I started the Late Shift in the U.S. Army

By | July 18, 2023

[July 18, 2023]  Shortly after graduation from Drill Sergeant School at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in 1978, I was promoted to Staff Sergeant in the Infantry and was assigned to a Basic Training unit.  Duty was tough.  The job demanded long hours, a high level of physical fitness, strict adherence to Army regulations, and extreme self-discipline.  The days were long; fortunately, I started the late shift at 0600.

Looking in from the outside, the life of a Drill Sergeant appeared as an ideal assignment.  Your job was pushing new soldiers to learn basic combat skills, military drill and ceremony, weapons proficiency, memorization of General Orders, and getting them into physical shape.  While that was true, this perception was far from reality.  A Drill Sergeant’s day began early and ended late, and the workweek was seven days per week.

Historically, each basic course cycle lasts ten weeks, and the schedule is filled with a barrage of activities from wake-up to lights-out.  Only during breaks between cycles did a Drill Sergeant get a break.

From my vantage point, you had to be one tough SOB to survive two years as a Drill Sergeant.  You take no crap from any new soldier.  But simultaneously, you had to observe new soldiers carefully to ensure they were not in danger or hiding an injury or a crime.  Drill Sergeants don’t like surprises.  One way to ensure recruits are honest is to push them so hard that they cannot lie.  That’s what we did, and it worked.

A tired recruit is a good recruit.  One of my favorite activities in my platoon of all-male soldiers was the Rifle Drill.  This was great because I would stand on a raised platform and give rifle commands.  The upper body does not have the endurance of the lower body, so it was easy to tire out any soldier.  One day I’m giving commands, and one of the new soldiers calls his M16A1 rifle a “gun.”  I had him run around the formation calling out, “This is my rifle, this is my gun,” repeatedly.

Humor is found in the smallest of places, and I found it funny that the young man was running around singing this tune.  When, to my surprise, another recruit laughed at the poor slob running.  Then there were two soldiers running.  One called out, “This is my rifle …” and the other sang, “That’s not funny.  That’s not funny.”  I nearly fell off the platform, laughing.  Ah, yes, I did have a crude sense of humor.

I’m glad I spent my time as a Drill Sergeant.  It helped me develop and better appreciate my circumstances.  At the end of my two years, I was up for Sergeant First Class but chose to return to college for my degree.  In college, I would join ROTC and be a cadet until graduation.

Later as an officer, I wore the Drill Sergeant “pumpkin” patch on my right pocket and was often asked how I earned it.  Only Enlisted Soldiers can earn a DS patch.  To this day, I’m happy I could survive being a Drill Sergeant.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “I started the Late Shift in the U.S. Army

    1. Lady Hawk

      Just saw your comment, Liz. Yes, and what woman doesn’t like it too.

  1. Idiot Savant

    Army humor is what I call “low” and if you can participate in it and understand it, then you are a very special kind of person and that person is a good person.

  2. Erik Pettersen

    One day I’m giving commands, and one of the new soldiers calls his M16A1 rifle a “gun.” I had him run around the formation calling out, “This is my rifle, this is my gun,” repeatedly.
    — What is so funny about this and unsaid is that the recruit running around say this is pointing at his M16 rifle when he says “rifle” and pointing at his dick when he says “gun.” Now that gives a bit more context here for you non-military types who are loving this site and Gen. Satterfield. …… you are welcome!

  3. JT Patterson

    Gen. Satterfield, you know me as one of your long-term readers and often comment. I just wanted to say thanks and that I esp. enjoyed this particular article. Long ago, I was in the US Navy and we had out own issues in boot camp. Keep giving us great stories.

  4. Army Vet

    As an Army veteran and having gone thru bootcamp myself, this is very funny. But there are those who are not able mentally to tolerate the basic training camps and are quick to drop out. The Army is not for everyone, despite the whacko Democrat Party trying to conduct a social experiment and have degenerates as part of the army.

        1. Patriot Wife

          Thank all of you men for your service to our country.

  5. Julia

    Excellent, Gen. Satterfield. If you have more stories from your enlisted time, let me know.

  6. Good Dog

    “A tired recruit is a good recruit.” ha ha ha ha ha ………………………….
    Gen. S. you nailed it and made me laugh.

    1. Greg NH

      This is why I read this website ever day. Gen. Satterfield is the greatest and he posts every day no matter what (unless he is in the hospital ….. yep). Get a small dose of leadership everyday. But, like Gen. Satterfield says, you have to look for the gems in his articles, because sometimes (he is human) he doesn’t always spell it out for dummies like me.


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