Flashback Fridays: Army Basic Training, Part 18

9 December 2000

It’s Saturday, and this is the longest I’ve gone here without writing.  Victory Forge was Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  The hardest part was dealing with the extreme cold.

We left early Monday morning, around 0530 hrs.  After checking out our weapons, we ate our MREs.  Then we took buses out partway to Victory Forge.  We stopped a lot on the march and had to get into either the prone fighting position or kneeling, which I can’t stand.  Most of the other platoons got gassed along the way, but we didn’t.  We got to our campsite around 1130 hrs.  It was supposedly a 6-mile march, but id didn’t feel like it.  I felt fine, except for sore shoulders.

As soon as we arrived, we had to start digging our fighting positions.  It was hard, because we just had our entrenching tools to dig with, which are miniature shovels.  The holes were 6” deep at the front, 2 feet deep in the back, a body length long, and 4 feet wide.  It took forever, and DS L*** wouldn’t give us MRE’s for lunch until we were done, around 1600 hrs.  Then we had to camouflage the position with leaves and pine needles.  The worst part wasn’t digging; it was trying to cut through all of the roots zigzagging through our position.  Some were as thick around as my calf.  When we finished the foxhole, we put up our tent.  We spent a lot of time lying in our fighting positions (henceforth abbreviated FP) waiting to go on a night mission, but I guess it was cancelled because we were told to go to sleep at 2230 hrs.  We were woken up at 0130 hrs for fireguard, and it was incredibly cold.  I was already freezing in the tent.  I found out the next day that it had gotten down to 17 degrees that night!  We were guarding the gate, and DS H*** came by and told us we could go in the warming tent for a little while.  We huddled by the stove for a bit, then went back to stand guard.  Then we went back to sleep.  I forgot to mention; before going to bed for the first time, we were gassed, but it wasn’t terribly strong.  We only had to put on our masks for about 10 minutes.

For some bizarre reason, we weren’t woken up until 0730 hrs.  I don’t have any idea why, except that our drill sergeants are never around when they’re supposed to be.  I’m not complaining!  My mood improved greatly when the sun came up.  We had to get right into our FPs and stay there all day.  In the afternoon, we were taken out on a mission in the woods.  We were supposedly securing the perimeter.  We moved through the woods in the same wedge formation that we learned at Anzio, and then we were gassed.  D*** thankfully guided me, as I couldn’t see at all with my mask on.  Amusing.

In the evening, we marched to the event course.  It was a 3-mile march, and it seemed to be all uphill.  They made us take our rucks, too, which made no sense.  I was pooped.

We ate MREs on a set of bleachers, no easy task, and then walked to the event course.  It was a brisk 15-minute walk, and it seemed to be all uphill also.  The course was like a normal obstacle course, but of course it was dark and we couldn’t see much.  The first obstacle was a 9-foot log wall, and for some reason I totally panicked at the top and couldn’t find a foot hold.  Having my M16 slung over my back didn’t help my balance, either.  I hung at the top, panicky and trying not to hyperventilate for about 30 seconds, then pulled myself together and found a way down.  Next we crawled through cement culverts, low crawled under an abatis (log- and barbed wire obstacle), went around burning jeeps & tanks, stepped across a wire obstacle, jumped log hurdles, low crawled a log crib, and finally arrived at the NIC (Night Infiltration Course).  NIC was not that bad.  It was high crawl/low crawl for 250 meters, which was tiring, but not too awful.  Live ammo was being shot over our heads, so we were under very strict orders not to stand up.

We were supposed to have buses back to the camp, but unfortunately we missed them, so we had to march the 3 miles back.  I was up front with DS L***, and we chatted most of the way.  6 people fell out and got to ride in the truck.  But I made it, and was proud of myself.  Fireguard was so stupid that night.  The Death Dealers weren’t even allowed to put up their tents, and it was colder than the night before.  They were all supposed to lie in their FPs all night without sleeping.  They weren’t even allowed to have their sleeping bags until 2 or 3 in the morning.  Fireguard for our platoon was by squad, and nobody was waking up.  N*** and I had different shifts, so we kept waking each other up when we had to get up, and no one knew where anyone was sleeping.  It was DS H***’s brilliant idea to do it that way.  Imbecile.  Our squad leader, P***, lit a fire in his tent to get warm.  How can there be this many stupid people in the universe who are still alive?  I’m surprised he didn’t kill himself.  He did get very sick from smoke inhalation.  I was one of 3 or 4 people on duty in my squad; everyone else couldn’t be roused.  And I wasn’t about to stumble through the woods waking people up.  It was so cold, and no one was even allowed in the warming tent at all that night.  Except the drill sergeants, of course.  Around 0400 hrs, we were gassed badly.  We had to get into full MOPP gear (protective jacket, pants, boots, gloves, and mask), and we stayed that way in our FPs for the next 4 hours.  It was awful to have to wear the mask for that long, but we survived.  I had 7 layers on and was still frozen solid.

After we got out of our MOPP gear, we started packing up and filled in our FP.  Finally, we left around 1630 hrs, earlier than originally planned.  We walked to Remagen, about 4-1/2 miles away, then caught a bus to Range 17 and marched the rest of the way home, 9.2 miles total.  Everyone in the company made it!  We were completely exhausted and couldn’t wait to take showers.  I was so happy to see Victory Tower and know I was only 3/4 of a mile from the barracks.  When we got back, we had a cheesy ceremony by a bonfire, where we given our US pins and congratulated on becoming soldiers.  We finally got to turn in our weapons and conk out.  I think I showered 3 times in the next 24 hours!  These last days are dragging.  We’re cleaning equipment and turning in all of our gear.  Sunday I gave blood, which took 23 minutes for me to fill a pint, and then N*** and I were part of a select group that got to attend a U.S. Army band concert.  Not our band, and not a great one, but it was still fun.  Everyone in our platoon has passed the PT test except 2 males, neither of whom I really know.  So I’m graduating with all of my friends and this will probably be my last entry!  What an adventure.


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