My arrival at Atlanta Airport was full of nervous anticipation and I was extremely ecstatic to get off the plane. This was not my first time flying, but I can assuredly say - I do not like to fly. After a quick trip to the restroom and meeting up with my fellow recruits, we boarded our bus and were on our way. The ride from the airport to Fort Jackson seemed to last an eternity. We finally reached our destination going through the gate, and slowly stopping in front of a building.
I remembered this building from my previous trip to Basic Training (BT) back in 1994, but I was still a bit uneasy. We sprinted off the bus, grabbed our bags and followed the NCO (non-commissioned officer), who began herding us like 🐮 into a large room. Lining up in front of tables we were told to open and go through our bags. The amnesty room was next and where all contraband is disposed of. Cigarettes, lighters, knives, playing cards, etc. are all considered contraband. Even if you have nothing on your person or in your bags, you are still required to go through the amnesty room. We lined up in the next room and were sworn in again, then headed to Reception where all in-processing would take place. After this eventful process, we were allowed to head to our barracks located in A Company. There are at least 50 females in my bay area and my 'battle' buddy is a girl named Silvers. I cannot tell you how many people have asked if we are related. We have an uncanny resemblance, especially from the back. After our long day, I was mentally drained and my bunk looked so comfy. But, how lucky am I to be assigned the first shift of Fireguard Duty from 2100 to 2300. Duties of Fireguard include patrolling and cleaning the barracks, keeping an eye on any unauthorized exits and visits to our bay, and of course watching for fires. Bed checks are performed every 30 minutes. The good thing about having the first shift is you get uninterrupted sleep afterward.
Today was all about standing in line (you will do this often so get used to it) as we were issued our BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform) and our Army Dress Greens, the service uniforms you will wear to special events, graduations, etc. The civilians working here are ruder than the cadre! They just hurl your stuff at you, so catch quickly! Now that everyone is in uniform we look like soldiers and we all get to smile for the camera. Say cheese! I borrowed some makeup so I wouldn't look like a zombie, but I have to wear these thick, nerdy glasses which are quite funky. 🤓 I received my military ID card, dog tags, and my paperwork to take along to BCT (Basic Combat Training). We were also issued a small book titled the IET Soldier's Handbook, aka 'smart book'. It must be carried at all times. Study it. Learn it. Commit ALL of it to memory. We started learning how to line up in formation, to march, and basic facing movements. This is called Drill and Ceremony (D&C).
We received several injections today with a device that resembles a gun allowing several to be given at once. I got shots in both arms leaving huge lumps. I have a phobia that involves needles and this was NOT fun. Not fun at all. Thankfully I didn't pass out like that scene in the movie Renaissance Man, which was filmed here at Fort Jackson. Want to know what helps work the muscles after shots? Push-ups! The NCOs love making us do push-ups. It keeps the arms from stiffening up. It hurts, but it works! Another day has passed and the time has come for us to head out to Basic Training (BT). We are part of the lucky few. Sometimes, you remain here in Reception for weeks. Our military duffel bags have been stenciled with our last names, SS#s, and our roster number. Now we wait for the buses to arrive. The wait was not long. 😨
"Move! Move! Get on the bus! You're moving like pond water privates!" I had completely forgotten how mean Drill Sergeants can truly be. We boarded the bus and headed for Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment. This would be home for the next several months. We moved chaotically off the buses, grabbing our bags, jumping into some kind of formation where we introduced to the cadre that will be in charge during our time here. Did I hear that right? Were my ears deceiving me? No, I had indeed heard right. Our Company Commander's name is CPT Faggett and then we have 1SG Ruff, our First Sergeant. Not one person laughed. I mean not one person, and you could hear a pin drop. It was that quiet. He looked intimidating and fierce, scoping us out and looking directly into our eyes. The Drill Sergeants introduced themselves and started calling names. My name was called and I picked up my duffel and personal bag and headed over (ran is more like it) to another formation. Four platoons are assigned to a company and I am in 1st Platoon, which is called Young Guns. Then we have 2nd Platoon the Cobras, 3rd Platoon the Dog Pound, and 4th Platoon the Wolfpack. I ended up with DS Thrine and DS Allies as two of my permanent Drill Sergeants. DS Duke was a Army Reserve Drill Sergeant, and in the coming weeks, I would come to realize just how many Drill Sergeants one platoon could be assigned as annual summer camps took place.
