Drill sergeants are serious men doing a serious job. They are infamous for their toughness, their intimidating ways and the volume of their voices. Anyone that has been through basic can attest: while you are under there command there is nothing scarier than his or her voice. They rarely crack a smile, almost never have anything nice to say and rarely even appear to be human to their trainees. Of course, that isn't always true. Sometimes something so ridiculous happens, even the most stoic of drill instructors can't help but crack up. These are those stories. Enjoy! They are fantastic.
But He Wasn’t Wrong, Really
“When I was in basic training, my petty officer was going around asking questions to people. If you got it wrong, everyone had to do push ups. If you got it right, he just moved on to the next person. I was in panic mode because all the questions before now had been really difficult, or maybe I was just stupid. In retrospect, I’m inclined to believe the latter. My turn came up and the interaction went as follows:
Petty Officer: ‘WHAT IS THE NAVY’S BIRTHDAY?’
Me, ecstatic because this is one of the few bits of trivia my brain had decided to retain, relieved: ‘SIR, OCTOBER 13th, SIR!’
Petty Officer: ‘WHAT YEAR?’
Me, without missing a beat: ‘EVERY YEAR, SIR!’
The room was quiet for a moment as the horror sank in. Everyone laughed at me. The Petty Officer laughed at me. Not a mocking laughter, but a sincere, oh my god I can’t believe you’re this stupid kind of laughter. I wanted to die.
I had to do a lot of push ups.”
A Real Mouthful
“We weren’t allowed to talk during chow at the galley. You had to point at what you wanted another recruit to pass and they had to silently pass it. One recruit wanted a napkin and pointed. The other recruit asked, ‘This?’
The drill instructors immediately came over, circling him like sharks, and started screaming at him. They made him put like 10 saltines in his mouth and chew until his mouth was full, then ask the first recruit if he wanted a napkin again. He barely could get it out, spitting pieces of cracker everywhere. Then they screamed at the first recruit to answer him, but we were all silently cracking up. It sounded like ‘Phew phwant a nupkeen?’ with pieces of saltines flying everywhere.
Instructor: ‘ANSWER HIM!’
The recruit asking for the napkin who was cracking up and almost crying said, ‘Uh, no. Thank you.’
It was the best.”
“Fort Jackson, October 31st 2002:
Every night in Army Basic, you had to line up on both sides of the barracks with your toes touching a line painted in front of each row of beds. It was called ‘Toe the Line.’
The entire male barracks of the company, except for two guys, decided to dress up for Halloween. Instead of wearing our proper attire for bed check, the whole company, except two guys, tore the sheets off of our bed and fashioned them into Togas.
The barracks door flies open and our Drill Sargent walks in. He’s not even looking at us, he’s looking down at his clipboard and reading off names. He gets about halfway down the list of names and looks up for a half second… then he just stops and starts laughing. Then his head snaps back up and he bellows, ‘Why are you out of uniform!!?’ Everyone, but the two guys who wore their usual bed attire yelled, ‘TOGA THE LINE!’ He starts laughing again but quickly recovers.
Then he says, ‘I wasn’t talking about you, I mean you two idiots who aren’t wearing Togas! Push up positions! MOVE!’ So those two guys get down to do pushups and the rest of us jump down and start pushing too. He yells again, ‘Why are the rest of you on the floor!?!’ We didn’t even plan this part, but we all said, ‘If they go down, we go down!’ It was something that one of our DS’s had been drilling into us from day one.
It was one of the best moments on the whole ordeal!”
The Apple Incident
“Several years ago, I had a soldier who was taking food back to our barracks. A fellow platoon Drill Sergeant found it and told me about it. So, I call the entire platoon downstairs, form them up, and inquire to the entire formation about this red apple in my hand. The guilty soldier confessed immediately. I asked him why? He replies with ‘I was hungry drill sergeant.’
I follow with, ‘Okay private, I’m going to make sure you don’t go to bed hungry. Eat this apple.’ I bring him to the front, give him the apple, then turn around to address the platoon. I commence to dusting this platoon, I mean I’m trying to break their body down as quick as possible. I inform him they will keep going until he is done, as he slowly takes his first bit, and by now I’m excited. ‘Take your time!’ I yell.
Only a few moments later, literally seconds, I hear ‘drill sergeant, I’m done.’
I ask where the core is, ‘I ate it drill sergeant!’
I’m in disbelief, and search within throwing distance for this core, but find nothing. I ask him why he ate the core, and he answered, ‘because you told me to eat the apple drill sergeant.’
This terrified man ate THE ENTIRE APPLE, I mean that green leafy stuff, the stem, and the seeds! I stopped everything and told everyone to disappear immediately.
