Thursday, April 3, 2008

Four weeks later the day room for B Company is awash in the noise and confusion of trainees and their family and friends in a post graduation celebration. A color television in the corner is playing a tape of the past eight weeks of training. A few people appear to watch the video but most are too busy looking at each other, family members marveling at the new, leaner soldiers that left home two months ago as slightly flabby civilians. Sgt. Strohl moves easily around the room, smiling at babies or admonishing her soon to be former charges with now gentle firmness to stand with their families.
Basic training is over and the weaning process for the young soldiers from their drill sergeant has begun.
"Sure I'll miss them", Strohl wryly comments during a quiet moment. "I'll miss them like you miss a baby after it grows up. But I won't miss changing their diapers!"
Later the 3re Herd stands together in the area parking lot with the rest of
B Company. Duffel bags are strewn in apparent disorganization around the feet of the excited group of soldiers. Attired in their dress green uniforms, hair gorwn out to regulation length and overseas caps tilted at a now jaunty angle, the former recruits of the 3rd Herd look like real soldiers. Soon buses will arrive to take the young men off to the next level of training. Sgt. Strohl moves among her platoon one more time, signing training cycle yearbooks, joking with some and straightening a tie for others. A ghetto blaster plays loudly somewhere and some of the soldiers stand around nervously with large yellow envelopes tucked under their arms containing orders and personal papers, anchored by hands stuck in their pockets. Sgt. Strohl observes this breech of training discipline and moves quickly to straighten up her troops one last time.
"Get those hands out of you pockets you knuckle heads! Think you can get all sleazy now just because you are leaving here!"
Sgt. Strohl adjusts more ties, buttons buttons and checks for general neatness. Her admonishments are met with good humored smiles. The time slips by for the soon-to-be former 3rd Herders. While Sgt. Strohl does not spend alot of time ruminating about being female drill sergeant in a mostly male army, she does have a few opinions.
"Being a woman make the job a little harder, but being a woman also has it's advantages. Because I'm a woman they find it easier to bring their personal problems to me. Many of these kids are away from home for the first time."
Sgt. Strohl believes that being tough is not always enough in today's army.
Some of her troops agree.
Teetering on one leg as he shines a shoe on the back of the pants leg of the other one young private remembers.
"Sgt. Strohl was easier to relate to. Personal problems especially."
Nearby, other members of 3rd platoon non their heads in agreement.
Another private remembered he had a hard time remembering to call her sergeant.
"I kept calling her Mam. Until after a couple of days I heard her cuss. Then I called her sergeant."
Three big greyhound buses pull up in front of the company parking lot. The young soldiers perk up. It seems the arriving buses are already filled up...with recently graduated female soldiers from across the post.
Sgt. Strohl shades a few last hands, chats with a couple of her favorites, and suddenly the once littered park lot is empty.
Sgt. Strohl does a high five with a nearby sergeant
"Their gone!", he yells. "It's Miller Time!"
After a short break the drill sergeants will start on another back breaking training cycle of brand new recruits. Another round of eighteen hour days, dedicated to turning adolescent gum poppers into memebers of the mean green fighting machine.
Thats then and not now. Staff Sergeant Cynthia Strohl and her colleagues from B Company are more interested in heading over to the NCO Club to see who buys the first round.

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