FT. BENNING, GA – Like most of his peers, Private Jack Jerrelsen has been sternly reprimanded for his shortcomings during Infantry training.
Stand up straight.
What are you doing coming out here with your uniform wrinkly like that?
You call that making your bunk?
But for the 17-year-old Washington native, the source of those criticisms isn’t his instructor. It’s his mother, Private Sharon O’Brien.
“By the time the sergeant gets to Jackie to inspect him, he doesn’t have anything to say, because I already got to him first,” the 36-year-old O’Brien said.
Jerrelsen and O’Brien are attending One Station Unit Training, the Army’s Infantry school, and are in the program’s second phase: Advanced Individual Training. They are the first mother-son pair in U.S. military history to attend Infantry training together.
“When Jackie told me he was going to sign up for the Army, and for the Infantry no less, sure I had some reservations,” O’Brien said. “You don’t raise a kid so that he can go out and get himself shot at.”
O’Brien spoke with Jerrelsen’s recruiter, who eased her fears and sold her on the benefits of military service—so well that she decided to enlist and pursue a career in the Infantry herself.
“It sounded like a good way to get my mind off my recent divorce with [Jerrelsen’s stepfather] Roger,” O’Brien said. “And between you and me, I liked that I’d be able to keep my eye on Jackie. He’s a good kid, but I know he needs a little help applying himself.”
O’Brien has handled the physical demands with ease, a fact she chalks up to years of power walking and boot camp fitness classes at her neighborhood Zumba studio.
“Private O’Brien can tackle any challenge we throw at her,” said SFC Mike Trail, the platoon sergeant. “Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Private Jerrelsen, who according to O’Brien spent his youth playing Call of Duty and smoking cigarettes outside the gas station with his friend Darnell."
“Hopefully,” Trail added, “he’ll listen to O'Brien's advice and turn into a lean, mean Infantryman, just like his mom.”
Jerrelsen and O'Brien will soon have company. An Air Force source speaking on condition of anonymity has announced that an entire family—father, mother, son, daughter, and the family's pet, a 2-year-old German Shepherd—will be attending training together to join the Security Forces, which the source described as "pretty much the Air Force's Infantry anyway."
Trail said that he doesn't anticipate anything preventing Jerrelsen and O'Brien from graduating and becoming successful soldiers.
"With some guidance, I'm sure Private Jerrelsen will be a good troop and a welcome addition to the Army," Trail said. "As for O'Brien, she keeps talking about buying a 2003 Mustang from the local dealership. And somehow she met a 300-pound ex-convict in town during training, and she's considering marrying him."
"If that doesn't sound like an Infantryman, then I don't know what," Trail said with visible pride on his face.
Jerrelsen's current whereabouts are unknown, but sources reported that he is hiding from his mom for not having cleaned his room.