Restarting Basic Training

“‘Don’t think just because you went though a ceremony and got your little certificate and your, uh, your pins—denoting your rank and everything—that, that you’re all done. That we’re equals. Your character reflects on us up until you leave sight of everyone at this base. It reflects upon you until you get, uh, your new billet. It reflects on, it reflects upon us—you and us—up until the end of your career. In other words, if you fuck up in such a way as to make people think ‘How’s this person, how could this person ever be in the military?’ they will send you back to bootcamp.’

“Their example—they don’t have any special nickname for him—but what happened was as soon as he graduated, he shook hands with all of his company commanders, and he got up on the bus, and the bus was leaving the gate. You know, it was just passing the gate, and the company commanders were watching the bus go by, and this guy, opened the window, stuck his hand out: [makes middle finger gesture] and did this to everyone on the base as he was leaving. They stopped the bus, and he had to repeat the entire eight weeks of basic training.”


The informant learned it from company commander on the day of his graduation (the beginning is the commander’s speech)  from the Coast Guard basic training. At the time, the informant was so elated that he made it though everything that he didn’t take it personally. He said he had seen other people in his group screw up (often badly), but he and his fellows and company commanders had gotten close so he held no malice toward his superiors.

When he was told this story, he recalled thinking to himself, “wow” saying they should kick him out permanently because “he’s the kind of guy that’s just going to grit his teeth and wait patiently until he no longer has to be put through this ordeal that is basic training, and then be like, ‘fuck you all!’”

Whether this legend is true or not, it allows the commanding officers in the Coast Guard to get their point across without unnecessary disciplining of misbehaving troops. By using a singular party (who may even be fictional) as a harsh example from which the recruits need to learn from, commanding officers can maintain the good behavior of a larger mass that identifies—at least partially—with the offending character. The commanding officers, thus, essentially make an example of one of the recruits’ own peers.