While I was a young lieutenant in the U.S. Army, I got the opportunity to attend the Army’s paratrooper school located at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the United States. It was a three week course and was very physically demanding, so you had to be in top shape when you arrived there to make sure you were capable of doing the training. I went in August of 1988, so that area of Georgia during August, as you would expect, was extremely hot, with temperatures regularly over 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), and the humidity was perpetually above 90 percent. Normally, for the good part of the day, any place out in the sun would be like standing in a hot frying pan. If you were in the shade, you were only slightly less miserable because the high humidity made it very difficult for your body to cool itself by evaporating any of the sweat that drenched your skin and clothes. The day would normally bake everyone and everything up until about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, when enough humidity had evaporated to form clouds, and then to push those clouds past the point of saturation, which started the cycle of condensation in the form of thunderstorms. So the dramatic late afternoon thunderstorms would then crank up, but usually just long enough to push the humidity off the charts. Then the sun would immediately burst forth with renewed intensity and vigor, turning the heat and the extra humidity into a perfectly miserable experience, even worse than before the thunderstorms came.
Most of our training in the first week, though, took place out of the sun and rain in large pavilions without walls and with sawdust for a floor. You would get some breeze coming in across the training area from time-to-time, but it was of little consequence because the sloped roof had no outlet or circulation, so it just trapped a gigantic mass of hot air which hovered just over your head like the sword of Damocles where it would release continuous waves of agonizing heat, each one perfectly timed to the point that you began to delusionally think that maybe it really was cooling just a tiny bit. I’m sure this was all intricately planned out by the evil instructors to maximize the misery, because “by golly you deserved it” or it would toughen you up if it didn’t kill you. In any case, you just got used to being drenched with your own sweat all the time and got used to constantly guzzling tepid water to keep you from getting heat stroke. You also got used to having sawdust and wood chips sticking to you after tumbling into the floor from the various PLF (parachute landing fall) exercises or for the sporadic sessions of group torture from the black hats when you all did something wrong or merely when they got a hankering for seeing your misery.
This sawdust or the small wood particles, once stuck to you, would then migrate into every unmentionable place on your body where they bonded to your skin and began burrowing a hole through all the extraneous skin tissue until they reached your very last nerve that you thought would never be touched and perfecting your agony to the point that you began to dream about your mommy giving you a bottle and rocking you to sleep. And it is at that point that your inner feelings began to betray you by showing up on your face. Without you knowing it, they start making you form that sad, weepy face that just pleads for attention from the blood-sucking demon trainers that are just itching to descend upon you with verbal abuse so outrageous that it has never before been heard in human history -- Oh, and also to ravenously devour your flesh raw. It was miserable for everybody, but you didn’t have the luxury of even thinking about your misery as you were quite certain that the sadistic black-hat trainers were dreaming of some exquisite torture invented just for you once you did something to catch their attention, making even the smallest of mistakes during training, which, to them, indicated that you were soulless and a traitor to your country and certainly unworthy of the very oxygen you were breathing.
More on this tomorrow.