G. I. Low
Author, and illustrator P. S. Barlow, the creator of the popular G. I. Low comic joins me to talk about the comic, some of his experiences as a Drill Sergeant, and about how humor can help get people through difficult situations.
I had a lot of fun on this interview. Give it a listen!
Links & Resources
- Blank Firing Adapter: Origins and Basic Training Saga (Book)
- Blank Firing Adapter: Mosquito Wings and Tear Drops (Book)
- G. I. Low on Facebook
- G. I. Low on Instagram
- G. I. Low on Twitter
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:03 Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. Before we get started, I'd like to ask a favor if you haven't done so already, please rate and review the show on Apple podcast. If you've already done that, thank you. These ratings help the show get discovered so it can reach a wider audience. And while you're there click the subscribe button so that you get notified of new episodes as soon as they come out. If you don't use Apple podcast, you can visit DriveOnPodcast.com/subscribe to find other ways of subscribing, including our email list. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: Hey everybody. Today, my guest is an Army Drill Sergeant, so I made sure I got up early to get my PT in. I shaved, got my hair and regs and showed up for formation 15 minutes early. Not really. Anyways, my guess is PS Barlow, who is not just a Drill Sergeant, he's also the creator of the popular G. I. Low comic. So, Pete, welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and things like that?
P.S. Barlow: 00:01:10 Well, Scott, thank you for having me on the show. As mentioned before, I'm an active duty Drill Sergeant and I'm also the author and illustrator of the comic G. I. Low; I've been in the Army for 10 years and I just reenlisted for three more. So clearly, I've got a thing going. I had been writing the comic since I was in basic training. I had been sharing the comic online for about five of those 10 years. I have no intention of stopping.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:01:40 That's awesome. And so, for those listeners who might be living under a rock and don't know your comic, tell us a little bit about what the comic is about and where you came up with the idea for it.
P.S. Barlow: 00:01:55 The idea for the comic naturally was born of the fact that I joined the Army. As indicated by the title G. I. Low, the comic is a way of giving a shout out to the more unmemorable soldiers or at least the least qualified. I wanted to do an inverse of GI Joe, and that's exemplified by the central character, Sergeant Low, who is out of shape, unqualified, overwhelmed by responsibilities. I don't have any intention of making comic about super soldiers or the highest speed soldiers, because let's just be honest, they're not as funny.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:02:40 Oh, that's true. Yeah.
P.S. Barlow: 00:02:42 So, the comic itself got started when I was in basic training. I had a notebook because when you first get there, you get your notebook, which you can use for studying, writing down notes or writing letters to your battle buddies who you got “killed” because of your negligence. That was actually a thing. I don't know if that's still a thing in BCT, but in AIT, we don't do that. It's probably too creepy. I had a notebook and I've always loved doodling. I've never been very good at it. People who read my comic all attest to that. I didn't want to doodle because, I just thought everything going around with me, it was funny and I just made it into a little comic strip for the real fans, the full title used to be the adventures of GI Low and then everyone just called it G. I. Low.
P.S. Barlow: 00:03:35 So I figures that I would just drop the adventures part. Bam gone. The first comic strips that I did, there was no story. There was no character. Low was just this very loose looking caricature of me. I'd been used to doing little characters and as the comic has evolved, Low has been able to stand up on his own two boots, and he looks less and less like me as the comic has gone on just because I wanted him to be his own standalone character.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:04:07 It was probably a good thing too, that it doesn't look so much like you, because he sort of gets into some trouble and some antics and things like that. You don't want to exactly associate with that.
P.S. Barlow: 00:04:17 People ask about when Low is going to get promoted to Staff Sergeant. He's been a Buck Sergeant for six years now or something like that. I refuse to be the same rank as Low, not to mention he's bad at his job, so he's not going to get promoted really. So I've told people, if I ever make Sergeant First Class, which, knock on wood, happens sometime in my lifetime, then I'll make him a Staff Sergeant, but again, I like that buffer room between myself and this character I created.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:04:47 Right. And so your motivation then for creating this comic, not just creating it because, obviously back in basic training when you're doing your doodles and stuff that the motivation has changed over the years, I'm sure, but for putting it out now. I'm looking at your Facebook page, you have over 25,000 followers who are checking it out on a regular basis. What's your motivation for releasing this comic in this humorous medium?
P.S. Barlow: 00:05:22 I love to make people laugh. I took a shot at standup comedy very early in my Army career and it didn't go well. If I can give people something funny, like you touched upon “now,” I think he did that on purpose. Obviously 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone on the planet. I debated whether or not I should do comics about COVID-19, is that funny, especially since everyone knows the rules of comedy is tragedy plus time, and I haven't really given it much time. But I like, none of us, thought this would go on as long as it has. So, I decided that I'm going to do one COVID-19 comic because I'm an active duty Drill Sergeant and COVID-19 has changed everything about TRADOC.
