Reflections on a Career, Part 2


309476_416346265070088_1865830462_n4 AM is too early for anyone to get up, let alone someone who had just lay in bed all night AWAKE with fear. I was afraid and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was heading off into the great adventure known as the United States Army. I didn’t know it then, but this “adventure” would mold and shape me into the man I am today. It would instill in me a sense of duty, responsibility, allegiance and patriotism that burns in me to this day.

I didn’t need the alarm as I watched every single minute tick off the clock that night before I left. I had just turned 18, but I felt like I was 8. I was afraid, like a thunderstorm was coming and I had nowhere to hide. Little did I know my thunderstorm had a name, Drill Sgt. Bell.

I half-heartedly ate breakfast consisting of toast and juice that morning. My father was awake as he was going to drive me to a parking lot in Toms River where I would meet my recruiter and he would drive me and the other guys from the area in a van to Newark where we were to swear in and ship out. Conversation between my dad and I was sparse. He helped me check and recheck my bags for all the things on the list the recruiter had given me of things I would need and to be sure I didn’t have any of the items that were not allowed. My entire teenage years had been packed up and shoved into the attic weeks before. To this day I’ve never retrieved those boxes but would love to see what my 18 year old mind thought was important enough to pack away and stash in an attic. I know there was music, 8-track tapes, cassettes and albums that probably have since warped or dried out and crumbled. There was love letters and school notes that I thought I’d want to keep. Those boxes are a time capsule into my youth. I wish I could see what was in them. I’m sure they’ve long since been thrown away.

The time to leave had come and I walked slowly out to the car. I knew this day was coming and had since February prepared myself physically, I was not prepared mentally or emotionally. I sat in the front seat and my father got behind the wheel. He turned the key to start the car and suddenly I heard a sound I’ve never heard before. A guttural  loud sob that had spit and snot flying all over the windshield. My father was crying. It is the first time I had ever seen my father cry and it only added to my anxiety. The ONLY thing I could think of saying is “Why are you crying? You’re the one that kicked me out”. That was it, he wiped his eyes, backed out of the driveway and off we went. I honestly don’t know if we had a conversation in the car on the way there. I’m sure we did and I’m sure my father, who was career Army, retired and then became a police officer had advice for me. I know I know, my psychiatrist has told me the same thing, you followed exactly in your father’s footsteps Blah, blah, blah…I get it.

We met the recruiter in the parking lot, I said my goodbyes, I got in the van and the next thing I knew I raised my hand along with a couple hundred other young men and women and swore allegiance to my Country. Suddenly I’m on a train bound for Anniston, Alabama. Where my Army Basic Training Military Police School was to be held and Drill Sgt. Bell was waiting.

The purpose of this blog is to relive specifics of my career as a police officer and I have no desire to bore myself or anyone with war stories of how tough it was, or what Basic Training was like but I will relay the story of Sgt. Bell because it is so stereotypical of what Basic Training is that’s it’s comical but true.

We arrived at Ft. McClellan Alabama and spent a day at the reception station. This is where haircuts are given, uniforms are handed out and equipment is gathered. After that day we are assigned to our training units and sent to the slaughter.

We loaded up on buses and I was one of the first to get on so I was forced to the rear of the bus…what a mistake that turned out to be. I remember it was about a 10 minute bus ride from the reception station to Bravo Company 11th MP Battalion…Bravo 11 as we were known.

As the bus pulled up in front of the barracks and came to a stop there was an uneasy silence as we waited for what was in store for us. The bus doors opened and I could see the familiar sight of a Drill Sgt. Hat begin to climb the bus steps. Attached to that hat was a Tall, slender, very much in shape Black man…this was Drill Sgt. Bell. He stood at the front of the bus looking down the aisle and smiled at us. The friendliest smile I’d seen in a long time. My fears began to subside. What a very nice man. He put his hands together in front of him almost like he was praying and just continued to smile. No one dared say a word. Sgt. Bell’s first words to us were “How are you Privates doing”? We were not yet trained in the Army ways of yelling in one voice. So there was sporadic” Good Sgt. “ From all areas of the bus…Sgt. Bell’s reply as the smile left his face, “Good, Good You are not at home joking and smoking any more, Mommy and Daddy ain’t here for the next 6 months I’m your mommy, your daddy, your brother, your sister and your nightmare. You’ve got thirty seconds to get off this bus and 29 just went by. GET THE FUCK OFF MY BUS”!  Cliché I know, it’s in every movie but that’s because that’s what they say, and believe me I had a pucker factor of 100 plus when I heard him say that. I was in the back, I literally stepped over people to get off that bus. There were guys in the first two rows that were the last to get off because it was a mad trample to get off that bus. We spent the next 7 hours in what is known as hell day. Running from one place to another, doing pushups, getting yelled at, doing pushups, running, getting yelled at, doing pushups, running. Back and forth back and forth until we were puking and then cleaning that up and putting it in our pockets. I remember to this day that when I was dropped to do pushups as punishment I had to recite the following in order to get permission to recover. “Drill Sgt. Thank You For This Opportunity To Condition My Mind And Body. Drill Sgt. Please Feel Free To Do So At Any Time. Drill Sgt. Private Potts Requests Permission To Recover”!

Almost 31 years later I look back on that day with fondness. I survived it, I’m proud to have made it through. This blog isn’t about Army life but this portion of it is important to establish how I became who I am. How I developed into, good or bad, the person I have become today. My next entry will speak briefly about the remainder of my Army career, the moment of clarification in my life that I knew I had what it took to be a good Police Officer and my decision to leave the Army and become a Municipal Police Officer.

Categories : Family Life


  1. Melynda B Ulrich says:

    Well first of all, thank you for serving. Both my parents were career Air Force. When we moved to Willingboro, every Father on the street had served in one of the Armed Forces.

    When my 2nd cousin went in the Navy, he grew up and realized how good he had it at home. Just like you his Mother told him he had to leave at 18.

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