Basic

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The following is taken from my live journal account chronicling my four months or so in basic training. I haven’t seen this is over three years. The few that start the entries off were my direct words, but a majority are taken directly from letters I wrote home to my family, that my father graciously typed up and posted on that website for me.

I wasn’t sure it would be still online when I thought about it this morning.

Here it is, in it’s entirety. Keep in mind, just two months after the last entry I would be on the ground in Afghanistan.

First Entry

pfckirell
January 6th, 2010
This would be the first entry of my basic training blog.  In this I’m going to chronicle my time at Ft. Benning, GA as I go through the process of training to become a soldier in the United States army.
For those who know me, this is probably a shock to some of you that I would join the army.  Sometimes when I wake up, knowing that instead of months and weeks, I now have, literally, hours until I board the plane that’ll fly me down to Georgia, it shocks me that I’ve really done this.  I really wasn’t nervous before, but at the time of this blog creation (January 6, 2010 – or 20100106 in military-speak) I’m starting to feel the butterflies.
As of this writing I’m less than 24 hours from being shipped to MEPS (the military entrance processing station) where I’m going to get my height and weight checked for a second time.  It’s a process called inspection, and I think the military wants to make sure I haven’t been eating donuts and drinking lard for the past month.  No worries, I’ve cut back my lard intake severely over the past few weeks.  A recruiter from the Hempstead branch (where I signed up) is going to pick me up tomorrow afternoon and drive me to Staten Island, where I’m going to be put in a hotel overnight, until I get bussed back to Fort Hamilton (the army base right under the Verrizanno bridge where the MEPS is) to have my height and weight done.
After that’s over with I’ll be driven home, where I’ll have a whopping 24 hours to spend with my family before I have to get driven back to Staten Island Sunday afternoon, to then stay overnight before being bussed back to MEPS to swear in, be handed my plane ticket, and driven off to JFK to catch a flight down to Georgia.
In between, though, I’ll have one last opportunity to watch my Jets play, and in a playoff game no less!  How fortunate!  I really hope they win, of course, but part of me secretly hopes they lose because I’d hate to think of the Jets advancing to the Superbowl and me not being able to watch it.  After 18 years of watching this team I would totally make sense for them to make it to the big game at the exact time I’ll be unable to watch.  That’s life as a real Jets fan.  I’m starting to feel like Burgess Meredith at the end of that Twilight Zone episode ‘Time Enough At Last’ – all I need are some broken glasses.
Well, that’s where I am as of tonight’s writing.  The next entry I’ll just recap the process I went through getting to this point, and then from there I’ll leave it up to my father to transcribe the rest of it from letters I send home.  I want to keep everyone up to date on my progress, so hopefully you guys can follow me in semi-real time.
That’s all for now, thanks.

 

Timeline Of Events
pfckirell
January 6th, 2010
Just to give a timeline of how all this went down – because some of you are no doubt wondering how this whole strange joining-the-army thing came to be:
Early August – not having fun with life, economic situation is as personally grim as economic situation nationwide.
Mid August – start looking at the US Army online, figuring out the requirements and stuff I need.
Late August – make decision that enlisting is what I want to do.
Early September – step on scale, discover I’m 250 lbs – contemplate tryout for ‘The Biggest Loser’
Mid September – Start workout regimine including 5-mile walks and weight lifting, as well as severe dieting.
Late September – Have dropped 20 lbs, look slightly less enormous than I did early in month, actually ended up dropping a pant size from when I was measured for my sister’s wedding.  Attended wedding and memorialized in photographs looking quite humongous.
Early October – Lost another 10 lbs – lost on average about a pound a day from start of diet.
Mid October – Still losing an averge of 3-5 pounds a week. Walking becomming easier.
Late October – Lost another 10 lbs, for a grand total of 40 in two months.  Not bad, still in 200s though.
Early November – Hitting wall, not able to push under 200 lbs yet.  But still trying.
Mid November – Finally at 200 lbs, just in time to gain some back at Thanksgiving.
Late November –  Cross over into sub – 200lb territory.  Make decision to go see a recruiter.  Visit recruiting station – nobody from army is there.  Bummed.  Go back the following week and finally meet with a recruiter.  I’m probably the easiest sell he’s had all year.  Tells me to keep losing weight.  Set up my MOS (army job) and make appiontment for initial MEPS visit.
Early December – Visit MEPS (see next post). Given my ship-out date for Ft. Benning – January 11th.  Allow mother to tell her side of the family about decision to enlist.  Within seconds her side of family is informed.
Mid December – All paperwork done.  Get my rank – Private First Class.  Told to keep losing weight and working out.  Given a gym membership.
Late December – celebrate Christmas and Chanukah.  Snows a lot.  Wrecks havoc on my workout schedule.  Despite massive amounts of food eaten between Christmas and New Year’s still managed to keep losing weight.  Now down to 185.
Early January – Weighed myself, came in at 179, a full 10 pounds under the minimum.  Managed to lose 71 pounds in four months.  Buying things to take with me to basic.  Is unbelievably cold.  Finally got around to telling father’s side of the family about decision.  Most are surprised, but proud.  Grandmother has cow.
And that’s how we got to where we are now.

 

MEPS (day one)
pfckirell
January 6th, 2010
MEPS – or the Military Entrance Processing Station – is located at Fort Hamilton, which is this hidden army base practically underneath the Verrizanno bridge.  It’s actually quite enormous, but you’d never know from the Belt Parkway.  It’s not until you actually drive through the gates and get a sense of the sprawling layout that you realize it is pretty much a world unto its own.  I was there on the 7th and 8th of December.
Now, some day in the future, there might be people other than my friends and family reading this, and they may be wondering what the deal with MEPS is.  Well, I’ll try to explain it as best I can.
Basically, the way it worked for me was, I was driven by my recruiter to Fort Totten – which is this base in Queens by the Triboro Bridge (or the Throgs Neck, I’m not really sure – what am I, google maps?). From Fort Totten I was brought into this office where two other people waiting to be taken to MEPS.  Neither of them talked at all, so it was kind of awkward.
Eventually, a sergeant came and got us and drove us from Ft. Totten to Ft. Hamilton.  Why we couldn’t have just been driven by our recruiters to Ft. Hamilton initially, I don’t know, but that’s the way they did it.
I arrived at Ft. Hamilton and the sergeant escorted us in, and we went downstairs to take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery – essentially the military’s version of the SAT test).  You get put in a room with computers and some scrap paper and are given about three hours to take a test that measures math, reading comprehension and, oddly enough, auto body skills.
Now, when you first go visit a recruiter, they have you take a practice ASVAB test in their offices, and that gives the recruiter a general idea of how smart you are and what jobs he should point you towards.  Well, I scored a 50 on my practice test.  The recruiter was pleased and I thought I’d be somewhere in the middle of the pack.  The only thing was, the practice test is about 1/20th as comprehensive as the actual test, so its really not much of a practice at all.
When I was finally done with my test the proctor comes over, checks that your Social Security number is correct, and tells you to go over here and get a copy of your results (you get them instantly).  I got the printout and checked  my score – a 92!
Seriously, a 92.  The highest you can get is a 99.
Esentially it just means I scored better than 92 percent of the recruits that take the test.  It also means I qualify for basically any job the army has to offer, so if I ever want to change my army job from what it is now (infantry), I just have to wait a year and then request something else.  If it’s available, it’s mine.
Anyway, after I was done with that they bring you upstairs and you wait for the last person to get done taking the test and then a bus comes and takes you to Staten Island so you can go eat and sleep at the hotel.  Pretty much everyone was done at the same time….except one person, who held up the entire group from leaving for like…no joke…about an hour and 20 minutes. Sure, the test has a time limit of three hours, but nobody take that long…except this guy.  Ugh.
Finally, he meanders up the stairs, doesn’t even apologize for keeping everyone waiting, and takes his seat with the rest of us.  Some lady who was at the processing desk came over and asked for a volunteer to read some guidelines (apparently because she doesn’t feel like doing it for the 50th time this week).  I volunteered.  It was just nonsense.  Don’t trash the hotel room.  Don’t try to have sex.  The halls will be monitored, blah blah blah.
Nobody cared.  We all just wanted to eat.  By that time it was 9:00 PM and we had all been there for about five hours.
Finally we boarded the bus and it was only about a 20 minute drive until we came to the Hilton and deboarded.  We had a momentary briefing with hotel staff, who assigned us roommates and gave us our keys, then we could go eat.  They had a buffet spread with pasta, fried chicken, meat, sausage, ect.  All of it was ice cold by that point.  Not that I cared that much, I was still dieting.  Tomorrow would be the all-important weigh-in and I didn’t want to fill up and weigh myself down.
I quickly ate and retreated up to my room, leaving my roomate (a really cool guy a little younger than me who was going into the Navy) at the table.  Of course, the first thing I did was turn on the tv.  It’s just what I do when I enter a room.  I got settled in and my roomate followed about 10 minutes later.
I quickly got to know this guy – who was a married father with a three year old.  I think he said he was about 28 years old.  He wanted to do Navy intelligence and he seemed about as un-military as I am.  We clicked instantly.  I ended up being bummed that he wasn’t going into the army too.  We both watched “Choke” on cable and then spent most of the night watching Robot Chicken before I had to turn in at 1:00AM.  We had to get up at 4:00 for breakfast.
All in all I ended up getting about three hours of sleep before I had to go into Day II of MEPS and the never ending process of being processed by the military.

 

MEPS (day two)
pfckirell
January 6th, 2010
This would be the long day.  The really long day.
Beginning at 4:00 AM, you wake up, shower, pack your stuff, and head downstairs for the breakfast buffet and try to shove as much food down as possible before you walk out into the ice cold night and onto the school busses that’ll take you back to Fort Hamilton.
Once you get back there you fill out and enter the processing station and get grouped according to what branch you’re going in.  Army over here, Navy over there, Marines here, Coast Guard there, ect.
Surprisingly, the Coast Guard seemed to have just as many recruits as the army or marines did.  Maybe these kids figured out there aren’t many coasts to guard in Afghanistan, who knows?
After standing around for an hour or so (something that will be a common occurance throughout the day) you get shuffled up to the second floor, where the fun begins.
First stop – blood pressure checks.
Second stop – eye test.
Third stop – hearing test.
Fourth stop – group discussion and filling out of paperwork.  This was like going back in time to kindergarden with the way the instructor had the forms (which we all had in front of us) blown up to ridiculous billboard size so everyone in the room would not be confused.  This part should have taken no more than 15 minutes, but got stretched to about an hour because (A) people don’t listen, and (B) people don’t remember, and (C) people are freaking morons.
fifth stop – urine and blood tests.  Blood test went fine.  I give blood regularly so this was a snap.  The urine test was my achillies heel though, and I knew it would be going in.  I just can’t pee on command.  It doesn’t help that you HAVE to pee with someone watching you, and not just watching you, you MUST pee right then or else the MEPS dude gets angry, kicks you out, and tells you if you if you don’t pee next time you come in, then you’re going to have to come back tomorrow – which means telling your tough army recruiter that he’ll have to drive you back here because you got stagefright and couldn’t pee.
I had little choice.  I owned the water fountain for the next half hour.  I drank so much water I could actually feel it in my stomach when I walked.  When I finally felt like I had to go, I went into the bathroom, got a cup and let it rip……and nothing happened.
Nothing.  Nada.  Not a drop.
The MEPS dude said try flushing the urinal.  I did.  It didn’t really help.  I asked the guy how much time I had to get this cup filled (and it needed to be filled about three quarters of the way) – he said I had another two minutes.
Two minutes!?!?!
Oy.
Finally, I just tried to force it out.  Eventually, I got a small stream going, and I was so relieved (pardon the pun).  It was barely enough to cover the cup halfway, but I figured as long as I had some in there, it wouldn’t matter.I was wrong.
I handed the cup to the testing guy, he looks at it and goes  “give me more.”
I’m like, “WHAT?”
He said, “it has to be above this line, right now its at the line, I need it above that.  Just give me a little more.”
As if I was intentionally holding out on him.
I went back to the urinal, tried again, but I just couldn’t do it.  The testing guy was about to close up shop when I started to jump up and down, trying to shake something out.  My stomach was filled with a gallon of water, but apparently it wasn’t enough.  I started to lose hope and imagined having to go call my recruiter and tell him to bring me back tomorrow because my urine was concientiously objecting to joining the military.
Then, a miracle happened.  I felt a small, small urge.  The teeniest, tiniest, urge.  I grabbed a cup and unzipped and out dripped about a two tablespoon’s worth.
I was so proud.  The closest I’ll probably ever come to the miracle of childbirth.
I brought the cup over to the tester, he dumped the contents into the first cup and said “you’re good to go.”
And that was that.  The epic battle of the pee was over.
Next stop – the physical.
I walked down the hall from the bathroom and into a room where about 20 guys were stripped down into their underwear, shivering, and not looking like they were having the most fun time in their lives.
I threw off my clothes, set them down, and joined in the back of the line to get my height and weight taken.
Now, here’s the thing.  I’m 5-9.  I’ve been 5-9 pretty much since junior high.  I’m 5-10 with shoes on, but I knew going in I wasn’t going to be measured in shoes, so I prepared myself for being 5-9 and going by the weight requirements for someone who is 69 inches.
Then they measured me and told me I was 5-8.  The military had shrunk me.
Not only that.  The day before I had stepped on my scale at home and weighed in at 189, so I figured i was right around the weight I had to be to avoid the dreaded tape test.  Only, when I got on the scale here, I was 192.
Apparently I had just drank 3 pounds of water minutes before.
Which meant I had to be taped.  Essentially, they used a tape measure around my neck and around my belly.  If the ratio between your neck and belly is a certain number, you’re good to go, even if you’re a few pounds over the weight requirement.  I was taped at my recruiting station and came in below the reqirement by 2%, so I felt pretty good about passing.
Then they measured my belly and the water had added an extra inch to the numbers, which meant the configuration of my neck to waiste ratio would be altered from what it was before.
I literally had no idea if I would pass or not.
Then the MEPS guy said “nope, you’re over”  and my heart sank.
“Oh wait….how old are you?”
“Im 31,” I said, wondering if I should have said 41 instead.
“Oh okay, then you’re good.”
He was looking at the percentages for someone 27-30.  I passed the tape test – by .5%
From there I joined a group of guys who were doing physical exercises in front of this old Asian doctor – walking around on your knees, standing on one foot, walking in a circle, twisting your arms and joints, ect.  The whole thing lasted about 15 minutes and it seemed that nobody was having any problems – except for two guys who were off in the corner hooked up to a blood pressure machine.  Apparently their blood pressure was too high.  Mine was perfect, 120/72 – woohoo!
Oh, did I mention at this point I had to pee like a racehorse?  Yeah, all that water was now looking for an exit.  I guess I mistimed my peeing by about 20 minutes.  All in all I ended up peeing three times before my recruiter came to pick me up that day.
Anyway, after that it was a private screening with this female doctor who was about 120 years old.  She took me into this exam room down the hall and had me drop everything (which wasn’t much to begin with), bend over and spread em.
It was about as fun as it sounds.  Mercifully, it was a short experience.
Finally, at around 2:00 I got to eat lunch.  A brown paper bag that had a turkey and cheese sandwich, an apple and a cookie.  After nine hours it tasted like gourmet french cuisine (if I liked gourmet french cuisine).
After that it was just a matter of signing some paperwork, getting my photo ID taken, getting fingerprinted, and waiting for my recruiter to come pick me up – which he did at around 5:00.
Oh, and I also took the oath and swore in.  I also promised not to try to overthrow the government or anything.   I wavered on that part, but they threw in a camo bookbag, so that sealed the deal.
So all in all about a 13 hour day from start to finish.  From what I’ve heard, pretty much your entire first week in BCT (basic combat training) is like that, so I’ll be in for some fun times come next week.
Hurry up and wait.  Pretty much the military motto.Useless Waste O’ Time

pfckirell
January 8th, 2010
Was told to be ready at 12:30 for a trip to the hotel yesterday.  Figured I would be picked up and driven to the hotel in Staten Island and from there, sleep over and get brought to MEPS the next day.
Oh how silly that thought was.
Instead, I got picked up at 12:30 and taken to the recruiting station.  From the recruiting station I sat and waited while they found someone to take me to Fort Totten.  From Fort Totten I sat and waited while they found someone to take me (and five others) to Fort Hamilton.
On the way to Fort Hamilton I got stuck in the van next to three Chinese dudes who spoke nonstop to each other in Chinese at ear-splitting volumes the whole ride there.
Once at Fort Hamilton I discovered that I wouldn’t be going to the hotel, because I wasn’t on the list.  Had to go down to the army office, where I was informed they no longer do inspections (the whole reason I was there) on Fridays anymore.  Nobody from my recruiting station knew this.
I was told to call my recruiter and tell him to pick me up.  Only thing is, my recruiter is in North Carolina taking a test this month, and the other recruiter in the office didn’t feel like coming to pick me up.  So I had to wait for the other people I drove in with to finish taking their ASVAB test (which lasts three hours) before I could catch a ride back with them.
I was hoping the two people I was waiting for would take the test quickly.  Nah.  The last dude to finisht the test was the dude we were waiting on.  Got there at 3 p.m.  – left there at 7 p.m.
Now I’m about 15 minutes from the recruiter at the station coming to pick me up so I can do my PT test.  I have to do 13 pushups, 17 situps and run a mile in 8:30.  It just snowed this morning, and we were supposed to go to the local high school and do the run.  I’m not sure if we’re going to do that now.  If not we’re either going to the gym and do it on the treadmill, or just not doing it.  It’s not a requirement if you’re going in as an E-3 like I am, but for people entering as an E-1, it’s a good way to move up in rank before you ship.
I’d be just as happy getting back into bed and napping.Anyway, then tomorrow I have to go to some Future Soldier meeting at 8 a.m. to do…something?  The recruiter first told me about this yesterday, so I have no idea what it entails.  He said there was a movie involved, but I’m sure it’ll be something lame.
Then on Sunday I’m going to the hotel for real, and Monday I’m shipping out.
Bleh.

