Saturday, September 08, 2007
Thanks for reading, and for all your comments!
Friday, April 06, 2007
>- What would you absolutely tell me not to bring?
I guess this depends on whether or not you will have someone come to visit you at basic training graduation. You will be allowed to have items at AIT that you cannot have at basic and some folks like to bring along various items like electronics knowing that they want to use them up until they are taken away from them at BCT and that they can have them the minute that they are allowed again. However, if there was something valuable, I suppose there is a risk to bring it to BCT if you can't use it there, as it will be immediately locked away in a closet or room and thrown into a heap with the bags of everyone else in your platoon. There is the chance that something in that room could be damaged (for example, Fort Jackson humdity can be really bad, and electronics might not fare very well left in an unairconditioned barracks closet for 2+ months), or even stolen. I don't know if I mentioned it on my blog, but when I was in basic, people broke into those "secure" rooms on more than one occasion, or there were times when the DSs would have to let someone in there to retrieve a personal item, so theft is always a concern.
Other than that, I would say to not bring whatever they tell you is contraband. If you smoke, you can smoke up until the airport or wherever they pick you up. They have an amnesty room at Reception in basic training where you can anonymously ditch your cigarettes, porn, knives, or whatever is on the list (the list is actually kind of funny, but after I met a lot of folks at basic, I knew some of them were probably bringing every single item on that list). If there is something you still had until you got there, it's wise to get rid of it at that point, because you will undergo a full "shakedown" of all of your belongings at Reception, and again at basic training. You do not want to get caught with contraband items during shakedown.
>>- I heard that some people had the opportunity to use their cell>phones?
I don't know if this is something that has changed since I was in basic, but when I was there, this was not true. However, there were always rampant rumors about it happening, and the Drill Sergeants said, "No way in hell!". I suspect that it is something that they still may not allow because of what basic training is all about: the militarization process. Early on in BCT they want to cut your ties with home so that you will harden up and more easily turn into a soldier. They probably worry about people calling their loved ones on the cell phone every night and crying, and maybe about someone sympathetic saying, "It's ok, come on home" or something. I suspect that if you are told by people at the MEPS that they are not allowed, then this is true. Your best bet, however, is to ask your recruiter for the names/numbers of some people who have just come back from BCT as split-ops, or have finished BCT more recently at Fort Jackson... At this point now it has been over a year since I graduated from BCT, so it's possible that things have changed. I will tell you this - people did use their cell phones on the day before family day when we got all our personal stuff back, though I don't know if they were supposed to.
>>-What would you say was the hardest part?
That aforementioned part about militarization and separation from loved ones, by far. Being cut off from the opportunity to talk to and see the folks you love was the most difficult. You will go through a lot of difficulty in those first few weeks, and it's tough to do so without the support that you would usually have from the people closest to you. If anything, it may make you into a good letter writer, if you aren't one already. I got through it by spending all my free time writing to my husband, and telling him all the details of the things I was going through... It was as close as I could get to talking to him, and I think getting mail from me every day made it easier for him too. It was very difficult for me emotionally until I started getting mail back from him early on in BCT, but when his letters finally began to arrive, it made all the difference in the world to my morale. Once that connection of constant (albeit delayed) communication was established, I was a lot happier.
>>- Can you use razors?
We were allowed to have some of the non-electric kind, but honestly there wasn't a lot of time for shaving and long showers until later on in basic. However, maybe you'll luck out and have a Drill Sergeant like mine who would let us take showers as long as we wanted to after lights out so we actually had proper time for personal hygiene.
>>- I know you said you got the Pill when you were down there, but are>you allowed to take some with you?
You can bring them with you, but you need to bring a copy of your doctor's prescription with you, and they will call to verify. Also, see if you can bring a few months' supply with you. Make sure that the fact that you are on the Pill is noted by the MEPS health personnel somewhere in your records before you ship to basic, and that will undoubtedly make things easier for you. The last thing you want to do is to suddenly go off the Pill in basic and have your cycle all screwed up in that environment... for me, it was rather unpleasant!
>>- What did you do when you were out in the field and had your>period?
I brought a lot of pads in plastic baggies, which I separated into smaller bunches and had to stuff in my pockets... luckily there are about a million pockets in those ACU uniforms on your shoulders, chest, legs, butt... The only embarrassing thing (sort of) was when you had to come off the range and go through "shake down", and of course you would have to empty your pockets. I always left the pads in the plastic baggies and the Drill Sergeants didn't paw through them. The other females were also good about helping each other out when I was there, and offering feminine hygiene products if you ran out.
The bad part is you can't really take anything for cramps, bloating, etc. but if you get ibuprofen for some other ailment, hold onto a few for your period... or keep your ears open and you will undoubtedly find someone else who has them, and may sell (yes, there is a BCT black market for such things...lol) or give you a few. You might get in trouble, though, if you are caught with "drugs" that weren't prescribed to you. I know it sounds silly, as this is something you could buy over the counter at home, but everything has to be done by the rules there. BTW I suppose you could use tampons, but they are strongly discouraged, because there really aren't any facilities for washing your hands when you're out in the field, and you do get really dirty. We ended up buying a lot of those little hand sanitizer bottles at the PX and would always keep a bottle of two in our pockets, especially for visits to those nasty porta potties. Everyone was always getting sick, so it's important in BCT to do everything you can to avoid it.
>>- Do you have to wear Bcg's all the time, or can you take them off if you>dont need to use them? And do you have to wear them in AIT?
We were made to wear BCGs all the time through basic, but you could wear civilian glasses in AIT (however, there were a few times I chose to wear my BCTs in AIT when I knew my civilian glasses would be too roughed up in the field). If the Drill Sergeants knew that somebody was issued BCGs, they made them wear them... though a few girls that had halfway decent eyesight but still had BCGs issued to them just hid them right from the beginning, and no one was the wiser. I suppose you are taking the risk, though, of not having them if you need them, and of getting in trouble if they found out somehow. Some people said that they really just needed them for seeing long distances like qualifying on the range, but they were made to wear them all the way through BCT.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
But in the meantime, since several of you having been asking for it, I am beginning to post journal entries from my time at basic combat training. These entries will be posted in chronological order beginning on the date I left for BCT on January 17th, 2006. Use the "Archives" navigation section to look through these earlier entries. I will begin by posting excerpts from my first 10 days in BCT, and will continue updating this with several each day until all are posted.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Our uniform for the graduation ceremony was Class 'B's (the green dress uniform without the jacket), and was held in the battalion headquarters. The ceremony included the showing of a video about AIT at Fort Gordon, and speeches from several speakers including the brigade LTC. We were handed "fake" diplomas - I'm guessing that the real thing will come in the mail later. The only honor graduates came from my class, and I was awarded the title of distinguished honor graduate for having the highest average over a 95 in my class. Unfortunately this might mean that my unit might expect me to know what to do...lol. Anyway, the ceremony was relatively short, and I departed immediately after.
I will miss many of my classmates. Honestly I didn't care for a lot of the people I was with AIT with, but the folks in my class were an exception. We had some really good people in the 25B class. Hopefully we will all try to remain in touch with one another.
My husband drove to Fort Gordon to pick me up. We drove home (taking a nap or two along the way). Crossing over the state line and knowing I wasn't far from home was a nice feeling. We stopped for breakfast at a Perkin's restaurant shortly thereafter. When we were paying for our breakfast at the register, the manager came over. She said, "There was a gentlemen who just walked out the door a few minutes ago. He left money and instructions to pay for the breakfast of the woman in uniform."
Wow. A total stranger picked up the tab for our meal. That was really kind. I suppose that there are a lot of folks who are appreciative of those in the military who are serving their country. :)
Monday, August 21, 2006
At least I was able to spend the weekend with my husband. On Friday night I received an overnight pass and didn't have to be back at the company until Sunday afternoon. I was the only person in my company of 330 people to apparently receive the privilege. My husband said that this might be my payback for being a squared-away soldier for so many months...
My husband is "working from home" in the hotel for the next few days while he waits for me to be released from Fort Gordon. Luckily he has a job in IT which can afford him such privileges. We stopped at the post PX this weekend and picked him up an Xbox 360, so I know he'll also be suitably entertained. I also bought a nice speaker set for my Ipod. Have to take advantage of the tax-free shopping at the PX before I leave here...
The graduation ceremony is Wednesday at 4:00pm, so with any luck, we'll probably be on the road by 4:30pm. I'm planning to help my husband drive, so hopefully we'll make it home by early Thursday morning if we drive straight through.
