.experiences. Here. but still distinguishing his and Matthews’s experiences as different from anyone who had not been to Fort Benning. By suggesting that Fort Jackson had a “similar” hill. who had not been to Benning but to a different Basic Training location. but the summit. or the one over by the Rec Center? Matthews: We were down the hill.

“kicked my ass. Private McDonald remembers the Stairway to Heaven experience as one in which the hill was “attacked” and also as an example of how his platoon was “better” than the others in the company: Even after the aborted Field Exercise at the end of basic. and among soldiers later in their military careers. This living space is significantly more cramped than what almost any American is used to.” “sucked ass. down to fifty-six after the first week. all privates at Fort Benning march back from the FTX location and must march up the Stairway to Heaven. you know we wanted to be the ones leading the ruck marches because we were outpacing everybody else. the Stairway of Heaven.” or “was a monster. In the words of many privates. as with Carsten’s analysis of the Langkawi.Training Exercise. and graduating fifty-five. you couldn’t stop us. when we attacked the stairway to heaven. In the case of 3rd platoon. and the openness of barracks life is part of the culture shock of Basic. 386 . Most Basic Training platoons consist of forty to sixty privates who share this living space. we were the ones that weren’t bitching and moaning about it and slowing way down when we hit the stairway to heaven and got to the top. The shared space of the Basic Training barracks also serves to create bonds among privates which go beyond a standard social relationship and extend into the realm of fictive kinship. The barracks at Fort Benning are no more than fifty feet by one hundred feet. these statements reflected a feeling of accomplishment. Thus. We wanted to be the ones getting up that hill first. there were fifty-seven privates at the beginning of the cycle. the sharing of this geographic memory creates a sense of kinship among privates at Basic Training.” but at the same time. you just couldn’t. that the hill had been beaten. You know.

I would regularly wake fifteen to twenty minutes before the rest of the platoon just to have privacy in the mornings before everyone else woke up. Sleep for about forty-five minutes. telling privates. man. there are four urinals. it’s nice and cool. eight showers and 387 . especially early in the morning or late at night. I want to see everybody working. Private Bennett even referred to his locker as “Narnia. And don’t climb in a locker and go to sleep. many privates would hide in the stalls in the latrine. trust me!” Like the locker. this “privacy” in the latrine was very limited. For fifty-six privates. you don’t think we pulled that trick when we were going through? We’ll catch you. In fact.In the barracks. although Army regulations require that no private ever be alone. With the exception of the latrine stalls.” This was one of the many occasions when privates thought they were putting one over on the drill sergeants when in fact the drill sergeants knew about this practice. Of course. Fireguard duty and other details would provide the illusion of privacy.” and would make jokes about “going to Narnia for a little bit. each soldier is assigned a bed and a locker. the locker is the only place where a private can achieve any sort of privacy. I’ll climb in the locker.” This practice was common enough that all the privates would make frequent jokes about “curling up in the locker” or on one occasion. Drill Sergeant Briggs confronted the platoon with it on one occasion. even on details. “I want this bay cleaned by tomorrow morning. dark. but their significance to the creation of shared space is also important to note. How these objects are used to create the military identity has been discussed. and you’ll regret it. six bathroom stalls. Private Bettis told me on one occasion: “Sunday afternoons.

as with the shared geography of a Basic Training location. announcing: “Uh-uh. Drill Sergeant West came in to the barracks and saw them and tore the blankets down.” When Huntley and Jason protested that the light kept them up at night. Drill Sergeant West responded with: “Deal with it. shared space and locations. privacy was unattainable during Basic Training. through induction into a fictive kinship group. Thus. Combining Carsten’s examination of the Langkawi with the synthesis of Gellner and Scheffler’s ideas of kinship. During Reception. and that kinship is best defined by the members of a group. with very few exceptions. as the shower rooms are simply large rooms with showerheads placed every three or four feet. For about three days in the middle of the training cycle. this privacy is even more restricted. creates social bonds that the participants themselves tend to think of as kinship bonds. we can see how the environment of Basic Training. and its liminal framework which helps to create conditions ripe for the building of fictive kinship. I’d better not see those blankets up again. and there are as many as seventy two people living in a trailer seventy feet by seventy feet.” Again. Even a bunk or a locker was always subject to intrusion by another private or drill sergeant. No one gets to have your little spank shack.eight sinks. After the third night. the cramped living conditions over nine weeks will create a stronger social bond than should the privates live in separate rooms. The showers are separated only by a three foot deep concrete wall without a curtain. Realizing that all kinship is in some way metaphorical. Privates Huntley and Jason strung their blankets up around their bunk in order to gain some privacy and to shut out the light from the barracks entrance which was always lit. it is clear that the fictive kinship bonds 388 .

space. these fictive kinship relationships must be constantly maintained by soldiers. reinforced by interaction and the sharing of food. mothers. and communication.developed by soldiers have the potential to be just as enduring and diffuse a solidarity as any consanguineal relationship. there was a soldier who I traveled through Basic. Similarly. Soldiers perform this kinship as much as they perform other elements of the soldier identity. acting out the roles of brothers. but the nine weeks of intensive interaction certainly laid the groundwork for them. and a deployment with who I consider as close as a brother. and fathers for one another over the course of their careers. 389 . As I pointed out. This relationship began to develop at Basic Training. This fictive kinship is constructed by soldiers over the course of their lives in the military. AIT. beginning at Basic Training. This is only one of a number of relationships developed over this period which can be easily classified as kinship under Schneider’s definition. as with consanguineal relationships. and was strengthened over the course of that training plus the AIT training. It was not Basic Training alone which allowed for the development of these relationships.

the possibility of a deployment is one which permeates the Basic Training environment. the possibility of deployment to combat was heavily stressed throughout the training cycle. where they learn their particular military job. and this experience affected not only my perception as a citizen. However.” even when the threat of attack was high. to perform those jobs. and influence the perceptions of soldiers and soon-to-be soldiers. the training cannot be complete until it is put into practice (Basinger & Arnold. either Reserve or Active Duty. Basic Training is not a step into the identity of soldier. Most soldiers desire deployments in order to practice the skills they have learned. the ultimate purpose of any soldier is to participate in war. I deployed to Iraq twice. political rhetoric and discussions regarding support for the “troops” are also pervasive. but rather a step towards it. Although this account will not go into ethnographic depth regarding the experiences of deployed soldiers. After Basic Training. As with the mythic presentation of military training in films. Although the effect of multiple and extended deployments has not 390 . but also as a researcher into the Army experience. a fellow group of soldiers in a non-combat job deliberately joined a combat patrol simply to have the opportunity to fight. On one occasion. before the invasion of Iraq. and to “properly” perform as soldiers. 1986). and then to their units. Even in 2002. Outside of this environment. One of the most common complaints among support soldiers deployed to Iraq was the inability to go “outside the wire.Chapter 8: The Contemporary Soldier in the Field As I have shown in the previous chapters. After my completion of Basic Training. soldiers continue into Advanced Individual Training.

The Psychology of Warfare (2002). In this chapter I will examine the external views of sacrifice and soldiers. It is not only that a deployment seems to improve the view of soldiers after their experiences. However. Hosek and Totten’s results indicate that soldiers’ experiences during a deployment. In addition. 391 . are generally considered positive by the soldiers themselves. 2004). one in five soldiers stationed in Europe requested a transfer to Vietnam (Ebert. but that soldiers themselves frequently want to deploy to a combat area. as I shall show below. both combat and non-combat. 1993). the number of soldiers who joined the Army knowing the probability of deployment increases. the value of a soldier is based in large part on his proximity to combat. R. Members of today’s All-Volunteer Army are a self-selected group who joined the Army in order to serve as soldiers. However. This held true to some extent even in the Vietnam era. As we shall see. There are a number of authors I draw from extensively in this chapter. first Lawrence Leshan and his work on the stages of warfare on the home front. as more enlistment contracts for soldiers who joined before the Iraq War expire. it has been shown that deployments can actually increase the likelihood of soldiers’ reenlistment (Hosek & Totten.been fully researched. Claire Snyder’s Citizen-Soldiers and Manly Warriors (1999) and Carolyn Marvin and David Ingle’s work Blood Sacrifice and the Nation (1999) will also be used extensively. much of the description of the wars in Iraq and 114 This does not hold true for every soldier. and even many support soldiers appear to relish the idea of a deployment 114 . and even in 1966-67. In addition. we must remember to view the experiences of soldiers on their own terms. The positive interpretation of these experiences likely arises as soldiers see the experience of combat as integral to their own identity. when a number of soldiers already enlisted in the Army volunteered to transfer to units which were deploying to Vietnam in the beginning of the war.

discharged within three days. there is a recurring trend of pushing problems “downrange” to be dealt with by a 115 The soldiers who actually create a contract for a new recruit. 2007). This list is hardly exhaustive. many recruits will make it through the enlistment process with deficiencies that are anywhere from easily hidden to blatantly obvious. and other obvious physical ailments (Leahy. Private Nicholas from 3rd platoon likely had early onset Parkinson’s. 392 . and John Crawford’s Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell (2005). Those privates who do graduate from Basic Training will move on to their units and likely deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. Combat Proximity as Social Status Recruiters and career counselors 115 are pressured by their commanders to reach certain recruitment goals. such as Andrew Exum’s This Man’s Army (2004). but from the works of other deployed soldiers and marines. As a result. but had managed to get through the process. had a broken wrist as well as anaphylactic allergies to bee stings. Some of the extreme problem children could also be easily identified. hermaphroditism. 2002. but they are among the most accessible and relevant to this discussion. such as 3rd platoon’s Private Jackson.Afghanistan in this chapter come not only from my own experiences as a deployed soldier. The frustration this creates in other privates during Basic Training has already been discussed in Chapter Four. Buzz Williams’ Spare Parts (2004). but the effects of the problem child continue to plague the Army as those soldiers move on. as there have been dozens of books written in the last few years describing the experiences of soldiers in Iraq. and another private. As mentioned before. dwarfism. whose ASVAB score was well below the 30th percentile cutoff for Army recruitment. Recruits have arrived at Boot Camp and Basic Training with glass eyes. Mockenhaupt.