 

PT Test  (PT meaning Poop Traversing)
pfckirell
January 8th, 2010
Back from taking my initial PT test for basic.  The one I take with my recruiter before I ship out.
Requirements:  13 pushups in one minute….17 situps in one minute…. a mile in 8:30.
How I did:  25 pushups….35 situps….a mile in 9:30.
In fairness, this wasn’t an ordinary mile.  Granted, I haven’t run a mile outdoors since I was in high school (13 years ago), but still, this wasn’t a normal mile run.
First of all, it was freeeezing out.  I think it was in the 20s when we got to the local high school.    The cold air made my lungs feel like they were going to burst.
Second of all, part of the track was covered in snow.  It had snowed this morning and a corner of the track was layed with less than an inch of powder.  Not a huge obsticle, but I wasn’t going to run full speed over that.
Third of all, apparently this high school was a public bathroom for Canadian geese.  There was poop EVERYWHERE on the track.  And not just like, little droppings either – big huge clumps and piles that looked like muliple geese took turns making obsticles.
Imagine having to run a timed mile in freezing cold weather, where you have to slow down on corners not to slip, and on straight runs you have to dance around mounds of bird poo.
And I still finished within a minute of passing.  All in all I’m fairly pleased.  I’m not sure I’ll pass the initial PT test once I arrive at Ft. Benning, but at least I know I won’t be more than 10 minutes on the mile.  And the situps and pushups portion was a breeze, so I don’t have that to worry about.
Future Soldier Thingymajig

pfckirell
January 9th, 2010
Today I was picked up at 8:30 in the morning to head on over to Fort Totten to do some final Future Soldier event before I ship out.
Got there, wearing my NY Jets jersey – took some ribbing from other guys there who swore the Jets would lose – HAHA, SUCKERS!!!
Anyway, in one small room off to the side they had a huge video wall up where people were taking turns shooting a video game target simulation using a mock AK47 and a pistol.
It looked fun, though I never got to try it out.
After a while we were all taken downstairs into a big gymnasium area where we were given some in-person instruction on things like marching orders, left face, right face, about face, how to identify rank, military time, and the phonetic alphabet.  Basically just going over stuff we should have already been learning about online.
I swear, nothing will build your confidence in being able to transition into military life more than observing the OTHER people who will be transitioning into military life.  Some of the people I was there with today I wouldn’t want being deployed under Colornel Sanders, let alone in any platoon I’d be in.
Anyway, once that was done there was a small pizza party and we were driven home.
I got to watch the Jets play one last time – and witness them win a playoff game, something I’ve only seen them do three times before, so that was a very very cool way end my civilian life.
Tomorrow it’s onto the hotel in Staten Island, and then from there to MEPS and Georgia and my life in the army really begins.
Ooooh boy!
The Adventure Begins

pfckirell
January 10th, 2010
Note: PFC Kirell was picked up this afternoon at his home at 14:30 hours by Sgt. H. PFC Kirell now begins his U.S. Army Infantry career.
Day 1 –  The Trip To Fort Benning – 01/11/2010

pfckirell
January 19th, 2010
Woke up at 4:10 AM. Hopped in the shower in the hotel room and then went down for breakfast. A bus picked us up from the hotel at 5:15 AM. Got to MEPS and went through processing for about 5 hours. Had weight and height checked again. Same height, but 10 pounds lighter than I was a month ago.
Sitting in Newark Airport right now awaiting to depart. Left MEPS in a van with three other guys all going to Fort Benning for Infantry. Pretty cool guys: Alexander, a big Russian dude, Stephan – a skinny Italian kid from Queens, and Robert, a 5-4″ Dominican dude from New Jersey. We all had dinner together at this Irish Pub in the airport.
Flight to Atlanta is scheduled to leave at 7:30 PM and we should be at Fort Benning by 9:00 PM. I will be VERY tired. I think we’re going to have a very long night, though. I don’t expect to get to bed before 1:00 AM. Its now 9:30 PM.
I’m at the airport in Atlanta now. We just missed getting on the bus to take us to Fort Benning and now we have to wait an hour. There are about 20 guys here just waiting in the middle of the airport, all standing under a big clock tower. We are all very BORED!

 

Day 2 – Inprocessing Begins – 1/13/2010
pfckirell
January 19th, 2010
It’s now about 9:00 PM on Wednesday January 13, 2010. I am so tired I hardly have any energy to write anything. We finally got to Fort Benning at around midnight or 12:30 AM. After we arrived we went through the initial inprocessing phase – which lasted until 9:00 PM on Tuesday. In other words, I went 36+ hours without any sleep. Just marching from here to there, standing at attention, shuffling in line for food. This whole place is amazing! Now I learn where the term “military precision” comes from.
Basically, this is the breakdown of what I’ve done so far: Monday Night – arrived, met the Drill Sergents Tuesday Morning – got processed, found out which line unit I’m in (112th), got to eat a few times Tuesday Afternoon – honestly I can’t remember – the last 36 hours have been a blur.
You just get marched from here to there with no time to think. I will say this, my feet really hurt. When I finally did get to sleep, I fell asleep instantly. Funny thing – I woke up at about 3:00 AM thinking I just had the wildest dream, that I joined the Army, then I looked around at the 50 other guys in my garrison and went “Yeah, I did!”
Still, I’m sooo tired. I’ll go to bed now, it’s lights out.

 

Day 3 – Reception Begins – 1/14/2010
pfckirell
January 19th, 2010
Got up at 3:45 AM this morning. Why? I don’t know, because we really didn’t do anything. The recruits keep piling in every day and what once was 200 on Monday has now ballooned to almost 800.
Needless to say, getting to eat is a bit of a hassle. Everyone at Fort Benning eats at the same time, but there are only enough seats in the dining facility for about 80 recruits at any one time, so there will be lines that stretch hundreds of soldiers long. The waiting in line and outside in the cold can last up to an hour…just for the privilege of shoveling the food into your mouth as quickly as possible. You have less than 10 minutes to finish whatever is on your tray while the Drill Sergents are constantly screaming at everyone to just hurry up and finish eating.
We really didn’t do anything, processing-wise, but we have time. We don’t ship down-range until Friday the 22nd. Oh, BTW, I lost my flip flops. Boo. I have to find a way to get new ones. They sell them at the PX.
Funny thing I just found out. A dude got caught stealing pillows! He got cut up when the barber shaved his head and he woke up with blood on his pillow, so he switched it with his bunkmate – then did it again to another person. Everyone now calls him “pillow-thief”.
Day 4 – Barracks Life – 01/15/2010

pfckirell
January 22nd, 2010
Today was a real cool day. We got our rank badges and pins. The badge that I got (for an E3 or Private First Class) is a chevron and rocker together. I got the patch and put it on my uniform – got my pin and put it on my hat. I instantly felt like a real soldier. Even though we haven’t really done basic training yet and I haven’t even done one pushup, it feels more cool when you’re walking around with an actual rank as opposed to to just a blank patch.
Tonight there was almost a fight in the barracks. Two guys were yelling and one kid walked over and got in the face of another kid and threatened him, then that kid got jumped by about six others and got put in a full nelson and was dragged away. It was kind of surreal to watch.
I don’t know if its connected, but today was the first day it wasn’t freezing all day. It was still cold in the morning, but by the afternoon it must have warmed up to about 60 degrees. Walking out in the sun was really enjoyable – though being in an enclosed and stuffy room with 300 other guys wasn’t. In addition, people fart a lot…not cool. On sad note, this guy who is in my unit got word that his whole family was killed in some earthquake in Haiti. I didn’t know anything about it, but I’ve seen bits and pieces on CNN when I’m in the Main Hall about relief in Haiti, but I didn’t know what happened. Someone said maybe 200,000 people may have died. The guy who was the 2nd oldest in the unit (I’m the 3rd) had to go home. It was sad.
We also got to watch a movie, which was kinda odd. We went for the second dental screening and they were watching “Law Abiding Citzen” with Jamie Foxx and the dude from “300”. It was pretty good, especially because we got to sit down for 2 hours instead of standing in line.
Oh, and at dinner I was the 5th from the last person in line, in a line of 800 soldiers.  Yay…

 

Day 5 – Barracks Life Part Deux – 01/16/2010
pfckirell
January 22nd, 2010
Things are heating up in the barracks. It’s not even 1:30 PM yet and there’s already almost been two fights. One of them was over an alleged cell phone that someone claims he saw the two other guys in the baracks use in the bathroom. Someone else said they’ve been hearing a cell phone go off all night, which I find suspicious, because I haven’t heard anything.
Overall though, its clear this place is filled with a lot of aggressive, immature people. It’s like a high school on steroids. There are a few cool, calm guys, but they’re the minority. A lot of them seem to be really young and reek of insecurity. I doubt half of them are as tough as they’re trying to come across.
It’s also raining today. We went marching in the rain, which was kind of fun. Not really, but that constituted the most exciting thing we did today that didn’t involve food. We’re pretty much done everything we can do. Tomorrow is Sunday and Monday is a holiday. So I expect a lot of meetings going over stuff we’ve already been told and cleaning the barracks. If it rains at all we might not leave to go outside for anything other than chow until we ship out next Friday.
Oh, and on a side note: I showered last night, but there was no hot water. Apparently the hot water shuts off at 9:00 PM. I also haven’t been able to go to the PX to get new shower shoes…so I have to shower in my socks, which is just as disgusting as it sounds.
Now guys are having arm wrestling contests and screaming like maniacs. I’m sure we’ll get in trouble for this. So I’d better cut this off here before I get this confiscated.
Day 6 – Life in Reception

pfckirell
January 25th, 2010
It’s 1:00 AM right now, Sunday morning. Why am I up writing at 1:00 AM? Because I’m on Fireguard Duty. Basically I’m sitting at a desk at the head of the barracks, protecting the soldiers in case a washing machine goes rogue or something. I think at some point I also have to do a headcount.
Last night ended in our first smoking since we got here. We were all in the room downstairs and some idiot fell asleep. Well, this particular DS didn’t find that amusing – so he shut the doors – which made the temperature in the room go up to about 90 degrees (with 600 or so people in the room). Then the DS had us do pushups and flutter kicks. It was ridiculus. There is barely enough room for all the people to stand up straight and when he said to get down in to the front leaning rest postion (the start of a push up). People were tripping over themselves and it looked like something out of a Roman orgy or a giant game of Twister gone awry. There were pools of sweat on the ground. When we got back to the barracks I jumped right into the shower – luckily there was hot water tonight!
Also, there has been no let up in the posturing or aggressive behavior. There was another almost fist fight last night. It seems guys are just jockeying for position, trying to show off to make themselves seem the most threatening. It’s actually kind of interesting in an anthropological sort of way.
Also, during the meeting last night, before the DS walked in, a few other privates were holding the meeting and one of them basically gave us permission to give this one big annoying guy a “blanket party” – which I found amazing that something like that could be said in the open in front of 600 people. A blanket party for those who don’t know is when four guys hold down someone’s arms and legs while others stuff a bar of soap in a sock and beat the guy around his body with it.
Personally, I don’t have any problem with this guy, other than I wish he wouldn’t ask stupid questions so much. People say he tries to pick fistfights, but he’s just a big 18 year old kid out of high school from Indiana, who probably never has been more than 100 miles away from home. Everyone calls him “Big Bird” because he’s tall and blond. He looks like he came out of some mid-western farm boy factory. He almost got into it with two different people tonight, so he better be careful.
Today I learned that absolutely nothing goes on during Sunday here. Today consisted of getting up at 5:00 AM, going to breakfast, eating, going back to the barracks (where I slept), getting up, going to lunch, going back to the barracks (where I tried to sleep, but couldn’t because there was a crowd of guys on the bottom bunk right below me). So this is probably going to be the routine for the day.
Tomorrow should  be even worse because the entire base is closed for MLK Day. I’m really upset I’m missing the Jets game. Heck, on a boring day like today I miss TV or the internet or the radio in general. If we’re not kept constantly busy this place resembles a prison. A prison filled with immature high school kids. I doubt there will be much more to report until Tuesday. I do hope it doesn’t rain for awhile, this place turns into a pile of of light brown mud when it rains for just a few minutes. My sneakers and everyone else’s, got caked with in a fine layer this morning.

 

Day 7 – Army Life – Food –  1/18/2010
pfckirell
January 25th, 2010
There is less going on today than there was yesterday, and nothing happened yesterday, so I thought I’d use this time to give you an idea of what eating here is like.
There are three meals a day here, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is at 6:30 AM. We get up at 4:45 AM and do our morning routine and then lineup in formation at around 6:00 AM. We get in four lines that stretch back about a quarter of a mile. Then we march the whole “left, right, left” deal over to the D-FAC (dining facility) where we form another line to get ready to enter the building. Once inside we form two lines – one on the left always has the fast food like stuff (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, etc), the one on the right is for healthier foods.
In the morning the food is the same on both lines. When you first get your tray and are moving towards the server, you see a cook making a HUGE pile of eggs. He’s there working  the griddle with what looked like a large yellow pillow – but is actually hundreds of eggs – about two feet long and 10 inches high. Everyone gets eggs – whether you asked for them or not. Other options for foods include bacon, french toast, waffles, pancakes, quiche (seriously) and something I’ve I’ve never had for breakfast before coming here – “Biscuits and Gravy”. I’m addicted to those things now. I’m not exactly sure what the gravy is made from, but it looks like ground beef mixed with heavy cream. I’m not exactly sure why I like it, and I hated it the first day, but I actually enjoyed it more and more each day. Lunch and dinner have the same menus – pizza bagels, cheese burgers, chicken nuggets, chilidogs, onion rings, fries, beans, and corn on the cobb on one line then baked chicken, pasta, veggies, and other good stuff on the other line.
Once you get off the line you get to another room that has more buffet items – fruits and condiments and such. You also have food service personnel hand you drinks – a milk and an orange juice for breakfast and red or blue gatorade for lunch and dinner. You also have someone else hand you silverware, only when you first get here then the only silverware you get is a spoon. No matter what you’re eating you get a spoon – eggs a spoon, Pasta a spoon, I had to eat baked chicken with a spoon. I did get a fork one day. I’m not sure why, I thought it was because we were past day four, but the next two days we were right back to spoons.
The DSs walk around the D-FAC yelling at everyone to finish up – not because they want to be mean, but because they only keep one samll section of the D-FAC open, so the line is severely long and the space to eat is microscopic. It usually takes me about 10 minutes to finish everything. You must remain silent, though. You’ll  get kicked out for talking.

