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Apprentice teacher and the Army: part 2 by thadeusz

This story has been divided in two parts for technical reasons. Please read part 1 first.
After that glorious day, my life started to be very regular, nearly monotonous. I was assigned to the initial training of several simple Volunteers to be. They had come to our regiment in order to learn the military way to be more organized, to get a better education (most did not know how to write French correctly) and to find a job where they would be well adapted.

During the first month they did exactly what we had done. I noticed that some did not take care of their clothes and I tried to do for them what I had done for Martin and Peter. I must confess here that I was proud of some of their successes, but I avoided telling them. I also kept going every other week to the Barber and Master Caporal Dorion kept carefully building a H&T on my head.

After this first month teaching to dropouts I was called in the Colonel’s office. This was a rare event, often a sign that the concerned volunteer had adopted bad behaviors and was going to be punished accordingly. I entered this office carefully, saluted the officer, took off my forage cap and took the position of attention. The Colonel looked at me and started to speak:
"Are you EV Clarens ?"
"YES, Colonel," was my reply.
"You came here because you were a dropout from a teacher training school ?"
"YES, Colonel."
"I checked your file. You only missed two exams which you could have easily retaken at the end of the summer. What happened?"
"Colonel, I was tired of studying."
"Only that ?"
"No Colonel. My mother wanted me to work and bring some money home. Otherwise, she wanted me to quit our home and no longer ‘live at her expenses’, SIR."
"I see."
A long silence followed this answer.
Then the Colonel started again:
"Listen Clarens. It would really be sad if you stopped studying now. You appear to be a gifted teacher. I have decided that you will take these exams again this year. UNDERSTOOD ?"
"But Colonel, I don’t have my books or my notes. I am not made to study, with all the respect I owe you SIR."
"Clarens, where are your notes ?"
"At my parents’ home, Colonel."
"GOOD. You will go now under the leadership of one member of the cadre and get these notes. You are going to take all these exams again and you are going to get good notes. This is not a suggestion, it is an ORDER. I guess you now know what a military order is ?"
"YES, Colonel."
"Good. I have already enrolled you for all the courses. UNDERSTOOD ?"
I did not really understand, but in such cases in a military situation you only say "Yes Sir". That’s what I did, slightly frightened.
The Colonel suddenly asked me:
"Who would you like to be your chief while you go and get your books ?"
I thought for a second and I replied:
"Colonel, could that be Master Corporal Dorion ?"
"WHY ?" shouted the Colonel.
"Because Colonel, he was the first to teach me military politeness."
"In that case, go and get your books, Clarens."
I saluted and left his office before going and asking Master Corporal Dorion to help me by being my chaperon. He laughed a bit when I told him my story and agreed to accompany me.

We arrived at my parents’ home, both in impeccable uniforms and we could speak with my mother. She simply said that she had thrown away "All the things belonging to that stupid boy who believes that he is better making the fool in uniform than getting good moneys for his old parents."
With that, she closed the door.
Master Corporal Dorion took me by an arm, very fatherly and said:
"Don’t mind Clarens, leave that lady alone and forget her quickly. Now tell me if one of your friends could have similar books."
"Master Corporal, my friend Moira could have these books: she studied with me but she was much better."
"Never mind. Let’s go immediately and ask her."

I was not certain of Moira’s answer, but she graciously gave me all her books for the second year and wished me well. The Master Corporal told me that he had orders to take me immediately to the barracks and to forbid me from buying a drink on the way. He added:
"But nobody has told me not to buy you a drink, EV Clarens."
That’s how I got my first beer since I had joined as a Volunteer and how I did not even pay for it. The Master Corporal simply told me:
"My boy, now you must study well if you don’t want me to give you more baldies."

