For those seeking a lower education, the military is an excellent place to start. To be clear, I’m not talking West Point or even college ROTC I mean old fashioned Basic training, Boot Camp or whatever your service calls it is the equal of a baccalaureate degree in “reality studies.” Professors in this program are Drill Sergeants, and I had the misfortune to study under the Lower Education equivalent of a Rhodes Scholar. A Drill so menacing that they had become known as “the Terminator,” the bane of all trainees on Logan Heights, the former training center at Fort Bliss Texas.
Our own Drills found the Terminator story hilarious and would regale us with tales of their cruelty. The exception to this was the Senior Drill whom I will call SFC Smith. He would sigh and roll his eyes at the mention of the Terminator, and mysteriously this only seemed to encourage the other drills. Occasionally we would spot an unfamiliar Drill snorting and stamping their way along in search of someone to disapprove of, “Is that the Terminator?” We would ask, but the answer was always no.
I made it most of the way through basic without encountering the Terminator. But my luck ran out a week or so before graduation. We were almost done, and I felt secure enough to risk a minor transgression, taking a shower after lights out. I later surmised that The Terminator apparently had duty that evening and for some reason was passing by our company area and heard the water on after 2100 and materialized in the latrine suddenly as if by evil magic. The only thing missing was a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning. She was the smallest person I ever encountered in uniform, about 100 pounds of anger wrapped in the pelt of some unfortunate woman. If a male had entered the female showers, it would’ve been a career-ending scandal. But the rules didn’t seem to apply to the Terminator no, The Terminatrix.
I jumped several feet in the air followed by a crazy scrambling dance to keep from falling on the tiled floor of the shower. My towel was beyond my reach so not knowing what else to do; I went to parade rest, Feet shoulder width apart and hands behind my back. She regarded me with a fishy stare as if examining a new species of parasite and in a very bored voice said: “drop” so I dropped and began awkwardly cranking out pushups in the confined space. She reached over and turned the water all the way to cold, and after glaring at me for what seemed like a year, she turned on her heel and vanished, surprisingly without a puff of sulfurous smoke. Eventually, a buddy came in to see if I had been eaten and revealed that she had gone. According to him she entered the building, ignored the private on fire guard and proceeded directly to the latrine, then departed without speaking.
Following my first encounter with the Terminatrix, she seemed to be all everywhere. We speculated that she might be twins or triplets due to multiple sightings at the same time throughout the training center. We would occasionally find traces of her handy work, an exhausted private dragging themselves back to their unit by their lips one day. A bewildered PFC clinging to one of the few trees proclaiming to any who questioned: “I am a koala bear!” But graduation soon arrived, and I forgot about the Terminatrix.
After graduation, we were marched to a new barracks infested by new Drill Seargents that would be our home through Advanced Training. Having a bit more free time now We were allowed to walk short distances without adult supervision and could patronize the Shopette, a military version of a convenience store. On one such visit, a buddy and I emerged from the store to find a platoon of females leaving a nearby mess hall. We went to parade rest as was the custom and waited for them to pass, but their drill sergeant called a halt in front of us. She had the formation right face and rounded on us. It was, of course, the Terminatrix.
As she described in detail our many faults, I noted that she was either unaware of breath mints, or that they didn’t come in a flavor she found pleasing. She glared balefully at us with her patented fishy stare as if trying to decide if she was going to kill us or throw us back. While we waited under her malevolent gaze, I noticed the female trainees in her platoon had a frightened air about them; like rabbits freezing in the presence of a bobcat. Seeming to reach a decision she barked “Private Fuchs, front, and center!” One of her rabbit women left formation and hopped to the front. “Tell me Fuchs; she spat which one of these creatures caused you to break military bearing?”
“The tall one, Drill Sgt,” she barked back, indicating my friend. (Who never let me forget.)
Realizing the formation was blocking traffic, she had them fall out to the shopette’s gravel parking area and announced that because the hapless Fuchs missed male companionship so badly that she had dared to turn her head and look at something other than the soldier in front of her that we would have a foursome. She then stomped back over to us and announced that although she had not observed us doing anything wrong we “were indisputably guilty of something that required correction.”
She announced that push-ups were the missionary position, flutter kicks were cowgirl and sit-ups were doggy style. She then smoked the absolute hell holy out of poor Fuchs and us,” calling out changes of position every time we showed signs of collapse. After an eternity, she formed up her platoon, allowed Fuchs to stagger back into ranks, and announced to her platoon: “There are about nine miles of dick on this post, and you won’t see a single inch!” She motioned to the platoon guide, and off they marched.
We staggered back to our barracks streaming with sweat, our meager purchases clutched weakly in our limp arms. One of our current Drills simply asked how “Drill Sgt Smith” was. When we responded that no, it wasn't him, we had had him for basic. He began laughing, Sergeant First Class Smith and Staff Sergeant Smith were a married couple, and SSG Smith was one of the few female drills at that post due to the recent opening of some specialties to females and felt compelled to outdo her husband in every respect.
I never saw the Terminatrix again but anyone who attended training at Logan Heights that long ago summer remembers.
Authors note: Another version of this story appeared on the website American Grit. I, Dan Hillman, am the original author. Unlike most of my stories which use a bit of exaggeration all I’ve changed are names for the sake of anonymity and omitted the endless amount of push-up done and the behest of The Terminatrix.