Coming off the trail is a strange period in a military family’s life. After putting years into an OSUT unit — yes the WHOLE family puts in time — suddenly it’s about to be over. Back to normal working hours … well normal military working hours. Back to a life where you’re not constantly supervising. And now, after putting in so much blood, sweat and tears, after losing so much sleep, things are different. On the other side of drill life has somehow changed, all for the better. Because now you’ve had a fulfilling experience, helped grow the military, helped change lives and make stronger soldiers.
- It’s an EMOTIONAL experience
You never knew just how much you had invested in this gig until it’s over. Do you hear that sound of deafening silence? It’s relief overtaking your entire body. Let it soak in. That is, if you can hear it over the sound of your still-yelling voice. Remember, it’s now ok to talk at normal decibels. Carry on.
- You feel bad for the new guys
Each new drill and their subsequent family — they’re coming in with a long road ahead. Even the mention of how long their stint is can make you cringe. It’s best to take a deep breath and walk on.
- Your career will never be as entertaining
Never underestimate the stupidity of a private … that’s a saying for a reason. I mean, it’s not their fault — they’re the new guy who doesn’t know any better. (What dumb moves did you make as a private?) But in the same light, their moves brought endless entertainment. So much so that it’s likely to never be beat — that is, unless you promote and return to basic once again.
- There’s no use in repurposing the hat
Unless you catch a job as Smokey the Bear, there’s no re-using the brown round. And good riddance to the things, too. They’re hot, they’re heavy, and they serve little purpose other than identifying you to your trainees. Put them on display or blow them up in the field, that’s your call.
- If you haven’t lived it, you won’t understand
Families who haven’t lived drill will never understand what it’s like. It’s a far cry from “normal” military life. And unless you’ve been there personally, it doesn’t hit quite as close to home. Anyone who says it’s “not that bad” should be promptly told where to go. Anyone considering volunteering should be patted on the back and wished the best of luck.
- You made less than minimum wage
All that extra drill pay everyone talks so much about? Yeah, you didn’t know it would be accounting for all hours of the night, endless stints of the field, and really never getting a clear day off. Count in the pandemic and you may or may not have felt like you’d never go home again. Our best advice is to NOT do the math on how much you’re actually making per hour. It’s beyond depressing.
- Your sanity still exists
Don’t worry, it’s still in there, somewhere. Once you come off the trail, life somehow settles. That crazy feeling you had from lack of sleep? It’s gone. That shakiness from too much caffeine? The blinking and your kids grew three inches and learned 10 new skills? The wanting to pull your own hair out because you cannot just relax and have a “chill day.” All that — it’s gone and comes back … eventually.
- You made great friends along the way
Leave was non-existent unless it was the holidays (and we don’t mean four-days, what are four-days anyway? Lolz) — we’re talking about the big ones: Christmas, Haunnaukah, New Year’s — that’s your annual leave. Two weeks of freedom is all. That meant spending time off — rare as it might have been — with fellow families on the trail. And in some big moments in life, you were all each other had. It made you close and wonderful memories were made.