Brothers Of Blue
From as far back as I can remember I have always wanted to serve in the United States military. I grew up watching and idolizing the war movies and drew a particular interest in the bonds formed in combat soldiers. When the time finally came to pick my MOS and ship off to Basic Combat Training, I knew I was going to choose Infantry. The Infantry, at the time was everything I wasn’t. I knew if I was going to serve it was going to be on the frontlines. I had never belonged to anything before, sure I was on the football team but there was still a sense of comradery I was missing. The infantry, the first job and most important role in the United States Army. The infantry directly engages the enemies of the United States of America. Fully knowing this, those who join this brotherhood are often perceived as dumb or just meatheads. Part of the selection process to join the army includes a ASVAB test to determine “intelligence”. Your results on that test determine which jobs you are available for. Infantry lies at the lower end of the spectrum. However, from my experience Infantrymen are not dumb nor are they only in this particular field because of their lack of perceived intelligence. Infantrymen simply answer the call to service in a different way
In the Beginning, God created Fort Benning
The making of the infantry starts with how we are indoctrinated into the military. Yes, I do mean indoctrinated we as combat ready soldiers are not in the business of delegation or humanities. A special type of training and mentality is required to ensure readiness in combat. All other basic trainings for all other MOS’s are ran by a mixer of drill sergeants who come from varying military occupations. In the infantry, we are exclusively exposed to and trained by drill sergeants who also carry the same designation. Fort Benning, Georgia is the only place that infantrymen are trained. The environment formed over the next 13 weeks helps to build more mentally tough soldiers.
Mental toughness is paramount in the infantry because you can always build a stronger body but you cannot fix someone with tiny heart syndrome. The all-male environment helps to establish leadership roles and a hierarchy within the training platoon. Those who do not conform or revert into themselves instead of serving in the best interest of the group are deemed Blue Falcons a polite term for Buddy F%#@*r. The ability to recognize and respect that hierarchy is of the upmost importance when we reach our duty stations after training. Throughout our BCT we are given training with a special emphasis on battle tactics and buddy communication during a firefight. The culminating event of all the physical and mental hardships comes at graduation upon the completion of the Turning Blue ceremony. The Turning Blue ceremony is when we receive our branch designator which is a blue cord worn on our right arm. It is put on our uniforms by our relatives attending the ceremony. I can still to this day see my father’s smile while putting on me, the first thing I ever really earned.
The building process does not end after we officially become Infantrymen. After training we are sent to our duty stations. Once at our duty stations, we build upon our skills learned while in basic training. Those we meet and are assigned to at our unit are the ones we will become bonded with for a lifetime. Infantry units in particular are notoriously known for their attitudes, foul language, and lack of political correctness. Physical training is key to performing occupational tasks within the infantry and we do not accept less than one’s personal best. If one member of the platoon is weak it creates a liability for the entire mission. Hated by many other occupational branches of the army, however many branches justify themselves in their resemblance to our field. In times of peace when we are not training we are often used as an unskilled labor force, given trivial tasks such as mowing and landscaping.
The training schedule of the infantrymen is very rigorous. As cliché as it may sound but entirely truthful, it separates the men from the boys. Our training is striped of most common comforts and necessities. In the field, we are exposed to the harshest conditions to make them as realistic as possible to combat. In those harsh conditions the strongest bonds are formed. We share foxholes together, food, socks anything that can aid your fellow brother. I have never felt anything that can even come close to the comradery that I formed with my platoon mates. It is this common feeling of mutual suffering that brings infantrymen together. Great trust is formed when you are trying to stay awake on your 2nd guard shift in 4 hours and you share stories and experiences in full confidence. We collectively strive to make the best of the situation through jokes and hazing to keep the mood light. We emphasis mastery of weapons systems and tactics. The field training is filled with constant situations and scenarios where we are forced to use our knowledge to accomplish the mission. As brutal as the training and drilling is we know that further mastery of our craft may save our life’s.
An Infantryman’s Dream
In the infantry, we all look forward to our chance to prove our abilities in combat. The warrior mentality is instilled and drilled into us so much that the only true satisfaction comes from a combat deployment. The idea of deployment does not scare the infantry, but encourages our own feelings of making a physical difference in the security of our great nation. I personally deployed in the fall of 2015 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. We were tasked with training and support of Iraqi troops to combat ISIS. Collectively we were disappointed with these orders. Effectively riding in the backseat, we saw our mission as not making an impact in the war on terror. The years of training and physical conditioning felt as if they were for nothing. As hard of a pill that is to swallow, the mission still remained and soldiers still needed trained. The bonds are not strictly an American phenomenon. The Iraqi troops built just as strong of bonds between themselves. The bonds formed through the years of training help with the missing of loved ones and homesickness. Even such that after returning home and exiting the military, a part of me would go back to Iraq just to have that irreplaceable bond again.