It still doesn't feel "real" that I'm leaving here yet... in the same way that it took awhile for it to feel "real" when I originally enlisted in the Army.
I've been spending most of my time lately in these final days just thinking about home, and planning for the future. It's hard to believe that I've been doing this for 8 months. Sometimes I have my doubts, and wondered what I would have missed out on if I had chosen another path, and decided not to enlist in the military. There are times when I felt that I've been missing out on civilian life. Sometimes I've been angry at myself to having chosen this particular path, but I guess I didn't come into this blind. For whatever the reaosn, this is something that I felt the need to do. Luckily the difficult part of it is almost over.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Well, it is Thursday, and I'm back at the barracks. I have left Capstone a little bit early, and am missing out on today and tomorrow. Honestly, I don't think I'm going to be missing out on much. We've already finished with the ranges, and completed our MOS validation. It sounds like much of tomorrow is going to consist of a Capstone graduation ceremony, and cleaning up the FOB where we were staying. My battle buddy Jeanene is being sent home from AIT several days early because of her upcoming deployment to Iraq. She needed a battle buddy, so I've been accompanying her all over base for outprocessing, which involves visits to every conceivable place on post to make sure you've fulfilled your various obligations (going to the dentist to get your records, library to show you have no overdue books, etc.). The fringe benefit of this is that I've been also taking care of my outprocessing along with hers, since we have to go to all the same places. The rest of my classmates will have to wait until Monday to do their outprocessing. Unfortunately it doesn't mean that I will necessarily get out of here any earlier, but at least I will have fewer things to worry about for the remainder of my time here.
<--Jeanene packing up
I am really happy to be out of the field. We had a long day yesterday, and it was tiring and boring. I worked on an ammo detail stuffing magazines with blanks and live rounds, listening to the guys tell a lot of off-color sex jokes. The only highlight of my day was helping some Sgts to dissassemble a huge radio tower (the thing was amazing - super light and everything fit into a suitcase-sized pack). Another attempt at "personal hygiene" yesterday was once more interrupted by a simulated attack. This time the role-players had M-16s hidden under their robes. They pretended to pray, then opened fire on our encampment. We were also roused during the evening by a "sniper". I guess this kind of thing would be more fun if you were into war games. Maybe I would be if I wasn't so tired. Guess that's how I slept through the aforementioned fire ant attacks.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Tomorrow is a convoy live fire range, where we shoot at targets from the back of a moving truck, then disembark to fire at other targets after the truck stops for a simulated IED. Some of the students are wondering why we also have to do a convoy live fire range, since everyone had to do this in BCT not that long ago... I guess they figure that folks will encounter convoys in Iraq, so it's just additional training.
Yesterday we began "MOS validation training". This is a time where everyone sits around the computers, attempting to figure out what to do, and trying not to look stupid in the progress... ;p
After our MOS training yesterday, our camp, er, FOB (forward operating base) was surrounded by a group of simulated protesters. One of them handed us a brochure telling us to go home to "the land of Wal-Marts and Britney Spears" (I thought that was a nice touch). The protesters were peaceable until one of them decided to jump our barracade, at which point they were "shot".
At bed time we were also attacked. This came at an inopportune moment for me while I was in a state of undress in the tent. Shots and simulated artillery rounds were going off everywhere, people were screaming and running around, and I was throwing on clothes so fast I put my boots on backwards. It was entertaining.
This is day three of Capstone, and we are all starting to smell. The cadre are going to allow us our first (and only) shower tonight. One can only imagine how pungent the odor is being around people wearing all kinds of equipment in 100+ degree weather, some of them not changing into fresh clothes, after several days and several nights. This morning I experienced an olfactory memory of some of my days in archaeology brought upon my these smells. The persistent malodor brought me back to the days when I used to work with two archaeologist hippies that rarely showered. This was the same crew led by a whacko that used to brag about sleeping on garbage in the back of his van. It's been a long time since I've thought of those people, but being here lately, it's not that much of a stretch to close my eyes, draw in a deep breath, try not to gag, and remember...
It is 6:56pm and I'm happy to report that I've finally gotten that shower...aaaaah! However, stepping back out into the Georgia heat sort of negates the effect, and the positive feelings are short-lived.
I survived another day here, but I'll certainly be glad when this is over with. My body is riddled with fire ant bites all over... so many, that it looks like I have chicken pox.
<--- An inside look at D-MAIN
<--- Jeanene tries to catch a catnap in our tent, which wasn't easy in the 100+ heat
<--- Guarding the perimeter during one of our "attacks"
<--- My battles trying to keep themselves entertained while waiting at one of the ranges
I actually ended up firing a lot better this way. On my last clip, I even got all of my shots in the same hole. Maybe I'll do better when I qualify next time.
We began the Capstone field exercise yesterday. We initially met in a gym and had to be separated into two groups of about 35 people each. You were either assigned to a site called D-MAIN or D-TAC (the former was co-ed, and the latter males only). We rode a bus out to our site (I am at D-MAIN) and set up cots in several large Army tents. Unlike basic training, we have the luxury of having a fan in our tent. Granted, it's still summer in Georgia, and will always be hot, but even having the hot air blow around does make a difference.
Even though we were split up, I'm still with a lot of folks from my class, which is a good thing. A lot of the other folks are younger kids with a short MOS school (5 weeks compared to our 20+ weeks). I don't think they've quite gotten out of the basic training-mindset, because they are treating me with respect, addressing me by my rank, and even occasionally going to the rank of parade rest with their hands interlocked behind their backs. I suspect that some of these folks with shorter AITs haven't had a lot of E-4s around... it's a little weird. Someone remarked that maybe the people coming into the Army with college and higher ranks are choosing longer, more technical AITs. Maybe there is some validity to that notion, I don't know.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Capstone is the last requirement I must meet to graduate AIT. Basically, it is five days in the field. In the morning, we go to the rifle range. In the afternoon, we practice MOS skills that we should have learned in our military training at AIT up until now. I don't know a lot of details about what the Capstone experience will entail, but that is my general understanding of what I have to look forward to.
I really am anxious to get this over and to return home. I have lived away from home in a military environment since January, and it seems like it's been forever. My husband and I have a lot of plans for the house when I get back. I have been gone a long time, and there is a lot to get caught up on.
Friday, August 11, 2006
This photograph was taken by one of my classmates at AIT. This was taken during one of our last few classes. Note the beret flying through the air!
I'm pleased to report that we finished our
last class today, and everyone made it.
We leave for Capstone, the final field exercise,
The class I've had all week has been very difficult, and stressful. I don't feel like I am adequately prepared for what we've been going over in this class. It's an uncomfortable feeling, to say the least.
I'm not very happy because they are keeping us here until August 23rd instead of August 21st for a mandatory graduation ceremony. To be honest, I'm not really that interested in attending an actual graduation. Most of my classmates only want to have their certificate in training, and be let loose...
On Sunday, we will be leaving for Capstone, the final field exercise at AIT. We will return on Thursday. Then we are being kept here until the following Wednesday, even though everything left here (mostly outprocessing) will only take a day. My husband is driving down here next weekend, and then staying until I am released, for a total of five nights in the hotel. Between the hotel, food, fuel, paying for a dogsitter at home, and miscellaneous costs, it will turn into an expensive trip for him. Oh well... at least it is really almost over.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
- a Camelbak (or other make of) hydration pack
I opted for a model which holds a good amount of water (~100 ounces) and has enough space to carry my gear (book or tablets for school, poncho, water bottle for class, and ink pens). Camelbaks on this post are only allowed in military colors like the ACU pattern, DCU pattern, foliage green, or black... no purple/pink combos or other odd color schemes.
- a cell phone loaded with features
It is true that there are payphones on base, but almost everyone at AIT has a cell phone. Most have features such as a built-in camera, ability to send text messages/e-mail, or play MP3 files. I have a Blackberry-like Samsung phone which allows internet access. This is a luxury as getting on the internet can be very challenging here since owning laptops is forbidden by many companies.
- MP3 player or CD player and music
Almost everyone has one of these. I have a 30GB video Ipod which I update with new music and podcasts every few weeks. I've also tried listening to the local National Public Radio stations on a small radio, but reception in our cinderblock barracks building is fleeting, and I mostly rely upon the Ipod for entertainment.
- portable DVD player and movies
I don't have one of these, but many people do. The rule of thumb for owning personal electronics in our barracks is that it must fit into the cargo pocket of a pair of ACU pants... anything larger is generally verboten.
