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Davies
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The rain was pouring down so hard that Davies felt certain they were using fire hoses to supplement mother nature’s already impressive onslaught. With the accompanying wind, he found it difficult to stand at attention but that wasn’t nearly as difficult as it was to watch the rest of his squad performing pushups in the torrential weather.

The drill instructor (DI) walked through the ranks as he addressed them. “Oh. My. God! I could not have planned a better night for PT! You all should thank Recruit Davies for his absolute and utter lack of soldiering ability for this 2am wake up call. Why don’t you remind us all why we’re out here right now.”

“Sir, yes sir.” Davies tried to start.

“How about everyone rolls over and gets on their backs for some flutter kicks! And keep those feet at least six inches off the ground at all times. We will keep doing flutter kicks until Recruit Davies finds his big boy voice.” Turning to Davies, “You may continue cupcake.”

Davies took a deep breath and cleared his throat. Raising his voice above the downpour, “Sir, we are out here because while this recruit was on watch he forgot to secure the fire door in the hangar. In doing so this recruit left the base vulnerable to intruders. Sir!”

“That’s exactly right sweetheart. I find it absolutely amazing that every time you fuck up, you are able to perfectly describe what you did wrong. You’d think that with all of the explaining you have to do, some of that information might actually sink into your head and you’d start getting things right once in a while.” The DI continued to pace up and down the rows of recruits still performing the flutter kicks.

To make things worse, the DI had one of his assistants bring out a cot and then ordered Davies to lay down on it. Davies was digging his nails into his legs and trying to cause enough pain to stay awake. Davies held out as long as he could but there was just no way to fight the exhaustion that they all felt. Davies succumbed and even started snoring. When it became obvious to his squadmates that he was sleeping, most of them promised themselves they would kill him in his rack before the end of bootcamp.

At around 6am Davies awoke to the sound of reveille. When he opened his eyes he found himself still in the courtyard with his squad curled up on the concrete grinder, shivering and sleeping as best they could given the circumstances. As they began to wake up, their eyes were finding Davies and making their best effort to kill him with never before seen human telekinesis.

The DIs rotated every four hours to ensure that they were always in peak condition. This also gave the impression to the recruits that the DIs had superhuman stamina abilities. No matter how obvious the mind games were, the recruits always fell for them.

The fresh DI stepped up, “Good morning ladies! I heard you had a wonderful PT session this morning with absolutely perfect weather. The great part is, we’re already here on the grinder for our morning PT. Fantastic! Thank you again Recruit Davies! Everyone hit the deck! Thirty, eight-count pushups on my count! Ready… Exercise! One-two-three-four…”

Davies could feel the hate radiating towards him as though a tidal wave of anger was hitting him over and over again. He did his best to review every mistake he had made since arriving at boot camp a little over six weeks ago. There were so many at this point he knew he couldn’t remember them all. But he tried anyway, he hoped that maybe the mistakes and consequent punishments would help him to do better today. If not today, maybe he could do better tomorrow. He felt like he was fighting a losing battle but he wouldn’t give up, ever.

After PT, Davies marched to chow with the rest of his company and all of the other recruits in boot camp. The men and women in his company were disciplined enough to not say anything to him as they stood at attention in formation outside of the chow hall. He knew that if he kept making mistakes they would eventually lose their discipline and dish out some barracks justice some night after lights out. The thought of continually disappointing his squad and company was more motivating to Davies than the thought of them retaliating against him was.

Davies also had another form of strong motivation, his father, grandfather, great grandfather, plus another few generations of men had all been Marines. A couple were officers but most enlisted men. His father had retired as a Major after starting off as a private and moving his way through the most of the enlisted ranks before becoming a Mustang and going to Officer Candidate School.

Major Davies had never forced either of his sons into service nor did he expect it of them. He had always been honest and upfront with them about the good and bad of military service. The Major told his boys that he was proud of them regardless of their career choice but he made no secret of the fact that he would love it if one or both of them became a Marine.

Davies was the older of the two boys by five years. His brother Carl was always talking about becoming an officer in the Corps, even wanting to get some of his dad’s previous assignments. Davies really hadn’t wanted to join the military and he was happy that his brother did so their father would have at least one Marine Corps legacy. If his brother ever changed his mind, Davies knew he would enlist, get his four year contract done and then move on.

