Flashback Fridays: Army Basic Training, Part 8

15 October 2000
1515 hrs

I’m doing okay today.  It really could be worse here.  I’m glad I’ve been able to write fairly often, because it’s all a blur to me, and I can hardly remember anything we’ve done the day before.

I went to church this morning, and choir practice before that.  Church was a nice break.  I felt good by the end of the service, though I was trying not to cry in the middle.  No particular reason, I just felt so far from home, set down in an alien world.  I’m nervous about Victory Tower tomorrow.  We got issued all of our gear today: Kevlar (helmet), rucksack, poncho, etc.  Everything’s old and filthy.  We’re supposed to get everything squared away on our LCE, and no one is really sure how to do it.

2130 hrs

Thank god I don’t have 9-27 weeks of AIT (Advanced Individual Training) like everyone else does.  I couldn’t stand it.  I’m writing right now by the light of my red flashlight.  All of my TA-50 gear is squared away now, I think.  I don’t know what the TA stands for.  I actually don’t mind being squad leader.  The females in my squad are: M***, whom I had CQ with the other night, R***, my roommate, B***, who is fairly quiet, and S***, who is friendly but a troublemaker.  She talks all the time and doesn’t obey orders.  I don’t know the guys too well yet.  Honestly, with all of their heads shaved, they all kind of look alike to me.  K*** is my assistant because he had ROTC experience, but J*** does too, and I wish I’d picked him.  He is very squared away and always does the right thing.  There’s T***, who is always doing the wrong thing, C*** with a wonderful Boston accent, Z*** who is a smart-ass…  I think everyone seems to like me al right so far.

It’s amazing: I have 3 outfits, but I changed clothes 5 times today.  PTs, BDUs, PTs, BDUs, PTs.  Not to mention winter PTs, then summers.  Silliness.

Here’s the TA-50 gear I was issued today, that I have to return at the end: a rucksack, a belt, suspenders, 2 ammo pouches, 2 canteen pouches, canteen cup, weapons cleaning kit, blank adaptor, entrenching tool with case, 1st aid kit, tent stakes & poles, Kevlar helmet, wet weather (WW) poncho, WW pants, WW boots, and 2 waterproof bags.

A*** is meditating right now.  I like her a lot when she’s not freaking out.  She’s married to an Indian man.  She’s the kind of person who would say, “Teacher, weren’t we supposed to have a test today?” but I like her anyway.

16 October 2000
0630 hrs

I’ve been up since 0400 hrs and I haven’t eaten yet.  I’m so hungry and tired!  We’re watching a video on respect; we’ve already seen it, but that doesn’t matter.  Apparently last night some males stole someone’s clothes and put his glasses in a urinal.  I doubt it was our platoon.  But why are people such jerks, anyway?

2053 hrs

It’s almost lights out.  Damn!  I have to write about Victory Tower.  It was so scary!  We finally got on the road this morning after watching that stupid video, loaded down with our protective masks, LCEs (Load Carrying Equipment – that’s our belt and suspenders with the ammo pouches, canteens, and first aid kit attached), rucksacks, and Kevlar.  More later.

17 October 2000
1315 hrs

The chaplain is talking.  My hands smell like an M16A2.  I’m so hot and tired.  I took some skin off my left hand yesterday on the ropes.  Band-Aids keep slipping off, so I’m carrying a hanky around to protect my wound from dirt for when we’re dropped (3 times already today).

I also have a blister on each pinky toe.  The road march was only 3/4 of a mile each way, but it killed me, especially coming home.  Every time I get in one of these classrooms, my body shuts down and tries to go to sleep on me.  It’s only been 7 minutes since I sat down, and I’m already losing it.

Victory Tower petrified me.  First I did the rope bridges, which was the scariest part.  I was practically hyperventilating, I was so nervous.  I was shaking badly and breathing really fast, and my heart was pounding.  You couldn’t pay me enough to ever do that again!  I had to clamber up to a wooden platform and wait there on my hands and knees until the bridge was almost clear.  The first bridge up to the tower was a 3-rope bridge.  Your walked on one rope, and held on to another with each hand.  That was tricky, but there was worse to come.  We were supposed to return to the wooden platform via a single rope, performing the “commando crawl.”  Hah!  My balance has been so far off since the vertigo in August.  The commando crawl: you’re on top of the rope, right foot hooked behind the body over the rope, left leg dangling, rope down the center of the stomach into the groin.  You’re supposed to pull yourself hand over hand down the rope.  Hah!  I got on, spun around upside down, and dropped like a rock into the safety net.  I knew that would happen.  At least I wasn’t the first.  *sigh*  I would say that at least 5% of the people dropped.  Luckily I didn’t have to go back and try it again; it would have ended the same, I’m sure.  Last, I had to climb back up to the tower on a 2-rope bridge, sidestepping.  That was harder than I expected, because the last little bit was quite steep.

