Storytime: My First Weekend at Drill

I’m sitting on the arm of a leather couch. My palms are sweaty as I observe the unfamiliar faces and realize I stick out like a civilian at a military base. Their clothes are uniform, and they form into small crowds like a high school clique waiting for the lunch bell. Have you ever been in a situation where you’re meant to be there, but every sound and sight makes it obvious that you do not fit in? I think that’s beautiful—you hold a lovely power that allows others to notice you, and you get to be different.

 

So, we’re waiting around for at least 15 minutes, yet it feels like 60. We hustle into the gym and stand in formation. I had no idea what I was doing. Am I supposed to be at Attention or at Ease? Biggest tip of advice: just do what the person in front of you does (as long as they know what they’re doing). I started emphasizing the fact that I really don’t know any military terminology, positions, or ranks. The sergeants split up the newbies from the oldies. As a newbie, we did some physical fitness testing called the OPAT. I was expecting a timed two-mile run with intensive ab and arm workouts—I was pleased to find out that wasn’t the case! We did a long jump, threw a medicine ball, and a test similar to the Fitnessgram Pacer. 

 

“Hit the showers,” they said, and it was 11:30 am. 

 

And I said, “Hmm?!” 

 

The rest of the day was filled with chow (lunch and dinner), classroom training, platoon time (hang out with our platoon), and free time after dinner. Free time consisted of hygiene (showering again, if you need it, with no time restraints!), chatting, sitting on our phones, or playing basketball.

 

Do you know how delightful it can feel to lose pride? During downtime, I encouraged myself to ask questions for clarification instead of pretending like I knew what they were talking about. I asked these young soldiers (literally still in high school) what the abbreviation was for their uniforms and I inquired how I’m supposed to address a sergeant versus an officer. I stepped into curiosity and asked these soldiers personal questions about their experiences at Basic or about their family dynamics. I felt delighted knowing that my humility might be opening up an opportunity for them to practice a gift—a gift of storytelling, a gift of humor, a gift of insight or knowledge.

 

At my first drill, I didn’t remember any names and I wasn’t the one to strike conversation, which is unusual for me. Leading up to this intimidating weekend, I prayed constantly and whole-heartedly for the Lord to be in my interactions with people. The whole day went by and I didn’t even think to spread His light because I was deeply engrossed in this foreign atmosphere. But I now know that He was working even when I was unaware. In the evening, a group of five to six of us girls gathered into a circle, wrapped in our blankets from home. We giggled about boys and chatted about our families. My Bible was sitting out by my pillow and I don’t recall how this started, but we got to talking about church and faith. I was able to share parts of my personal testimony—my life before Christ and my process of accepting Him as my Savior. This was the first time I’ve ever broadcasted my faith story in an unplanned setting—the Lord is so good. Later that evening, actually around 0200 to be exact, we had Fire Guard. Fire Guard is where two battle buddies sit up and keep watch in one-hour shifts. 

 

My battle buddy randomly said to me, “I think it’s really cool that you… like, love Jesus.” 

 

All I could do was smile. This comment was so unexpected and delightful, I thank the Lord for her boldness at that moment. I am encouraged to continue spreading His Word, even when I have self-doubts and become timid.

 

The morning came, and we had chow at 0700. We ate while learning about our benefits and opportunities. We then did some cleaning and waiting and left by 10:15… A great motto for the military is, “Hurry up and wait.” I like to remind myself that I was there for about 24 hours exactly—my whole world was put into perspective when I think back on how I accomplished something challenging and uncomfortable in just 24 hours.

 

I survived my first drill. I went bare-faced and completely unknown into a whole new world. It’s hard to describe exactly how secluded yet magnetic the military realm is in comparison to the nation of civilians. For multiple years, I felt a strong pull to know this territory, and there I was, experiencing it at last. 

 

This is contentment. This is satisfaction. This is fulfillment. 

 

And that’s when I knew this truly is the Lord’s will for my life.