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.
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.