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drill sergeant

I was amused to read an article on Business Insider recently entitled: ‘Military personnel share amazing one-liners from drill instructors‘.

My favourite one-liners from the article:

  • ‘Every time you open your mouth, stupid just falls out’
  • ‘Do it again and I’ll paper cut your pee hole’
  • ‘You’re a communist plot to fuck up my Marine Corps’

As an ex-Army cadet, I had my own experiences with drill instructors at both the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College Duntroon.

My first exposure to a drill sergeant was an angry, orange-haired RAAF airfield defence guard by the name of Sergeant Tacken.  He was the epitome of a drill sergeant: bolt upright bearing, pacestick parallel the ground, a healthy dose of ‘small man syndrome’, crisply-ironed polyester uniform, and a diaphragmatic bellow that emanated from deep down and exited via the side of the mouth, accompanied by a spray of saliva.

‘Eyes up…swing your arms through front to rear…left, right, left, right, left, right, left…bends out of the elbows….get your head up, cadet….you’re square-gating, get in step…..head and eyes front…bring it round like a gate…eyes up, get ’em up…up stop, up stop, up stop…two, three, halt!’

Tacken was renowned for bawling out cadets on the drill square.  A favourite target, and one who drew a lot of heat away from the rest of us, was my good friend, Malcolm Dick, who I have spoken about before.  Tacken’s favourite line with Malcolm was: ‘Dick by name, dick by nature’. Our nickname for Malcolm was ‘floppy schlong’ which was indicative of his marching style.  He was pigeoned-toed, couldn’t stand up straight, and generally looked like a bag of shit when he marched, attracting the ire of the circling drillies.  Thankfully, they were too busy getting stuck into Malcolm to worry to much about the rest of us.

The next level up from a drill sergeant was the squadron sergeant major.  Sergeants are often called ‘snakes’ in the Army (or ‘dargans’, which refers to their penchant for side-of-the-mouth enunciation), whilst the sergeant major, a warrant officer by rank, is often referred to as a ‘gila monster’ – so named because of their venomous bite and reptilian traits of hissing, spitting and scaring the living daylights out of unsuspecting military members who stumble upon them.

My most memorable encounter with the sergeant major occurred during a dress inspection. I was standing at attention and the sergeant major was inspecting the front of my uniform:

‘Are you a tampon, Wehner?’

‘No, Sir’.

‘Then why is there a thread hanging out of your shirt?’

‘I’m not sure, Sir’.


‘Do you know what has threads, Wehner?’.

‘No, Sir’.

‘Tampons…you’re a tampon, Wehner’.

‘Yes, Sir’.

‘Fix it’.

My other favourite dress inspection exchange, which I was witness to a couple of times (it was a standard drillie routine), goes as follows:

‘Am I hurting you, cadet?’ (snake or gila monster standing behind cadet)

‘No, Sir?’

‘Well, I ought to be. I’m standing on your fucking hair.  Get a haircut’

Ah, memories.

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