Basic Training: Week 6

May 15

Senior drill sergeants quotes from this week:

"Hold your arm up. It's your arm! You grew it! If you don't want it, cut it off!"
It escalated so quickly...

"It's going to be a beautiful, gorgeous, f---ing day. Whatever."
Tried so hard to say something positive. 😂

The things you find funny in Basic Training.

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This week we did the Anvil. It was a 7-mile march, then we slept in the woods for 2 nights. The first night we just slept on the ground under the stars, but the second night we had to make a lean-to out of a tarp.

Seven miles doesn't sound like a lot, but it is with a full rucksack on your back. My back was hurting so much I wanted to cry. (And I never cry.) The whole time I was just praying for it to end. I kept thinking, Why couldn't I have just been boy crazy and married straight out of high school like all my friends? I could be packing diaper bags right now instead of rucksacks. Instead I had to go and join the freaking Army!  I really regret my decision sometimes. We all do. I guess the thing we are all wondering is, will it ever be worth it? So far we haven't gotten any indication that it might be.

(Note: I have a pinched nerve on my back that sometimes flairs up under certain circumstances, so I think that's why I was in so much pain on this ruck. The ruck march after this was much longer but my back didn't hurt at all like it did this time.)

The first night on the Anvil we saw a lizard and I started to feel really homesick for my lizard baby back home. I was really depressed that day.

That night, one of the males caught a lizard and gave him to me. He named him Romeo. Romeo stayed in my hand or my FLC (utility vest) the whole evening. I lost him once but found him later in my boot I had taken off! When we pet him, he wagged his tail like a puppy. That was a "God thing" for me, as Eversmann would say.

During the day on the Anvil we did lanes, which are scenarios where you are on a mission and an enemy attacks. You have to practice everything from tactical formations to first aid and using a radio to call in a chopper. The whole time you are suppressing (imagined) fire. I thought it was really fun. We used sticks and pine cones to make battle plans in the dirt.

We also did the final Land Nav course. I was in a group that didn't even argue, which is a first. We had a great time.

Today we threw real hand grenades. I thought that was awesome. They were so loud and shook the ground. There is one more hand grenade throw, when we do OMAHA. We practice for OMAHA a lot, and I think it's pretty fun.

Everything is fun now because we are in Blue Phase. (Switched this morning.) Even though we still have a month of BCT left, everyone thinks it's basically over. Even the drill sergeants.

I had a moment today when it hit me hard that: We need to drink in every one of these moments because soon it will all be over. We think we want it to all be over, but I know that I will miss some of these things, even the ones I hate now. Like PT and final formation (where we always get smoked because no one can stay quiet) and the drill sergeants' messed up sense of humor. Two-minute push-up and sit-up drills in the laundry room after lights out. I will even miss MREs. But probably not hot aides. (The hot food we take into the field. It is always the same thing: mashed potatoes, frozen vegetables, and mystery meat-- all of which taste the same.)

Let's be honest, this place is my home as much as anywhere else now. I don't even know where I'm gonna live when I get home. I have to figure all that out some time... In all the spare time I have...
Because last time I called home, my mom broke the news that the classes I need to take for college don't even exist in the city I was planning on living. On to Plan B...

Making a Plan B, that is. Because there isn't one.

A snapshot

Another thing I think I will miss from BCT is the times we do bay prayer before a really hard day. Not everyone participates, but there are plenty who want to.

In formation before we left for the Anvil (and before the drill sergeants came out, of course), our whole platoon huddled together in all our gear, everyone with a hand on each other's helmets or shoulders, and said a prayer. It was a moment I thought we looked exactly as soldiers should. Remembering where we draw our power from and preparing for the long, difficult task ahead. I wish I had a painting of it or something.



I am glad I have religious/spiritual people to share my BCT experience with. It has made BCT a learning experience to grow from instead of something to just survive.

In the woods pulling one of our 2-hr. fireguard shifts on the Anvil, I was talking with Eversmann about feeling homesick and for some reason I said, "Wouldn't it be weird if we could remember our life in heaven before, and our whole lives we felt homesick the way we do now?"

Eversmann looked at me strangely and said, "What do you mean, our life in heaven before?" I had just assumed that since she was Christian, we believed the same things about living with God before this life, that we are his children, that our life on earth is just a small snippet of the whole thing, that we will live on after death and will all be resurrected some day, and all these other fundamental (to me) things. But she didn't.  That opened up this whole long conversation about where we existed before we were born, our relationship with God, our purpose on earth, where our spirits go after we die, and all that.