- civilian clothes
Storage at AIT is limited, but after a soldier "phases up" and receives off-post passes, most rush out to purchase some civilian clothes for the weekends. The selection of clothing at the PX on base is quite limited, though more options exist with a visit to the local mall. Many people have family or friends at home mail them their favorite clothes. At any given time, I only have room for about 2 or 3 outfits in my locker.
- storage chest
My company allows soldiers to possess a black plastic storage chest or footlocker. These are indispensible for all of the items which you cannot easily fit (or display) in your locker, or for a temporary holding area for clean laundry you haven't gotten a chance to properly put away. Storage chests must be locked and are available here for about $24.00 at the PX.
Friday, August 04, 2006
broke off - to cause pain, injury and/or failure: "The 1SG really broke off a lot of people in this morning's run."
my bad - I have made a mistake and admit guilt for it: "I should have warned you that the Drill Sergeant saw you sleeping; my bad!"
tore up - a mess, an injury, or other negative physical manifestation, used as an adv.: "It looks like the Drill Sergeants were in your room, cause your battle buddy's bunk is all tore up." or "She never cleans her uniforms - she's always tore up like that."
the one you want - a desired choice or outcome; also used as an affirmation or confirmation to an action: "A 300 score on the PT test - that's the one you want!"
baby daddy - literally, the father of a woman's child(ren), or potential/desired father, or most often simply a boyfriend or love interest: "That Drill Sergeant so hot, I wish he were my baby daddy!"
soup sandwich - as a visual would suggest, a messy and unpleasant item, most often applied on an individual level: "He's a regular soup sandwich."
bam! - an affirmation (con gusto) or acknowledgement that an individual is in agreement with what they have just heard or witnessed; also an expression of enthusiasm, often heard during formation or PT sessions: "That's my Drill Sergeant! Bam!"
you pump me up - an acknowledgement of inspiration; this phrase is sometimes offered in jest or sarcastically: "Student 1SG, you pump me up!"
a hot mess - a negative term applied to a situation of physical location; roughly equivalent in meaning to a hot, steaming pile of feces: "Soldier, you look like a hot mess."
blue falcon - also known as bravo foxtrot, a euphemism for buddy f***er; a battle buddy who has proven to be anything but: "That blue falcon got the entire platoon in trouble!"
ate up - similar in meaning to tore up; a negative term usually applied to someone's personal appearance, or attempt to carry out a desired action: "Private, you're so ate up that your kevlar is on backwards."
GI party - two words which have caused thousands of soldiers to collectively groan; a prolonged period of mandatory, enforced cleaning and maintenance of the barracks or other area: "Privates, we're having a GI party tonight, and y'all are invited!"
shammer - an individual who lies or exaggerates a condition, usually medical in nature, in order to avoid an activity: "That shammer couldn't do PT because of his sore leg, yet I saw him running through the barracks this morning."
that's the wrong answer - a response to information given that is not adequate or acceptable to an individual's expectation: "So that's why you're late to formation again? Soldier, that's the wrong answer!"
e-nothing - a disparaging term for a Private having the pay grade and rank of E-1; these soldiers do not have rank insignia to speak of to wear on their ACU caps or blouses, and are sometimes teased by those of having a higher rank: "That e-nothing is hard at work being a Drill Private!"
you don't know me like that - a phrase which means you are not an individual's friend nor family member, and are therefore denied the right to speak to them as such, or harbor an expectation of a behavior that said relationship cound entail: "Soldier, you don't know me like that. Stand at parade rest when you're speaking to a Drill Sergeant! Who do you think you're talking to, your big, fat gym teacher? Get down and push! Grab yourself some real estate!"
Thursday, August 03, 2006
The other folks in my class had their EOC (end-of-cycle) PT test this morning (I did not have to take it because of the aforementioned profile). This signifies that the end of my time in AIT is indeed near. As of today I have exactly 2 weeks of training left. I have been away from home since January 17th, and it seems like this has gone on for an eternity. More than 7 months of being a trainee, and seven months of being screamed at by Drill Sergeants. I wonder if it will be an easy transition back to the civilian world? What will I do when nobody is there to punish me if I forget to make my bed in the morning? Or when there is dust on my shoes, or dust bunnies on the floor? How will I be able to deal with slowly enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning while lazily waking up to NPR and the internet? What about those weekends of sleeping in with the dogs and my hubby? Somehow I think I'll make the adjustment just fine. ;> I only need to get out of here! Almost done... almost done!
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Each of the AIT companies has the distinction of its own company motto. This is a saying (or in my company's case, a longer construct) that the soldiers have to sound off with upon command. Some companies have very short mottos, whereas my company's motto is the exact opposite. Close you eyes for a moment and imagine having to sound off with this piece... My battle buddy Jeanene has the distinction of leading this as the company student First Sergeant.
This is the sound of revenge
Steady, breath, aim, squeeze, boom let the rounds go
This is the sound of revenge
Steady, breath, aim, squeeze, boom let the rounds go
Stop, collaborate and listen
Bravo's back on a brand new mission
Don't complain when your company's missing
Can't take the heat get out of the kitchen
(1SG) Alright PGs that just wasn't crunk enough.
Front leaning rest position move.
In cadence, exercise (platoon guides begin to do pushups)
Ahh push it, Push it real good,
Ahh push it, Pu Pu Push it real good.
Don't you wish that you were in Bravo 369
Don't hate cause your motto ain't as dope as mine.
(1SG) Alright that was a little better.
Lets get serious!
This is serious
We can make you delerious.
You should have a healthy fear of us
Cause too much of us is dangerous,
So dangerous, your whole entire company is scared of us
(1SG) Alright Bravo, what do you think Charlie and Delta thought about our motto?
Oh I think they like me,
Oh I think they, Oh I, Oh I, Oh I think they like me.
(Females) Oh I think they like me cause they heard us on the other one so it's only right that we...
(Everyone again) Hit 'em with another one.
(DANCE DANCE DANCE) Lean with it, Rock with it, Lean with it, Rock with it.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
In a few weeks I will begin the task of posting my basic training journal to the blog. I managed to find time to write home every day during basic. The letters ranged from a simple postcard to ramblings many pages in length, and covered every facet imaginable. These entries will begin to be posted on this blog at the end of August.
I did not record my AIT experience in the same way for several reasons. AIT wasn't the same kind of experience as BCT. Most of my daily routine consisted of waking up, PT, and attending classes all day - not exactly the most riveting thing to read about. However, I did write about several subjects while at AIT... everything from how Drill Sergeants at AIT compare to those in BCT, what my experience was like in the FOB (forward operating base) training, to life in the barracks. These will begin to also be posted in a few weeks... stay tuned.
A few notes... The Drill Sergeants like to move us around in the barracks from time to time. I was just starting to get comfortable in my room, but we had to move all the way down the hall into another one. Those of us who are in Phase V+ status have been finally been allowed to have civilian linen. Not having to make your bed with hospital corners in the morning is a plus when time is at a premium!
Unfortunately my foot has still be bothering me, and I ended up being on profile again for the last few weeks of AIT. I hate this... I hate being injured, and feeling like some kind of sick call ranger. I really need to have my foot looked at by a civilian doctor when I go home. At one point, my foot was feeling better, and I even volunteered to participate in a 10k (~6 mile) race on post. Here is a photo of a few of us from our company after the run:
I never thought I would be able to run for 6 miles. Before I shipped for basic training, I could barely run a block without being winded. I suppose this is why it has been frustrating to have injured my foot. I feel like I'm going to lose all of the progress I've made in running over the past several months.... Oh well.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
The weekdays generally have been flying by, as we're kept busy. Here is a typical day's schedule:
Wake at 4:20am
Finish getting dressed, brush teeth, etc. and make bunk
In formation by 5:00am
PT (physical training) usually runs from 5:30am-6:30am
Drill Sergeants lead PT sessions from these stands each morning on Barton Field
Return to barracks for a quick shower and "barracks maintenance" (quick sweeping of the rooms, dusting off shoes, taking out trash), change into ACUs
Leave for DFAC (dining facility) with my battle buddy at about 7:20am
Eat breakfast from about 7:35-8:00am, then walk to classroom building
Class from 8:30am to 4:30pm, with breaks at 10am & 2pm, and lunch at 11:30am
Some of my IET classmates waiting to return to class after chow
Stop at DFAC again for dinner on way back to barracks
Change from ACUs back into PT uniform to be in formation by 5:45pm
Formation officially begins at 6:00pm, and mail is distributed. For some reason we're usually kept standing around for a very long time in formation... 1 1/2 hrs is not uncommon (groan)
Personal time usually begins after we are released from formation. During this time, my battle buddy and I will sometimes walk to a nearby pizza place to obtain internet access or study for an upcoming test, go to the PX, or get dinner if we've somehow missed it earlier.