We followed our Drill Sergeants up to one of the bays where the sleeping quarters were. As they checked their lists, we were told to stand by certain bunks and to start dumping our bags and duffel out in front of us. At this point, you had better have a pen and paper handy because everything in your bags has to be accounted for and an accurate list made. I couldn't get my combination lock to open and I felt the heat starting to rise. DS Duke walked slowly over to stand in front of me asking what the problem was. "My lock refuses to open." He stared at me for a second. "Push." Excellent start! I had forgotten the one thing you should never forget when addressing a Drill Sergeant. Never forget to say "Drill Sergeant" when speaking. From that moment on DS Duke knew me by name. As if the last name Newcomer was hard to forget. Once all of our belongings were accounted for, they were taken from us and locked up. The males were lined up and marched to the bay directly above us. During BCT in 1994, females were in one company, and males in another. Training is now co-ed. The females from the other platoons came into the bay and we were all assigned bunks and wall-lockers. I was assigned top bunk and that makes me eternally thankful. Top bunks are much easier to make in the mornings when pressed for time, and you will be pressed for time. In the military, you are paired with a battle buddy and cannot go anywhere without them, or engage any cadre without your buddy by your side. Your battle buddy is normally your bunk-mate, but mine was already good friends with another girl two bunks down, so we switched and Jokala became mine. She is pretty cool. Toe-the-line was called and we all stepped up to the red lines running down the end of our bunks. "Front leaning rest position-MOVE!" Remember this phrase. You will hear it quite often. After our little smoke session, we headed down to form up in our platoons for chow (hot meals) and headed to the chow hall aka the dining facility.
As we marched our Drill Sergeant was telling us about 'chow formation' and what would take place. Each platoon has a different cadence for chow. To say we were terrible was understatement. I knew after that little rendition of chow formation, smoke sessions were to be a way of life here. After 'chow formation', we had to stand in the chow line at parade rest and NO TALKING. The line progresses fairly quickly and before stepping up to get a tray, you had to sound off with the last four digits of your social security number for the roster. (Don't forget to say Drill Sergeant afterward). They are not afraid to smoke you anywhere. After getting our trays, we have to stop and drink a cup of 'victory punch' before sitting down to eat. It's disgusting! Want to know what it tastes like? Just make a pitcher of Kool-Aid and add salt. 😵 The food is not overly terrible and at least appetizing, but you honestly don't get to taste it. We only had a few minutes to inhale our food and then head back to our barracks to unpack and get organized. There is a certain way to 'square-away' our wall lockers and make our bunks. The Drill Sergeant said he wants to see a quarter bounce and left it at that. If you are a smart one, you will understand what was left unsaid. At 2030 we are told to get downstairs with a full canteen of water.
I knew this drill. Hydration Formation-you have to drink an entire canteen of water. Thank the good Lord above I love water. When finished, you had to hold your canteen upside down above your head until the drill sergeant acknowledged it, then you could return upstairs to the bay. LIGHTS OUT at 2100! Finally time for some shut-eye! 😴
Oh, how I love bright lights! 💡 NOT! But that is to be expected when sleeping on top bunk and the Drill Sergeant comes in at 0430 yelling to wake up. Was it seriously already time to get up? I had decided last night that I was sleeping on top of my covers and in my PT sweats. It takes too long to completely make my bunk and we have to be downstairs within 20 minutes after wake-up. Bedding consists of one fitted sheet, one flat sheet, two olive-drab blankets, and a pillow and pillowcase. One blanket goes across the bunk and the other is folded to fit over the pillow. Formation is at 0500, but our Drill Sergeants want us downstairs ten minutes early. With so many females trying to get dressed and to the latrine (toilet), those extra seconds pay off. I ran downstairs for formation with our platoons, and I immediately knew something was up. Where the heck was everyone? I could see DS Thrine getting fired up as the rest of us just stood standing at parade rest. Waiting.
"Front leaning rest position-MOVE!" We hit the pavement. "Knock out ten." Ten push-ups it is. "Up, Privates. You all are going to learn that when I say be down here by 0450, that is what I mean. Not one second afterward. Platoon ATTENTION!" We all snapped to attention. Smoked again. I realized at this point that my arms were going to get one heck of a workout, and pretty often. PT is a good hour and you better be loud. "More PT Drill Sergeant! More PT! We like it! We love it! We want more of it! Make us hurt drill sergeant! Make us hurt! Hooah!" PT is exhilarating and is an awe-inspiring way to start the day. Today we did push-ups and sit-ups until muscle fatigue set in. Tomorrow we run, alternating every other day. Breakfast is served at 0700 every morning and, after a workout like that, I was starved! We have been instructed by our drill sergeants that the word yes is no longer a part of our vocabulary. We now have to respond with "40 Rounds".
