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DRILL INSTRUCTOR SERGEANT BONILLA

 

 
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If you have not read The Arrival,  please do so before continuing. This story will ake more sense.

Bonilla the Gorilla, as we affectionately referred to him. Sergeant Bonilla was the heavy, or for lack of a better term, the maniac among maniacs when it came to our receiving drill instructors. Each one had a role to play and his was to be the man who was always on the edge of control and ready to lose it at any second. His mere existence proved to each and every one of us that sanity was not necessarily a prerequisite for being a DI.

Normally, the receiving drill instructors were either new drill instructors learning the ropes, or drill instructors on their twilight tour, not having enough time left on the drill field to pick up another platoon.

With a wild-eyed look, sudden, erratic movements normally reserved for panthers and other carnivorous beasts, Sergeant Bonilla spent the first few days applying a thick coat of stress over us almost continuously. You never knew when he would show up and what he would do once he was there. He was like the wind, a tornado, that is.

He was the demon that waited for us upon arrival. That first night was a nightmare and he was a big reason why. The night dragged on and on and the furious energy coming from the Gorilla was terrifying. He never got tired and passed that right onto us. When he would leave the room, there was an eerie quietness much like the post-storm stillness where the only thing you can hear is the pounding of your own heart.

It was during one of these respites that I totally and completely lost my mind and was silly enough to think that I could sneak a comment to my buddy. We were in the sitting in the red cubicles filling out paperwork “by the numbers” when I thought I heard Bonilla’s knuckles drag out of the room. I wanted to ask how Jason, my friend, how he was surviving the onslaught. He just sat there, ramrod straight, after I spoke under my breath. He did not react, so naturally, I assumed he did not hear me. I repeated the question and received the same response. Nothing. Then I noticed three almost imperceptible things. First, a bead of sweat had formed and traced a line down the side of his face right in front of my eyes. Second, his eyes were wide open in a look of sheer terror. Third, his oversized Adam’s apple dipped hard as a result of a nervous swallow.

Suddenly my world spun. I tried to slyly turn back  to face forward, letting out a pitiful cough as though that was the reason I turned. When my head returned to the front, my forehead was stopped abruptly by the rigid brim of Sergeant Bonilla’s drill instructor’s cover. I was that distance away from the most terrifying man I had ever met, our eyes mere inches apart. What I saw in those eyes still wakes me up in cold sweats every so often. It was rage and intensity coupled with disgust and just a hint of satisfaction. With nostrils flared and his face frozen in a mask of tension, he just stood there. How this ape-looking monster snuck so successfully, so near to me when all my senses were at their highest alert, was just as startling as the consequences of my attempt to communicate with Jason.

For what seemed like hours but what was probably about 10 seconds, he said nor did nothing. I was too scared to move and did not know what to do. I sat there ready to faint with fear when suddenly, he straightened up and walked away. He had made his point and proved to me for the first time that you do not have to yell to intimidate. He had mentally thrashed me at that moment and no amount of yelling could have equaled the silence he rained down on me.

Later in the cycle, we were herded to a classroom for another in a series of classes. By then, we had settled into the life of bootcamp and were just moderately terrified all the time, rather than intensely terrified. We waited for the instructor to initiate the class but he had his back to us. When he turned around, my mind could not process the strange combination my eyes were feeding it. I was pretty sure it was Bonilla but there was something wrong with his face. His mouth was all wrong and confusion caused me to doubt if this was really Bonilla the Gorilla who we had not seen for months since escaping the receiving cauldron.

You see, the receiving demon who stared a hole through my head that endless night was, he was, sort of…….HE WAS SMILING!!!!! This cannot be. How could he do that? He was just as animated as before but he was having a ball teaching us the basics about some aspect of military training. He was truly in his element and his bold and confident voice and mannerisms were now being used for good and not evil. For the love of God, he was actually entertaining and likeable. My world was out of control. This cannot be the same animal that stalked the night I arrived.

I left the classroom wondering how these men ticked. It was truly a testament to who these men were and what they are trained to do. As a receiving DI, he had a mission and that mission was to be “Bonilla the Gorilla.” When he taught the class, he was tasked with instilling knowledge into us any way he knew how. How he chose to do that was up to him and he chose the right way. This lesson was an important one to me and I think of Sergeant Bonilla as two different people now. I just hope that the next time I see him, I meet the mentor and not the Gorilla!!!!


Email -- jdgrose115@polyglut.net
Web -- http://members.tripod.com/~jdgrose115/

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