 

Day 8 – A New Discovery – 1/19/2010
pfckirell
January 25th, 2010
Today was fairly uneventful, but compared to the last few days it was insanely busy. I traded in my two pairs of summer boots (you receive two summer and one pair of winter boots) for another pair that was the same size, but made by a different manufacturer. Supposedly, they are roomier in the front. I hope so, because my old pair was really uncomfortable. After getting my new boots I came back and found out I was geting glasses! Now I have to wear these bulky brown hideous things the guys call “BCG’s” – Birth Control Glasses – because no girl is going to want to get with anyone wearing them. They are accurately named. I also got this pair of goggles to wearwhile going to the rifle range.
Wearing the glasses for the first time was amazing. It’s like life became “HD”. I walked outside wearing the glasses and it was amazing!  The ground looked like it came up to my chin. My depth perception was way off. It was totally cool though. I never knew I wasn’t seeing as clearly as I could.
On a side note: I found out yesterday that the Jets beat the Chargers to advance to the AFC Championship game, Woo!! I really wish I was watching them or at least reading about them right now. Oh well. Go Jets! J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!!!

 

Day 9 – Preparing To Ship Down Range – 1/20/2010
pfckirell
January 25th, 2010
Today was the second to last full day before we ship down range and begin our real basic training. Things are winding down here. We cleared out our lockers and put all our stuff into our duffle and laundry bags. We’re not allowed to touch our duffle bags until we go down range.
I think we’re going to get our dogtags tomorrow, which should complete my set of official Army gear (minus my weapon). I’m not nervous yet, but I definitely sense the big change coming. These past two weeks here felt more like summer camp than the Army. The only time you really notice it’s the Army is when you wake up at 4:00 AM and when you get in the line for chow. We really haven’t been smoked yet – you know – where you’re dripping sweat on the floor. We’ve done a few minutes of pushups here and there because of someone’s stupidity, but nothing painful. I fully expect when we go down range on Friday to be in a lot of pain by Friday night.
But for tonight, I’ll sleep as much as I can. Wake up tomorrow is 3:30 AM and we have to be down stairs and lined up by 4:30 AM. Yay!

 

Day 10 – MOS News – 01/21/22
pfckirell
January 25th, 2010
Well today was a much more eventful day than I originally thought it would be. Everyone in Alpha Company registered as an 11X which is the general infantry MOS (military occupational specialty). After you get here, the Army puts you in either 11B (Basic Direct Fire Infantry) or 11C (Indirect Fire Mortarman).
I was expecting the determination to come weeks from now, but today we were told who would be split into what. I got 11C. I’m going to be a dude who handles mortars. That really wasn’t what I expected, but I have to say I’m very happy about it.
Its not that I didn’t want to be infantry, but I’m glad I won’t have to be knocking down any doors or walking into any caves at night. If I have to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, I’d be more than happy to stay a few hundred yards away from the action and fire little rockets into battle. Some people were REALLY upset about this. They really wanted to shoot people and be all Rambo and stuff. I don’t get the problem. We still get to carry a rifle, we just also get a Mortar too.
Later on in the day some guys started to wig out over us leaving tomorrow. One dude started crying in the middle of the D-FAC and another guy pleaded with the DS to let him go home. Needles to say, the two are still shipping out tomorrow. As am I.  Yay!
Day 11 – Alpha Company – 1/22/2010

pfckirell
January 26th, 2010
It’s now 4:00 AM on ship out day. I’m awake because I’m pulling Fireguard Duty, but I’ve been awake for the past hour. I can tell a lot of others are as well because I hardly hear any snoring. It’s a pretty anxious time. Everyone knows we’re going to get smoked and screamed at, probably for no good reason, but a lot of the guys are excited about that.
I haven’t gotten the opportunity to write much about the other guys here, mostly because I’ve been getting to know them and I haven’t been able to form a clear picture of them yet. But it’s been two weeks so personalities are starting to come out. Here is a rundown of some people I’ve gotten to know:  Editor’s Note: Names have been altered to protect unit operational security.
Mr. Hightower: Short 17 year old from Jersey. This kid flew with me from Brooklyn MEPS and never shut up the whole time. Talks a huge game, about fighting, women, you name it. He gets in everyone’s face to prove that he is bigger than his 5’4″ body would indicate. He also has a cousin who is a DS here, which makes him think he can get away with anything. He’s always talking or lying down in formation. Everyone thinks he’s going to get them smoked come downrange and some outright think he’ll get them killed in combat. He’s second on the list for a sock party come tonight or tomorrow, I’ve heard.
Mr. Jones: My battle buddy. He’s this 19 year old from West Virginia who is very cool, very nice, best of all, mature enough to know when to goof around and when to be serious. He talks with a southern accent even though he’s spent most of his life in Maryland. Joined the Army but doesn’t really like it. He joined because he couldn’t find a job anywhere.
Mr. Brown: I’m getting to know him better. He stands in front of Mr. Jones in formation. Really laid back guy around 19 or so from New Mexico. Wears glasses and makes the most hysterical faces. Mr. Jones, Mr. Brown, and I are getting really close. If we have to partner up into teams of three for mortar training, I hope he’s with us.
Mr. Smith: The only other New Yorker in Alpha company and he’s from upstate. He’s in his early 20s. He has a kid. He loves baseball and he has been attached at my hip ever since I told him I used to be a sports writer. He’s a cool guy – but he has a short temper and judging from what he tells me, a drinking problem. Still, he’d be a cool guy to go to a ballgame with.
Mr. Carter: Wrestler from Minnesota. Very quiet guy. Looks like he could knock out anyone in the room with one punch, but he is one of the few – very few – who isn’t trying to to make a point out of that. Looks like a military guy – square jaw and all but also doesn’t come across as a blockhead.
There are more, maybe I’ll write more about them later.
Basic Training – Day 3 – The Fun Begins

pfckirell
January 29th, 2010
It’s 2:00 AM on Sunday morning and this is the first chance I’ve had to write since coming downrange. I’m on my first Fireguard Duty here.
To back track the events of the past 36 hours: We boarded the buses to take us here at 9:00 AM Friday morning. We had our duffel bags filled with stuff, our laundry bags filled with more stuff, and our civilian bags filled with even more stuff. To carry it all we put our duffel bags on our backs, our civilian bags on our front, and bear-hugged our laundry bags.
When we finally reached the downrange base a Drill Sergeant walked on board and screamed at us to get off the bus. Then we had to run about 200 yards, carrying our bags while about 15 Drill Sergeants screamed at us. Some people dropped and fell because it rained the night before and the ground was muddy and wet.
When we finally got to the area we were supposed to be at, we lined up our bags on the ground (duffel bags on the bottom, laundry bags next, and then the civilian bag on top of that). We were then told to run up this huge hill that’s called “Sand Hill”, but that day it was like mud hill. We got to the top and then had to do pushups, flutter kicks, and other exercises while the DS’s screamed at us. Then we had to run back down the hill, where the other DS’s had thrown our bags all over the place and we had two minutes to get them organized again. Once we did that we had to take our laundry bag and hold it over our heads for about 5 minutes. Some people dropped their bags and some people let the bag rest on their heads. The DS’s did not like that and would get in their faces and scream at them.
By the end of this we were all caked in mud and sweat and tired as hell. Then we were sorted out into our platoons. I’m in the 1st Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment (the same one Sarah Pallin’s oldest son was in when he went through BCT, according to the DS).
The rest of the first day was spent going through processing. We got assigned our bunks – mine is in the back of the bay by the bathrooms – getting our spot in formation (I’m in the second row – second from the left).   I am getting assigned a new battle buddy. I got put with this 18 year old named Mr. Light who is from Florida. He seems like a cool enough kid. He’s definitely not a knucklehead, so that’s good.
The first day full day ended with me not getting much sleep and feeling like crap. I’ve caught whatever myriad of illnesses is running around here…
Basic Training – Day 3: The Fun Continues – 1/24/2010

pfckirell
January 30th, 2010
Well, two interesting things happended today – actually scratch that – two interesting and about a hundred painful things happened today:
It all started off with the morning PT assessment test: As many pushups and situps as you can do in one minute and a timed one mile run. About three weeks ago I did 25 pushups, 35 situps, and I ran the mile in 9 minutes 30 seconds. Today I did 17 pushups, 29 situps – but ran the mile in 9:24. I attribute the drop in pushups and situp numbers to the two-mile march we did the day before with our 150 pound rucksacks, kevlar vests, helmet, canteens, and other gear. My shoulders were burning sooooooo bad. This morning I woke up and could barely put my arms above my head. So, in a way, I’m surprised I was able to do 17 pushups at all. As for the situps, I attribute that to the fact that I’m sick as a dog right now. I have a bad cough, runny nose, I can hardly breathe, and its amazing that I’m still able to move, let alone do strenuous physical exercise. How I managed to improve my run time, I don’t know. I’m glad I did though, because it gave me a big confidence boost. If I am able to shave six seconds off my run time every week, I’ll be able to pass the PT Test in 10 weeks. I have to be able to run a mile in 8:30.
The other eventful thing that happened today was that we were issued our M4 rifles. It was the first time I ever held a weapon. We’re not allowed to call them guns – that really pisses off the Drill Sergeants. I filled out my receipt for the M4 and then learned how to clean it. It was also made explicitly clear to us that we are to NEVER have our fingers on the trigger.
I am more excited about the rifle than I thought I would be. Right now it just looks like a toy – there is no magazine in it and it has a lock on the muzzle – but it does have some weight to it. It’s about seven pounds and you really feel it when you hold it.
Other than these two things it was like “smoke central” today. Every part of our bodies were abused: our arms, shoulders, legs, thighs. I’m about to go to bed now and I am absolutely exhausted.
On a final note, I was the first person in the platoon assigned to a semi-leadership position. I am the “keeper of the keys” – which means I have the pleasure of locking up the rifles at night. It’s not a huge deal, but at least I get to be something other than Roster Number ###.
Tomorrow should be the last of the really bad days, where the DS’s treat you like you’re less than dirt. I hope we move up to dirt level soon.
Basic Training – Day 4 – Sick I Am

pfckirell
February 1st, 2010
I’m not sure what the exact date is, but it’s a little after 1:00 AM on Tuesday. I’m in the platoon’s laundry room doing a wash. Why am I up at 1:00 AM doing a wash? Because the laundry room here has 10 washer/dryers for 200 soldiers (we share the laundry room with all the other platoons from Alpha Company).
Once again, I’m not sleeping well. Whatever illness I have is preventing me from lying down for more than a few minutes without coughing. My pleghm is very thick and almost green.
It didn’t help that today we did more physical exercise than any of the previous three days. We got smoked pretty much all day long. It started with morning PT in this giant pit of sand – believe me, by the end of it, sand was everywhere. We did everything – pushups, situps, bear-crawls, stretches – all in this pile of wet sand that caked all over us. I was pretty sore by the end of it, but then again – I’ve felt like crap basically from minute one here – and I’m sure that’s the point.
I wouldn’t mind it so much if we got chances to rest more often – but even the rest periods here are painful – you have to sit straight up and keep your heels together at chow or else they make your whole platoon eat STANDING UP! We’ve had to eat standing up at least once a day since I’ve been here and it’s so irritating.
Another aspect of the chow hall I find irritating is the fact that you can’t choose your meals yet. The food service people just alternate whatever is in their five service trays. Someone in front of you on line could get a half of a roast chicken and you could be stuck with a meatloaf thing that looks like a turdburger with rice in it. The last two days I haven’t eaten as much because of this.
Overall I’m just extremely weary and tired. This is as big a transition from civilian life as people say it is. Some of the guys in my platoon are cool and help each other out, and some other guys seem more interested in showing off how loud they can yell and how much they can disguise arrogance as leadership. Once again, I’d like to point out that quiet little me is the only one who has a semi-permanent position of responsibility.
As for today – well, it’s the day some here have been looking forward to the most, and some have been dreading the most – the GAS CHAMBER. Last night we got instructions on how to put on the gas mask and clear the gas out of it. I’m sure it will be an experience I’ll never forget – but then again, I can say that about pretty much everything here.

 


Basic Training – Day 5 – It’s A Gas Man…  01/27/2010
pfckirell
February 1st, 2010
So we had the dreaded gas chamber experience yesterday. I’ll save you all the dramatic theatrics and just get right to the point. It was the most horrible, painful thing a person can go through without leaving any lasting scars.
The gas, when you breathe it in – and believe me you do breathe it in – is like inhaling the spiciest food you’ve ever eaten. I both felt, and wished, that I was dying. The pain only lasted maybe 30 seconds, but those 30 seconds are an eternity when your eyes, nose, mouth and throat are all on fire.
When I finally broke out of the gas chamber I coughed for a good ten minutes straight. Snot was pouring out of me. I was a complete and utter mess. After that we had to walk around the campground area for awhile to get the gas off our clothes. Then we got to eat MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) on the ground. I got meatloaf with gravy . Didn’t hate it. I also got peanut butter and jelly on crackers which were pretty good.
Then after that we got to ride back to base in the back of an old truck, driven by the DS, who made sure to hit every bump in the road on the way back. Guys in the back of the truck were talking about telling everyone about how easy the gas chamber is. Don’t believe anyone that tells you that. It is pure torture and deserves it’s reputation as the scourge of BCT recruits.

 


Basic Training – Day 5 continued – 01/27/2010
pfckirell
February 1st, 2010
I think my age is catching up with me. I’m getting sicker by the day. In addition to this cold or whatever it is that’s left me nothing but a coughing, snot-dripping mess, I’ve also pulled a quad muscle, have a bum left knee, very sore shoulders, etc. And to top it all off, tonight my right eye swelled up with pus for some reason. I’m not sure if it’s Pinkeye or something else. If it’s Pinkeye I have to go to sick call, which I don’t want to do. If it’s something else I still may have to go to sick call because it still may be something worse than Pinkeye. I don’t remember having a yellow discharge from my eyes when I got Pinkeye as a kid, and right now this pus of yellow fluid is almost flowing out of it.
I may have to make my first trip to sick call tomorrow. Darn. I was hoping to avoid it unless I was really injured.
As for today, we mostly had classroom sessions on First Aid. That lasted about four hours and was a welcome relief from all the PT we’ve been doing. If I wasn’t so miserable from my ailments I would have really enjoyed today.
Day 6 – Sick Call – 01/28/2010

pfckirell
February 3rd, 2010
Today was, by far, the easiest day I’ve had here at Fort Benning since I arrived. I woke up – well, I was actually awoken by the DS, who got us up an hour early to yell at us.
As I wrote last night, my eye was all messed up and it just got worse over night. It was all swollen shut and that yellow discharge I wrote about had hardened to a crust that stitched my eyelashes together – I could not open my right eye on my own. I looked as if I just went a round with Mike Tyson.
So off to sick call I went, where I was diagnosed with Pinkeye (conjunctivitis), a fever of 99.6, a cough, a runny nose, sore throat, and other things. I was a mess. The Docs gave me eyedrops, cough drops, tylenol, cough syrup, nasal spray, and Muscinex.
I got back, thankfully, right before lunch, and managed to miss the morning PT session and an afternoon smoking, where everyone had to don their full battle uniforms – which weigh 100+ pounds each – go into the “sand pit” – and carry a battle buddy a few hundred yards. By the time I came back to the platoon I noticed everyone was covered in sand. Shame I had to miss that…
Found out tonight that we are going out into the woods next week for a few days. Should be really exciting as we get to use compasses and other stuff. We pair off into teams and try to find our way back to the base. I am really looking forward to this, it seems BCT might actually start getting fun.
Basic Training  – Day 8 – Second Week Begins – 01/30/2010

pfckirell
February 4th, 2010
Well it’s the start of the second week here at Fort Benning. The first week, while I would never say that it flew by, felt very much like a blur. The days seemed to melt together. I can understand how people say that it will be over before you know it, even though to me, graduation seems so far off.
Today we were were tested on our first aid skills and knowledge. We had four stations where we had to seperate tasks: Identify a casualty, Field dress and apply a tourniquet, Fireman’s Carry and Piggyback Carry a fellow soldier, Radio in a Medivac distress call. I passed all four parts fine. I got lucky on the carrying a fellow soldier part of the test. The dude I was paired with was only 150 lbs. Some of the guys here are massive and weigh well over 240 lbs. Did I mention we did all of these tasks, as well as road marched our way there with 130 lbs of gear on? Yeah, it was a test of endurance.
After the tasks we had a land navigation class, where we learned how to plot points on a map, use a compass, and use a protractor. We are going to need that because we are going into the woods all next week. I feel pretty confident about this now that I know how to properly read a compass and use a protractor to plot points on a map. This should be a snap. Some guys will get totally lost though. I just know it.
As for me health-wise, my eye is getting better. I still have a cough, but the doctor said that the cough would be the last to clear up. I’m taking the bootleg Robitussin and the eyedrops and hoping for the best.
Tomorrow is Sunday, which should be interesting. We get to sleep until 7:00 AM!!! I don’t have know how I’ll contain myself getting up so late.
Basically we have Sundays off, but we still have to clean the barracks. I have no doubt that will pretty much take all day.

