Author's Notes: Challenge: From Diane "Cloned Jack, in boot camp, has some fun with the meanest, badass drill sergeant". I wasn't "true" to the challenge, but BMT is hard enough with a 'normal' TI. Other than that, I took Jon to BMT.

8/9/2021 – Updated with minor grammar and spelling fixes. Thanks to DonLyn and many others for giving me the correct German. Online translators suck.

Because this is the 'mini-me in basic' story, my references for USAF BMT are a few years out of date. I graduated in 1993, but while the agenda has changed, the basic problems and issues have not. I have combined the current BMT agenda and my memories to come up with this story. So, if you went to BMT recently and I got it all wrong, sorry. Tell me what has changed so I can fix it.

However, as I was thinking about all the challenges of BMT, I realized that Jon wouldn't consider any of them a challenge. In fact, he would be bored out of his skull. I wrote this story so that 1) Jon kept busy. 2) didn't get caught. And 3) used his 'actions' to the betterment of his unit.

For some of the pranks, I have to describe the standard BMT dormitory building at Lackland AFB. The building is perfectly square. Dorms are located on the 2nd and 3rd floors and accessed through the corners, 4 per corner. The whole first floor is the Dining Hall, classrooms, and offices. Charge of Quarters (CQ) is in the center of the square on the first floor and is only accessible through a hallway.

However, the center of the square is empty on the 2nd and 3rd floors. All the 16 dayrooms overlook this central courtyard roof. Yes, the roof. I think it is part of the conditioning. You can look out a window and only see this little corner of the world and nothing else.

WARRIOR WEEK. This is the week that trainees are taken out into the field and given some BASIC instruction on how to survive in a deployed environment. This week culminates in a 3-day field training exercise (FTX). While I have never had the pleasure of going through the BMT version of an FTX, I have done numerous ORE, ORI, IGX, FTX, MCX, and, of course, done the real thing. For those of you not familiar with the above terms, count yourself lucky. If you really want to know, check out the Acronyms List at the end of the story.

Here's irony for ya – the AFMAN 10-100 has a shorter acronym list than this story. Do you think they missed a few?

Acronyms are posted at the end of each Week Of Training (WOT)

Thanks: I am USAF military (medically retired). I married USAF (retired). So, I want to give thanks to those Brothers and Sisters who helped me get their experiences into this fic. To Skypig, Sgt Snuffy, for helping me organize my pranks and for the wonderful suggestion of putting the glitter trap in the Snake Pit. To Spec Skippy and his list of infinite possibilities. To JillPadelf for directing me to it. To Von: livestock is always funny. To Astra who wanted a bit more on PC. To my USAF units and fellow Airmen for which none of this could have been written. Extra special thanks to Jillian for beta help.

Heather – Sorry, I wasn't clearer about the job classification area. The USAF recruits people into positions two ways. Guaranteed job or guaranteed aptitude area (General, Mechanical, Electronic, and Administrative). The job classification briefing is mainly for trainees entering under a guaranteed aptitude area. For example, 'I have no idea what I want to do with my life' but I scored high in one aptitude area on the ASVAB. This briefing is when the trainee picks their top 10 choices of jobs available in their selected aptitude. These recruits will be informed what job they have been assigned when they reach Fifth WOT. As always, the needs of the USAF come first. Jon entered under the guaranteed job category.

Special Note: The military is not just a job or career. It is a lifestyle. Dress Blues are called the Class A uniform. The Blues Jacket is a military members RESUME in cloth. BMT teaches the new members WHAT each part means. In the military, you are not black or white or brown. You are green. Not a woman, but a female. Not a man, but a male. BMT strips out all the civilian classifications. It is INDOCTRINATION. Frat houses have nothing on the US military. I consider ALL military (active and retired) to be my family. My Brothers and Sisters.



Part 5 of the Little Jack Grows Up series.


Zero Week

"Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest, without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort. Then he feels his nullity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness. " - Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Zero Week Agenda: Initial Physical Fitness Evaluation, Immunizations, Drug Testing, Uniform Issue, Nutrition Lesson, Haircuts, Uniform Code of Military Justice


Jon climbed off the small airplane with a grateful sigh. The Flight from Colorado Springs hadn't been long, but it had been cramped. He walked down the San Antonio terminal with his ditty bag casually slung over his shoulder. He noticed the first sign directing him to the Air Force Receiving Station at the end of the terminal and grinned.

Jon had spent his last couple weeks before training getting his affairs in order. With Jack's move to Washington DC, Jack and decided to sign over the house and truck to Jon. Jack figured that Jon would keep up the house when he got back from training and was assigned to Cheyenne Mountain. Jon had remarked that it was Jack's way of not packing, because he was leaving everything except the clothes and a few pictures for Jon. They had finished signing everything last week.

