Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. My January of Discontent

 
Navy recruits marching at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL.

My best friend and I signed up for the Navy a couple of months before we graduated high school in north Phoenix. After inking the deal, we could choose a date within the next 12 months to begin our adventure. After going back and forth, we chose January 5 as enlistment day.

Since I was entering the Nuclear Power Program, my recruiter said I had to do bootcamp in a little slice of heaven known as Great Lakes, IL, about 40 miles north of Chicago. My buddy was training as a Fire Controlman, so he could choose Great Lakes or San Diego. It took him about four seconds to abandon our years-long alliance by choosing sunny beaches over frozen tundra.

While flying to bootcamp in the Great White North, a brand-new replacement best friend and I were confused by the midwestern terrain below. “Why is everything white?” we wondered for about two states before we realized it was something called snow. Arizona boys.

The new guy and I showed up to Great Lakes, which was freezing cold and covered in the white stuff. We both lied that we were experienced in drill team, and were thus assigned to a “ceremonial company” that performs at bootcamp graduations. It’s a slightly cushier deal than a normal company; better to twirl rifles than peel potatoes.

Our first night in the barracks, our charming Company Commander (the Navy version of a Drill Instructor) announced that every morning about 20 of us would have to wake up at 4 a.m. to shovel snow. My turn came up on Day Three.

“Get up! Get out of your racks!” the CC hollered as he banged a metal trash can with a giant soup ladle. “I can’t belieeeeeve you aren’t dressed yet!” We finally got on our uniforms, peacoats, gloves, and wool balaclavas and headed outside where we were handed these weird flat shovels.

“Listen up, you turds! Shovel all this snow from right here to over there,” CC yelled. “If I see one snowflake left, it’s your ass!”

Ah, shoveling snow. I’ve seen this on TV. I scraped the shovel across the top of the snow-covered street, got a few flakes on the end, and tossed them onto the snowpile, only to see the wind blow them right back in the road.

Try again, same result. I’ll get the hang of this, I thought and looked to the guys on either side of me. They were old pros. Every shovel-full carried about ten pounds of the frozen stuff which they’d toss off the road with ease.

After studying their technique I tried again. Looked something like this.

By now, the Company Commander had noticed my utter incompetence.

His red face pushed into mine as he spit out, “Gabriel, what’s wrong with you?! The hell are you doing? Haven’t you ever shoveled snow before?!”

I didn’t know what to say. “I’m from Phoenix, sir!”

I guess it surprised him. He laughed hard, caught himself (it’s bad for his “tough-guy” brand), then yelled at me for making him laugh. “I never want to see you out here again, Gabriel! Get the hell out of my sight!”

So, for the next two months, as my fellow shipmates were awoken daily at 4 a.m. to shovel snow, I got to sleep in.


This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the January 2020 Group Writing Theme: Winter of Our Discontent. Thanks to all who chimed in this month; it has been a series of great posts.

Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

Published in Group Writing
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 41 comments.

  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ice Station Waukegan.

    Good thing the polar bears didn’t get you.

    • #1
    • January 25, 2020, at 4:23 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. Richard Easton Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Ice Station Waukegan.

    Good thing the polar bears didn’t get you.

    They were all drowned by GW.

    • #2
    • January 25, 2020, at 4:33 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Coolidge

    But . . . I thought you were from the UP? Why did I think that?

    • #3
    • January 25, 2020, at 4:35 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  4. Richard Finlay Member

    Your compatriots still had it easy; they (and you, for that matter) were on the Western side of the lake. On the East and Southeast shore of Lake Michigan there is this thing called Lake Effect. A snowplow actually got stuck on the road next to our house in Northwest Indiana; It left a snow canyon that lasted weeks.

    • #4
    • January 25, 2020, at 4:37 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    • #5
    • January 25, 2020, at 4:46 PM PST
    • 13 likes
  6. Rightfromthestart Coolidge

    I was there for 15 months between boot camp and A school , that included TWO winters. 

    • #6
    • January 25, 2020, at 4:47 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    But . . . I thought you were from the UP? Why did I think that?

    My parents are from the UP. I mostly grew up in Phoenix.