P.S. Barlow: 00:06:18 I was like, well, there's the one. And then it kept going. And I was like, “well, nothing has changed.” So, I kept going and going and going, especially since the news is so continuously grim in this country. If I can bring some levity to this really unpleasant situation, hopefully I am doing my job. The comic for those of you read it, I don't write Doonesbury. This isn't a political comic. I don't like to really get into the heavy subject matters. It's more like, what's the deal with the Army combat fitness test? I did not want to curb the comic or just totally ignore COVID-19. Anyone who's in TRADOC right now, whether you're cadre or student, we went from marching to class every day and calling cadence to double arm interval.
P.S. Barlow: 00:07:20 You're not calling cadence; you're eating your meals on the Drill pad and you're standing on a block of tape to make sure that we're spaced out properly. It's surreal, but especially on this my second year as a Drill Sergeant. So, compared to the first year, everything is different. Just yesterday I was on a baggage detail because we can't just have soldiers coming and going from commercial airplanes anymore. So, we have to go onto the flight and receive all their bags as though this is combat deployment. I want to document this too, just so that I don't forget this. I mean, someday soon this will all be in the past and it'll become like, Hey, do you remember the year 2020? It wasn't that crazy. Remember Coronavirus. And it was weird. I just want to document what it was actually like.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:08:13 So I'm guessing there's no cattle car thing. People don't get shoved in those things anymore. I don't even know if that's still a thing. It was definitely when I went through too.
P.S. Barlow: It was a thing when I went through too.
P.S. Barlow: 00:08:29 I'm an AIT Drill Sergeant too. I should probably mention that. If you read the comic, the comic would be very funny if Low was a BCT Drill Sergeant too because it's more high, intense environment, but I'm an AIT Drill Sergeant and so guess what he gets to become an AIT Drill Sergeant.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:08:48 Yeah. So, I want to go back to one question that I had. As far as how you create it and where you come up with everything. Is it true that you still make it in Microsoft paint? It is true?
P.S. Barlow: 00:09:04 Much to the chagrin of all of my colleagues who have been trying to get me to join the 21st century. I just like it. I know how to use it. And back to the creation of the comic, when I first did it, it was a pen and paper and I was just cutting it out, mailing it to my friends, and then I got super advanced in pen and paper, and then I would scan it and then put it onto a computer and then share it. The beautiful thing about Microsoft Paint and I have this in common with PowerPoint Ranger, club knowledge, other people that use the really rudimentary stuff to make this is, I love that you can find it anywhere. Every computer has MS
P.S. Barlow: 00:09:48 Paint, as long as it's a MS computer. So, the comic took a huge break, five years. So, half of my Army career, I did not do the comic. Basically, I did it in basic training and then I took a five-year hiatus and then I was stationed in Germany and I would remember I was miserable. It was like all I wanted from the Army. I wanted to get stationed in Germany. And I finally got it and I was not happy. This was supposed to solve all my problems and it didn't. I didn't know how to articulate it without pissing off my friends and family that had heard me say for years, I want to get stationed in Germany. So, I thought a good way to do it, so it wouldn't be too whiny was to do it in comic strip form. So, I was on staff duty once, I pulled up Microsoft Paint, but if you read the early comics, they are brutal. I mean, just
P.S. Barlow: 00:10:46 the worst drawing ever. Because I hadn't quite figured out Microsoft Paint. I was literally just taking the little pencil tool,
P.S. Barlow: 00:10:53 drawing this stuff and then copy, pasting it because I'm lazy. I want to explain in a funny way, why I hate being stationed in Germany. By the way, I'm a completely shameless self-promoter. So, the relief for staff duty comes in and instead of briefing them on everything I've done, I'm like, “Hey, this comic I did, is this funny? Tell me it's funny and they say, “yeah, yeah,
P.S. Barlow: 00:11:20 it's funny.” But you know, did you do all the checks?” “Yeah, yeah.” “You did the checks? I also drew a fun comic.
P.S. Barlow: 00:11:27 And so immediately I just emailed it to myself, shared it on Facebook, tell me it's funny. And then everyone's like, it's funny, it's good. You should keep doing this. And so, really the first year of the comic, I was doing these things on my lunch break. I'm on a computer, there's MS Paint and I could spend an hour and a half going to get food or I could just sit here and make a comic about something weird that happened at work and the earliest comics there was no story. There was no structure. I mean, Low goes from Germany to Afghanistan, to Fort Stewart, Georgia, without any through line; it's complete shuffle mode of a comic. I would do little observations, things you don't expect in the Army, like for example, having to watch two people pee. I don't know where you noncommissioned officer.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.
P.S. Barlow: Alright. So yeah, they left that out of the go Army video.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:12:25 Yeah, the recruiter left that out.
P.S. Barlow: 00:12:27 See all that you can pee in the Army. You just expect to pee in a cup. You don't expect a watch. A third of the males in your company have to pee. It’s weird just standing there. It's like, okay, sir, how's the family. Well, I can tell you're hydrated. So just trying to find the little awkward moments that don't often get reflected, like movies and TV shows, comic strips have always been great at finding the idiosyncrasies of the Army that people don't think of. I am definitely coloring within the lines that were created by Bill Malden and Mort Walker, comic strips about the military have been around as long as the military.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:13:14 Sure, absolutely. Back to your days in Germany, when you pick this back up, it probably served almost in a way, a therapeutic way of releasing that frustration that you had with your day to day activities and things like that.