We begin our training in the RED PHASE and training classes have begun. Classes, classes, and more classes! Geez, talk about mental exhaustion on top of physical exertion. We are supposed to take notes in class. I fell asleep, dropping my pen in the process with a thud, which brought me fully awake, bending down to grab my pen and staring at these perfectly shined boots coming into view to stand by my desk. The only people wearing boots like that are cadre. I looked up to see DS Thrine standing there, motioning with his hands to push. I got up and headed to the back of the room, knocked out ten push-ups, then returned to my seat. We have to take all these classes on Code of Conduct, Legal Action, Standards of Conduct, etc., etc. Most of these classes are very monotonous but are required for graduation. Note to self: refrain from talking in class. Not only was I talking, but I was talking to a male soldier, which is frowned-upon by DS Thurmond (3rd platoon) who progressed to chew me up and spit me out! Be careful with your conversations, especially with the males. We march everywhere and D&C has become a staple in our military lives. My platoon had KP duty the next day, so we did not attend class. KP duty is manning the kitchen, serving and cleaning all day, and I mean from sunup to sundown. It's not that bad, depending on your assigned duty. Serving bites! PT the next day was a doozy for me and my first PT test was a no-go by failing my run time. Ugh! 😐
We finally made it to Victory Tower but like last time, I dreaded it. Let's just say I am not exactly overly fond of heights. We had to climb up, down, and across rope bridges, down a cargo net, and up knotted ropes until we reached the top of the tower. The only way down was to repel. My heart was beating so fast I was positive I was close to having a heart attack. Repelling would have been faster, but I chose to walk the wall instead. Big mistake. I felt my belay rope tighten and I looked down (not a good idea) to see 1SG Ruff holding my belay rope. "Newcomer, you are not about to walk down my wall-Repel!", he shouted. Needless to say, it took me forever and a day. Remember the movie Renaissance Man I had mentioned earlier? It was filmed here at Fort Jackson and most of the training you see in the movie is exactly what we are doing. Our class on Communication and Land Navigation was fun and quite entertaining, and I learned how to use the Lensatic Compass my dad and I had bought. We had to learn how to set up radios for basic communication and learn a lot of radio lingo which had most of us laughing. "D81D, this is Z94D (priority) Over." It sounds like this over the radio: "DELL TAH AIT WUN DELL TAH--THIS IS ZOO LOO NIN ER FOW ER DELL TAH--PRIORITY--OVER." Yeah. We had a good time in that class.
M16A2 rifles have been issued. NEVER leave your weapon unattended. Always remember that. Now the party really begins. I learned how to disassemble, properly clean, and put my weapon back together. My dad would have been proud. We also had to memorize the serial number of our weapon and be ready to respond with that number if asked. We learned how to execute drill movements called the manual of arms. It is quite simple for one person to execute all these commands, but trying to do so as a team is another story altogether. You should have heard how many bolts were out of sync when the command "Port" was given. The same with pulling the trigger. D&C has to be one of my favorite parts of military customs and ceremonies. When everyone is in step together, it looks uniform and very sharp. Since we now have weapons, it is time for bayonet training. The bayonet attaches to and under the barrel of the M16. "What makes the green grass grow?", yelled the Drill Sergeant. "Blood, blood, blood makes the green grass grow, Drill Sergeant!", we shouted back. We didn't engage in much hand to hand combat, but what we did learn was animating. The Bayonet Assault Course was exciting. I got to leap over log walls, use the thrust, butt-stroke, and parry skills I had learned on the tire dummies, move through trenches, and scoot under barbed wire using the low crawl (on your back). I had missed out on TDC (Team Development Course) because of KP, which we seem to have all the time these days.
