What is the maximum effective range of a… garbage can? Crazy question, I know. Until my first day of U.S. Army Basic Combat Training (BCT), or Boot Camp, as the whole world calls it, I would never have thought about that question, either. But no joke, there I was: barely three minutes into Boot Camp, and I saw an old school, steel, Oscar the Grouch, New York-style garbage can flying down the middle of barracks between the bunks. The first 0.7 seconds of that realization were hard to process. “What the heck?”

If it had hit someone, it would have knocked them out clean.

Stuff was flying everywhere. It was like being in a storm of clothes, duffle bags, mattresses, pillows, blankets, uniforms, and anything else that could be thrown. Cleaning supplies, Army gear, boots, training devices, and so on; nothing was safe. If it was not bolted to the floor, it was fair game. And of course, it was accompanied by a lot of screaming. Those three drill instructors sounded like five or six, and it was utter, sheer, pandemonium and crazy chaos. We were also getting a lesson on how to say lots of bad words in one sentence, Army Style.

And I could not help but laugh. I was actually kind of enjoying myself. Luckily for me, it was so chaotic none of the great white shark drill sergeants noticed.

boot camp drill sergeants shouting at soldier
This poor dude looks like he is not having a good first few minutes of boot camp. He managed to get a whole lot of attention already. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart)


The First Few Minutes of Boot Camp

This scenario I am sharing with you now, was of course, not the exact first three minutes of Boot Camp. That was going on within the first three seconds of walking in the door — the first few minutes of only being in the barracks. The insanity had already started. For those of you who have been there, you know what I mean. For those of you who have not… let me help you out a little and fill you in on the fun.

Mind you, the garbage can flying down the middle of the barracks was freaking crazy. But the antics didn’t just start right there. When the bus dropped us off at our training battalion and barracks, that’s when the fun started. It is true… they do start screaming at you to get off the bus as soon as it pulls up. Just random drill sergeants getting everyone off in a hurry and giving you a warm-up and preview for what’s to come. Of course, that can only last for a few seconds, because how long can it take to unload people off a bus when some dude with a big hat and crazy eyes is screaming at you? Not very long.

Once we got lined up in front of the building, the people talking to us were quite calm. Much to our naive surprise, they weren’t our drill instructors. They were just the admin types. “Whew. That’s not too bad, then, right?”