Bed check formation falls somewhere between 9:00pm and 9:45pm. We must wait for every person's name to be called, at which point that individual runs into the barracks and prepares to sleep. As there are 200+ people in our company at any given time, this can take awhile if your last name falls at the end of the alphabet. ;p
Once or twice during the week, sleep is interrupted by having to pull a hall guard duty shift. This runs for 2 hours (usually 10-midnight, midnight-2am, or 2am-4am), and entails little guarding and much cleaning (hallways, latrines, laundry room, etc.)
In the beginning of my AIT experience I thought that PT was on a par with what we had done in basic, but it has gotten more difficult. Our last few runs have taken place around the legendary Barton Field and have been at least 3.2 - 3.5 miles in length. In basic training I never ran more than 2 miles. I wasn't sure if I would be able to complete a longer run here, but have been pleasantly surprised at my progress. I am actually considering participating in a voluntary 10k (~6 mile) running event next weekend here on base. I don't know how long I'll be able to hang in there, but I'd like to give it a shot.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Jeanene and I exploring Fort Gordon in civilian clothes with our newfound freedom
It has been nearly a month since I first arrived at Fort Gordon. I have been in classes for 2 weeks now, and over the past week completed the steps that come before the 'phasing' process. I had to retake my PT test (previously missed the situps by 1), and my platoon had to take a written test on general Army knowledge, successfully pass a Class 'A' uniform inspection, a wall locker and room inspection, and a barracks inspection. Luckily everything went fine, and I am now considered to be a 'Phase V' soldier. This status brings new privileges which weren't allowed as a 'Phase IV' soldier. We are now allowed to wear civilian clothes and to leave post on the weekend, and are treated a little more like humans instead of basic training holdovers.
This weekend, Jeanene and I celebrated our newfound freedom by going off post to... the mall! Yes, I know, this doesn't sound like a big deal, but for someone who has pretty much been in lockdown status since January 17th, something like going to the mall is a big deal. I bought some clothes, jewelry, a case for my Ipod, and enjoyed an iced coffee drink and a gyro. Later we were able to log onto the internet at a pizza place, and had some Mexican food at the Cinco de Mayo carnival on post. Any time spent away from the barracks is always a good thing.
I realized that most people who are in Phase V status here seem to celebrate by getting very drunk. During our last two 'Phase V' formations at night over the weekend, I witnessed several males becoming ill and vomiting... in formation. My partying days are long behind me, so I don't expect to be replicating their experience anytime soon.
My husband is planning to visit next weekend, and I am very much looking forward to seeing him again. :)
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Friday, April 14, 2006
It is 10:44am and I am at sick call again waiting for my appointment. I was actually able to walk here by myself without a (gasp!) battle buddy, and I will be forced to eat alone at the DFAC for lunch afterwards. It is weird sometimes to be without a battle buddy after we've been forced to have one for so long. It feels like I'm almost getting away with something! Since January 17th I have always had someone with me at Fort Jackson or Fort Gordon, wherever I've gone. The exception to the battle buddy policy at AIT is medical appointments, but you are still supposed to have a battle buddy with you in other scenarios.
Not that I wouldn't mind having Jeanene along this morning. I told her that I was very pleased that we were assigned to be battle buddies. Actually, I've found that unlike White in BCT, I really enjoy her company, and I think she feels the same. I'm sure we'll come out of this as friends. It's just a shame that we didn't know each other in basic training. We were both stuck in other platoons with people that we mostly didn't like. Maybe having a good battle buddy now is my reward for putting up with White for 2 1/2 months!
Our Drill Sergeants spoke with us this morning and told us we will likely have two more weeks until the phase change. So, in theory, I may be able to get a weekend pass two weekends from now. Wouldn't that be wonderful... I can't wait to see my husband again!
We will not be having an on-post pass this weekend. Jeanene and I are going to see if we can at least obtain permission to go to the library, which isn't far from the company. We are thus far forbidden from going to the local pizza joint, where internet is also an option. Any food that doesn't come from the DFAC is verboten to those still in Phase IV status.
It is 12:06pm, and I am currently at the Reserve liasion's office waiting to submit a copy of my profile (those in the NG and Reserve must keep their liasion apprised of such things). The doctor at sick call was nice to me. He said, "You don't seem like a malingerer, so I'm going to let you write your own profile." I should have written "no pushups, no situps"...just kidding. Actually he recommended another week of wearing running shoes instead of boots, and a no running/no marching/no jumping profile. We'll see if the rest makes any difference.
It is 1:00pm, and I am sitting in a hall waiting for some kind of ceremony to begin. My platoon has been brought here by the Drill Sergeants to be spectators at some event of which we have no prior knowledge. Apparently we've been brought along simply to bolster the numbers in the audience. I think it's humorous, but not surprising.
I thought I might have gotten out of having to come to this event, but I was snagged earlier by a girl from my platoon who is a bit of a goody-two shoes. I'm glad that Jeanene is my battle buddy instead of this girl, as she would probably drive me crazy. She's always a little bit too worried about getting in trouble. I'm certainly not someone that tries to get out of duty, but right now I'm limping around, and I would have really appreciated not having to march across post for some ceremony. ;p
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Everyone is hoping that maybe, just maybe we won't have to participate in weapons immersion. Carrying around the M-16s all the time is a pain. You have to tote them into the chow hall, sling them over your back, and watch them while you eat. Sometimes the Drill Sergeants will try to "steal" them away if you put them on the floor under your table. An unsecured weapon is a big deal. One day a DS was able to go around and pick up an armload of M-16s. The smoking session for the folks that lost their weapons began with 85 pushups, and progressed from there, ending with some rifle PT. You can bet they won't be making that mistake twice. I guess maybe this may be the reason why weapons immersion needs to continue...
It is 7:26pm. I'm happy since we are back in the barracks, and I'm able to have my cell phone again to keep in touch with my husband.
We are still in the dark here as far as information goes. We don't know when our MOS classes are beginning, and don't know what we will be doing in the interim. We don't even really know what is expected of us at the company, nor even what is supposed to be going on tomorrow. Yesterday we had a formation at 6:00pm. The DFAC closes at 6:15pm. No one told us we were supposed to march ourselves to dinner beforehand, as the DS had told us to stay in the barracks. We figured that we had better risk it and flee for chow, as it was getting later and later, and the prospect of dinner was becoming less of a certainty, so we went on our own. Half the time it seems like we are doing things based on the advice of other folks who have been at AIT for awhile, because the DSs here don't always put out all the necessary information. This is, by far, my biggest gripe about being at this company. Tell us what is going on! We don't know what to do, and what we're supposed to do if we are to avoid getting in trouble.
It is 9:01pm, and I was just able to sneak in a little catnap in the barracks. I'm still sleep-deprived, but slowly catching up. Luckily it looks like none of the girls in my room have duty for the next few days, so we might actually be able to.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
It is now 12:40pm, and after lunch. Earlier I had guard duty again, and am returning in a few minutes for another shift. I had duty again with Sgt Meno. She knew that I was dead tired, and didn't give me a hard time about it. I am so sleep-deprived right now that I was almost hallucinating... or so it seemed. I repeatedly thought I saw a deer walking through the FOB. Not a good sign. I still have a supply of the instant coffee packets to get me through the rest of the day, but I'm really hoping they will let us catch up on sleep when we get back to the barracks.
It is 4:37pm. We just finished a detail picking up brass and links (from SAW ammo) outside the FOB. It is Heat Cat V and quite toasty this afternoon. Yes, Georgia can be this hot - even in April. I can only imagine what fun a Northerner like me will have in this heat come August.
Other than my two guard shifts and this detail, I didn't do much today. Earlier my squad had a class and participated in a live convoy fire exercise. The Drill Sergeants had me sit it out since I was on profile, and was also pulling a guard shift. At one point one of the Sgts told me to go into our tent and sit down because I didn't have a battle buddy and there wasn't anything to do. I laid on my cot and waited for someone to come back. One of the other girls came back and threw a fit because she saw me laying down. She started to bitch and slam her equipment around because I was able to sleep and she was not. Actually I wasn't sleeping - there is no way in hell that I could attempt that in this heat, especially inside the tent where the temps are intensified. I didn't really care about this girl being angry, as she's not one of my favorite people here. She has been rude to me (and many others) the entire time we've been at the FOB. A few days ago I had guard duty with her, and she told me that she thought the Army turned her into a monster. From what I have experienced of her behavior thus far, I'd venture a guess that she was well on that path before ever enlisting in the military...