Bivouac (military camping) was cool. We pitched tents and ate chow in the field. The MREs (meals ready to eat) are rather good but would taste better hot. Too bad our drill sergeants confiscated our little heaters. I was delegated weapons duty and had to 'guard' the weapons. I did mention to keep your weapon with you at all times, right? DO NOT FORGET THIS. Do not go anywhere without it, not even to the latrine. Have your buddy watch it. Always have your eyes on it and within your reach. At night, sleep with the sling wrapped around your arm. You never know when someone might sneak up and try to take your weapon. Trust me. It happened to me. So, the platoons have each been working on a motto and as we were getting ready to march back to our barracks after training for the day, the Drill Sergeants wanted to hear us sound off with our platoon motto's. Nope. Not us. Not 1st Platoon. I was part of the only platoon that couldn't have said our motto if our lives depended on it. "Front leaning rest position-MOVE!" We hit the ground. We marched back with our heads down to our company in shame with our guidon foiled (rolled up) by our Drill Sergeant. Chow was a somber affair and afterward, day couldn't end quickly enough. I was so ready to hit the showers and get some sleep, but I had Fireguard duty again. To make matters worse, I was assigned the worst shift from 0100-0300! Why is this the worst shift? You finally get to sleep, only to wake at 0100, get dressed in your BDUs, stay alert for two hours, then change back into your PTs - only to get back in bed for an hour and a half. Absolute worst shift. 😒
It's been raining cats and dogs and guess what today is? NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) training and a trip through the Gas Chamber. The temps were high and it was fire hot standing outside baking in the sun with our protective masks on waiting our turn to enter. The rain only compounded it because we had our wet weather gear on as well. Once inside the gas chamber, you automatically start watching everyone around you and can always tell when a mask does not seal properly. Thankfully my mask had sealed good and tight. We watched as a canister was thrown into a coffee can and the chamber started filling up. "Break the seal and lift your mask.", our Drill Sergeant said. I broke my seal (only after taking a deep breath) and lifted my mask. Then he asked us how we were doing with a big smile. Haha. We had to state our names and social security numbers before being given the order to clear and reseal our masks. Prior to exiting the chamber, we had to completely remove them. The smell and taste of CS gas is awful is something you will never forget. Ahh...fresh air!! I am sure we all looked hilarious as we returned outside. Arms flapping like the wings of a bird...mask in one hand, kevlar in the other with snot running down your face, eyes watering like a faucet, and bouts of coughing. A word of advice: eat light, or not at all. Chili-mac was served for chow today.
We had another road march this morning and all I can say is Thank you Lord for no Fireguard duty! I was able to get some much-needed rest! The march was draining with all of our TA-50 piled on and carrying our weapon. I know three miles doesn't sound like much, but try marching with gear strapped on and in scorching heat. 🌡️ The added weight does make a difference. One of the males in my platoon kept falling out and having to use the latrine. I think he used every single latrine we passed and I do not think the Drill Sergeants were impressed. We arrived at our destination and situated our gear so we could pull out our good 'ole MREs! Mine was some kind of chicken and potatoes which wasn't too shabby tasting. Afterward, we had a Pugil Bout. We donned masks and protective gear and began smacking one another with these huge padded sticks. My opponent was my buddy Jokala, and she gave me a few good whacks! It was very inspiring watching everyone battle their opponents, and soon we were clapping and encouraging each other.
You would think that after that shameful march, my platoon would 'get it together'. WRONG! As we marched to chow today for lunch, some of the guys at the back of formation were laughing and joking around. Another Drill Sergeant from another company happened to see us, and informed our Drill Sergeant about the goof-offs. To say we got punished was the understatement of the century. We got SMOKED! The push-ups were not down-UP. They were down-hold for 20 seconds-UP! My arms felt like jello by the time it was over. We became angels with shining halos 😇 the next few weeks. We started working on our platoon motto, formation and calling cadence better, and studying for Superbowl during our down time (mainly weekends when we are doing laundry and shining our boots). Superbowl is a cutesy term for what we will be tested over before graduation. Basically, everything in our little 'smart' books. Yeah, that little book you are supposed to commit to memory. We also got to attend a concert, eat pizza, candy bars, and drink some cokes (Dr. Pepper for me) and dance, even though I do not dance. It was definitely leisure and relaxation time, but we had a shakedown when we got back. Whew!
Hooah!!! Our guidon has been un-foiled and our platoon has risen from disgrace! We have now moved on to the WHITE PHASE. My leg hurting the other day turned into a pulled quadricep muscle during PT, and does it ever hurt! I ended up having to visit the medical clinic (TMC) and have it checked out and get some meds for pain. Hopefully this will not last and I can be up to par and back to training. I have several Drill Sergeants that want to see me succeed, especially since they know this is my second go around. Wind sprints just aren't my thing, but DS Thrine said they can make, or break, your run time. I am starting to relish PT and calling cadence makes it even more lively. I run in group D, which is slowest, but I am hoping to change that.
