Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said: Wit And Wisdom From America’s Finest, by Dan Caddy
My maternal grandfather, a man who remained gruff and brusque decades after having been a drill instructor for the Coast Guard Academy, was the sort of person I imagined when reading this book. The irony of this book is that the crudeness of the drill sergeants discussed here is not far off the mark. The army may market itself as an army of one for volunteers who don’t know how these things work, and then have to take a bunch of not very physically or mentally fit snowflakes who are used to thinking only for and about themselves and pushing them and motivating them to become alert soldiers capable of working together for the defense of our country. It is not an enviable position, and it is a miracle it works as often as it does. To his credit, the author recognizes the breaking down and building up aspect of life in basic training and appreciates the drill sergeants for doing a difficult and necessary task with a high degree of skill and even occasional humanity as well as a lot of humor. This book manages the same trick in celebrating the wit and wisdom of the humble drill instructor.
This book is a bit more than 150 pages and is divided into several sections. The author gives a very short introduction about the contents of this book and the author’s approach. After that there is a short section that looks at various creeds, of which the Private’s Creed is the funniest and most pointed about the gulf between military and civilian society. After that the main part of the book is divided into three parts. The first part looks at Shark Attack, the period where recruits are just getting to basic training and are being broken down in the face of the abusive and colorful rhetoric of the drill instructors who and and do some wild tings to get behind the self-regard of the recruits. After that comes the second part of the book which looks at whether recruits sink or swim and the delicate process by which drill instructors try to encourage new soldiers, sometimes privately, while still letting them know of their flaws and shortcomings as soldiers. The third part of the book then looks at life after basic, where the author examines the way that the drill instructors perform useful work in preparing recruits to be competent soldiers, after which the book ends with a section on acknowledgements and some resources for veterans.
This is the sort of book where one is tempted to laugh but also to think deeper about the materials included. As a civilian who has studied military history but never has served in the military, I am aware that to a certain extent the joke is on me. This book is clearly aimed at the audience of readers who are either veterans or are at least sympathetic to the aims of the military. The author himself, having moved from the civilian world to the military and recognizing what needs to be done with contemporary American youth to prepare them to be effective soldiers, is well equipped to provide the reader with a full dose of DI humor and insight, and it is possible that those whose memory of basic training was less than positive will have some unpleasant flashbacks about some of the hazing and teasing that goes on here. But it is clear that the author recognizes the point and purpose, and manages to have crafted a work that will humor some and even point out some of the struggles that veterans face after having served in war.