The Life and Times in the Army Reserves: My First Day (Story 1)
My First Day
We all have our dreams, our goals, and our desires. They are what guides us through our lives. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a soldier. As I grew older, I saw the commercials that made it look like a lot of fun. Shortly before my senior year of high school, I enlisted in the Army Reserves. Two weeks after I graduated, I left to complete my initial training.
Basic training was everything I thought it would be. We trained constantly. We got into the best shape most of us had ever been in. We barely slept and I loved every minute of it. After Basic, I went to learn about my job. I always loved science, so I chose to be a chemical, biological, and nuclear specialist. After months of training, I was ready to go to my new unit.
The flight back home seemed to take forever and I kept daydreaming about how my new unit was going to be. My mind constantly raced through what kind of training I could possibly go through. In my head, it was going to be like a mix of basic and my job training. I was a little disappointed when I got home and it was too late to report in to my new unit. I tossed and turned all night but at some point, I managed to fall asleep. Even while sleeping, I pictured what my first day was going to be like.
I woke up around six in the morning. I ate breakfast, showered, shaved, and put on my uniform. The excitement grew inside me as I tied my boots and got ready to leave. As I walked out of my parents place, I thought to myself, “here we go Bill, this is the first day of your new life.” I started the car, put on NPR to catch up on current events and pulled out of the drive way, but all my training couldn’t prepare me for what was about to happen.
Meeting The Unit Administrator
I pulled into the parking lot of the Reserve Center a little after lunch time and noticed someone sitting on the curb. He was wearing shorts, a black T-shirt, and a bald head. The man had his arms crossed on his knees and his head resting on his arms. There was a lit cigarette in his right hand. As I got out of the car, he didn’t move a muscle. I stopped right in front of him and said, “Excuse me, sir, I am Private Bill…” Without lifting his head, he interrupted me.
“I know who you are, you are William Hayes, and you’re the new CBRN guy and don’t call me sir.” He lifted his head up to look me in the eyes and took a puff of his cigarette, “We weren’t expecting you for another week.” He motions his head to the right, “sit.”
We sit there for a couple of minutes in silence as he finishes his cigarette and puts it out. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out another cigarette. Before he can light it, I ask him if we should go inside. He lights his cigarette while looking at me and says, “In there? I’m not going in there right now.”
I was a little baffled. Was he really refusing to do his job? This wasn’t anything like I had experienced in my training. We sat in silence for another minute as I built up the courage to ask him, “Why aren’t you going in there?”
The man kind of chuckled a little bit as he slightly turned his body to point towards the doors, “Because kid, in there, that’s hell. In there, you deal with the stupidest of the stupid. Out here though, out here it’s nice and quiet, almost peaceful, well, that was until you showed up.”
I had a hard time understanding what he was saying, I had never come across like someone in the Army like this. He seemed burned out, tired and possibly depressed. Remembering some of my training on suicide prevention, these seemed like some of the signs. Without really thinking about it I asked him, “Are you thinking about suicide? We can talk about it if you want.”
He began laughing real hard, so hard that he fell onto his back. “Suicide? Suicide? Kid, that’s why they make alcohol. And on that note, let’s go get you in-processed.” As he stands up, he lights another cigarette, and starts walking towards the door.
“I thought you weren’t allowed to smoke in federal buildings?” I still couldn’t figure out this guy.
“Kid,” he says while turning around at the door, “I want you to remember all the things you learned while at training. Now forget it, that stuff has no use here. It is only going to make you frustrated.” He turns back around and walks through the door.
He has the first office on the left. There is a sign hanging next to the door that says “Unit Administrator” and underneath it has “Mr. Laney”. I follow him into the office where points at a chair. As I sit down I ask him, “So what should I call you if I’m not supposed to call you sir.”
“Hell son, I don’t really care. Now, let’s talk about what you are going to be doing here at the unit.” Before he can start, the phone rings. He spins his chair, looks at and says “Of course.” He picks up the phone, “Mr. Laney.” He’s silent for a second, “What do you mean we don’t have hotel rooms for the weekend? You know what? Just come back here, I’ll find out what is going on.” As Mr. Laney slams the phone down, another man walks in and sits down next to me.
Meeting the Commander
“What’s going on Mick?”
Mick turns his chair around, “Well Steve, you remember that brave new world we talked about like six months ago?
“Yep” says Steve.
“Well, welcome to the new world, it’s the same as the old one.”
Steve scoffs, “Cigarette?”
While Mick stands up, “Come on kid, we’ll talk outside.”
We all head outside. I’m trying to figure out who this new guy is, as well as, just what Mr. Laney does. Out of curiosity I ask, “Why do we need hotel rooms?”
While taking a puff of his cigarette, Steve says, “It’s a program the reserves has. Any soldier over a certain number of miles from the unit gets one so they don’t have to drive home.” He turns to Mick, “I guess they are just going to have to stay here this weekend.”
Mick sighs deeply, “I hate this place. Oh, by the way, this is Private Hayes, he’s your new driver.”
Steve turns to me, “I’m Captain Allen, the Commander of the unit. It’s nice to meet you.”
I go immediately to the position of attention. “It’s nice to meet you sir. What does he mean I’m your driver? I’m supposed to be a CBRN specialist.”
Captain Allen kind of looks surprised, “First, relax, it is just us three here. Second, we don’t really train on that stuff. Mostly you are just going to help Mr. slash Sergeant Laney here. Every once and a while you’ll drive me places.”
“Oh, okay.” I really didn’t know what to say, this really wasn’t what I expected.
Captain Allen, “Did Mick go over the keys to success in the reserves with you?”
“No, the phone rang as soon as we got in there.”
“Okay, there are three things to make you succeed in the Army. One, show up at the right time, the right place, and in the right uniform. Two, pass your physical fitness test. And three, don’t do drugs. That’s it, that’s all you have to do.”
With a half-smile I say, “I think I can manage that.”
Mick chimes in, “I sure hope so, I’m getting tired of trying to kick these new soldiers out who stop showing up.”
“What do you mean,” I ask.
“I’ll explain it to you this weekend, you and myself are going to be spending a lot of time together over the next couple of years. For now, go home, get a good night’s rest and be here by seven thirty tomorrow morning.” The Commander and Mr. Laney start walking inside when Mr. Laney stops and turns around, “and leave your expectations at home, they’ll do you no good here.”
I watched them walk into the building and then turned to walk to my vehicle. As I got in and started the engine, I tried to make sense what I encountered. This wasn’t what I was expecting but maybe it was just a bad day, hopefully tomorrow will be better.
© 2015 Kingsniz