Monday morning, 0643; formation between the wings.
Every Monday morning, on the strip of blacktop between wings of the long, U-shaped barracks, several hundred young airman would form up into straight lines for a quick formality: roll call, announcements, and maybe a little motivation.
0644 - Airman First Class, or A1C, Charles Pierce III (aka, Chuck the Turd) stood facing about half of his flight with a clipboard and an exasperated expression on his face. Formation officially started at 0700, when the entire squadron would be brought to attention for the commander. A1C Pierce had been warned several weeks prior that members of his flight had been spotted showing up late, sneaking into the formation by mingling with the trickle of Army, Navy, and Marine students who flowed by the group on their way to the only entrance to the Chow Hall.
0645 - A1C Pierce had announced two weeks ago that anyone showing up after 0655 would be counted as late, which had not deterred a hard-core group of dissenters from arriving at precisely 0656. He had then announced that the following week - this week - anyone arriving after 0645 would be late... and would be "dealt with". He fingered his red rope, sign of his authority as the flight commander, and checked his watch.
0646 - "Tench-HUT!" Pierce cried. About half of his flight was there, and they shuffled haphazardly to attention. "What is wrong with you people, " he yelped. "I said to be here at 0645 today for attendance."
"Go bend a pipe," someone muttered from the back (it might have been me).
"We ARE here, Turd Chucker," someone else pointed out. "Take your fuggin' attendance."
"Look, you bastards, I'm the Flight Commander, and I have the authority to drag you all out here as early as I need to to make sure you're on time for the commander. Don't make me form you up at 0600 for an 0700 formation, 'cause I'll do it!"
He began to call names and check them off his list as they answered. He was almost finished when he realized that even though he was missing nearly a third of his people, he had marked off everyone as Present. "Hey, you're not answering for people who aren't here, are you? DAMMIT, I...."
0700 - Pierce snapped to, and dropped his clipboard. Snickers rippled through the flight, which was now nearly completely present. (Turns out some of the members had been hiding in the next flight over.) And now the commander, Lt. Col. Janet, came striding out to face to the squadron.
"Good morning, squadron," she warbled happily. "I have a special treat for you today. I know some people have been complaining about the new rules in place. Just remember they are there for your safety. If none of you drinks, smokes, or has sex, then nothing bad can happen to you, am I right? RIGHT!" She beamed out at us, basking in our relief at finally being safe from our vices.
"But I am told that morale is slipping, so I have been reading from the book 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'. Let me tell you, it gives you a great outlook on life. Think of your life as if you were in prison, and you begin to value each ray of sunshine that manages to find its way through the bars of your window!"
"Great scott, she's going to put bars on the windows!" someone stage whispered. The commanders eyes narrowed, but she pressed on.
"Just remember the inspiring story of Abraham Lincoln, everyone. He was born in a log cabin that he built with his own hands, and despite his poverty, he grew up to lead us as president through the most horrific war imaginable. He was constantly depressed, and his wife was insane, and just before he died, he found out his son was taking bribes in his name... but he didn't let that stop him! He would have kept on going, if he hadn't been so tragically killed.
"Now, keep all that in mind today as you go to your classes. Some of you will be taking your final language tests this week, so study hard. Especially you Arabic students! Remember, if little retarded Arab children can learn Arabic, then SO CAN YOU!"
And with that, the group was called to attention, the commander marched briskly back to her office, and everyone was released to their flight commander. Pierce turned around, stooped, and picked up his clipboard.
"So now we're retarded inmates in a prison run by a nut who thinks she's Abraham Lincoln?" someone asked snidely.
"What time you want us next week, Turd? 0500?"
Pierce looked around at them, fingering his rope. "Just don't be late. 0700."
And with the Army, Navy, and Marines streaming by - and trying not to laugh outright at the speech they had just heard - the airmen scattered to their various cells to look for sunshine.