On Standby (1)
“See You turn this thing to the side, like so,” Jo Won-Gu explained to Kang Jin-Ho as the group of privates crowded around them.
You understand, right”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
“Yes, I really did, sir.”
"Huh. Well, I know it's not easy to understand the first time around.
It's only natural to feel unsure when trying something new for the first time.
I can explain again, so don't worry and be honest, okay" Jo Won-Gu tried to persuade the private in a gentle-enough tone.
However, Kang Jin-Ho still replied flatly, "But, sir.
I really did understand."
Jo Won-Gu frowned a little while staring at Kang Jin-Ho's expressionless face.
'Doesn't that mean this brat is not your average chump...'
Since Kang Jin-Ho had quite easily overwhelmed Jeon Hyeok-Su, the fittest soldier in the 3rd Squad, his physical abilities must be pretty damn good.
However, using one's muscles and using one's brain were two different matters, weren't they
Jo Won-Gu cautiously asked, “Jin-Ho, you said you were attending Jaegyeong Uni, right”
“Yes, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
"I see..." Jo Won-Gu also nodded while thinking that it was no wonder this brat was so smart—he was good enough to attend one of the top three universities in the country.
"I'd love to make you disassemble and reassemble the howitzer, but we don't have enough time today, so let's take a rain check for that.
However, Jin-Ho You better pull your weight when you and I go to the firing range.
If you don't, I'm gonna show you what hell's like.
This hyung ain't the type to gloss over stuff like that, know what I mean"
“Understood, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly again.
Kang Jin-Ho’s composed attitude was enough for Jo Won-Gu to stop worrying about this subject.
If the newbie had really understood it, then that was great.
If not, then well...
All Jo Won-Gu would have to do was put the newbie through such tear-inducing hell that he would never act arrogant ever again in front of his seniors.
“Alright, take a good look.
This is a rod used for our jacks.
You slot it right in here...” Jo Won-Gu inserted a long metal rod into a groove in the howitzer's support beam.
“...Then, you turn it left or right to raise or lower the howitzer.
Jin-Ho, you know what's a car jack, don't you”
Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“...You know, the one you use to lift your car up when you want to service it.”
“I've never seen it before, sir.”
This and that operate on the same principle.
If I am to point out the differences, you pump the car jack up and down while you turn the rod side to side with a howitzer.
As for the next difference... Huu-euph!" Jo Won-Gu grabbed the rod with both hands and pushed it forward as hard as he could.
For a moment there, it seemed like his forward momentum had pushed something into position, causing the rod to tilt forward a bit and the crank to turn.
Jo Won-Gu let go of the rod and addressed the privates, "A compact car weighs less than a ton, but this howitzer is seven tons.
I'm sure you can imagine how much strength you need to put in."
Kang Jin-Ho contemplatively nodded.
I understand how it works, sir.”
“Is that right” Jo Won-Gu grinned in satisfaction.
The howitzer was already lowered to sit on the ground, so...
“In that case, you wanna have a go”
The other Private 2nd Classes were also making similar expressions to Jo Won-Gu's.
Only the two newbies to the corps, Ju Yeong-Gi and Kang Jin-Ho had no idea what was going on.
Jo Won-Gu tried to sound reassuring.
"Don't worry, Jin-Ho.
This is nothing to worry about since your seniors also do this all the time.
So, just give it a shot."
“Understood, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded and stepped forward.
What Jo Won-Gu failed to mention was that every senior who had attempted to solo-crank the jack ended up half-dead.
“Huh. I guess he'll be sh*tting blood for a while.”
“I don't know why I derive this perverse pleasure when watching newbies trying to crank the jackey.”
“Yeah, me too.”
The peanut gallery whispered quietly amongst themselves, but Kang Jin-Ho could hear them as clearly as daylight.
He tilted his head slightly.
'Is it that challenging'
He couldn't see anything too difficult here, but the response from the crowd suggested that this activity might be surprisingly strenuous.
Jo Won-Gu demonstrated how to crank the jackey one more time.
"Look closely, okay You grab here, then push forward like so.
Repeat as many times as you can.
Use your back, and it'll get easier.
“Of course, you won't fully appreciate it without doing it at least once by yourself, so give it a shot, Jin-Ho.”
"I will, sir." Kang Jin-Ho obediently grabbed the jackey's rod.
He began pushing the rod to the left and felt the howitzer go up ever so slightly.
'So, this is how it works'
The product of science seemed to have this capacity to amaze him every time.
At least, that was what it felt like.
Of course, even Zhongyuan's residents used pulleys and other devices that exploited various scientific principles on battlefields.
However, those were a child's play compared to the modern era's application.
"Hmm..." Kang Jin-Ho continued to push and pull the jackey rod far left and far right, repeating the motion as if he was rowing a boat.
Ting! Ting! Ting!
The sharp metallic 'ting!' rang out every time the rod was pushed to the far left.
“...” Jo Won-Gu’s jaw slowly fell to the floor as he witnessed this spectacle.
'T-this brat, what the hell!'
This was beyond the question of being strong or not.