and simply pushed to the next stage of training rather than being dealt with. a senior officer relates the following story: You get these officers who come out with their ‘credentials’ and then claim that they were underappreciated by the military. 116 As punishment. one of the problem children from my training platoon actually ended up in the same unit I deployed with in 2004. and was likely used by the leadership as an excuse to implement the punishments described. Private Darren was removed from the tactical team and assigned to the headquarters unit. of making decisions based on who they 116 The hearsay in the unit was that he had accidentally fired his pistol between the legs of an officer sitting in the seat behind him. and finally discharged from the Army upon return to the United States. he was not removed from the Army. leadership and physical ability. being assigned to a headquarters unit may not appear to be a punishment for a soldier. such as character. and is frequently misunderstood by outsiders attempting to make sense of what appears to be an arcane system. his responsibilities as a soldier were more restricted until by the end of the deployment he was relegated to custodial tasks around the headquarters building. until his behavior prompted punishment. 393 . But you have to be inside the military to understand it. the military approach to punishment is based predominantly on cultural capital. and they have ways to. Viewed from the outside. They wave these OERs 117 around with all pluses. and raise hell that they shouldn’t have been let go. As mentioned in Chapter Five. While deployed. originally as a member of an analytical team. Over the remainder of the deployment and with his behavior directly observed by the company commander and First Sergeant. In my case. Non-commissioned officers use a similar system labeled the NCOER. 117 Officer Evaluation Report. Although Private Darren was recognized as a problem at both Basic and AIT. these officers. which directly supported combat units on patrols. The. Officers are evaluated and promoted based on the rankings in a number of categories by their senior officers. However. For example.different unit or commander. an Accidental Discharge is one of the more serious offenses in the Army. he was originally put on a tactical team. they know who’s good and who’s a bullshit artist. the seniors.

he was actually rewarded. and the Navy could keep a damn fine officer. The Royal Navy sent a passed over Lieutenant Commander to scuttle the ship. so they court-martial and convict him. admission into these schools are based either on getting assigned to one of these units. This is not always a positive interaction. But the punishment put him back into the Promotion Zone. remains sound. but with true Flashman brilliance. however. but the significance of the story. and limped his command into the Naval Base. and had the good sense to request retirement as soon as his advancement to the rank of commander was official. He was selected this time. As Airborne and Air Assault units are viewed as elite units by the Army establishment. So even though they punished the guy. everybody got what they wanted. then. and for punishment drop him to the bottom of the promotion list. Although technically following the letter of the law.118 This approach to punishment shows again the ways in which servicemembers can negotiate the rules under which the military institution is run. that members of the military learn to negotiate their bureaucracy. was successful despite horrendous odds. assignment to these units is frequently based on 118 The historical veracity of this story is in doubt. For the enlisted soldier. Prestigious schools in the Army. an officer who disobeyed an order was punished. and Air Assault units are provided with Air Assault School slots. or possibly attending the schools when one of the few openings to the remainder of the Army is available.know is a good officer. Let me tell you a story. within the context of the military. however. But he disobeyed an order. In 1949. and you can’t just do that. Thus. and many times soldiers and officers are punished through assignments and deployments. 394 . the Amethyst was a British ship running up the Yangtze river when it was attacked by the PLA and ran aground. such as Airborne and Air Assault are frequently filled with those soldiers who are required to take the courses because of their duty assignments. he inspired his crew to make the perilous dash down the river. soldiers assigned to Airborne units are provided with Airborne School slots.

however. 119 Attending a school after assignment to a unit is an even more difficult proposition as most slots are reserved for soldiers in the assigned units. In addition. a repetition of acts which a “man” needs to perform repeatedly to be accepted as “man. males in any group will be of less reproductive value than females (one male may service a number of females). This punishment is a result of institutional friction and failure in management. This does not mean that female work is not dangerous. As we saw previously. School selection outside of this assignment is just as. if not more difficult. and men must be pressured into performing these dangerous acts. 395 . for Guard and Reserve soldiers. However. most of the dangerous work performed by males is voluntary. For instance.” based on the capacities of soldiers to perform their “soldier tasks. masculinity is inherently performative.performance on the ASVAB and during Basic Training. 120 I use the word punished in quotation marks because frequently the punishment is based on the perception of the soldier. However.” One reason the constant performance of masculinity is necessary is because of the inherently dangerous nature of “male work” in most societies. this process is a bit easier. a point which Gilmore discusses at length: 119 For Reservists and National Guardsmen. Thus a soldier can easily be “punished” simply by preventing him from attending a school he wishes to attend. and the failure of my leadership to do was felt by me as a punishment from the system itself.” predominantly those focused on combat readiness such as Physical Fitness Test scores and medals awarded. when openings do become available. every officer and NCO knows that these written rules can be overridden in practice. I was denied a school I wished to attend simply because the rules as written prevented my unit from sending a soldier to it. most units base their recommendations for attendance on a “merit list. as assignment to a unit is guaranteed before Basic Training. and not necessarily the unit. Thus. because of our particular biology. not necessarily a direct attempt by the leadership to censure a soldier for unapproved behavior. However. 120 This punishment comes from restricting the soldier in his ability to display his masculinity to a wider audience. a prospective soldier simply has to have his recruiter get him assigned to the unit. as any study of childbirth will quickly attest to. in order to be assigned to an Airborne Guard or Reserve unit.

on penalty of being robbed of their identity” (221).’ It must show a public demonstration of positive choice. . they line us up outside the barracks. We’re going to instill in you the Airborne Spirit! And that’s gone take three weeks and a lot of running. the decision for manhood must be characterized by enthusiasm combined with stoic resolve or perhaps ‘grace. despite its lack of practical applications. My platoon sergeant described his first experience at Airborne School just after his graduation from AIT: We get to Airborne School. we got you for three weeks.’ Then we do a left face and head off on a six mile run on the first day. soldiers must also be “prodded into action” by the social environment of other soldiers and the institutional rules laid down from above (Marshall. if at all. During Basic Training. but must be earned through a series of steps.” Airborne School grants an additional level of elitism which can enhance their symbolic capital as soldiers. . I hated that place. 224) Men must thus be “prodded into action . But we’re not gonna teach you just that. The jumpmaster comes out that first day and says: ‘Listen up. 121 Defense Language Institute 396 . for it represents a moral commitment to defend the society and its core values against all odds. p.” (Gilmore.“to be men. they must accept the fact that they are expendable. Why three weeks? We can teach you how to jump out of an airplane in three days. The identity of soldier is not one granted to any graduate of Basic Training. and even in combat. a few career choices require privates to attend DLI 121 or Airborne School after graduating from AIT. of jubilation even in pain. as the Army considered soldiers recently out of AIT as still not properly “soldierized. waiting to get smoked since we’re in our PT gear at six o’clock. To be socially meaningful. 2000). 1990. most of all. For example. We’re all standing there wondering what’s going on. Our platoon at AIT was informed that if we attended DLI too soon after our graduation we would likely be placed into a training company under the supervision of drill sergeants. This acceptance of expendability constitutes the basis of the manly pose everywhere it is encountered: yet simple acquiescence will not do.

just the five in training.” And I feel it coming. so. However. there is always another step on the path to the complete soldier identity. yeah. you have one. So you make your first non-airborne school jump. it doesn’t matter what patch you wear 122 . as has been pointed out by senior NCOs who are themselves airborne qualified. He says. and then the one over Normandy. So he says. I’ve got my 36 jumps. you wear it. He’s like. I go to church one day in my uniform. and then you’re a five-jump cherry. the proximity to combat also serves to enhance the status of the soldier. and then you’re a one-jump chump. I only did six jumps when I was in. I have to ask him. A company first sergeant relayed the following anecdote: Look. There’s always something. is about both learning skills and creating identity. yeah. “yeah. 397 . In addition. 1965).” 122 The First Sergeant was referring to the wear of a “combat patch” on the right shoulder identifying which unit a soldier served with on a combat footing. “You’re airborne?” I smile [he reaches a hand up to his master parachutist badge and feigns polishing it].Airborne School. as with so many things in the Army. and this old guy sees me. you get out of airborne school. Instead. Jumpmaster school. it is simply one more of a ladder of achievements in the life of a soldier: “Well. Many cadences discuss the achievement of “jump wings” as a symbol of elite status (Carey. the receipt of airborne wings does not grant any particular status to a soldier. “you in the Army?” I nod. You get past that. he comes up to talk to me after the service. I went through Basic. like Basic Training. and airborne school.” “How many jumps have you done?” “36” “Wow. and then you have to get your jumpmaster wings. I went into the Army when I was 18. “yeah. then get your Master parachutist. then.” Thus. I was Psyop from the beginning. you know. Airborne qualification also highlights the difficulty of assigning a single definition of the identity of soldier.

” Soldier identity. No amount of non-combat airborne jumps can compare to a single combat jump. feigning embarrassment] “Squeak. Private Brown was not assigned to a Tactical Company. Private Brown was one of the top performers on the APFT in our platoon. after his assignment to this unit “he was 398 . During Basic Training he made his intention to be a “true” soldier known. which is frequently sought after by contemporary soldiers. and being assigned to units which will deploy.” After graduating from AIT.” he was instead assigned to a Strategic Company. when asked why he had chosen Psychological Operations as a specialty. he was assigned that position for the duration of AIT. You know Psyop has been deployed more in the last ten years than any other MOS? That’s what I want to do. According to a mutual friend. typically while remaining in the United States. and although he was only placed in the Platoon Guide position once during Basic Training.[his hand falls from his badge and his head drops down to look at the floor. although it does serve as a reference point for almost every soldier in the Army. indicated in the first sergeant’s statement. just as no amount of training can compare with the actual experience of combat. carries a level of status. which would have provided him with the opportunity to “get in it. This was the case with another of the privates I attended Basic Training and AIT with. This ideal. Training in elite schools. he stated: “I wanted to get out and do it. which focuses on analysis and the development of Psyop products such as leaflets and radio broadcasts. is based on the proximity to combat. Instead it is simply one phase of a constant series of progressions to an ideal type of soldier. then is not created in Basic Training exclusively. get in it.