It's time for BRM (Basic Rifle Marksmanship). We had to grasp and learn the four fundamentals of firing: steady position (keep a firm grip on your rifle), aiming (make sure your front sight post and the rear aperture are lined up), breathing (control your breathing), trigger squeeze (don't just pull the trigger, but squeeze the tip as you exhale). Today we practiced breathing techniques and trigger squeeze. Fort Jackson has several rifle ranges and we have to march to each and every one of them. The road marches can leave you knackered, but knowing chow is at the other end keeps me going. Training with the M16 starts out on a simulator called the Weaponeer. I fired nine shots at my target aiming center mass, but I didn't do well according to my printout. It took me four times to qualify on that simulator, but I finally passed.
Before we are allowed on any rifle range, we all had to sit in the bleachers and listen to the range NCO explain the safety precautions and procedures. Always keep your weapon pointed up and down range. One of the males got chewed out for resting his head on the front sight housing of his M16 while we were listening to one of the briefings. Any range you visit, you will have some kind of briefing to listen to. They may be boring, but the information can be life-saving. There have been too many accidental shootings because of stupidity. Back at the firing range, a group of us were sent out ahead of our platoon for range detail, which involved setting all targets in place, picking up casings from ammo, and making sure all of the lister bags were full of water. Water is crucial here and it is extremely important to drink even when you are not thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, dehydration has already set in. I sliced my hand on a couple of staples while removing a target the other day. Nothing bad, but it looks like it will scar and look like the letter V. Jokala has nicknamed me VP. LOL. Next, we had to zero our weapons. It took a while to get mine zeroed, but within a few hours, I was firing all my rounds inside my 4 cm circle. We learned how to fire our weapon from a foxhole (in the ground) and the prone position (lying down) with and without sandbags. When leaving the range, weapons are checked for any rounds that might have not exited the chamber. "No brass, no ammo Drill Sergeant!" is a phrase continuously heard when exiting the range. The M16 is very easy to break down and clean. Make sure you clean it after every use. DO NOT skip cleaning your weapon, even if you only fired a couple of rounds. You will not be happy (nor your Drill Sergeants and NCOs) if your weapon jams because you decided to skip this important step.
No training = KP yet again. Working in a hot kitchen all day can be more draining than training. We have to be at the chow hall at 0500 to get everything prepared and ready for breakfast. The only break we get is sitting down to eat. Fifteen minutes, tops. Afterward, we get to clean everything and start prepping for lunch, repeating this same process for dinner. On a normal KP day, you are lucky to get back to the barracks by 2000. Talk about tired!! It's nice to get back and shower-even at this late hour. I had Fireguard again from 2100 to 2300. Weapons qualifications are coming up and we have to hit 23 out of 40 targets 🎯 to qualify with our M16s. We also found out that one of the new incoming Drill Sergeants will be attached to our platoon. His name is DS Miller and we have heard he is pretty hard core. Maybe he can perform a miracle. God knows my platoon needs one.
Qualification Day has come and gone, and I couldn't have been more disappointed in myself. I fired and hit just 24/40 of my targets achieving only a marksman badge, and I put the blame entirely on a bee! 🐝 A beastly bee decided to pester me while I was firing from my foxhole-just like last time. Of all days, why Qualifications Day? If you know anything about me, you know I have a major phobia of bees. 😱 I know I could have done a lot better. Anyone who did not qualify this first round will get another chance to re-qualify before graduation. If you cannot pass the rudiments of Basic Rifle Marksmanship and qualify with your weapon, you do not graduate. We were able to participate in another confidence course (endurance test) as well. It's all about TEAMWORK and we all worked as a team and didn't start the next obstacle until our squad was finished and together for the next. This was a truthfully motivating moment. That moment when my platoon started building on each others strengths and weaknesses, all coming together and pushing each other to do our very best. DS Miller had indeed taken the lead and everything started to look up from here. Now, if only my leg was not becoming a hindrance.