I'll just be happy when we are done here. My battle buddy Jeanene has been gone most of the time, and there isn't really anyone in my FOB platoon that I like talking to here. I've mostly chatted with Sgt Meno. There is also another girl here I've talked to that is a radical Christian. It has been interesting to hear her perspectives and some of the more wild aspects of her belief system. Mostly I've just been sitting here quietly by myself if I have some free time, as I'd rather not talk to anyone else.
It is 6:18pm, and I'm back at the barracks. The FOB is over, and I'm happy to be back at my company... if such a thing is possible.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Thanks to my platoon mates at the FOB, I have been restocked with packets of instant coffee. The caffeine enabled me to stay awake during this morning's class. Others in my platoon were caught nodding off, which is never a good thing.
It is 1:52pm, and we are taking a break from instruction. I was just chatting with one of the AIT students, a Sgt who is reclassing from admin to 25B. She was surprised to hear that I am nearly 35 years old, as she thought I was 18 or 19. Apparently I confused some of the NCOs, as they apparently had a discussion about how mature I was for my "age"... lol. I hope people think I'm also half my age in about 10 years.
We've been learning about some Army-specific stuff that I probably shouldn't delve into in this blog. It has been somewhat interesting. I think any subject matter that's a little different from the usual BCT content is a refreshing change, at this point.
It is 4:14pm. I've been checking out the little heaters that are in these giant Army tents. My interest is personal, as my husband and I have one of these same tents at home that we occasionally use for camping. There are small heaters that run on diesel. The fuel is supplied from a jerry can that is suspended from a tripod outside the tent (fumes outside for ventilation). One of the smaller ones I've seen is called the SHA heater and is made by Hunter Manufacturing. I might have to look into picking one of these up for our Canadian camping adventures. We haven't yet been to our property in Nova Scotia yet in the winter, but I'm sure it gets pretty cold...
We are apparently hanging out now waiting for the other platoons to finish, and presumably chow. One of the other AIT reclassers was just trying to draw me into a conversation where he was going to try to make me look like an ass. I declined the obvious bait and walked away. His name is Specialist Gareth. No one seems to like him, as he has thus far been perceived as being a jerk. He is only a SPC and treats the MOS-Is here worse than the Drill Sergeants do. He seems poised to evolve into an NCO of the variety that is dying for the chance to assert their authority and ill-treat their subordinates. So far I haven't been impressed with most of the MOS-Ts here that are reclassing. Many (but not all) of the ones I've met so far seem to treat the MOS-Is with disdain. They can be rude and quite unprofessional in their attitudes to the newer soldiers, which is very disappointing. On the one hand, I could understand their frustration with having to deal with the folks fresh out of BCT, who are generally much younger and less mature then they are. On the other hand, I believe they could be doing a better job as mentors. If I was a Private and thought that the Army was comprised of people who were constantly going to look down upon me and treat me like shit, I know I would be discouraged. This is another case where I'm glad that I've already met the folks in my Reserve unit at home, and know everyone there is great. If I hadn't done so, I might be a little worried at this point.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
I have another letter ready to mail out but haven’t gotten the opportunity to do so yet.
I am missing my battle buddy. Most of the people in my FOB platoon are ok, but I haven’t really bonded with anyone. I had what started off as a promising conversation with one female, but it quickly turned into proselytizing about how her life is committed to Jesus Christ. That, I could deal with, but this girl has become brainwashed into believing that women should be subservient to their men. I kid you not. She actually told me all this crap about how women steal away men’s power, how a man should be the only one in charge of a household, business or relationship, and how God has spoken to her about her mission to educate women in the Army about their gender-based failings. It was downright creepy. I didn’t have the heart to tell her what I thought about her beliefs. If she begins preaching to me again, I will probably do so. Praise the Lord! Religion is fine, but the other stuff is wacky.
Last night we were woken on four occasions by the attack "siren". My psychic abilities have been serving me well, as I knew when three out of the four attacks were going to occur. The fourth time happened when I was sleeping, but I woke right up before the siren went off.
Our camp is a roughly rectangular area surrounded by walls filled with several feet of sand in between and capped by concertina wire. There are about 10 large sleeping tents, and 5 classroom tents. Five small bunkers are behind half of the sleeping tents – this is where we must run during the aforementioned "attacks". One corner of the complex houses four porta potties and a few portable sinks. There is a dining facility tent in another corner, and a few small outbuildings. Two of the sides have entrance gates, and each corner of the fence has a guard tower. There is a sand pit in the center surrounded by sand pags for hand to hand combat practice, and a large covered pavillion that reminds me of an open aircraft hangar. The main gate has several vehicle barracades. This FOB is our home for the time being.
It’s after lunch, which I helped to serve as part of the detail crew. I have been walking around looking for something else to do, unlike the malingering females I was put with. They have spent a considerable amount of time avoiding work by hiding in one of the sleeping tents. They were angered when I refused to condone their laziness. Luckily these girls aren’t in my company, and I won’t have to deal with them when the FOB is over with.
I am now on guard duty high above the ground in a tower. It’s actually pretty cool up here. We have a big SAW (squad automatic weapon) at our disposal, but I doubt we’ll be "attacked" right now. One of the guys here has a Blackberry-like device, so I’m going to see if I can borrow it to dash off a quick e-mail to my husband. That would be cool! I didn’t think I would be able to contact him at all this week, but so far I’ve phoned, sent several letters, and might be able to send an e-mail.
The day is dragging here. My platoon is getting their asses kicked out in the lanes (woodline). I’ve been told that they have all been getting picked off by the Drill Sergeants after being made to run up and down steep hills in deep sand. Glad that I’m mising out on that fun!
Earlier I had a conversation about Iraq with an AIT reclasser, a Sergeant who had been over there. He told me a lot about what kind of items you should bring over there, i.e. one trunk of at least three months of comfort (junk) food, laptop, Ipod, DVD player, etc. He said that WiFi was offered at the camp he was stationed at for $1.00/hour. Somehow I think that as a 25B I would have internet access…
Damn it, I’m down from the tower now, and I was unable to e-mail my husband. The girl I was with hogged the Blackberry for the entire time we were up there. I’m pissed. All I asked for was a few minutes to send a quick e-mail to my husband, and she ignored me. She kept reading her e-mails out loud the entire time, telling me about how some guy thought she was cute, how someone she knew from kindergarten contacted her, ad nauseum. I was looking forward to e-mailing my husband and am disappointed to have missed the opportunity.
I’m not very happy in general with the people that I’ve been stuck with at the FOB. I am looking forward to returning the the barracks at my own company, and back to my regular platoon.
Monday 04/10/2006 10:20am
I am still out at the FOB and currently in a computer class. We are taking a class on computer security and learning what you can and cannot do on a DoD PC. We heard a story about how a Specialist at one of the posts was caught saving gay porn photos (featuring himself) on the network. It boggles the mind why someone would feel compelled to save this on a work computer... especially an Army computer!
I found out that the Army does have some kind of web cam system that I can use if I am deployed. There is also chat (IM) authorized, but only through AKO. I guess I’ll have to find out the particulars of all of this as I go along.
Well, I’m almost halfway through Monday. A day and a half more out here, and I’ve heard we’re probably packing up sometime on Wednesday morning. I am looking forward to being able to call my husband when we get back to the barracks. No word yet on when our classes are starting. I even asked one of the reclassers here (most are NCOs) thinking that perhaps they had more information, but it is still a mystery.
I had tower guard duty this morning from 3:00am to 5:00am. I cradled a SAW on my shoulder for two hours, but the shift was uneventful. The girl in the tower with me told me all about how the Army has transformed her into "a bad person". She claimed to be a meaner, crueler, more uncaring version of herself than who she was at home. This conversation, albeit mostly a one-sided rant, went on for the full two hours that I was trapped listening to her in confines of the guard tower. I really didn’t know what to say to her – that is, if she had given me the chance to speak in response! I’m beginning to feel that there are a lot of people here who have some serious issues.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
I actually received about seven hours of sorely needed sleep last night. Of course the air raid siren was sounded right before bed, so we had to run for the bunkers. At least there weren't any alarms sounded throughout the night. I just needed to catch up on sleep. I'm still not feeling like I've caught up on it, but at least I'm a little more rested than yesterday.
