Basic Training: Reception

Mission accomplished! It’s been a long 20 weeks, but I am back in action after graduating from Basic  Training and AIT. My next task is to record the experience for all you good folks to read. Luckily, I already wrote about my first couple days at Basic while I was there, before they took our phones away. So enjoy this first snapshot of life at Fort Jackson! 

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Hello from Hell.

Just kidding. I’m writing you this from Fort Jackson.

So pretty much the same thing.

Normally I won’t be able to blog, but they haven’t taken our phones yet, so I think I can give you a quick update. (They were planning on having us lock up our phones the other day, but honestly, I think they just forgot. And we somehow failed to remind them.)

They tell you Basic Training starts the week after you get there. That was a lie. Basic Training started the moment we stepped off the airplane. There was a man there waiting for me who directed me to a drill sergeant, who found every reason to get mad at me. (“Open your backpack. Faster! Hand me your papers. Did I ask you to zip your backpack back up? No! Okay, zip up your backpack. Not like that!”) He directed me into an airport cafe, where I was allowed to eat with some other recruits on their way to BCT. The Army gave me two meal vouchers for my travels, so that was nice.

It was nice getting to know the other recruits.

That was the last nice thing. (Just kidding. Kind of. )

After dinner, the drill sergeant ordered us to line up in formation. He briefly went over how to stand at “parade rest” and not move, then he left us there. Forever. He lounged around nearby so he could yell at anyone who moved. But other than that, it seemed like we were waiting for nothing. (Something I am getting good at.) My favorite song was playing over the airport speaker, and I suspect the drill sergeant knew this and requested it, because of  how hard it was to not even tap my foot, much less burst into dance like I wanted. I remember thinking that was the hardest thing in the world.

Those were the days.

Eventually a bus came to take us to Fort Jackson. We were ordered not to speak at all on the bus ride. Once at Fort Jackson, they told us we had one minute to get off the bus. Evidently they knew this would not be enough time, and for punishment we were ordered to do push-ups together and count aloud. One person miscounted on “twenty” so we had to start all over.

We then filed into a room where they made us dump out our bags onto the floor. They went through all our things and made people throw away anything like non-prescription medication and drugs (even aspirin), weapons and nail files, anything in a bottle that doesn’t have the label, anything with alcohol in it (including mouthwash and wipes), anything scented (except deodorant), snacks, anything in unopened packages (like a pack of socks that you haven’t opened yet), etc. I write “etc” like there was some sort of pattern, but honestly it seemed random. I think they just wanted to get everyone to throw SOMETHING away. Also dump out your well-packed bag so they could make you pack up the remaining things within twenty seconds then yell at you when you when you couldn’t find anything.  It’s all part of the plan, you see. Everything is a trap.

That first/second day (we were not allowed to sleep that night, so it kind of blurred into one big day) was spent doing a lot of things like paperwork (as always) and a mini physical like MEPS (except you don’t have to strip down). We got a debit card with an early portion of our first paycheck ($350) so we could buy things from the PX.

At the PX, there were things we were required to buy, even if we brought our own. So I wish I hadn’t packed all these extra things, even though they were on the packing list. Things like shower shoes, sports bras, locks, socks, a watch, and running shoes. We also had to buy more toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, etc. but still, I’m glad I brought some for the first night. The other soldiers who had to throw away their body wash (I brought bar soap so didn’t have to) couldn’t shower at all the first two days. After traveling for a whole day and marching around, one shower can make a big difference.

They took us through a basement where we got fitted for our OCPs (the camo clothing). It sounds so fancy, like I’m standing on a stool while some man with a monocle and a measuring tape measures me in front of a mirror, asking me questions about how things fit. But no. It was more like a high intensity factory line, where people are yelling at you to move faster, stop giving your opinion, and say the shoes fit no matter how tight they squeeze.

I thought that after the first night, I would be able to get some sleep. But not really. We “go to bed” (a bunch of girls stay up talking on their phones which makes it impossible for anyone else to sleep)  at 9:30pm, we wake up at 3 or 4am and we take our turn doing fire watch (like night guard duty) for an hour during that “sleep” time.  Weirdly though, I’m starting to feel less tired every day.

Here is a snapshot of our barracks. Everyone has a locker with a set of drawers and a clothes rod in it next to their bunk. Our room (called a “bay”) houses all females. The males in our platoon are housed in a different building.



In short, the past few days have been long and hard.  I’ve spent most of the time being confused.  But then I just remind myself that everyone else is feeling the same way, even if they don’t show it. We’re all just clueless. But slowly, we’re starting to figure things out.

The girls in my platoon really are like fam. They make all the sucky parts suck less. We actually have a lot of fun, when we’re allowed to talk. (Or not allowed to... but do.) I thought I was just going to have a positive attitude about Basic Training and love it, but I don’t think one single of us managed to have a positive attitude those first two days when we were exhausted and hungry. My best advice is just to wait it out. After the first couple days, things are a lot better.  Signing off until next time.

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