Jon took note of the bored Airman behind the desk. She was watching him as he approached and was trying to mentally will him away. He almost laughed when her mental 'damn' bounced off his shielding. Frowning at his grin, she snapped, "Last Name?"

"O'Neill, with two L's."

"Orders," she stated as she held out her hand. He deftly placed his copy in her hand and waited for her to read. She typed away at the computer terminal and with a resigned sigh, began her well-rehearsed speech. "As of now you are under the control of the 737th Training Group at Lackland Air Force Base. You are not to go anywhere without the express permission from one of the Training Instructors. This reception area is your last chance to get rid of any contraband. Tobacco products, alcohol, and any drugs without a prescription are strictly prohibited, including over the counter drugs, like NyQuil. The pay phones at the back are your last chance to contact home before Sunday. Any questions?"

"No, ma'am," came Jon's smart reply.

He continued to grin at her as she frowned, "Take a seat. Your name will be called when the bus arrives."

"Excellent, thanks." Jon moved into the reception area just as another group approached her desk.

Scanning the benches in front of him he decided to try the quiet corner away from the TV. Apparently, FoxNews and CNN were the only authorized channels, because one guy was busy switching between the two and failing to discover a third option. Jon settled down to read and to tune out the general air of nervous tension coming off of the other recruits.

An hour and one Air & Space Magazine later, Jon heard his name called. He left his magazine on the table, grabbed his bag and lined up where directed. The Training Instructor, or TI, was busy assessing the recruits with a practiced eye.

Using sheer force of personality, the TI herded the new recruits to the awaiting bus. Some of the recruits began to relax, thinking that the BMT horror stories were just stories. This TI was nice and asked them to do everything nicely. Reprimands were few and softly given. Jon just smirked and waited for the TI to move the bus out of sight from the 'poor civilians.'

A short time later the bus pulled to a stop outside one of the training dormitories. A new TI climbed on board and called a few names out. Those recruits left and the bus moved to the next set of dormitories. This time Jon's name was called. He lined up exactly where directed in line with the other recruits. The bus pulled away.

This TI was short and stocky. The kind of man that screamed boxer. He eyed the recruits several times before finally coming to the front and center. "Welcome to the 322nd Training Squadron, Flight 1342. I am your primary Training Instructor, Technical Sergeant Vega. Over there is my Assistant Training Instructor Senior Airman Reglin. This squadron holds one of the highest standards for training in the 737th Training Group. Our motto is 'Second to None.' I will accept nothing less than perfection from you. From here on out you will not speak unless spoken to. Understood?"

A pathetic chorus of 'Yes' and 'Yes, Sir' echoed from the group. Jon winced inside as the TI reacted to the sad display by shouting, "WHAT WAS THAT? You will respond with your answer, followed by 'Sir' or 'Ma'am.' You will address everyone who is not a trainee this way. Now, is that understood?"

"Yes, Sir," the trainees began in unison.

"WHAT?" TSgt Vega asked again.

"YES, SIR," the trainees shouted louder.


"YES, SIR," the trainees shouted even louder.

"Better. I can't believe that this is the quality of recruits coming into my Air Force today." TSgt Vega backed up a few paces. "Now, on my command, you will form 2 lines in front of me. Luggage to your left side. Ready! FALL IN!"

The recruits grabbed their gear and shuffled forward to create the two lines. Jon made sure he was in the left line and once in place dropped his gear on the left side. The recruit to his right snapped into place quickly, but dropped his gear on his right.

"Good grief? Are you recruits deaf? You, you, you, and you. Out of formation and drop! I want 15 push-ups now! Come on! I didn't say you could get up!" he yelled at the one recruit who had cranked out 15 push-ups and had started to stand up. "15 more now! The rest of you, back in formation! Hurry up, recruit! The rest of the class is waiting for you! Now, back in place. Didn't your mama teach you to listen. Now, I don't like to repeat myself. It makes my normally bubbly personality fade away. I get a bit testy. SO DO NOT MAKE ME REPEAT MYSELF AGAIN! BAGS ON YOUR LEFT!" The four recruits quickly shifted their bags to their left side.

TSgt Vega stalked around the Flight inspecting their work. "Pathetic! I know that MY Air Force requires a high school education. What I don't know is how you pathetic excuses for trainees can think that THIS is a LINE. THIS is not straight. THIS is bowed and curved in all the wrong places. STRAIGHTEN IT OUT NOW!" The trainees jumped to straighten out the line.

