The more things change, the more they stay the same. Approaching last weekend, I could barely contain my joy at the looming return to my beloved regiment. All the evening roll calls, constant assemblies and singing, pernickety attention to detail concerning the blackness of the soles of our boots, it was all soon going to be a distant, decreasingly unpleasant memory. Approaching this weekend, however, I'm rather looking forward to getting the hell out of dodge and back to Ireland for a week's holidays, the tedium of daily regimental life reestablishing itself with rather unnerving speed. Funny, isn't it?
I jest, of course (to an extent….). It is certainly refreshing and comforting to return to familiar surroundings. The sprawling alpine plateaux swirling around our little caserne here in Saint Christol, together with Mount Ventoux peering keenly onto our running track and parade square makes for an indisputably idyllic setting. Winter is slowly creeping across the land now too, sending crisp orange leaves tumbling to the ground, preparing increasingly glistening and gloriously crunchy grass meadows and lawns that lie in wait for the lonely whistle crying out in the cold dark early morning. "Reveil!" And a second blast. "Reveil!"
All very tranquil. All very Sound of fuckin' Music, you must think? Well, not quite so. The regiment has undergone a few changes since I was away toiling in Castel on my quest for an authority-upgrade. 24-hour guard duty is now back, having long-ago been delegated to the military police (now renamed "military patrol" after it was finally noticed that they didn't actually possess any of the training or seemingly divine rights of the real police). Not only that, but it's reintroduction went so far as to include the full parade uniform, resulting in hours upon hours of future ironing in advance of guard duty shifts. When I first arrived at regiment almost three years ago, it was done in combats. Cosy, comfy combats. So why the sudden return to the ways of old then?
That'd be the new chief, I presume. The new colonel before whom I'm yet to present myself. The new colonel who's yet to hear of my admirable intention to give one hundred and ten percent right up until the last day of my five-year contract. The new colonel who won't give a shit, and probably fire me back to Castel to work with the green-gilled and incomprehensible young legionnaires. I'd spent four days working as their team leader at the tail end of my stage caporal. Four days was enough. I dread my inevitable meeting with my new colonel. So it goes.
On a brighter note, finishing third in my stage did ensure a warm welcome from my immediate superiors back at the company. The weekend after the stage didn't afford enough time to fully grow back the beard, so I plan to stay clean-shaven until the holidays, returning at the end of my week's r 'n r sporting my glory-days facial rug. I sincerely hope that my high ranking will remain fresh enough in their minds to dilute any desires to order its removal. Time will tell.
Another aspect of having returned from a two month regimental hiatus is finding myself faced with a gurgling throng of new recruits, almost thirty in all. And in spite of me having yet to officially receive my new rank, I'm all of a sudden enjoying simultaneously being called "Caporal" and obeyed without a moment's hesitation. All rather agreeable, I must admit. Mops, dustpans and buckets are - as of now - all a thing of the past. That's also rather nice. Day-to-day life at the regiment does become undoubtedly easier and more laid-back once one becomes a corporal. But it's not all fun and games.
At the fear of sounding hackneyed, the rank does come with a certain responsibility. As a corporal, I'll be looked-to for answers, help, guidance, and - most importantly - a good example. I can no longer afford to breeze by on cruise control, claiming it's not my problem and what-not. As a corporal, you're there to try to solve the problems of the legionnaires under your command, be them concerning the understanding of orders, a technique or tactic involved in a certain training maneuver, treatment and maintenance of kit. The corporal's no use, the legionnaire's no longer motivated.
"Look what happens if you stay in the legion" they might be forgiven for saying.
"Who wants serve under this guy, or worse, become just like him!".
There's a reason that the rank of corporal is widely recognized as "the hardest rank to obtain, and the easiest to lose". One slip, one false step, and you can find yourself neck-deep in the shit you'd thought had been left firmly at your feet following two months of hell.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that the pressure's on, but now's certainly not the time to take the foot off the pedal.
I'll save that for the week's holidays kicking off this Friday!!