 


Basic Training – Day 9 – 01/31/2010
pfckirell
February 4th, 2010
I’m sitting in the laundry room, it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and there is no DS in sight. Finally, we get a wee bit of freedom from having to be watched 24/7.
We still had to wake up, but not until 7:00 AM. Then we went to chow hall, had breakfast, went upstairs, cleaned the barracks for a few hours, went to lunch – got in trouble because we didn’t know some Army song that is ridiculously long and complicated – and that we were given zero time to study for. We’ll probably get smoked later. Right now guys are upstairs cleaning, buffing, mopping, and sweeping the floors. I’m just chilling by the dryers.
I figured I’d take this time to talk about our Drill Sergeants. Some platoons have three, we have two. Drill Sergeant Thomson and Drill Sergeant Welker. Both seem to be in their early to mid 30’s. They are both combat veterans. Thomson is from Texas and speaks with a thick southern accent. He’s supposed to be the “bad cop” of the two – but in reality, both of them are really cool and are pretty much universally respected. I like Thomson a lot. He’s country funny. A lot of his sayings are straight out of some old episode of “Hee Haw” or something. When he yells at you he uses this big booming voice and it really projects. He’s the one who made me the “Key Keeper”, oh and I forgot to mention this earlier, because I’m the Key Keeper and I have to spend personal time at night and in the morning opening and closing the rifle racks, I’m now exempt for Fireguard Duty. The only person in the platoon who is! DS Thomson told me that two two nights ago and I was so happy. Now I’m guaranteed to get all the sleep I need. Yay!
As for DS Welker, this guy is insanely funny. He’s also a fairly amazing person. He’s been to Iraq four times. He’s been a Ranger, been in Special Forces, been Army Airborne. He refuses to say where he is from, but I suspect he’s from New York. He talked about being in New York on 911 while he was back home. So that leads me to believe he’s from up north. That and the lack of southern accent. He’s also wickedly sarcastic, to the point that the natural cadence of his voice is to place     empahsis    on     every     word     so     that     it     sounds    like    he      thinks     you     are     an    idiot.   Everyone loves him. He absolutely hates being a DS and he tells us that all the time.
BCT – Day 10 – Lions, Tigers, & Bears…Oh My     02/01/2010

pfckirell
February 5th, 2010
Today was fun. We had our first field excursion. We went out into the deep woods of Fort Benning, armed only with a compass, a map, a protractor, and a MRE (Meal Ready to Eat). We were given five hours to find six particular spots within a four kilometer radius.
We were broken up into teams of four and given specific coordinates. We had to then plot out the best route to take to get to each coordinate. I and everyone else in our little group thought it would be easy. We were WRONG!
First, we didn’t officially start until about two hours after everyone else because we couldn’t find our starting point. We just didn’t know where to begin. After two hours we finally had to ask for help and it turns out we had to start at this point we had passed about 50 times.
Once we got underway, things went fine. We found the first three points within ninety minutes and we then had another ninety minutes to find the last three. The fourth point was the longest distance away of all – 1000 meters. We were feeling confident and we started on and then quickly slowed to a crawl and then literally started to crawl as we were in the middle of a Vietnam style forrest of vines, brambles, thorns,  (LOTS OF THORNS – my legs have the scars to prove it) swampland, mud, etc.
For a second I thought about how if we lost our compasses we’d literally never be found again. You couldn’t see a foot of distance in front of you. The team must have moved maybe 300 yards before we quit. The forrest was just getting thicker and by this point the four of us were just trying to stay upright and not trip over the vines. The decision was made to turn around and we trudged back.
We made it back to the main road with about 12 minutes to spare. We completed three of six tasks which wasn’t great, but it was good enough to pass. On Wednesday we go back again, and we’ll be sleeping out in sleeping bags and breaking off into two person teams. We will then do the same thing we tried to do today. It should be great because my battle buddy Mr. Louis, is really good at this and the other two people we were with today were basically dead weight.
On a personal note: I was very excited to receive the first batch of letters tonight. Please keep them coming. It’s pretty much the only contact with the outside world we have.
BCT – Day 11 – Chillin’      02/02/2010

pfckirell
February 6th, 2010

For some reason we did absolutely nothing today. We got smoked in the morning because a few people fell asleep after the morning wakeup and some didn’t have their PT pants on. Once that was out of the way, we just lined up for breakfast outside, came back upstairs, did nothing again, then had short class on markmanship. Right now its about 11:30 AM and I have time to just sit around and write this.

I haven’t mentioned the weather much since I’ve gotten here. It’s friggin’ COLD.  Every day it seems like it’s 20 degrees or colder when we get up and go out to do PT. Of course, we’re up and outside about 90 minutes before the the sun comes up, but still, we’ve had to wear hats and gloves to PT all but one of the days since I’ve been here. I would have thought Georgia weather would have been warmer.
DS Thomson told us today that if we get our shit together we’ll be out of “red phase” next week. I hope so. We get more privileges, more phone calls, we don’t have to to be chaperoned around the base. It’ll be really nice to be treated like a regular human being again.
DS Thomson also told us we have the Obstacle Course and Confidence Course and the Eagle Tower all later this week. Should be fun. I’m terrified of heights, but the DS said that’s good because it will make us want to get off the top of the tower faster.
What I’m looking forward to most, however, is going to the PX on Sunday. I don’t care if we’re not allowed to have it, but I’m going to get a bottle of cough syrup and some cough drops. I can’t go on coughing throuh the night any more. It’s really painful. My throat feels like its half closed and its hurts to swallow. I’m not going back to sick call unless I have to, so I’m going to have to be stealthy about how I self-medicate.
My dad wanted to know if some of the guys from processing were still with me. Mr. Jones is one bed over, but he’s not my battle buddy anymore. Mr. Brown is here too, he’s toward the front door. Mr. Carter is here, he’s in the middle of the room. It’s funny, when I got to processing I was one of only two New Yorkers that I met. Here in this platoon there are guys from Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. It’s nice to hear New York accents.

BCT – Day 12 – Navigation Training              02/04/2010

pfckirell
February 8th, 2010

Today was day two of the land navigation part of basic training. Basically, they threw us in the woods for two days and asked us to see how well we could go from “Point A” to “Point B” with nothing more than a compass, a map, and a protractor.
We were split up into teams of four. Myself and Mr. Louis (my battle buddy), were paired with two other guys standing to our immediate right. Mr. Kidd – a guy who talks non-stop and went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood last year and Mr. Johnson – a 6’7″ black guy who should be in the NCAA right now playing on someone’s offensive line, but he tore his ACL in his senior year of high school. He is a really nice and friendly guy.

We must have searched for 25 different points over the course of the last two days. We walked about 50 miles, criss-crossing various grids and sections of the Fort Benning “Yankee North” training area. This is the part of Fort Benning that the Army Rangers use for their land navigation training.
Overall, it was an up-and-down experience. It was definitely fun, even with all the walking, and the mud (ankle deep in some places) we learned how to find our way without the aide of a GPS. On the other hand, we failed to pass one land navigation test ( the night course),  in which we were woken up at 1:00 AM after sleeping out under the stars in sleeping bags, and then trying to find at least two out of four points. We only found one.
This morning we did a lot better on the last land navigation test. We had to find four out of seven points and we ended up finding five. So we finished up on a high note.  Tomorrow the schedule doesn’t get any easier, as we have our Confidence Course, Obstacle Course, and Two Mile Road March.
My feet are already barking and my legs ache from all the walking and trudging through the mud, but at least I can take comfort from the fact that just about everyone is as tired as I am, and some are legitimately injured. Which is good for me because it brings those people down to my level, atheletically. Hey, any advantage helps.
I was hoping to get some mail tonight, but DS Thomson is in a bad mood and decided not to give it to us. Maybe tomorrow. That, and the upcoming weekend, will be what I have to look forward to.

Day 13 – Wet and Wild     02/05/2010

pfckirell
February 9th, 2010
I’m not exactly sure what day it is in my overall training. I’m thinking it’s coming up on the third week, so it should be more than day 13, but I’m so tired right now I can’t really think clearly.
We went on a two mile road march at 5:30 AM this morning. It was in a torrential downpour. I ended up completely saoked from head to toe. So was all the gear and equipment we were carrying, which just made everything weigh that much more.
After the march we came back and had breakfast and after that we went back out in the storm (this time with a poncho on – Yay!) and went through the Obstacle Course. It consisted of about twelve different events, starting off with a small maze, then proceding to a rope climb, then hopping over a wall, then the Monkey Bars, then another wall to climb over, then we had to Ranger Crawl in 12 inches of mud and water. After that we we had to pull ourselves approximately 12 feet on a rope while upside down, then do a crab walk, then Ranger Crawl again through mud. It was freezing cold and everyone was shivering and I felt near death. But it was hell of a lot of FUN!  After the Obstacle Course was completed each platoon selected their four best guys to compete against one another. Our platoon won! We only get a streamer, but we also get bragging rights.
When we got back from the Obstacle Course we were soaking wet again. But this time we got to take a hot shower, which was very welcome and felt oh so good. My clothes were soaked from top to bottom and also caked in sand from all the mud and gunk that I crawled through.
It’s a little after 2:00 PM now and we just finished cleaning our weapons. My battle buddy just accidently discharged his weapon in the bay while he was cleaning it. That’s a BIG NO NO!  We’re not sure what sort of punishment he’s going to get, but it shouldn’t be that severe. He’s not certified in the use of the M4 yet, and until he is, an accidental discharge shouldn’t carry as big a penalty as it does after  – which is a complete restart where you go back to week one.
Tonight I have to  do laundry. I have like, two pair of underwear, one pair of socks, and maybe a t-shirt left – in terms of clean clothes. Unfortunately, everyone else in the platoon is in the same boat and there are only ten washing machines. Should be an interesting night.
Oh, by the way, the Warrior Tower Training/Confidence Course got moved to Monday because of the weather. I’m not sure what we are going to do this weekend. I think we also have our first PT test Monday as well. Who knows? I’m just hoping my run time improves. It should as my cough is practically gone and I’m feeling 1000% better.
Note to My Family: I just got all the letters you guys sent this week. It was backlogged here. Thanks so very much to my Mom and Dad, to my Unle Bobby for his letter and the Islanders update, and to my Aunt Arlene for her letter and information about Sara Palin and her son who it turns out slept in the very same bay that I’m sleeping in now!
BCT – Day 14 Getting Army Strong    02/06/2010

pfckirell
February 12th, 2010
Well two weeks down! Our first two weeks ended with us crawling face down in a giant sand pit for about two hours. The purpose was to teach us how to keep ourselves low while people are shooting over you – only today nobody was actually shooting over us – that comes later.
We got smoked a lot today. I think that’s because we’ve got our first official PT test coming up in three days and the Army wants to put us in the best shape it can. I think it’s working. I’m finding pushups easier, and this morning we did a 15 minute run around the big track – three times, which is a mile and a half.
To pass the final PT test I have to run two miles in 17 minutes. I felt pretty good with the running today, so I think I’m getting there. My muscles also feel bigger. My biceps are getting huge. My left biceps is as big as my right one was when I left home, and my right bicep is bigger than its ever been. I have no idea if I’ve lost any weight, since we don’t have access to a scale, but my legs look thinner and my stomach feels flatter. Maybe, it’ll be more noticeable to someone who hasn’t seen me in a while.
Tomorrow we get to go to the PX. I need so much stuff. I need detergent, socks, winter PT shirts, hangers, bunji cords, cough drops, etc. Speaking of cough drops, I think I’m finally over whatever illness I had the first 12 days I was here. I’ve had my first two restful nights ever since I got here and it was wonderful. No sneezing, no coughing, no runny nose. You feel so much better after getting a full seven hours sleep, even if you wake up before 5:00 AM.
There is a good chance we’ll get to watch the Super Bowl tomorrow. All theDSs are going home prior to kickoff, so they’ll probably put the game on before they leave. I hope so. Even though the Jets aren’t in the game, it would be such a joy to watch anything not military related.
But the best thing about tomorrow – I get to sleep until 7:00 AM!!! If I go to bed right after writing this (which I will) I’ll be able to get ten hours of sleep – TEN! And believe me, I need the ten hours. In additionto all the stuff we did today, it was brutally cold. It was around 30 degrees, but with a the wind chill it felt like 15 or 16 degrees. My hands are still trying to get warm. I really doubt Georgia is in he South.
Personal Note To Family & Friends: Please don’t put my first name on the envelope. I get smoked for that every time. Thanks!

