A Soldier's Names by John L. Neel

 

I joined the Army to become a SOLDIER.  I had to endure many fun, derisive names on my way to achieving that distinction.  Every Soldier does.

At MEPS, where I raised my hand and gave my oath to "support and defend the constitution," I thought, "NOW I am a "Soldier."

Wrong. 

For the rest of the day, until I left the reception station at Ft. Jackson, I was called a "Recruit."

During Basic Training, we endured the official name, "Trainee," but most times the Drills called us, "Yard Birds."

After Basic, I figured that I was now, surely, a soldier. 

Nope.

As soon as I reported to Infantry School (AIT) at Ft. Polk, I was informed I was a "POG" (people other than Grunts), pronounced Pogue.

When I graduated from AIT and had my Crossed Rifles and light blue Infantry Cord, I reported to Ft. Benning and Basic Airborne, called "Jump School," knowing that now I was a Soldier, an Infantry Soldier.

No. 

At Ft. Benning, we were "Legs," short for Straight Leg Infantry, or "NAPs," Non-airborne Personnel.

Graduating Jump School was probably the proudest moment so far in my career.  There were a lot of people who doubted I would be able to do it, including my family.  I wore my wings with particular pride, knowing that I was now one of America's elite Soldiers, Airborne Infantry.

No, I was a "Cherry."

Assigned to Charlie Company 2-505, I was quickly advised by the soldiers there that I "wasn't Shit."  I was a "5-Jump Commando," "5-Jump Chump"...a "Cherry."  I wouldn't be accepted until I had my first jump in Division and had passed my "Cherry Blast*," a short series of tough, fun, physical tests, like a PT Test, a Road March, and Sprints with LCE, Boots, and  fatigues, conducted one night, professionally, by my Platoon Sergeant, and unbeknownst to the Officer Corps.

Then, of course, I was a "Private" and a "Newbie," both said with as much disdain in the voice as possible, until I made SP-4.  I was one of the lucky ones who made SP-4 quickly.

The coming of age process in the Army is necessary.  Once you've arrived, at each step, you know you have earned it.

 *The Cherry Blast became a forbidden thing in the 82nd after a few knuckleheads took it too far, turning some blasts into very ugly hazing rituals.