Flashback Fridays: Army Basic Training, Part 13

15 November 2000
2035 hrs

Yesterday was a very long day.  They’re all very long days.  Only 29 more of them, though!  It started out rainy and gray.  DS H*** had us put on our wet-weather tops, but told us we couldn’t have the hoods up.  We got soaked quickly.  Even worse, some people had their hoods up, and when they didn’t take them off fast enough, DS H*** made us get in the front leaning rest position on the cold, muddy, wet ground.  *grrrrrrrrrowl*

I got my Class A’s yesterday!  It was so nice to wear clothes that made me feel vaguely feminine for a little while.  We were issued 2 pairs of slacks, 2 skirts, a dress jacket, long black trench coat, a stupid garrison cap, shiny shoes, black belt, brass buckle, dress gloves, 2 short-sleeved blouses, 1 long-sleeved blouse, nametags…  It was an interesting experience.  After we got our shoes, we had to take off our shorts and t-shirts and stand in line to be measured, wearing just our bra, panties, hose, and shoes.  I’m not that shy, but I was still uncomfortable.  There’s something about standing around in shoes and underwear that makes you feel really stupid.  We tried on slacks and then skirts, and then they were sent off to be hemmed and altered.  When I finished, I was put on detail.  I had to call out girls’ names as their clothes were done.  I also had to trot back and forth to the pressing room to pick up finished clothes.  People were being so irritating.  “Anjali, are my clothes ready yet?”  5 minutes later, “Anjali, are those my clothes?”  “I swear to you, I will call your name very loudly when your clothes are done.  I promise!  Get the hell off my back!”  I got all of my clothes fairly quickly, so another girl switched out with me and I was inspected.

Inspection sucked.  We had to try on each outfit and go into a room with all of the drill sergeants standing around.  Then we had to go up on stage to show the fit of our uniform.  I was pushed, prodded, teased, yelled at, poked, and generally harassed.  DS Y*** grilled me about my rank: “Why do you deserve to be an E-4?”  Of course I didn’t say any of the things I was thinking.  And I *really* wanted to tell him that I’ll be an E-6 two months out of basic!  Ha!  I was so happy to leave the room for the fourth and final time.

I went back on detail, this time sitting outside the inspection room.  I was left alone most of the time, but every once in a while the drill sergeants would yell at me to run an errand.  It was fun to see everyone in their Class A’s.  Class A’s are definitely more flattering to women with a figure.  The girls who are skinny sticks look rather dorky in them.

Today we went to US Weapons training.  It was cool; I’ll write more about it tomorrow.

16 November 2000

We learned how to use 4 weapons yesterday.  First we set up dummy Claymore mines.  That wasn’t too hard.  Then we fired a saw (machine gun)!  That was rather exciting, actually, but it was over so quickly.  You wouldn’t believe how quickly the saw goes through 40 rounds.  Next we learned how to fire the AT4.  It was huge.  We just fired dummy rounds out of that.  Finally, we shot a grenade launcher.  It’s an M16 with an attachment, and it is damn heavy.  And very hard to aim.  Then we got to see a few live Claymore mines detonated.

I have fireguard tonight from 2300-0100 hrs.  People are dropping like flies here.  2 males have left our platoon because of “failure to adapt.”  At least 5 females in the company are gone for either physical or discipline problems.

Midnight

I’m halfway through my fireguard shift.  At least I’m getting my laundry done.  I hate waking up in the middle of the night for this.

Today, we went to Chipyong-Ni range.  We learned some tactical maneuvers.  I hate low crawl.  I hate high crawl.  Low crawl is where you’re flat on your stomach in the sand, your weapon is in your right hand with the muzzle angled upwards so it doesn’t get sand in it, your right leg is cocked, your left leg is straight out behind you, and your head is turned to the right looking at your weapon with your Kevlar in the sand.  You have to pull yourself forward just using your left arm and right leg.  It is so exhausting.  If you messed up, you had to start all over, even if you just lifted your head for a second.  I was very careful not to mess up, as I was too tired to even think about having to do it twice.

After the high crawl (weapon cradled inside elbows, elbows and inside of knees used to move forward), we had to low crawl on our backs under barbed wire, and then climb a short wall.  I was ready to nap after that!  Did I mention we had camouflage on our faces for the first time?  That was cool, I guess, though it makes your skin feel awful.