 


BCT – Day 15   Army Life   02/07/2010
pfckirell
February 12th, 2010
Not certain what day it is actually, as it shows how time can blend together when you are absolutely exhausted. It will be three weeks tomorrow. Seems amazing it’s only three weeks. I wake up every morning feeling like this is the only place I’ve ever woken up and 4:45 is the only time I’ve ever gotten up in the morning.
It’s weird right now because we have absolutely nothing to do. Some guys are just standing around talking, some are folding laundry, some (like me) are writing letters. We’re not used to having nothing to do. It sort of reminds you of how little there is to actually do here, when you’re not marching from here to there, or having a DS tell you what to do, where to go, etc.
*UPDATE*  It’s now 9:00 PM and the day hasn’t gone exactly as I had planned. The stuff the men had on their lists for the PX cost more than the money they gave me, so I had to dip into my own money to pay for their stuff. This led to me not having enough cash on me to buy all the stuff I wanted, so I just ended up with detergent, cough drops, bandaids, and a sewing kit. I was really upset, but it’s my own fault for dipping into my own money to pay for their stuff. Sometimes I’m just too nice. I did get reimbursed when we got back to the barracks.
Tomorrow is Eagle Tower, which is this 30 or 60 foot high tower to repell down. I’m not scared…yet, but I’m sure when I get to the top of the tower I’ll be shaking like crazy and ready to vomit, but right now I feel pretty good about it.
Oh, and we didn’t get to watch the Super Bowl, which bummed everyone out. I’m even more glad the Jets didn’t make it, because about 90 minutes ago they made an announcement for everyone in the company to go downstairs and line up. We all thought we were going to go watch the game, but the DS on duty tonight just wanted to do a head count and go over tomorrow’s itinerary. Very disappointing. For the record, I’m predicting a Colts victory…say 36-14.
BCT – Day 16  Eagle Tower    02/08/2010

pfckirell
February 13th, 2010
Today was the Eagle Tower, one of the most eagerly awaited aspects of basic training. Basically, it’s a 50 foot tower you climb up and rapell down.
We got there around 10:00 AM and the first things we did were the three rope bridges. These are 50 foot bridges that are about 30 feet up in the air. You climb up and the first one is a two rope bridge – one rope for your feet and one rope for your arms. You then get on it and shimmy your way across while trying not to become unbalanced and fall off. Before our platoon went we watched another platoon attempt it and about 1/3 of them fell off at least one of the bridges.
When I went up, I was hoping to just go slow and steady, but by the time I reached the half-way point I was twisted and just holding on. By some miracle I managed to correct myself and make it to the end. Then once I was at the end (the high end, as this was about a 10 to 15 foot incline) I had to turn around and go back on the second rope bridge, which was absolutely terrifying. This was a one rope bridge, and you had to crawl out on your stomach and pull yourself across while folding one foot over the rope and letting one leg swing free for balance. I was really frightened about doing this. In addition to being afraid of heights, I had nothing to balance myself with. The DS at the top just said “GO!”and I inched myself out. Nine out of ten people who fell on this rope did so within the first three feet of going out from the ledge. I managed to make it out and I just kept my eyes focused on the next 12 inches of rope. I just pulled myself along really really slowly, probably slower than anyone else, but I stayed upright and made it to the other side.
The third bridge was a three rope bridge- ala “Indiana Jones” – and after the one rope bridge I wasn’t as worried about this one. I just maintained my balance with my hands and quickly went across.
From there we had to climb down a cargo net from about 40 feet up. Flipping over the side was the hardest part, but once I got over the edge the cllimb down was super easy. I think it was just because I was excited about being on solid ground.
From there we had lunch, then got instruction on how to put on your rapell harness. We strapped a long rope through our legs and around our waist. Then we had this climbing “D-Ring” attached to the rope. We then went on a short 12 foot practice wall where we practiced (just one time, mind you) how to go over the side of the wall and put your body at a 90 degree angle and rapell down.
After that it was off to the Tower that you had to climb up to the top via a rope and then boards. The incline was about 120 degrees (or almost straight up, whatever that is) and you had to pull yourself up by the rope. Once you got about 20 feet from the top of the tower it switched to a regular wooden ladder. It was then an easy climb up. Once you get to the top of the tower you crawl on all fours over to the DSs who hook in your harness and send you over the side out into space.
Going over the side was a bit of a blur, but I remember not being nearly as scared of this as I was on the second rope bridge. I put my feet over the side, turned around, took a few steps down the side, and just let out some slack and pushed off. I bounded down about three feet. Then did it again and went down another three or four feet.
I started to get the hang of it and bounded down the side of the tower in 10 foot intervals. I reached the bottom in about five bounds. A DS at the bottom asked me if I was scared. I answered “terrified, DS”. And I was. But I would do the repell wall again. it was a lot of fun. The rope bridge, not so much, but rapelling down the wall of the tower was amazing, and by the end I was wishing it was a 100 foot tower instead of a 50 foot one.
Now we’re back in the bay just waiting to go to dinner. Then we’ll probably rest up because the PT test is tomorrow morning. I’m not expecting to pass this one – just a modest improvement. If I can do that every time, I have no doubt I’ll pass it in time for graduation.
BCT – Day 17 – Physical Training Test

pfckirell
February 14th, 2010
We had the morning PT Test. Pushups, situps, and a two mile run. I was expecting to do better than I did on the initial PT test, where I did 17 pushups, 28 situps, and ran the mile in 9:24.
Today we got up at 5:00 AM, and were out the on the PT Field by 5:30 AM, and started with pushups. I did 20 before I had a brain fart and rested on the down position instead of the up position, which immediately stopped my count. I probably could have done four or five more, but it’s not a big deal. My right bicep is bruised badly from the rope bridges yesterday, so that probably contributed to me sucking on the pushups, though I did do better than last time. I still have to hit 19 more pushups in order to pass the final PT Test.
The situp test was next and I rocked those out. I actually lost count of how many I did and it wasn’t until I checked the score sheet that I found out I did 42 situps. I need to do three more to pass that portion of the PT Test.
The two mile run was next and I kept a delibrately slow pace throughout so I wouldn’t get winded and start walking. Unfortunately, I set too slow a pace. It wasn’t until I had about a quarter of the track left to run that I turned on the speed and realized I could have gone a lot faster because I still had a lot of energy left. I finished the two miles in 19:15, which is 2:15 slower that what I need to do in order to pass. Next time I really need to pick up the pace and shave 30 seconds off each lap. We have an extra large track. Each lap is a 1/2 mile long. If I shave half a minute off each lap I can pass the PT Test.
After that we had breakfast and lunch and then went to a shooting simulation range with real M4s connected to a computer and video screen. We shot at targets and had to group the shots, ie, get three shots really close to each other. Some people did it on their first try, some on their 4th or 5th try, some took 9 or 10 tries. I did it in three.
I’m back in the barracks now ready to go to dinner. Tomorrow, and basically for the next thirty days, we are going to be doing nothing but going to the range and shooting. It should be fun, but I’m really nervous around this weapon. I don’t want to mess up with it.
By the way, the DS said it’s going to snow on Saturday. How bad must a storm be for it to hit Georgia. New York must be getting ready for a blizzard.
BCT – Day 20 –  Day of the Rifle    02/11/0210

pfckirell
February 17th, 2010
Yesterday we went to the rifle range for the first time. It was pretty nerve wracking, as I’m still uncomfortable around all these guns. We got to the range at 10:00 AM and the 3rd and 2nd platoons shot first. We didn’t even get to shoot until after lunch, which was around 12:30 PM.
By the time I got to line up to shoot I was so nervous. I got my rifle, my 40 rounds of ammo, my magazines, and I was ready. I got in the prone position on the ground and waited for the word to begin. It came eventually and I zero’d in on my target and fired…and of course, my rifle jammed. I got the jam fixed and fired my five shots – we were just grouping today, to see how close we could get our shots and learn how to adjust the rifle scope.
You have to group five shots within about 20 centimeters in order to qualify. It took me all 40 rounds (because the DSs didn’t adjust my scope until my 20th round) to qualify, but I did.
I have to say, shooting a rifle is pretty fun. I can see why some people get so into it. It takes a lot of concentration and patience. It’s probably not the best thing if you don’t like loud noises. The range is really loud. I got to keep my target. I might mail it home if I can find an envelope big enough for it.
Today we went to the rifle simulator again and worked on targets that pop up from different distances – 100, 150, and 300 yards. We get 44 shots all together and we need to hit 28 to pass. I got 36 out of the 44, so I apparently I can shoot somewhat straight – at least in a simulated course. We’ll see how I do tomorrow with real bullets and real gunpowder that makes a real smell when you pull the trigger.
Other than the range, its much the same old same old, We’re about three days from transitioning into the white phase of basic training – which is when we get the leashes taken off of us somewhat. I, and everyone else, is looking forward to Sunday when the switchover actually happens.

 


BCT – Day 21 – Snow in Georgia?    02/12/2010
pfckirell
February 17th, 2010
And so the end of three weeks passed with not a bang, but with a whimper – or at least with a dusting of snow.
I wasn’t expecting to see snow when I made the decision to come down to Georgia, but snow is what we got today. The fact that the forecast called for snow, plus the fact that Georgians apparently freak out at the sight of it, meant that our trip back out to the rifle range was cancelled.
We spent the day inside the bay, cleaning and doing laundry and getting classroom instruction from the DSs. They basically just went over shooting stuff and things we’ll have to know over the next few weeks.
It’s only about 2:00 PM now, but already it feels like a long day. No TV, no radio, no internet – that stuff can add up your time after awhile.
Oh, by the way, there was a change in chow hall procedure. Apparently we were taking too long to eat, so now the DSs picked the fastest eater in the platoon and made him the last man in to the chow hall. Once he finishes eating, the rest of the platoon has to stand up and leave. The average time it takes him to eat a meal is 1 minute 45 seconds from start to finish.
I sincerely hate this new procedure. I’d rather be smoked for three hours than be forced to eat a meal in three minutes. For breakfast I got to eat ONE pancake…I left two other pancakes, toast, eggs and bacon on my plate. I just can’t eat fast. I can’t run fast either, so maybe speed in general is my problem.
*  *  *
Okay, there was a break in between what I just wrote and what I’m writing now. The snow just started coming down really hard and the fire alarm went off. The whole company had to line up outside in the snow at the top of the hill and stand there for twenty minutes while the fire department came to check everything.
After that we took a phasing test to go from red phase to white phase. It was just a general knowledge test on all the stuff we’ve been told the past three weeks. I did fine. Tomorrow we have a Practical Application Test, where we have to do First Aid and rifle check drills and other stuff.
The DSs just went home because Fort Benning is getting closed because of the snow. It’s really funny because there is only about two inches on the ground. There must be two feet in New York though. I wonder how much you guys are getting?
BCT – Day 24 – White Phase Begins –  02/14/2010

pfckirell
February 19th, 2010
It’s Valentine’s Day, and in addition to that, it’s also the first offical day we have in White Phase. So far, it’s not that much different than Red Phase, especially, because it’s Sunday and we don’t do anything on Sunday anyway.
The only place where White Phase is different is when we go to chow. Now, instead of the Drill Sergeants leading us, we now have a platoon guide – a person picked by the DSs to lead the platoon, as well as squad leaders – guys chosen to lead about 14 guys, and finally, team leaders – guys chosen to lead small groups of 4 or 5.
It’s a student chain of command. We report any issues to the team leader – who reports to the squad leader, who reports to the platoon guide, who reports to the Drill Sergeants.
I didn’t get picked as a squad or team leader, but that’s OK. I’m still the Key Master – a position that’s just as important as any other. I just don’t get to wear a 3-stripe patch on my arm. So maybe we’ll all get a chance at a leadership position eventually.
As for other stuff relating to White Phase – we can now eat what we want in the chow hall – which is awesome, and means I’ll finally get to eat a full meal and not have to worry that I’m playing Russian Roulete with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
On a side note partially related to chow, we don’t have any scales here, but I’m probably lost 10 to 15 pounds since I’ve gotten here. My pants are looser, my shirts are looser, and my stomach feels flatter.
Also as an aside to the White Phase, we won a wall locker inspection conducted company-wide yesterday. Which means we get a three hour pass to go anywhere we want next Sunday. I want to go to the PX and to either Subway or Burger King.
Tomorrow we have to get up early and go to the range. It’s a big week for us. Oh, I forgot to mention that yesterday we had the Practical Application Phase Test – it was a five part test done on the PT field that tested our ability in Land Navigation, Field Stripping Our Weapons, First Aid, Putting On a Gas Mask in 9 seconds, and Applying Atropene in the event of a biological attack. I passed four out of five tests, so I was good to go and phase to White.
Note to Family: We haven’t gotten any mail at all this week. I’m hoping for a big pile next week!

 


BCT – Day 25 – White Phase Thoughts… 02/16/2010
pfckirell
February 19th, 2010
It’s 3:00 AM on Tuesday morning and I’m quickly finding out that life in the White Phase of Basic Training isn’t as great as I thought it was. Sure, the extra food privileges are nice, but now we have additional jobs like Latrine Duty and CQ Duty – which is basically guarding the bathrooms and the downstairs barracks area. It sucks. Especially at 3:00 AM because it’s freezing and I’m writing this with gloves on and I’m going to have to get up at 4:30 AM because I have Duty Squad -which is another added thing that involves taking all the gear for the platoon and setting up and serving all the food for the company in the field when we go out on training missions. Basically, it’s more work piled on top of more work, piled on top of less sleep in exchange for picking what food we want in chow line and being able to walk back to the barracks by ourselves. Its not horrible, but right now, since I’m freezing my tukus off in this open air causway, it’s hard to find much positive about it.
Yesterday, we went to the range again – this time shooting with our iron sights instead of a flashing red-dot sight. It was a lot harder. It didn’t help help that my adjustment knob was rusted shut – probably because you only use the iron sights on one day of training and then never touch them again.
Today we have a four mile road march, with full ruck sacks, that I’m not particularly looking forward to marching with. I pulled a muscle in my back a day or two ago and it hurts to put pressure on my right leg. I’ll have to tough it out though. Luckily I’m rear road guard, so I’ll be in the back the whole time and if I fall out nobody will notice.
**UPDATE** – Just went on a 20 minute car ride with DS ********. Really interesting. We talked a lot about the Army and Iraq and life and death. He’s an interesting guy. I’d like to talk to him more one on one. The reason we went out driving was to set up the mile markers. At least I know how far we’re marching. It’s not that bad. Two miles there and two miles back.
We also get mail tonight, which will be cool. We haven’t , as a platoon, had mail call in about a week – so there should be a huge stack. It gets pretty big when we go two days without handing out mail, I can only imagine how big – seven day stack will be.
BCT – Day 25 – Left, Right, Left…    02/17/2010

pfckirell
February 22nd, 2010
We did a four mile road march yesterday with 150 lbs of gear on. It was as excruciating as it sounds. I tripped and fell along the way because we started out at 6:00 AM and my glasses fogged up and I couldn’t see where I was going. I thought I messed up my ankle, but I was okay. I just finished the march with sore legs, sore feet, a sore back – especially sore back, and sore shoulders.
We marched to the shooting range, where my squad had Breakfast Duty – I was on the sausage and bacon station. We somehow managed to run out of knives, forks, and spoons halfway through chow, which left half the company – and our squad – forced to eat with our hands – eggs, bacon, grits, biscuts and gray, etc – just with our hands. Yum.
I never even got to shoot at the range yesterday and I was really upset. The fact that we had to march back instead of getting bussed also left me in a foul mood. Overall yesterday was a looooong day. The only thing that made it bearable was that we finally got mail for the first time in five days. It’s so nice to read mail here. Everyone gets so excited, even those who have to do pushups because their envelopes were addressed incorrectly.
To answer some questions you all have asked: Mr. Lewis my battle buddy who discharged his weapon in the bay, wasn’t punished for it. Nothing really came of it other than a talking to from the DS.
As for my own state of affairs, I’m very happy to be here – even if I seem to shift from constant illness to persistent soreness. Right now I’m walking with a limp because of my back and I have bruises pretty much all over my body. This place takes a toll on you. At least I haven’t had anything disabeling happen to me. Mr. Lewis went on sick call today because of his knee where they diagnosed him with a stress fracture – so he can’t run for a week.
Today we went to some rifle range way out in the middle of nowhere – and I mean nowhere – a 45 minute bus ride into the sticks where there was nothing but trees and dirt and rolling hills.
I got to shoot off 90 rounds at targets with distances of 100, 150, 200, and 300 yards. I think I did okay, but it was hard to tell because it was so loud and the the only way you know you hit the target is if you hear a “ping” sound. In addition, there were three or four other people shooting at the same target as me, so sometimes I was sure I hit the target and other times I just had no clue.
We’re going out to another range tomorrow, a pre-qualifying outing where we get our last shots in before we qualify on Friday. We have to qualify Friday – that and passing the PT test are pretty much the only two requirements to graduate. I need to to make 26 out of 40 targets. I’m hoping for something in the 30 – 32 area. I just want to pass and move on, though there is incentive for doing well – the platoon with the highest average score gets a pizza party and movie. We REALLY want that!
Right at the movement I’ll take a grand prize of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. I was up at 3:00 AM yesterday and I’m doing Latrine Duty at 10:00 PM now. I’ll be off in 20 minutes, but I still have to get up at 5:00 AM for PT. I really hope we’re not running tomorrow morning. Oh well, we’ll see.
BCT – Day 26 – Day of the Rifle – Episode One …  02/20/2010