As we can see. a surrender of the individual to the needs of the group. the command was not only punishing him with labor (a typical Army punishment) but also reducing his cultural capital. Heinlein 123 This synopsis is necessarily brief. a large part of military cultural capital is based on the proximity to combat which any particular soldier has. By removing him from the tactical team. Historically. 123 Throughout the book. As we saw in Chapter Five. Thus.” Private Brown felt that his skills had been unappreciated by his command and thus transferred out of his unit as quickly as he could into one which he felt was better suited to his desires. as the plot of the book is less important than the themes of citizenship and soldier identity that it discusses. which depicts the career of a young soldier. originally published in 1959. being a soldier is again not a monolithic identity. who joins the Army after high school in an act of teenage rebellion.like: Hell! So he went through Selection [Special Forces training] as soon as humanly possible. Johnny Rico. this surrender of the individual to the group is one element of a cross-cultural definition of masculinity (Gilmore. and demeaned his status as a soldier. Deployment overseas also forms a dominant element of the soldier identity because of its connection with the strongest theme of soldier life: sacrifice. It is also a theme of Robert Heinlein’s book Starship Troopers. As David Gilmore stresses. and then relegating him to duties which in Iraq are typically handled by private contractors. the soldier is seen as a person who has been willing to give up his life for his country. then. and eventually finds a career as an officer in the military. his punishment was deliberate and direct. 1990). but one which is constantly in flux over the course of a soldier’s career. 399 . Returning to Private Darren. the punishment in this case continually moved Private Darren farther and farther away from that proximity.

we go through basic training. as well as the motif of sacrifice. 400 . As a soldier. and the freedom to just be a person and you get that all stripped away from you. and I don’t mean the movie. A soldier is somebody who voluntarily gives up some of those rights to defend them. a country and government that plainly as an individual does not value him? Just because he had nothing better to do. do you want the Robert Heinlein ideal. you know. I mean the book. because I agree completely with the Starship Trooper approach. And by rights I mean the rights of the constitution.” To Ricardo then. and even juvenile delinquency into the descriptions of combat by “power-armored” infantry equipped with tactical nuclear weapons. but as soon as you start getting a little bit of those freedoms back. the question of what a soldier is is wrapped up in a deployment overseas. you treasure them so much more. we were stripped of freedom of speech. and it sucked at the time. a civilian is a person who accepts their rights and lives by them. we’re stripped of music. you know? I don’t know. Ricardo went on to place this wisdom in the context of a deployment: “So when you go to these foreign countries. or do you want the poor kid that doesn’t have anything better to do with his life or circumstances. I suppose. civic virtue. Argent’s ambivalence with regard to the definition of a soldier is countered with Private Ricardo’s certainty when asked the same question: I’m gonna have to reference this one. we’re basically stripped of freedom of religion with the exception of Sundays. Umm. and damn that fucking sucks. or they don’t have music. that the best thing that he can do is go put his life on the line for. or your legal rights.intersperses long exchanges between characters which explore the importance of military service and citizenship. Private Argent responded with a reference to Heinlein’s philosophy: What is a soldier? Yeah. or your right to live. They don’t have electricity. When asked what being a soldier meant to him. and you now know what its like to live without those things. or the masses. you can kind of comprehend what these people are going through.

” (Snyder. when Bush was mentioned at the graduation breakfast held for the privates who had completed the FTX. there was a small amount of grumbling from the drill sergeants. R. and by the end of the cycle. however. many Republicans focused on Clinton’s lack of military service to denigrate his citizenship as well as his ability to be a proper Commander-in-Chief for the Armed Forces. Claire Snyder points out that many minority groups such as blacks. 401 . privates were more civilian than soldier. Once that training was complete. however. there was an almost religious nature to the way in which soldiers who had served under Clinton talked about Bush.” Although some might argue this specific point. this guy. such as when Drill Sergeant Briggs discussed the possibility of war in Iraq: “Don’t you worry. privates were included within the group of soldiers and internal dissension could be voiced. men. and thus any person who “wore a uniform” was different or better than the privates who had just started training. 1995. and even homosexuals “view military service as central to their acceptance as full citizens. This dynamic changed over the course of the training cycle. he wore a uniform and that means something. drill sergeants compared Clinton and Bush. Even as far into Bush’s administration as 2002. women. It is very likely that this shift was representative of the different levels of respect which privates had obtained by the end of their training – in the beginning of the training cycle. He’ll look after the troops. 143) During the Clinton administration.Citizenship and Service The idea that military service improves the individual citizen is borne out in our own narrative of service and citizenship. We don’t got slick Willie in the White House anymore. p.

1966. “without armies or willing sacrifices of their own. especially as those ideologies serve to create and maintain a community. Acquiring a reputation for military valor is one of the oldest known routes to social equality – from the Catholic Irish in the Mexican War to the Japanese-American Purple Heart Division of Word War II. first your Country. 1999.” (Marvin & Ingle. then your rights. p. these communities cannot generate the religious intensity that causes groups to cohere.E. Daniel Patrick Moynihan stated that “history may record that the single most important psychological event in race relations in the nineteen-sixties was the appearance of the Negro fighting men on the TV screens of the nation. but is instead a metaphor the authors use to describe the fervor with which ideologies can take hold. In fact. 313) Here. although there are a large number of new communities emerging in the virtually connected world. At least three thousand Negro soldiers and sailors fought in the War of 1812. For example. Five thousand Negroes fought in the Revolution. This idea returns us to a discussion of the citizenship earned by soldiers. With regard to Black soldiers serving after World War II.The threat of death not only brings a group together.” (Moynihan. religious is not intended to be limited to only forms of organized religion. p. . Marvin and Ingle argue that the totem sacrifice which groups make through military service ties them to the larger community. although he points out that gains made by Blacks in those wars were not as great as many would believe. the 402 . the result was the emancipation of slaves in the North and the abolition of the African slave trade. . Dubois: The Crisis says.B. 22) Stephen Ambrose makes a similar argument in his discussion of Blacks in the Army during World Wars I and II. He quotes W. but can also tie that group into the larger community around it.

such that the amount of time necessary to acquire citizenship for serving soldiers compared to their 403 . 1972. pointing out that it was the benefits of service in the GI Bill given to veterans which allowed Jews to attend college alongside Christian counterparts. Some ten thousand Negroes fought in the Spanish-American War. In the contemporary military. The reason that there were no privileges granted was because the sacrifices were being hidden by the bureaucracy to maintain the inequalities. not that the sacrifices were unworthy of granting those privileges. p. for otherwise there could be no justification for denying full rights and privileges as citizens to Blacks who had proven their loyalty to America and their ability as leaders and soldiers on the field of battle. Two hundred thousand Negroes enlisted in the Civil War.” (Ambrose. the idea that service in the military adds legitimacy to citizenship continues. 1972. and the enfranchisement of the black man. we have doubled or quadrupled our accumulated wealth. and the result was the emancipation of four million slaves. and through this interaction remove the label of Jewish as a defined ethnic group and assume the unmarked category of White in America (Brodkin.result was the enfranchisement of the Negro in many northern States and the beginning of a strong movement for general emancipation. and in the twenty years ensuing since that war. “DuBois and the others felt that the Army and the Administration had deliberately decided to withhold credit where it was due. 1998). DuBois still felt that the sacrifice of Black soldiers would earn them greater standing in American society if that society only knew about it. Karen Brodkin’s discussion of the integration of Jewish and Caucasian groups after World War 2 continues in this vein. (Ambrose. 178) After the Army and the Administration failed to definitively improve the situation in America for Blacks. p. 185) In other words. despite many setbacks.

civilians felt 404 .” this rhetoric began soon after the invasion of Afghanistan. which John Hawkins documents in his ethnographic examination of soldiers deployed to Germany during the Cold War. In this way.the soldiers would have to choose between familial and military obligations. This attitude is prevalent within the military as well.whether health care. This balance between sacrifice and reward is also displayed in the political rhetoric immediately following the attacks on September 11th. Framed around the idea of sacrifice and “supporting the troops. The idea of war without sacrifice runs counter to our cultural conception of how war is fought. Hawkins discussed what he calls the “support for sacrifice contract” as perceived by the soldiers and their family members who suffer under the whims of an institutional bureaucracy which fails to provide proper for the families involved. child care.non-military compatriots is reduced (Jacoby. especially when the perception of the servicemembers and their families is that the Army has somehow failed to live up to its side of the bargain. resulting in stress as the overworked soldiers did their best to accommodate both parties. and can be summarized with the feeling that the soldiers in Germany felt that they would give as much of themselves as they could. 2008). war bonds. Army of Alienation (2005). so long as their families were taken care of. and expediting the visa process for Iraqi translators who have served the Army (Rubin. or basic services such as housing and shopping . and other “sacrifices” were seen as helping the soldiers deployed overseas and the overall war effort. This dissatisfaction with Army life leads to alienation. When families were not being provided with appropriate support . 2008). This feeling is expressed by numerous informants throughout Hawkins’ book. but developed after the invasion of Iraq. Army of Hope. as during World War II the proliferation of rationing.

as Lawrence Leshan discusses at length in his work The Psychology of War (2002) the transition that every society must go through in the preparation for war. these constructs are never questioned while in the mythological mode. 2002. he naturally lies. whereas whatever they enemy does is evil. Leshan discusses a shift from what he calls a realistic view of warfare to a mythic one. and. For instance. most important. whereas American troops represent good. Communication is not possible. p.connected to the war being fought in a way which neither Vietnam nor Iraq (our two largest conflicts after World War II) allows. Many of Leshan’s ideas can be seen in contemporary political rhetoric as leaders struggle to maintain either a mythic or a realistic approach to the current conflicts. when President Bush called for Americans to “get on the plane to Disney World” it is contrasted with the sacrifices that are being made by soldiers and their families in the pursuit of the War on Terror. 2004). civilization. and peace (Cole. 36) This dynamic can be clearly the seen in the debate regarding Barack Obama’s statement that he would meet with leaders of hostile 405 . savagery. Timothy Cole describes Bush’s worldview as one of Manichean imagery. evil.” (Leshan. Only force can settle the issue. as most of his speeches concerning the War are framed around concepts of good vs. both in separation and the cost of death. Thus. as “terrorists” represent evil. Political Rhetoric Bush’s rhetoric also reveals a return to the religious. however. In the mythic paradigm everything “we” do is good. in the good-evil dichotomy which plays during the mythic frame. and violence. This rhetoric is hardly surprising. “since the enemy is evil.