The day came for Carl’s graduation from Officer Candidate School and the whole Davies family was in attendance. There was marching, a military band playing and all of the pomp and circumstance anyone could handle. If you weren’t a fan of the Coalition, you would be after witnessing the ceremony they put on that day.

When everything was over with, the newly appointed officers were released to meet with their friends and families. Grandpa Davies had retired as a Sergeant Major so he had the honor of giving Lieutenant Davies his first official salute. Lieutenant Davies returned the salute to his grandfather who was standing at full attention in his dress blues.

The Lieutenant then turned to his father, who outranked him, and rendered a salute. Before he returned the salute, Major Davies stated without any hint of a smile, “You better outrank me someday Lieutenant.” He then sharply returned the salute.

With the traditional salutes finished there was a round of hugging and back-slapping from the rest of the family. Davies grabbed his younger and smaller brother in a bear-hug and lifted him off the ground. “I’m proud of you Carl.”

“Thanks brother. I know you think Dad was my inspiration for joining the Marines but he wasn’t. You were.”

“What?” Davies thought his brother was teasing him for some reason.

“I’m serious. Dad is my hero but you’ve always been my inspiration. Dad is the action hero that every kid wants to be and dreams of having for a father. We were lucky to have him growing up. Even though you have no desire to join the service, you embody everything that it stands for and everything it tries to be.

“I want to give to my enlisted men what you’ve always given to me. Direction. Stability. Honor. Fairness. Loyalty. Brotherhood.” The Lieutenant saluted his older brother.

“Holy crap, I’m gonna cry you little prick.” Davies couldn’t help but wipe at his eyes. “Go talk to Dad and Grandpa. They have some words of wisdom they want to pass along before you ship out.”

The Lieutenant gave a crisp about-face and then jogged over to where his father and grandfather were waiting for him. As the trio walked away arm-in-arm, a fireball erupted on the ground and obliterated any trace that they ever existed.

Davies was barely starting to register what had happened when the fireball started to reach out for him from the epicenter of the blast. Luckily for him, the shockwave hit first and threw him far enough away that he wasn’t burned to a crisp.

Shrapnel, fuel and fiery debris rained down all over the parade field. Six other people had been killed and many others seriously hurt when the fighter jet malfunctioned and crashed on its way back from its performance in the graduation ceremony.

Davies didn’t even try to go to where he saw his lineage vaporized, he knew they were gone. Instead he gathered his family and took a head count to make sure no one else had been lost. Once gathered, he ushered them to the cafeteria where he knew there would be food, water and shelter. The cafeteria was near the parade grounds and was ready to receive and feed the hundreds of people in attendance at the graduation. It was a good choice for shelter and he knew where it was thanks to the graduation program he had in his pocket.

Davies was barely holding it together but he was in survival mode now, a frame of mind that his father had always drilled into his sons. The Major had always told his boys that when the world seemed like it was ending, it was time to step up and do your part; be strong for the weak and guide those who were blinded by fear.

With his family secure, Davies told his mother that he was going back to the field to see if he could help in any way. He felt bad about leaving his mother but he had no choice but to try to live up to all of those things his brother had just said about him.

Davies reached the parade ground a few minutes later and found that rescue efforts were already underway. Corpsman were attending to the injured and setting up a triage and treatment area. He realized that his help wasn’t needed here, the Marine Corps was no stranger to tragedy and they had reacted quickly and efficiently to the unforeseeable event. Even though the circumstances were horrible, Davies was thoroughly impressed with how things were being handled.

Davies decided to go back to his family to make sure they were still alright. As he was walking he came across a folding conference table that had been turned on its side with paperwork and pamphlets strewn out on the ground around it. Without even thinking about it he went to turn it over and clean up the mess. Later he would wonder why that table and mess were important to him to clean up and he would never be able to answer that question. Maybe it was because he saw something that he could actually fix, regardless of how small and insignificant the act was; it was a chance to do something.

As he began to lift the table he heard a voice, “Excuse me son, please leave the table on the ground.”

“What?” Davies turned to see a Staff Sergeant looking at him.

