Against The Grain

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Chapter 20

After a good night of rest at med quarters I was back in the field with the wannabes. I returned back to Victory Forge three hours after breakfastchow. I had another good, hot meal at med quarters like I knew I would. I asked for orange juice, but the nurse brought me a bottle of Gatorade. I had an abundance of food, topped off with a big hunk of carrot cake. None of the others back at Victory Forge got the opportunity to take a shower like I did and I didn’t feel bad it either. A shower was well needed. I wasn’t the grimy type and I grew up taking showers every single day.

We had another challenge and I’d returned in just enough time to complete the obstacle. Kunert had my weapon. The rule remained that if one battle buddy had to attend the hospital on ‘sick call’ than the other buddy had to tote their weapon around. When she finally saw me after formation she shoved my rifle into my chest. I just took it and held it at the low ready until the drill sergeants permitted all of us to stack our weapons.

We stacked our rifles so that they leaned together against each other. Our grouped rifles looked similar to small metal teepees. Once I stacked my weapon, I felt like I had less baggage. Instead of one team pulling guard over the weapons, while the other trained, both teams participated simultaneously. However, we were still segregated as teams. Alpha stood together on one side of the stacked weapons while Bravo stood on the opposite.

Drill Sergeant Drake commanded an individual wannabe from each team to run onto the course. After a complete thirty seconds, the next wannabe was to step forward and run into the obstacle course. I’d spent time stretching out while I was at med quarters so I was ready to run. I glimpsed over to my left and noticed that I was lined up with Private Martinez. Therefore, I would have to run with him on the drill sergeant’s command and that would be fine. It didn’t matter to me if I couldn’t outrun him. I was still going to try to complete the obstacle. I can do it! I thought.

The first wannabes to race would be Private Price and Private Carter. Figures they would be first since they were our platoon leaders. The next wannabe would be Blackstone and Johnson. After them, then Clinton and Butler would go next, then Fleshman and Peterson, and finally me and Martinez. However, we weren’t the last ones. The rest of the platoon would take their turns after us.

On the drill sergeant’s command, the first two wannabes took off running. Price took off running onto the course as if someone was actually chasing her. Carter, on the other hand, easily sped ahead of her with his long legs and wider stride. The drill sergeants took no precaution in regards to Price. They allowed her to run crooked along the obstacle course.

After the next few couples sped off, it was finally our turn. Of course, I didn’t try to race him. What if I accidentally hurt myself? I just braced myself, preparing for anything that could harm me. I didn’t want to run into anyone, trip over a branch, fall and break my ankle. I was going to play it safe. I was most important, not the training or the drill sergeants for that matter.

Up ahead, I spotted the roped net. No biggie, I love to climb. I thought. The net started at my waist. I approached the net and straddled one leg into it, then the other. I crawled across the next with the wannabes on it as well.

Finally, I began climbing up the rope. I had to climb nearly eight feet above my head then climb over a huge log and just to climb back down on the other side. My foot became caught while I tried my hardest to climb over the log. I peered down and watched Butler and Clinton stand aside. They weren’t climbing. They were just watching. I didn’t care what they were doing. I was going to make it over the log.

That’s when I spotted Private Fleshman. He’d become stuck as well. I wiggled my foot out the ropes and climbed over the log. Fleshman, on the other hand, dangled for a few seconds. The minute his foot loosened, he fell off the ropes, into the net and on top of Mendez from nearly six feet high.

Drill Sergeant Wilkinson fromsecondplatoon yelled at him to get his ‘fat ass off of her’ and Fleshman quickly tried to lift his body weight off of her. Embarrassment colored Fleshman’s face while Rodriguez, Green, and Clinton laughed as hard as they could at him. He was able to get off of Mendez and he tried to climb it again, still with a red face.

Clinton walked over toward Mendez and asked her if she was alright. Mendez rose slowly, yet she acted like she wasn’t even hurt. She just kept going. I saw everything while I climbed down the ropes. Watching them caused me to slow down, so I had to refocus.

Just as soon as Martinez offered me a hand from off the ropes, I overheard Drill Sergeant Fisher yelling at him not to help me. He had a confused look on his face while shespoke,as if he didn’t know what she was saying to him. Martinez knew good and well that he wasn’t supposed to touch me. Yet, Martinez helped me anyway. I already knew he was one of the most kindhearted of them all. He never gave anyone a problem.

Once I climbed up the wall and straddled over the log, I could see the entire company training on the course. I hopped on the ground running. My adrenaline felt like a great rush throughout my entire body. I had bypassed Butler, Clinton and a couple of the males too. I remembered jogging by Private Fleshman as he moved his heavy body across the obstacle course.

The heavier wannabes took longer to climb up the ropes. I spotted Private Brown jogging ahead of me. She turned her head around to gaze back in my direction. She gave me a wide smile and I could tell that Brown was proud she’d made it over that log.

Stevenson hollered out Brown’s name. Brown peered over at Stevenson and kept running.


She smashed into a tree, hitting her head on its giant trunk. She hit it so hard I could hear it from the couple feet I stood behind her. She fell to the ground immediately. Drill Sergeant Fisher headed over to see about Private Brown while I continued pacing ahead.

I slowed my pace and reminded myself to be careful. Most of the trees were cut down near the beginning of the course. However, somewhere in between, we had to start paying careful attention. I just kept right on moving forward. Yet, I was becoming out of breath. So, I slowed down a little more.

