Four brave men who do not know each other will not dare to attack a lion. Four less brave, but knowing each other well, sure of their reliability and consequently of mutual aid, will attack resolutely. There is the science of the organization of armies in a nutshell.
Ardant du Picq, 19th century French military theorist
On my first day in the army my officer had everyone memorize the names of everyone's parents, siblings, girlfriend, home. The next day he added nicknames and fetishes to the list, adding that what appeared as a challenge now would seem laughable considering how well we would get to know each other over the course of our lengthy training.
The memorization games were a cute way of bringing home perhaps the most critical reality about army life and basic training: group responsibility is the cardinal virtue. As my officer said, "the gibush [tryout] is over. This is no longer about just you." Everything we do, save for technical training, is designed to teach us to work together and take responsibility for each other. It is a refreshing change of pace from the self-obsessed reality of the numerous tryouts I underwent to get to this point.
Another refreshing and entirely unexpected change in the army from prior tryouts is the ability to eat vegetarian. Save for the occasional meals that consist only of tuna-based field rations, a vegetarian option is nearly always available instead of the meat, chicken or fish served for lunch. I was prepared to forgo keeping a strict vegetarian diet as necessary in the army but my commander has insisted that I should not have any problem avoiding eating meat through training. I am prepared to take him at his word. Then again, this is the same officer who brought a plate overflowing with chicken cutlets to our table and said, "Five minutes, this plate is empty. Eat"
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