I visited TMC to have my quadricep re-examined, since it was another KP day for us. I was there all day but I did start my ultrasound therapy, which will last a couple of weeks and my meds were upgraded. I was put on 'profile' for a week, which limits my physical fitness training and running. Hopefully this therapy allows for quicker healing and I will be good to go and back to training. The next day, we all loaded up on the bus in our PT uniforms and headed back to Reception to get "fitted" for our Class A uniforms. It was a long-drawn-out day and I had no idea trying on clothing could be so mind-numbing. Yeah, I am definitely not a clothes shopper. The pictures we had taken at Reception weeks ago were top only pictures and we collected those pictures today. Oh my gosh! At least I didn't have on my funky glasses. I also placed an order for a sterling silver US ARMY ring, which is similar to a high school class ring. It has the US Army crest on one side and my MOS crest on the other. The weeks seem to be flying by now.
My US Army Class A pictures from 1994 and 1997. My hair was long when I first enlisted and joined the military in 1994. I chose to cut my hair during BCT after the hilarious episode with a bee that occurred during training with my M16 in a foxhole. I thought my Drill Sergeant was going to have a fit upon seeing me with my eyeglasses broken, kevlar pushed back, and my long hair an absolute mess because my hair-clip had failed to do its job. There was zero doubt in my mind when I returned to BCT in April of 1997 - my hair was going to be SHORT!!
Could these two pictures be any more different? The first picture is definitely better than the second. LOL!
My platoon made it to BLUE PHASE. This is our final phase of BCT and builds on everything that we have learned in the last weeks. Wake up was at 0430 (the usual) and we were all down in formation by 0450. We started drawing weapons at 0515 and then headed out for another road march, this time marching in tactical formation to the range. The cooler temperature and slight breeze made it more bearable. Breakfast was okay, but I have yet to mention the concept of 'slide and eat'. You take your tray and carry it to this long table. Starting at one end, eating as you slide your tray along the table sidestepping as you go. By the time you reach the end of the table, your tray should be empty. If it's not, too bad. Today was weapons familiarization day and we got to learn about and test several different types of weapons. First up was the M18 Claymore Mine (dummies of course). It wasn't too hard, but you had to keep your wires from getting tangled. After we were done setting up we had to yell, "Claymore, Claymore, Claymore!" Then we got to fire the M240B Machine Gun. Now that baby can fire some rounds! The M203 Grenade Launcher was pretty cool, but firing dummy rounds out of the AT4 Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher was awesome! After all that exciting fun, we saw the Claymores in action. Marching back to the company was tough and I had rubbed a blister on my left heel. Ouch! Oh, and guess what tonight brought me? Fireguard duty! 🤪
We didn't march to the range this morning ... we rode a bus! My feet got a break and maybe this blister will heal faster. Today we engaged in tossing live grenades. First, we entered a practice bay wearing flak jackets under our LCE (Load-Carrying Equipment). Standing behind a small wall with the range NCO, we had to first squat and stand up, then a grenade was put into our hand without the thumb clip. We had to say clearly "Proper grip--twist--pull pin!" throw the grenade quickly, and squat back down. "Too easy, Drill Sergeant!". We threw a few dummy grenades, moving on to practice emergency procedures, and then we were allowed to throw live grenades. We also learned and conducted some tactical maneuvers, and then took part in a short obstacle course with our buddy. We ran from log to log, dropping for cover which is called the three-minute rush. My buddy would shout "Buddy set" and I would have to respond with "Buddy moving" as we pushed on through the course, maneuvering and engaging targets as part of a team. The low and high crawl was not bad, except when I was on my back using my quad muscles to push forward. It hurt like the dickens! We did some more shooting with our M16s and had to fire ten rounds with our protective masks on. When night closed in, we fired a clip of regular ammo and tracers, which looked pretty wicked in the dark. We didn't return to the company until well after 2100. Most of us just dropped on our bunks and went straight to sleep, but I was in need of a cold shower first.
