It was a long week. Middle of Summer. And it wasn’t like every other week in the middle of summer. It was that week. I had just been recruited to attend Leadership Academy as a Rising Senior. I was tasked with facing a hell week full of drill instructors, waking up at o’dark thirty, being yelled at, wearing uniforms and every other horrible thing you could think of.
I first got to Leadership Academy. I had my bags, my rifle and my sword. Everyone was yelling and my instructor just said “Good luck” and then left. I stood in line, waiting for my question of the day. This question got you into the building. If you got the question wrong, you had to go to the back of the line. The student in front of me was in the female line although it wasn’t stated the lines were sex based. He was immediately reprimanded and forced to do push ups. Then my question came up: “What is the sixth order to the sentry?” and I responded back with “Sir, the Sixth order to the sentry is to receive, obey and pass on to the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the Commanding Officer, Command Duty Officer, Officer of the Deck, and Officers and Petty Officers of the Watch only sir.” And then I was allowed access into the building. One down, a million more to go. The rest of the day ended up as a blur. I was the first one in my room. We had to measure our folded clothes and place them in the measured spots in our drawers. Everything needed to be measured exactly; even the creases in our sheets. The whole week, each cadet spent time sleeping on the floor because we didn’t want to risk messing up our perfect beds. Each cadet slept in our PT Clothes as to not risk being late to PT at 4:30 in the morning.
Through each transition of the day, we had less than 3 minutes to get things ready for the next event. We had 3 minutes to change or use the bathroom. We were forced to drink liters upon liters of water a day. They said “if your pee isn’t clear, then you aren’t drinking enough water.” We would wake up early and go to bed late. We had fire watch in the hall where we would walk back and forth in a monotone behavior for hours throughout the night. Everywhere we went, we had to cut our corners. There was no walking in curves or straight to your area.
In the classroom, they would throw tennis balls that acted like grenades. If you weren’t paying attention and didn’t catch the ball, you and your surrounding “soldiers” had to lay on the ground and wait until the instructor told you to get up. There was no sleeping in class. Sword team was different. We were in the shade but drill was insane. We were the only group who had to compete in the rain and lightning. Uniform inspection was intense. No absent threads. Perfect Hair. During the day, our water bottle had to be in our right back pocket and our books had to be tucked into the back of our pants. Wearing khaki pants and yellow shirts. We wore blue hats and we were at the bottom of the food chain.
Eating was different as well. Although our group didn’t have to stare straight ahead, we were forced to eat things that were “okay” while they tempted us with ice cream and brownies and pizza. No soda, only water. The last day was heaven and we enjoyed every slice of pizza and every bowl of ice cream. PT was throughout the day. First at 4:30 in the morning. Laying in the dewy grass. We did so many sit ups and push ups, I had shoulder blade and spine stains in the back of my pristine white tee shirt. The PFT was also something to remember. We were required to run 1.5 miles in a certain time. My roommate or bed mate or whatever you call them, had asthma and she fell behind immediately. But they told us to move on. Every step I ran, I wanted to carry her on my back to ensure she got across the finish line…..but she never did. If I had stopped, I would have failed Leadership Academy. If I had stopped, I would have failed. Our instructor, failing to recall his name, was amazing. He made us sing everywhere we went. Thats when I got into “Journey” because our theme song was “Don’t Stop Believing” and we were the singing platoon. We were first platoon. He was my favorite.
On graduation day, the sun was shining and our summer blues (which are white shirts with black pants) were pressed and cleaned. They resembled something more than just the maggots we were called. Walking across that stage was the best part of it all. Shaking my instructors hand and giving him a hug (probably wasn’t allowed) and receiving my silver chord was the highlight of my summer. My mom and uncle were there and life was pretty much amazing.
That was leadership academy. People wonder why I sing everywhere. People wonder why I look so serious in the hall. People wonder why sleeping isn’t at the top of my list. People wonder why I hate water so much. This is why. Leadership Academy shaped who I was. Shaped my cores and values. Shaped who I am today.