I had managed to make my way through the first few days of Army Boot Camp without too much trouble. It was a whirlwind of activity and learning and testing that flew by in the blink of an eye.
And then I found trouble in the form of Drill Sergeant Wills.
It didn't matter how well I behaved, how straight and still I stood, how neat my bunk was made: he'd "drop" me. But instead of push ups, I was ordered to do sit-ups. It seemed like no sooner had I completed my required 10 sit-ups that I was ordered to do them again.
Standing in line outside the dining hall he'd walk up to me and bark, "Drop and give me ten!"
Waiting for the barracks to be inspected he'd march up to me and yell, "Drop and give me ten!"
For days this went on.
I didn't understand it. I felt I was being picked on. Discriminated against, but for what I didn't know. I felt broken down. Nothing I did was right, obviously. And no one else seemed to be picked on as much as me.
One night I just had it. I had enough. And I broke down. With each sit-up I cried harder. Tears streaming down my face. I couldn't control the sobs. And I was embarrassed.
The Drill Sergeant ordered me to stand up, go wash my face and meet him in his office in five minutes.
The last thing I wanted to do was be alone with this bully. But I had no choice.
I walked into his office and waited my fate. He surprised me by pleasantly asking me to sit down. Then he pulled out a piece of paper and pointed to it.
"See this?" he explained. "This is your physical fitness test results. You are one of the best runners I've seen in a long time. You came in third overall - and that included the men." He moved his finger down. "And this? This is the results of your push-ups. It's nothing short of amazing. Rarely do we see females with this kind of upper arm strength. But this - " His finger moved to the next line. "This is pathetic. This is your sit-ups. You can barely do one! If you don't get this under control you could fail the entire physical fitness test. That means no matter how well you do in other areas it just doesn't count. You fail."
I stared at the paper. He was right. I hated doing sit-ups. I wasn't good at them. I didn't like anything about them.
He continued, "I drop you because there is no way I can get you to do a hundred push-ups at once. But if I spread it out over the course of the day, a little here, a little there - then you can do it. You completed fifty sit-ups before lunch. If I told you to give me fifty right now could you do it?"
I slowly shook my head no.
"Each time you do a little bit you're taking a step to reach your goal and that's all that matters. Remember that, Private."
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