The weekends are our breaks in-between training. This is when laundry is done, letters written, study time, boots shined, and phone calls home. Or we just sit around in our PTs talking with each other and chilling, like we were doing in the company area on a calm Sunday afternoon. We were chatting about our accomplishments and giving each other kudos, not paying any attention to the Drill Sergeant that walked through our area, until it was too late. It was DS Miller and he was NOT in a good mood. He took this opportunity to prove just how lousy his mood was instructing us to get in formation where he proceeded to bestow upon us one hellacious smoke session, and right in front of all the other platoons. "Front leaning rest position-MOVE!" We dropped. "Up!" We stood up. Then he began giving commands for facing movements. "Left face! Right face! About face! Drop...UP!" We jumped up. "Privates, the next time a Drill Sergeant, any NCO or Officer for that matter, walks into your presence someone had better be paying attention. Now get upstairs and change into uniform. Be back down here in five! Go!" We hot-footed it. My whole platoon ran upstairs to our bays to change from PT uniforms into our BDUs. I had never run so fast in my life and it felt like death was close! Surprisingly, every last one of us made it back down to formation on time. He recommenced issuing more facing movements, dropping us time and time again. This continued for several long minutes. "Get up. At ease. I want you all to get upstairs and change back into your PT uniforms. You have five minutes. Go!" Bolting back upstairs and to our bays, we changed again and then back down to get in formation. More push-ups. More commands. Then it was back upstairs. We were stunned as we ran back upstairs yet again to change. As we were lining up in formation, a couple of guys from 2nd platoon grinned and let out a snicker. DS Miller turned to them and asked if they would like to join us. Crickets. "Platoon ATTENTION! Do we have an understanding?", he said. "Yes Drill Sergeant!" We were dismissed and told to carry on. This was how we spent our calm Sunday afternoon. I was physically and mentally wiped out. From this day forward, my platoon had a newfound respect for DS Miller. 🤔
We finished our last Confidence Course and I must say I made it through with almost no mishaps. I fell off a couple of logs, but only because I executed too quickly and lost my balance. We were split into several groups of six to complete these obstacles and my group did awesomely. We had finally mastered this thing called 'teamwork' and it has been jaw-dropping to watch all of us come together. the last several weeks had been crazy. I just have to pass my last PT test but my apprehension has grown because of my injured quad muscle. Superbowl was just that. Easy. "Too easy, Drill Sergeant! Too easy!" We had all trained for this day and I passed with flying colors. Hooah! We tested over everything that we covered from our IET handbooks and we rocked Superbowl! Sports Day fell at a great time to decompress and our company's 4th Platoon was chosen to represent us in the D&C Competition. We got to wear our PT uniforms and the day was ours. The temps were not overly hot and the sun was shining brightly. Since I am not your sports girl, I sat back and watched with a few of the other females. It was an all around good day, but I was glad to see it end. I was overtired and after Hydration Formation, I hit the showers and went straight to bed.
I awoke the next morning and felt like I had been hit by a freight train. My platoon had KP again and in formation came too early. We marched to the chow hall and started getting things prepared for breakfast. DS Miller knew I was feeling unwell and made sure I was drinking water. I could tell he was concerned when he asked if I needed to go to TMC. I said I would be fine, but by 1000 my head was spinning. By 1200, I started dizzy and drinking water was not helping. DS Miller approached me, handed me my sick call slip (which he had already filled out), and ordered me to sick call, sending me with my bunk-mate, Serna. Upon arriving at TMC, my temperature was taken and Serna was sent back to the company to inform my Drill Sergeant that I would be admitted to the hospital. 🤒 If your temperature is above 99.9°, you are kept for observation and mine was well over 101°. They took me straight back to a room and immediately administered two IVs. A throat culture was taken as well. I was dehydrated and DS Thrine was not happy. Even though I had been drinking water all day and using sunblock, I had managed to get a little sunburned. Dehydration had set it through the night. Serna helped pack a duffel for me and DS Miller delivered it to me at the infirmary. Here I sat for two days, missing my final PT test. There was another female in my room from AIT. She had visited Myrtle Beach while on pass for the day and gotten severely sunburned. After a couple of days, I was finally given the all-clear by my doctor to leave and DS Miller picked me up with two of my buddies, McConner and Malicoat. I guess there are just some Drill Sergeants out here that get their rocks off by being a complete baddy and DS Thrine was one of them. He had the gall to greet me as I returned to the company with "Welcome back Newcomer, glad you could join us. Oh, and I hope you are not going for MP because those are the last letters of WIMP. I can't believe you went to sick-call for a sunburn." Wow. Just wow.
