Inspection Tags

How’d they get there?

“Inspection tags,” Drill Sergeant Washburn said. “I expect every single one of these inspection tags to be removed from your brand new uniforms by this time tomorrow evening before lights out. As I’ve already explained, your underwear will be four inches wide, your t-shirts will be six inches wide and all of these inspection tags will be removed from your clothing. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes sir!” the entire platoon yelled as one voice.

Washburn exited the floor after dismissing the trainees. They scurried to shave, shower, and hop into their bunks before lights went out in exactly 17 minutes.

Throughout the night, some of the men would get up and begin organizing their footlockers and attending to the hundreds of things that needed to be done before inspection the next night.

The next day passed with usual marches, lectures, and training. As the trainees stood at attention that evening, Drill Sgt. Washburn stopped at Private Gavin’s footlocker and began his inspection. On their first night in the barracks, Gavin had upset several of the men by informing the Drill Sergeant about they had pulled.

Presently, Washburn spent a while pulling slips of paper from Gavin’s pants and shirt pockets.

The Drill Sergeant addressed the entire barracks.

“Cute, very cute. It turns out Private Gavin here has a few inspection tags in his pocket, 73 to be exact.”

Several of the men snickered while Washburn’s back was turned.

“This does not reflect well on Private Gavin. This reflects worse on the entire platoon for I suspect some of you loaded up his clothing with these tags. This leads us into our first team building exercise.”

Washburn paused and heard soft groans throughout those standing at attention.

“By tomorrow at 0500, I expect that this entire platoon to write out in long hand 1000 of each of these tags. For instance,” Washburn said holding up one of the tags, “If the tag says ‘inspected by inspector #102,’ I expect the phrase to be written 1000 times on these notepads.”

Washburn threw a dozen notebooks on the floor.

“If I do not see 73,000 handwritten tags in those notebooks at my door by 0500, the entire platoon will be blamed and the Saturday pass that was scheduled for four weeks into your training will be revoked. For everyone. You have yourselves to blame for this, not Private Gavin. This type of bullying – and make no mistake, it is bullying – will not be tolerated in my United States Army. Platoon dismissed.”

Washburn exited the floor. The barracks was a flurry of activity, more so now after they had tried to get a fellow trainee in trouble. It wasn’t the first time Washburn saw this type of behavior among his recruits. To date, it was always the last time they played pranks like that in the barracks. In the course of training, the kinks of bringing together men from all walks of life would work themselves out. It always did. Angers would flare, harsh words would be spoken, and occasionally a few punches would be thrown, but in the end, many of them would become best friends for life. Tonight, though, they would all learn together.

The hard way.



  1. Sometimes “the hard way” is the best way to get a point across, especially to a group of single-minded adults.

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