"Better. But far from perfect. Now, I am a simple man who likes everything in order. Order is good. Chaos is bad. On my mark, I want everyone to pick up their bags and turn to their right. NOT YET! You will determine if you are taller than the recruit in front of you. Understood?"


"Ready. Pick 'em up!" the recruits grabbed their bags and stood. "That was too slow. Put 'em down! Pick 'em up! All together now, put 'em down! Pick 'em up! This is just sad! I can't believe that I am wasting my time on you! RIGHT – HACE!" Half a dozen of the recruits were caught by surprise and failed to turn with the group.

"WHAT? ARE YOU NANCY'S PAYING ATTENTION? OR ARE WE MOVING TOO FAST FOR YOU? LEFT-HACE! RIGHT-HACE! LEFT-HACE! RIGHT-HACE! YOU ARE MAKING ME REPEAT MYSELF! COVER!" Recruits shuffled the tallest to the front. Jon was glad that he matched the other trainee in height. He would at least stay in the second row.

"LEFT-HACE! COVER! Tallest to the front!" Jon shuffled forward. Unfortunately, he was now taller than everyone else in his row. When the last of the recruits had shuffled back into line, TSgt Vega began to address them again as he continued to circle the group like a shark with the scent of blood. "Now that we have a bit of order, I will instruct you on reporting. When addressed individually by any Training Instructor, you will give a reporting statement. The reporting statement is as follows, 'Sir, Trainee – state your name – reports as ordered.'" TSgt Vega came to a stop in front of Jon. "Trainee, REPORT!"

"SIR, TRAINEE O'NEILL REPORTS AS ORDERED!" Jon shouted and waited for criticism. He braced himself for the shout and was surprised when nothing came forth.

Nodding, TSgt Vega continued around the Flight. "Trainee, REPORT!"


"And just what are you reporting, Trainee Johnson?"

"Uh, Sir?" came the confused response.

"Trainee Johnson, are you too stupid to follow the most simple directions. I asked you for a simple reporting statement. I don't want the weather and traffic of whatever podunk town you come from. I could care less about the prices of oil in the Middle East, except that it takes more of my money to fill my tank. I have no idea why you would want to be reporting any of this to me. I don't care. Your fellow trainees don't care. The word that is so casually eluding your thick monkey-like skull is 'reports.' A trainee 'reports' as ordered. They are not reporting anything. Do I make myself clear?"


"Trainee, REPORT!"


"Trainee, REPORT!"


"Trainee, REPORT!"


Circling back around to the front, "Trainees, REPORT!"


"Trainees, REPORT!"


"It'll do for now. SrA Reglin, if you will be so kind as to escort these unworthy souls to their new home," TSgt Vega address the other TI, for the first time, in a normal tone of voice.

"Yes, Sir." The young man approached the front of the Flight. "You will enter all facilities by column formation. YOU," he pointed at the first column on the right, "are Element One. YOU are Element Two. And so forth. When given the command to enter a facility by columns, on the 'harch' command, Element One will begin to enter the facility. After the last person in Element One passes, the Element Two Leader will lead Element Two to follow Element One. Understood?"


"Good! BY COLUMNS, FOLLOW ME, HARCH," and the SrA sprinted off towards the door.

Confused the first trainee in Element One started running after him, followed by the rest of his column. As the last one passed him, Jon started after them at a quick walk. He entered the door and started up the stairs easily catching up to the tail of the first element. As he reached the first landing, the hapless leader of Element One was standing there and briefing all the trainees. "Walk. Do not run. Use the Hand Rails. Walk. Do not run. Use the Hand Rails. Walk. Do not run. Use the Hand Rails." Jon barely suppressed a smirk as he passed the trainee and continued up the last Flight of stairs.

Upon entering the dormitory, he was directed to deposit his bag on a bunk and proceed to the day room. He dropped his gear on the nearest empty bunk and quickly found a spot to sit in the day room on the floor staying carefully away from the tempting walls. No sooner was everyone in the day room than they were directed back to their bunks to collect the black pouches sitting on the chairs by the bunks. This activity, of course, was done too slowly, so they practiced a few times to increase speed.

Apparently satisfied with their progress, the TI's told them to open the pouch. "Inside you will find your Airman's Training Order. Memorize it. It has all the information you need inside it. You will be required to pass two written tests based on the information in this ATO. It is your new best friend. DO NOT LOSE IT! In the clear view pouch on the front of your ATO, you will write the first letter of your last name and the last four of your social security number. This is your laundry mark. This is the only way you will be able to distinguish your ATO from your fellow trainee's ATO. Is that understood?"


