I did more push ups on my first day in the Army than I had my entire seventeen years prior to that cold January morning in Louisiana. The Army has a different name for the push up. It is lovingly referred to as the “front lean and rest,” though I am uncertain how one can call the push up a rest position. The Army used the push up for lots of reasons and nowhere else more frequently than during basic training. The front lean and rest was imposed for any and all reasons. Following below is a list of reasons (that I can remember and will admit to) for which I was assigned to “assume the position.”
• The most common reason was some infraction regarding my uniform. After crawling through all manner of dirt and muck, if I had a pocket unbuttoned, I was allowed to “knock out twenty.”
• I spit on a tree once, the punishment being twenty of my best. I also had to hug and apologize to the tree afterwards.
• I passed by one Drill Sergeant who decided that my every existence was offensive to him. For consuming oxygen, I had to stay in the front lean and rest position until “he got tired.”
• I made the cardinal sin of falling asleep in a class on something or other and got to do twenty. This time though I had my hands on one table and my boots on another. I had to remain in the position, again until the Drill Sergeant got tired. There was nothing to rest my old belly on this time. I can remember the pain even to this day.
• The Army had a rule about meals (called chow in my day). Take all you want but eat all you take was the maxim that we were required to live by. It is on the level of blasphemy to attempt to take food out of the chow hall for later consumption. Drill Sergeants have food radar and they quickly found the roll I had stashed in my shirt. I had the “privilege” of eating that roll in one bite while simultaneously doing push ups. After that, I had to apologize to the cook for stealing his food and then he gave me even more push ups to knock out. I have never stolen anything since.
• There were days when the Drills got real creative and used the “inverted pushup.” This is when you lie on your back and stick your hands and feet in the air and remain there the allotted time (when the Drill gets tired – always when the Drill gets tired, and he never tires). I had the honor of doing this “character building exercise” twice as punishment for sleeping.
• Other lesser reasons included an untidy bed, messy locker, or looking at somebody when you should not. I still do push ups everyday. Somewhere, there is a Drill Sergeant that is not tired.