A Private 2nd Class without a pro athlete background would quickly run out of stamina regardless of how strong they were while pushing the jackey rod that cranked a lot of weight.
The load was so heavy that most newbies trying it out for the first time would desperately hang on with their entire bodies.
Hell, some folks with weaker constitutions would even get too exhausted to continue and would just collapse!
However, that shouldn't come as a surprise because… cranking the jackey rod was a two-man job!
The standard practice was for two soldiers to insert separate rods into the crank and turn it simultaneously.
Even the frontline troops religiously stuck to the rule of two people per team for operating jackeys.
Under the pretext of training, Kang Jin-Ho was asked to do it alone, yet for him to pull it off so easily...
'...This is making me look bad!'
Jo Won-Gu scratched the back of his head.
Besides all that, though! Why was the cranking operation so...
smooth Wasn't this job designed to lift a seven-ton machine You would still feel the load acting against you when trying to lift up one side of a compact hatchback with a jack.
However, Kang Jin-Ho was pushing and pulling the rod as if nothing was hindering him.
It was as if he was simply swinging the rod in the empty air.
Ting! Ting! Ting! Ting! Ting! Ting! Ting!
“H-hang on a minute.
Shouldn't he stop”
“...! Third Squad Commander, sir! The support beam is gonna pop out, sir! The support beam!” One of the witnesses hurriedly cried out.
That was when Jo Won-Gu finally sobered up.
He urgently called out.
"Jin-Ho! Hold it! Stop!"
Kang Jin-Ho quickly stopped.
With a somewhat unfulfilled face, he turned his head toward Jo Won-Gu.
Is this enough”
“Y-yeah.” Jo Won-Gu hurriedly nodded, his mind repeating the same question over and over again.
'This brat, just what is he!'
Something about this scene seemed so...
What happened here couldn't be brushed aside with the usual 'Wow, this kid is pretty strong.' This job needed two grown men to work together and push themselves hard, yet Kang Jin-Ho did it alone oh-so-easily like some kid waving around a toy baseball bat.
He didn't even have the decency to break out in a sweat!
The normal ending to a newbie turning the jackey for the first time should have been said newbie soaked in sweat and half-passed out on the ground, so this...
“...Jin-Ho, what were you doing outside before enlisting Were you an athlete or something” Jo Won-Gu asked suspiciously.
“I was just a university student, sir.”
"I know you were attending a university.
That's not what I'm asking...
It's not like you were in the sports university, so, uh... Did you use to work out" Jo Won-Gu asked whatever came to his mind despite knowing how absurd he sounded right now.
He knew better than anyone that you couldn't crank the jackey just because you worked out a bit in a gym.
The corps already had a soldier who used to work as a fitness trainer before enlisting, after all.
That dude could easily bench-press a hundred kilos, yet even he would run out of breath while cranking the jackey.
When Jo Won-Gu asked him about it—that dude replied that 'exercising' and 'labor' were two completely different matters.
That reply was still stuck in Jo Won-Gu's head to this day.
Suddenly, Kang Jin-Ho raised his hand to draw attention to himself.
“Sir May I give it a go one more time”
Jo Won-Gu blinked his eyes.
“It feels like I'm still not used to doing it, sir.”
There's no need for you to crank the jackey anymore, Jin-Ho."
I think I can get it right by giving it one more go.”
“I'm telling you, there's no need!” Jo Won-Gu urgently cried out.
For the first time in the past one and a half years since his enlistment, Jo Won-Gu got to experience what it was like to dissuade a newbie from doing something.
And so, an emergency meeting was held within the 3rd Squad.
Jo Won-Gu quietly asked, “Just what is up with that punk”
“...Sir, all I can say is that he's no joke,” said Kim Yeong-Il.
“Did you talk to the newbie he came with”
And apparently, Jin-Ho was exactly like this back in the boot camp as well."
That's freaking crazy.” Jo Won-Gu groaned.
The mood in the meeting was turning weird at that revelation.
He sighed softly.
“It's a good thing that we have a certifiable Grade A newbie among us, but...”
That was how it was supposed to be, but why did it feel like his dignity and authority as a senior soldier was being trampled on Jo Won-Gu continued his sentence where he left off, his expression somewhat unwilling.
"Honestly, we ain't some dastardly seniors that bully newbies, no"
“Sir, I think I misheard you just now,” Kim Yeong-Il replied with a less-than-impressed face.
“Hah, this dumbass!” Jo Won-Gu pretended to smack Kim Yeong-Il in the head, but he didn't go through with his threat.
After all, he knew he was guilty of tormenting Kim Yeong-Il, his direct junior, far too much in the past.
“Are you gonna keep bringing up the stuff I did when I was still an immature little punk That's why I always treat you to good meals, don't I!”
I was merely trying to correct the factual error.”
“Keep that up, and imma kick your ass.” Jo Won-Gu ruthlessly put Kim Yeong-Il in his place, then addressed the rest of the meeting's participants.
“Here's the thing.
If you keep praising the newbie all the time, his head will grow too big for his own good and devour you all in no time at all.
I'll be discharged by then, so it doesn't really matter to me, but what about you all”
“...You're right, sir.”