"Good, start studying," TSgt Vega stated. He turned and whispered something to SrA Reglin and then left the dorm, nodding to the guard at the dorm door.

Jon began to scan the ATO, but was disappointed that there was nothing new in it. It was a basic primer on the USAF. Rank structure, history, policies. Things that Jack had memorized so many years ago, he had forgotten when. He tried skimming for any changes to what his memory supplied and found that nothing was different. Well, nothing but the tobacco policy and the lengthy section on nutrition and fitness. He began tapping his foot in frustration.

Jon took a deep breath. Settle down, Jon. You don't want to call attention to yourself. Breath in, breath out. As he calmed his nervous frustration down, Jon began to feel the pull of the others in the room. Curious, he carefully lowered his shields and scanned the room. Most of the trainees were anxious and excited about starting training. The yelling had stressed them, but they had expected it. One or two were panicking, but nothing serious. Just the standard, 'what the hell have I gotten myself into' doubts. And young TI Reglin was thinking about his girlfriend.


Jon was beside himself trying to keep his fidgety hands and feet under control when the dorm door was opened by the guard and a whole bunch of new trainees marched in looking hot and tired. Before long, they were running through the ATO fetch game again. Finally settled back into the day room again, TSgt Vega introduced SrA Reglin to the new folks. He repeated his speech about the ATO and glanced at his watch. Frowning, "Alright, it's almost time for dinner. Pack up your ATO's. On my command, you will line up at the dorm door and wait for release to chow. You have five minutes to use the latrine and line up with your ATO's. Go!"

In short order they were once again, lined up in formation on the patio deck next to the dorm. Jon was once again stuck as an element leader. TSgt Vega marched the group to the dining facility in the dorm building. Because they were the rainbow Flight, all the other BMT training Flights were given priority. Finally, they entered the facility hungry, hot, and tired. Once there, SrA Reglin was poised at the start of the chow line. "You will all take 4 glasses of water. You will drink all the water on your tray before being allowed to get any other beverage. Take as much food as you want, but you will eat all the food on your tray. You will not eat again till breakfast," he instructed the new trainees.

Jon ate quickly and cleanly. He took plenty of food the first time to ensure he didn't have to go back for seconds. Already, one trainee was being harassed by the TI's taking their leisure in the Snake Pit.

The Snake Pit was the table where the TI's ate. It was positioned in the dining facility in such a way that a trainee had to pass it to sit down, go to the latrine, pick up additional beverages, drop their dirty dishes off, or exit the dining facility. It was always staffed by at least one supervisor TI, or Blue Rope, for the bright blue rope that circled their TI hat. Their sole purpose in life was to find fault with the trainees and thus with the trainee's TI.

Jon downed his water and added a few more glasses of milk. He used his bread to clean up the plates and then made his way past the Snake Pit to deposit his dirty dishes in the cleaning hutch. His first pass was clean, no TI called him out. But he didn't make it past the Snake Pit a second time. "Trainee."

Shit! Jon whipped around and locked at attention instinctively, "Sir, Trainee O'Neill reports as ordered."

"How old are you, Trainee?" one TI asked. Jon could tell that they were bored and just wanted to poke fun at the newest trainees. All he had to do was act as scared as the rest. He didn't want to call attention to himself. Yup, just another green trainee. Nothin' to see here.

"Seventeen, Sir," he lied. Yeah, like they would accept two years old of 50 for that matter.

"Well, good golly gum drops, Sergeant, we's robbing the cradle now. Just goes to show you that there is nothing good left in this generation of recruits. We've had to start on the next."

"Where did you learn to stand properly, trainee?" a second TI asked while inspecting his stance. This caused the others to inspect his stance more closely.

Damn it! I got careless. Jon had planned on slacking on his knowledge of military formations and drill until they had taught the rest of the Flight. He hadn't listed Civil Air Patrol or Junior ROTC so that was out. "My uncle, Sir."

"Was he in the service trainee?"

"Yes, Sir." Uh oh. I don't like where this is leading.

"What branch of service?" the first TI asked.

Double damn! "US Air Force, Sir." Don't ask. Don't ask. Please, don't ask.

"What's his name, Trainee?" the second TI asked.

Ok, let's just try to slide it by them. "Jack O'Neill, Sir."


Ok, you asked for it. Using his slightly rusty command voice, Jon responded, "MAJOR GENERAL JONATHAN JAMES O'NEILL, THE FIRST, SIR." Jon tried not to smirk. But his ability to hide his smirk behind a blank face was easily out done by the skills of these TI's at spotting a suppressed smirk. Heck, Hammond could have taken lessons from these guys.