P.S. Barlow: It was my therapist.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. That's where I was getting with that. It seems like it probably was a great way for you to vent without necessarily pissing anyone off.
P.S. Barlow: 00:13:50 Yeah. And that's a very important point. Whenever you're taking the piss out of the Army, you do run the risk of angering your leadership, which, God knows no soldier really wants. I think one of those moments where I, by the way, I'm still active duty, I'm still making the comic, I'm still prone to pissing people off. But one of my favorite moments ever was when my first book published through Divided by Zero, there's my shout out. I published a book and it did very surprisingly well. I outsold all the Garfields for one weekend. Bam. You know, it's going to be my tombstone, but I remember I was at my company and my company Commander called me into his office and I'm like, “Oh God, what did I do? What did my soldiers do?” And he goes, “can you autograph this?”
P.S. Barlow: 00:14:42 And I was like, I think it's going to be okay.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. He wasn't too upset with that.
P.S. Barlow: 00:14:49 I know, Bill Mauldin managed to piss off General Patton. I'm friends with Mark Baker who writes Private Murphy and he's explained that he has gotten angry emails from the Pentagon. I have avoided that so far. I think I've a less edgy comic than those two very talented cartoonists, but it's still just always on that precipice, especially as a Drill Sergeant, my content is about the soldiers and training and the Drill Sergeant. I'm making fun of a bunch of teenagers that I'm in charge of, right? I'm waiting for the moment when one of the soldiers files a complaint against me because he didn't like how I was portraying the comic and then I'd have to tell them, I don't make comics about my soldiers that are still here. I wait until you leave. It's a little gesture of professionalism.
Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Yeah. And these days you might even get a call from their mom or something. And I would not be surprised.
P.S. Barlow: Or like families of soldiers and training here would be like,
P.S. Barlow: 00:16:00 “My little boy was publicly mocked on a public forum about the fact that he didn't shave this morning is a very sensitive demeanor and he cannot take it. I demand the comic be canceled.
Scott DeLuzio: So, the fear is a definite possibility. I can see that type of thing happening, but you seem to, excuse the pun, stay within the lines, and not get anyone too riled up with the stuff. But it's funny too. And I think, part of it, there's art and artistic side to it, where you're using the medium, that you have to express yourself and your maybe frustrations or your things that you consider funny or whatever. But it's also a good way to express yourself as well.
P.S. Barlow: Absolutely. I would say, I don't necessarily consider my comic necessarily art, but there's that art therapy component of it, because if you read the comic, I'm dealing with so much of the comic is Low embarrassing himself out at work.
P.S. Barlow: 00:17:12 And, I tell people Low isn't me, but all of my worst qualities get put in, so all of my shortcomings as a noncommissioned officer and a soldier, anytime something happens where I'm just racked with shame for like a week. That's funny, I think Low should do that. It's a way of taking ownership of the embarrassment and ownership of just the feelings of, if you read the Drill Sergeant Academy comics, the Drill Sergeant Academy is challenging. I remember when I first found out I was on the work order for Drill Sergeant duties, I thought this is a mistake. No one who has met me has ever thought this is a Drill Sergeant candidate. I told people that and they were like, yeah, I never could picture you as a Drill Sergeant. Like, thanks, asshole. I got there and God bless my squad. They're amazing people. I'm so glad I graduated with them, but they were like, “You, you I can’t...”
P.S. Barlow: 00:18:14 “You seem so.” I've just looked the most POG human being you have ever met in your life. For those of you who don't have a good visual, I look like Steve from Blue’s Clues. It doesn't really conjure up the image of Arlie Army. So just like that, all of my insecurities were magnified at the Academy. I was just telling myself, you're a non-commissioned officer. You can't even do this. You can't explain this. You can't, good God, why do you keep bending your arms at the elbows when you're March? I really tried, by the way, the whole time I was at the Academy, I did not bring my laptop. I didn't bring anything to post the comic was online. I just gave myself that summer off, got back and immediately started making comics about all of my memories of the Drill Sergeant Academy.
P.S. Barlow: 00:19:06 And I really wanted to touch upon that insecurity that kept me up at night at the Drill Sergeant Academy; I wanted to make it funny and own it, and then that's continued throughout being a Drill Sergeant. I'm bragged with insecurity all the time. Like, did you do that right? Here's a story. Drill Sergeants are known for their one-liners and the quips and whatnot. You'll just have a moment. I had a soldier; I was in charge of remedial physical training and she was explaining to me what we could do that would help her out. And I just screamed at her, this isn't Burger King,
P.S. Barlow: 00:19:47 You can't have it your way. And then they just walked away. Like what did I say? That was funny.