Rumor has it that we might be able to go in for showers today. One of the other platoons had showers last night, and everyone else was jealous. I'm not as funky as most because of the shower I got on Thursday. This morning we are supposed to have PT (in ACUs and boots), so that will not help the situation.
We had formation, and are now sitting around, unclear as to what we will be doing, or when it will begin. I've gotten used to it being often like this. Get up early, hurry up and then do nothing. I'm beginning to think there is truth to the adage of "hurry up and wait" in the Army.
The wind is picking up, but it hasn't rained yet. I have a feeling that it will come this morning. I will then don a poncho that will almost reach to the ground. I miss having clothing and equipment that fit properly.
I believe chow is coming around 7:00 or 7:30am. I will actually be able to drink some coffee, as opposed to simply ingesting the contents of the instant coffee packets. It's not Starbucks, hell, the stuff they bring isn't even comparable to bad gas station coffee, but it has the desired effect. Out at the FOB we have usually been having hot As for two of our meals, and MREs for the other. It's not as hard on the body as a full diet comprised of nothing but MREs. They usually have some kind of sweets offered (such as donuts for breakfast and cookies or cake for dinner), but I usually decline.
It is 10:06 am, and we are currently taking a class on using walkie-talkie-type radios. These things are heavy and clunky, like most military equipment, and built to withstand heavy use and abuse. The class has thus far been a barrage of acronyms with little explanation of the terms nor concepts behind them. They may as well be speaking in a made-up language of gobbledygook for all the good this info is providing. I am not impressed with this particular instructor. It seems like it is being taught to the MOS-Ts (AIT reclassers) who have already had experience with the radios, but the MOS-Is (initial entry training) are left in the dark. Hopefully I will be able to retain something from this instruction, in spite of the instructor's delivery. This morning I had a cup of coffee augmented by two packets of instant coffee grounds, so I am doing ok thus far. You have to love caffeine!
It is 12:27pm, and we just finished lunch. It has been raining and thundering here intermittently for several hours. Our radio class went all morning. We had to configure settings on the radio in a set timeframe to pass the class.
It is 6:12pm and I am sitting in a gymnasium. We had to come here to escape a thunderstorm (guess the lightning was perceived to be too much of a threat in the field). We had a class on map reading and GPSing, but were interrupted to go to chow at the DFAC (at least we had real food!). The map reading was very basic.
It's probably not a bad thing that I'm on profile right now. Just the march to the DFAC here has gotten my foot throbbing. We are supposed to be doing a long course in the woodline over the next few days that is going to involve a lot of running, being chased, and whatnot. I don't think I will be able to do it on my profile.
Sigh... I am beginning to get tired here... mentally as well as physically. I am ready to start the classes in my MOS and leave some of this BCT-type of stuff behind. The fact that I'm 35 years old next month and still have to ask permission to go to the bathroom is beginning to really bother me. Seeing other companies receiving privileges while we cannot is also difficult to bear. I told Jeanene yesterday that we've ended up in what is the equivalent of our BCT company here at Fort Gordon. Oh well... I guess I just have to suck it up and deal with the crap for the next several weeks until we have our phase change. Hopefully things will get better. I can only have hope for the future, because I certainly can't expect it to be shitty here for the next 5 months.
Friday, April 07, 2006
This morning we spent four hours learning more hand-to-hand combat. I wasn't able to participate in all of the moves because of my foot, but I still learned some valuable techniques. In particular, there is a choke hold that you can put on someone that can cause them to pass out rather quickly. I don't know if I will ever have a chance to utilize any of these techniques, but I suppose it's good stuff to know.
It is 1:44pm and I am waiting to leave for my appointment. There is a strong, cool wind blowing, and it is a sunny day. It would be perfect weather to be lying out in a hammock for a nap. I wish I could do that right now. I am so exhausted, and sleep is constantly on my mind.
There are more rumors floating around amongst the AIT students. Everyone has a different idea about when we are supposed to have a phase change (from IV to V). To confuse matters, it seems like every company's cadre does it a little differently. So there are some folks who say they are getting a phase change right after the FOB, while we might have to wait a full month. I wish I knew exactly what was going on. The lack of information from our Drill Sergeants is very frustrating to deal with.
Someone also told me that certain AIT students are allowed to have POVs (private vehicles) here. They claimed that 4 or 5 people are chosen from each company, and the privilege is limited, because they just don't have enough parking for everyone. The same person told me that laptops are also allowed here. I guess I will just have to wait and see. I have heard so many different accounts that I do not know what to believe here (I later found out than none of this applied at my company).
It is now 4:11pm, and I'm on my way back to the FOB. I have a 7-day profile for my foot. The doctor believes I have tendonitis. At least it's nothing serious. (Little did I know that my foot would continue hurting me for the next 7 months, and still hurts as I type this in October).
A little bit later now, 7:48pm. The folks in my platoon are beginning to know me as the girl who is always writing in her little notebook. ;>
The sun is beginning to set. The weather is temperate now, but we're supposed to receive rain tomorrow... just in time for morning PT. I believe we are going to be conducting some MOUT training tomorrow.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
It is 11:11am, and I have a few minutes to write. We are taking a class on how to use a computer mapping program that uses GPS. It's pretty cool technology.
This morning I went to sick call, but they were too busy to see me, so I have another appointment for tomorrow afternoon. The one benefit of going was that I was able to drop a few letters in the mailbox. I forgot how much I enjoyed communicating with my friends and family.
Last night I was actually able to get a good six hours of sleep. I still need more, but I know tonight's will be less than that, since my platoon is slated for duty. I also fully expect the cadre to mess with us in the form of some kind of attack. Usually this involves hearing a loud siren sound, at which point you have to drop whatever you are doing, and run for a series of bunkers behind the tents.
It is 2:16pm. My location has changed, and the level of excitement has ratcheted up a bit. I am now at the hospital. I accompanied a girl from my platoon who abruptly passed out during our computer class. I know Moora from BCT at Fort Jackson. She was in another platoon, but I have spoken with her before at basic training. She was assigned to my platoon for the FOB, and I've been chatting with her over the past few days.
The temps are getting hotter, but I know that it's not even really hot yet. We didn't even do anything strenous today. After lunch we sat in the classroom, and I looked over at Moora, who was sitting next to me. Her face was lying on the keyboard. It looking like she was just on the verge of falling asleep. I subtly began nudging her so that she would wake up before the cadre caught her "napping". She didn't respond to me, and I signalled for help, just as everyone else started to notice that something was awry. There are a number of E-4s and E-5s in my class who immediately sprang into action. I was next to her, so I helped them get her out of the chair and onto the floor. I began undoing her boots and unblousing her pants (Red Cross training!) while they took her ACU top off. After that, everyone was booted out of the computer tent so that first aid could be administered without an audience. Later they brought her out under the covered pavillion, and booted out everyone again. I then volunteered to be her battle buddy, as she needed one to accompany her while the cadre were around her. I witnessed several Drill Sergeants and Sgts attempting to administer IVs, unsuccessfully. They weren't able to keep her conscious for more than a few seconds at a time. We went to the hospital in an ambulance. Hopefully Moora will be ok.
I just ran into another girl at the hospital that I knew from BCT at Fort Jackson. She's been stuck here without any money for lunch so I gave her a few bucks. There are only a few people here who were in our company from BCT. It seems that most of the folks in my AIT company went through basic training at Fort Benning.
The platoons we were assigned to at the FOB are completely arbitrary and comprised of people from several different companies. My battle buddy, Jeanene, is in another platoon. I think we were both bummed out about that. You know, it's funny... there are definately some smarter folks here, on a whole, compared to some of the people I went through BCT with. However, many of the girls I've run into aren't very nice. It's as if they are intelligent and they know it, and look down upon everyone else. There are two bitchy girls here in particular who really rub me the wrong way. Females are also the minority here, unlike my BCT company. So the odds of finding a pleasant female to converse with are not as high as I would like (you can't always talk to the males, lest it appear to be "fraternization"). Maybe that's why I'm already missing my battle buddy. I like Jeanene. I wonder how my experience in BCT would have differed if I was in her platoon instead of being paired with White.
There are two other "newbie" females in my company (and my room in the barracks) besides Jeanene. Jacyln is not a 25B, but a 25S (I think that is a satellite communications MOS). She seems nice enough, but I haven't bonded with her yet. Gemini is an older woman (that is, my age) of Indonesian descent. She is nice enough. Gemini is also a 25B like Jeanene and myself. We have expressed interest in trying to do well at AIT and spending a lot of time studying. I think we will all fare well.
