Flashback Fridays: Army Basic Training, Part 1

I know quite a few of my friends and family have read my basic training journal before, but for those of you who haven’t, I thought it would be fun to post a flashback entry every Friday.  

Anjali BCT Photo26 September 2000
0830 hrs

Well, I’ve survived my first day, not that there was much to it.  Sgt. B*** picked me up at my apartment at 0445 hrs.  He dropped me off at the Baltimore MEPS, and I went inside and sat in the cafeteria for a long time.  All the potential recruits who were there to take tests were called, and then the person in charge asked if any Army people were shipping out that day.  Four of us said we were, and we were sent to the front desk.  

Front desk: “There aren’t supposed to be any Army shippers today.”  *grrrr*  We went up to the liaison office, where we waited around some more.  Eventually, I guess they worked everything out.  I was weighed and measured – 145 pounds and amazingly enough, 64.5 inches.  I’m quite sure I didn’t grow a half-inch since July.  Anyway, I had to be sworn in again and I signed a bunch of papers, probably promising my first born child somewhere in there…  We were bused to BWI airport, and I was made group leader, which meant I was responsible for getting myself and two other recruits to Ft. Jackson, SC.  J***, the male recruit, was nice and somewhat friendly, but one girl, E***, was unfriendly and extremely slow.  It irritated me when we were trying to make our connection in Charlotte, and it’s continuing to irritate me now.  Charlotte sucked.  It was raining hard when we ran to the plane, and then we sat on the runway for an hour.  Then they deplaned us, and it was another hour until we actually left.  When we arrived in Columbia, there was no one at the Ft. Jackson desk.  I called Transportation and two guys showed up.  J*** called one of them “sir” and got snapped at.  “I’m a corporal, not a sir!”  *sigh*

Right now, I’m in a gray long-sleeved t-shirt with “ARMY” across the front and black shorts with “ARMY” on the left leg.  Guess they want to make sure we don’t forget which service we joined.  I got these clothes tonight (called PT clothes, for Physical Training).  They include 2 pairs of shorts, 2 sweatshirts, 2 pairs of sweatpants, and 2 long-sleeved t-shirts.  I’m supposed to have 3 short-sleeved t-shirts as well, but they were all out of my size.

2315 hrs

I have fireguard duty until 0100.  That means I sit out in the hall and keep an eye on the doors.  Anyone coming in or out has to give me their roster number.  I’ll be exhausted tomorrow.  Even if I can fall asleep right away, I’ll only get 3 hours of sleep.  K*** is on fireguard duty with me.  She’s loud and a little bit obnoxious, but also kind and considerate.  Every hour, we have to do a bed check of each bay to make sure everyone is accounted for, and at the end of our shift, we wake up the next two people.

I’m in the sixth platoon, roster number A312.  Most of the girls are nice, if rather young and hyper.

When we arrived last night, we were given our “smart book”, which is the IET (Initial Entry Training) soldier’s handbook.  We were told to go in the amnesty room and get rid of any contraband without consequence, then sent to the barracks.  We sat in the courtyard for a long time.  Eventually we were given sheets and taken to a bay in Bravo.  I was with E*** the whole time.  She was taking no initiative for anything, and was completely untalkative.  We have to have a buddy at all times here, by the way.  We’re never allowed to be alone.  The bay in Bravo turned out to be the holdover bay, which I didn’t find out until later that night.  The holdovers are people who are sick or injured and waiting to be well enough for BCT (Basic Combat Training), or people who got to Reception and decided they couldn’t hack it, so they’re waiting to go home.  There was a group of girls sitting on a bunk reading passages from the Bible, there was a girl doing a stupid drill sergeant imitation, and lots of private conversations.  Nobody talked to us, so we just made our bunks and sat around.  The girl in the bunk beneath mine came in, and we got to talking.  She was extremely friendly and helpful, and it turned out that she was a flute player going into the Old Guard, which is at Ft. Myer too!  Talking to her saved me from a lonely cry.

In the morning, no one came to get us or tell us anything.  I wanted to go ask someone where we should be.  Luckily, I didn’t listen to E***, who whined that she was sure someone would show up to take care of us and we should just stay where we were.  As it was, we were almost too late to get our medical records done.  We ran in after they’d already started and met up with the rest of Platoon Six.  First we got a dental X-ray, then an eye test.  I have seen the glasses we are issued, and let me tell you they’re called BCGs (Birth Control Glasses) for a good reason.  Imagine the ugliest glasses you possibly can, and multiply that by 1000.  Ugh.  We got our blood drawn after the eye exam.

Some rules I have picked up so far: 1) Keep your smart book and canteen with you at all times.  2) Don’t cross your legs when you sit down.  3) When someone tells you to do something, do it right away.  4) Don’t put your smart book or canteen on the table at chow.  5) Don’t talk in the chow line.  6) Never talk in formation.  (Everyone breaks that rule.)

After Day One, my feet are already aching and sore.  I’m just trying to ignore them, as I’m sure they’ll hurt constantly until I’m done.  Standing at parade rest makes my shoulders sore after a while.  We stand in line for a couple of hours before getting to eat.  The food’s okay.

Rumors are rampant.  I have heard that they have way too many people here and in basic right now, that we may be here 2 weeks before shipping out, that we may be shipped to Ft. Sill.  I won’t know anything until it’s actually happening.  I’m going to be so tired tomorrow.  We get a $300 advance pay tomorrow so we can go buy things at the PX.  One note: I’m glad I’m not a modest person.  Some of these girls are freaking out about the communal shower.  I hope that I’m not in Reception too long.  This hurry-up-and-wait-to-start could get really old, really fast.

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