A Rook’s view: Uncertainty, a wait, and an unusual night, unrecognized

Editor’s note: This story offers a first-person inside view from a Rook on an eventful night when “recognition” was set, and then canceled at the last-minute. We’ve kept it anonymous so the former Rook doesn’t face consequences from offering his/her individual perspective on the events of that night.

To be put to bed at 2150 was exceptional, made more so by our cadre’s instructions: “Go to your rooms and do not come out for any reason.”

They, the cadre, had scribbled over our peepholes in Expo marker but I could still see out of mine. Right around 2200, I saw my battalion commander walking by my door in her Winter Class B uniform, while my cadre paced the halls similarly dressed. I knew what that meant. It was scheduled, published, the talk of Norwich. Jan. 19, 2014, was the night we were getting “Recognized.”

We had prepped a bit too early, and our cadre raided our wall lockers right before we were put to bed, checking to see if we had jumped the gun in anticipation. Our collar brass, nametags, and epaulets were on our shirts, strictly against regulations, but we wanted to be ready.

Those shirts were confiscated, and we were praying that we wouldn’t have to do some ridiculous task to get them back before the Recognition ceremony.

It was a long waiting game. Some rooks kept pushing our cadre, and they kept messing with us. They cut the power room by room after two rooks started blasting music through a laptop. Another room got their door cards taken down after provoking the cadre through their closed door. My roommate tried to fall asleep while I sat with my laptop, scrolling through social media, trying to find an update on what was happening.

Time didn’t seem to work the same. It was 2230, and after what seemed like half an hour, I looked at the clock. It was 2232. At one point, someone decided to go to the bathroom. I heard them sprint down the hall and into the latrine as my platoon sergeant yelled, “Get back in your room!”

Finally, at 2300, it began, like Rook week all over again. They kicked on our doors, yelling and blowing their whistles and air horns like crazy.

“Get out on the wall!” they said. “Hurry up, hurry up, hurrrrry up!”

We sprung out of our beds and ran out into the hall, pausing briefly to lock the door. When we got on the wall, almost half of the platoon was dressed in their Winter B’s. The cadre began berating and interrogating them.

“Why are you in B’s?” they yelled. “Is that what you sleep in? You like to sleep in B’s? Let me guess, ‘I don’t know.’”

“I don’t know Platoon Sergeant!” they all spluttered together. No one would say that it was because they thought we were going to be recognized.

“Get ‘em into PT gear, platoon sergeant,” said my platoon leader.

Those rooks in B’s rushed to get changed, spurred on by cadre. As I stood on the wall in PT gear and I began to rationalize. ‘They probably want us to all be the same before we go change into B’s. Yeah, that’s probably it. Then they’ll have us change and – wait, why do they look so happy? S–t. Something’s definitely wrong. S–t,’ I thought.

“Count!” our staff sergeant yelled, and our arms shot up, ready to count off. “Get it back,” he said, indicating that we needed to get ourselves together. Again and again he yelled, until everyone was finally back out.

“Guess what? You’re not getting recognized tonight!” said Platoon Sergeant. “Go to bed.”

We were all in a sort of daze, a shocked realization of what had just happened. ‘This must not be real,’ I thought to myself shuffling back to my room.

We all hustled to our rooms, rattling off the greeting of the day to our cadre members. “Good evening platoon sergeant, good evening sir,” we said.

“Good evening, recruits,” they replied, driving home the fact that we were still in their power and that wasn’t changing, at least, not any time soon.

When I got back to my room, I got straight in bed. I laid there thinking, “that was probably the fake out, everyone told us we’d get faked out before we got recognized. In 20 minutes, that’ll probably happen all over again, but it’ll be the real thing.”

I decided to try to go to sleep. It wasn’t like I wouldn’t wake up if that happened again. But I did not wake up until 0500 when my alarm told me it was time for physical training (PT)and I was still a recruit.

The worst part was the expectation that it was happening that night. I planned for it, I was excited. I would be able to close my door and use stairs and talk at dinner like a normal person.

I thought I would be able to take a nap if I was tired, so I would not have to load up on caffeine to keep myself going through the day, so my eyes would not droop shut in class or at my desk.

That day was the most depressing day in almost six months of Rookdom. We no longer had any clue when it would be over, and some of us did not know if we could take it.

But it brought us back to the reality that recognition is a privilege, not a right, and it’s something that must be earned. And regardless of whether we had earned it or not, it was not owed to us. We knew we had to prove that we deserved it, now more than ever, because we were constantly told that we didn’t.

That next week, we encouraged each other, wistfully ensuring one another that it would happen the next week, or the week after that. We had a week to keep showing that we could meet the expected standard.

A week was nothing. We had done it before and we could do it again.

And we did. On Sunday, Jan. 26, seven days later, we made it.

We were recognized at 2304, and I can now say that I’m proud to be a cadet.

We, the class of 2017, are told all the time that our Rookdom was easy, that it was less intense because of this reason or that, but that doesn’t take away from our experience.

Some of us gave it our all, and challenged ourselves to prove that we could handle whatever we had to. Many of us met or exceeded the standard, and, hopefully, all cadets will continue to do so in the future, living by the Norwich motto “I will try!”

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