As soon as we were back to the barracks, I placed my books in my cupboard and I started to reorganize my personal timetable. I succeed to accomplish all my tasks, keep cleaning my clothes as before and have one or two hours every day to study (depending on the nature of the day’s tasks with the Volunteers). It was not easy to study alone, but I used what I called my "clothes technique". I got organized and at the end of the year I took all the second year exams. I was waiting impatiently for the results but I had to wait until the day just before the end of my contract with the Volunteers. On that day I was called to the Colonel’s office. This powerful man told me the following:
"Clarens, your results are good. Excellent. You passed all your exams brilliantly. You are thus admitted in third year. You are also an excellent Expert Volunteer. I have thus decided to extend your contract by one additional year."
I was stunned. Not because I had just learned that I had succeeded in my efforts but by the fact that the Colonel wanted to keep me as a volunteer. So I told him:
"Excuse me, Colonel, but I only signed for one year."
"That’s correct Clarens. But you forgot the last lines of your contract. It says that the contract can be extended up to 4 additional years."
"Colonel, I had assumed that this extension had to be agreed to by the EV !"
"That’s where you were wrong. The extension can be asked for by the EV, but it can be imposed by the Army. And this is your case, Clarens."
I remained silent, knowing that Moira did not want me to become a real soldier.
"In any case", continued the Colonel, "you are now a student in third year. You will attend all the courses in parade uniform and I give you the authorization to go alone to your school. But you are not allowed to stop between the barracks and the school. Your duties and chores inside the barracks will be adapted to this situation."
"Colonel, may I at least have my phone back ?"
"Yes, EV Clarens. But you are not authorized to phone for more than 15 minutes every day and you are not authorized to take your phone with you outside of the barracks. DISMISS EV."
I felt as if I was mentally slapping my heels. I was a disciplined soldier now. I saluted the Colonel and went to the Barbers. I asked Master Corporal Dorion to give me a baldy while I told him all about my new situation. He refused to give me the requested haircut, saying that it would be good for me to remain in a structured environment for the last part of my studies. He also added:
"You will soon be a fine soldier, even a fine Sergeant or better an officer. Keep helping the young Volunteers as you have been doing."

I warned Moira: it was my first phone call in a long time. My beloved Moira congratulated me for my results but said that she did not want to have to live with a soldier. She accepted the present situation, but she added that after this "stupid extension" she forbade me to accept any other extension or contract in the military.

I felt very unhappy and in order to settle my mind, which was in turmoil, I did the only thing I knew had work for me: I started to study in advance for my third year courses.

I worked well. I spoke regularly by phone with Moira who was now a teacher. I also tried to help the new Volunteers since I knew they needed only a little help to get started. All that kept me very busy. I passed my half year exams with flying colors. After that I had only to do a stage in real classes, but the Colonel arranged things otherwise: I was now working full time as a teacher inside the Voluntary Military Service structure. I served as a gym teacher, as a military teacher, but mostly as a math and French teacher. To these I added some elements of geography and history.

EV Torgat was still around doing more or less the same things as I did, with a strong emphasis on sports and military education. He told me one day that this was his third and final year in the SMV. He had chosen to ask for extensions in order to have already a certain time of service before joining the actual Army as a real soldier. He did not give more details.

At the end of the school years I took my final exams and I presented a short dissertation describing what I had done during my stages. All these were accepted by my school without any problem. Finally, I was called to the Colonel’s office. He was now a new Colonel since we change Colonel every two years in the French Army.

This Colonel congratulated me for my good results. He even said:
"EV Clarens, you came here as a dropout. You are now a qualified teacher. Moreover you are a good trainer for our Volunteers and also a good organizer, all things you learned in this regiment. For all these reasons it has been decided to extend your contract. I decided to extend it to its maximum, which means three more years here as a teacher. How do you react to this ?"
I had more or less expected that since I studied thanks to the Army, they could require me to pay for that with time of service. So my reaction was simple:
"At your command, Colonel."
But the Colonel had something to add:
"As a teacher, you are really exceptionally good. It has thus been decided to promote you to Chief Expert Volunteer (CEV) and your pay will now be nearly the same as that of a Private in the regular Army. You will now wear two stripes on your sleeve and front. You will have your own room, but you will nevertheless remain confined to barracks in order to let you help the Simple Volunteers 24h/24 and 7d/7. Understood, CEV Clarens ?"
Once again I could only reply : "At your command, Colonel."
Discipline and absolute obedience to my higher-ups were now profoundly ingrained in me. I nevertheless dared asking a question:
"Colonel, will this CEV be allowed to go on week-ends out of the barracks in order to meet with his girlfriend ?"
"Clarens, you know the rules. They are annoying but they are the rules. This program, the Voluntary Military Service, has been created for highschool dropouts. Some people who are not highschool dropouts have been admitted to gain motivation and a first experience. This was your case when you started. But you did not only gain motivation and experience, you also gained a University degree. We now know that you are an excellent teacher and my predecessor wanted to keep you here. His only possibility to do so was to force you to stay as a Volunteer. And a disciplined one. As a Volunteer, whatever your rank, you cannot go out without an NCO or without at least a Corporal. This could be permitted in your case, considering you are now a CEV, but only once every Sunday. You can then go and have a drink with your accompanier. If your girlfriend is present, that is not my problem. But you cannot meet her in a closed place and alone with her. UNDERSTOOD ?"
I could only shout as usual: "YES COLONEL."