P.S. Barlow: 00:19:57 Well, again, if I can put that on paper and the therapeutic component, and if others can find themselves in that comic or in the comics in general, then I feel like I'm doing my job. I'm so relieved that people have been so positive towards the comic. If you read the comic, you know Low is overweight and people have been like, “Oh, I'm so glad that there's representation of that. The soldiers that always have to get tape in a comic strip. I'm glad I can do that for you. I had people getting ready for the Drill Sergeant Academy who messaged my page for about a year just saying, what advice do you have? How can you help me out? And I told them, “did you read the comics about Low at the Academy? Do the exact opposite.”
Scott DeLuzio: 00:20:45 That's perfect. That's probably really great advice too.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:20:48 especially for anyone who takes a look at the comics that shows he is doing the wrong thing more often than not in most cases. And it seems like not following in his footsteps is probably the right way to go. You mentioned earlier a couple of books that you said you have one book, I believe.
P.S. Barlow: 00:21:12 Two books out. They're both available on Amazon, and their published through Divided by Zero it's a veteran owned publishing house. So, the first book is BFA. Um, so either Blank Firing Adaptor or a Bachelor of Fine Arts, that was basically created out of a mistake I made when I graduated from college with a degree in film production. I know it's a weird through line, but again, it's just proof that you can get great jobs when you have a degree in film production. I was in basic training and they issued us our BFA, and I was like, well, last year I got a BFA, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in this year, I get a blank firing adapter. I later got corrected that film production is a Bachelor of Arts, not a Bachelor of Fine Arts, because film is not fine.
P.S. Barlow: 00:22:06 So, I had to change Low's bachelor's degree, so he's a creative writing major. The second book is called and Mosquito Wings in Teardrops. I've got a third book in the works that we're working on right now with Divided by Zero. It's going to be called A New Low because I realized I don't exploit the fact that there's an easy pun in the name of my comic enough. And that was actually someone in the comment section. He just wrote like, well, this is the new low, and I was like, you know what? I love that that's the next book title.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:22:45 That's awesome. I wanted to give you the opportunity to talk a little bit about them and say where people can pick up a copy of those books. And I'll try to link those in the show notes too afterwards.
P.S. Barlow: Thank you very much.
Scott DeLuzio: So, when this episode eventually comes out, we'll have those in there. And when the third book comes out, just let me know and I'll be sure to update that too. So, before we started recording, you were talking a little bit about, I forgot the comic that you said, but he was talking about
P.S. Barlow: Dave Chappelle.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Dave Chappelle. Yeah. I'll let you put it into words better than I will by asking the question.
P.S. Barlow: 00:23:33 I will do my best to put it into words better than the both of us can. The formula of a tragedy comedy is tragedy plus time. A way of looking at it that I think was really beautiful, I just saw this interview with Dave Chappelle and he was talking about how he made the decision to leave the Chappelle show and how it was formed by his decision to go into comedy that he as a kid, he was bullied and he was always laughed at and by becoming funny, he found a way to control the laughter, which I think a lot of people can identify with. I was bullied a lot as a kid. I know it must be shocking, and it was a long arduous process before I could get people to laugh with me instead of at me.
P.S. Barlow: 00:24:26 The formula right now is still about 60/40, but anytime I've listened to a standup comedian talk about why did you get into this? And it was because I was miserable and I wanted to own the people that were mocking me. I think that's very true for the comic strip too. I mentioned this before, every time I meet someone they're like, I can't see you as a Drill Sergeant or something that affected me for years, I had people say, I can't see you as a soldier. I think by magnifying that in the comic, like if I did a comic where a loose alter ego of mine was this bad-ass, who is going into Afghanistan, saving the day and he's got beautiful women on both of his arms.
P.S. Barlow: 00:25:22 People will be like, yeah, that's a wish fulfillment. You seem desperate. This is sad. But by making a comic about someone who was terrible at his job, but it was so much worse as an NCO than I am. I think, it's sort of like, “well, you think I'm a bad soldier, you should look at this guy.” I don't know if that's any less desperate, but that's my thought, and it's projecting that insecurity, hopefully in a funny manner for lots of people. Can you see THIS guy as a Drill Sergeant?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:25:55 Well, I think a lot of us, myself included, grew up in a way that may be similar to you where people are going to say, I don't see you as a Drill Sergeant. I don't maybe not even as a soldier or whatever. And I think it was probably a shock to some people when I said I was joining the Army too. And I graduated with an Accounting degree, probably the most mundane nerd thing that you could possibly do. And then I went Infantry and they were like, what the hell are you doing? Why aren't you sitting behind the desk somewhere crunching numbers? I could see that, but not necessarily this.
