FORT BENNING, GA — Earlier this week, Private First Class Jason Hentinger ceased to exist. Following a confrontation with Drill Sergeant Francis Humphrey, Hentinger was consumed, body and soul.
Soon after arrival at his basic training assignment, problems became apparent with the new recruit. Hentinger allegedly refused to bury his face in the top of a duffel bag he was hugging next to his chest while running the 2.5 miles to the temporary barracks in which he would be housed.
Another drill sergeant, Sergeant Brandon Wilson, also expressed disappointment with the new recruit: “I can spot a problem child, and that kid Hentinger ... I just knew he was going to be an issue when he didn’t blindly run over that pothole ridden parking lot.”
Problems only intensified for Hentinger. According to a platoon mate, Hentinger sometimes fell out of formation when running for PT.
“I mean, it wasn’t constant, but yeah, occasionally he would fall out of the runs. He wasn’t one of the guys who never kept up though,” said Private Alan Jennings.
Hentinger brought on the full fury of Humphrey during chow three weeks after arriving at Basic Training. 2nd Platoon had the policy of ordering recruits in a staggered line and then quizzing them with various bits of military knowledge. This information was readily available to the soldiers in an Army issued “Smart-book.”
“I mean, we gave him all the tools he needed to flourish, but when I quizzed him on the muzzle velocity of a 1964 Czechoslovakian modified Kalashnikov assault rifle, he just stared blankly ahead. I’m going to be honest, I kind of lost my cool," said Humphrey.
"I mean, who did this kid think he was to come into my DFAC and spit on the American flag?”
After failing to answer the question, Humphrey ordered Hentinger to the back of the chow line, where Hentinger would plot his later infractions. After grabbing a tray, Hentinger proceeded through the chow line. The recruit stopped only to open a small plastic case and get what is commonly referred to as a ‘fat-cake.’
“I was at a table of soldiers, making sure they got a proper amount of nutrition when I heard the hinge of that fat-cake door swing open. I smelled the delicious sugariness of the fat-cakes. That’s forbidden fruit in there. Real no-go type stuff. I walked over and explained that to Private Hentinger," said Humphrey, still visibly angry at the thought of a recruit eating dessert.
“Drill Sergeant fucking lost it," said Private Nathan Shill, also eating lunch that day, "At one moment he was banging on the table and yelling at us to shove our meatloaf into our [expletive deleted]. Then his head turned, and he raised his eyebrow. He looked at the Hentinger guy. The rest was like a blur.”
Accounts vary, but some things are common among various witnesses to the events. Humphrey jumped over a table, came down like the thunder of heaven, and began screaming into Hentinger’s face.
“The kid had lost control, so I needed to take corrective action. I felt like this was a good opportunity to use some of that old fashioned Drill-Sergeant-rant stuff. I calmly told Hentinger that I was going to rip out his heart with my fist and then stare into his eyes as I snuffed out his soul.”
During this conversation, Hentinger remained immobile and simply stared blankly at Humphrey. Humphrey, being egged on by other Drill Sergeants, told him to put down his tray and get into the push up position. It appears that Hentinger, rebelliously, remained utterly immobile and just stared at Humphrey dumbly.
“At that point, I had a difficult decision to make. The recruit had put me into a very bad position. I either had to go back on my promise to remove his head and use it as a make-shift Kevlar... or I had to remain true to the Army values of Honor and Selfless service. Basically - do the right thing. I mean, I had given my word after all.”
“That’s when shit got crazy,” says Specialist Johnson, a soldier who works on the chow line, “the lights got dim and smoke started to roll in through the doors. Drill Sergeant Humphrey started twitching and shaking. Someone was chanting in Latin n’ shit. All of a sudden, blood splattered against my face, but I couldn’t look away.”
“Drill Sergeant had his hands on both sides of the guy’s head. There was a bright light ... ” said Private Jennings, before collapsing into tears.
In the aftermath, a large black scorch mark adorned the floor of the Alpha Company dining facility. The TRADOC Commander of 673 Infantry Brigade, Maj. Everett Blackacre, was proud of his drill sergeants' dedication.
“I think that Drill Sergeant Humphrey did a very brave thing," said Blackacre. "I mean, he has truly set an example to, not only younger soldiers, but the non-commissioned officer corps as a whole. He has shown us what it means to place one’s own morality and petty concerns and live up to the army value of selfless service.”