I couldn’t believe it, nor have I ever seen anything like it before or after. I have a ton of stories but this one always brings tons of laughter.”
“In Navy boot camp, they call forced physical training exercise ‘beatings.’ Everyone knows what a beating is. Also, The Navy doesn’t have drill instructors, instead they call them RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders).
One day, we were standing in ranks as the RDC was going around asking random trivia questions about a test we had to take to make sure we had been studying. He gets to a guy who was…eccentric, to say the least. This is about a month and a half into Bootcamp. The RDC asks a question that the recruit gets it wrong, so the RDC yells, ‘Wrong! BEAT YOURSELF!’ Literally everyone knew this meant to start doing pushups, so the expectation was that he will start doing pushups as the RDC moves to the next guy to ask another question.
I was standing across from the guy and he had a confused look on his face. He looked at his own hand for like five seconds then hauled off and slapped himself in the face. It made a loud crack sound. He got himself good. I cracked and chuckled, trying to keep composure, and stand at attention. The RDC looked to me, then realized why I laughed – it had to do with the slapping sound. He turned back to self-slapping guy and asked him if he slapped himself.
The guy says, ‘Yes, you told me to beat myself.’ Cue the entire barracks cracking up. It was a single moment during bootcamp where the curtain was raised and a moment of unadulterated levity came over everyone. The RDC couldn’t stop laughing, so the tough guy persona melted away for a good minute or so before he regained composure and made us all do pushups.
The pushups were a worth the price to pay for that moment.”
The One With The Lazy Eye
“I had a great Team Sargent who had a wonky eye that he was blind in from an injury in Iraq. One eye was dead on and worked fine, but he had this one crazy wandering eye that just did its own thing. He was a very physically imposing man with that classic Drill Sargent bass-filled voice and his crazy eye just added to it and he knew it and took advantage. He had a crazy good sense of humor about it and loved to use it to mess with people.
He told a story about his time as a Drill Sargent when two privates had sat down on fire watch and were kind of being lackadaisical about their duties when he found them. He starts just giving them the business, in classic ‘Full Metal Jacket’-style and finally, just as he’s ending his rant right before he’s about to punish them for who knows how long, one of the offending recruits says, ‘Drill Sargent, are you yelling at us or the Water Fountain?’
It stopped him dead in his rage and he just had to walk away. I don’t think they were every punished, but that comment was really playing with fire. If it had landed wrong, that recruit’s world would have ended.”
“While in basic we had a female that loved to smile. She was just a happy person in general.
Well my drill instructor didn’t like smiling. One day, she came in and she caught the female trainee smiling. She walked up to the female trainee and yelled, ‘Wipe that smile off your face!’
The trainee stopped smiling. The instructor continued to yell, ‘No! Literally wipe the smile off your face with your hand!’ Trainee does so.
‘Now throw it on the ground!’ Trainee follows orders, pantomiming is all.
‘Now stomp on it and scream ‘DIE SMILE, DIE!’ as loud as you can!’
The female trainee stood there for a second before following through. Her tiny little voice cracks as she yelled, ‘DIE SMILE, DIE’ and I will say it took everything I had not to bust out laughing. That little voice yelling about killing smiles. Hilarious.”
Sneaking Up On Sleepers
“I was a super light sleeper during basic training. One night, I woke up for no reason. The sleeping bay was dark except for the light by the desk where the two soldiers on ‘fire guard’ were supposed to be awake and alert. Both of them were leaning back in their chairs dead asleep.
I started to throw my covers off to go wake them up, if a Drill Sergeant came through and caught the fire guards sleeping we’d all pay. But then I heard a slow scraping sound to my right, off in the darkness. I froze, and heard it again, closer. A few heartbeats later, I almost screamed out loud as I saw the sharp intense face of our Samoan drill sergeant in the darkness. His face was covered in full camo, he was low crawling underneath the line of bunk beds towards the fireguard. He had a bayonet in between his teeth.
We locked eyes, and he silently raised one finger to his mouth, signaling for silence. I nodded, and sat back to watch the show as the Drill Sergeant resumed his low crawl under and past my bunk in the direction of the sleeping guards.
He almost scared the entire platoon to death when he jumped up screaming at the sleeping guards. They had a bad night and a worse morning.”
The Difference Between Basic Training And Prison is…
“In my basic training class, I was a squad leader which is essentially just a person who does extra chores. Anyways, for reasons unknown, myself and the other squad leaders were doing pushups in the drill sergeants office. Now when you do these pushups, you eventually reach muscle failure so you just sorta hang out there in the front leaning rest and try to bust out another pushup every few seconds or so.
We’re all in there dying and the drill sergeant says to one of my buddies:
‘Private Hudson! Tell me what’s the difference between basic training and being in prison!’
