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!!!!