pfckirell
February 23rd, 2010
I have never been the biggest proponent of firearms. Growing up in the suburbs I never had acres of land that I could use to hunt animals. Guns seemed to me like something either rural folk or inner city folk had to live with.
When I made the decision to join the Army, I knew I’d have to be around guns alot, but I didn’t expect this much. Since our third day in BCT  we’ve carried our rifles with us wherever we’ve gone – to chow, to PT, on road marches, on training runs, etc. Basically, our rifles become as much a part of our uniform as our boots are.
This week, we got to understand why we spend so much time with our rifles. We spent all week training with them on the proper way to shoot an M4 Assault Rifle. Yesterday, we all got to see how good we were when we went to the Rifle Qualification Range.
Throughout the week we’ve gone to various ranges to practice shooting at pop-up targets. The targets sprung up from behind dirt mounds as far away as 300 meters and as close as 50. The 50 meter targets are just a head and the 300 meter ones are a full body – but since they are 300 meters away it feels like you’re trying to hit a tennis ball from across a football field.
At the pre-qualifying range yesterday we got to fire a total of 90 rounds. We were first given 40 rounds – 20 rounds in the first clip that we fired from a prone supported position (on the ground with the rifle resting on a sandbags) – 10 rounds in the second clip that we fired from a prone unsupported position (on the ground with the rifle just resting in your hands) – and the final 10 rounds in the thrid magazine (I really shouldn’t call it a clip) – that we fired from a kneeling position.
In order to qualify with your rifle you need to hit 23 out of 40 targets. My first go-around with the targets was…to put it kindly…horrible. I hit 8 out of the 40 targets. I had the lowest number of anyone who shot that round. It was very embarassing. I kept having to explain how my weapon wasn’t zero’d (targeted properly) and I somehow left 9 rounds in the magazines (which I still didn’t understand how that happened). I seriously just wanted to crawl in a hole at that point…To Be Continued …Episode Two: Redemption
BCT – Day 27 – Episode Two: Redemption … 02/21/2010

pfckirell
February 24th, 2010
After my disasterous morning at the shooting range we broke for lunch – having MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and then got back to the firing line for a second turn. I did much better the second time, hitting 21 our of 40. Still not enough to qualify, but not completely pathetic.
After everyone had shot twice, those who failed to make 23 were given a final chance to shoot again. I lined up in the first firing lane and managed to squeak out 24 out of 40 – just good enough to qualify. I left the range feeling confident I could really do this.
Yesterday was the actual qualifying – and we had a lot riding on the line. The platoon with the highest average score would win a pizza party and a movie. We were shooting for that collectively, but we were also shooting for individual badges – “Marksman” (which you get when you shoot between 23 – 28), “Sharpshooter” (29 – 35), and “Expert” (36 – 40).
Basically everyone was guaranteed to qualify because the DSs kept you out there shooting as many times as it took to qualify – but only your first round counted towards winning the pizza party for your platoon.
To make a long story short – I shot a 31 – a “Sharpshooter”. I got a cross badge with a little circle in it. I was so happy – and all the guys in the platoon were so proud of me because they knew how badly I did the day before. I was just relieved I didn’t let everyone down and mess up the important first round.
After that was done we just sat around in the field while everyone else kept shooting. Eventually at lunch the DSs were nice and rewarded us by letting us get anything we wanted from a vending truck that came by. I got a grape soda, a turkey and cheese hogie, and a Twix bar. It was heaven. Some guys were hysterical – buying boxes of pizza and Snicker’s Bars and Pepsi – more than they could ever eat in one sitting. I think most of us were just happy to see junk food again.
The day did end on a down note as the platoon found out our six hour pass around Sand Hill (our corner of Fort Benning) was cancelled because we have too many people in our battalion sick with something…and the Army didn’t want it spreading all over the base. Too bad, as of this writing we still don’t know which platoon won the pizza party. There were rumors it was the 4th platoon, but nobody really knows.
BCT – Day 28 – A Very Good Day …  02/22/2010

pfckirell
February 25th, 2010
Now, this is more like it. An easy Saturday afternoon, no Drill Sergeants, no PT, no waking up at 4:45 AM (we got up at 6:30 AM – woooo!) just breakfast, then back to the bay for a nap, then lunch at noon – Mr. Flowers, the dude with the candy truck coming around – loading up on sweets – then back to the bay to write a letter and take another nap. Life is pretty good right now – and it’s only Saturday – we still have another day of this tomorrow. A much needed relief after a week of road marches and many hours in a 60 lb kevlar vest.
Oh, and I finally got the MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)  I’ve been waiting to get – “Meatballs in Marinara Sauce”. It was soooooo good. It didn’t come with any really good side dishes like some other MREs do (some have pound cake, chocolate peanut butter, skittles, M&Ms, etc) but the main course was everything I’d hoped it would be.
So far I’ve had about seven different MREs – Beef Stew, Cheese Tortalini, Roast Beef, Tuna, Beef Ravioli, Meatball Marinara, and one other I can’t remember. There are about twenty-two of them, but almost half are vegetarian and nobody wants those.
The side dishes make the meal. After you receive an MRE, you rip open the package and inspect what side dishes you got. Then the horse trading begins. You start to hear – ” I got Blueberry Cobler, whose got M&Ms?”  – “I got Skittles, who got Reeses Pieces?” – and everyone starts swapping their side dishes. Some of the really good main course MREs have lousy side dishes and vice versa – so there really is no perfect MRE – but Roast Beef really comes close. Strips of roast beef with vegetables in a beef gravy for the main dish, with pound cake, crackers, chocolate peanut butter and strawberry protein shake. All MREs come with either a Gatorade or coffee – both dry of course – that you have to put in a bag and add water to.
Overall the MREs are pretty good. They grow on you after a while, but they are ridiculously high in calories, about 1,800 to 2,400 a bag. Though you have to figure that if we’re eating them, we’re probably been in the field all day doing something tht burns a lot of calories. Still, I’ll take Mr. Flowers and his candy truck any day of the week.

 


BCT – Day 29 – Aches and Pains …   02/23/2010
pfckirell
February 25th, 2010
It’s Sunday afternoon and we’ve spent all day cleaning our weapons. Literally, all freakin’ day. We started at 9:00 AM, ended at 4:30 PM. Just cleaning every part of our M4 rifle. They gave no reason as to why we had to do that today, as opposed to our usual Sunday routine of just lounging around in the bay (they moved us down to the Common Area outside for seven hours or so).  I suspect it was because they wanted to keep the sick people and the healthy people outside, where the air is circulating, as opposed to the bay, where the air is stagnant. So we spent all day outside, cleaning. It was just as boring as it sounds.
There was also an announcement made that we’ll be going on some sort of road march or run late in the evening and we’ll have to bring our flashlights. I have no idea what this is about, but I don’t like it. I’m already in pain from my hip, back, and ankle – all on my right side – and I definitely don’t feel like running or even walking right now. In fact, I’m probably going to sick call tomorrow to have the doctors look at my leg and hip. I don’t expect them to do much, but if I could at least get some Tylenol I’d be happy. I’m going to try some Icy Hot and some BenGay that I got at the PX yesterday.
I was hoping I’d start feeling better now, since we haven’t done much running in a while, but I really feel pain when I take a step. It just radiates from my right hip down to my right thigh.
I hope I can fight on through it. We have our second PT test on Tuesday. I don’t want to limp my way around the track for the run, but right now I see no alternative, unless the doctor tells me not to run for a week.
It would be really nice to go a week without being either sick or sore, but that’s probably asking too much, especially when you’re 31 years old. I’ll just have to plow on and hope to improve my run time and pushups. Now that I passed the rifle test, the only thing left I have to do to graduate is pass the PT test. I still have five weeks to do it, so hopefully I’ll feel better soon and can get back to walking without a limp, let alone running without pain.
BCT – Day 30 – “Meet My Little Friends…”  –  02/23/2010

pfckirell
February 28th, 2010
If today was a baseball game it would have been rained out. Originally, we were scheduled for our second PT test in the morning. I was planning on going on sick call because of my back pain (thus missing the PT test) but I put on two Icy Hot patches before I went to bed last night and woke up feeling 90% better. I planned on taking the PT test and was really disappointed when the DS cancelled it because of an early morning lightening storm. The PT test was rescheduled to Wednesday, which gives me another two days to rest my back and hope the Icy Hot and Bengay can loosen me up enough to be pain free for the two mile run.
Other than that, we got to play with some new toys today. We got introduced to five new weapons that we’ll be firing this week: The 240 Bravo, the Mark19, the SAW, the M136 A24, and the M204. The 240 Bravo and the SAW are machine guns, the Mark19 is a grenade launcher, the M136 A24 i a sort-of disposable bazooka type thing, the M204 is just like an M4 with a grenade launcher. Some of us will get assigned one of these weapons once we get into our new units. The 240 Bravo – called “the Pig” by most soldiers – is a huge, heavy gun. The SAW is just like the 240 Bravo, only smaller and more likely to jam.
Personally, I hope I get assigned the M204. I like that the M204 is essentially the same weapon I have now, only with a small grenade tube attached at the bottom. It might not be the most effective combat weapon, from what we’ve been told, but it looks real badass.
Tomorrow we’re going back to the Processing Center part of Fort Benning to be fitted for our dress uniforms. It’s hard to believe this will all be over in just ten weeks. Some days it feels like I’ve been here forever, some days it feels like I just got here.
Day 31 – My New Threads…   02/24/2010

pfckirell
March 1st, 2010
Went to get fitted for our “Class A” dress uniforms today, the green jacket and pants we’ll be wearing at graduation. It was a loooong process. The whole company went down at the same time – all 220 soldiers, and we arrived at 6:30 AM. We got our shoes, berets, shirts, jackets, and pants. The whole fitting process took about six hours. I got measured for my suit, and since we don’t have access to scales here, the measurements are the only gage I have as to how much weight I’ve gained or lost since I’ve been here. I’m now a 36″ waist, and while I’m not sure what I was a month ago, I know that I was measured at a 46″ waist for a tuxedo for my sister’s wedding in September.
I think I look pretty good in the suit, if I do say so myself. We found out today that we’re the last enlisted class to wear the Army’s green Dress A uniforms – the Army is switching to dark blue for the next cycle – and when we get to our new units after graduation we are going to have to buy the blue Dress A uniforms ourselves – at $500 a pop. Oh joy.
Tomorrow morning is the PT test and tomorrow night we’re going out in the field with new weapons and night vision goggles. It should be very cool. I’m really looking forward to that.
I also found out today  that apparently our entire company is part of some Army basic training experiment. From what I was told, our company is in on some low-stress, fast paced schedule – which means our basic training will focus less on being mean and nasty and smoking the crap out of people, and more about rushing us through training. Apparently we’ve done more through five weeks than most companies do through nine. Personally, I love this pace and hope basic training changes like this forever. I’d rather go light on the PT and heavy on the actual training  rather than the squad doing pushups and spend little to no time during the day on weapons or field training.
I guess it was just lucky the way things worked out like that. I ended up in the easiest platoon in the easiest company. Our platoon, from what I’ve been told, gets smoked so much less than the other platoons, it’s ridiculous. We only get smoked on the rarest of occasions, and even then it’s only for a few minutes. I think it’s because we have the two most senior drill sergeants and they just don’t have the patience to sit there and smoke us for longer than a few minutes, Hey, I’m not going to complain.
Oh, this is funny – we found out last night we’ve going to a real hockey game on Friday night. Some minor league hockey team – the Columbus Cottonmouths, are giiving the company tickets and having an all-you-can-eat thing for each soldier for $10. If I do well on the PT test tomorrow I plan on loading up on some hot dogs and burgers and fries and soda. I really have to bring it on the PT test tomorrow, though. I want at least 32 pushups, 45 situps, and a mile in 18:00 or less. If I can do that I’ll be making steady process. If not, I really need to hit the PT field on my free time.
BCT – Day 32 – Big Guns More Fun…  02/25/2010

pfckirell
March 3rd, 2010
Today was a pretty big day. It was the second of four offical APFTs – Army Physical Fitness Tests. We got measured on how many pushups and situps we could do in two minutes and how fast we could run two miles.
At the last APFT, I did 20 pushups, 42 situps, and ran the two miles in 19:15. Today, I improved on everything. I did 28 pushups, 58 situps, and ran the two miles in 18:24. Technically I didn’t pass, as I have to complete 39 pushups and run the two miles in 17:00, but I’m close enough to where I should be able to pass it in two weeks if I do pushups on a regular basis every night (as well as the ones we do during morning PT).
After the PT test we took a bus to the machine gun range where we shot …you guessed it…machine guns!  We shot the M249 “SAW” and the M240 “Pig”. I have to say, shooting a rifle is a skill and is pretty fun, but blasting off 100 rounds in 20 seconds is pretty freakin’ sweet. I have no idea if I even hit anything. I wasn’t even aiming really. I just pointed the machine guns downrange, squeezed the trigger and held it for three seconds, stopped, squeezed again, so on and so forth. It was pretty much the most badass thing you can do as a guy. If you didn’t have fun doing that, you should turn in your MAN CARD right now.
Then after sundown it got even better as we shot the M249 “SAW” with Night Vision goggles on. The SAW had a laser scope attached to it that is only visable using Night Vision goggles that made aiming so much easier. Plus the Night Vision goggles themselves were insanely cool. You can literally see everything with them on. I thought the best aspect of using night vision wasn’t anything related to weapons, though, but looking up at the stars. With the naked eye you could have probably seen 30 or 40 stars. Using the Night Vision goggles the sky was jam packed with stars. You would never know there were so many. It was beautiful.
We were, or at least I was, supposed to go to another range tomorrow to do grenade launches, Mr. Lewis (my battle buddy) has to go to the hospital to get a scan of his knee, and I, as his battle buddy, have to go with him. Oh well. At least there’s supposed to be awesome food at the hospital, from what I’ve been told, so that’s something to look forward to. We’ll probably get back out to the range later in the afternoon, if anything, Hopefully we won’t miss much.
BCT – Day 33 – Good Good Day…  02/26/2010

pfckirell
March 5th, 2010
Yesterday was one of the more enjoyable days I’ve had since I joined the Army. Why? Did I get to shoot some cool new weapon? No. Did I hike to the top of some mountain with a spectacular panoramic view of Fort Benning? No. I spent the day in the hospital.
Don’t worry, it wasn’t for me. My battle buddy, Mr. Lewis, hurt his knee last week and had to get a bone scan at the hospital. Since you can’t go anywhere in this place alone, I had to accompany him there. While he was getting checked out I sat in the waiting room watching TV (the Obama healthcare summit), walked around to the gift shop (bought a few things), got some candy at the vending machine (don’t tell anyone) and went to eat a nice spread in the hospital cafeteria (again, please don’t tell anyone, even though it was free and they took down the last four digits of my SSN).
By going to the hospital I missed going to the range to watch the guys fire bazooka-type weapons. No sweat, as only two guys get to fire actual missiles. The rest just did dummy rounds. Some also got to fire the grenade launching rifle, which sounds cool, but again, only some got to do that.  I’ll take a day in the hospital, reading USA Today and watching Fox News (Yea, even for Fox News) over standing around in the cold, watching other people having fun firing a cool weapon, I’ll probably never get to actually use.
Speaking of reading USA Today, it was so nice to read a newspaper again, even if there was only one or two stories that dealt with anything relating to New York. Apparently, New York got hit with another 8 feet of snow on Thursday. I could see it coming down behind the woman on Fox News who was reporting from New York City. Amazing. As bad as it it is in Georgia, (where it apparently it has snowed twice, though only once at Fort Benning) – where I’m sitting outside, writing this at 3:00 AM while I’m on CQ Duty, and it feels like it’s 10 degrees outside – it must be brutal up north. I think I’ve had three or four days total since I’ve been here that were over 50 degrees – and this state is right next to Florida!
Tonight is the hockey game and everyone is pretty excited. I just can’t wait to eat real food again (though I did have chicken fingers and fries at the hospital yesterday, yum) and watch a real sporting event.
By the way, in case you are wondering, we won’t know the results of Mr. Lewis’ bone scan until later today. I’ll be sure to give updates in future correspondences.
BCT – Day 34 – Another Day in Paradise…  02/28/2010