2001. Thus the tautological statement of the Bush administration that “American’s don’t torture” is not questioned among those who remain in the mythic frame.” a position which earned him scorn from many Republican politicians. and much of the secrecy of the current administration can be seen in this light. in which those events were overplayed by the government in order to inspire the shift in the American public to the mythic frame which is necessary for the engagement in war. however.governments “without preconditions. population. Operation Desert Storm was the exemplar of this approach. p. as the embodiment of Good opposed to the enemy’s Evil. 2002. Examples of this include the “attack” on the USS Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The desire for secrecy during warfare also serves to deflect the transition from the mythic back to the realistic frame. but sometimes created by those who attempt to shift the nation towards support for a war. During the mythic frame. and as a result “once again made war acceptable to a very large part of the U. can do no wrong. The switch from the realistic to the mythic frame typically requires a precipitating event. despite rhetorical or symbolic appeals.S. Instead. seen unequivocally in the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and September 11th. as the conflict was over so quickly that the nation remained in the mythic frame for the duration. working within the mythic frame that only force can be used against the “enemy. This recognition is at the heart of the Powell doctrine that a war should be fought swiftly and ended before the nation can return to realism. 91) This acceptance of war was complicated by the next 406 . No group can maintain the mythic frame for any extended period of time.” these politicians can simply state Obama’s position as evidence that he is not prepared to be President. although very little direct attack.” (Leshan. the government.

as embedded journalists broadcast accounts of combat and violence in realtime to the American public. Arguably. The success of this spin can be seen in the relative anonymity of Colonel Thomas Pappas. labeling the perpetrators as different from the other soldiers in the Army.major engagement. the nation’s sensory experience of warfare also increased. but the only officer originally implicated in the scandal: a female General who failed to conform to the mythic. Thus. and during mythic periods sent overseas to fight “over there” so that the civilians “here” do not have to be threatened. However. The importance of the soldier as a mythic figure can be seen in two moments. the My Lai incident in Vietnam intruded into the consciousness of Americans not that “war is hell” to borrow from Sherman. masculine. leading to the realization that war was not the mythic endeavor promised by the frame. In comparison. The return to the realistic frame Leshan sees as a transition from a mythic war to a sensory one. During realistic periods. and then returned with the attacks on September 11th and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. as many already knew that. but that American soldiers were just as human and flawed as the enemy. one from Vietnam and one from Iraq. First. in which the shift from mythic to realistic frames can be located. as images of the war in Vietnam built up. Bosnia and Kosovo. we must keep in mind the status of the soldier as a mythic figure in both the mythic and realistic frames. soldiers are often separated from the remainder of the community. who was reprimanded in 2005 for his actions at Abu Ghraib prison. and scapegoating not only the enlisted soldiers engaged in the practice. a story buried on page A16 of the Washington Post 407 . this same process occurred in the Iraq War. the rhetorical spin following the Abu Ghraib scandal managed to maintain the mythic frame for a period. ideal of the Army officer.

whereas Rumsfeld’s answer became a sound byte that is still in use today. the commander of Joint Forces Command issued a statement repudiating the doctrine of “effects based operations. As above. 2008) The reality imposed by Specialist Wilson’s question showed the nation that the soldiers in Iraq were not engaged in mythic combat. Recently. I would point out that the strength of my argument here is based on the strength of the meme it created in the news sphere. I would argue instead that the shift away from the mythic frame was instead initiated fully by Donald Rumsfeld’s statement on December 8th. Our vehicles are not armored.(Smith. later reports that Wilson had been coached by a reporter failed to find traction. Specialist Thomas Wilson. mirrors Turner and van Gennep’s rite of passage. not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time. 2004 that “You go to war with the army you have. busted. yet always with the appearance of an emergent structure. picking the best out of this scrap to put on to our vehicles to take into combat. We're digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that's already been shot up. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north. as this discussion was front page news for the New York Times. 2005).” or EBO. realistic conflict in which lives could and would be lost. asking Rumsfeld. dropped. Leshan’s model of the shift from realistic to mythic (and then back again). This is because warfare is by its very nature chaotic and liminal.” This statement was a response to a soldier. In addition. In short. but were instead engaged in a very visceral. A lot of us are getting ready to move North relatively soon.” (Suarez. this 408 . “our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. although in this case it is an entire nation moving into a liminal state in which the regular rules of society are broken down.

without specifically defining that “fundamental” nature itself. 409 . The debates regarding the efficacy of this process are not of concern here. Charles Moskos points out “that the United States has normally looked upon its military with some disfavor. of course. the soldier must be separated from his fellow citizens. Following the attacks of September 11th. but was rather the norm for most of American history. it is hardly surprising that soldiers are often seen. the nation in crisis had just such a need. even after their rite of passage. and understand this reference is to the chaos and unpredictability of the battlefield. but what is interesting is that General Mattis repeatedly refers to the “fundamental nature of war” five times in his article.” and that the wave of antimilitary sentiment following the Vietnam War was not an anomaly. As a sacrificial and liminal figure.doctrine was an attempt to rationalize warfare through modeling and then counteracting the effects of a military action. this representation will ideally occur far away from the community proper. as potentially contaminating. In this sense our society appears to be moving toward its more conventional social definition of the military. Soldier Considering the associations of soldierhood with death and sacrifice. Warrior vs. soldiers were allowed to enter the community and once again represent it. and by entering into its own liminal state. 1970. Of course. The readers of the article. as our prior experience of warfare shows. (Moskos. are very familiar with prior works of military theory. p. 179) This approach returns us yet again to the notion of the soldier as sacrifice. Leshan’s mythic frame.

The main similarity between the warrior and the soldier is that of selfcontrol. which creates problems both for the military and the civilian communities. while the soldier sublimates himself to the group. his freedom of movement. The soldiers of modern armies are constantly told not to be heroes. Georges Dumezil 410 . 1970). and specifically both types are granted the ability to kill without penalty so long as the killing remains within the set of rules that the State has laid out. and cosmetics being some of the most common examples of things the military mandates for its members). In other words. even down to his choices of self-expression (clothing. the hero is presented as a warrior rather than a soldier. While the warrior fights for glory and honor. soldiers are exactly the opposite. While warriors are heroes. however. The warrior. The mythological examples of the warrior type abound. focusing the aggression inherent in both men to release it at the appropriate moment. and his separation from civilization (Dumezil. Mythic stories of warriors in Western culture frequently focus on his action.In the mythology of warfare. these differences are slipping as the government and military attempt to maintain the mythic frame while the remainder of the nation has returned to a realistic one. whatever those cultural definitions might be within their own culture. the warrior is an individual. and perhaps the ultimate representative of free will. on the other hand. An important distinction that must be made in the creation of the soldier is that between the soldier and the warrior. Similarities do occur. The soldier is the embodiment of sacrifice. to not stand out. from Homer to modern film. As I will discuss later in this chapter. hairstyles. a good soldier and a good warrior are distinctly different. or the State. is a fighter. and to not take actions which could potentially put their fellows at risk.

for after this account Cuchulain can keep his furor in reserve until combat demands it (10). The soldier. Even with Cuchulain’s control of his fury. especially when the private has done something particularly egregious. the warrior Cuchulain fights three sons of Nechta. Thus. has relinquished. however. His battles. Although this can lead to conflict 411 . forcing privates to assist each other in order to accomplish tasks quicker. we see again the recurring theme of sacrifice in Basic Training. or in most cases the State. or more importantly. in this case as the distinction the warrior and the soldier. During Basic Training. The soldier has sacrificed part of himself to the greater good of the group. The hero. his own personal ideas of glory. The epithet of “hero” in Basic Training is used as an insult by Drill sergeants. Achilles. who performs actions for his own honor or glory. are always fought for his own personal glory or success. is the antithesis of what the military is trying to create in a soldier. however. his unbridled fury in battle. the warrior. Instead. until he needs to release it. as with those of Beowulf. but then returns to the capital “in a frightful and dangerous state of mystical furor born of combat” where the queen tries to seduce him to calm him down. This is an initiation story. Privates are never finished with a task until every private is finished. self-involved. the soldier sacrifices himself for the success of the group. For example. but the ulates grab him and throw him in a vat of cold water which cools him down. privates are expected to forego their own successes to look after the interests of the group.discusses a number of different warriors in his text Destiny of the Warrior (1970). Cuchulain resists the offer. Cuchulain has thus learned to harness the war machine. he is still more typical of the warrior than the soldier. or sacrificed. and even Gilgamesh.

“exchange duties. you know?” Private Bennett reported that during his AIT phase. it can also lead to a stronger solidarity as privates learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses: “By the end of Basic. as heroes they are the ones who return to their society and change it. I was good at ironing and pressing uniforms. we maintain the mythological idea of soldiers as boundary crossers. During the last two Presidential elections 412 . who had served in the same training platoon at Basic. but sucked at doing my boots. the primary groups formed by soldiers are based on the necessity to work as a team and watch a buddy’s back. would. There were twelve of us from Benning out of sixty guys. The soldier has sacrificed that element of individuality which would have set him apart. the warrior has an elevated status that allows him to dictate to his fellows based on his exposure to death. So I would do our uniforms. of course. and he would do our boots.within the group as “free riders” allow other privates to complete their tasks for them. It should not astonish us. entitled him to break down the system. then to note that just as the word “private” is frequently expressed as an insult by drill sergeants at Basic Training. by becoming more than other members of the society. but we already knew how we all worked. Outside the military. When we got to AIT we pretty much ran it. we had figured each other out. but hated doing ironing. ideals for others to emulate. By standing out in battle. in a way in which only heroes can do.” The warrior is also well known for one other attribute. he and his roommate. and the initiation which follows from it. As we saw in the previous chapter. but there is also the inherent distrust any institution will present toward a member who seeks to change the extant system. Berryman was good at shining boots. the word “hero” is similarly used.

soldiers are not the real heroes of war. it appears that this same shift led to the development of the reporter-hero. Just as after Vietnam America returned to its tradition of sequestering soldiers and not glorifying them. but most civilians.military service was a recurring theme. After his deployment to Afghanistan. such as John Murtha and Paul Hackett have been attacked in order to keep their heroism from entitling them to make pronouncements. Andrew Exum notes the same portrayal in a film he watched about reporters covering conflict in Uzbekistan: “The lesson I took from the movie was that in the postmodern era. 2004. In the same way. the theme of soldier or warrior as hero begins to fade. and John Kerry’s disagreements with the war he served in being used to destroy his credibility. with Al Gore derided for being a journalist and not a “real” Marine. I will only briefly point out that Michael Herr’s Dispatches presented the heroes of the Vietnam War not as the soldiers who fought in it. Many other notable veterans. Conservatives and Republicans have steadfastly held to the argument (used by the Left during the Clinton administration) that a leader does not need military experience to command it (Shuger. as various members of President George W Bush’s administration (and the President himself) were questioned on their own military service.” (Exum. 230) 413 . as Marvin and Ingle put it. As we move away from the mythic frame. and especially the reporters who cover warfare without being involved in it. 2002). With the spread of mass media onto the battlefield itself. They can’t be – they’re too violent and lack moral purity. though. but the reporters who embedded with those soldiers. it is not only the soldier who can touch death and then return from the border. As this work is not about combat reporters. p.

