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The Great and Powerful Ogg

By Betsy Lizotte


    I had an experience like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when I got off the bus at Basic Training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Like Dorothy, I said to myself, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Betsy.” Drill Sergeants were yelling at us for any and every reason. It seemed insane.
           “Move, move, move, get off that bus!” they yelled. There were over 50 of us on the bus, all rushing to get out. The drill sergeants didn’t seem to understand or care that the doorway only allowed one person to pass at a time.
           Basic Training stories are funny because they are about a life that is so different from life quotidian. The job of training people to be disciplined enough to face mental and physical hardship even when they don’t want to is serious business. Trying to train people well enough that they have a chance to live and survive on a battlefield is also serious business. So, when that very system is seen in a humorous light, it relieves tension. And because it is so different, it provides irony and humor.
    As I stepped off the bus, a tall, ebony gladiator yelled, “You’re not dragging that duffel bag fast enough, Cadet! Didn’t your parents work for a living?”
       I wondered what that even meant! Of course my parents worked for a living, but what did that have to do with dragging a 60 pound duffel bag, which was over half of my weight, out of the bus and onto a pile of other stacked duffel bags?
           About ten feet from me, a medium sized, two-legged American Bulldog wearing thick glasses and sporting a “high and tight” haircut yelled out, “When I call your name, you will sound off with ‘Here, Drill Sergeant!’” He had a thick southern drawl. I found out later that he was from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. I could see that his nametape read “Ogg.” I kept the thought to myself that the name Ogg rhymed with dog, which is what he looked like. It was a good thing I didn’t share my humor with him, because I found out that he was humorless....

Full story published in the Marymount Magnificat


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