When I finally got to make up my final PT test, it was no picnic! The push-ups and sit-ups I completed with no problems. The run almost annihilated me. Seven lengthy laps around the field and all I could think about was Graduation Day and walking that field. I was on my last lap running with this female from 4th Platoon name Purcell when I began to fall behind. DS Smith (2nd Platoon) saw me and came to my rescue. He ran the last lap with me calling cadence and telling me that I was going to make it and to just breathe. I crossed that finish line and practically fell over with relief when my time was called - 17:45!! OMGosh! I shed some happy tears and I was so proud of myself. I would indeed be on that graduation field this time around. 🤗
A few days later, I got called into DS Thrine's office with my buddy. TMC had called and I was to report promptly for medication. My throat culture had come back positive for strep throat. Hmm. The look on his face when he realized it was not just a sunburn was priceless! But as a result of this new development, I was again put on 'profile' and told that I would not be departing with my company to Valley Forge. I was dispirited as I watched my platoon move out with the rest of our company. I would be missing my last road march and the night infiltration course. I was not the only soldier in my platoon that ended up staying behind. McConner had rubbed some pretty horrid blisters on her feet that became infected and could not wear her combat boots. A few other soldiers from the other platoons had to stay behind as well, so Fireguard and CQ (Charge of Quarters) were split between us for the next few days. The Drill Sergeants let us sleep in an extra hour, too. CQ was quite pleasant and definitely more preferable to Fireguard. We had to answer the phones during the day and take messages, file paperwork, and clean the offices at night. It kept you busy. Our company looked completely exhausted when they returned, but they were stoked by the feat they had just accomplished. Their uniforms were covered with orange sand and their weapons would need one heck of a cleaning. Graduation Day was less than a week away and we had one inspection left to pass. Best part - my platoon had finally learned our platoon motto.
A few comments and a cold shoulder here and there have been thrown at me the past couple of days. I was even told by one female in 4th platoon that it angered her that I got to skip out on FTX. Females are so catty which just reiterates my most consequential reason for getting along better with males. Did I want to miss out on going to Valley Forge? Um, no. I was told that I would be staying behind at the company with no argument. To top off this malcontent, the day went from bad to worse-a wallet has turned up missing from our bay. The Drill Sergeants have given us two choices: a walk through the latrine to drop the wallet on the floor, or write a note stating a specific soldier if we know their name. No wallet turned up and our bay was thoroughly searched. The males got the same treatment, but the Drill Sergeants found Cokes, candy, and a can of snuff hiding above the ceiling tiles. They got one heck of a smoke session! Still no wallet. CPT Fagget called a company formation and proceeded to give us one heck of a coming to Jesus meeting. We were told that if the wallet was found on any one of us, that we would be taken into custody by the MPs (Military Police). To this day, I do not think that wallet was ever recovered.
A huge shout out the females in my bay! 😀 We may not all get along, but we passed our final inspection flawlessly. But thanks to our male counterparts, we ALL spent the rest of the evening after chow cleaning and re-cleaning our weapons because they failed to have their M16s spotless during their inspection. Thanks guys! What a crazed long day! We didn't get back up to the bay until after 2200! Sleep could not get here fast enough. The days following would be filled with packing, graduation, family day, and out-processing. The payoff - finally earning the rite of passage from civilian to Soldier. Hooah!
GRADUATION DAY - We stood at attention, listening to our accomplishments and how we were ALL soldiers in the United States Army, even those of us (like me) that joined the Army Reserves and National Guard. Several awards, ribbons, and a few medals were given out to fellow soldiers. Even though this is an awesome day for all of us, it is a very long process and continues for hours. Finally, all of the companies in our Battalion marched around the track for pass and review. I cannot even begin to explain the feelings and emotions that came over me as I marched around the track. Afterwards, family and friends were introduced to our Drill Sergeants. I wish my parents could have seen me graduate, (especially my dad), but they were unable to make the trip. Those who had family in town were able to leave for the night, but had to be back at the company by chow the next evening. Jokala introduced me to her parents and they invited me to hang out with them for the remainder of the day and eat with them. The excitement of graduation day carried into the evening and it was extremely hard to fall asleep that night. For once, I did not have Fireguard duty. 🤣
Since our (the females) last inspection had gone very smoothly, we were able to pack up our belongings early and retrieve our personal bags. We are shipping out to our AIT (Advanced Individual Training) units today. I will not be traveling far, practically down the street and around the corner to Charlie Company 369th Adjutant General Battalion.
We have overcome our biggest challenges and have joined the honorable ranks of the United States military. It took a lot of dedication and weeks of hard work to get here, but I made it.
Our Sweatshirt Logo we had made for 1st Platoon
The opinions expressed on these pages are my own. Everyone will have a different military experience and outcome. Military icons used are by Freepik, Smalllikeart, and Pixel Perfect from Flaticon. Emojis courtesy of Emojipedia. My military dolls were made on a dollmaker by eLouai (no longer available) and edited by me using GIMP.