P.S. Barlow: 00:26:44 Why did you join the Army, it’s like a real thing. You don't need a film degree to become a film director, but Accounting that's real.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:26:54 Yeah, no. And, I had that before I even joined the Army. It was one of those things where, when I joined the Army, I was just angry at the country's reaction to 9/11 where the Army's recruiting members at the time were at all-time lows. And they were struggling to meet their numbers. And I was like, well, why are people just forgetting what was happening? Like just a couple of years ago when 9/11 happened and then I was like, well, I'm not really helping the situation either by sitting here on my ass and that's pretty selfish not doing anything. So, I said, you know, well, screw it. I'm young enough, I'm healthy enough. I didn't go active duty.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:27:39 I went National Guard, but I still was able to continue working my accounting job that I had, but I did deploy to Afghanistan. I still did the things that I wanted to do to help out the country. And so, I hit that mark by doing that. But people looked at me back then and it was like, you might try, but I don't know that you're going to actually do this. So, good luck to you, but hats off, whatever. At the time I barely worked out, I was like out of shape and running a mile, I was about to double over and puke all over the place and stuff. I just was not that in shape or whatever,
P.S. Barlow: 00:28:26 I think I was successfully able to do 20 pushups at my recruiting station. It was like, well, how many do I need to pass a 40, what?
P.S. Barlow: 00:28:37 Oh God, I have to get twice as good shape as I am now. For four years at film school, won't make you the most in-shape person ever.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:28:46 No, no, no. 4 years of any school, I think any sort of college will not make you very in shape unless
P.S. Barlow: you're majoring in CrossFit or something like that.
Scott DeLuzio: Or if you're trying to get good at beer pong or something. So on that topic of people coming into the Army, maybe are not quite so sure of themselves, maybe they're coming from a place like maybe you and I came from where they're not so sure that they're going to be able to make it through or whatever. Is there anything that you would like to tell the people who are considering joining the military, anything that helped make your job as a Drill Sergeant easier, or other people in your shoes to help them out before they even get to the Army?
P.S. Barlow: 00:29:37 Absolutely. I think in terms of getting through it is to not lose your sense of humor. People tend to get very fatalistic when they're in TRADOC and you'll hear, Oh my God, I've ruined my life. Or, Oh, this is worse than prison. They're being very dramatic if only because they're teenagers and teenagers have one mode and it's dramatic. A lot of them have behavioral health issues all the time. I'm like our poor chaplain, he's the nicest man, he's just exhausted from everything he has to do. Remember to laugh, this is funny, one of my favorite memories from basic training. And by the way, when I got to basic training, I was terrified.
P.S. Barlow: 00:30:34 I never wanted to join the Army. It was just this decision that was born out of economic needs. I graduated into the great recession back in 2009 and it was like, “Oh God, I need to not be homeless. What can I do? Join the Army? All the stereotypes of bootcamp, I was just building up this big monster in my head about what it was going to be like, and you get there and it's like, well, this isn't as bad, but it's still bad. And we had this one Drill Sergeant in my platoon and she was fear of wrath of God, terrifying, and she just never stopped screaming and she was always smoking us.
P.S. Barlow: 00:31:18 And she was just exactly what you picture as a Drill Sergeant, she was it. She wasn't in a platoon, but she came into our Bay once to find something and she's just instantly honing in on every mistake that we have. She's ripping open our wall lockers, tearing stuff down and just calling us a piece of shit. And we're the dumbest morons she's ever met in her life. And she comes up to someone and she goes, when I was a little girl, my mom had told me there were idiots like you, I didn't believe her, but she was correct. And it took all of my self-control not to scream. That's aliens. You just did the line from Aliens and you just changed monsters with idiots. And it was this moment of like clicking. It was like, Oh, they're faking it. They're doing what anyone else does, which if they want to sound intimidating, they quote James Cameron.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:32:13 When I was in basic training, I have a terrible fear of heights. Like the worst. I was at Fort Benning. I could be on a step ladder changing a light bulb and my knees are shaking. So, we're on the rappel tower. It's like a three-story tower and I have to repel off that.
P.S. Barlow: We had one of those at Jackson too, it was terrible.
Scott DeLuzio: I get up to the top and there's a Drill Sergeant at the top and to make sure you're hooked into your harness and everything like that. He can tell I am scared shitless. And so, I take a step over the edge and I'm getting ready. I got the ropes where they're supposed to be and everything. And as soon as both feet got over the edge, were touching the wall. The Drill Sergeant yells, “Holy Shit! Give me your hand; you’re not clipped in right!
Scott DeLuzio: 00:33:13 I think I, I achieved flight that day, by how fast I got back up over the wall, I didn’t grab his hand. I just like jumped up and climbed back over the wall. And it was the scariest thing, but he couldn't catch his breath. He was laughing so hard at my reaction to this. So, afterwards, now this is 15 some odd years later I can look back and I can laugh at it.
P.S. Barlow: Oh, my God if I ever get an opportunity, I'm doing that.
Scott DeLuzio: Oh yeah. That would be awesome.