All the TI's faces went blank. The whole dining facility went quiet. And into the quiet, one of the TI's replied, "Do you think that makes a difference to me, Trainee O'Neill?" It wasn't a shout, yell, or otherwise in any kind of loud voice, and that made it that much worse.

Shit! Shit! Shit! They knew his name now. Jon preferred being yelled at as a random, nameless trainee over having the TI, scratch that, TI's plural, knowing his name. I sooo didn't want to stand out in BMT.

Oh well, too late now. "No, Sir!"

The TI with a blue rope on his shoulder leaned forward, "Trainee O'Neill, does this relation of yours plan on attending your graduation ceremony?" the blue rope asked with a predatory gleam in his eye.

Effing hell! How the heck was he supposed to answer that? If he said yes, than they would badger him about 'assuming' he would graduate. If he said no, they would call him a liar or a quitter, especially when Jack did show up. "Only if I graduate, Sir," Jon replied carefully.

Nodding to himself, the blue rope TI turned to the others. They all shook their heads. Apparently, they didn't want to stir this particular pot any more. "Dismissed, Trainee."

"Yes, Sir." Jon turned and walked off quickly.

Jon had originally decided not to use his telepathy in BMT. He knew that the TI's were just screening and instilling discipline in the trainees. Their job was to break down the civilian and build an Airman. That meant erasing all forms of individuality and creating a group that conforms to USAF standards.

Now, he was rethinking his strategy. His powers could help him slip through BMT without too many difficulties. He could sway their opinions of him, and erase their doubts and questions before they were ever voiced. It would make getting through this training that much easier. But…

No. No cosmic voodoo. It would be wrong on so many levels to tinker with the TI's. No matter how satisfying. He couldn't justify messing with a system that obviously worked just to make his life easier. Best to take his medicine like a man. At least Jack was Air Force. Lord knows, how much worse this could get if Jack had been in the Navy.

But now Jon would be singled out. He would be criticized and chastised until he was ready to retaliate. And this special treatment wouldn't be for anything that Jon actually had control over. Nope. Not for the lame joke, or insubordinate tone, but for the simple, sad fact that he was related to a General. His telepathy could help, but it wouldn't stop the harassment.

Jon needed an outlet. A way to get back. To retaliate without his finely-honed survival instinct kicking in. Why not give back as good as he got? With a few well-placed practical jokes, Jon could test his rusty skills and get back at the TI's without disrupting the BMT system. Good old-fashioned sneakiness would work twice as well as any cosmic voodoo. Jon allowed himself one shit eating grin as he passed a blank wall on his way out to the patio. This could be fun.


The next day after a quick breakfast, the trainees were marched to the processing center. Here they were given the ever popular BMT haircut, issued ID cards, visited military pay, completed security clearance paperwork, given the standard round of shots, examined by medical, and asked for a urine sample. After lunch, they were escorted to a classroom where they were instructed on proper nutrition and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Throughout it all the TI's were yelling, screaming, and shouting.

Nothing the trainees did was correct. They couldn't stand correctly, walk correctly, sit correctly, talk correctly. No one was exempt from their roaring voices. They questioned motivations, parentage, and mental capacity with a flair that was giving Jon a new perspective on comprehensive verbal communication. Because in all this yelling, they didn't utter a single profanity. Jon was impressed.

However, Jon's particular torment was the random questions and demonstration requests the TI's would throw at him. Not just the TI's in his Flight, but all the TI's in the squadron. This was his punishment for being related to a general. Anything in the ATO was fair game, from pop quiz questions to formation movements. He was perpetually quizzed on customs and courtesies, rank structure, military history, and the Code of Conduct. Jon refused to pretend ignorance and instead successfully answered all their questions, demonstrated every drill movement. But this just seemed to piss them off more.

Jon nearly had a flash back to Iraq when he was asked to recite the Code. The question had been a surprise, out-of-the-blue. He hadn't been able to prepare himself for it. But he was able to hang on to his control and push through it.

How were they supposed to know that Jack had used the Code to help keep him sane in that Iraqi prison? Chanting it to himself like a prayer. Let alone that Jon carried all those painful memories with him. Reciting the Code had brought all those painful memories back to the front. He had been relieved when TSgt Vega hadn't pressed him for more after that question. He wasn't sure he would have maintained his control for much longer.

Currently, the Flight was in the quiet class room listening to the local JAG discuss the UCMJ. The quiet times were all the more noticeable for the decided lack of yelling. Classroom instruction was relatively free from the constant verbal abuse, but the slightest bit of inattention would change that in a heartbeat. Halfway through the UCMJ briefing, Jon was pulled from the group by the TI.