1999. is not a life defining moment in a soldier’s life. nine weeks of Basic Training is certainly not enough to change the basic identity of any private who undergoes it. Given the stressful conditions and extended duration of a deployment overseas. the experience of deploying (and in Exum’s case. 216) In other words. and can be seen as what Marvin and Ingle identify as “the border language of body magic that civilians regard as profanity. then they just didn’t know me well enough. bodily functions generally considered profane and taboo are frequent subjects of conversation among 414 .” (Exum. but simply one of many steps toward a change in psyche. The study of reenlistment cited above draws this conclusion based on the reenlistment effects of multiple deployments.As I have argued through this work. killing an enemy soldier). or any liminal transition. and is likely slowly changing again as the appellation of “hero” is more and more applied to any soldier currently serving. as a deployed soldier. the rite of passage. Body as Location of Identity The graphic language of soldiers discussed in Chapter Two serves to identify soldiers almost as much as the distinctive haircuts. is not sufficient for any substantive change in culture or identity. p. is not enough to cause a change in his own identity. “if people think that I have changed into something different than who I was. if these experiences are not sufficient to change an individual.” (Marvin & Ingle. 109) In addition to profane language. but it can also be seen in the attitudes of the soldiers returning from deployments. Andrew Exum states forcefully in the conclusion of his book. Even the experience of war itself. The change in the war hero from soldier to reporter was a slow process precipitated by the social crisis of the Vietnam War.

Just as the profanity of the body can be seen as part of the soldier identity. 2004).” (Marvin & Ingle.soldiers. . However. 1999. When Americans are asked to identify prominent figures from American history. Marvin and Ingle discuss how soldiers often express themselves around civilians in an old fashioned manner reminiscent of chivalric conduct: “this transformative anecdote was offered by an officer: ‘The same guy who would belch at Burger King three months ago is now [at graduation] leading that mother around by the arm. 1999. The significance of the flag is accentuated by its flagstaff. the field of stars must be forward as if the flag worn on the soldier’s arm is the battle standard of the unit 415 . 1999). Soldiers will fart. as are the bodily functions themselves. and even urinate and defecate in front of one another without much thought. . as well as the mythological origins of a nation. Although originally only authorized for soldiers while deployed overseas. another element of the soldier’s identity is how he performs in front of civilians.’ A symbolic infant with no bodily control has become one who controls the mother. after political leaders. as that soldier will most likely still belch at Burger King if in the company of his military family and not his civilian one. pointing to the importance of the flag in the origin myth and identity of America (Marvin & Ingle. its sacred nature is also important to that identity. p. most citizens pick Betsy Ross. the transition is not complete. in 2004 all soldiers were authorized (and frequently ordered) to wear the reversed flag on the right shoulder of their uniform (Triggs. 115) Unfortunately. p. a tree of life like the cross. pick their nose.” (Marvin & Ingle. The flag frequently represents the sacredness of the border of death. which can be seen as “an axis mundi . belch. 69) As the flag is worn on the right shoulder of the soldier. The “reversed” flag worn by soldiers on their uniforms today is emblematic of that importance.

the subjects of military history are almost always the soldiers at the front: the infantrymen. however. as he himself becomes the flagstaff. there is an important distinction between the soldiers of the United States Army and the soldiers discussed in most works of military history. the mechanics and the cooks who keep the Army institution itself alive and moving. These soldiers are not specifically called upon to engage with the enemy. In this way. the flag worn on the uniform of the soldier turns the soldier into a sacred object.” the soldier performs his identity. as both sacred and profane object. the much longer process of AIT.as carried by units in previous wars (Burgess. a gentleman and a “grunt. in actuality. The soldiers are almost always combat troops. They are the clerks. This is. most discussions of modern soldiers deal with the effects of the training of infantry. Although nine weeks of Basic Training stresses that every soldier could be called upon to fight and should have the skills necessary if it should happen. detailing the actions of soldiers in various wars and conflicts. the reason that the flag worn by soldiers bears the field of stars on the upper right rather than the upper left. Similarly. From Keegan to Ambrose. Just as Leshan notes that a mythic paradigm is necessary for going to war. to close with the enemy and kill them in simplest terms. The majority of soldiers enlisting in the United States Army are labeled “support” troops. This performance goes beyond simple behavior. and the events discussed in the mythology are also usually the grand events of military history. Today. the administrative aides. 2004). In the symbolism of the military. and the requirements of the unit the soldier is 416 . These stories are most often mythical retellings of historical events. members of the military attempt to maintain this mythic paradigm in their mimicry of the mythical stories of film and literature.

tend to move these skills and behaviors to the rear of soldiers’ minds. this is not limited to contemporary soldiers. these soldiers will frequently act as they have learned from film and literature.assigned to. Part of this desire is also the desire to see combat and act “properly” under enemy fire. Even infantry soldiers will identify with their mythic counterparts over their historical ones. individuals who join the military today are those that likely desire to be the soldiers they see in military movies such as Black Hawk Down and Full Metal Jacket. and tension will often result when they can’t act in those roles. not in training. Exum “began to believe that war might be the only answer to all my doubts.” (Exum. Instead. In addition. once deployed. 23) Private Argent reported he joined the Army “to give myself a kick in the ass. as the soldiers of his platoon conspire to terrify incoming troops to Kuwait by pretending their bus is under attack from terrorists: “It had been a 417 . the act of deployment serves to drive away that uncertainty and establish the masculinity inherent in the soldier identity. That war might validate my existence as a soldier and a man. To find out something about myself. p. Just as soldiers in Vietnam joined the Army to act like John Wayne and Audie Murphy. as many soldiers enter the military as a result of a lack of meaning or direction in their civilian life. but Andrew Exum relates a particularly telling anecdote. 2004.” During a deployment soldiers see themselves in the roles they themselves have previously defined. but has likely happened throughout the history of the military. Worrying that he might be wasting a significant portion of his life in the Army. As we have seen. Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead (2003) and John Crawford’s Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell (2005) recount many of the results of this frustration.

This definition of “real soldier” is also problematic.” This statement was met with a general unease by the deploying soldiers. I’ll be finished with my contract before I might have to deploy. and I hope I get a third. As we have seen numerous times. Soldiers in the modern army want to get into combat. and we certainly had gone over the line. 99) Exum’s platoon was responding to the frustration of not being able to act as they were trained. On my second trip to Iraq. as infantrymen. and if I do a good job here. but I only have one year left on my contract.” (Exum. as the soldier’s statement was taken not simply as a desire to not deploy. the status of a soldier is based on his proximity to combat. he also discusses the tension between 418 . If they can’t risk their lives “over there” then they’re not real soldiers.cruel joke. p. want to put their lives on the line. but a desire to be less of a soldier. During my own deployments there were numerous mutters about the way in which deploying Reservists were treated by “REMFs” who had never. but also the frustration of not being able to perform as they desired.” “You don’t want to deploy?” “Nope. 2004. but that’s what happens when you give infantrymen a bullshit mission and bore them to death for weeks. When Andrew Exum was stationed in Kuwait before moving to Afghanistan. and the elitism this creates can often create stress within the Army. and would never be deployed. they accept the rhetoric espoused by military and civilian leaders. one soldier working in a support role at the deployment center was unabashed when he said: “I’ve been here two years now. in addition to the practical joke mentioned above. then if I get picked up here. Although they may not officially say it.” “Why? You like it here that much?” “No. and the commander seems to like what I’ve done. I’m pretty happy right here in the States.

which Marvin and Ingle consider the most important American war due to its cost in blood. they want to know what it is to go to the border and touch death. and they looked down on my men. Two quotes from opposite sides of the Civil War. however. whom they dismissed as ‘grunts. “the young men are willing. 1999. by his own admission. Lee stated after the battle of Fredericksburg that “It is good that war is so terrible. Robert E.’ as if my men should be kept in a cage until it was time for them to fight. p. and generally impinge on other people’s lives to the extent that they show no empathy for other people they live with. William Sherman’s famous quote “War is hell. as it is only through the blood and death of war 419 . else we should come to love it too much. but this does not matter. and especially among civilians the need to refute a love of war and for the symbolic power of its sacrifice is socially expected. 108) Of course.” (Marvin & Ingle. war continues to occur and it is on the bodies and lives of the military that the most extreme damage is inflicted. as they are infantry. his men have already gone over the line.support and infantry troops: “they were all support soldiers who worked indoors. p. who state that among soldiers. highlight the public performance of this attitude. however. 75) Blood and Sacrifice This desire can rarely be publicly stated. 2004. My own experiences. then. Despite these espousals. reinforce the observations of Marvin and Ingle. and thus more important to the Army than the support soldiers whose only job is supposedly to get them to the front lines of the war. This damage is a necessary one for the group.” (Exum. and trigger-pullers.” while from the Union side.” is also frequently repeated by generals in public debate. however.

remained. Although Full Metal Jacket represents the ideal of Basic Training as seen by many privates. his creature comforts. including the importance of military service and the idea that “true” citizenship only comes through such service. in which the new private is expected to sacrifice things like his family connections. the element of sacrifice is a recurring one through Basic Training. sleeping. Although the conversion of book to film necessarily removed a number of elements from the book. Wars have meaning precisely because of the lives lost in waging them. Many of these sacrifices are played out in the realm of the body. the idea of sacrifice. many of the themes. 2008). the notion of “clean warfare” removes the central element of warfare itself. In addition. and even his freedom to the needs of the Army. 1999). being subjected to harsh conditions and bounded by regulations and restrictions. and there were a number of complaints about this conversion. As we have seen. there are a number of other books and films which are also frequently referenced by soldiers when asked what they think a soldier is. either as social body disconnected from the elements of his previous social sphere. Eating. only adapted to.” or allow wars to be fought without loss of life through armed robots and flying drones (McDuffee. For all the recent talk of revolutionary technology in warfare which will “clean it up.that any community can define itself (Marvin & Ingle. or as physical body itself. 420 . One of the most common is Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. the private’s body is no longer his own to control. this belies General Mattis’ “fundamental truth” of warfare: that it is chaotic and can never be predicted. and even privacy are surrendered during Basic Training.