    • #7
    • January 25, 2020, at 5:04 PM PST
    • Like
  8. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    Follow-up: Here’s my best friend and I this past Veterans’Day:

    • #8
    • January 25, 2020, at 5:07 PM PST
    • 13 likes
  9. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Since I was entering the Nuclear Power Program

    That’s the branch that sent me recruitment letters after testing in high school. I feel better about skipping it now. 

    Then again, my cousin did boot camp in San Antonio… during the coldest Texas winter I can remember. It snowed.

    • #9
    • January 25, 2020, at 5:07 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. Clavius Thatcher

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    But . . . I thought you were from the UP? Why did I think that?

    My parents are from the UP. I mostly grew up in Phoenix.

    I went to high school in the UP. I would not have gotten out of snow shovel duty due to incompetence. 

    A friend of mine called it “white yuck” and now lives in Florida.

    • #10
    • January 25, 2020, at 5:08 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  11. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Coolidge

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    But . . . I thought you were from the UP? Why did I think that?

    My parents are from the UP. I mostly grew up in Phoenix.

    I went to high school in the UP. I would not have gotten out of snow shovel duty due to incompetence.

    Plus, the UP gets about four times as much snow as the rest of us. And we get plenty as it is. I think people are born with shovels in their hands up there.

     

    • #11
    • January 25, 2020, at 5:24 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  12. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Jon, great story.

    There’s a weird coincidence here. I was heavily recruited for the Navy nukes program in the fall of 1984. I graduated from high school, in Tucson, in May 1985. I was only 17 at the time, and my dad said no, so off I went to college. It didn’t reach a point of confrontation, as I remained undecided about whether to join. It’s one of the major “path not taken” moments of my life.

    Jon, I think that you and I are of an age. I wonder if I might have been there with you, in January in Great Lakes, if my dad had made a different decision. Were you there in January 1986, or another year?

    • #12
    • January 25, 2020, at 5:33 PM PST
    • Like
  13. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Follow-up: Here’s my best friend and I this past Veterans’Day:

    That looks tastier than your usual coffee. Stout, or Leftist tears?

    • #13
    • January 25, 2020, at 5:34 PM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Cow Girl Thatcher

    That is hilarious!! My husband (who, like me, grew up in the mountains in WYO and knows all about snow) joined the Navy in 1972 and did boot camp in San Diego. He was in quite good physical shape from being a rancher, and that part of training wasn’t hard at all. However, he still balks at being told what to do, so THAT part of boot camp was a personal challenge for him.

    Our youngest son joined the Navy in 2012 and he went to boot camp in the frozen north land. He’d lived in Russia (part of the time in Siberia) for a couple of years doing missionary service for our church, so he wasn’t even bothered. We flew out there for his graduation in February and it was miserably cold. Brrr… Cold + damp = Misery

    • #14
    • January 25, 2020, at 6:26 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. Old Bathos Moderator

    The Navy tacitly rewarding incompetence? Shocking.

    • #15
    • January 25, 2020, at 6:34 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  16. PHCheese Member

    I dreamed of snow in boot camp for the Army during July and August at Fort Gordon Georgia.

    • #16
    • January 25, 2020, at 6:50 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  17. OldDanRhody, 7152 Maple Dr. Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: So, for the next two months, as my fellow shipmates were awoken daily at 4 a.m. to shovel snow, I got to sleep in.

    A life skill you have missed out on.

    I did boot camp at Great Lakes, but I didn’t get there until February and, coming from UpNorth Wisconsin, it was no big deal.

    • #17
    • January 25, 2020, at 7:02 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    Hmm… too dumb to shovel snow. Let’s put him on nukes!

    • #18
    • January 25, 2020, at 7:56 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  19. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):
    Plus, the UP gets about four times as much snow as the rest of us. And we get plenty as it is. I think people are born with shovels in their hands up there.

    When I asked my parents why they moved us to Phoenix, they said, “spend a February in the UP.”

    • #19
    • January 25, 2020, at 8:28 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  20. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Jon, great story.

    There’s a weird coincidence here. I was heavily recruited for the Navy nukes program in the fall of 1984. I graduated from high school, in Tucson, in May 1985. I was only 17 at the time, and my dad said no, so off I went to college. It didn’t reach a point of confrontation, as I remained undecided about whether to join. It’s one of the major “path not taken” moments of my life.

    Jon, I think that you and I are of an age. I wonder if I might have been there with you, in January in Great Lakes, if my dad had made a different decision. Were you there in January 1986, or another year?

