Infantry School Graduation Rehearsal, Fort Benning, Georgia.
After several long and trying months, the time had finally come for the Army’s newest class of Infantry 2nd Lieutenants to saunter across a stage, shake a few hands, and wander off into the big Army. We spent at least two entire days rehearsing. The more we tried to get it right, the more things went wrong. It was supposed to be a simple process; we were to march up through a door to the back stage area and wait for our name to be called. Halfway across the stage, each of us would shake the hands of our instructors, and various senior ranking officers and enlisted personnel who had no idea who we were, but were proud of our successes or something like that.
Our Company Commander, MAJ “M” was an extremely intense character. Between giving surreal safety briefs and screaming often at us, no one really knew how to take him. As the day wore on, MAJ M said that, “If anyone else laughs during this rehearsal, they won’t participate in the graduation ceremony”. This was a bridge too far.
Soon enough, the rehearsal process was messed up again. I recall that people were out of order or the timing of the ceremony was wrong. At this point, most of the cadre were head hunting for a Lieutenant to crack a smile. Surely enough, someone did.
John, a fit and intelligent West Pointer who would later serve with distinction in the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan, was the victim of the day. MAJ M saw John chuckle slightly and all hell broke loose.
“Do you think this is fucking funny?!” bellowed a veiny and red-faced Major. “Do you think we like rehearsing for this over and over again and you lieutentants can’t even keep focused?! This isn’t funny!”
“It’s kind of funny.” replied John, somewhat quietly.
That was the last straw. All forty lieutenants from my platoon were taken outside and yelled at for about 15 minutes by our platoon advisor, a man we endearingly referred to as Captain Insane-o. John was pulled, at least initially, from the graduation ceremony which his parents drove over a thousand miles to see. After a last second change of heart, John was hastily thrown back into the ceremony, but there was one issue. No one added his name to the roster to be called.
So, as John walked across the stage, the name of the person directly after him was called instead. If this continued, it would have caused a cascade of wrong names and no one’s name would have been called at the correct time. The cadre pulled the officer after John out of the line, and the ceremony continued on as planned. The average spectator would never have noticed anything went wrong, except of course for the family of the officer who was pulled from the line. He never walked across the stage.
It’s kind of funny.