is to avert the threat of internal dissension by adopting a form of violence that can be openly endorsed and fervently acted upon by all. represented a ritual sacrifice for the members of his nation. p.” (Girard. p.” (Boot. but the great majority of the soldiers they studied expressed a willingness to do their job. 1989. express frustration with force protection policies that keep them from doing more. Nor are most of the rank and file intrinsically opposed to ‘humanitarian’ missions.Traditionally.” and that in a Center for Strategic and International Studies survey.” As Girard points out “in both instances the basic function of foreign wars.” (Segal. Most soldiers are willing to sacrifice themselves in pursuit of known objectives. . particularly in unpopular wars or wars very far from home. like the sergeant in Haiti. 280) redirecting the internal tension of the community to an external target. and of the more or less spectacular rites that generally accompany them. 86 percent of soldiers “agreed with this statement: ‘If necessary to accomplish a combat/lifesaving mission. Max Boot points out that “those whose lives are on the line do not ask for a no-casualties policy. many report that they like helping people and. 74) and Shannon French notes a similar willingness among soldiers to possibly die on 421 . who “have found some resistance to combat. p. 328) David Segal has noted similar findings from Charles Brown and Charles Moskos. this “service” meant a soldier was willing to die for his country. In the course of this redirection. 2002. some soldiers will die in the war being waged. The soldier then. I am prepared to put my own life on the line’ . but these deaths are “proper” ritual sacrifices. and not the retributive violence which Girard sees as such a problem in society. . 1972. of course. The soldier’s responsibility was to fight the enemy “over there” so that civilians would not have to fight him “at home.

not just of their lives but also of their comforts and familiar routines. 253) Arguably. more precisely. and thus substantially improve those connections between surviving members of the unit essential to effective combat. politicians in favor of ongoing wars can deflect the arguments against 422 . these heavy losses would confirm the identity of the soldier as ritual sacrifice. the Army places a high value on the history of any particular unit. However. the sacrifice demanded of soldiers. 2003). The sacrifice of lives can also serve to bond soldiers together even more strongly than their shared suffering. By pointing out the “sacrifice” of soldiers overseas. the 22nd Infantry Regiment sustained incredibly heavy losses (87% on the first day of fighting) and replacements quickly joined the unit. As we saw in Chapter Seven. boots) of former soldiers who had given themselves up in sacrifice to the mission. Historically. the ideology held by the soldiers is the only reason for such success. 1982. 337) McNeill identifies the mechanic through which political rhetoric serves to create and maintain Leshan’s mythic frame. viewed through the lens of the sacrifice identity. (Lynn. using the former sacrifices of soldiers to draw the new members tighter into the military community.missions in which the “depth of their sacrifice” is understood by their commanders and the citizens at home (French. p. without enough time to form strong primary bonds the unit still fought with distinction. as the unit in question did not have time to form these bonds.” (McNeill. During the battle in Hurtgen Forest in 1944. 2003. Even new soldiers to the unit would be caught up in this frame. p. “made everything demanded of civilians in the rear seem trivial by comparison and discredited those who sought to hold fast to rights and privileges that the new managers of society found standing in the way of the war effort. as they step into the hallowed shoes (or.

Army Chief of Staff mandated the wear of the black beret for all soldiers in order 423 .that war. Just as the professionalization of the military prior to the Iraq War modified the image of the soldier. and prepare him for the combat environment he would find himself in. The beginnings of this change could be seen prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is in addition to the adjustments it has begun to make in response to the realities of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. with the introduction of the black beret as standard headgear for all soldiers. but also for the institution itself. The conflation of combat with violence. Shifting Identities The Army is undergoing a change in response to the mythological ideas brought into the military in the last twenty years through film and literature. not only for the individual identity of the soldier. Toward the end of 2003. since September 11th the image of the fighting soldier has once again returned to our public consciousness. has led to a number of problems. in June of 2001. the Army developed its Warrior Ethos Program. and especially its perception in the civilian world. This conflation. designed to enhance the image of the individual soldier. by way of incoming soldiers. especially as a peacetime technician. however. however. Just prior to the social crisis of those wars. and thus the soldier with the warrior is one which has been embraced by the Army in the last few years. much as recent rhetoric regarding funding for the Iraq War is framed around supporting or not supporting “the troops” rather than a discussion of the war itself. The question of military force becomes wrapped around discussions of patriotism through the device of sacrifice.

Consider the following two Soldier’s Creeds. and our values as an institution. 2001) The beret was traditionally the uniform of elite soldiers. The statement on the left was the one I memorized during Basic Training. Where a soldier sacrifices himself and his well-being to the interests of the group. As I noted above. there are distinct differences between the two identities of soldier and warrior. p.” (Shinseki. Mythologically. Special Forces.” Much like the Marine motto of “every Marine a rifleman. we could scarcely doubt the antiquity of this type of excess: the warrior everywhere takes liberties with the codes by which the seniors seek to discipline the ardor of young men. and Airborne units. By mandating the wear of this black beret. the warrior is associated with excessive behavior.” As highly trained elite units. the Army leadership was drawing a connection between the elite units and the “regular soldier.to display “our excellence as Soldiers. including Rangers. however. the warrior performs as he does for his own reputation. to maidenly virtue” (Dumezil.” the wear of the black beret was intended to stress a shift in Army doctrine toward an idea of “every soldier a Ranger. and the shift to the black beret was the beginnings of the shift toward the identity of “warrior” for members of the US Army. our unity as a force. 2001). everywhere lays claim to “unwritten rights” to other men’s wives. he is free to pursue his own path and his own desires – he is Deleuze and Guattari’s war machine. 70) The warrior is not bound by the restrictions of civilization. the black beret specifically being worn by Ranger units. 1970. Rangers represented the “Real Warriors” of the Army (Jones. and reflects the idea of the soldier as one who follows orders and draws specific 424 . as discussed by Georges Dumezil: “even if we did not have the evidence provided by the subrahmanya formulas.

I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation it is sworn to guard. or what is typically called “military bearing. for pleasure. my equipment and myself. I serve the people of the Unites States and live the Army values. even beyond the line of duty. ignoring the importance of performance in other arenas. engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. loyalty. or personal safety. to restrain my Army comrades from actions disgraceful to themselves and to the uniform. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I will do my full part to carry out orders and instructions given to me or my unit. I am an American soldier. I will never accept defeat.a protector of the greatest nation on earth. I will never do anything. trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I will never quit. or my country. for I am an American Soldier. I will always place the mission first. In that same line. I am proud of my own organization. I stand ready to deploy. I realize that I am a member of a time-honored profession--that I am doing my share to keep alive the principles of freedom for which my country stands. there is no mention of following orders. Because I am proud of the uniform I wear. I am an expert and I am a professional. On the right is the Soldier’s Creed that was implemented in 2003 to reflect the Warrior Ethos which the Army was now intentionally shifting to. I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent. and echoes Clausewitz’s idea of Total War. my unit. I will use every means I have. No matter what the situation I am in. Despite a nod toward “professionalism” in the current Creed. I am proud of my country and its flag. I am a member of the United States Army -. In addition. I will be loyal to those under whom I serve.” Instead the main focus is on the performance of the soldier in the field. profit. I am a warrior and a member of a team. I always maintain my arms.connections to other soldiers and to the organization of the Army. • • • • • • • • • • I am an American soldier. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. which will disgrace my uniform. I am disciplined. • • • • • • • • • • I am an American Soldier. I will do all I can to make it the finest unit in the Army. the use of the term “close combat” implies a connection with 425 . the notion of “destroying” an enemy is quite different from previous ideas of success in warfare. physically and mentally tough. As a soldier.

In essence. and contrasts the behavior he has seen in contemporary soldiers with his own experiences. grenade launchers. the completion of Basic Rifle Marksmanship in Basic Training was met by the appellation of “trained killers. an American veteran who has watched the events in Iraq with interest. and the Warrior Ethos it accompanies. and the discipline which military historians from Foucault’s critical approach to Keegan’s appreciative one see as essential to the identity of the Army in the modern nation-state. the administration basically said “this is going to happen. this discipline is an essential tool in limiting the destruction and violence which could be meted out by postadolescents equipped with automatic weapons.” (Fisk.individual warriors in the era before gunpowder. and other implements of war.” as war is inherently chaotic and without rules. Of course. as “encouraging American troops to commit atrocities. 2006) This attribution in fact comes from a reader of Fisk’s articles. In a community board discussion of Ehren Watada’s court martial 426 . This focus on killing was not exclusive to my own training experiences however. Robert Fisk attributes the shift in the Soldier’s Creed. in the mythic frame of warfare.” and embraced by many of the privates in 3rd platoon. Although the relative merits of control and discipline can be argued from the perspective of other members of society. As we saw in Chapter Five. This is also the argument implied in Rumsfeld and Bush’s discussions of the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. in an institution whose primary purpose is to engage in violence. The change from soldier to warrior carries with it implications of behavior which can lead to a breakdown in moral and ethical judgment. these atrocities are necessary in an ends justify the means approach to warfare typical of the frame.