After the crawls, we waited in line for a little obstacle course.  The FSG came by and kept throwing fake grenades at us.  He’s wacky.  If people didn’t yell “Incoming!” and drop flat on the ground, they had to do push-ups.  After he was done playing with us, DS F*** came by (did I mention him yet?  He’s such an a**hole), and made us secure the perimeter by getting in the prone unsupported position 360 degrees around the area.  I attempted to get comfortable enough to nap, not an easy thing.

I ran the obstacle course with S*** as my buddy.  We had to dash from log to log, then drop for cover.  This is the way it works: she calls, “Buddy set,” and I reply, “Buddy moving.  Safety is on, dust cover is closed.  I’m up.  He sees me.  I’m down.”  I run during the “I’m up, he sees me,” part.  That’s called a 3-second rush.  Then I fired some blanks, and called out “Buddy set,” to S***.  And so on and so forth.  At the end we had to throw a fake grenade (it makes a small explosive sound).  Monday, we throw the real ones.  I’m so scared!

After lunch, I cleaned my weapon thoroughly, and then we all marched to Remagen, the grenade range.  It was about a mile away through a beautiful forest.  We were going to practice throwing fake grenades, but the buses arrived.

Time to wake up 3rd shift – I get to sleep very soon!

18 November 2000

My cheeks are so painful right now.  I’m really badly wind-burned.  I can’t believe my last PT test is just 6 days away.  I’m so worried that I won’t pass my push-ups.

Yesterday (Anzio) was really fun, aside from lots of time waiting around and the cold temperature.  We had a really hard run in the morning in the rain.  DS Y*** had us sprint half a lap, then jog straight back across the field in the mud three times in a row, then alternately jog in place, do jumping jacks, mule kicks (both feet jumping and kicking towards the ass), the ski jump (both hands behind the head, hopping left to right), and the front leaning rest (push-up position), all in the mud.  After several agonizing minutes of that, we did 3 more sets of sprints, then jogged 3 laps.  Well, I say jogged, but DS Y*** said we had to finish in 9’20”, which for a mile is faster than my usual pace (when I’m running 2 miles).  I made it in 9’14”, which I feel was a huge accomplishment, considering how tired I was already.

So, on to Anzio.  They took away lots of our squad to swell the ranks of the other squads, so we were left with just 8 people, instead of the 16 we needed.  Oh, I forgot to mention that M*** isn’t our squad leader anymore because of her broken foot, and DS H*** assigned P*** from 3rd squad to us.  P*** decided that he wanted me as Alpha firing leader, over my strong protestations.  Our Bravo team was made up of the leftover Death Dealers.  They were actually pretty cool; I made some new friends.  We got our ammo (2 clips of 20 rounds, and 1 clip of 10 – all live), and got ready to move through the woods.  We moved in 2 wedge formations, Alpha to the right, Bravo to the left.  A wedge formation is like a V of migrating birds, used to give you maximum firepower on all sides.  When we got to the edge of the wood line by the road, we got down into the prone unsupported position.  Bravo team let us know they were set to cover us, and we moved as a unit across the road and quickly got down in the prone.  We covered Bravo and they moved.  It’s called “bounding” – just like “Buddy, set, buddy moving” with teams instead of individuals.

Finally, we made it to our foxholes.  We fired the first 40 rounds at pop-up targets, and then the alarm for gas was sounded.  We had to put on our masks and fire the last 10 rounds with them on.  It was awful!  First of all, I can’t see out of my stupid mask at all.  Even if I could, it’s almost impossible to aim with it on.  When the whistle blew, we had to get out of our foxholes and run through some clouds of white smoke up the hill.  I got really panicky and felt like I was suffocating in my mask.  It was one of the worst experiences I’ve had here.

After supper, we went back to the bunker in the woods and waited for nightfall.  And waited.  We looked at the stars for a while; they were beautiful and so bright.  We shivered in the cold, and then finally it was our turn.  We got a 30-round clip, loaded with tracers and regular bullets, and moved through the very dark woods back to the foxholes.  It was such a blast.  Our signal to begin firing was a white parachute flare, which lit the entire sky.  When we fired, the tracers made amazing red streaks through the black sky.  It was one of the most eerie and beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.  I don’t think I hit a single target; I was too fascinated with watching the tracers.

Last night DS H*** told me that I’m all squared away; I shoot well, I’m always on time…  It was nice to hear.

By the way, a nightmare occurred today.  I*** moved into N***’s empty bunk.  She was here 2 minutes and everyone was already screaming at each other.  Plus I’ve heard her when I’m on fireguard, and she snores *so* loudly!

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