I spotted the next challenge because the wannabes were crowding the area. There were nearly fifteen slender logs lying horizontally, like a flatbed sitting foot high. We all had to hop on the logs without falling or rolling backward over any of them. I ran across them with ease and kept it moving. I just had to walk across and allow my footsteps to be a few quick dashing tippy toes.

After the logs, the next challenge was the monkey bars. I watched PrivateFluentezfall from the fourth monkey bar and then I watched Drill Sergeant Manning yell at him to do it all over again. I watched Private Chapman fall as well. She fell right on her stomach and I watched as Drill Sergeant Manning yelled for her to do it all over again too. There were six high bars and I made it across all of them without falling. I kept moving, as I took a quick glimpse behind me to make sure the drill sergeant wasn’t watching me and he wasn’t.

Suddenly, I bumped into Private Carrington fromfirstplatoon. I wasn’t watching my surroundings. Carrington froze for a second. She was a caramel colored black female with shoulder length fluffy hair. She smiled at me and I returned it as I jogged in place. She then said excuse me. We politely smiled and parted ways. So, I kept going.

Stevenson caught up to me and smiled back at me. I smiled back at her. She seemed to be having a good time with this course and I received some of her positive energy as she flew by me. I felt my body pick up some speed, yet she still passed me as she soared forward. She must have been making up forlosttime or trying to compete with me, but either way, I was in the zone.

Next, I had to move through the stale tires. It was like playing hopscotch again. This is too easy, I thought. Then we came to the barbed wire challenge. There were four rings of barbed wire within the obstacle. Each ring appeared to be writhing with wannabes traveling through it like worms in an apple. The barbs may have only been on the outside of the wire prompt or it was only a spiraled wire ring.

Either way, I got down on my hands and knees and joined them. I crawled into the rings and halfway through the wannabe in front of me suddenly kicked me right in my forehead. It hurt badly. I lifted a bit and I felt the wire get caught on a stand of my hair. I had to keep going. So, I eased back down, snatching my hair out of the wire and proceeded on all fours through the wire. Before a minute and a half was up I was out of the wire and onto the next opposition.

I kept running and running, but I was careful not to bump into a tree-like Private Brown did. I kept running and I found no other challenge in my path, but I knew I hadn’t missed anything.

Finally, I ran into the next line of wannabes collected at the obstacle. We all stood in front of a set of eight bars on a rail. The obstacle provided us with a break from jogging through the course. I stood at the end of the line and caught my breath, squatting down with my arms on my knees. I heard one of the males tell me to keep my head up and I quickly stood erect, but I didn’t catch who said it to me.

The activity was another set of bars that arched over like a rainbow. Drill Sergeant Beacon oversaw the obstacle. He was a white male with a round nose and lightly sparse brown freckles. He seemed to hold a reddish undertone that appeared as though he were always blushing. He held a southern accent similar to that of black kinfolk.

We watched the wannabes ahead of us as they tried to achieve the obstacle. Drill Sergeant Beacon monitored us to make sure we didn’t pass up the challenge. The activity challenged us to weave our bodies between the bars. Majority of the wannabes couldn’t do the obstacle. I hadn’t seen any of the males successfully complete this challenge—not one. It seemed that their bodies weren’t built for it.

By the looks of things, Private Walker was the only female I’d seen who completed this challenge out of everyone in our whole company who was still standing. Most people made it through two or four bars and then they fell off. Walker, on the other hand, weaved her small stocky body in between every single bar like a centipede. I made it through two bars and dropped off on purpose. I had nothing to prove to them. I’d be in the military whether I weaved through the bars or not. I didn’t care what any of them thought of me.

Drill Sergeant Beacon allowed me to continue through the course without looking back. It was really just holding up the flow of things.

Our last challenge was to walk on a flat, slender beam of wood over top a streaming river. There were approximately twenty beams aligned across the narrow river. So there wasn’t a wait. Drill Sergeant Andrews stood there and watched us with a look of reproach wrinkled on his face. I took my time to step on to the beam and spread my arms out horizontally. Then I proceeded to move across it, one foot in front of the other, just like a balance beam. It reminded me of my childhood gymnastics program after school.

Drill Sergeant Cole fromfirstplatoon waited at the finish line. Her bright blond hair and pinkish skin stood out. She didn’t appear tough, but proud. I’d spotted her while coming into the finish line. I did it!

I hustled on overpass Drill Sergeant Cole. She acknowledged me as I cross the finish line and then she refocused her attention onto the other wannabes that she could see moving towards the finish line. She didn’t make any more eye contact with me, but I didn’t care. I was happy to be completing the physical training obstacle. Yes! I thought. I looked around at all the wannabes and I wasn’t sure who would talk to me. There were at least sixty to seventy wannabes from our company standing around the finish line. I didn’t say anything to any of them, but when I looked forward I spotted one heading my way.

“Bout time you made it.” Private Price replied, with her hands on her hips.

She was the loftiest wannabe I’d ever met. She just kept staring at me as if I owed her an explanation for getting to the finish line after her. I just ignored her as I watched others jog in through the finished line. Private Brown appeared to be one of the last wannabes to slowly wander over the finish line. She wandered in slowly with the medics. There were always medics on site when we did our most physical obstacles.

We took about an hour of our day to stand around while the drill sergeants grouped and discussed things. I socialize with Private Brown for a while because I felt so sorry for her. Once I moved away from her I walked over and began socializing with Chapman. I enjoyed talking to her anytime I had the opportunity. Our company stood around waiting for instructions. The drill sergeants could have put usin formation, but they didn’t. Everyone gathered into various groups. They grew louder and their harmony overflowed.

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