Flashback Fridays: Army Basic Training, Part 16

28 November 2000

I have to finish writing about the Confidence Course.  I started to last night, but I got distracted.

I’m so proud of my bruises.  I feel 100 years old today.  My back is so sore, especially right below the shoulder blades.  I can barely move I’m so stiff and sore.

On my left arm, right above my elbow and on the inside, is a beautiful enormous bruise.  It looks like a flower; it’s all purple and blue.  I think it’s about an inch wide and 2 inches long.  My right arm is sore, too, but I only have a small bruise on my inner forearm.  My legs and knees are a wreck.  Each knee has a large dark red bruise on it, and they’re very swollen.  Both calves have dark red bruises also.  One bruise is white in the middle and very tender to the touch.  I also have a sore spot on my pubic bone.  On the back of my upper left thigh is a nice rope burn.  Am I a mess or what?  What a blast!  I had such a great time.  Hopefully I’ll be all healed by Victory Forge next week.  6 days away!  Crap!

I was thinking a lot about how I’ve changed here.  It’s all for the better, though.  I have faith in myself now, and I am one of the most upbeat, optimistic, and positive persons here.  I’m often in a great mood, despite a bad day of training, and I’m most often trying to cheer up other people.  I feel a hell of a lot more self-confident.  The me I was in June couldn’t have even contemplated the Confidence Course.  I’m not as scared to try new things anymore.  I used to avoid things that I thought I might be bad at.  Well, guess what.  I had to do all of that stuff yesterday, whether I made an ass of myself or not.  And guess what else.  I did it and had fun and didn’t care how I looked or how bad or good I was!  Another surprise: I love my M16.  I’m going to hate parting with it.  I enjoy shooting.  Enjoying a weapon doesn’t mean you want to kill someone.  I’m still a pacifist, and I don’t believe violence is a solution to anything, but I believe in what I’m doing and feeling strong is important.  Do I sound brainwashed yet?

Anyway, my point is that have changed, but for the better.  I’m stronger, more confident, and less scared.  Okay, I’m also more annoyed with people in general.  But I’ve had to deal with an entire stratum of the population that I’ve never been in contact with before.  And probably won’t be again.  I’m such an intellectual snob!  I’m really glad for some of these friends I’ve made; they bring me down to earth and make me realize that people don’t have to be book smart to be valuable.

I have tons of time to write today because I’m on gym duty!  We have KP today for the 4th time, and there are always 4 people who get to be on detail at the fitness center.  It’s so nice to be away from the platoon, even if the other people on duty here are very annoying.  It’s an easy day.  I cleaned the latrine, and I’m supposed to wipe down the machines every 2 hours.  Piece of cake.  The rest of the company is doing Fit to Win for the 3rd time today, and unarmed hand-to-hand combat.  I’m so glad I’m missing that!  I can barely move after yesterday.

So, as I was saying, yesterday was hard but fun.  I think I can remember all of the obstacles now.  The 1st one we did was called the Belly Buster.  It was really the Boob Buster.  It was a log suspended at chest level from 2 side stakes that rolled a little.  We had to jump up, land on top of it, and flip off.  My nipples are still bruised.  Next was a really horrible obstacle: the Inverted Ladder.  It was a ladder set into the ground at about 50 degrees.  We had to climb up the underside and then somehow flip ourselves over the top and climb down.  Getting down as a snap, but I almost couldn’t make it over the top.  My darn short legs!  I dangled from the top rung for quite a while as I tried to fling my leg up and over.  Next was the absolute worst of all the obstacles: the Weaver.  I don’t even want to think about it!  It was much taller than the inverted ladder, maybe 12 feet at the top in the middle.  It was a ladder in an A-frame shape, and very wide, with the rungs about a body’s width apart.  We had to weave our bodies in and out of the rungs going up one side, parallel to the rungs, and then we went down the other side feet-first, weaving in and out.  I really thought I was going to fall at the top.  I’m trying to remember the next 3 obstacles on that section of the course…  Oh, there was a high-stepper (lock your hands behind your head and step over beams that are at hip-level), then the Log Balancer.  A balancer – my nemesis.  The logs were slanted: one up, one down, and one up, at right angles to each other, and they weren’t secure.  They wobbled quite a bit, in fact.  Turning corners was the hard part.  I started out side-stepping, right foot first, but couldn’t negotiate the first corner and fell.  The next time I tried it the other direction and did fine, though I went slowly.  Last in that group was the Island Hopper, which almost did me in (I later found out that its other name is the “Ankle Breaker”).  It was a large sand pit with different sized (in height and circumference) stumps all through it in no particular pattern.  You had to get from one to the next without falling in the pit.  Again, it was a test of balance.  On my first try, I got going too fast and fell hard on my knee right after the last stump.  I had to go back, limping and telling myself angrily not to cry.  Tears seem to be my automatic response to pain, which frustrates me at my age.  Luckily, my knee seems fine today, other than being bruised.  The 2nd time, I took a different path, but fell halfway through because someone else jumped right where I was about to.  The 3rd time I finally triumphed.