Out on the patio, Jon and TSgt Vega met a man in a business suit.

"Sir, Trainee O'Neill reports as ordered," Jon stated, snapping to attention in front of the stranger.

"O'Neill, huh?" the man asked cautiously. "I'm Agent Coleman from OSI. I've been directed by my superiors to cease and desist my investigation into your security clearance. I have been told that you already possess a clearance and that I am not cleared to even know what level you possess, except that it is a TS classification."

Jon nodded, already knowing this, "Yes, Sir?" As in… therefore… meaning…

"You already knew about the clearance?" the agent asked, probing.

Jon thought carefully before replying. He had the clearance because his whole existence was highly classified. Never mind the excess baggage in memories that Jack had, albeit against his will, bequeathed him. Jon replied, mindful of the watching TI, "Yes, Sir. I've been involved in an Air Force Special Project for several years, Sir."

The agent flinched visibly at the phrase 'special project.' "Ah… well, I just wanted to let you know that my little investigation will throw up some red flags on your file. Do you need to contact anyone?"

"No, Sir. They are already aware that I am in BMT and they are expecting something of this sort, Sir. You may expect a team to investigate, Sir. However, they will be briefed on the circumstances prior to their arrival."

"Okay… Um, thanks, Trainee," the agent finished lamely.

"Dismissed," TSgt Vega barked at Jon.

"Yes, Sir," Jon executed a perfect about face and walked back to the classroom.

As he headed back, he could hear Vega quietly ask the agent, "Is he untouchable? I need to know what I'm up against in the kid."

"Let me put it this way, when the Office of the President calls to ask why you are doing a back ground check on one of his agents, it tends to freak you out. To have someone from said office call before you have finished entering the initial security clearance application in the system, goes way beyond freaked out and into the twilight zone. I think that he is way beyond untouchable. But honestly, you and I aren't cleared to know just how untouchable."

Jon grinned as he slid back into the classroom. Tonight, he needed to do some recon and collect some supplies. He might be 'untouchable' but that wouldn't stop the TI's from singling him out for 'special treatment.' So he might as well press forward with his plan.

Jon's recon of the dorm had given him some vital intel. For example, the fire alarm on the emergency exit could be easily bypassed with a small stick, if it truly worked at all. The roof was never used and had accumulated junk and trash. And there was a Starbuck's coffee and McDonald's within sight of the dorm. So, Jon snuck up to the roof and hid his debit card, a change of clothes, and a few miscellaneous items amid the debris. He just needed a bit more information and the fun would begin in earnest.

The next day, the Flight was marched to the logistics building where they were finally issued their uniforms. PC gear, sneakers, BDU's, boots, web gear, helmet, flashlights, and the other gear they would use during the next few weeks. They were even issued underwear and socks. They also were fitted for their blues, though they would not be ready for pick up for a few weeks. Finally in uniform, the TI's locked all their civilian possessions away.

That afternoon was spent learning how to fold clothes, make the bed, clean the locker, bathroom, etc. Jon knew that none of this would matter in a few weeks. So after initially perfecting his folded underwear technique, he spent the majority of his time plotting his first few pranks.

That night Jon found that the access door to the maintenance room was left unlocked. It gave him free back door access to the whole building. He snuck back to the dormitory past the dorm guard to his bunk.

Tomorrow, Operation Payback would begin.


Saturday morning dawned bright and early. TSgt Vega walked to the dorm quietly. Not that it would matter, the newest trainees always slept soundly. They were too stressed and exhausted to do anything else, especially at 0430. He had a few minutes to wake SrA Reglin and let him get sorted. He walked into the TI dorm office and kicked the bunk. SrA Reglin opened his eyes and nodded, before grabbing his things to wash up.

TSgt Vega did a quick walk through of the dorm to ensure everyone was in their bunks before he woke them up. The first few weeks of basic were exhausting for both the TI's and the trainees. The TI's were up the before the trainees and went to sleep after, but were not supposed to show the slightest bit of discomfort or exhaustion. Thank God, the trainees were too zoned out by the third day to realize how exhausted the TI's really were.

When he returned to the office, the smell of fresh coffee enticed him back inside. He was about to yell at SrA Reglin for brewing the coffee, when the Airman in question thanked him for picking up breakfast. The mystery deepened when TSgt Vega denied bringing it into the office. They both shook off the odd incident when reveille sounded and they had a Flight to wake up.

"GET UP! GET UP! GET UP! RISE AND SHINE, CUPCAKES! IT'S ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE!" TSgt Vega and SrA Reglin strode through the two dorm bays yanking back covers and banging their sticks on the bed frames. Most of the trainees jumped out of bed to stand next to their lockers. "PC gear and ready to leave in 5 minutes. GO!"