P.S. Barlow: If you can scare the people. Oh God.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:33:52 It scared me so bad. And then I have to go back over the wall and actually repel down, which is even worse. I could totally laugh at that now. Oh, there's humor in that. And I think he was trying to lighten the situation for me and make it not so serious. He failed miserably. That was a total fail, but he totally could have given me a heart attack that day. That was terrible. But I did it. I ended up going over the wall and I repelled down. I got down and every time I've repelled since then, we've done it in training and stuff like off mountains and things like that every time I think to myself, double check to make sure it's all clipped in.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:34:42 So even though he was just trying to be a jerk or whatever and make a scary situation funny or whatever the case may be. It still reminded me years and years later, double check, make sure you're all hooked in. He did his job.
P.S. Barlow: He did. Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: And the training worked, I've never had an incident where I got hurt rappelling or anything like that. It always scared me. I never liked doing it, but I could always do it safely. He definitely did his job better. So, that would be awesome if you do that. I might get in trouble, but I'm throwing some soldier under the bus right now by saying, totally do that to that kid who is scared shitless of going over the rappel tower, but I think it's important to echo what you were saying, it's important to have some fun with basic training.
P.S. Barlow: 00:35:44 Basic training, AIT, it's very insular. That's what I tell my soldiers all the time when they're like, you know, Drill Sergeant, I feel like I'm never going to leave this place or like the high school drama that happens. Oh, good gravy, like the soldiers, they're constantly bullying each other and bickering with each other and they all hate living with each other and all this stuff. I tried to empathize with them because I was in their boots once. Most of them are right out of high school. And if you remember high school, the high school is the world. Both of us have internet presence where we produce content that we actually literally have access to the world as long as they've got the internet.
P.S. Barlow: 00:36:38 But when you're in high school, I mean like a bad reputation, it feels like just a life changer, because when you're there, just everyone you know is there and then you graduate high school and you're like, I don't remember 90% of the names of anyone I went to high school with, but for four years I was really obsessed with impressing them. It's like that because most of them graduated high school and then enlisted in the Army. There's just this feeling of, “Oh, I don't think they liked me. Oh, I embarrassed myself.” Guys, you're here for six months. You will leave this place and you will immediately start forgetting and it's going to be cool. And you're going to be in duty stations all over the world and you're only going to be there for a few years. And then you gotta go to the next duty station somewhere else in the world. Just lighten up a little bit.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:37:34 Awesome reset button that you can screw up and then just suck it up and deal with it for the next few months and then move on to the next place. And no one's going to remember you.
P.S. Barlow: 00:37:45 Anyone who, especially if they're younger, because when you're younger, your brain is still forming and it's still trying to figure out this whole being a human thing. I'm like, it just takes off and knowing that everything is very temporary and when you're in TRADOC, it's a drop of water in the ocean. That is your life. Just relax as much as you can. I mean, don't let your standards go to the wayside, but again, I'll say laughter's the best medicine. As long as I've been alive, it's helped me through the worst times. So if you're having a really bad time while you're in basic training or AIT, crack jokes, at the very end of your time and training, if the Drill Sergeant say, alright, I want to see impersonations of us, volunteer. Like I remember I didn't do that when I was in basic cause I was too scared of the Drill sergeants. I did that at the Drill Sergeant Academy, and it was very much like getting to go through basic a second time, and at the very end they're like, all right, let's get impersonations of us. I was like, I'm not missing this opportunity again. Because guess what? I don't want to go through basic again.
P.S. Barlow: 00:39:01 Yeah. Yeah. And by the way, Drill Sergeants, we love those impersonations, if only because sometimes they're so bad, they're good.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:39:08 Right? Yeah. And we definitely did that and I did not raise my hand. I was not going to volunteer for that. Throughout basic training I just tried to keep in the shadows and not be anyone who volunteered too much.
P.S. Barlow: 00:39:30 I wanted that more than anything. Well actually I wanted more than anything to graduate basic training, but more than anything I wanted to be that forgotten person on day two of basic training, I choked on a waffle and a Drill Sergeant had to perform the Heimlich on me, which I couldn't have very easily let break my morale. But instead I try to make that into my thing where self-deprecation is huge. We talk about comedy, but that's so broad. Self-deprecation has always benefited me. It's me making fun of me to take that away from the people that would make fun of me with like malicious intent. You can't disassemble the 249 and I choked on a waffle and even I could do it. So, if you have embarrassing moments, make it your thing. That's your mistake. You get that's yours. So be the first one to crack jokes about it because otherwise a bunch of souls are going to do it for you.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:40:38 Exactly. And you gotta get okay with that quick because it's going to happen one way or the other either you need to be able to make those jokes about yourself or they're coming one way or the other.