Without missing a beat Private Hudson says, ‘Drill Sergeant! In prison, they get to watch TV!’
Even the drill sergeant cracked a little bit of a smile and then told us to get up and get out of there. Sometimes humor worked…”
Taking One For The Team
“I was never a Drill Instructor, but I can pass along a classic Boot Camp story.
I was in the Navy, and in the Navy, your final inspection as a division is before the Division Officer (DO), which is usually some Junior Officer puke that got assigned that job, but we didn’t know any better.
Anyway, before the inspection one of our drill instructors found a locker out of sorts and decided to beat us in our dress blues. ‘Beat,’ in this context, is being made to exercise until you can’t stand. That was not fun, let me tell you. Especially in wool uniforms. If we lost our cover we got beat more, it was bad.
The DO rolls in for inspection, walks up to the first dude in formation, and the guy pukes in front of the DO because of the beating. HOWEVER, this guy was a freaking genius, he puked DOWN the T-Shirt in his dress blues, saving the DO from getting puked on and us from getting beat even more.
The Division Officer was so impressed at this dudes ‘Military Bearing’ that he called the inspection right then and there. 5.0 Sailors all around.
We still got beat that night, but that guy was a hero.”
“On day TWO of basic training at Lackland AFB, my platoon (called a ‘flight’ in the Air Force) was returning to our barracks with our newly issued gear after having our heads shaved, and other hurry up and wait tasks we had completed that day. Our instructor told us to go upstairs and stand at attention by our beds.
We ran up there, insanely tired after attempting to march what felt like two miles each way from getting our gear, in the August Texas heat. We are all standing there waiting for whatever is going to happen next. After about five minutes, one my flight mates, Donnie, says, ‘That Sgt. Gates is a tool, am I right?’ And you would not believe what happened.
As soon as Barnes said ‘Gates,’ the locker directly behind Barnes pops open with a creek. Barnes is frozen solid. Out of the locker pops one leg after another and Sgt. Gates walks out of the locker, puts his mouth directly next to Barnes’s ear, and shouts in his gravelly voice, ‘ON. YOUR. FAAAAAACE!’
We did so many push ups after that.”
Getting It All Out
“So when you start basic, your body doesn’t know how to handle no sugar, caffeine, rigorous exercise, and sleeping schedules so it’s in shock. With this shock, pooping becomes a problem for a quite a few recruits. As such, every drill instructor, after the first week, is required to ask around if everyone has taken a dump, and from there he assigns one recruit to track who has pooped and who has not. I kid you not, we had one guy who would stand in the barracks at the end of the night rolling off names of people who hadn’t pooped yet.
Finally, we have one guy who is still on that list after two weeks, so the drill instructor tells him to go to the doctor. The doc gives him an ‘get out of jail free card’ because of his constipation. Essentially it says that at any point, he says the magical words ‘I gotta poop’ and he can escape any situation.
Well, the recruit gets the smart idea that he’s going to play his new card as long as possible. Every time that we’re getting grilled, ‘I gotta take a dump!’ comes ringing in from the back of the formation. This probably happened six times until our instructor caught on. Finally our instructor devised a plan that when the recruit goes into the bathroom, he’s going to have a couple of us hold onto his legs and slide him into the stall, under the closed door all exorcist-style. The time comes and the recruit excuses himself. We all follow our drill instructor into the bathroom and slide him under there like he’s the spawn of Satan.
This catches the recruit by surprise, he doesn’t know what is going on as the instructor is utterly berating him about lying and using this as an excuse to sit on the toilet. Then we hear a very audible ‘Oh no’ from the stall. The drill instructor scared the recruit so much he actually took a dump right then and there.
The instructor made every recruit look at it and we played played taps for it as we flushed it down the toilet.
Another great story about bodily functions:
It’s an unwritten rule that early on you’re supposed to stick to the normal foods and not venture off from the basics. We had one guy on the first week grab a cheesecake for lunch. Next thing I know, all 4 DIs have their own cheesecake and sit down next to him. They’re all asking him how his day is going, if he’s having fun, any girls in his life, etc. totally normal exchange, which caught us all off guard. Finally, they all finish and as our DI is getting up he says, ‘Recruit, that won’t be the last time I see that cheesecake.’ It wasn’t the last time. The recruit threw it up later after the DI made him run 3x more than us.”
What Ever You Do, Take Care Of Your Helmet
“I served in the German army.
During basic training, we were marching in formation when we suddenly hear a ‘thump.’ Turns out, one of our comrades dropped his helmet. Of course, our instructor saw this and responded with ‘Ein deutscher Helm fällt nur einmal!’ which translates to ‘a german helmet is only dropped once.’ It’s a pretty common military textbook phrase, meaning it only drops when the soldier falls in battle.
