13 August 2010
Pride and punishment.
For the past few months Swiss has been in charge of planning, organizing and running his battalion's Expert Infantryman Badge testing. It's been countless weeks of late hours, planning and prepping for a week's worth of testing... brutal testing and brutal hours and brutal standards, all in the name of the coveted EIB.
This morning was the final test... after over 300 started, there were less than 40 something soldiers embarking on the 12 mile road march in full battle rattle. Three hours of marching, running, slugging it out to make this week's worth of punishment worth it. And you know what? By the time they were coming on into the homestretch? It was already 82 degrees.
I drove Swiss in to work not a half hour ago, and when I dropped him off, I was held at the intersection by a guard to let these EIB soldiers cross the road on their way to the finish. The driver's seat in our sedan suddenly became a front row seat to one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever witnessed.
To my right, near headquarters, every unit was in formation in their PTs, with flags flying, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the EIB soldiers from their unit. They were joined by the proud wives and kids of these troops... all waiting to see the familiar face they came to cheer on. And every time a new soldier crested the hill, bogged down by their helmet and body armor, hands tired from carrying their M4 for three hours, feet dragging from the relentless 12 mile march.... the crowds roared and that troop's unit broke formation. The cheers and clapping were almost deafening. Those soldiers ran, no, sprinted to their soldier and started running/marching with him shouting and clapping the entire way. They cheered him on, motivated him in those last brutal 200 yards, encouraged him and urged him on to the finish. You could literally see the candidate's morale soar, their cadence quicken, their shoulders straighten. You could see it working. It was beautiful and it made my heart soar. I wish you all could have seen it.
The pride and the Esprit de Corps was nearly overwhelming... the joy and exuberance these soldiers had when their soldier came into the home stretch was palpable and they weren't afraid to show it to anyone who was watching. It actually made me a bit misty, to see these battle-hardened men cheering and running like kids again, all to support a member of the unit in attaining the EIB.
There is no telling how many of these men made the required time. Im sure Swiss will have the update when he gets home. But I suppose, in this story and for me, that isn't the point. It was the unity and the pride and the unconditional, unabashed support. Really, truly, it was magical. And I feel so lucky to have seen it.
Here's hoping every last one of them passed. And to those who did? Congratulations... and enjoy the hell out of your weekend. Hooah.