Our next obstacle was a set of 5 walls that started at about 7’ and got higher.  We were in groups of five, and had no ropes or holds in the walls.  Just manpower.  It was actually pretty fun, though I did some more damage to my knees and almost ripped my boobs off being hauled over the top of the walls.  Some of those guys can just run up to the wall, jump, and haul themselves up.  Luckily I had lots of help.  After we sat on the bleachers for a while, we moved on to the next loop of 6 obstacles.  First, we had to jump over a moving log swing.  Tricky timing, but not a problem.  Then we climbed up a straight wall with a rope, and we were supposed to go hand-over-hand down a horizontal pole, but it was too thick for me to grasp and I had to let go.  Next was another high-stepper: step over beam, hop on one leg to the next beam, step over with opposite leg, hop, etc.  Then we did a low crawl on our backs under barbed wire and got filthy.  We jumped over 6 hurdles, and last but not least was a Swing/Jump.  I had to catch a swinging rope and use it to propel myself over a log that was about 5’ off the ground.  Too easy, too easy.  That’s a DS H*** expression.

The third loop started out with the Tough Nut.  It consisted of 2 stakes tied into an X-shape.  There were 8 or 9 X’s in a row and we had to step through the middle of each X with our hands behind our head.  It wasn’t as easy as it sounds!  Next we had a belly crawl under barbed wire, and then a Low Belly Over – hop up on a log and flip over upside-down.  Then we had an easy balance – walk up one log and down another, they didn’t even wobble!  Next came the Tarzan, which was 3 or 4 successively higher balance beams culminating in a long set of monkey bars.  Last was the Slide to Victory.  Or was it the Slide for Life?  I can’t remember the name.  I was most scared of that one.  It was very high up.  We climbed about 25 feet up to a platform, and the rungs were very far apart on that ladder.  The FSG was on the platform acting as safety.  I grabbed the rope, hooked my boots over it, and went down the rope hand-over-hand.  I was supposed to keep my boots over the rope to avoid rope-burn, but I didn’t feel secure, so I said, “The hell with it,” and hooked my knee over the rope.  Hence the rope-burn on the back of my knee…  I don’t care; all I cared about at the time was not dying.  At the end of the rope (maybe 25 or 30 feet?), we had to drop down onto a mat.  Several people dropped and had to redo it, so I was very glad to have made it the first time.

The last loop started with the Belly Robber, which was in essence a human conveyor belt, if you can imagine that.  It consisted of 5 rolling logs set on stakes at chest level.  Teams of 5 had to get up on all the logs and roll them along, never losing contact with any of them.  You had to alternately lift up your chest, stomach, hips, and legs to roll the logs, being very careful not to get stuck between any of the logs!  Truly impossible without teamwork…  Next came the Night Crawl.  We went up a short ladder, crawled through a dark tunnel with twists and turns, then slid down a pole at the end.  We skipped the next 2 obstacles, and finished with the Skyscraper.  It was about 40 feet tall and loomed above us.  You had to get up one side and down the other in teams of 4.  There were 5 platforms about 6 feet apart.  If you can believe it, it was a breeze after everything else.  My team practically flew up and back down.  I had complete confidence that no one would drop me.  My heart didn’t even race, which means I’ve come a long way from Victory Tower!

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