As the system remains in flux. that you are being trained to become a killer.and appeal 124 a soldier stated: “When I was in Basic and AIT. etc. and thus his orders to deploy were an illegal order. 124 Lieutenant Ehren Watada refused to deploy to Iraq in 2006 based on his view that the war there was illegal.” (Coffee Shop Message Board. 427 . and it is the job of Basic Training (ideally) to train privates to control their impulses within the discipline of the institution. The new Basic Training program being experimented with at Fort Benning changes this dynamic to some extent. the final format of Basic Training will likely not be set for some time to come. retrieved 15 May 2008) However.’ It was sobering. However. When the identity of the soldier is subsumed into that of the warrior. however. with a longer period of training and more exposure to various martial skills. the discipline and ideology becomes less important than the skillset of combat techniques. killing does not have to be an unrestrained activity. This change was supposed to reflect the new identity the Army wished to inculcate into the new soldiers going through Basic Training. the first thing our company commander said to us in a church was—‘Make no mistake that whatever MOS you take. the importance of the ideological component of Basic Training should not be forgotten as the Army struggles with its own identity as an institution of soldiers or warriors. you are supporting the action of killing enemies. you make our soldiers healthy so they can kill more.

and soldiers consistently act as they desire. then. Rather. privates learn how to make choices and navigate the institution they have joined. or fail to become. this sacrifice is not complete. Rather than any true transformative ritual. not only as a blood sacrifice for the nation. almost every new soldier in the Army has at least eighteen years of emotional and physical development prior to this experience. the regimentation which is part and parcel of that type of institution does not remove the freedom to act. Army rules. Within the extraordinarily rigid structure of Basic Training. it is also artificial. and Army deviance. Basic Training serves more as an introduction to Army life. soldiers over the course of a nine-week Basic Training cycle. but when they conflict soldiers display the freedom of choice and action of any human being.Conclusion Over the course of this work. which is inherent in all human beings. Inherent in the concept of a soldier is sacrifice. Although it is possible to consider the military a total institution. My discussion of Basic Training followed the progression of privates through Basic Training. With the All-Volunteer Army these desires often coincide. Although these nine weeks are intense. the war machine. beginning with induction and Reception. rifle qualification. in that I simply used 428 . I have endeavored to show how civilians become. However. Basic Training does not create soldiers. and the final field training exercise and graduation. it is a process through which civilians learn the proper ways to perform their new identities as soldiers. both emotionally and physically. but a willingness to sublimate one’s own needs and desires to that of the nation. through Total Control. or warriors. Although this order is in some sense a natural parallel to the experience.

but also what they want to be as soldiers. I will review the important elements of my argument. from extended family who have served to movies and television shows. As discussed by Coupland and Eckert. these performances also work towards developing an identity and a place within whichever institution an individual finds himself. and bring with them their own ideas about what soldiers do. it is also composed of a wide variety of soldiers from widely scattered hometowns. they bring with them these preconceptions. the instructors and drill sergeants change and adapt to each new cohort of privates that enter with their own preconceived notions not only of what a soldier is. and attempt to coordinate each element into a coherent whole with regard to the development of soldiers from the civilians who begin Basic Training. Many of the privates’ performances go against the accepted behaviors of soldiers as defined by the Army. social statuses. in this case the Army. These civilians are rarely unexposed to military life. and perform it as they will. and worldviews. Soldiers pick and choose from these various influences to construct their own identity of soldier. The sources of these preconceptions are diverse. and act as they feel soldiers should act. and privates often act them out in defiance of the expectations of 429 . but the Army institution itself evolves to meet these new expectations. Thus. At this point. my thoughts and ideas ranged far afield of the specific topics of each chapter at certain points. Even as Basic Training changes to adapt to new conditions on the battlefield it is training for. Although the All Volunteer force is in some sense a self-selected group. and who they are. Not only has Basic Training adapted to this. how they act.these stages as convenient markers in my discussion. When these civilians join the military.

As privates learn proper rules of behavior from their drill sergeants. privates rebel. serves to bring the group together and to highlight the limits of acceptable behavior within the community. but also to bring the community itself closer together. are essential to this process. through acceptance or punishment of that behavior. and often contradictory institution of the Army. confusing. or endorse these performances. that individual. For instance. the deviant in Basic Training. and serves as a symbol of which rules cannot be broken while living within the Army. censure. and extreme standards of hygiene. the minutiae of hanging uniforms and lacing boots. from simple rule bending to outright rule breaking. from strict schedules. 430 . the problem child serves as a lightning rod for the heightened emotions of stress-filled privates. and only when that individual returns to performing properly can the problem child be re-accepted into the group as a proper soldier. Against these rules.the Army itself. as it is through improper performance that the problem child is identified. Just as deviants are shunned in many other societies. As drill sergeants and other representatives of the institution ignore. This isolation resembles the shunning and scapegoating performed by many other cultures in attempts not only to assign blame for problems in the community. The performances of these problem children. By focusing aggression on one individual. drill sergeants in Basic Training enforce rigid rules controlling the lives of privates. rightly or not. thus teaching privates by example that the rigidity of the institution is not as strong as one might think. privates learn how to negotiate their way through the complex. Drill sergeants sometimes overlook or even encourage these rebellions. the most extreme rulebreakers are labeled deviant and isolated from the remainder of the group. and the other members of the group.

as privates mimic not only the soldiers they have seen prior to joining the Army. then. 431 . These performances begin in Basic Training. Soldiers are seen as sacrificing their freedom. just as the ideal of the masculine can never be completely attained. however. they are often quickly met with anger.The ideal of the proper soldier is never one that can be attained. where the fantasy of sacrificing a poorly performing soldier is played out. their families. especially those who do not integrate into the group completely but still graduate with the Basic Training class. but continue into their regular careers and deployments. their comfort. The most common motif in discussion of soldiers is the idea of sacrifice. typically in dangerous and difficult tasks. The aggression focused on the problem child. it is hardly surprising that soldiers find themselves having to constantly perform and re-perform their identities as well. and soldiers often express this aggression through violent fantasies. The idea of sacrifice extends beyond this simple fantasy. the acts of mimicry and performance continue. As Gilmore shows. As Snyder correlates masculinity and the military. Although the specific ideal soldier has changed through history. and penetrates deeply into conceptions of the soldier in the modern world. Soldiers often express delight in the fantasy of the blanket party. for instance. also remains after graduation. during scenes in movies such as Full Metal Jacket. When politicians refer to soldiers’ lives as wasted rather than sacrificed. and accusations of being unpatriotic. offense. but also their drill sergeants and other instructors. and even their lives in the service of their country. as technology and ideologies have changed. masculinity comes about through the repeated performances of males.

it is also a role which an individual must constantly perform in order to maintain his identity and status. A soldier is more than a status or an identity. will define the military in the foreseeable future. or not.” liminal and transitional beings on a path toward becoming accepted as soldiers. but also through activities such as training. Soldiers begin Basic Training as “privates. The individual must constantly repeat these performances in the public sphere. especially on the contemporary battlefield where a soldier must be more than simply a weapon’s delivery system. Soldiers perform many varied roles. In many ways. deployment. Each stage of progression is simply a step on a journey toward becoming a “soldier. however. in the parlance of rites of passage. There is a change from one social status to another. In a symbolic sense. and the proper presentation of the self during those activities. in which 432 . and it would be foolish to deny this. into the identity of soldier. The ways in which soldiers choose to play those roles. when civilians join the Army. begins before Basic Training and ends after it. not only through Basic Training and a formal graduation ceremony.” Along the transition.The sacrifice of soldiers extends beyond these easily identified categories. Although soldiers work and live within a tightly constrained universe. This process is slow. they sacrifice not just things like comfort or freedom. Basic Training does resemble the rite of passage outlined by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner. they still press the limits of acceptable behavior. both at home and while deployed. but that change is based as much on the public performance of the individual as it is on any inherent identity. in order to be reborn. albeit modeled on the institutional hierarchy provided to them by their superiors. testing boundaries and developing new and innovative ways to express themselves. but their civilian selves. privates develop their own social hierarchy.

433 . Failures in Basic Training often do not actually fail. A major part of this capital is the acceptance of violence and sacrifice as one of the elements of the soldier identity. between the popularly conceived idea of Basic Training. Those privates who publicly fail to embrace this identity will likely be labeled “problem child. releasing it and bringing death as necessary. that it “breaks you down and then builds you back up again. but also to those who perform improperly.cultural and social capital are used to maneuver a place in that hierarchy. The inherent violence of Basic Training. then. and the role of the soldier. which all do to a greater or lesser extent. Those privates who fail to develop that capital properly will be ostracized. and either forced to remove themselves from the group entirely.” and the processes which actually occur. in itself. also calls for this sacrifice. and the control of that violence. or incorporate themselves back into the group through proper behavior to rebuild that cultural capital. if symbolic. and the label of soldier is then applied not only to those soldiers who perform properly during Basic Training. and almost none graduate as some epitome of the soldier identity. as a means to disperse that violence and prevent it from appearing at the wrong moment. depending on their own amount of embrace of the soldier identity. Soldiers are instructed to sacrifice their prior social lives and replace them with the military lifestyle. Not every civilian who goes into Basic Training comes out a soldier. This is not. such a large problem as it may appear. the very existence of the soldier is wrapped up in ideas of violence. sacrifice which privates can use to assist in their own development as soldiers.” and become a tangible. As the “border crosser” who touches death. There is a disconnect.

through encouragement and often assigning the problem child to a position of responsibility within the platoon. and it is through the individuality of soldiers. and the problem child identified during Basic Training can be seen as a deviant in this way. Drill sergeants often attempt to bring a problem child back in line with the rest of the group. pressing against the boundaries of a “correct” soldier identity that this change can occur. this is rarely through complete removal of the failing soldier. Deleuze and Guattari model this individuality as the “nomad. Any structure needs to be able to adapt to new environments in order to survive. By exemplifying the failure of privates to shed their civilian identities. but a mechanism through which the group can adapt to changing circumstances. When a soldier deviates too far from accepted behavior. he receives the problem child label. the problem child highlights the incorporation process demanded by Basic Training.Conceiving of some singular identity of soldier is problematic. the problem child must be removed from the group as much as possible. but when they fail. nor is it in the interest of the Army to do so. although this does occur. the deviant visibly violates the rules or norms of his institution. the reintegration of the problem child allows for the continued adaptability of the institution. deviance becomes not only essential for enforcing the rules of a group.” roughly similar to the idea of the deviant in many sociological approaches. and is isolated from the rest of the group. I would argue that it is impossible to completely remove the prior identities of privates. and often the problem child will graduate from Basic Training 434 . Given the institutional requirements of recruitment into the Army. When these tactics succeed. Through his performance. In this way.

but more frequently through discussions of deployment experiences and combat. and by extension. By displaying martial prowess. but in numerous conversations during Army life. “War stories. language. more or less rigid depending on the institution’s idea of itself. allows soldiers to resolve their aggression. Within any structure. or discussions of combat experience. This punishment. Thus.” discussions among soldiers about the events which have occurred in their military lives are common ways to build symbolic capital. These rules form the structure of that institution. appearance. or even current. Although these individuals are often punished and reintegrated back into acceptable patterns of 435 . both positively and negatively applied. there are rules and guidelines for behavior. unit. that soldiers develop symbolic capital. It is these performances which permeate the life and identity of soldiers. The failure of the Army to remove these individuals likely creates the desire within soldiers to punish the problem child symbolically through wish fulfillment and aggressive memory. often in front of other soldiers. By identifying a problem child in their prior. and many other features. the symbolic sacrifice. the soldier can display to others his lack of that label. his own status as a proper soldier. soldiers perform their status for other soldiers. The expression itself is a performance for the benefit of other soldiers. Soldiers gain status not only through discussions of training.and move along in his Army career. whether through discussions of intense training. it was not only in interviews when soldiers would discuss aggressive feelings toward the problem child. defy the institution. Within any institution. any individual. there are inevitably individuals who break the rules. It is through performances such as these. even one as rigid as the United States Army. and go their own way.

through the actions of individual soldiers expressing their own ideas about those new environments. 436 . Although change may be slow. it does occur. shifting the institutional definitions slightly. and ideas. the United States Army has been forced to constantly adapt to new environments. Each of these individual soldiers places pressure on the boundaries of the soldier identity. Individual choices may be bounded no matter what institution an individual belongs to. but the large number of soldiers struggling against it counters the inertia of the large Army bureaucracy. Over two hundred years. but if those choices can be expressed even within the severely bounded environment of Army Basic Training. the defiance they represent is essential to the adaptability of the institution. technologies. I believe they can be expressed anywhere. These changes are subtle. new technologies.behavior. and new ideas about warfare itself.