He commands the soldier to pick up his helmet and we carry on marching. About 30 seconds later, we hear the same sound again. So I turn around and ask myself ‘How you can possibly fail the simple task of helmet retention? You basically just clip it to your carry rig,’ while waiting to hear the instructor saying the same phrase again. What do I see?
Our instructor turning around, doing his personal walk of shame and picking up his helmet. Let’s just say we weren’t short on drinks from him when we celebrated the end of basic training.”
He Has A Real Point
“When I was going through basic, it was one trainee’s birthday on the day when we went to the gas chamber to experience crowd control gas. This trainee happened to be Jewish, so first thing in the morning when we have the little huddle about what’s going to happen that day, the drill instructor asks if there are any questions? Trainee Goldberg (not his real name, but this dude was built like Goldberg the wrestler) raises his hand and says ‘Sir, don’t you think it’s a little messed up to send a Jew to the gas chamber on his birthday?’ Everyone busted up laughing, including our drill instructor. But the story doesn’t end there.
We go to the dining facility for breakfast, and as he’s going through the line, our drill instructor yells out, ‘Trainee Goldberg, why don’t you tell the other instructors what you told me this morning?’
With a straight face, Trainee Goldberg says ‘Oh, I was just telling our sergeant here about how it’s pretty messed up the Air Force is sending a Jew to the gas chamber on his birthday.’ All the drill instructors at the long table just fell silent, almost scared, and our instructor just busted up laughing so hard that all the trainees stopped moving.
Trainee Goldberg, despite being 6’2″ and solid muscle, was perhaps the funniest guy in our company. He owns a few gyms now in his home state. Awesome guy.”
Don’t Threaten The Drill Instructor
“Going through boot camp I heard some great ones.
At the beginning of basic, we were monitored while we ate, which included being told when to begin ‘consuming’ and when to stop consuming. We had this chubby kid who was having a particularly rough time, and you could see he was already close to breaking.
When we’re told our chow time is up, and we all instantly get up from our seats and form a line next to wall at the end of ours tables to clear our trays in a trash can at the end. Chubby kid does not join us though, instead he chooses to sit and finish his meal. He is completely alone in the middle of the mess hall. A drill instructor comes up to him, and immediately begins berating him.
The chubby kid looks the drill instructor dead in the eyes while sitting and has a completely insane look behind them. In his hand, he has a butter knife clinched what I can only describe as a threatening manner. He is breaking down.
Without missing a beat, the drill instructor yelled at him, ‘WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THAT TUBBY, SPREAD ME ON YOUR FREAKING TOAST LIKE BUTTER?’
That was ‘tubby’s’ last meal with us.”
Yes Ma’am, Sir!
“In Marine Officer Candidate School, I was that candidate.
We were doing night land navigation work, in the rain. If we wanted to look at our list of bearings, we had to huddle inside our poncho with a red light to maintain light discipline. I checked for the next bearing that I was supposed to follow, then popped my head back out.
Well, one of the staff had appeared out of the corner of my eye, and my glasses were fogged with water so I didn’t recognize who it was. They looked short, and we had a female captain in the command staff, so I said, ‘Good evening, ma’am.’
The male gunnery sergeant responded with, ‘Are you stupid, candidate?’
Luckily, we were in the middle of a training exercise so that was that.”
Even The Sergeant Was Impressed!
“We were all sitting in the classroom cleaning our weapons when the Drill Sergeants rushed in abd told us to form up outside NOW We all bust our butts to get outside, lined up, and ready to go.
A couple minutes later, Drill Sergeant comes out holding a weapon. One of our bigger morons must have left his freaking weapon inside the classroom.
‘WHICH ONE OF YOU SLACK-JAWED NUMB-NUTS DOESN’T HAVE THEIR WEAPON?!’
The Soldier identifies himself and he is called up and directed to punish all of us – the beautiful thing about the Army. You mess up and everyone else pays for it. So he’s up there about to smoke us, but instead he’s just frozen. Eyes as big as saucers.
Our sergeant yells, ‘WELL, WHAT’LL IT BE, GOMER?’
No the drill sergeant is really angry and gets in his face and yells for a minute straight.
‘NOW GET AT IT!’ He concludes.
The Soldier is still frozen. But then silence is broken. brrrrrrreereretttt The Soldier lets out the longest and most cartoonish fart I’ve ever heard.
We all do our best to stifle our laughter as we prepare for the berating that’s sure to be coming. Our drill sergeant says nothing at first, then he cracks a smile.
‘Get back inside. NOW!’
It’s the only time I saw him smile.”