    Wow! I graduated in 1984, so we would have missed each other by a few months, but that’s pretty darn close!

    • #20
    • January 25, 2020, at 8:29 PM PST
    • Like
  21. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Follow-up: Here’s my best friend and I this past Veterans’Day:

    That looks tastier than your usual coffee. Stout, or Leftist tears?

    If memory serves, it was a brown ale from a local brewpub.

    • #21
    • January 25, 2020, at 8:30 PM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Doug Watt Moderator

    One of my high school buddies got into some trouble with the law. He was given the choice of the California Youth Authority, or the Marine Corps. The military was still taking troubled youth at that time. He knew my dad was a former Naval Officer, and shortly before he left for the San Diego Recruit Depot he told my dad he would be the one guy the Marines couldn’t handle. My dad just laughed, and told him he wouldn’t be the first knucklehead that arrived for Marine Corps basic training.

    He was mouthy and found himself on a beach excursion. He didn’t shovel snow, he shoveled sand. He was told to dig a hole in the top of a sand dune. A four sided hole, each side four feet long, and to a depth of four feet. The DI showed him a tape measure. I was away at school when he completed basic. He visited my dad. My dad said he was a squared away Marine. He also asked him what he learned in basic. He told my dad that the first thing he learned was to keep his mouth shut.

    • #22
    • January 25, 2020, at 8:31 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  23. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Richard Finlay (View Comment):

    Your compatriots still had it easy; they (and you, for that matter) were on the Western side of the lake. On the East and Southeast shore of Lake Michigan there is this thing called Lake Effect. A snowplow actually got stuck on the road next to our house in Northwest Indiana; It left a snow canyon that lasted weeks.

    Fort Drum on the hills above the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, gets so much lake-effect snow, that, combined with the Upstate New York winter cold, they decided to station the 10th Mountain Division there under Reagan in the mid-1980s, because you could replicate the most miserable winter conditions better there than at any other Army base, including Alaska.

    • #23
    • January 25, 2020, at 11:08 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  24. JennaStocker Member

    What a great post – and example of how miserable experiences can make some of the most lasting memories. I had the flip side of this: a born & raised Minnesota girl who had a snow shovel in hand as soon as I could walk was shipped off to the sweltering, steamy training grounds of OCS during summer in Quantico, VA. I never sweated so much in my life!

    • #24
    • January 26, 2020, at 12:02 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  25. Arahant Member

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    But . . . I thought you were from the UP? Why did I think that?

    Not all Finns live there.

    • #25
    • January 26, 2020, at 2:23 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  26. Arahant Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: I didn’t know what to say. “I’m from Phoenix, sir!”

    I am laughing so hard imagining this.

    • #26
    • January 26, 2020, at 2:30 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. Stad Thatcher

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Our first night in the barracks, our charming Company Commander (the Navy version of a Drill Instructor) announced that every morning about 20 of us would have to wake up at 4 a.m. to shovel snow.

    At OCS, we never had to shovel snow. We were trained to order others to do the task . . .

    • #27
    • January 26, 2020, at 5:50 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  28. Kozak Member
    Kozak Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: My buddy was training as a Fire Controlman, so he could choose Great Lakes or San Diego. It took him about four seconds to abandon our years-long alliance by choosing sunny beaches over frozen tundra.

    So at Randolph AFB in Texas they were responsible for assigning Nurses their base. New nurses who just enlisted, or were thinking of joining the AF would call and ask if they had any openings in California or Florida.

    “Why we have lots of openings in California and Florida” they would say.

     

    • #28
    • January 26, 2020, at 6:00 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  29. TallCon Coolidge

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    I’m another Phoenix boy. When my brother and I flew to Ohio for the first time we looked down at all the green and wondered “Who waters all of this?!?” Unfortunately I’ve since learned to shovel snow very well. Since I’m back in The Valley of the Sun, I hope it’s a skill I never have to use again.

    What high school did you go to? I was at Moon Valley. (A few years behind you.)

    • #29
    • January 26, 2020, at 7:02 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    TallCon (View Comment):
    What high school did you go to? I was at Moon Valley. (A few years behind you.)

    Shadow Mountain. Go Matadors!

    • #30
    • January 26, 2020, at 7:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes