While running to prepare for an upcoming half-marathon, my mind drifted to running moments in Hollywood movies. The usual suspects such as Rocky running up the stairs in Philadelphia or the opening sequence to Chariots of Fire where a band of runners race across a beach to some iconic music came to mind, but then I remembered a gem from my childhood, a James Garner movie called Tank.
In “Tank,” James Garner plays Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Zack Carey, and amazingly, I like his portrayal of a tough senior enlisted person. He goes around the post, checking on troops and facilities within his division and there are some funny moments. But the piece that takes the cake is when James Garner’s character wakes up at 4:30 in the morning and you next see him approaching a unit’s parade field while in physical training gear (back then, that outfit was unofficially called “the banana suit” due to its almost completely yellow color.
CSM Carey then proceeds to shout “Your division sergeant major is all alone on the battalion field.”
And it’s after this moment, hundreds of Soldiers pour out of the barracks and from the parking lot, rush towards the assembly area, briefly do a dress-right-dress, and stand diligently in formation before CSM Carey. The battalion’s Sergeant Major greets James Garner’s character, and all together, proceed onwards for a formation run. A few seconds later, the formation runs by the commanding general’s house and wakes him up.
It’s this sequence that I absolutely love, and wish any of the Sergeants Major (yes, that is the plural of the singular noun “sergeant major”) who I have served with would replicate this phenomenon. I’ve never seen anything close to this happening. Instead, we normally got something to this effect:
A battalion run would be scheduled for 0630. The company commander or first sergeant would want the Soldiers to be in formation by 0615. The platoon sergeant would dictate that his/her group of Soldiers show up at 0600 or 0610 (if they had some faith in their Joes). The squad leaders in turn would tell their Soldiers to be ready to go 10-15 minutes prior to the platoon formation.
In fact, I still remember a brigade formation run when I was at Fort Meade, and the brigade run was scheduled to start just after 0630. By the time I, as a mere squad leader, got word on when to have my team there, we were told to be on the parade field by 0530. That’s a whole hour before we were supposed to run. Fortunately, that example is the most extreme one I have experienced.
While the point is that we in the military had a tendency to have people show up early for just about anything, if someone pulled off a CSM Carey for a PT run, everyone involved would probably go bonkers in a good way and they would probably be pumped to do just about anything for the rest of the week. I know I would.