Trainees scurried left and right to empty their bladders, get the correct uniform on, and in line by the door on time. He was surprised to see 4 of the trainees correctly attired and ready to go within 60 seconds. The Flight was lined up within the time limit. Not having that excuse, TSgt Vega hollered about the general state of their PC uniform, their unshaven appearance, etc. before leading the whole Flight down to the parade deck for physical conditioning. Today, they would be evaluated for general physical fitness.


First, the Flight of trainees was timed while running individually on a track. The TI's continued to yell at the trainees to ensure they gave the jog their best effort. Regardless, the trainees couldn't seem to run fast enough to the TI's. But after the last few days, the trainees had learned that they couldn't do anything fast enough for the TI's. So why would running be any different.

After the run, the TI's formed up the trainees to test for strength training. They ran the trainees through a series of exercises, including push-ups, reverse push-ups, sit-ups, leg lifts, flutter kicks, squats, and pull-ups.

They started off with push-ups. The TI called down and then waited in the down position until the TI called up. Anyone who failed to hold position, or worse, let their chest hit the ground, received special attention by the TI's. This also caused the rest of the Flight to wait, usually in the down position, until the TI was done yelling at the one individual.

Next, they did reverse push-ups. Imagine doing a push up while belly up. Not as easy as it sounds. After push-ups, they went into sit-ups. One trainee would hold the feet of another trainee as they did full sit-ups, not those sissy crunches.

Next, came the leg lifts. It sounds so simple. Lay flat on the ground, lift your feet a few inches off the ground, and hold. Not so easy when TI's are yelling at you for lifting your feet too high, too low, or not holding them still enough.

Then, as if your abs didn't hurt enough, the TI's called for flutter kicks. Flutter kicks are leg lifts with a scissor kick movement. Rumor has it that some demented Marine Drill Instructor invented this particular form of torture. Trainees are expected to keep this up as long as the TI can yell. Needless to say that the trainee's muscles failed long before the TI's voices.

Squats came next. Standing with hands on hips, feet shoulder width apart, then squat and hold until the TI lets you up. After a few minutes, you forget about your aching abs in favor of your aching thighs.

Finally, the Flight goes through pull-ups. Hands facing out, never in. For this lesson in humility, the TI's yell at the trainees attempting the pull-ups. Five pull-ups are the holy grail in pleasing the TI. Anything less, is 'proving how pathetically weak you really are.'

After PC, the whole Flight of 50 had 10 minutes to shower and change for breakfast.

Almost two hours after reveille, TSgt Vega was hot and tired and ready for breakfast. Not a good combination. He could already tell that at least 3 trainees would have to be washed back just for fitness. Well, he would start pounding on them to get them at least half way there. Then their next TI would be able to get them passed through. As for the rest, almost all of them needed work. The body builders needed to learn how to run, the runners needed to learn how to condition for strength. But overall, they were about average for a new Flight. Hopefully, just the 3 would have problems getting into passable condition.

The true enigmas were the 5 trainees that could pass the physical evaluation right now. They had obviously been coached on the exact standards and what they needed to pass. His challenge with them would be in keeping them in condition while the other trainees caught up to them. He already knew that O'Neill had been coached extensively, probably by his uncle. The others must have had good recruiters.

Well, five is a good number for formation runs. They could set the pace for the less fit members. Hell, why not make them the Flight trainee leadership? It's not like this group had any older trainees. Summers were usually just the high school graduates. So, what the hell.

"Jackson, Ruso, O'Neill, Skoke, Thomas. FRONT AND CENTER!" TSgt Vega grinned at the trainees as they hustled from the PC formation to the front.


"You five appear to have listened to your recruiters and actually tried to get physically fit. Since I am a firm believer that no good deed should go unpunished, I have selected you five for leadership positions. Which of you has knowledge of basic drill and formations? Take one step forward." He stared directly at Trainee O'Neill as he stated his question, knowing that the trainee couldn't deny knowledge after the pounding the TI's had been giving him the last few days.

The Trainee cautiously stepped forward. The others stayed in place. "Good. YOU… are my new Dorm Chief." He pointed to O'Neill. "YOU… are the leader of Element One." He pointed to the tallest of the four, Skoke. "YOU… are the leader of Element Two." He pointed to the next tallest, Jackson. "YOU… Three." He pointed to Thomas. "And YOU… Four." The last was directed to the shortest of the four, Ruso. "I will brief you on your specific duties and responsibilities later. Now, line 'em up for chow," he ordered.