It blew her mind that I believe spirits are real and live on after death. She said her grandma always told her it was a sin to believe in spirits. Eversmann has had some interesting experiences with the spirit of a close friend who committed suicide, so she always felt guilty about the experiences without understanding why.

I don't think she needs to feel guilty about that, so I was glad for the opportunity to tell her about my beliefs. It was an interesting conversation and I enjoy learning what other people believe. I think we always add something valuable to each other's faith. I'm thankful for friends here who I can talk with about spiritual things.

May 16

Today we did some buddy live fire scenarios. So people were shooting bullets at us while we did a more intense OMAHA scenario in the woods. The bullets were not real, but they were supposed to feel real. I kind of wanted to experience it, but somehow I never got shot. (Everyone got shot except me and Eversmann!)

It is frustrating because all the drill sergeants are fighting about everything from whether or not you can communicate out loud with your team, to which side to hold your weapon on. But instead of discussing it and coming to an agreement, they fight passive aggressively with us as pawns. So they will tell us two different things and then chew us out for not doing it their way. Our senior drill sergeant said he wouldn't let us graduate if we don't get ourselves together by tomorrow. But the other platoon's senior drill sergeant told us the same thing when we did it our drill sergeant's way. When I tried to explain the confusion to our platoon's SDS, he got really aggravated so I said something kind of sassy and he was not real happy about that.

Somebody once asked the First Sergeant what to do when we get two conflicting orders because our leaders can't agree. He said, "That's just the Army. Get used to it. It will be like that for the rest of your career."

I'm finding there are some things about the Army I just can't get used to. I don't know why it's not better organized. Our country depends on this organization and it's a mess.

I also can't believe the time and resources that have been wasted here at BCT. We have so much potential to train, and end up learning almost nothing. Sometimes I feel like the drill sergeants have never had to teach before. To be fair, they probably haven't.

But why aren't they trained to? Why aren't our country's best psychologists and professionals working on cutting-edge techniques to train the soldiers, be more efficient, etc? While I'm on the subject, why are we still using gear and driving trucks that look like they're from World War I?

Some day I'll get a Ph.D. and dedicate my life to studying training techniques for soldiers. The only this is... Who knows how many people have wasted their life's research on that just to be told, "That's not how we do it in the Army." Or to be completely ignored.

Why are the people I've met in the Army so unprofessional? And scared of change? And slow to fix problems? I hope these are not the qualities they're talking about that I'm supposed to come out of BCT with.

May 17

Wow, I don't know why I was so passionate about that rant yesterday. While it's partially true, I know there are some things in the military that I don't understand yet why they are the way they are.

BCT is like the movie Karate Kid. We do all these dumb things like holding our drink cups to our chests, getting down into a push-up in 2 movements, getting yelled at for not keeping our heels together in the chow hall. Then one day you realize, you have to hold a grenade the same way you hold your drink cup, to make sure you don't blow yourself up. And you get down to low crawl with your weapon when you're under fire the same way you get down into the push-up stance. And you have to be calm under pressure when people are yelling orders at you from all directions. All these little habits we've been building up the past 6 weeks and didn't even realize might save our lives in combat. (Another one: Palms on the ground during Power Jump exercise = crouch stance when ducking after throwing grenade.)

Today we went to the real OMAHA course and practiced going through it with blank rounds. Senior drill sergeant almost gave me and Eversmann a compliment. He told the group after us (loud enough for us to hear), "I hope you're paying attention because they're actually not doing it wrong!"

The drill sergeants have chilled way out since Red and White phase. I even passed the drill sergeant table at chow once recently (that's right, the drill sergeants sit down and eat now, instead of standing over us yelling the whole time we eat) and I thought I heard one say, "I dunno, I'm still rooting for Bravehart to win."

I have been known to mishear things though.

May 18

Today we went through OMAHA for real, and Eversmann and I did great. One more major graduation requirement out of the way.

A guy in our platoon heat catted, so we made our platoon cover/recover (the thing we say when we're forming up), his name + "Drink water!" I thought that was pretty funny.

I'm surprised more of us didn't heat cat. Jumping around all day in our IOTVs, FLCs, and all the gear during a Heat Cat 5 is just asking for someone to pass out. I think I came this close to being the next cover/recover chant.

After OMAHA we came home and-- surprise-- cleaned our weapons for the rest of the night. We clean them down in formation and we're not allowed to talk or anything, so it sucks. Someone talked anyway, and we all lost our 5-minute White phase phone call the drill sergeants have been holding back for a while. Of course I'm not sure who I would call anyway, so I guess it's all right.

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