pfckirell
March 6th, 2010
Haven’t had a chance to write in nearly three days, so I’ll give a recap of the past 72 hours.
On Friday we went to another range to shoot the .50 caliber machine gun and the Mark 19 grenade launcher. Both were freakin’ sweet to fire, even if we only got 15 rounds a piece. We fired them about 1000 meters downrange at tanks. You have to sit down and fire both because they are massive. The .50 caliber shoots bullets the size of switchblade knives. The Mark 19 shoots grenades mounted on brass bullet-type things. There was a hairy moment during the training when the exploding part of the grenade detached from the brass firing part while it was still in the machine. The bomb disposal team had to be called to get it out. Training was halted for about an hour.
Then at night we went to a minor league hockey game. It was so much fun. For $8 we got a buffet – all you can eat, with hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, cookies, beans, sweet tea and lemonade – and access to all the concession stands (minus the ones for beer). The team was called the Columbus Cottonmouths and they are one of those – no skill, just fight a lot teams, which was awesome for an audience of military folk – which 95% of the audience was. I ate so much – three hotdogs, a hamburger, two cookies, and from the concession stand I got a coke, raisonettes and sugar patch kids. What I got was small compared to everyone else, though. People piled up so much food on their plates it was ridiculous.
We left for the game at 6:30 PM and didn’t get back to the base until nearly midnight. On the way there and back we got a short tour of the Columbus, Georgia area. It’s a dump. Check cashing places, hotels, strip clubs, bars, auto dealerships, military specialty shops. It’s like the whole area was built to take a private’s money once they get their 36 hour pass (which is coming up for us in four weeks). I plan on just getting a hotel room with a battle bauddy and just chilling, maybe get a movie or something – go to a bar. Nothing foolish.
On Saturday we basically relaxed again, we went to the simulation rifle range for a few minutes – practiced raise and fire drills – if you want to call it practice. We were there for about five minutes actually shooting the computerized rifle. Some people – including me – are worried that we are not getting enough actual training here at Basic Training. I hope stuff picks up soon. It should, as we were told that this week we are going to go into Advanced Rifle Marksmanship training.
On Sunday we got a three hour pass and went to the PX shop, where we got things we needed for the next few weeks. I got more Icy Hot pads, cough drops, underwear, shirts, and of course, some snacks. Then when we got back, I got to call my parents and actually speak to them – which was awesome. Then immediately after we got smoked by the one drill sergeant on duty because some knuckleheads, we were told, were eating on the way back to the barracks from the PX. So we were taken to the PT field and had to do these crazy exercises for about an hour. It wasn’t that bad, but it made me so nauseous I couldn’t eat dinner later.
Now I am on a 11 PM-12 AM Fireguard Duty and I have to do laundry. Tomorrow is nothing, since 3rd and 4th platoons are going to the range (we go tomorrow) so I expect our DS to smoke us all day just out of sheer boredom. Should be fun!
BCT – Day 35 – Army Life…It’s an Adventure…  03/01/2010

pfckirell
March 8th, 2010
Ugh, so tired. It’s 4:00 AM Wednesday morning. I’m on the 4:00 AM – 5:00 AM Fireguard Duty shift after being out in the field from 6:00 AM yesterday to about five hours ago. We were starting Advanced Rifle Markmanship, which consisted of firing while standing up, firing after moving, and firing at night with Night Vision goggles.
I find out 10 minutes prior to going out yesterday that my squad was the Duty Squad for the day, which meant we had to load up the Deuce (think of a big old flatbed truck with canvas netting in back that could fit an entire day’s worth of gear and about 14 uncomfortable privates), hop in, ride to the range, get out, unload the gear, set it up, unload the the ammo, set it up, then if we had time, got thrown a MRE to eat for breakfast. Oh, and did I mention it rained all day today too?
So there we were, for 18 hours straight, standing in the pouring rain and freezing wind, handing out ammo, handing out MREs, setting stuff up and putting it away. An MRE for breakfast, a MRE for lunch, and then we were promised a hot meal for dinner. Well, dinner came, but Mr. Lewis and I were asked to be weapons guards – unfortunately, where we were eating dinner was 1000 yards away from where the weapons were set up – so Mr. Lewis and I had to walk back to guard the weapons from the invisible terrorists who might show up in the middle of an Army base in Georgia.
Unfortunately, the weapons area was also behind a bunch of dirt mounds, which means nobody from the dinner area could see us, which means we didn’t get relieved until an hour later, which also meant that by the time we got relieved and walked back, all the food was gone. Other privates had gone back for seconds before we even got there.
To say Mr. Lewis and I were perturbed would be an understatement. So once again, I was given an MRE. Tuna for breakfast, Roast Beef for lunch, and Sloppy Joes for dinner. Yum.
I actually did get to shoot though, 60 rounds of ready-ups (rifle pointed down and then brought up to the target) during the day and 50 rounds at night with the Night Vision goggles (which also lets us use the lasers we mounted onto the M40s). That in itself was fun, but those two events occurred at 10:00 AM and 8:00 PM, respectively. In between consisted of futily trying to stay warm. They erected a huge tent on part of the field to shield the privates from the rain and wind, but people became assholes and started lying down, which left about 20 privates with not enough room. My platoon guide then came up with the idea to hop in the back of the deuce for awhile, so me and about 10 other guys did just that. We chilled there for about 3 hours until more people got wind of what we were doing and soon there wasn’t enough room to lay down in the back of the truck. So I just hopped out, put on another jacket (gortex) and waited by the weapons desk for dinner. Oh the hopes I had.
We finally got back to the barracks at 11:20 PM and we were excited because we got to receive mail. It’s so good to get correspondence from everyone. Please keep it coming. It really took the sting out of the extra long day, that today, (yesterday) was.
On a funny addendum to that, I got sent a photo of the “fat” me from my sister’s wedding in September. Nobody could believe it was me in that photo. They also couldn’t believe it was my Mom that was standing next to me. Everyone – everyone – thought my Mom was either my sister, really hot, or in her late 30s. One guy even jokingly asked for her number. Mr. Lewis couldn’t believe she was 60 when I told him how old she was. Too funny, if somewhat creepy to be told your Mom is hot.
BCT – Day 40 something – March Arrives…  3/05/2010

pfckirell
March 9th, 2010
Apparently, it’s March. February came and went and I was still mis-dating my entries. That’s how little contact I have with the outside world. Other than what day of the week it is, I have no knowledge of anything outside the barracks. I think it’s March 5th – it’s Friday night going into Saturday.
Today was a pretty rough day. We had a 6 mile ruck (rucksack – a kind of backpack) march in the morning followed by day of shooting at the range, followed by remedial PT at night with the platoon guide. Oh yea, I forgot to mention we do remedial PT now. Myself and anyone else who failed to pass all three parts of the PT Test have to use our one hour of personal time a night to go down to the PT field and work out.
Mr. Crown our PG (Platoon Guide) leads us in exercises like pushups, situps, Iron Mikes, overhead arm claps, pullups, etc. Mr. Crown is “prior service”. He was in the Engineer Corps before this and actually served in Iraq. He was picked to lead the platoon and he’s an excellent leader and we’re very lucky to have him.
As for the 6 mile ruck march, it was about as brutal as it sounds. Once again, I was one of about a dozen road guards which meant I was in front and couldn’t fall out if I got tired. Surprisingly, I didn’t get that tired until about the 5th mile and never fell out.
The shooting at the range went fine. We practiced shooting around walls, and kneeling from behind windows. More practical shooting stuff than just lying down in the prone position. Personally, I think it’s easier to shoot lying down, but I don’t think Al-Qaeda really wants to make things easy for me.
Yesterday we had a 1 mile ruck run and shoot, where we had to put our 100+ pound ruck sack on and run one mile in a group, then line up in teams of three and hit a target from 25 meters away. Each platoon was graded on their time running the mile and how many shots hit the center mass of the target. The winning platoon got a streamer.
I ran in the “fatty” group, which went first. We did the mile in 15:26. The groups in our platoon that went after us (the non-fatty groups) did the mile in 14:30 and 12:00, respectively. Needless to say, we kicked ass and came in first. We got the streamer. Not that it means anything overall, but it’s nice to be on a winning team.
Today we also moved from white phase to the blue phase of basic training. Nothing much changes in terms of freedoms. I think we get a radio in the bay, but that’s about it. We have one more phase to go – black phase – and then we graduate. It’s hard to believe we’re in blue phase already. I know we’re in a high speed platoon, but it seems like just last week we went from red phase to white. Maybe that’s because most of the white phase was spent training on shooting.
Our DS told us today we have our 3rd PT Test on Monday and that next week we’d be starting training with grenades, team oriented shooting, and patrols. Things are really starting to pick up.
I’m pretty confident about the PT Test. I expect to pass the run time and pushups. I’d be very happy with a two mile run time of 16:30 and do 39 – 42 pushups. If I can do that, I’ll pass and be done with remedial PT.
Note to Family Members: I am feeling a lot better physically. My back and legs are 100% healed.
I deeply appreciate the letters I have received from my  Uncles Bobby and Jonny, and especially from my sister Liz.
As far as graduation I’m not sure if we are released immediately after the ceremony or if it will be the next day. I’ll find out soon.
I hope all of you are doing well and staying warm with all the snow you guys got.
Mom…I appreciate your sending me all the newspaper clippings.
Dad…thanks so much for your frequent letters and sports updates.
I love you all and will write again soon.
BCT – Day 43 – Alone With My Thoughts… 03/07/2010

pfckirell
March 11th, 2010

It’s now about 11:30 PM on Sunday night. I am on Fireguard Duty, which I both loathe and like. Loathe because it cuts into my valuable sleep time, and like because it affords me time to write down my thoughts at the only part of the day when a room full of 58 men is quiet.
Yesterday we had an all-day Financial briefing. It was unbelievably tedius and boring. They covered things like setting up retirement accounts, buying a home, a car, getting insurance, etc. They also had everyone fill out forms to allow us to set up retirement savings plans (similar to a 401k) through the Army. You could put whatever percentage of your base pay you wanted to go towards the account.
Today we mostly relaxed, as the PT Test is tomorrow. I’ve been looking forward to the third test ever since taking the second one. I want to see how much improvement I’ve made and if the nightly PT training sessions are helping. I really hope I can do 40 – 42 pushups and knock off another minute on my mile. If I can do that, then I can breathe easy right on through to the 36-hour pass in two weeks. I better pass tomorrow, I really want to pig out on Burger King or Dominoes that night.
After the PT Test we are going to have breakfast in the outdoor common area and then pack up to go out to…somewhere. We had to pack our rucksacks with our sleeping bags, which means we’ll be spending the night outdoors. I believe we’ll be practicing team drills on how to move and position yourself while firing.
So far everything we have done in terms of shooting has been individualized, so it will be interesting when we get to shoot and move as a team. Later in the week we might have grenade training or that could be done the week after. That should be cool, though.
I’ll write again soon. I miss you all!

BCT – Day 47 –  Over Hill, Over Dale…   03/10/2010

pfckirell
March 15th, 2010
Just back from the field. We spent two days out in the woods, doing team fire drills. Four of us went down a hill at one time, while another soldier played the role of a sniper down at the other end. We had to bound from from tree to tree, taking cover and covering our battle buddies while they moved down the side of the hill. It was actually a lot of fun. I liked this training in particular because it seemed more realistic than a lot of the other basic training stuff we’ve done.
We also slept out in the woods on Monday night, which wasn’t horrible. It took me a while to remember how how to sleep in a sleeping bad – but once it it clicked in again, I was sleeping like a baby. The only bad part was having to get out of my little warm cocoon at 3:00 AM to pee. Well, that and waking up at 6:00 AM to actually wake up, brush my teeth, and shave – all with one cup of water  from my canteen.
We did more exercises later in the day and arrived back to the base for dinner. Then we showered and got ready for bed – and boy were the warm beds appreciated.
On Wednesday we did the same sorts of exercises we did out in the woods, only we did them at  a specially designed training range. Well, we did the exercises only once using blanks. That’s about all we had time for as we spent most of the day under a lightening protection area as a massive thunderstorm rolled in. It was pouring all day long from the moment we woke up.  We had morning PT, got on buses, then arrived and went on our blank fire drills. We never got the opportunity to do it with live rounds, but the DS said we should be doing that tomorrow.
Oh, and before I forget, Monday was also the third PT Test. There’s good news and bad news in regards to that. The bad news is that I failed it yet again – for the third time – but the good news is that I still showed steady improvement. I increased my pushups from 28 to 30, my situps from 58 to 67, and from 18:26 on my two mile run to 17:36. I just need nine more pushups and to cut 36 seconds from my run time and I’m good to go.
There were also cuts made this week, four people in the platoon got restarts because they failed their PT tests.  The DSs felt they had no shot to pass it, or felt they weren’t going to make good soldiers. I guess the the DSs must see something in me. Whew! 🙂
BCT – Day 49 – It Seems So Long Ago…    03/12/2010

pfckirell
March 17th, 2010
Sorry for the lull in writing this week. It’s been pretty busy and I’ve only had Fireguard Duty twice, the second time at 4:0 AM, so I haven’t had much time to sit down and collect my thoughts.
Yesterday was the two month anniversary of my arrival at Fort Benning. It’s hard to believe it was over two months ago that I left home, was picked up by my recruiter, driven to the Army hotel, only to sleep over and leave the next day for a flight down to Georgia. It seems in some ways to be just last week, and in other ways it seems like years ago.
In addition to being my two month anniversay, I also had another visit to sick call. The last time I went it was because I had pink-eye and my eye closed shut. This time it was…you guessed it, another round of pink-eye! This time two other guys in the bay had it before me, so at least I know where I got it from. My eye didn’t close shut this time, but there was an ugly amount of gunk coming from it. Luckily I stayed on top of cleaning it and putting hot compresses on my eye. The guys in the bay still wanted me to go on sick call, though, even though I still had my eye drops from last time.
So I ended up going and while I was at the clinic I also mentioned that I had a cough, so while the doctor was getting me more eye drops,  she checked my breathing and said my lungs sounded really bad and she was going to schedule me for a chest x-ray immediately. So I had to leave the clinic and walk down the street to the radiology office where they do x-rays. The chest x-ray itself took about 15 minutes and the results were back in about thirty. The doctor thought I might have had pneumonia beforehand, but the x-ray ruled that out, and she said it was most likely bronchitis. If I’ve had the bronchitis as long as I’ve had my cough, then I feel a little better about the PT Test. Coming as close as I did to passing, and improving in every category – all the time with bronchitis – is fairly impressive.
After coming back from sick call, me and a battle buddy got driven to the Rifle Range where the rest of the platoon was assembled. We were doing live Fire Team Drills; which consists of:  running, ducking, taking cover, shooting at targets – all with real bullets. It was pretty intense.  All in all I think I did pretty good. I hit all the targets I aimed at. I had a hard time running as fast as my teammates, but I tried my hardest and our Drill Sergeant told us we did a good job.
Next week we are going to be focusing on two things – clearing rooms in 4-man teams, and grenades. We’re going to be going over and over and over what each man’s responsibilities are in the 4-man team, and then on Friday we’re going to a Grenade Range and toss a bunch of practice grenades before tossing tow real live grenades. It should be a blast – pardon the pun 🙂
BCT – Day 50 – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough…   03/13/2010

pfckirell
March 18th, 2010
Big, big news today!  We were all in the bay, having just come back from breakfast. The DS from the platoon above us comes in and calls us to the front of the room. We go to the front and he tells us he has our Duty Stations printed out and he’s going to read them off to us.
So he starts reading off the Duty Stations and the people who are assigned to them. People are getting Fort Stewart in Georgia, Fort Hood in Texas, Europe – which means either Germany or Italy, Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, etc. People were either really excited when they found out where they were going (the Europe guys mostly) – or really bummed out (the Fort Stewart guys).
The DS finally called my name and I wasn’t sure how to react. I’m going to Fort Drum in upstate New York. On one hand it’s in the same state I’m from, and where my family is. On the other hand, it’s up in the Adirondack mountains and I’m probably going to be in the 10th Mountain Division, This means I’ll be going on ruck marches up mountains and doing some of the hardest training the Army has that is not Ranger or Airborne.
Not to mention the fact that from what everyone here is saying, going to Fort Drum virtually guarantees that you’ll be deploying to Afghanistan – and not in a year or two, but within weeks of arriving there. At least that what people are saying.
There are about 8 people from the platoon going to Fort Drum and one guy from another platoon who I’m close friends with. That’s at least another positive. I don’t mean to sound like I’m disappointed to be going there, but it wasn’t my first choice. I’m sure I’ll be more positive about it the more I learn about the place. I’ll have to ask some of the Drill Sergeants what they know about the 10th Mountain Division. From what people here say, its very demanding and requires a lot of running and hiking.
Hopefully, I’ll just keep getting in better and better shape by the time I get there. If not, I’m sure all the stuff I’ll be doing in the mountains will quickly get me up to speed.
BCT – Day 54 – Kicking Down Doors…   03/17/2010

