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One of the highlights of Army basic training is a week long camp out.

Everyone needs to enjoy the outdoors this way.

You learn new skills and meet new friends.

New friends come with the other half of the tent you’ll spend the week in…together.

It’s called a shelter half. If you can’t get along with anyone you end up with half a shelter, which adds up to half of nothing.

Also, if you’re not friendly enough to find your ‘other half’ one will be assigned. That person is also difficult, like you.

In normal life you camp on flat ground. Clear the rocks, lay down a ground cloth, and tent up.

The Army is not normal.

This is a true story.

On the first day of camping the company marched into the woods, which at Ford Ord are pretty sparse.

We passed a hill, then another, but stopped at a third hill.

The instructor for our platoon pointed to the hill and said, “This is home.”

He showed each pair of trainees where they’d be spending the next week.

On a hill? Oh hell no. Since we had tiny shovels called entrenching tools, we applied them to the campsite. That’s right, we leveled space for a tent with a shovel the size of a soup spoon.

After all the digging we were supposed to dig a trench around the campsite for drainage. With no rain on the forecast my tent pal and I decided to rough the dirt up instead of digging.

Apparently this idea was not new.

About ten feet above us, maybe more, our instructor stood watching.

“That’s not deep enough to divert water should it rain. It would behoove you to apply yourselves to the task.”

Sure, we thought. We’d dig until he left then scratch around some more.

Except he didn’t leave. Instead, he acted like he was standing at a urinal and cut loose with the sort of flow that swept through the Columbia Gorge.

And it was heading our way.

Like a couple of ditch witches, two smart guy Army punks dug furiously to prevent the impending flood.

In a cartoon moment of prevention we were all elbows and a$$holes with dirt flying and stifled laughter.

Who the hell could pee long enough to create the flood headed our way? The man had to have some camel gene working to retain that much water.

For the next week we lived below the gorge he cut into the earth and the drainage ditch that absorbed the flood.

In those days the Army motto was Be All You Can Be. After the camp out it turned into Pee All You Can Pee.

Every new year makes the last feel that way. Just wash away the old.

About David Gillaspie


  1. Good story, thanks!

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