Dental Floss as a Training Tool

By Randy Perkins

recruit training san diegoI went to Boot Camp October, 1977, in San Diego, California. I admit, I was one of those that got into a little trouble.

In company 300 we had this kid that had a mouth on him that got the whole company in trouble for really stupid stuff. Trust me we were all getting tired of it. We warned him a few times, somewhat politely, but unfortunately, it did not sink in.

We can all remember the things we were given in boot camp: soap with case, shaving kit, shower shoes to avoid athlete’s foot when sharing showers with twenty other recruits at a time, in a room as big as dance hall, toothpaste, toothbrush and other toiletries, including: dental floss.

Our Company Commander had this one pet peeve. That was the dental floss. He hated it with a heated passion. God forbid if he ever found a random piece strewn out anywhere other than inside a trash can. Upon finding a misplaced strand, he would instantly be set off, screaming  at the top of his lungs at us. “We’re going to do push ups  until you ladies all drop dead from exhaustion, or until you all finally get it into your thick f*****g heads that used dental floss does not belong in a sink, in the head of my barracks!”

dental floss

Oh, the pushups we had to do for such a little oversight…

One night after I had done my fire watch and was just falling asleep I got woken up by a couple of the guys. They told me that it was time to teach the screw-up a lesson. “Okay.” I replied, in agreement. “What’s the plan?”

I was thrilled to find out what their plan involved. A blanket party. With…Dental floss.

The screw-up was one of those guys that went into an unresponsive coma when he slept. “Reveille” and a screaming CC along with about a hundred guys frantically scurrying to quickly get dressed and muster failed to even stir the kid most mornings. This sleep pattern enabled our blanket party to wrap the kid up in no less than six rolls of dental floss. We looped it around his fingers , his feet, around the bunk (remember these rolls are 100 feet long, each) his arms, his legs…The guy never even stirred. He just kept on snoring away in unknowing bliss until the sun broke and Reveille sounded.

We all rolled out and got ready for chow. Everyone was laughing at him, but purposely, no one bothered to wake him. We formed up to march to chow. We did our morning “sound off.” This is the boot camp daily custom that assures all recruits are present and accounted for, and no one with a change of heart about military life jumped the fence in the middle of the night, to run back to Mom’s home cooking.

Low and behold, we were one short.

The Chief commanded, “sound off again!” Still, we were one short. So our perplexed CC began to search for the missing recruit, adeptly recognizing whose face was missing: The Screw-up’s. He screamed his last name so loud, if the kid was dead and in a grave, he would have kicked the dirt off himself and jumped out of it.

Nothing. Not a peep in reply. Just a few muffled chuckles from some of the guys who knew what was going on while anticipating all Hell about to break loose when the CC discovered the situation. We were  all trying hard, and pretty much succeeding, at not busting a gut. As our Company Commander walked toward the back of the barracks, he found the Screw-up tied to his bunk; dead to the world.

The CC surprised us all, because instead of going ballistic, we could tell he too was trying to contain his laughter. More amused than angry, he did his best to yell at us while at the same time stifling the chuckles. “Go to chow! I’ll deal with all of you later!” He stuttered.

We only ever had exactly ten minutes to eat chow, as speed-eating was part of a young military man’s training regimen. We were just about done when the sleeping beauty comes staggering in, looking like death warmed over. He grabbed his chow and sat down with less than three minutes flat to eat it before it was time to fall out again.

The Chief came in and yelled at us to form up, and out onto the grinder we all went. After about an hour of marching and drilling, with him yelling at us no less or no more than usual. Then we returned to the barracks to find chopped up dental floss on damn near every one of our racks.

The essential ass-chewing over misplaced dental floss began, and one hundred push ups later, we all had to clean the entire barracks top to bottom. Then, after we were done, we had to do another complete, top-to-bottom cleaning because someone had overlooked a little, inconspicuous strand somewhere on top of a light fixture.

The Screw-up, along with the blanket party, were all pretty good for a couple of weeks after that.

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