Usually, when he selected the trainee leadership, they failed spectacularly in getting the rest of the group to follow their commands. At least initially. He grinned at the confused looks the four element leaders gave him. Yep, prime entertainment.

"FLIGHT, FALL IN BY FOUR." Trainee O'Neill's voice rang out, startling the TI. He usually had to coach the parade voice out of new trainees. Hell, the kid could have been a TI in a former life. TSgt Vega was unsurprised to see the trainees react to 'the voice.' He knew that at this point they would follow anyone with a loud voice, even if dressed in a tutu. "DRESS AND COVER." O'Neill ordered before the TI could remind him. The Flight shuffled to get into place and square the formation. "SOUND OFF! ONE!"

"TWO!" "THREE!" "FOUR!"… the trainees conducted a quick roll-call. "FIFTY!"

Upon completion of roll-call, Trainee O'Neill, executed a perfect about-face and salute, "ALL PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR, SIR!"

TSgt Vega was impressed. Of course, he couldn't show it. "Sloppy, but it'll do for now. Take your place to the right of the last person in Element One," he directed, not sure if he really wanted to know if the trainee knew that as well. Then he marched them to chow.

That whole day TSgt Vega was plagued by weird events. First, he was called away to the CQ for a phone call, but when he arrived, no phone call was waiting or even logged. Next, the mysterious breakfast was followed by a fresh two cups of Starbuck's coffee after lunch. Then, the mysterious handouts on sexual transmitted diseases started showing up all over the building. He left them in the CQ for the other TI's.

On top of the oddities, TSgt Vega didn't feel like he was in top form. He had tried everything in his power to rattle the O'Neill kid. Nothing. The kid was immune to yelling and insults. In fact, he damn near laughed at several of his best insults. He almost thought that he had him with the Code of Conduct question the other day. When the kid went pale, he thought that the kid didn't have it all memorized yet. But then the kid had started to recite the Code like a mantra, not missing a single word. And he had a distant look in his eye, like he was reliving a memory. A very bad memory. TSgt Vega found it very odd.

In fact, it creeped him out.

He hated to admit that this trainee was any different from the thousands of other recruits that he had molded into Airmen. His almost savant-like knowledge of the ATO and his picture-perfect drill, led the good sergeant to believe that the kid had already been through military training. But at seventeen, he couldn't have been. Not even JROTC was this thorough.

TSgt Vega was looking forward to a break during the afternoon lectures. He needed to check the roster and schedules for the next few weeks. He walked into the CQ and waved at the Staff Sergeant on duty.

"Hey, Vega. Could you mind the phone for a minute? I need to answer a call of nature."

"Sure, Metcalf."

The SSgt disappeared into the small latrine and TSgt Vega checked the pass-on book. Nothing happening. Good. Nice quiet Saturday with a new baby Flight. Happy Day! He couldn't wait for Week Three when he could have his evenings off again. He was getting too old to stay up these kinds of hours anymore.

He heard a muffled curse from the latrine. SSgt Metcalf came bursting out of the latrine pale and shaking. "Wow! What's wrong?"

"I… uh… I need to go to sick call," came Metcalf's shaky reply.

"Easy, when is your relief?"

The SSgt looked at him with wide eyes. "Lunch, any minute now."

"Okay, easy. Just a few minutes and you can go. Do you need someone to take you?"

"NO!" he shouted quickly. "I mean… no. I'm good… good."

TSgt Vega nodded, yeah right! "I'll be in the office. Let me know if you need anything."

The SSgt picked up the STD pamphlet and started to read, "Sure."


Later that afternoon, he walked back into the CQ. Two of the other TI's were gossiping.

"I'm telling you, if Metcalf finds out who spiked his food with that red dye, there is going to be hell to pay."

"What?" TSgt Vega asked.

One of the grinning TI's started laughing, "Oh, someone played a practical joke on Metcalf. They spiked his coffee with natural red dye then scattered these STD handouts all over the place. When he went to take a piss, it came out red and he thought he'd caught an STD. But the test came back negative and the doctor asked him about eating or drinking anything with red dye in it. Man was he pissed."

"Wow! That's one mean practical joke. I'll have to remember that next time I need a little revenge. So, you get a fax for me?" TSgt Vega asked.

"Right, here," the sergeant on CQ duty replied.


Off base coffee, weird crank calls, and now a full-blown practical joke on the CQ. Looks like one of the other TI's wanted to start a practical joke war. Great! I just keep me out of it. I got enough on my hands with a baby Flight. I don't want to have to look over my shoulder for practical jokers too. With a sigh, he headed back to the dorm.