By Scott Prater
Mountaineer staff

FORT CARSON, Colo. - As the bus pulled up near the grandstand at Pershing Field May 12, 2018, 30 young people jostled in their seats. Many believed they were mentally prepared for whatever the Army could throw at them. They had already made a commitment to become the Army's newest Soldiers and all that day would provide was a few hours of dress rehearsal.

Then the bus doors opened.

There to greet them was a small group of drill sergeants and drill sergeant candidates, whose mood could best be described as irritated. The first drill sergeant climbed aboard and politely issued a few instructions. Then, all hell broke loose.

Every young person who exited the bus met a hat and a voice shouted at them to move faster.

"Run over there and keep running," the first voice screamed. "Don't look at me, don't drop your bag, and don't be last."

A few tried to trot their way through the first lap, but their attempt at conserving energy was quickly met by more hats, who nipped at their heels like ravenous dogs.

"You're going to be doing pushups if you're last," shouted one of the hats.

"We can do this all day," said another.

Meanwhile, the few teens out front of the group began to slow down, out of sheer exhaustion. Many collapsed, a few vomited and still others simply pleaded for a break.

"We've only just begun," said Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Ryan Belding, drill instructor, 415th Infantry Regiment. "Now, line up here and lift your bags over your heads."

For the next two hours, the drill sergeants put the young folks through the first day of Army Basic Training, as only a drill instructor could do - authoritatively. Pupils learned how to properly answer commands, stand at attention, respond to superiors, exercise, run, move, walk, talk and above all, listen.

Though some might define Saturday's Future Soldier Mega Event as a form of torture or punishment, it really served to benefit the young people who participated.

Organized and hosted by the Colorado Springs Recruiting Company, the event was designed to provide the recruiting company's future Soldiers with an introduction to basic training, while exposing them to its typical stressors.

"We want to get their minds and bodies ready for basic training," said Staff Sgt. Derik Moody, Colorado Springs Recruiting Company NCO in charge. "We don't want to send them in blind."

Most have already made the Army a commitment and are awaiting departure for basic training. Many of these kids will be shipping out next week. We're here to help them understand a little of what they're about to experience."

April Benson, a future Soldier and Colorado Springs Christian School senior, will depart for basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in roughly 60 days.

"I knew some background coming into this," she said.

"While I was both nervous and excited, the bus ride over was quiet and subdued. Once we stopped, though, everyone started screaming and running."

Benson relished the experience.

"I kept thinking, 'this is so cool,' until about the fourth lap," she said. "But, what I really liked was how they kept pushing you even when you thought you couldn't go on."

Her biggest takeaway was learning drill instructors' expectations, and how recruits are treated at basic.

"This was a good diagnostic for me," she said. "It showed my strengths and weaknesses. I learned where I need to improve. And, if I had any advice for anyone about to experience this, it's to put aside your pride and let them control you. Listen, and try to be the best person they are trying to make you into."

This is the second year the recruiting company hosted the Future Soldier Mega Event and Moody said the company has made improvements to its execution.

"We didn't have a bus last year, so that was big right there," he said. "And we're also seeing better participation. I think we had a little more than a dozen last year, whereas we had 30 for this one."