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I Did 1000 Push-Ups. . .That I Didn’t Have To

January 14, 2019

It was hard.

It was hard, and I was done.

It was a voluntary activity anyway. No one was going to dock me any grades or points for quiting the team.

Yeah, I was done.

I had only one brief encounter with the United States military. For one semester during college, I joined the Army ROTC at BYU. My brother had completed the BYU Army ROTC course and served in the National Guard, retiring as a captain in the artillary. My daughter recently completed the Army ROTC program at Utah State University and she is finishing up her graduate work in veterinary science.

During my brief sojourn with the men in green those many years ago, I vounteered for the Ranger Challenge Team.

The Ranger Challenge Team is the “sports” portion of ROTC. Teams compete in rope bridge building, weapons assembly, grenade throws, 10K runs with full pack, rifle and boots.

And BYU was one of the best in the country. Like any sports team, we trained hard. Not just physical conditioning, although we did an extra hour of PT every morning, but orienterring, squad work and of course, lots of work with weapons.

The team was open to anyone who wanted to join. There were no scholarships. We all were just a bunch of overeager college kids trying to figure out what we wanted.

There were just two rules on the Ranger Challenge Team, the first was that you had to know the answer to the following question:

Your company is set up in two firing lines that form a “V” shape. Your position is the point of the V. What is the first thing you do?

That was it. If you knew the answer, you passed, if you didn’t know the answer you did pushups. But, there was a “team” penalty. If anyone didn’t know the answer, everyone did pushups. Twenty of them, as I remember. And the Army doesn’t count pushups like you or I do, where you start in the “up” position, when you go down and back up it counts as one. In the Army, at least our little corner of it, you did a 4-count pushup. So, 20 of our pushups were 40 civilian pushups.

It didn’t seem strange at the time.

The second rule was that you could drop out of the team at any time. But, if you missed a day, you had to do 250 pushups. So, if you dropped, you’d better be sure you want out, because the clock keeps rolling.

I joined the team. I was one of the best runners, I was okay on pushup, but I couldn’t do situps to save my life. Anyway, I showed up, I’m on the team.

As the semester went along, things got more stressful. I was taking 18 credits. I was newly married. I was working. Life got hard. And a couple months into the semester I’d decided that Ranger Challenge team was one thing too many.

Maybe I was tired of getting up at 4:30AM to be at the school at 5:00AM for 2 hours of PT. Maybe, I was just tired.

I avoided my teammates the next day. They knew I wasn’t there in the morning. They knew what it meant. No one needed to rub it in. After the second day, I started to think I might have made a mistake. By the third day, I was seriously conflicted. After four days, I realized that I missed it. On the fifth day I showed up again. The major came up to me as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Bliss, welcome back.

Thank you sir.

You owe me 1000 pushups.

Yes sir.

I didn’t get to skip the normal workout to do pushups. Those were on my own time. I did pushups between Ranger Challenge PT and regular PT. I did them before class. I did them during lulls in our lab class. My arms were like jelly.

No one counted my pushups except me. But, there was no way I was going to shortchange myself. About a week later my 1000 Army pushups were done, and things went back to normal.

I ended up leaving ROTC at the end of the semester for a career in computers instead.

But, I often think about those pushups. How Major Turbyvil had structured our team in such a way that it was easy to get in, easy to get out and hard to get back in. There’s a certain brilliance to that strategy. Especially for a team of men and women who might need to depend on each other for survival at some point.

Oh, and the answer to the earlier question: what is the first thing you do?

You talk to the people on either side of you. After all, they are your teammates and they need to know they can depend on you.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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