P.S. Barlow: 00:40:49 Guess how many people from basic training, remember that? Probably me and only me. Don't let it bog you down, because I had this great moment when I was back home for Christmas leave and I was seeing all my best friends from high school and we were just talking and I was like, Oh man, I was so awkward back then. And one of my best friends turns to me, he goes, Pete, shut up. We were all so awkward back then. I was like, Oh, alright so try not to beat yourself up too much either.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:41:27 Yeah, absolutely. I was one of the older soldiers going through basic training. I had already graduated high school, graduated college a couple of years, working out of college. So, I was already in my mid-twenties or so 25, something like that, 25, 26, somewhere around there. So, I was already older. I saw the insecurities of the younger, 17, 18-year-old kids who are going through the late teens or whatever, going through it and how it resembled high school so much. And I felt like the joke of the old veteran who's using his GI bill, he's going to be a cop. And he's almost like Billy Madison he's in college.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:42:19 And he feels like he's so old with all these young kids in class with them and he's looking around and it's like, how you have to complain about, you got nothing to complain about, that type of thing. And then I look at some of these kids and I felt that way in basic training because I felt like I was the old guy and I think there's like one other guy who's older than me, but one or two, but I looked at all these young kids and I was like, you guys have absolutely nothing to worry about. Like you have your whole life. So, you're going to be fine.
P.S. Barlow: 00:42:50 You're also in the best physical shape you will ever be in your Army career. People have asked me, what's harder basic training or the Drill Sergeant Academy and it's 50 50 either way, one cool thing about Drill Sergeant Academy that we didn't have at basic was weekends off, bam was not expecting that and did not bring much civilian clothes. So, people thought I was CID, because we'd go out on our weekends, why are you wearing your uniform? I was like, I don't have civvies. Are you CID? No, I'm just really awkward and cheap. The hardest part about basic training compared to Drill Sergeant Academy is your body has aged with you. It was about eight years between basic training and the Drill Sergeant Academy for me. And I remember in basic you get hurt and then the next day you're fine. And then this time around on the confidence course, then the next day it's like, “Oh, my knees don't work.” We have a ruck. Okay, I'm just going to grin and bear it.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:43:58 Right, exactly. Yeah. And I think, if I was to go through a second basic training, whether it was something like the Drill Sergeant Academy or if I decided to reenlist and I had to go through it all over again, I think that the hard thing for me would be the fact that I already did this and now I've got to go do it again. And I got to go get yelled at again, as if I've never done this before. And I don't know what I'm doing, that type of thing. I'd probably be like mentally; I'd just be exhausted with that.
P.S. Barlow: 00:44:32 I lucked out because my brain reverted back to being a private because I went to basic at Jackson. I went to the Drill Sergeant Academy at Jackson. I could see my old Bay from my barracks room at Jackson. It was very much a recall mode. I was a staff Sergeant at the time and I am still a Staff Sergeant. I remember you get there and people are like, “Oh, are you afraid of being yelled at by someone the same rank as you? The Drill Sergeant approached us, the same rank as me. There was no ego. It was just, Yes, Drill Sergeant, actually it's worse. If any of you listening out there are going to go to The Drill Sergeant Academy do not say the following phrases Hooah, Roger, or negative, the Drill Sergeant leaders will destroy you because I said all of those things, if you read the comic about the Drill Sergeant Academy, that was one of the first things I did was make a comic about that awkward moment when I got there and you're signing in and the Drill Sergeant is there, is this information correct to the best of your understanding? I say, Hoo-ha.
P.S. Barlow: 00:45:41 And now, he goes, we don't say Hooah here it's Yes, Drill Sergeant, no Drill Sergeant. Roger, like, Oh my God, I didn't mean to do that.
P.S. Barlow: 00:45:50 Oh, I have never seen a Drill Sergeant angrier than a time that I said negative. And I'm like, Oh my God, Drill, Sergeant don't kill me. I'm a staff Sergeant and a combat vet at this time. It was like, what? Oh my God. So yeah, if you're going, don't say any of those things just say yes, Drill Sergeant, no Drill Sergeant that is it.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:46:13 And in basic training or AIT, are soldiers still not supposed to apologize to you? Like I know when I was in basic training and I did, I forget what I did, but I remember standing there and I was looking at the Drill Sergeant. I said, sorry, Drill Sergeant. And he goes, don't say, sorry,
P.S. Barlow: 00:46:32 Did you just call me a sorry Drill Sergeant. I said, of course I do.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:46:36 But, but he said, don't say, sorry. And I said, uh, I apologize, Drill Sergeant. Like I really was sorry. And I said, and he's like, get the hell out of my face.
P.S. Barlow: 00:46:48 Oh yeah, no, I steal all of the lines. I may be a writer, but damn like sometimes I just have to copy paste from my Drill Sergeant and Drill sergeant leaders from the past. Anytime someone says, sorry, I have to shout, did you just call me a sorry Drill Sergeant. It works, it's effective. Anytime someone says, one of my favorites, if I'm going to do it so often, I like to at least do a turn of phrase occasionally. So, people will say, I appreciate you Drill Sergeant. I'm like, don't appreciate me. Appreciate your recruiter. Just because it gets boring after a while.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:47:27 Yeah. And if you're doing same ones over and over and over, I'm sure. But also going back to what you were saying before, it's good to have a sense of humor. And even for you even in your job, dealing with some of the craziness and stupidity, sometimes that might come with it, you can have to have a sense of humor.
