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Blanket party invitation? Don’t go.

The guest of honor at a blanket honor is usually a surprise.

At least for them.

Everyone else knows who’s who and what to do.

After attending one, you may want to skip, or break the next one up.

The good thing about a blanket party is the inclusiveness.

Everyone gets to participate.

All races, all colors, all nationalities, all religions, all creeds, the works.

The unspoken rule is sit out and you are suspect.

If you don’t show up for a blanket party, yours might be next.

Fred White got his blanket party.

By most estimates he had it coming.

He showed up halfway through the boot camp cycle.

Transferred from the conditioning platoon, a sort of prep school to get in good enough shape to keep up with your peers on The Hill, he moved right in.

A tall man in his mid-twenties, he saw the 17-21 year old guys in the platoon from a mature point of view.

Condescending would be a fair definition. He was better than them based on age and demanded respect as an elder.

A round man, though not as round after dropping twenty pounds, Fred White was a rare combination of softness and swagger.

Some of the younger guys felt intimidated. Like most intimidated guys they either sucked up or lashed out.

The ratio changed after Fred failed on the rope crossing.

That effort cost the platoon some extra PT, the ‘physical training’ on a big cement parade ground called a Grinder where everyone yells, “MORE PT, DRILL SERGEANT,” when he asks how you feel.

PT includes push-ups, jumping jacks, up-downs. Not much different than your average football practice, except for the added resentment for being forced to do more because of one person. That. Guy.

Fred White was in the best shape of his life

Since it was midway through the training cycle everyone was in fair shape.

Even though he whimpered and broke down in tears on the rope crawl, Fred still showed his swagger.

About a week later he decided to man-up on one of the good guys.

“Golden Gloves boxer? That’s what I heard. You don’t look like a Golden Gloves boxer to me.”

At six feet two, 230lb, Fred leaned sideways against the barracks wall talking at six four, 180lb, Mulanski.

“I don’t want any trouble here,” Mulanski said.

Ten minutes before lights out is the wrong time for trouble.

“No trouble, just saying you don’t look like you even have a punch. Come on, let’s see. Right here on the shoulder.”

“Not tonight.”

“Afraid to hurt your hand on a man’s shoulder, little boy?” Fred asked with a raised eyebrow. He practiced his smirky look in a mirror. It works.

Mulanski stared at the round taunting face, the full lips, the small eyes.

“Okay,” he said, unleashing a quick jab that slipped off a soft, round, shoulder and popped him in the temple.

Fred’s head bounced off the wall. He collapsed on top of his shoes, straight down.

Ten minutes to lights out with a knocked out guy on the floor resulted in more extra PT, plus a note in Mulanski’s file.

Two reasons to throw a blanket party

One challenge on the regular obstacle course made you crawl up a cargo net laid over a twenty foot platform and down the other side.

The top was a ten foot square big enough for three guys to hide out and pretend to help others.

They were self-appointed helpers and Fred White appointed himself when he got there.

“Not enough room for four. Climb down.”

“I’m staying.”

“Next time. We’ve got it covered today.”

“One of you climb down.”

“You’ll climb down of fall down. It’s a long way.”

“You couldn’t push me off this.”

“Won’t have to. I saw you on the rope crossing. I’m betting you can’t get down off this in one piece.”

“Like you could.”

“Like this you mean?”

The trainee leaned his upper body over the side and flipped out of sight before popping back up on the edge.

“If you can do that, I’ll go down and you can stay,” he said.

Fred White leaned over, rolled sideways, got his feet stuck in the net and let go with his hands. He dangled by his feet before flipping once more and landing hard.

Drill sergeants swarmed on the still body, loosened his belt, and slapped him around. Literally slapped him to consciousness. Twice.

The platoon scored extra PT. Again.


A benefit of serving in the Armed Forces with a screw up is marching order.

The top performing platoon leads the company on marches.

Before you think this isn’t important, consider the long marches, not the parade ground lock step.

The whole company hikes up and over steep fire breaks on the hills around Fort Ord.

The top guys get clean air up front. Everyone else eats dirt, but none more than the last platoon in formation.

They breath the kicked up dirt and the flying dust dirt lands on them.

Fred White joined the best platoon, guys used to marching in the front spot. His antics landed them in back.

Blanket party manners

First you hear the talk.

“Tonight’s the night.”

An hour after lights out you watch from your bunk as shadow figures streak down the back aisle on one side of the barracks.

One of them stops and gives you a shake and says, “Let’s go.”

You go.

Like a game of work-up you wait your turn holding the blanket and swinging the soap-in-a-sock.

How you react here tells about your upbringing and your future. It tells who you are and who you’ll be.

You don’t have to give blanket party boy a punch at each station of the blanket.

And you don’t have to swing the soap sock like a big hammer in a nail driving contest.

Don’t talk. If you feel like you need to give a personal warning at a blanket party, don’t. You’re doing enough by showing up.

Army boot camp blanket party to help one of the guys? That’s Army Strong all the way.

About David Gillaspie
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