Tonight, we begin our “Boot Camp Journal” series. Three brave young men raised their right hands and signed their life’s away to the U.S. Army earlier this week. Their first mission, to survive basic training. And they’ve agreed to let our cameras follow them every step of the way.
HOLT (voice-over): It is the first of many mornings to come that Daniel Smith’s day will start long before the sun comes up. It’s 6:00 AM. He’s arrived at Fort Dix, New Jersey, the first stop on the first day of his new life in the U.S. Army.
DANIEL SMITH, U.S. ARMY RECRUIT: I figured I had to do something with my life.
HOLT: Less than 24 hours earlier, this South Jersey 19-year-old sat in his poster-covered bedroom, reflecting on the life-changing journey he was about to begin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you giving up?
SMITH: Not much, really. I’m just giving up my house, basically. I won’t be able to live here no more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom’s cooking.
SMITH: Yeah, mom’s cooking. Everything. Just being a kid, basically.
HOLT: In suburban Philadelphia, Paul Burger and Gary Parkhurst are enjoying their last few hours as civilians. They’re best friends, enlisting together.
GARY PARKHURST, U.S. ARMY RECRUIT: I don’t want anybody else watching my back but him. I trust him more than anyone.
PAUL BURGER, U.S. ARMY RECRUIT: And we’ll be together and be able to go do training. We’ll know what each other is doing and how well we’re doing it, and we’ll be prepared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the school nearby here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It’s actually right down the street.
HOLT: Daniel is just five months out of high school and already knows he’ll be working in food service in the Army. Gary and Paul are both in their late 20’s. Gary has been working in the software business. Paul in insurance. Both will become signal intelligence analysts in the Army.
Most of what they know of life in the military is what family tells them. Both of Daniel’s folks were in the service.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remember, when in doubt, salute.
HOLT: Gary’s granddad was in the Army, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do what they tell you and listen. Don’t try to use your own judgment too much.
HOLT: But a lot has changed in this new Army. To get best recruits where they’re most needed, the Army offers plenty of financial incentives. That’s why Daniel has chosen food service.
SMITH: They gave me college money, $50,000 for college. A $9,000 sign-on bonus, all just for choosing that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’ll miss you.
HOLT: With hugs and good-byes, it’s off to Fort Dix for processing.
This obstacle course consists of a series of lines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and put your bags up and keep your ID card out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You’re going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) warfare signal intelligence analyst with airborne training. You’ll be in the Army for four years.
HOLT: And the pokes and prods of a physical exam. They have all been lifting weights and running in preparation for their next stop, Army basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. They’ve heard it can be tough. As they board the bus for the airport, they are now just hours away from finding out how tough it really is.
PARKHURST: Every day is not going to be great, I know that. He knows that. And hopefully the days that I really don’t want to be there, he’ll be able to say something and kick me in the butt and say let’s go. And vice versa.
BURGER : And it’s a support group. I mean we’ll have support for each other.
SMITH: They tell me it’s a lot of running and a lot of hard work.
But it pays off in the end.
HOLT: It’s well after dark when our recruits arrive at Fort Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out. Let’s go. Get the heck out of this van.
HOLT: They’re home for the next 11 weeks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry up. Oh, we’re just going to take our damn old time. We’ve got nothing else to do, right? What’s so funny?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it’s real funny, right? I got the funny right here.
HOLT: Where they’ll learn to groom, dress and live as Army soldiers.
HOLT: We will be following these three Army recruits throughout basic training and we want to take you right now to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for a quick status report. Privates Paul Burger, Gary Parkhurst and Daniel Smith join us live from the base. Gentlemen, congratulations. You look awfully sharp in the camouflage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HOLT: Daniel-or, I’m sorry, Private Smith, tell me what it’s been like so far. Have you actually begun the basic training or are you still getting sorted out?
SMITH: We’re still getting sorted out right now. But it’s still been kind of hectic and everything and tough. But I’ll get through.
HOLT: Private Parkhurst, tell me why the Army? You’re in your late 20’s. What made you decide to take this step?
PARKHURST: I wasn’t satisfied in a career in the computer industry. I didn’t feel it was a career, and I want to do something that I would be proud of at the end of the day.
HOLT: Paul, or Private Burger, patriotism guiding your choice?
BURGER: Excuse me?
HOLT: Is it patriotism that guided your choice to join the Army?
BURGER: Definitely, yes, Lester. It’s something that I always wanted to do since I was 17 years old. And Gary here gave me more of the motivation to take the step forward.
HOLT: Let me ask you this. Do they always yell at you like that?
BURGER: Not always. They’re really nice people behind the scenes, yes.
HOLT: We wish you guys the best of luck. And we so appreciate you letting us tell your stories. And we’ll be checking on you from time to time.
BURGER: Thank you very much.
HOLT: All right. Good luck, fellows.