Click on the thumbnail above to view the full-sized webcomic!
Two miles is a loooooooooooooong way to walk if you’ve got to haul a ton of equipment on your back. It’s one of the reasons why I always hated going out into the field. I just didn’t have the stamina to carry a heavy pack and a rubber duck (the nickname for the fake M-16s we had to carry) up and down a mountainous road. Plus we always went out into the field when it was freezing cold. And we had to eat MREs, which in general were pretty gross back then. And we had to pull guard duty half the night, and then would get attacked by another group of cadets at some godly hour of the morning. And there was always some officer breathing down our necks, screaming at us, “What are you gonna do NOW, cadet?! The enemy’s called in mortar rounds! What are you gonna do?! Die?! Is that your plan?!”
So no, I didn’t enjoy going into the field. And I didn’t care much for camping in general except when I went with my family, and since my dad spent 21 years in the Infantry, it was pretty much just like going out on a field training exercise. Except maybe he didn’t yell as much.
Then last April I ended up taking 7 Girl Scouts on a local camping trip. I stressed over this dang trip for weeks. Since I was the volunteer in charge for this outing, I had to plan all the meals, buy all the food, figure out how we were going to get it all cooked. I had to put together the packing list for the troop equipment we’d need and another packing list for the girls. I knew it was going to be cold and muddy that weekend too, and all the while as I prepared for this trip, I kept having flashbacks to my days in ROTC.
Naturally, I was miserable the day we headed out for the camping trip, but the girls were really excited, and I was determined not to pass on my loathing of camping to them. This was something they wanted to do, so they should enjoy it and I shouldn’t rain on their parade. Then in all the hustle and bustle of setting up camp and feeding the girls and participating in the classes the service unit set up, something really weird happened to me. It actually got to be kind of fun.
The thing was, I knew what I was doing, unlike my 20–year-old self back in ROTC. I knew how to set up camp and I knew how to get the food cooked, and I knew how to keep the girls busy and get them from one activity to the next without losing any of them and I knew to make them drink water and wear bug spray and sunblock. I knew what I was doing. And I was doing it automatically, without having to think about it. Because I was trained to do it in Army ROTC and in the Army Reserves.
At one point during the weekend, one of the older Girl Scouts from another troop gave me a really funny look.
“What?” I said.
She shook her head. “I don’t know what it is, but you look like you belong out here?”
She shrugged. “You’re not wearing camo or anything, but you look like you belong out here doing what you’re doing. Like you know what you’re doing.”
“Oh. That might be because I spent some time in the Army Reserves.”
“Yeah! That’s it! Hey, they let you in the Reserves with hair like that?”
It’s strange to me how much I fall back on my military training these days. I wasn’t a career officer, and I certainly wasn’t an Infantry man. But the training I had was intense enough that it still hangs with me. And it’s come in handy now that I find myself leading a troop of Girl Scouts. As much as I did not enjoy my time in the military, I never would have expected that to happen.