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and the qualification received from that school.Appendix: Army Language Army Phonetic Alphabet A Alpha B Bravo C Charlie D Delta E Echo F Foxtrot G Golf H Hotel I India J Juliet K Kilo L Lima (lee-mə) M Mike N November O Oscar P Papa Q Quebec (kay-bek) R Romeo S Sierra T Tango U Uniform V Victor W Whiskey X X-ray Y Yankee Z Zulu Glossary of Army Terms 550 cord: Green cord used ubiquitously throughout the military to tie equipment. 461 . usually when the weapon has not been properly "cleared"of bullets. An accidental discharge is a serious offense in the Army. Named because the tensile strength of the cord is five hundred and fifty pounds. Airborne: Technically refers to the school where soldiers learn how to parachute in a combat environment. Accidental discharge: Mistakenly firing a weapon.

ASVAB: "Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. See also "soup sandwich" BCGs: "Birth Control Glasses. Named because they are so ugly no female would be interested in a soldier wearing them. Clearing barrel: A barrel set at the entrance of bases in combat zones to ensure that weapons are empty of bullets." Standardized test taken by all military recruits which determines which military jobs they are allowed to train for. Cheek to stock weld: The proper placement of a soldiers cheek against the stock of a rifle." The authorized cleaning agent for firearms.f. Clearing rod: A long metal rod inserted down the barrel of a rifle or pistol to be certain there are no bullets remaining in the weapon. predominantly focused on training how to maintain and fire a rifle. Ate up: A soldier who is generally slovenly or unprepared." Large plastic horn-rimmed glasses given to all soldiers requiring corrective lenses. The cheek to stock weld should be the same every time a soldier holds a weapon. Alice clips: Metal clips used to attach equipment to a rucksack or vest. Blue Falcon: "Buddy Fucker" .AIT: "Advanced Individual Training. Bunk: Bed." The second phase of Basic Training. BCGs are only required during Basic Training. 462 . A soldier clears his weapon. after this soldiers are allowed to purchase their own eyeglasses. it will break down the carbon built up inside a firearm from fired bullets and allow it to be scrubbed out. CLP: "Cleaning Lubricating and Protecting fluid. rack. c.a soldier who puts his own wants above those of his fellow soldiers BRM: "Basic Rifle Marksmanship. a shot into the clearing barrel is dealt with just like any other Accidental Discharge. Although ostensibly the clearing barrel is a failsafe mechanism in case there is a bullet remaining in the weapon. Brokedick: Slang term used to refer to soldiers who are injured or "on profile" and can't perform normal soldier tasks involving exercise or heavy lifting and carrying. Cadre: Any soldier who is not a private during Basic Training Career counselor: The soldier at the MEPS station who fills out the paperwork for the private. then points it into the clearing barrel and pulls the trigger." The period of training after Basic where soldiers learn the specifics of their jobs.

CS gas: "2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile gas.Combat arms: Infantry. Combat service support: Designation of a soldier who provides secondary support. Contraband: Anything a soldier is not supposed to have. Drill Sergeant: Soldiers directly responsible for training and overseeing the activities of privates during Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training 463 ." Tear gas used during gas chamber training. Armor. Generically. and Artillery soldiers whose job it is to fire weaponry. Also can be used specifically to refer to a deployment. or uniforms. In Basic Training. Drill and ceremony: Marching formations of soldiers. to combat arms soldiers Combat support: Designation of a soldier who directly interacts with combat arms soldiers during a mission. such as finance or paperwork. At Basic Training this includes alcohol. Dress right dress: Formally." Double time: Quick jog in formation." Downrange: Generic expression that refers to any location or training after the current one. Company Area: Concrete square under each barracks where the platoons meet for formations and perform other tasks. contact lenses. Detail: Assignment given to privates. gear. etc. Typically abbreviated D&C. CQ: "Charge of quarters. typically with couches." Two privates are always assigned to watch over the phones and perform administrative tasks for the Company Headquarters. such as shining boots. Day room: A room for relaxation. Source of the phrase "on the double. Typical details are landscaping ("grass detail") and flag raising ("flag detail"). refers to the standardization and "proper" display of equipment. DFAC: "Dining Facility. pornography. televisions. resulting in a straight line. the movement in drill and ceremony in which each soldier lines himself up with the soldier on his right. Commanding officer: The officer in command of a military unit. only Drill Sergeants are allowed in the Day Room. and recreation facilities like ping-pong or billiard tables.

HMMWV: "High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. Grass drills: Punishment or exercise where a drill sergeant calls out a series of commands (typically "front" . such as Airborne or Language school. IET: "Initial Entry Training. back straight. KP: "Kitchen Patrol." The combination of Basic and AIT. Front leaning rest: The beginning position for a pushup. Last 4: The last four digits of the private's social security number. Also the man in the civilian world who will steal a soldier's woman." A number of privates are assigned each day to assist in the Dining Facility. HESCO: Large canvas bags wrapped in chicken wire and then filled with sand. e-tool: Small collapsible shovel.lay on your belly. FTX: "Field Training Exercise. Killzone: Area in the center or each barracks marked off and forbidden for privates to enter. knees locked." Typically referred to as a "hum-vee"or a truck. Field expedient: Jerry-rigged. as well as other training that might be required before a soldier is assigned to an active duty assignment.run in place) which privates must perform as quickly as possible." The cumulative event at the end of Basic Training.” Jody: A cadence call. Replaces sandbags in most military compounds. preparing food. Kiwi: The black wax used to shine leather boots.lay on your back. "back" .Drop: Order given by drill sergeants for a private or privates to assume the push-up position. and serving. Executive officer: The second in command for a military unit. Infantry: Designation of soldier whose job it is to "close with and kill the enemy. and "go" . Fireguard: Soldiers required to stay awake over night. cleaning. Arms out. now maintained as a form of discipline and connection to the past. 464 . Involves three days of training and living in tents outdoors. originally implemented when barracks were wood.

Ninety mile an hour tape: Green duct tape used ubiquitously throughout the military.f.Latrine: Generic term for bathroom facilities. Negligent discharge: Another term for Accidental Discharge. M-16: Standard rifle issued to soldiers. PT: "Physical Training" Rack: Bed. Private: Generic term for any soldier going through Basic Training Problem child: Term used by drill sergeants to refer to privates who fail to properly adapt to Basic Training. bunk 465 .” MOS: "Military Occupational Specialty. Platoon guide: A private assigned the top leadership of a platoon. MEPS: "Military Entrance Processing Station. but is significantly larger than a HMMWV and more difficult to maneuver. The vehicle has a V-shaped undercarriage to distribute an IED blast away from the vehicle. Orders must be carried by the soldier at all times." New type of armored vehicle introduced to soldiers in Iraq. Pro-mask: "Protective Mask. LBE/LBV: "Load Bearing Equipment/Vest." The specific job assigned to a soldier. Supposedly named because "it won't come off when you're going ninety miles an hour." Soldiers roleplaying enemy forces and civilians in military wargames. privates in Basic Training are still issued the M-16. MRAP: "Mine Resistant Ambush Protected. Although active duty soldiers are being issued a smaller variant called the M-4." A set of suspenders or a vest worn over the chest and attached to a belt from which equipment can be stored and carried. Profile: A letter from a doctor or medic restrciting the physical activity of a soldier." Gas mask." OPFOR: "Opposing Force. Patrol cap: The baseball cap worn by soldiers in the field. Orders: Paper printed with the assignment and responsibilities of a soldier. c.

insults. medical access. Toe the line: Order given by drill sergeants to assemble around the killzone in the barracks. etc. Shark attack: The emotional and physical assault by the drill sergeants on the first day of Basic Training. and then adjust the sights on the weapon up. See also "ate up. Range safety: Soldiers assigned on a firing range to be certain all soldiers follow correct safety procedures. food preparation. this is not guaranteed. such as paperwork. finance.Range: An area set aside for training. and punishments. down. Total control: The first three weeks of Basic Training when Drill Sergeants pay close attention to all the privates' actions. clear voice. Soup sandwich: A soldier who is generally slovenly or unprepared. Weapon: Term used by soldiers for the rifle or pistol assigned to them. Range walk: Fast walk in which at least one foot is touching the ground at all times. Soldiers fire three times at the target. or the exhaustion that comes from such punishment. Although typically a precursor to punishment. 466 . or right in order to hit the target in the center. TA-50: The field equipment issued to a soldier. Smoking: A generic term for excessive punishment. Usually also associated with harsher punishments. Generally considered to be awkward and silly. "I was smoked" Sounding off: Yelling or talking in a loud. left.” Support: Designation of a soldier whose job it is to provide infantry and other combat arms the services they need. Usually accompanied by large amounts of shouting. Tight roll: Technique for rolling shirts and other clothing as tightly as possible. Zeroing: Procedure for setting the sights on a weapon by attempting to place three rounds in a 10cm diameter circle on a paper target. Usually refers to a "firing range" with various targets. Recruiter: The soldier who first contacts the private and convinced him to join the Army.