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Political Humorist Colbert Tackles Basic Training

By Michael A. Glasch/USAG Fort Jackson

FORT JACKSON, S.C., May 11, 2009 - While the vast majority of new Soldiers arrive to Basic Combat Training in a bus from the airport, the Army's newest private arrived in a style befitting his cult-like status. Pvt. Stephen Colbert, of The Colbert Report, showed up in front of the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception) May 8, in a stretch limousine ready to begin his in-processing.

Colbert got off on the wrong foot when he dropped his bag in front of his drill sergeant and promptly asked, "Can I get a bellman?"

Colbert and a production crew spent the day filming scenes of Colbert being put through various BCT training events under the instruction and watchful eye of his drill sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Demetrius Chantz, an instructor at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School.

The scenes are for The Colbert Report's upcoming trip to the Persian Gulf. The show will broadcast for an entire week from the region.

"We were invited last July, but I wasn't able to go over at the time because I was committed to finishing the election cycle," Colbert said. "But as soon as that was over, I approached General Petraeus' office to see if the offer still stood. We couldn't be more thrilled to be going over there and having the honor of taking a shot at making the troops laugh."

From drill and ceremony, to team building exercises, to rapelling down victory tower, Chantz knew he would have his hands full with the political satirist.

"I had seen his show before, so I knew going in how funny he was," said Chantz.

The drill sergeant added that he knew ahead of time what scenes they would be filming, but that the crew did not give him any specific lines to say.

"It was all ad-lib," Chantz said. "I just responded like I would on the trail."

When asked how Pvt. Colbert did, Chantz just shook his head in disgust.

"He wouldn't graduate," he said. "We would be in trouble if he was in uniform."

Colbert admitted that his character wouldn't perform well in the team atmosphere of the Army.

"He's all for himself. When we did the five wall obstacle I didn't put any effort into it. I just went limp like a rag doll (and let the other Soldiers push me over the wall)," Colbert said. "But that's my character; he's just all for himself. He's a terrible team member."

While that aspect of his character does not reflect the real Stephen Colbert, he does share his on-air personas admiration for servicemembers. Through his show, he has helped raised money for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, and is currently helping to raise money for the Support Our Troops' Children organization.

Colbert sees taking his show on the road as one more way to thank all of those who serve.

"One of the reasons we are broadcasting the shows, is that while we are doing it for those who are going to be there that night in person, this is a great opportunity to salute all the troops for everything they do," he said.