"Haven't you found anything to nitpick with How is Jin-Ho's daily conduct"
“Well, it's kinda scary, sir.”
"Eh" Jo Won-Gu tilted his head.
"From his hygiene to his standby posture, he...
Sir, there's just no opening.
And staring at his locker almost gives me a panic attack, sir! That kid, he...
He just doesn't seem like a human at all."
“R-Really” Jo Won-Gu was taken aback.
However, it was still too early to be surprised as the floodgates had just opened.
“His combat boots are so well-polished that even a fly might slip and fall off it, sir! Heck, his boots were still shining like new even though he was training just now!”
"That's not all, sir! His uniform is always in perfect shape!"
“I saw him already awake and on standby ten minutes before the morning wake-up call, sir!”
"We need to be serious, sir.
Shouldn't we make Jin-Ho apply to become a non-commissioned officer If he continues to stay as a regular grunt, others will have a tough time, sir."
Jo Won-Gu groaned.
“Nothing I can do about that when the dude in question isn't interested.”
They were supposed to find a solution, a response, yet the more they talked, the more they felt like they were falling into a labyrinth.
“Sir, Jin-Ho was operating the jackey today, wasn't he How was it”
Hey, what was his nickname during boot camp, again"
“Sir, he was called the Terminator.”
“...Now I know why people call him that.” Jo Won-Gu sighed deeply, his expression unreadable.
The others also sighed and silently stared at the ceiling.
"We should be chuffed about having an excellent newbie, but this..."
This newbie was so excellent that the word 'excellent' didn't seem adequate to describe him, somehow.
Jo Won-Gu groaned deeply again.
“...For now, let's just keep watching how he does.”
The other soldiers nodded in agreement.
"If it doesn't look great, find whatever pretext you can, no matter how small, and wreck him."
“Sir Will that be alright We're no longer under the military regime, after all.”
Jo Won-Gu replied helplessly, “I know we shouldn't be doing that, but that brat needs to be disciplined properly, no”
Isn't our problem all about how he has too much discipline" said Jeon Hyeok-Su.
His body suddenly shuddered involuntarily after recalling Kang Jin-Ho's cross-legged figure sitting on the wooden floor.
That dude always sat cross-legged and totally unmoving while on standby.
"I thought he was some kinda Buddha statue or something, sir."
“And I thought I was looking at a paused TV screen.”
“Gee whiz, doesn't he get cramps sitting still like that”
Jo Won-Gu ignored another chorus of complaints and raised his voice.
As I said, we'll wait and observe for the time being.
Once his standby period ends, he'll be deployed right away.
Then, we might see some changes in him.”
Even as he said that, Jo Won-Gu couldn't help but sigh once again.
He didn't have a lot of time left in his service duration, yet why did he have to go through this nonsense thanks to a way-too-excellent newbie
Unbeknownst to Jo Won-Gu, though, there was one thing that could have provided solace to him.
And that would be...
He and his squad weren't the only ones suffering from Kang Jin-Ho's arrival.
"Get me a cup of coffee," said the Battery Commander of Charlie Artillery Corps, Ha Jin-Nam, to his secretary.
Having just returned from a meeting in the Battalion HQ, he was happily whistling away while entering his office.
"Damn, I feel good."
The weather was great, but the evaluation of his performance by the brass was even better.
It finally felt like he was on the right track after getting this job.
“Hmm, it seems I can aim for my first promotion just by keeping this up.”
Just as he comfortably settled down on his chair, the phone on his desk suddenly rang.
While tilting his head, Ha Jin-Nam answered the call, "Yes What is it"
- Sir, you got a call from the Battalion Commander.
Put him through, then.” Ha Jin-Nam coughed quickly to clear his throat.
“Line secured, sir.
This is Charlie Battery Commander speaking.”
- Yes, hello, Battery Commander.
“Victory!” Ha Jin-Nam got up and stood at attention to perform a magnificent salute.
Even though it wasn’t necessary, as the other party wasn't even in the office, his body just acted on its own.
- Okay, so.
I'm calling you because...
Ha Jin-Nam's expression betrayed how confused he was as he paid close attention to the voice coming from the phone's speaker.
The Battalion Commander he knew was definitely not the type to falter or hesitate like this.
Indeed, the Battalion Commander had always preferred concise instructions over anything else.
So, to hear someone like that hesitate during a phone call...
It could only mean that something big had happened.
“Sir, I'm listening.”
- Well, it's nothing, really.
Your corps received a couple of new recruits not too long ago, didn't it
“Ah, yes, sir.”
- One of them should be named Kang Jin-Ho.
Ha Jin-Nam narrowed his eyes slightly.
"...Private Kang Jin-Ho, sir"
- Yes, that Kang Jin-Ho.
I want you to bring all the documents pertaining to that kid and hurry back to the Battalion HQ.
“Sir” Ha Jin-Nam asked back in stupefaction.
- Just hurry up, will ya The Division Commander announced he'll be visiting here very soon!
Ha Jin-Nam's hand holding the phone's receiver began trembling from shock.
it may look confusing, but it’s I-L ☜