Jeanene told me today that she is finding out more and more that we are like-minded in many ways. For one, we hate being late, and try hard not to get into trouble. We are always first out the door to formation with Jacyln and Gemini right behind. Like me, Jeanene is most concerned with keeping up communication via snail mail and phone with her man (I think he's a Sheriff's deputy). She told me that on the weekends that if I don't have plans with my husband, that she would be happy to accompany me to a book store, or maybe even the historic district in Augusta. Sounds like we are going to get along just fine...
There is a TV here in the hospital waiting room. Today on Larry King Live there is a special on "the world of polygamy". Darn... I won't get to see it. ;>
It is 3:00pm and I am still at the hospital. One of the Sgts told me that Moora is recuperating and will be ok. That is good news.
4:24 pm... still here. I'm spending my 2nd day at the FOB at the hospital, it seems. I wonder what I am missing out on. At least I am currently having an enjoyable respite. I am seated at a Starbucks within the hospital enjoying a tall caramel frappacino and a vanilla caramel treat. I am likely to spazz from the sugar influx. It has been a long time since I've treated myself to such decadence. I feel like I'm getting away with something... I purchased some chocolate to bring back for my battle buddies at the FOB.
I've been watching CNN here. I have missed the news, and knowing what's going on in the world. They are already discussing the 2008 Presidential election and a rumored ticket of McCain and Falwell. Are they talking about the Rev. Jerry Falwell? What about the Democrats? Who are the contenders? There is also a story about the Scooter Libby intel link.
I generally don't watch TV at home, but I do miss listening to National Public Radio, and occasionally the BBC. If we are allowed to have personal electronics, I might have to pick up a small radio so that I can listen to NPR in the barracks. It will probably be an el cheapo model, as I keep hearing that thievery runs rampant at my company.
I have also been passing the time here talking politics with a civilian. I think she is as bored as I am. Unfortunately Starbucks has closed up for the evening, so I can't rely on an influx of caffeine to keep me going.
It is amazingly 7:43pm and I'm still here. Luckily I had a calling card on me, and was able to use a payphone to call my husband. It was really nice to hear his voice, as I hadn't expected to talk to him at all during the FOB.
I do not know how much longer I'm going to be here. At least Moora is probably getting to sleep the day away. No one has told me when she is going to be released, so I have to wait until I hear something.
There is a National Geographic-type TV show on about penguins. It is very moving. A father penguin has not eaten for four months while waiting for his mate to return. The father is still coughing up fluids to feed the young penguin chicks. Morgan Freeman is the narrator: "Hopefully, the mother will arrive soon. For some, it is, however, too late." Sad stuff. Luckily I'm not PMSing or I would probably start bawling... ;>
There is a lot of weird footage on this show of mass formations of penguins squawking away. Morgan Freeman again: "The sound is deafening, but somehow each penguin is able to hear their mate's sound." I know that I must really be sleep deprived, because this footage is more captivating than it should be. God, my head really needs some rest.
Almost 8pm... Maybe I will be able to close my eyes for a little bit. I wonder if anyone will yell at me for doing so in the hospital waiting room?
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
We are marching to the FOB this morning. I am still surprised that this type of field exercise has been tacked onto the beginning of AIT, even before we have started our MOS classes.
I was able to call my husband the last few nights on my cell phone. What a change from basic training! We're still not sure if we are able to keep the cell phones (refer to aforementioned comment about the DSs not telling us anything), so my phone calls have been very brief.
I have been tentatively assigned to 1st platoon. We are going out to the FOB with two Drill Sergeants from our company. I'm not sure if either of them are actually going to be my platoon's DSs. One of them (DS Mitchell) seems pretty nice, but the other guy seems mean. Yesterday he was playing some major head games and trying to mess with people. I guess that I'm just tired with dealing with that kind of crap. 10 1/2 weeks of it already was enough. I guess I had hoped that AIT would be a little different. We'll see how it goes, I guess...
It is now 9:15am and we're back at our company, still waiting for the rifles to be issued. We've been up since 4:45am just to wait around... sigh. I am still pretty tired. I had about 1/2 a cup of coffee this morning at breakfast. I didn't want to drink any more, as I knew we were supposed to have some sort of road march. Of course we have no idea how long it will be, or when it is supposed to start. If I knew this, I would have had more coffee! The lack of information we receive is continually a source of frustration. At least the classes in AIT will hopefully be better. I would guess that we will be following a structured syllabus and adhering to a schedule. What I don't know yet is when the classes are due to begin...?
The FOB site is actually pretty cool. It appears to be more realistic than anything we saw at basic training. It looks like all the photos I've seen of compounds in Iraq. There is a covered hangar-type area with bleachers where we have been eating MREs, loading ammo, and having classes. There are many big Army tents, large and small, new and old, as well as several small modular buildings.
The complex is surrounding by fencing and ringed with guard towers. We will be taking classes, performing lots of guard duty, and completing various missions.
It is now 5:13pm. I just found out that this FOB is only going to last for one week - until next Wednesday - instead of the 10 days we had thought it would be. Great! I didn't bring my cell phone along, and know I will miss talking to my husband, so the shorter, the better. They are also going to be bringing us in at some point for showers. That is a difference from Blue STX, where we went unshowered for 7 days in a row.
We are set up in a tent with cots and a small heater. I don't think it will quite get cold enough to crank up. The females and males are segregated, about 2-3 tents of each gender. For the first time in my Army experience, I have received some sort of benefit (other than pay) for my rank of Specialist. There is a Sgt. in my tent (a MOS-T, or someone who is reclassing from one MOS to another), and she made sure that we received placement in the tent by rank. So I am close to the door and the heater, and not cramped up like the other girls who are nearly on top of one another.
We are supposed to be having some sort of classes in tents with computers. I already have learned a little about the other 25-series MOSs and what they do. I won't be able to write a lot about my specific MOS training on this blog lest I inadvertantly give out some information that I'm not supposed to... not that I think terrorists are perusing my blog for intel or anything.
We just finished chow... A-rats, not too bad. I saved two packs of instant coffee from the MREs, for whatever guard duty I may be tasked with tonight. Hopefully I can get some other folks here to save me any instant coffee they're not drinking.
The platoon that I was assigned to at my company has been split up here at the FOB. We are all mixed together with people from the other companies in my battalion, including the MOS-Ts, who are part of Alpha Company. Most of the MOS-Ts rank from SPC to SGT, though there are a few PFCs and SSGs. The MOS-Ts are generally assigned to squad and platoon leader positions. The cadre said that we should be able to learn a lot from these folks who have already spent years in the Army. Many of them have also been deployed and have seen combat.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
After arriving to my AIT company and checking in, I was given an overnight pass by one of my AIT Drill Sergeants. It was great to be able to spend more time with my husband, especially since I know I won't be seeing him for another month.
The first few days were a flurry of inprocessing and getting settled in at my new AIT company barracks. I didn't take many notes on the first few days, but will share a few recollections before my journal writing picks up...
I had to check in at AIT in my Class 'A' uniform. I was surprised to see someone at the company (also checking in) who looked vaguely familiar... It was the girl who I met at Reception back when I first arrived at Fort Jackson. She was the one who was also going to Fort Gordon for the same MOS as I. It was nice to see a familiar face. I had to ask her, where did she end up going to basic training?
I was blown away to discover that she had actually been in my basic training company at Fort Jackson, but in another platoon, and another bay in the barracks. I had no idea. Apparently she knew I was there, but I didn't realize that she was. I felt really bad for having forgotten who she was from Reception (it was odd that I remembered her now at AIT months afterwards).
Jeanene and I were assigned to be battle buddies. I knew I liked this girl when I met her at Reception, and was glad that we could help each other get through AIT. But I somehow felt cheated that I never got to know her at BCT. Maybe it would have been a different experience if I had another friend to help keep me sane... I don't know.
My battle buddy Jeanene in the barracks
The journal now picks up with Day 2 at AIT:
It is April 4th, and 7:06am. We were just marched to a theatre to begin our inprocessing. We marched on part of the massive Barton Field on the way here. I believe it is over 3 miles around the track... it's enormous.
< --Yes, we have to run around this entire field. You almost need binoculars to see its end in the distance...
I wanted to have some coffee this morning, but it was a rushed breakfast. I did, however, have a Krispy Kreme donut. Whoa - don't know if I can handle all that sugar!