pfckirell
March 22nd, 2010
It’s 2:00 AM and I’m downstairs in the CTA (downstairs gathering area) doing CQ Duty – basically watching the area. In three hours I’ll be going on a 8-mile road march.
Over the last 48 hours we’ve gotten about 10 hours of sleep. On Monday we had morning PT where we ran 4 miles, then did a road march to a nearby range where we practiced entering and clearing buildings and rooms. We stayed out there until about 4:00 PM, came back, had dinner, then went back out into the field to do the same thing again at night with flashlights things stuck onto our M4 rifles. We got back from that at about 10:00 PM.
Woke up at 5:00 AM the next morning, had morning PT again where we did pushups and situps until we developed muscle failure. Then we went out on another march back to the same range where we practiced clearing rooms, but this time we did it while banging down doors. Apparently I’m very good at kicking doors in. Who knew? Every time I kicked the door it burst open, which is more than a lot of guys who kicked the doors and almost fell over backwards.
Oh, before we went to the range we got smoked by our DS, who was upset we didn’t get downstairs to change our linens in time. He only gave us 10 minutes to get downstairs with our linens, and this was right after PT, so half the platoon was in the showers and didn’t hear the order.
So we got smoked for 20 minutes right before breakfast with pushups and fluterkicks. Then when we got back to the bay we had a surprise locker inspection. Pretty much everything in my locker was tossed out. It was absolutely hysterical. The DS called me a pack rat because I have so much stuff in my locker. He said I was like one of those people on the Discovery Channel who never throws anything away.
It took me about an hour to put everything back in its proper place. Luckily we got back from the range at 4:30 PM and had plenty of time to clean up. We also had to pack our ruck sacks for a night in the field. We’ll be sleeping out again. I just hope it doesn’t rain. It doesn’t look like it going to rain. It’s actually been really nice weather the past few days, Highs in the 60s. You work up a good sweat doing road marches in weather like that. I should be absolutely drenched by the time we make it to the range.
From what I was told, the range itself is an actual city – with streets, buildings, a city hall, a library, etc. It’s made to look as realistic as possible. Towards the end of yesterday’s training we were practicing entering rooms while other soldiers played the part of insurgents and shot back at us (with blanks).
This afternoon we should be doing the same thing, but we get to use paintball pellets. It should be wild. We’re going to be clearing four story buildings, bounding from buildings across the streets. Going in 4-man and 8-man teams, etc. This is probably the most realistic training we’ll do so far.
Then on Friday we’ll be throwing hand grenades. On Saturday things will slow down, as we’ll be taken to an air show – where we’ll be given the opportunity to ride in a Blackhawk helicopter – for $50. I think I’ll pass on that. The DS said the whole thing was gay – but he thinks pretty much everything is gay, so it’s hard to judge.
Then Sunday we get to relax and Monday is the 4th APFT – which I really hope to do well on. I need to shave just 36 seconds off my run and do nine more pushups. I really think I can do it, though I’m much more confident about the run than I am the pushups. Apparently I have really bad form when I’m doing them. If you don’t do them perfectly they don’t count. I know a guy here who did 76 pushups on his first APFT and they only counted 35.
Hopefully I’ll be lined up with a DS who isn’t a total stickler. I’m going to try to line up with one of our DSs – that way he’ll probably be a little more lenient as he’ll want all of his guys to pass…hopefully.
Then after that it’s a week of mortar training, and that basically wraps up the basic training portion of OUST. The weekend after is our 36 hour pass, where we get to leave Fort Benning and do whatever we want. I’m going to try and get a hotel close to some waffle house or something, watch TV, lay down, sleep, and just relax. Nothing fancy, Maybe go out with some guys for a beer – though I’m not sure if we are allowed to drink. Oh well, either way it will be fun to get away for awhile.
BCT – Day 56 – On the Road Again…   03/19/2010

pfckirell
March 25th, 2010
Ugh…The road march broke me. Literally. I was doing fine on the 8-mile march until we hit our second rest stop at the 5-mile mark. After we hit that point the pace started to pick up and the gravel on the side of the road started getting more and more uneven. I tripped and fell, twisting my ankle. I got up, continued to march then tried to catch up by running – bad idea. I developed huge blisters on my left foot. One is on my heel and it’s the size of a silver dollar. The other is directly underneath that on the ball of my foot and it’s about the size of a quarter. Both were opened and bloodied by the time I got to take my socks and shoes off when we reached the range.
Speaking of the range, remember when I wrote that I expected it to be nice out for our stay in the field? Well, not quite. It rained the whole time. It started to rain about 5 minutes after the road march ended and we were getting set up for breakfast. We ate in the pouring rain and then picked up all our gear and walked (I hobbled) down to this fake city that was set up to look like houses and buildings. They looked like homes under construction from the outside, but inside there was just a shell with sand on the floor. That’s where we slept. On sand. On the floor. In a house with no back door. I slept on the second floor with about 10 other guys in one room. It was cramped, to say the least, especially when I had to step over them to go out and do Fireguard Duty at 11:00 PM.
The whole time we were there it rained, so we spent most of the two days waiting outside these fake houses for our turn to go in as a 4-man team and clear them. The second day we got to use paintball-like weapons, which were supposed to hurt when you got hit with the paintballs, but I had so much padding on I didn’t feel a thing.
At about 4:00 PM on Thursday the buses came and picked us up to drive back to the base. I was never so happy to be back so I could get my shoes off, air out my feet, and take a shower. I slept like a baby Thursday night.
Friday we woke up at 5:00 AM, had morning PT, then road marched (ugh) two miles to the grenade range, where we learned how to properly toss a grenade. I got to toss two practice grenades, which made a pop when they explode. The real ones were amazing. They are a LOT more powerful than the movies would have you believe. When I tossed my two, I could feel the explosion behind a concrete wall, and when other guys tossed their’s, I saw shrapnel flying 200 yards and bouncing off the covered area where people were standing under to watch.
That was basically it. We marched back. My blisters re-opened and started bleeding. I’m hobbling around like a cripple, and the PT test is in three days. Yay!
Tomorrow is some air show being put on by either the Army or the Air Force. It should be an all day thing. Some people are really looking forward to it, but I’m just looking forward to not road marching and to relaxing as much as possible. My foot is in really bad shape.
That’s about all that’s going on here. I’ll try to write more before the big 4th PT Test and update you all on how I’m doing.
BCT – Day 59 – I Am Army Strong!  …   03/22/2010

pfckirell
March 28th, 2010
I’ll get the formalities out of the way now. This morning we took our fourth PT Test since starting basic, the one most of us HAD to pass in order to graduate and not be recycled.  I passed.
It started off with pushups. I had to be able to do 39 pushups in two minutes to pass. Two weeks ago I did 30. Today I had 40 after the first minute was up. Of course, I went into muscle failure right after and finished with 42, but that’s still good enough to pass. I was so happy with that. The pushups were what I thought I’d struggle with the most, so when I started off the morning doing more than I needed to, I had a feeling it was going to be a good day.
The situps were next and I was confident in this part of the PT Test. I had rocked out 68 the last time and I shooting for 75 to 80 this time. I came up a bit short of that with 70, but that’s still an impressive number.
The 2-mile run  was the last part of the PT Test, and I was nervous about it beforehand, since I suck at running. I still thought I had a pretty good shot at passing because I was cutting about 50 seconds off my run time every test. If I could do that again after finishing at 17:35 last time, I would meet my 17:00 cutoff for passing the test.
This time the two mile run was held on the road and we ran in a straight line due to construction around the track. I think this helped a lot. We ran one mile straight in one direction and then turned around to go one mile back. When I hit the one mile turnaround the DS there shouted out a time of of 8:20, which meant if I kept that pace I’d finish with a time of 16:40 – good enough to pass. To make a long story short, I finished with a time of 16:35 – cutting one minute off my run time for the second consecutive test.
So now that I’ve passed the PT Test, and qualified on my rifle, I’ve passed basically all the absolute requirements to graduate Basic Training. All I need to do now is just go on two more road marches, stay out in the field doing mortar training, and pass the last two PT Tests and I’m set.
It was a bit of a struggle, but it was well worth it. I feel proud of myself and feel filled with a real sense of accomplishment. Life is just good now.  🙂
BCT – Day 60 – Care Packages Arrive …   03/23/2010

pfckirell
March 31st, 2010
First off, big thanks to my Mom and Dad for the Care Package of cookies and other assorted items – they were GREATLY appreciated by myself and the rest of the platoon. Also, a hearty thank you to my wonderful sister and her husband, who sent enough jelly rings to feed the entire company!  Everyone really loved them, as most Southerners have never heard of, let alone tasted, those jelly rings before.
Secondly, I’m not going to be able to write again for almost a week. On Wednesday we leave for four days of mortar training out in the field. We got a short little introductory class on mortars today (Tuesday) but I’m still basically clueless as to how to work them.
Today we went to the Infantry Museum and it was a blast. If you ever get a chance to visit it you should stop in. They had artifacts from basically every war dating back to the Revolutionary War. They had exhibits themed around different eras like pre-WWII, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars. I found the WWII and Vietnam exhibits to be the most interesting. They also had an IMAX theater that played movies about the Hubble Telescope, Lewis & Clark, and the Grand Canyon. I caught the movie on the Hubble Telescope. It was in 3D and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. I really loved it. We also got to get snacks during the movie like we were at a real movie theater. I got a popcorn and a soda. Like I said, the museum was awesome.
That was the second time in a week that I got snacks – the first being the Air Show we went to on Saturday, where I had chicken fingers, root beer floats, french fries, and Italian ices — and still passed the PT Test two days later. The Air Show itself was cool. The planes themselves got somewhat repetitive, but at least the food was good.
BCT – Day 68 – Adventures of a Mortar Man …  03/28/2010

pfckirell
April 5th, 2010
Lazy Sunday. Got back from four days of mortar training out in the woods. Spent the first three days learning how to set up the Mortar System, how to change the Sight Picture a little bit, how to change the Sight Picture a lot, and how to do both at the same time.
On the last day of training we had a Practice Field Test where we had timed tests for five separate events. In order to pass and not have to retake the tests on Monday, we had to get an expert score on each event. Those who did not score expert would have to repeat the tests again. Those who failed to qualify at all would be restarted back at Day 1 of Mortar Training.
I scored a 90 out of 100, so I hit the expert level. Now I don’t have to go again on Monday, plus I get to wear the an Expert Badge on my Class A dress uniform. Also, it’ll look really good on my resume when I get to my new unit that I scored Expert on my Mortar Test. I am actually really good with the mortars. I had the fastest times in my entire company pretty much every time I went. One particular event (Short Deflection Changes) you had 20 seconds to score expert. I hit it in 6 seconds. In another test (Long Deflection Changes) we had 65 seconds to score expert and I got it in 31 seconds. I am a beast!
The whole four day experience of training outdoors was pretty interesting. We slept outside in an open field. We made a large circle with our sleeping bags and gear. I had Fireguard Duty the first night and again last night – where I just walked around the circle. The weather was pretty good the whole time. It rained for about an hour the first day, then varied between cloudy and sunny.
The last night we slept outside was absolutely freezing. It had to have gotten down to 20 degrees overnight on Friday. When you consider that nobody showered for three days, that we had to go to a mass outhouse to relieve ourselves, that our sleeping area was situated right over a fire ant mound, we were giddy, absolutely giddy, by the time we got back to the barracks Saturday evening. I got back, threw off my clothes and gear, showered, and fell asleep almost instantly.
Today we’re off and then on Monday it’s back out to the same mortar range for the Mortar Qualifying Test for those soldiers who did not score expert. We are sleeping out there, and then on Tuesday it’s a 10 mile ruck march to where we we’re going to spend four days doing live firing of mortars. Then we come back Thursday night, go to bed, get up Friday morning, have out BCT graduation ceremony for completing the basic portion of our training – then get our 36-hour pass from 10:00 AM Friday until 10:00 PM Saturday. After that it’s back out in the field for FTX (Field Training Exercises) for two weeks, Then that’s it!   Yay!
AIT – Day 5 – Advanced Training continues  … 4/08/2010

pfckirell
April 12th, 2010
Just got back from Field Training Exercises preparations. I took my final PT Test Monday April 5th. I scored 43 pushups, 70 sit-ups, and ran the Two Mile Run in 16:10. Passed every test. One more week of Field Training Exercises and I will have completed my training.
My company and I were out in the field from Monday through Wednesday. Today we were out undergoing specialized training which consisted of going on patrol through a simulated village looking to identify and uncover IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). This a lot of fun. We then trained on the set up and arming of Claymore Mines. I can’t wait till next week when training officially comes to an end. After that it’s just combatives (hand to hand combat) and then getting ready for graduation.

 


AIT – Day 6 –  Eagle Run … 04/09/2010
pfckirell
April 12th, 2010
Ran five miles this morning … Eagle Run.  Did the run in 45 minutes. This was the second to last requirement for graduation. I just have Field Training Exercises and then I’m done.
I’ll be out in the field from from Monday through Friday doing some heavy training.
Just found out that the Army gives me a plane ticket to get to Fort Drum from Fort Benning after graduation. I will probably be going directly there right after graduation. I don’t know for sure, it depends on my what my actual final orders say.
AIT – Day 12 – March To Honor Hill  … 04/17/2010

pfckirell
April 19th, 2010

Just returned from our Field Training Exercises. We were out in the field all week long. It was truly exhausting and fun at the same time. We did the march up Honor Hill and underwent the Infantry ceremony in which my Crossed Rifles ensignia was pinned on me by the Drill Sergeant. I am now officially in the Infantry. I was very close to fainting from dehydration and exhaustion during the ceremony. Just glad it is all over with.
Prior to marching up to the top of Honor Hill, we were supposed to march 12 miles but due to the high heat conditions we ended up only having to march six miles. Good thing too, because I would have passed out from complete exhaustion if we had to march more than that.
The final 48 hours of the Field Training Exercises were done without any sleep. So it was rough, very rough. We got back last night and got to sleep in until…7:30 AM, so that was cool. Today we are just lounging around resting and recovering. I am still really tired.

 


AIT – Day 14 – Graduation News …   04/19/2010
pfckirell
April 19th, 2010

Today I was informed that on Graduation Day, May 7th,  we will have to go back to the barracks immediately after the ceremony to get our packets. In my packet will be my orders as well as a plane or bus ticket to Fort Drum.
Family Day is scheduled for May 6th and I get to spend 12 hours off the base with my parents.
The Turning Blue Ceremony is one part of the graduation festivities. The history of the Turning Blue Ceremony is very interesting. The Infantry Blue Cord is placed on the soldier’s right shoulder, which is particular to the infantry. This cord is sky blue in color.
General Washington selected the color blue to distinguish his tough and resolute infantry in the Continental Army from other types of soldiers. General LaFayette chose a light blue color to outfit his American Infantry Corps. For the next 120 years, the official Infantry color alternated between blue and white until 1904 when the Army officially adopted what we now know as “Infantry Blue.”
In 1847 light blue was designated as the official shade of an Infantry NCO’s shoulder sleeves.Blue denoted the Infantry of both sides during the Civil War. Union soldiers wore a blue braid on their dress hats. Rebel Soldiers sewed blue piping along their trouser seams.

In 1951, the Army leadership (General “Lightning Joe” Collins, Chief of Staff for the Army) sought to encourage and recognize foot soldiers who were bravely fighting intense battles in Korea. It was decided that blue would be used to enhance the uniform of the Infantryman, so that everyone would know that the soldier was an Infantryman who would be fighting on the front lines.
During the graduation exercises on May 7th, my parents will have the honor of attaching the Blue Cord to my uniform.

AIT Day 24: New Duty Orders …   April 29, 2010

pfckirell
May 1st, 2010
Just received some awesome news. My duty station just got changed from going to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum to being stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky to be part of the 101st Air Assault Unit. Instead of climbing mountins I will be rapelling out of helicopters. This should prove very interesting. Kentucky here I come!
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