“I’m sorry son, I appreciate your help but the accident investigation team likes to have everything left alone so they can do their job better.” The Sergeant put his hand on Davies’ shoulder, seeming to know that Davies wasn’t just upset about the accident. “Did you lose someone in the crash son?”

“My brother graduated today. He was standing with my father, Major Davies, and my grandfather, Sergeant Major Davies, when the plane crashed into all three of them.” Davies was holding one of the pamphlets in his hand and looking absently at it.

“I’m sorry son. There are no words for a shit-storm that big.” The Sergeant was no stranger to death but he was clearly at a loss for this circumstance.

“What was this booth for?” Davies was looking around at all of the Marine Corps paraphernalia on the ground.

“It was a recruitment booth. We always get about twenty or so new recruits after a graduation ceremony. The kids, and even sometimes the older adults, are so filled with patriotism after the show that they sign right up.” The Sergeant looked around at all of the mess. “Probably not so much today though.”

Davies put down the pamphlet he was holding and picked up one of the recruitment forms. “Well, you’re going to get at least one today. Do you have a pen?”

The Sergeant looked into Davies’ eyes, “Son, you just had the biggest loss you will ever have in your life. I’m not allowed to take an application from anyone that I deem is not emotionally able to understand the commitment they are making by filling out that form. Look at line number twenty-nine. It even says you can’t sign the form if you are under emotional distress.”

“I won’t say that I’m fine, because I’m not. I’m pretty damned fucked up right now. I know that. You know that. But you don’t know me or my family. If I don’t sign up with you right now, I’m leaving here to find the nearest recruiting office and do it there. I NEED to sign up here. Now. The last place I was with… Them.” Davies started rooting around the ground trying to find a pen that he knew had to be there somewhere.

The Sergeant sighed. “Son, I’ll tell you what. Let’s fill the paperwork out, right here, right now. Then in one month, we’ll meet for a beer. If you still want me to turn in the paperwork then, I will. I promise.”

Davies stood up and took the pen the Sergeant was holding out to him. “Okay.”

When the paperwork was done Davies handed it over and shook the other man’s hand. “Thank you. Sergeant?”

“Sergeant O’Connor. Mike O’Connor.” The Sergeant handed him a business card. “I’m done with recruiting duty in five weeks so give me a call in three so we can set up a time to meet. I’m sorry for your loss son.”

The two men parted and Davies went back to his family. A month later Davies was seated at a table in a bar when Staff Sergeant O’Connor walked in. Davies waved to him and Mike sat down to a beer that was already waiting for him.

“So, you’re ready to take the plunge?” Mike took a drink from his beer.

“Yes sir. Absolutely.” Davies was nervous despite himself.

“Okay. First things first, don’t fucking call me sir again. Second, let’s have fun tonight since you’ll be leaving for bootcamp in the morning.” Mike smiled at the shock on Davies’ face.

“That soon huh?” He raised his glass, “I guess it’s as a good a time as any.”

They drank for a few hours and were just about to call it a night when a group of women walked into the bar. Davies thought he recognized one of them but wasn’t sure where from. After looking at her for what seemed like an inappropriately long time, he thought he figured it out.

“I think that chick was one of the Corpsman at the graduation.” Davies pointed to a lean beautiful brunette.

“Let’s find out.” Mike turned around in his chair, “Hey Doc!”

About eight different Corpsman, including the brunette turned around to look at him. “Not you ugly mugs.” Mike waved dismissively to the men who were looking. “You, young lady. Can you come here for a moment please?”

The woman came over while rolling her eyes. She apparently was used to being singled out. “Can I help you gentlemen?”

Mike pointed to Davies who stammered for a moment before being able to speak coherently. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I think you were at the officer graduation ceremony last month.”

“I was. And?”

“My brother, father and grandfather were killed in the accident. I just wanted to say thank you for all the help you and the other Corpsman gave everyone. There was one guy with red shaggy hair that was especially nice to my family while we were in the cafeteria.”

“I’m sorry for your losses.” He could tell she meant it. “I think you’re talking about Dean. I’ll let him know tomorrow that you said thanks.”

