After 6 months of basic training, we moved to the advanced training phase of the overall preparation to be in the unit. We were not there yet, but we were so much closer. Those past 6 months were hard, with forced marches, no sleep, endless physical training, weapons introduction, some tactics and a lot of collective punishment when some of us screwed up. A few people quit during this time.
Now we were in the advanced training part of the preparation, with the same Cadre, and some new ones added for good measure.
During this time, we had a week called Field Week. Essentially we went out into the field, to learn how to live out there, how to do reconnoissance, and how to behave properly at the team, and platoon levels. We were carrying what we would need to sustain us for a week, all on our backs. It was summer and temps during the day reached often well above 100 F (37 C). It was fun...
I think we slept maybe 5 or 6 hours overall that week. It was a hard week, always moving, always doing something, always not knowing what would be next, what awaited us. The training was fast paced, and really forced us to have to concentrate, even when we were completely done.
The last day was particularly bad, we were spent, but we needed to complete this week successfully if we were to move forward with our training.
Evening came and we knew it was almost over. We pushed a little harder.
When the Sergeant called us to formation, at 2100 hours (9pm), everyone had an expression of tired "it's finally over". We were happy. We survived and we did it. It was a tough experience. But we did it.
The Sergeant told us how proud he was of the whole week, how - in spite of a few times we screwed up and needed to be reminded that this was a not a social club - we performed to his standards, and how this week was overall a good one. We were happy. We felt the stress disappear, a little bit. And we knew this night we were going to have a hot meal, a shower, and sleep at least 5 hours. It was a good feeling.
Then, it got serious.
The Sergeant told us to turn 180 degrees. Still in formation.
There, standing with a very evil smile was our Commanding Officer. He told us: "Well, I don't agree with the Sergeant. So, welcome to your White Night". He told us to run, for time.
The feeling we had, the anger and almost despair that some felt, was too much. Seven people quit. Right there. They said "fuck this shit", and they asked to be gone.
It was a white night, alright. A night full of white light everywhere, no sleep, no letting go of the stress, and not rest. It was a white night filled with black coffee. It was a night I remember. And even when I had worse nights than this one, I still mark this particular night as one of the hardest in my life.
Hard, but one that taught me a lot. About me. About people. About human nature.
One thing was clear: you can always give more. You can always go farther and further than you think. You can make it.
We are approaching testing times. A White Night is surely next. Between the political and social state of this country, and the world, the security - or lack thereof - in our cities and towns, and the uncertainty of a good future for our kids. But we can do this, and we can push one more night. Think what's in front of you, and perform. Push.
Black coffee. White night.