Finally, to return to the ground, we had to climb down a 40-foot cargo net.  That was scary, too.  I was worried I’d have a brain lapse and accidentally lift both hands off the net at the same time.  My shoulders and upper arms are so sore right now.  I was so tense and nervous that I got sorer than I would have otherwise.

Next we went to the other side of the tower for rappelling.  We got our rope harnesses tied tightly around the groin, and then went to a small wall to practice.  Rappelling is fun and didn’t scare me at all.  Getting to the top on the rappelling side sucked, though.  We had to pull ourselves up about 12 feet with a rope and an angled board, and then we climbed a ladder the rest of the way.  I had a lot of trouble with the rope.  I almost swung completely off the side at one point.  I’m so uncoordinated!  I finally clambered to the top, and Cpt. R*** was there.  Next I had to swing across a pit on a rope.  Like the total idiot I am, I fell the first time, but I was successful on my second attempt.  I was getting to know those safety nets well today…

Then I crawled over to the rappelling lane.  That was definitely the best part of the whole day.  Afterwards, I went over to get lunch, but it was beef stew and there were no utensils left.  I ate as best I could with the bread serving as my spoon.

I’m nervous.  None of the drill sergeants are in the room right now.  A captain from JAG is discussing the UCMJ with us.  The drill sergeants must be somewhere planning hideous smoking sessions for us.

Our platoon sucks.  We’re always the last in the company, we never have our shit together, and people are constantly talking.  I think our drill sergeants are getting frustrated.  I know I am.

I just pretend I’m in a movie most of the time I’m here.  It works well.  Sleepy again.  Wake, wake little flower.

1524 hrs

Now I’m in a class on acceptable behavior.  So many classes!

I’m really worried about J*** (in my squad).  He left Victory Tower in an ambulance yesterday mid-morning.  I think he was dehydrated.  He’s been sick for days, and he just collapsed.  The hospital sent him back today, and he looks like he’s in a lot of pain.  Only 6-1/2 hours until lights out.

After Victory Tower, we had the 3/4 mile march home.  It was only a little ways, but I thought I was going to fall out.  I don’t know how I’ll do the 12 miles at the end of Victory Forge.  One foot in front of the next, I suppose.

This morning we ran a little to get used to running in formation.  DS H*** called cadence and DS L*** ran right next to me, so I had to dress to him and be perfectly in step and pretend I wasn’t dying to stop.  After PT, we went to chow.  Then we changed into BDUs and were introduced to our weapons.  Whenever we use our weapons, we march over to the arms room and check them out.  They’re very heavy – around 8 pounds, I think.  We did some D & C with the M16s, such as port arms, order arms, and present arms.

I’m sure other things have happened in the last few days.  I can only remember the last 5 minutes, if that.  We are the most powerful country in the world.  You are lucky to be wearing this uniform.  Just copying down some things that this sergeant is saying.

Perhaps strangely, I’m not missing any foods yet.  We’re not allowed to have cake or pie anymore, which is fine.  Also, we can’t drink anything except Allsport (Victory punch), juice, milk, and water.

The sun is right on my arm right now.  All the blinds are drawn, but there’s one opening and it’s leading the sun right to my arm.  My upper body is getting sorer as the day progresses.  Tomorrow morning we have an MS (Muscular Strength) session for PT.

Dang!  I just had to stand up.  The captain asked all 3rd platoon squad leaders to stand up and for each of us to say a way in which we are all similar.  Blech.  I said we all wanted to graduate.  I hate talking in class.  I always get nervous.

As a squad leader, I’m always in front when we’re marching.  There are 4 columns, and I’m in front of the far left column, if you’re looking straight at our faces.  It’s rather funny, because everyone has to dress to me, and honestly I’m less dizzy but I still wobble a lot, especially in the mornings.

Oh come on!  Do I really need a lesson on why rape is wrong?  Under the UCMJ, rape can be punishable by death.  That’s excellent.

1750 hrs

I just got back from chow, and I’m in yet another class.  There are so many people in my platoon who are spoiled little babies.  I know some people in my squad think I’m a major bitch, but I can’t help getting annoyed at the 3 or 4 people who are constantly talking and fucking around.  I don’t know what to do when I have to ask them several times to be quiet.

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