Basic training

Published 12:54 pm Saturday, September 16, 2017

by Darnell Whitfield

It was a hot August day when I boarded a United Airways passenger plane to San Antonio, Texas, in 1979, in the first leg of my journey to Lackland Air Force Base for Basic Training. Upon my arrival ,Sgt. Nemic, screaming at the top of his lungs, commanded that we all get off his bus and stand shoulder to shoulder with the other young men and don’t move or say anything until we were told to do so. I, like Gomer Pyle, smiled the whole time and that was the biggest mistake that I could ever make, because Sgt. Nemic stayed on me until I stopped smiling.

Why I was smiling so much? The answer is simple, I had read about the military for so long, and had seen the movies (such as the D.I. starring Jack Webb, of television’s “Dragnet”) about our military, that by the time I volunteered for service I had to chuckle because everything was just like the books and movies.

Over time the smile went away because training set in. There was physical training, mental training, weapons training, training about the history of the Air Force, stamina training, and there was training on how to keep the 3704th Squadron’s quarters clean and even how to make your bed. None of this was surprising and I blended in very well to the point that when I left Lackland Air Force Base — because I was very ill — I had gained the respect of my peers and my superiors; however, there were others in my squadron that did not do so well in the beginning, because they were not pre-trained by their parents or guardians for life.

Simple things, such as making a bed, mopping floors and so on were not their forte, because their parents or guardians failed them by not giving them basis training for life as my mother did me.

You see, my mother gave me books at the tender age of 3 and by the time I entered first grade I was reading at a third grade level, and by the time I left Ferguson high school I was reading at a second year college level, all because my mother made sure I read.

At 6 years old, I was taught how to make a bed, sweep and wax the floor, clean windows with newspaper and vinegar and when I was around 10 years old my mother called me to the kitchen and said to me, “I’m going to teach you how to cook, so that if you grow up and are on your own you can cook for yourself, but just in case you get married, you can help your wife out.”

Just as the U.S. Air Force gave me basic braining for the service of my country, my mother, Evangelist Thelma Whitfield-Eley, gave me basic training for life.

Of course other instructions were given, such as manners, respect for others, work hard-play hard and so on.

My training did not come from my peers, it came from people who had experienced life and thought it important to share the knowledge that they had gained over the years.

The Bible teaches us to, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

I watch toddlers in stores throwing tantrums, teenagers using language that I didn’t hear when I was in the military.

And what do the parents do? They reward the tantrums, the swearing, the drug use, the pre-marital sex with gifts. The problem with today’s youth is their leadership.

I cannot, with good conscience, call many people with children that are doing very awful things parents, because a parent not only nurtures their child or children, but they prepare their children for life.

In other words, they reward their children for good behavior and punish for bad behavior.

I have spoken to many parents over the years and when I ask them why they don’t punish their children, many times the answer is the same, “Because I was punished when I was growing up, so I promised myself that if I had children I would not do the same to them.”

My next question is, “Did your being punished for bad behavior help you?”

And their reply is “YES!”

My next response is, “If it helped you prepare for life, then why not your child?”

Friends, we all play a role in the training of the next generation, so let’s take our role as parents, guardians, pastors and leaders seriously and train our children.

May God richly bless you all!

DARNELL WHITFIELD is senior pastor of Diamond Grove Baptist Church in Franklin. Contact him at 742-1343 or