I haven't had fire guard duty yet in the barracks, so I actually had a rare decent night of sleep in the barracks. The room, however, was hot and humid. I am the only person thus far with a working fan. Someone in my room had the cojones to point it in their direction and away from me. I put a stop to that very quickly. Fans are cheap, and they can buy their own... sheesh.
There have been a alot of formations so far, nothing exciting. From the sounds of it, we will likely still be in Phase IV for the next four weeks (this means limited privileges, and no off-post passes). I still don't know if any on-post passes will be granted either, but we will be in the field anyway for the next 10 days or 2 weeks starting on Wednesday. They are called it the FOB, which I believe stands for Forward Operating Base exercise. It sounds like it might be a lot like BCT, including fun with the M-16, and another convoy live fire exercise. I thought that kind of thing was over... I guess not. We learned that there will also be more MOS-specific training.
It is 1:55pm, and I am still in inprocessing. This is incredibly boring. I've been fighting the urge to sleep all day long. We have been stuck in a room with about 100 people, and four or five low-paid government employees talking to us at once. All of these folks are incredibly rude to us for some reason. It is torture to be stuck in here.
I did find out that my date for leaving Fort Gordon is supposed to be August 21st. I would also assume that it is also the AIT graduation day.
It is 7:56pm, and I just got off the phone with my husband. It was wonderful to hear his voice and speak to him. Today was a bit of a "sad" day for me. I knew it would be tough for the first few days at AIT after I just saw him at BCT graduation. I'm feeling very down right now, but I just keep reminding myself that it is only going to continue for the next few weeks. I cannot wait to see my husband again!
Day 3 or 4 at AIT:
It is 9:18am, and I am waiting to attend more inprocessing, which I've been doing a lot of since I got here. I'm tired, only having gotten less than 4 hours of sleep last night. I was introduced to the fun of hall guard duty. My shift consisted of two hours of cleaning. There is no sitting around writing letters during fire guard like at BCT... it is all work here, and no relaxation. The only perk is that I finally got a chance to catch up on my laundry while I was cleaning.
This morning we were abruptly woken up for a 4:15am formation... about 3 minutes before that time. We wore summer PTs (shorts and short-sleeved shirts) in about 40 degree temps while the other companies had on several more layers, hats, and gloves. Just my luck... I went from one of the hardest companies in BCT to one of the hardest companies in AIT.
I froze my ass off for about a good hour before we took a PT test. I did more pushups than ever before (far exceeding the AIT 60% standards), around what I needed to for situps, and a similar run time as the last test in basic. I was so cold that I only finally began to warm up after running the first mile.
It is 2:02pm, and I am at the dental clinic. What a fun day, huh? The first few days of AIT are said to always suck, as it is either inprocessing, medical visits, or sitting in briefings. The lack of sleep is really catching up with me in a bad way. I am utterly exhausted, and miserable. The surprising thing that I found is that we actually get less sleep here in AIT than in BCT. I certainly did not expect that!
After the PT test we were able to eat breakfast at the DFAC without supervision. Ah, coffee. You begin to appreciate the little things when you've been deprived of them for so long.
We were then marched a distance to another briefing about pay and finances.
After hours of fighting sleep at the briefing, we had lunch. Again, a relatively unhurried meal, which was a nice change from BCT. I even had some real food for a change. Afterwards we were issued our TA-50 items, which included another laundry bag, a pistol belt, poncho, canteen, and canteen cup and holder... pretty much the standard accessories that all AIT students have.
It is 2:20pm and I'm still waiting at the dental clinic. I am not here for any problem... it's just that anyone with potential issues needs to have an exam, so I guess they might have seen something odd on my x-rays. I am hoping that any scheduled appointment won't conflict with the upcoming FOB (this stands for Forward Operating Base, and is supposed to simulate what it's like to be stationed in an outpost in Iraq or Afghanistan). This is a 7-day field exercise that we are supposed to attend tomorrow. I can't say that I am, however, looking forward to it, especially feeling so tired right now. More on the FOB later...
Some people luck out and are able to attend a FOB at a location near their barracks (which could mean sleeping in beds, and showers). We passed by one today. There were GS tents set up, sandbags and concertina wire. A mock battle was going on, and a number of "insurgents" with towels on their heads were running around. One of the DSs was loudly mocking their strategy. I have heard that our FOB will be located on a more secluded part of base.
Someone who has already been on a FOB said that it's really what you make of it. It could be a fun week, or a miserable one. A lot of people do end up getting hurt, however, probably due to all the "hooah" crap. One thing that surprised me here at AIT is that they actually encourage you to go to sick call if something is wrong with you. That is a change from basic.
I'm hoping I will be able to hang onto my cell phone in the barracks when we return from the FOB. One of the other people in my platoon told me that the DS said that we could use them in our rooms, but only on our personal time. I don't know if this is a temporary arrangement, or if we'll be able to keep them while we're here. I'm hoping for the best. Unfortunately a frustrating thing about being here is that we haven't been giving a lot of information on what is expected of us, or what is coming up. Much of our info is gleaned from talking to other AIT students in the company.
Today I'm having something of a "down" day. I'm just not having a good one and am pretty high on the miserable scale right now. We heard another platoon talking about AIT graduation practice yesterday, and it was discouraging to know that we are only beginning our time here. There is a girl who just moved out of my room that has been here since October for 25B and is only now leaving. I guess that kind of puts the length of this AIT into perspective. The only thing that I have to look forward to is that my husband is planning to visit me as often as he can during AIT. He is tentatively planning to drive from Pennsylvania to Georgia every 2-3 weeks to visit once I begin receiving weekend passes. However, that won't happen for at least another month.
Otherwise I'm not sure how I would be able to handle being here for so long. God, I hope the next 3 or 4 weeks passes quickly. Getting over this initial hump is going to be difficult, but it can only get better, right?
I haven't had much to base my impressions upon, but I will share my impressions of AIT thus far...
There is a great variability in the types of Drill Sergeants. Some are hardasses, and some are laid back. From what I have observed, the students who are almost done with AIT seem to be pretty much left alone. In a formation yesterday, I actually saw a few people reading the newspaper and goofing around. That would never fly in basic training!
It appears that there is some degree of fraternization amongst the students. I get the sense that they probably socialize together on the weekends. This is a whole different world from BCT.
There are more details issued out than in BCT, from what I can see. Maybe they have more for people to do, since there is greater free, unstructured time.
The students further along in their AIT studies seem to be fairly relaxed and laid back. I daresay that they also don't seem to fear the Drill Sergeants anymore. Perhaps that is to be expected of folks who have been here for 20 weeks, or longer.
I guess it could be worse. Jacyln, a girl in my room, has an AIT of at least 39 weeks. She is going to be some kind of a satellite operator. God, that is nearly twice as long as my AIT.
Sometimes I do envy all of the folks in my BCT platoon who went for MOSs that had really short AITs... some of them were only 5-7 weeks long.
It is 3:05pm, and I'm still at the dental clinic. It sounds like I am just waiting to be scheduled for an appointment. Somehow I ended up being one of the last people stuck here, and will probably have to be marched back to the company by a Drill Sergeant. Damn! In AIT, you really do appreciate any little bit of time spent away from the DSs. I played along with the game of being subservient to the cadre in BCT, but at this point it is really getting to be tiring. Perhaps some of it has to do with the fact that I am older than most of the Drill Sergeants here. I miss the civilian world, and all things non-military, including being on an even footing with others. I can handle ceding to authority, I mean, I did sign up for this... but it does bother me sometimes that I am submitting to some folks who are less intelligent than myself. In some ways, it seems like a self-imposed insult. I just have to remind myself of the reasons I enlisted whenever it gets a little too nutty around here...
On the other hand, I can also sympathize with the frustration that the Drill Sergeants must feel being around the privates. Even though the students here at AIT are generally in "high speed" MOSs (those requiring a higher score on the ASVAB, and the assumption of a greater intelligence), a lot of them don't always exhibit the behavior that you would expect of smarter kids.
Here is an example... This morning we had to sign a form for accepting the TA-50 issued to us. The Drill Sergeant explained where he wanted to form signed in excruciating detail, and then said, "Even though I told you how to do this, I guarantee that at least one person is going to screw it up." Sure enough, someone did. It happens all the time, even with the most basic of tasks and the simplest instructions issued. I would imagine that this would be very frustrating to deal with after awhile... Yes, I actually have sympathy for the Drill Sergeants, if you can believe it!