I worked with the simple Volunteers, as it had been foreseen in my original contract. I was now a certified teacher and according to the Colonel a good military trainer, but I did not let my pupils know that in fact I wanted to quit this Regiment now that I had my diploma. I tried to explain all that to Moira by phone, this implied longer telephonic conversations than authorized by the sacred rules, but nobody mentioned that. Moira was rather furious, but she realized that I could not do anything about this situation.

Two weeks later, and after lots of phone calls with Moira, I was punished for "excessive use of my phone inside the barracks". The punishment was simple : three days in the brig and confiscation of the phone without any last message to Moira to warn her. Before going to the brig, I was sent to Master Corporal Dorion who, despite his friendship for me, reduced my hair to zero. He gave me a very neat baldy. My sides were whitewalled using the usual clippers, and the top was reduced to the same situation. The barber then started to put foam everywhere on my skull and neatly shaved whatever dared to remain using a big and old fashioned razor. The rare stubbles that were left disappeared. I was ashamed of this situation which placed me lower in appearance than the Volunteers I was usually working with.

I spent my three days in the brig, with a simple volunteer’s uniform and associated chores. My food was reduced, according to the brig tradition, to plain bread and water. I was then told that the next breach in the rules would result in my demotion: I would be demoted to EV or worse to simple Volunteer for the time remaining on my "forced" contract. I chose to remain rather quiet but I asked Master Corporal Dorion to warn Moira.

I was not at all happy with this new extension and the restrictions it implied, but I did not know what I could do. I spoke about it with Master Corporal Dorian who was now a friend. He told me that the Army was an excellent place to stay and I explained that Moira would drop me if I stayed.
The Master Corporal told me to speak with our Captain who was a sort of "father" for all the Volunteers, whatever their rank.

One month later, I asked for a visit to Captain Lander’s office and I was told to go there the next day at 10:00 precisely. I decided to dress as well as possible for this meeting and to get a good haircut. Master Corporal Dorion gave me a very neat and very short one: my sides and back were whitewalled. There were only hair left on the top of my head, but only below my forage cap and these were very short : less than 1 cm I think. The Master Corporal had done what he could after my recent baldy ! During this operation, the Master Corporal pushed and turned my head relatively smoothly, but I must confess that I did not realize his kindness: I was really engrossed in my personal problem for the three coming years. In any case, the H&T that Dorion had built carefully during the previous year was now gone. When he told me to look at my image in his mirror, I did not exactly recognize me: I saw a young soldier, a confirmed soldier with two stripes on his sleeves and shirt front. I saluted the Master Corporal and went to my appointment.