She shook both men’s hands and was about to leave when Mike held her in place with the unfinished handshake. “Stay. Please. My friend here just enlisted and is leaving for bootcamp in the morning. Bring some of your friends over. We can scare him with our combined bootcamp horror stories.” Mike smiled.

The woman thought for a minute before turning to her friends and waving them over. When they arrived at the table she introduced them all. “Gentlemen, this is Gina, Linda, Michelle and Leanne. Ladies these two are…”

“I’m Mike and this is Davies.” The women and men all shook hands in turn. “And by the way, you never gave us your name young lady.”

“Daria.”

Davies was brought back to the present just in time to hear the DI give the prepatory command for the company to start their single-file march into the mess hall. That was a close one. A marching mistaking this late into bootcamp was almost a capital offense.

After they had chow, the company split into squads to go about their training day. Davies’ squad was scheduled for the firing range today. They had spent the last two weeks going over weapons maintenance, weapons handling and safety, weapons familiarization, and just about any other weapons anything you could think of. Today would be there first day with live ammo on the line.

Davies’ father had taught both boys how to shoot, though Davies never really had any fun with it. His father always told him that he was a natural but he thought his dad was just being kind and encouraging.

Davies was nervous. Today was the day he wanted to turn it all around. Make his DI see that he could be a good soldier. After all, if a man couldn’t shoot, he wasn’t in the Marines, he was in the Navy.

Once they were on the firing line they were all given tons of instructions before the ammunition was actually handed to them. The first magazine was inserted into the weapon and the charging handle released. With the first caseless round in place, they were given the order to fire five rounds at their own pace, load the next magazine and repeat until all five magazines were dry. They only got five rounds per magazine so they would practice their reloading drills early on and get used to what to do when your weapon goes dry.

The first twenty-five rounds were a free-for-all that let the DIs see who needed the most help. There were always the recruits who shot all of their rounds in less than a minute. There were those that took way too long to shoot, but that was generally a better problem to have than an itchy trigger finger. And there were those who knew how to shoot and just needed a little guidance to become good tactical shooters.

The firing line was alive with the barking of rifles sending death downrange. Most of the recruits smiled from ear to ear as they felt their first moment of being a true Marine.

The DIs were plentiful today to make sure nothing went wrong. There was at least one DI per two shooters and three others walking the line independently looking for safety issues.

The primary DI was walking the line holding his training tablet and reviewing each recruit’s scores. The tablet could show the target from any of the firing positions so the DI could review the score with recruits and other instructors. When the DI reached Davies he was not surprised with what his tablet was showing him.

Davies was lying in the prone position with his weapon on safe and all of his magazines empty. He looked up and saw the disappointment and anger in the DI’s face. From their current distance to the target, he couldn’t see the bullet holes so he wasn’t sure where he had hit or even if he had hit it.

The DI leaned over and started in on Davies. “Holy shit son! You did not hit the target even once! Are you aware that Recruit Garvis hit his target twenty-three times?! He is so blind that the Marine Corps almost didn’t let him in! His glasses are so thick, we could find never before discovered planets if we pointed him at the sky tonight!”

The DI began pacing a few feet back and forth. “Everyone make your weapons safe!” Once that order was accomplished. “Everyone, pushup position! A one two three…”

And the exercising began. Usually the DIs relaxed with the yelling and punishment on the range but apparently Davies had taken them to their limits.

As the recruits were holding in the up position, the DI started back into Davies. “You had two weeks of weapons training and simulation! And then you come out here and choke! Not a single round hit your target! You were given one simple task, hit the red target! What do you have to say for yourself?!”

“Red target sir?”

“Yes the red target! Do you not even know your basic colors?!”

“Sir, I believe this recruit made a mistake sir. This recruit was shooting at the orange target sir.” Davies cringed at his own admission of once again failing to follow the instructions correctly.

“The orange target?” The DI’s voice came down a few notches. He then tapped his tablet’s screen a couple of times. He waved over a few of the other DIs who just gawked at the screen.

“Recover!” The DI didn’t so much yell the instruction as just making sure he was heard. “Recruit Davies once again failed to follow instructions. However, his failure will be our success.”

