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Day 46 of The National Service Journal, like most other days, features in-camp happenings. Bravo Company commander Maurice Bonaventure gets in trouble for shaving his head completely bald, provoking the irritation and anger of Ariff Naufal and Senior Simon, Aimée Duchemin and the rest of the camp undergo long-distance attack training, and Sybil speaks to her about the Forces Volontaires in the afternoon when physical training is cancelled.
Uh oh, we're in deep troubleEdit
Today, guess who, of all people, decided to break a fundamental rule in camp, again?
No, seriously, I’m not joking. Maurice Bonaventure, head of the male half of Bravo Company, broke the rule spoken out by Major Evayne early in our stint – that boys shouldn’t shave lines on their heads. Well, technically, he didn’t shave lines on his head, but he went one step further – he shaved his entire head bald! This morning, at about 5-something, when we came down for the morning report, we were all shocked to see his head completely bald. As if the trouble he caused the other day by wearing a red-and-blue jersey instead of the class uniform was not enough! Naufal told him off.
“Just what the hell did you do with your hair?”
“I shaved it off.”
“Maurice, you are aware that this isn’t allowed, aren’t you?” Naufal asked with an urging tone.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN BY ‘YEAH, SO’? I can’t have Bravo lose one point at all because of people not adhering to the dress code. Dolores and Sparrow are trouble enough! We don’t know who else might be roped into their conflict! Albert’s rashness is already costing us valuable points! And now you want to worsen the situation for us!? What do you think we are – robots?” Naufal screamed.
The entire hall was reduced to a chilling silence. Thankfully only the Bravo trainees were present (the rest had not come down yet). Maurice looked like he was about to pick a fight.
“Well, Major Evayne explicitly said that no one should shave lines on their heads. I’ve got no lines on my head!”
“Yeah, but that’s worse! If we were intended to have our heads shaved bald, they’d have done so in the beginning of our stint, damn it! They gave us a short crop for a reason! Some of us get to keep our spikes because they’re short! Now, I’m not going to be surprised if Bravo suffers a huge gash on her chest because of what you’ve done. You’ve just made yourself a bad example to the company when you, of all people, were expected to be at your best!”
“Well, I’m not afraid of any trainer! Let them all come!”
At the moment Naufal uttered “They’re coming,” Seniors Simon and Aaron approached the hall, only to see the feud between Naufal and the now bald Maurice.
“Ariff Naufal, Maurice Bonaventure, come here at once!” Senior Simon yelled.
Uh oh… At that point I could already imagine the trouble coming up for Bravo. Maurice’s face turned red. Tension was rising in the hall. I could already see sparks flying between Maurice and Seniors Simon and Aaron.
“What is going on between you two?” Senior Aaron asked.
“Look at Maurice’s head,” Naufal replied.
Both of them looked at Maurice’s head with horror.
Now, I can swear that Senior Simon gave Maurice the same lecture Naufal had given him earlier, but I doubt he ever listened. What a disgrace it was to Bravo when we heard that Maurice was going to be sent to the Disciplinary Committee to be dealt with accordingly! Naufal was excused for admonishing Maurice, and thankfully, no demerit points were given, but still, we have to bear the shame stemming from the fact that our commander, of all people, committed a disciplinary blunder! Dyane shook her head in disbelief; I slapped my forehead.
By the time Maurice was sent to see Major Zulkahar, the other companies descended into the hall and we moved into the tarred terrain, where we counted our strength. Naufal took over Maurice’s task for the day, and the crowd dispersed normally after that.
Maurice, Maurice, Maurice. Here I was, thinking that you were someone worthy of more than just great respect.
Long-distance attack training — with a rifleEdit
The weather today seemed pretty good. But I didn’t pay attention to it. We were to learn how to use rifles – particularly the M16 – and any other firearm of our choice. I had heard about this long before I entered Camp Point-Neuf, and I wondered why trainees were taught to use firearms. Especially during times of peace. I didn’t see the point of having to learn to use firearms, for as I see it, the only way to peace is when everyone drops his firearms on the ground and comes to a consensus. But this time, I knew how much we needed to put these firearms to good use. With Ankoù and the Mortmains menacing the camp and the surrounding areas, we have to do our best to keep ourselves alive.
We were divided into thirteen groups. I’m in group IX. Today, Groups I, II and III were assigned to the first canopy, in front of the lake. I’m not sure where Groups IV, V and VI went… Groups VII, VIII and IX were stationed to the right of the lake, at the middle. The remaining groups were stationed near the flying fox. Immediately after breakfast, we were sent to our respective canopies. Only Alpha and Bravo got to try out the rifles today; Charlie, Delta and Echo remained in the classrooms, as they usually would. I was scared, because what Senior Simon had said about me earlier rang true: I know the theory inside out, but when it comes to the practical bit, I don’t perform well at all. Here’s hoping that I make something out of this… I heard that they have a prize for the sharpshooters for Camp Point-Neuf – one for the male category, and another for the female category. There’s also a prize for the company with the highest number of accumulated points. Each person is supposed to receive 20 bullets for the trial, and 20 bullets for the real deal. Today, we were to use blanks.