I entered the Captain’s office according to the rules, but before I had had an opportunity to tell the Captain what my problem was, he started to speak:
"Clarens, I guess why you are coming here. The Colonel told you that you are good and that the Army wants to keep you longer by imposing an extension to your initial contract. Correct ?"
"YES, Captain", was my only possible answer.
"Understand me well, CEV Clarens. You are not only a good teacher but you are an excellent teacher. Your attitude is perfectly adapted to the needs of our Volunteers. Therefore, the Army wants to keep you while paying you as little as possible. This imposes several restrictions on you, and you don’t like it. CORRECT ?"
"Captain, it is not for the money but for the restrictions."
"Why ?"
"Captain, during three years I won’t be able to see my beloved one as often as we want, we won’t be able to live together, and my girlfriend does not want to marry a soldier", the Captain interrupted me and said:
"There is a possibility, a difficult one but still a possibility."
I remained silent while the Captain was thinking. He then continued:
"You cannot change the decision of the Colonel for this year: he wants you to stay as a Volunteer, but as a CEV, for the maximum possible time of your contract. This implies of course that you will thus be subject to all disciplinary rules imposed on the volunteers. Even if you are in fact a CEV and serving as a teacher. But the Colonel does not care about that: he simply wants to have the best possible teacher and trainer for his simple volunteers."
Once more a long silence as if the Captain was slightly reluctant about revealing to me the trick he had prepared to free me from my contract with the Army.
"But there is another possibility. You probably neglected to read the last sentence of your contract. It says that if you join the Army as an Active Duty Soldier, the time served as EV or CEV will be counted as active time of service. So, if you go back now to the Colonel saying: ‘I want to enlist’, two things can occur. The first one is not plausible, but the Army could reject you and your contract would automatically come to an end: we cannot keep as EV or CEV someone we have rejected as Private ! The second one is more likely: you have already served two years and you will have to join as a soldier with two years of service, to which you must add 5 years of new contract. Do you follow me, CEV Clarens ?"
"YES, Captain."
"But in that case, you would have to do all the possible chores and your situation would be worse than now. On the contrary, if you wait one more year as CEV, you will have 3 years of service or years assimilated to time of service. You can then ask immediately to be sent to the NCO Academy for a short period of 4 months and then serve as a teacher and NCO with all the advantages associated with your new rank. How do you like that, Clarens ?"
"Captain, permission to think about this ?"
"Permission granted, come back in one week but not later. Think also that as a new teacher you will not find a job that easily, here you have one !"

I had long discussions with Master Corporal Dorion who confirmed that in the Army, as NCO and teacher, I would have a good life. I would also have lots of time to spend with Moira: I thus had only to be patient during one year.

Moira did not like the situation. She admitted that I was bound by that stupid contract (and by my previous hard work and good results) to stay for at least one year. But she insisted: more than one year in uniform was not our initial agreement.

I also succeeded in discussing with an NCO who served as a teacher in our regiment. He confirmed that life as an NCO in the Army was "rosy".

Moira confirmed that it would probably be difficult for me to find a job as a civilian teacher but that she did not want to be the wife of a soldier and the mother of his kids.

Finally, I went back to Captain Lander and I told him that I accepted his proposal to try to join the Army for 5 years, after my 3rd year as a Volunteer. I added that I hoped to become NCO rapidly.

In fact most of the things suggested by the Captain went as foreseen: the Army accepted my application to become NCO on the basis of my "three years of service", or assimilated. I was trained to become NCO during only 4 months since I was considered a former Private. During my training, I was reunited with ex-EV Torgat who had enlisted as Private and was now, with the benefit of his time as EV, in the same situation as I was. Torgat had tried to be sent to the NCO Academy immediately after enlisting, but he had not been accepted as such because of his "lack of experience as leader". In fact he had no diploma after his BAC. Nevertheless, when this special training was finished, Torgat was sent back to his regiment, a para regiment, while I was sent back to my previous regiment, the 1 RSMV, but with a new status and lots of liberties, lots of access to my phone and of time to spend with Moira.

Unluckily, I was usually in uniform and Moira disliked that. She fell in love with another teacher at her school and they got married during the summer holidays. Dorion, who was now also a Sergeant like me, told me:
"Clarens, after all you have a University degree and 3 years of service: why don’t you try to become an officer ?"

I studied his proposal and took the special exam organized for NCOs hoping to become an officer. I failed and remained a SGT. After that things went very rapidly: I was assigned permanently as teacher and trainer for the dropouts. Apparently, I got excellent results according to my officers. I was considered as a good teacher but also as an excellent "motivator". I am still working there, rather happy with my job. But rather unhappy with my lost love.

I keep asking my friend Dorion to give me regularly a "serious" haircut and he keeps giving me a nice but very short H&T. Sides are always whitewalled and the top is reduced to 1 cm. I don’t wear a forage cap anymore, but a blue beret. Besides that, my uniform is not very different, except for the stripes which are now gold stripes.

My love life is empty and I keep wondering what would have happened if one of my friends had not suggested that I go to a recruiter’s office where I discovered and discussed my possibilities in the Volunteers program.

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