The rest of the recruits looked even more puzzled than Davies did. The DI continued, “Recruit Davies shot the orange targets rather than the red. The red targets are at the one hundred meter line. The orange targets are at the one thousand meter line. With open sights, cupcake here hit all twenty-five rounds in a twenty centimeter circle. Most Marines can’t do that with a scoped rifle.”

All eyes turned to Davies. “So while he did not follow instructions, he just became our primary shooter in the pre-graduation company competition. Our company can’t lose with Davies as our ringer.

“From now on, each of you will help Recruit Davies on a daily basis. We cannot let him become ineligible for the competition by receiving discipline chits or not making it through any other course of instruction. Are we clear?” The DI was smiling broadly now.

“Sir yes sir!” The recruits replied in unison.

“Good, now get back on the line and shoot the red target.” This would be the first time his company beat his long time rival’s company in the shooting competition. The victory beer was going to be his this time around.

Without even being told, most of the recruits chimed in, “Recruit Davies, red target!”

And that’s how it went for the rest of bootcamp. Every time the DI gave an order the squad or company would repeat it for Davies to make sure he got it. Davies wasn’t dumb by any stretch of the word, he just hadn’t been ready or suited for military life. But with his whole company behind him now he was finally getting it. Even when it became obvious that his Marine Corps switch had flipped to the ‘on’ position and he was doing fine on his own, they still did it, it had become their company ‘thing’.

Recruit Davies, right, face.

Recruit Davies, lights, out.

Recruit Davies, pushup position.

Recruit Davies…

And so the shooting competition came and Davies won it for his company without any problems. Graduation followed close behind but this time none of his family was in attendance. Davies had lied to them about the date because he didn’t want them attending another ceremony less than a year after Carl’s.

As Davies waded through his friends and now fellow Marines, he caught a glimpse of a familiar and friendly face. As he walked towards Mike he noticed another rocker on his arm. “Gunnery Sergeant O’Connor?” Davies shook his hand then hugged his friend.

“I just got it last week.” Mike absently minded touched his new patch. “I brought someone along with me.” Mike looked over Davies’ shoulder and nodded.

Davies turned to see who Mike was looking at. “Daria! What are you doing here?!” Davies gave her a big hug.

“Mike told me that you hadn’t invited your family so we came to take you to dinner.” Daria moved over to Mike’s side.

Davies could tell that the two were now a couple. Not that anything had happened the night they met before bootcamp, but Davies had promised himself he would look Daria up after he graduated. His dad always said that the Corps took its toll on relationships the most, Davies was feeling that first hand.

“Sounds great. I’m ready whenever you guys are.” Davies tried to smile.

“Before we go,” Mike started, “There is someone you have to meet.”

Mike ushered them through the crowd until they found the man Mike was looking for. The Colonel turned and all three saluted him.

After the Colonel saluted them back he turned to Davies and extended his hand, “So you must be the shooter Mike was telling me about.”

“Um, yes sir?” Davies wasn’t sure what was going on.

Mike interjected, “Private Davies, this is the Colonel. He has done a lot in his career so I’ll just skip to the present. He’s currently the Commanding Officer of the Coalition Special Forces Training Center.”

“Mike, I don’t think I’m ready for Special Forces, I barely made it out of bootcamp.”

The Colonel just laughed. “Private, for the last five years I’ve been running a pilot program that recognizes recruits in bootcamp with special skills. Electronic warfare, advanced infantry tactics, shooting, etcetera. And when we find these talents, we send them through the corresponding training with our special forces instructors.

“We then send them back to regular infantry units but with advanced training in their particular skill set. So infantry units gets some soldiers with extremely advanced training to enhance their abilities. And in the process we hope we are cultivating future special ops guys, after you get some seasoning and field experience.

“I saw your shooting scores and I want to send you through our advanced sniper school. You definitely don’t need the basic and intermediate courses. So I just need to know if you’re in or not?”

“Yes sir. I’m in.” Davies was shaking the Colonel’s hand again.

“Great. Glad to have you.” The Colonel started to walk away but turned and added, “Your father was a great officer and even better man. He’d be proud of you.” He left without waiting for a response.

Davies wanted to follow the Colonel and ask him more about what he had just said, but he thought better of it and just turned to his friends. “Shall we go?”

 

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