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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 dislike flying. 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 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 was disposed of. Cigarettes, lighters, knives, playing cards, etc. are all considered contraband. Even if you have nothing on your person or in your bags, they still require you 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 headed to our barracks 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, monitoring any unauthorized exits and visits to our bay, and, of course, watching for fires. I performed bed checks 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 they issued us 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). They also issued us a small book titled the IET Soldier’s Handbook, aka ‘smart book’. We must carry it 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. They call this 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 enormous 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. We have stenciled our military duffel bags with our last names, social security number 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 sleep! 😴

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The story and views expressed on these pages are my own. Everyone will have a different military experience and outcome. Military icons used are by Nhor Phai, Freepik, Smalllikeart, and Pixel Perfect from Flaticon. Emojis courtesy of Emojipedia. My military dolls were made on a doll maker by eLouai (no longer available) and edited by me using GIMP.

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