Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Band of Misfits

     Sergeant Randolph furrowed his brow and spat on the ground. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
     “Sign here, sir.” Corporal Williams held out a clipboard and pen.
     The Sergeant ignored the clipboard and continued to watch the scene before him. “Where on God’s green Earth did this ragtag crew of knuckleheads come from?” he asked.
     The Corporal followed his gaze and understood. The new squad that just entered basic training was indeed a unique group of soldiers. Glancing across the obstacle course they were overseeing, he spotted Reynolds hanging upside down from a foot tangled in the climbing rope, Berstein bumping into trees because his helmet was on backwards and Phillips huffing and puffing to pull his 400-pound body up the first steps of the climbing wall. How Phillips ever passed the physical exam was beyond the Corporal’s comprehension.
     “Tell me Corporal,” said the Sergeant, “Have you ever seen such a bumbling squad of screwballs in the US army?”
     The Corporal chose his words carefully. “I can’t say I have, sir. But while they may look scrawny, they sure have spirit.”
     “Spirit?” repeated Sergeant Randolph, just as Private Franklin slid out of control down a muddy hill, thereby causing the butt of another soldier’s rifle to hit him in the groin. “Exactly what kind of spirit do you see in these clowns?”
     “How about Private Burns?” said the Corporal, nodding toward the man in question. “He’s well-practiced in many forms of martial arts and weaponry, he follows orders to the letter and he can reassemble his rifle faster than recruit I’ve ever seen.”
     They both watched Private Burns—his face painted in camouflage—attack a dummy with his bayonet. After adequately mauling the dummy, he dropped his weapon and began to administer roundhouse kicks to its stuffed head. As if that wasn’t enough, he then produced a pair of nunchucks from his belt and proceeded to administer a whirlwind of torment onto the helpless mannequin. When the dummy fell to the ground, he discarded the nunchucks, pulled a 35 Magnum handgun out of his belt and fired the whole cartridge into the torso while screaming at the top of his lungs. The dummy exploded, filling the air with its white stuffing.
     The Sergeant let out a grunt.
     “Well,” said the Corporal, scanning the other members of the squad, “Private Dexter looks promising. His engineering skills are exceptional.”
     The Sergeant spat again. “Dexter, you say? Wasn’t he the one who tried to build an automatic mess hall cleaner that exploded and showered the whole camp with creamed corn?”
     The Corporal nodded. “I’m afraid so, sir. But look how ingenious he is about overcoming the climbing wall.”
     The Corporal pointed toward Dexter as he pulled a rope attached to an elaborate set of pulleys that somehow connected to a harness around his waist. The ropes gracefully pulled him up higher and higher. When he was just about to reach the top of the wall, something went askew. The rope jammed and Private Dexter became stuck. He pulled the rope harder and harder until it finally broke free, launching himself 30 feet in the air. He landed safely in the latrine.
     “In case you have any doubts, Corporal,” said the Sergeant, “I would prefer to have a soldier who can climb the wall.”
     The Corporal blushed. “Yes sir. Though I would still like to point out Private Boomer. He has shown himself to be very resourceful.”
     “I’ll say,” said the Sergeant. “I heard he cleaned out the whole officer’s tent in a poker game, negotiated his way out of KP and somehow managed to have caviar and prime rib delivered to him for lunch—and all on his first week here. Where is he, anyway? Shouldn’t he be training with the rest of the squad?”
     The Corporal shook his head. “No sir, he’s with the medic. It appears he came down with a bout of food poisoning.”
     No sooner did he say the words than the canvas of a nearby officer’s tent collapsed, exposing a naked Private Boomer in bed with a nurse.
     The Sergeant looked directly at the Corporal. “Corporal, I don’t know why you insist on defending this band of misfits. I’ve been in the army for thirty years, and for the first time in my career, I’m ready to give up on a squad and tell them they can't cut it.”
     “I understand your apprehension, sir, but I believe this group of soldiers has potential. I believe that when it matters, they’ll each pull together their unique abilities and special skills to complete any mission that confronts them. I’m willing to bet that when the time is right and nobody else can help, they’ll surprise us all and save the day. I believe they’ll make us proud as long as we have faith in them, sir.”
     The Sergeant thought about his words. “Do you really believe that, Corporal?”
     The Corporal stood tall and proud. “Yes sir, I do. You may think I’m crazy, but I have a gut feeling this story will turn out like a comic movie with a heartwarming ending.”
     The Sergeant nodded and both men turned their attention back to the unusual squad. Reynolds was still hanging upside-down from the rope and Phillips had passed out face-down in front of the climbing wall. A moment later, Private Burns appeared on the scene carrying a box of grenades. When the Sergeant and Corporal realized the danger, it was already too late. Burns tried to fill his pockets with as many grenades as possible, but dropped one back into the box—still holding the pin.
     “Down!” The Sergeant grabbed the Corporal and threw him to the ground an instant before the massive explosion.
     When the dust settled, the two men stood up again to find that the entire squad had been blown to smithereens. Not a single recruit survived. Even Private Boomer was found impaled with one of Burns’ nunchucks. There was blood everywhere, and horrific remains of corpses filled the scene. No doubt a heavy investigation would ensue, and both the Sergeant and Corporal would be facing a dishonorable discharge for letting such a catastrophe occur under their watch. Dozens of families would be devastated to learn about their losses, and the media was going to have a field day at the army's expense.
     “Wow,” said the Corporal, brushing himself off as he surveyed the scene. “I don’t think any of us expected that to happen.”

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