[April 17, 2019] The 10-man squad of recruits was crawling through mud and under barbed wire while being continuously screamed at by U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Bryant. If the recruit failed to complete the obstacle course within the allotted 20 minutes, he had to start over. Sergeant Bryant was politely telling everyone that his job was to make us good people better.
I’ll never forget him saying that to make good people better, required him to put us through the most rigorous (some say brutal) training he could muster. U.S. Army Basic Combat Training was no treat, and all of us suffered at the hands of the brown-shoe leather Vietnam veterans. And, we all hated Sergeant Bryant’s guts.
“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller, American oil industry business magnate and industrialist
By the time our class of recruits graduated eight weeks later – those who made it anyway – we were tougher, meaner, more resilient than we had ever been in our previous civilian life. I kept in touch with three of my classmates during my long military career. We often compared notes and spoke about what we learned; most often what we learned the hard way.
Sergeant Bryant was a typical hard-nosed, no-nonsense NCO of the old school of doing the Army’s business. He took no crap off anybody. Once, a recruit from my class challenged Sergeant Bryant to a fight. I saw the whole thing take place in slow motion as the recruit-soldier hit the pavement with one massive blow from Sergeant Bryant. So much for challenging these NCOs.
Most of us were soon in combat; a few to Vietnam (it was winding down) and others to smaller skirmishes across the world. The Gulf of Sidra encounter, the Lebanese Civil War, Grenada, Panama, the first Gulf War, and so on, were just a few that were made public. I remember thinking back to Sergeant Bryant during my first combat assignment and only then did I appreciate what he did.
Drill Sergeant Bryant treated us fairly. He was hard, but he was fair. His job was to make good people better than they were when they came into the U.S. Army. It should come as no surprise that NCOs like him are considered the backbone of the military. That is what makes our military stronger than all the others.