P.S. Barlow: 00:47:50 I don't know if I'm the funny Drill Sergeant. I would certainly love it if I were, I think my reputation is I'm the bipolar Drill Sergeant, so I got something.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:48:02 There is something there. That's great. As we wrap this up here, do you have any last words of wisdom for people where they might be in a situation like you were in Germany? They thought that this is what they wanted maybe in their career or whatever. And they're just sucking it up and dealing with it, but they're not happy about it or anything like that, any last words of wisdom that might be able to help people out with that type of a situation?
P.S. Barlow: 00:48:40 The advice I give my soldiers that are having a really bad time is the same advice I would give to any soldier that's already a service members having a really rough time, create don't consume, create. I'm as guilty as anyone about the consuming thing. I'll spend hours scrolling through Facebook on my phone and realize, well, that was my morning, let me just shave and brush my teeth, but if you're in a bad place, create something from that bad place. I talked to my soldiers all the time. Obviously, I have my thing, I have a comic strip, but if you don't want to do something like that just draw or if you can't draw, you have a musical instrument, play a musical instrument, sing, do something where you're taking those feelings and you're putting it out.
P.S. Barlow: 00:49:34 What you put out there might be appreciated by more people than you realize. I created this comic thinking I'd make a few of my friends laugh. And as you said, at the top of the hour, I have 25,000 followers. Now I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be on podcasts, talking about doodles I made during my lunch break on Microsoft paint. But you might, I'm not even saying I'm necessarily tell them you might have a talent that people like. So, if you can take those horrible feelings and make something others want, and you might have this pride in yourself, but you might discover some hidden talent. I never aspired to make comic strips. And guess what? It's the biggest thing I'm known for. So, if you want to dance, dance, if you want to cook, cook, if you want to become an architect, become an architect, but the point is take your feelings and make them tangible.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:50:42 Yeah, I definitely agree. Do something with them. I do this podcast, you know, I create this and put it out there, and if it helps one person cool, if it helps a thousand people even better, but I had no expectations of really getting any huge following or anything. I just wanted to put some helpful information out there and get things like PTSD and suicide and things like that in a situation where people were more aware of it and can do something for the better with it. Things like drawing, dancing, playing the instrument, sculpting something out of clay or whatever is going to help express yourself and get those things out. It's the same reason why people go to talk therapy where they're getting those emotions out in there. They're just doing it in a different format. You can draw, maybe somebody else can't draw, but everyone could talk.
P.S. Barlow: 00:52:04 For anyone out there who is scared to draw because they don't think they're very good. Look at my early artwork, look at any of my comics that I've ever done. And look at the hands, clearly an inability to draw does not hinder you from having a successful webcomic out there. So, for the love of God keep drawing
Scott DeLuzio: 00:52:25 And like anything you get better with practice, when you're a kid learning to tie your shoes, it was probably the hardest thing in the world for you at the time. But then once when you figured it out, you practice it and eventually figure it out. Now it's second nature. Same thing with drawing or playing an instrument or whatever, you don't think Jimi Hendrix just picked up a guitar and just started like jamming out. He had to practice like everybody else,
P.S. Barlow: 00:52:52 If you're out there and you're a prodigy, I hate you.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:52:56 Okay.
P.S. Barlow: 00:52:57 The rest of us had to practice dammit.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:53:00 This was, everyone else who's listening is not going to be able to see this, but I'm going to show Pete. This was this morning.
P.S. Barlow: I love it.
Scott DeLuzio: This was my attempt at making a G. I. Low.
P.S. Barlow: 00:53:15 That is so good. You showed me this. I was like, did I send that to you?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:53:19 No. I took a look at your logo on the Facebook page. I copied off of that, but I've just recently started getting into sketching as an art form. I haven't done too many sketches yet, but I figured this interview inspired me to do a quick sketch of that.
P.S. Barlow: Scan that so that I can share it to the page.
Scott DeLuzio: that'd be awesome. I posted it to my Instagram if anyone who's listening wants to go check it out. You can go find a little doodle of GI Low on there too.
P.S. Barlow: So, it definitely better than some of the drawings that I've done a Low, so, you got that going for you.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:54:05 I will definitely send that to you. So that'd be awesome. Thank you, Pete for being on the show sharing what you've shared and I think the advice that you gave is really spot on. Hopefully, anyone who's listening to this will understand that before we started recording, I was saying to you that I wanted to keep this lighthearted. And inject a little bit of humor in this, but I think that went along well with the advice that you're giving, laugh and poke fun at yourself sometimes, make yourself the butt of the joke or whatever the case may be and make things funny, make life funny because it really is.
P.S. Barlow: If you stop and look around, it's not as serious as everyone makes it out to be, anytime you think the world is too serious, just remember this, the world created the duck-billed Platypus.
Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. And, and that is probably the most absurd, a creature that has ever graced the planet. So, thank you again for joining us, I really appreciate it and keep doing the comic because it's really great.
P.S. Barlow: Keep doing the podcast. You're doing a great job.
Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:55:30 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:55:32 If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, DriveOnPodcast.com. We're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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