We formed up at 0600 in what I was told was 22 degree weather. Scheduled was a squadron level run. We waited in formation for a good minute, naturally, and frost collected on everyone's black PT beanies. Eventually, we moved to the area where we would meet the other troops (companies). We waited for the Lieutenant Colonel and Command Sergeant Major to give their speech. Are they gonna zonk us?
"Zonk" v. (zONk)
A sudden and unexpected command rarely given during first formation before PT that signals everyone to disappear before the officer or NCO giving the order can count down to 10.
Speakers and music were set up, and Ozzy's "Crazy Train" was rocking. We began to worry. From within my troop, I heard a Sergeant First Class tell those around him, "Feel the zonk, be the zonk, know the zonk. If you will it, it will come."
We willed the zonk. Hard.
The Sergeant Major gave his speech, told us we'd be going home to friends, old enemies, girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, which I applauded with a heartfelt "Hooah". It remained delightfully anonymous aside from the immediate individuals around me, and I felt super special.
"Dude, this is it. He's gonna zonk us..."
The Sergeant Major then turned the squadron over to the LTC.
He gave his speech as well, telling us to have fun, be safe, and not to go back to any old ways that would show up on a urinalysis. He talked about a few things we'd have coming up once we came back from leave. He complimented some of the things we'd been doing. He made mention of some changes that would be made thanks to the gripe session he held with us.
"All right, he's done, he's bringing the zonk, I feel it..."
He calls us to attention, and we unleash a sonic boom that is our squadron motto. My muscles tense up and I prepare to sprint up the hill and into the woods, where I can bee-line back to the barracks and catch a nap. Everyone's quiet, straining to hear it. Our First Sergeants turn to face us.
"Oh my god dude..."
"What the shit? Its like 16 degrees out here!"
An E5 ("Buck" Sergeant) looks at the person who made the last comment. "Shut up. Wait til you go to Alaska." He points to his PT cap. "This'll be a damn ice block. Negative 50 degrees, once that cold air hits your skin..."
And so we went on a little four mile run, and after the first mile, my face stopped hurting and my lips were able to form all syllables once again. We called cadences about jumping out of planes, and loving to run, and mowing down "Hajjis", and begging someone not to close the liquor store, and an old lady that's an airborne instructor and a Ranger Indoctrinate or whatever the hell RI stands for. The air is too damn thin this time of year. I'm not a fan.
I'm heading home tomorrow for leave, and its going to be even colder. So I probably won't even do PT. At most, I'll lift weights on the air force base, and be cooler than them, because that's what I'm about. I can pretend to be a total badass. Hell, I might as well walk around in Class A's, showing off my blue cord to everyone that doesn't care.
Realistically, I'll be wearing my army issue polypro thermal underwear (the stuff that puts Long Johns to shame, remember?) under jeans, a T-shirt and a hoodie, with a hat to hide my high and tight. The hat will be vital if I happen to go to Canada to do a little drinking, which is highly unlikely, but I've heard they aren't extremely fond of us. Aside from that, I'm all about Cartoon Network, a jar of peanut butter and a spoon, driving on the snow at 3 AM, wasting an entire night in a 24 hour diner with a friend, and being completely worthless, consuming large amounts of food and converting oxygen into carbon dioxide.
But for now, I need to get dressed, eat some toxic chow hall grub, and then stand in formation and pretend to care about whatever menial things we're doing until our early release, and likely extended safety brief, which is always the same.
Dont do drugs.
Wear a rubber.
Dont go swimming in the winter, and dress warm.
Get tire chains.
Dont beat up your wife, kids, girlfriend, boyfriend (pause for laughter), or battle buddy.
Police each other up.
Let the damn CO and 1st Sgt have a weekend (in this case, vacation) without getting a phone call.
Dont be stealing no damn cigarettes from no damn PX.
Dont do stupid shit. Dont do it men. I be jumping on yo ass like a frog on a damn hot plate. I'ma drop the hammer. You see that tall-ass tree over there? That's where I live. I'll swing on down and bust y'all up. Don't do no damn stupid shit. Platoon sergeants, take charge, get they asses outta here.