En avant Bravo! We’ll do our best! I will. It’s time to make the trainers of Bravo Company proud of us. Because I know that right now, they aren’t. On my life, we’ll taste victory once again! I know we’re not going to stop at the magnificent display we put up on the first week of our stint.
The people from the army trained us to use the rifles. Some of the trainers from Camp Point-Neuf knew, but just to follow safety guidelines, they took the people who were well-versed in the firearm. So, here’s part of what I actually learned:
- If we pick up a firearm, we have to see if there’s ammunition in it. And if there is, we have to take it out.
- If we check the firearm, we have to put it pointing upwards so that it doesn’t point at anyone. And we have to keep our heads away for obvious reasons.
- A firearm should not be pointed towards a friend’s body, even if it’s just for gags. Having the firearm in hand is dangerous enough, even without munitions. It puts the other in reasonable apprehension of being attacked or shot by accident, thus constituting assault (damn it, I sound like a lawyer now). I remember when the people from the army were saying this, Sybil picked up the M16 for the first time and she was so proud of herself!)
- We had to learn how to put the bullets into the magazine and take them out. Upon doing that I felt a lot more confident!
- The length of that thing is about 980mm, and the length from the centre to the end is about 510mm. It weighs 2.95kg, and I guess that’s why I found it heavy. The bullets can move at a speed of 960m/s, which means instant death or personal injury to the target ahead.
- It cannot be left under the heat of the sun – for obvious reasons.
Other rules they gave us were, among others:
- Take your time!
- Don’t play too hard.
- There is a small hole on top of the firearm, which helps in aiming. To actually fire straight into the target, the centre of the hole has to correspond with the centre of the target.
- Don’t hesitate to fire!
After break, it was time for us to try out the firearms – this time, with blanks. And noise. Sybil, being the more courageous one, was among the first to try it out, and she really did well. And then, it was Melilla’s turn. All through the trial I was closing my ears! After Melilla, they asked me to try. They forced me to try… or plunge into the lake, in combat uniform!
“Aimée, it’s your turn. Go.”
“No way! Nada! Never! I’m not going to be able to take the noise.” “We’ll have to throw you into the lake, then.” “If you really have to send someone, send someone else. Not me! I don’t want to lose my hearing at this age!”
I was particularly worried because some six months ago, I almost lost my hearing. But with the coercion of everyone else around me, I finally took the rifle and got myself ready. The neon-orange target was right in front of me, supported by a chair. I closed my left eye and I concentrated. Sergeant Stan Lee gave me the green light to fire. I was scared. I tried pulling the trigger. Nothing came out.
I tried again. Nothing. I bet Sergeant Stan Lee was fed up of me by then. I made sure that I fired properly. Oh Lord help me!
The fear in me melted away. There was an air of confidence. I USED A GUN! Even if the Sauveterranean army phased out the M16, I’ve gotta say that I’m actually ready to use a firearm when I need to. And I know I need to. I didn’t feel the heat of the sun, I didn’t hear much of the noise, I didn’t hear the shouts and cheers from my friends – all I felt, deep inside me, was joy. I conquered my fear of firearms. I also had another reason to celebrate: I managed to hit the outermost ring on the target! For a first try, I’m actually quite proud of myself!
Well, in a fews days’ time, we’re off to the gun course! At least I won’t be tormented by Ankoù for a day. Also, we’ll be using live bullets, so it’s going to be more dangerous, and the noise level is going to be even higher. I wonder how it’s all going to turn out…
There was smoke everywhere. The sky was white and the air smelled of fire and smog. Senior Simon cancelled marching practice today, thus we were free this evening. Those who felt ill were taken to the clinic to be examined.
I really miss making music. I don’t have the chance to do so here. All I can do is imagine and try to put together the rhythms running through my head.
Meanwhile, guess what happened this afternoon, after the M16 training was over?
Everyone went to bed. We were all tired out from this morning. It was 4-something when I woke up. Sybil was awake by then. Melilla was the last to wake up. We had trouble waking her up!
“Melilla, wake up! We have to go to the dining hall!”
Melilla’s eyes were still closed. She did not show any signs of waking up. She just nodded like a zombie.
“Mel, open your eyes!”
She nodded again.
“Mel! Wake up! Up now! Hurry!”
Finally, she woke up. The thing about Melilla is that when she sleeps, she sleeps really tight. We could easily think that she fainted, or that she died. And it’s especially funny to see Sybil trying to wake poor old sleepy-head. The funniest part is seeing Melilla’s head go up and down like a zombie! At the same time, it gives me the creeps…
Sybil and I walked downstairs to the hall to see what was going on. It was then that she told me that she wanted to be a member of the Forces Volontaires. I was taken aback.
“You want to be a member of the Forces Volontaires?”
“I don’t know… for some reason, I’ve grown to love life in the army, I know how to defend myself and my friends, I’ve become used to the routines in this camp. I know that over here, we’re only getting half of what the army gets. Still, I guess I’m up for the challenge.”
“If you do join, are you thinking of being a full-time or part-time member?”
“I’d definitely wanna be a part-timer. I still have to eke out a living, you know.”
“I know… But they do give you an allowance, right?”
Sybil nodded. But I could see in her eyes that nothing beat making a living in her usual food stall.