Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: General Impressions, Private Impressions, and Sergeant Impressions

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: General Impressions, Private Impressions, and Sergeant Impressions

Article excerpt

There's nothing quite like a drill sergeant to mess up your routine.

And having someone roust me from my bunk at 5 a.m. definitely messes with my routine.

Nearly 50 of us, members of Leadership Oklahoma Class XXIV (generally regarded as the best class ever) spent a few days at Fort Sill recently. It is not particularly poignant that we were part of Leadership Oklahoma Class XXIV, but mentioning that makes Ann Ackerman really happy, and who wouldn't want to make Ann Ackerman happy? Drill sergeants, I suppose. But everyone else is on board.

We did all the stuff one does in a leadership class. We got the inside scoop from panels of experts, both military and non. We shot automatic rifles at simulator screens and chowed down on MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat), which was like watching the English majors run amok in the chemistry lab.

We ate with soldiers, talked with soldiers, and, ouch, exercised with soldiers. Fort Sill is full of 18-year-old privates who can embarrass me with pushups and 40-something lieutenant colonels who can lap me running backward.

I was duly impressed with the Stinger missiles, the tradition of the retreat ceremony and the history of the fort, which was founded in 1869 to keep the tribes separated from the settlers in Texas and Kansas. Fort Sill is now the home of field and air defense artillery. It's also one of the Army's five sites for basic training.

Enter the drill sergeants.

Fort Sill is an impressive place staffed by some very impressive people. From fresh-off-the-bus privates who have yet to earn a beret to West Point graduates wearing eagles and stars, they were polite, genuine and surprisingly candid. That included the drill sergeants, the storied, feared masters of training and discipline who proved to be the most intriguing group on the post.

They taught us, quickly, how to stand at attention, how to stand at ease and how to salute. …

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