Guest Post by Donna Zephrine: First Time Experience In the Military

Guest Post by Donna Zephrine: Donna is an Iraq War Veteran and an accomplished writer. A full bio can be found at

First time experience in military

At Hunter Army Air Field in Georgia I was responsible for conducting physical fitness training (pt) for a group of over 150 soldiers in a unit.  At the base soldiers are randomly assigned to conduct the pt of that day and I was told in advance that I will be in charge.  Just like we did every day the group met in front of the barracks for check-in and then I took over to start the pt session.  You instruct the company to get into position and you begin the exercises.

We do pt everyday so I had a general idea of what it was all about and I was able to see how each solider led the company in their own way.  I was a little nervous at the beginning because I was not accustomed to leading such a large group.  It is a much different experience following the leader than being the actual leader of the group.  I really just did not want to mess anything up and was hoping that the group would get something out of the pt session.

I was given a manual of the pt to go over prior to conducting the session so I reviewed it to make sure I had all of the commands correct and the formations.  I knew this would be an activity that was a little bit out of my comfort zone so I wanted to make sure I was well prepared so I focused on the manual so that I could lead the company.  I was nervous that I was not going to remember the commands which would cause me to freeze up in front of the entire company and would have to live through the embarrassment of a squad leader having to step in.

I had the company get into formation, I was standing in front of them as they faced me ready to take their next instruction.  I was nervous at this point because all eyes were on me as they waited for their next command.  Finally I yelled “Extend to the left, MARCH,” as that was the first command I gave after the company got into formation.   The soldiers then turned to their left with their arms to their side and began marching following my orders.  I was relieved to see my first order being followed and I got more comfortable and confident that I was going to be able to get through this.  I then took the company through some warm up exercises like the calf stretch, chest stretch, hips and neck all to get the blood flowing since it was 5:30 A.M.  Next I began some calisthenics to warm up, we starting with the side straddle hop, knee lunger, push-ups, sit-ups, engine, and flutterkicks.  It gave me a lot of confidence to see the company following my directions as I continued to give them their commands.  I was hesitant to start the workout but as time went on I got more comfortable and knew that this was something I could handle and excel at.   Once the company completed the calisthenics I then bring them through a cool down in which we I took them through a lot of the same stretches we did during the warm up.

I appreciated the fact that my squad leader platoon sergeant trusted me to lead the company.  While I was nervous I knew I needed to step up and lead the company and show the sergeant that he made the right decision to trust me to lead the pt.  I received positive feedback from the soldiers in my platoon as well as the officers that were participating.

About Frances Wiedenhoeft

After a lifetime in nursing, anesthesia and the Army I now write, blog, attend school for journalism and massage, and watch my 3 grandchildren. I am a veteran of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan and try to serve other vets such as myself, and to work for peace.
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