Each day a different member of the squad had a turn at being the squad leader. That person would be evaluated on his or her leadership capabilities throughout the day, for tasks like cleaning the barracks, marching the squad to and from the classroom building, and the like. Basically, if anything went wrong during the day, it was the squad leader’s fault.
I was the first to be evaluated, since they were just going down the list alphabetically. I was nervous, but I also figured it wouldn’t be too tough since no one else had set the bar too high for me. Really, the duties were minimal – everyone more or less knew what they were doing so only a minimal amount of direction was needed.
The weather was gorgeous – the sky was blue and clear, and a stiff breeze blew out of the west, swishing through the bright yellow leaves of the cottonwoods along the Platte. Virtual swarms of bluebirds (eastern or western? I’m not sure) were flitting among the trees and buildings; they must’ve been migrating, because they were gone a few days later.
On day 03, our student platoon sergeant got caught on a fence while she was marching us to lunch…one second she’s calling a cadence, and the next her arm was tangled up in the fence and the formation is leaving her behind while she’s struggling to free herself.
Day 03 was also the day of infamy, where the mysterious Phantom Pooper left his load on the steps outside our barracks. It’s exactly what you think: somebody just left a huge crap on the landing outside of the bay. To this day, the identity of this individual is unknown – pretty much everyone was accounted for, since the platoon was in class or doing PT at the time.
This incident would return to haunt us later…