Storyrocket Number


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U.S. Electronic Copyright Office


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Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, United States


Recent Past

The time period is Basic Training 1998.
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A nerdy, malcontent young man who has no idea what he wants to do with his future chooses to join the institutional military instead of following in his parents’ footsteps to higher education.


A rusty metal door slides open and a wave of sunlight floods through revealing 17-year-old KHALID SALEEM holding two duffel bags. Seven silhouettes appear in the light and demand, “Everyone get off my cattle truck!” Flashback to a couple months before, and Khalid a very average-looking, malcontent senior, frozen in his high school halls in a stare down with his English teacher at the end of the corridor blocking his forward progress. Not having done his homework again, he has to flee,
and the only viable option is the theater. The only problem: it is being occupied by two military servicemen advertising for the Army Service Vocational Aptitude Battery, or better known as the ASVAB, a test to enter the military. Not known for facing his fears, Khalid makes the predictable choice and chooses the latter, a world furthest from anything he knows.

A month later Khalid sits in a recruitment station and is presented with paperwork to join the service. His RECRUITER, better known to him as his pimp, tells him to think it over. Khalid later calls a family meeting with the bigger challenge of telling his parents, former civil rights revolutionist, that he has not filled out any college applications and is joining the Army. Breaking the news goes as he expected – disastrous--but not for the reasons he thought. No one believes he can do it! His brothers, AMIR and ZAYD, cheer that he’ll be gone; his father, ABDULLAH, thinks he is joking; and his mother, AMINAH, suggests he is too sensitive for the service. But they all agree on one thing: they all think he will die in Basic Training. Khalid knows now he is setting out on this journey alone.

Hours upon hours of flying and Khalid arrives at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. A new world filled with new people and Khalid learns quickly that he’s not in the Virgin Islands anymore. Khalid and his new recruit friends hit the ground running and meet all the drill sergeants on Shake Down Day: a painful rite of passage for all new recruits. Khalid survives shake down, barely, but finds that life as a soldier is like living on Mars. From learning how to make his bunk to crazy wake up times for physical training, struggling through marksmanship, and kitchen duty with the sadistic version of the Golden Girls, he finds out that there are no shortcuts at Basic, but more importantly he discovers his confidence that he made the right decision for himself.

The last stand at Basic Training and Khalid set off for Bivouac: a three-day field exercise filled with gunshots, poisonous gas, and a 13-mile road march. He will have to pass all obstacles if he wants to earn the honor of becoming a soldier. This proves
to be a trying battle, as on the last day of Bivouac an utterly fatigued Khalid breaks down with swollen feet. Unable to walk, his journey is in jeopardy. He remembers all the doubts people had in him and all the triumphs he’s had thus far, and limp-marches on down the road. Before he knows it, Khalid is at the finish line as the battalion chants his name.

Graduation day and Khalid looks on proudly as the base commander announces his company graduates of basic training.

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