No No-Gos by John L. Neel

I arrived by Bus at Fort Jackson South Carolina on January 6th, 1976, eight days before my 23rd Birthday. The reception station was a blur of equipment issue, shots, paperwork, and shining boots. About three days later, we met our Drill Sergeant.

We were loaded on Busses with all our kit in a duffle bag, wearing our new fatigue uniforms, the OD green shirt and pants, white t-shirt, black belt, olive printed nametags, green baseball cap, and poorly shined black combat boots. A striking black soldier in a Drill Sergeant Hat and Mirrored Sun Glasses stepped quietly up the steps of the bus. He stood there, not saying a thing until the entire bus went silent. He was magnificent. His uniform was highly starched, his Jump Boots were like mirrors, on his chest was the Combat Infantry Badge and Master Parachute Wings. On his left shoulder wwere the Ranger Tab and TRADOC patch, on his left the 101st Airborne combat patch.

After what seemed an eternity, which scared me shitless, he spoke, almost a whisper, "I am Drill Sergeant Nickerson and I will have no NO-GOs. Do You Understand?" now, I didn't know what the hell a no-go was, but if this man wasn't having any, I sure as hell wasn't going to present one to him. A very few of us meekly said, "yes drill sergeant."

Drill Nickerson stiffened.

"I said, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" Still hardly a whisper, but spoken through clenched teeth.

We rocked the bus. "YES DRILL SERGEANT!"

Satisfied, he sat down and the bus driver took us on the longest bus ride ever taken around a military post, designed, I'm sure to disorient us as to our location. It turned out later we were less than a mile from the PX.

Arriving at what looked like new barracks, which was true, I remember thinking how this wouldn't be so bad, at least we weren't in the old WWII barracks I had seen in the movies. I was looking forward to a good night's rest and the beginning of training the next morning. Silly Joe.

As the bus pulled to a stop across the street in a big parking lot, Drill Nickerson stood and softly commanded, "When I tell you to get off the bus, you will Get Off The Bus, and Fall In." He stepped off, walked about forty feet from the right side of the bus, and commanded, in a voice no louder than before, one word, "getoffthebus."

Chaos! Bodies crashing into each other, bags entangled, hats falling off, stumbling, tripping, falling down the stairs, forty-four idiots trying to be first out of the door. Some forgot their bags.

"Where are your bags? When I tell you to get on the bus, you will get back on the bus."


"Those without bags rushed back on the bus."

"What are you doing standing here? Get On The Bus. Why are your bags still out here? Come get your Bags. Get Off The Bus. I told you to form up. Get back on the bus. You will form up in four equal lines of eleven, facing me, with your bag resting on your toes, open end to the left, name facing up. Get off the bus. Too Slow. Get on the bus."

This went on for enough iterations for us to become thoroughly soaked with sweat and to become very good at loading and unloading a bus with all our kit. Now came the real workout.

"You people are not motivated. If you continue to perform like this, you will all be No-Gos. See That Hill?" Behind us was an imposing hill behind the parking lot.

"Get Up That Hill! Why are your bags down here, come get your bags. Why are you standing here? Get up that Hill. Too Slow. Fall In." This went on until we were all dragging our bags up and down the hill, but we were all still moving. We didn't quit.

We all learned later that No-Go was the failing grade on all Army tests, Go or No Go. Drill Nickerson's demand of no No-Gos was a specific reference to the performance test we all had to take to pass Basic Training which covered every phase of training. In our platoon, there were No No-Gos.

I don't know what the motivation to pass was for the other guys, but for me, I didn't want to disappoint Drill Sergeant Nickerson and I sure as hell never wanted a workout like that first night.