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NEWS | Sept. 14, 2020

'Just completely different' 59-year-old BCT graduate reflects on the experience

By Rebekah O'Donnell

Fifty-nine-year-old Marine and Army Reserve veteran, Staff Sgt. Monte Gould graduated from Basic Combat Training with the 1st Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment Aug. 27, making him the oldest individual to complete this version of the BCT (but not the oldest to complete BCT ever. In 1999, a 68-year-old entered Basic Training). Not only did Gould complete BCT, but he finished in the top 10 percent of his training cycle. Gould’s unit cadre said his “candor, leadership expertise and technical proficiency are unmatched.”

When comparing his experience now versus his experience at Marine Corps boot camp in 1978, Gould said his experience was different than he expected.

“Just completely different,” he said. “One, I was in the Marines, and this is the Army. And two, it is 43 years later. The context is this. It’d be like taking a guy that went through Marine Corps boot camp in 1944 and putting him back in boot camp in 1986.”

When his fellow trainees—most of them about 40 years to his junior—would ask if it was harder this time around, he said “absolutely not. I couldn’t physically do now what I did then.”

He said “after the first two weeks (here) I said to myself, ‘This isn’t going to be hard’ and anytime it did get a little bit hard, I just said ‘Dude, what are you whining about? You’ve been through way worse than this.’”

While BCT may have been easier than he expected, Gould does think BCT was well-organized and thought out.

“It was “better planned, better choreographed, better executed in that it wasn’t just ‘PT until you die’ kind of thing,” he said. “You didn’t PT until exhaustion. You PT’d with a purpose, and you physically trained to the point where your body developed and your muscles had time to heal.”

He said he even thought the PT uniforms were better.

“When I was in the Marine Corps, we ran in boots and utility pants and t-shirts,” Gould said. “We weren’t authorized tennis shoes. We ran in these pants (pointing to his uniform pants) and a pair of boots, just without the coat.”

Gould, who was already in great physical condition upon entering the BCT in June, said his age did catch up to him.

“This is the first time in my entire career that I’ve ever been to the sick call,” he said. “And I’ve been to sick call four or five times for my knees, cause they swell up with the squats. Cause they do all of these squats with sandbags, so my knees swelled up. The tendons swelled up, cause they’re not used to that exercise, so it really got hard to walk. The running and the rucking and everything else, the deadlifts, didn’t bother me at all. But the amount of squats that we do consistently and constantly was really rough on my joints. And it was a matter of being rough on it initially and my body getting used to it.”

According to Gould political correctness is the biggest difference between Marine Corps boot camp in 1978 and the Army BCT in 2020. “There’s a lot of limitations on what you can and can’t say here. Things you can and can’t do,” he says. “There was basically no limitations when I went through boot camp. It was very hands-on. In other words they could touch you, they could move you. There was no regulations on corrective training for punishments. So you’d do 50, 60 100 repetitions of an exercise. Now, it’s limited to 10 and you can only do two different exercises with a limit of 10 per infraction. In my days, when I went through ... until you went into absolute muscle failure. That’s the way it was; but it was effective.”

Prior to BCT, Gould hoped to be able to serve as a mentor and role model to the younger trainees in his training cycle.

“A lot of the kids were receptive of it; some of them were not receptive and that’s a personal thing. I was able to influence the kids a lot and do the training I could do with them at different points and influence them,” he said. “But more than that I think a lot of the kids were kind of awe-struck or gobsmacked that I was here doing this because to them — I mean when i was 17, a 59-year-old man, that’s an old man — but I think the kids had that as an influence and they’re like ‘Oh my God, this guy’s 59 and then I’m doing the PT and doing everything with them, you know doing the road marches, doing everything they’re doing.”

The advice he’d offer to new recruits about to enter BCT is to prepare, do physical exercise and take a lot of calcium, and the easiest part of BCT is just following the rules.

“The easy part is going along to get along,” he said. “You know, going along with the program. Cause the program is very well thought out. Number one, the program is excellent. The training, the equipment, the support, the leadership and administration. The overall package is phenomenal. I think it’s phenomenal what they do here. I mean, overall if it’s a 1 to 10, on everything else, I’d say it’s a 10. I can tell that the people are working really, really hard to do the right thing to get the product out. And they work extremely hard to do that. And I see that at every junction. It doesn’t go by me; it’s not remiss.”

Overall, Gould said he enjoyed his time at BCT. “You know I think it was a great experience; it was a great adventure, and I exceeded my own expectations of myself of my own worth,” he said. “I did not expect to do as well as I did.”

Gould left the Marine Corps to work in law enforcement in California. He enlisted in the Army National Guard as an infantryman in the early 2000. He served as a civil affairs specialist before he left the service in 2009 to spend more time with his Family. He rejoined when he wanted to go back in and earn his pension. Gould only has to give two more years of service to earn his full pension, but he says “I’ll stay as long as they’ll have me.”

Gould is joining the 405th Civil Affairs Battalion’s detachment out of Las Vegas, the same unit his son, Spc. Jarrod Gould, is assigned.