The rest of White Phase consisted of learning more about the M16, shooting, and trying to not get smoked. We did our first night fire course and everyone survived. I really think everyone was just trying to get out of the cold. Night fire was fun because if you didn’t spend your whole magazine by the end of the course, they let you go full Call of Duty and squeeze until you were empty. Then was the fun part…picking up brass in the dark. Joy. We also took our last diagnostic APFT. If you’re not getting better, you’re wrong. My push-ups and sit-ups improved dramatically, but my run still sucked. I ran a 19:43 that day. Granted, the track was uphill, but still. It had to get better. After this, my battle got sick and I got chosen to go with him to sick call. I’ll say this. If at all possible, avoid going to sick call. Its not glamorous, its not fun. Its kind of like sitting in a prison waiting room for visitation. Only go if you absolutely have to. Also, if you go to sick call on a graduation requirement day and you miss, you’ll either get recycled or have to make it up. The next few days consisted of urban ops (shout out to the infantry), U.S. Weapons in which we shot the 249 and 240B Crew served weapons, and culminated with Warrior Tower. Now, Warrior Tower is a 50 foot wall that you have to rappel down. Its really not as bad as it sounds. Well, yes it is. Some people cried, some people stood up there for 5 minutes plus. This is a confidence builder. Once you figure out your Swiss seat isn’t going to fail and you will be ok, it isn’t so bad. I’ll spare the rest of the details for the sake of not ruining the fun. For me, once I got on the wall and started going, it wasn’t so bad. It was actually fun.

The infamous Fort Leonard Wood Warrior Tower

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With Warrior Tower completed, White Phase has come to a close. It was not time to start acting like soldiers (kind of, we’re still in Basic after all) and get our stuff together. If we were in the barracks, the DS’ only wanted to be bothered if someone was on the verge of death. So we generally kept to ourselves and tried to stay out of trouble. We got a few more privileges, got smoked a little less, and got a little more time to eat in the chow hall. Nothing too fancy. Don’t mess around and get complacent thought, the DS’ wouldn’t hesitate to jack you up. Moving on, it was business as usual for us trainees. We did more EST and the next big thing was the Night Infiltration Course or as we call it “NIC at night.” This is how much I love it. Straight from my journal “ So NIC turned out to be something else to “get through.” We didn’t infiltrate anything. We just low and high crawled through a field with some barbed wire.” Sound like fun right? It gets better. The idea behind NIC is to simulate what it was like for the guys that stormed Normandy beach. It had been a particularly cold day (go figure) so we all layered up in addition to LBE and plate carrier. The sand was solid. So it was like low crawling across concrete. In addition, my helmet kept slipping down and eye pro (which you have to wear all the time, did I mention that?) fogged up. After finally making it to the end sweaty, cold, and frustrated, the commander gave a hooah speech and we packed up and headed home. I have to say, I didn’t like any part of that. Lol.

Night Infiltration course.

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Then came the final PT Test. That snuck up quickly. Of course, the day we take it its 20 degrees outside and raining. Didn’t bode well. They took us to the gym for push-ups and sit-ups. I knocked out 55 push-ups and 50 sit-ups. Not bad. I felt good. Then they took us to the infamous FLW troop trail (which I would get intimately familiar with in AIT). It was still raining and still very cold…but we had to press on. One of my favorite DS’, we’ll call him DS A, wanted to run with me to make sure I passed. “Keep up with me and you’ll pass, Private.” Is what he told me. Ok. Easy enough. He kept a decent pace and so did I until I started having trouble breathing and everything got cold. I mean everything. By the time we were done, I was 2 minutes over time and couldn’t feel my feet, face, or hands. As upset as I was with myself, my DS said there was a retest. So I had an opportunity to fix the situation before I had to call and tell my wife not to come for graduation. Motivation/work had to be done. BCT is coming to a close and there couldn’t be any loose ends.

White Phase takeaways:

-          Stay motivated. Learning your weapon can become tedious. But it will pay off

-          Keep being squared away. The DS’ start to single out individuals instead of groups.

-          Listen to your student leadership, even if they are a num-num. You might be in those shoes soon and it’s not fun if nobody cooperates.

So white phase was longer than I remember so I’ll split this post into 3 parts.

We got back from HBL on Jan 3rd. Some people were ready to be back. I wasn’t one of those people. Lol. It was a weird long night because people got in at various times. I got back at 1400; some people got back as late as 0200 the next morning. Be forewarned, they WILL give you a drug test when you get back. Most likely first thing. So don’t go crazy over HBL. “Don’t jack it up, privates.” Just as promised, the DS’ tried and tried to put us back in red phase. But alas, we were more squared away than they thought so we did the bare minimum to stay in white.  During the next week we learned some Army combatives, continued PT, and did post detail (basically ride around and pick up trash). The next big training event was land navigation or land nav. Land nav seems overwhelming at first, but its not that difficult once you get the hang of it. It involves a little math and being able to identify terrain features. You can read all about it here. For the BCT requirement, you have a certain amount of time to find 5 points. We were given 3 hours. Sounds easy right? We found the first 3 points in 45 minutes. The last two took a while and we barely finished in time. Word of advice, play to your team’s strengths. One guy in my team was good at plotting, another at shooting the azimuth, and I was good at reading the terrain features. Once we figured that out, it took less time.  During white phase, you’ll also be fitted for ASU’s. This is your Army Service Uniform or Class A’s. If you’re unsure about what you’re doing, getting fitted for these will change your mind. It motivated me to finish the last part of training and graduate. The day the DS’ had been hyping up for weeks was finally upon us….FTX II.  But FTX II with a kicker; we also get the 10K ruck march. So we were killing two BCT requirements in one fell swoop. We rucked the 6 miles and it felt like forever. The worst part wasn’t how cold it was or rainy. It was the stopping. Every hour we had to take a tactical halt. This was the worst because we would tighten up while stopped, then we had to get going again. By this time, the first group of student leadership had been fired in our platoon, and I was glad. The responsibilities were a LOT for FTX. Including running up and down the tactical formation the whole 10K.

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It wasn’t bad until we got to the hill. Then I felt bad for the PG. Once we got to our MOUT site, we had to pull perimeter security while leadership did their recon. Needless to say while in the prone position, a lot of people fell asleep.  They then got smoked and got extra duty for it. Don’t fall asleep on security. We then put tents up. Not regular tents, the big Army tents. I won’t ruin the surprise on this one either.  After we finally ate, we had to put up shelter halves. If you don’t know what this is, here is what they look like

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In two man teams, one person has a half and one person has the other half (that whole Battle Buddy concept, remember?). They are small and have very little room. One false move and the thing will fall over. But I digress. I think this may have been an Alpha 1/48 thing because I didn’t hear of anyone else using shelter halves. Day 2 and 3 of FTX were spent learning Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills such as access control points, detainee operations, dismounted patrols, and more CLS. FTX II ended with us shooting blanks out of the 240B and the 249 SAW. Joke was on us because we had to clean them. Blanks suck. We also started Advanced Rifle Marksmanship. This is the cool stuff like learning control pair firing.  When we finally got to the barracks, showers were mandatory. For good reason. White Phase was winding down. Only a few training events left before we could go into blue phase. More ARM, Night Fire, U.S. Weapons, Urban Ops, and Warrior Tower.

Phew. I know its been a while…been busy with school and what not. But I’m back to finish out my BCT series…even though its been almost a year since I graduated. But I digress.

About 4 weeks in we started hearing rumors of us being in White Phase.  The drills never came out and said it until later. This was when the fun really begins (at least in the beginning) with your weapon. Our first trip to the range was accompanied by an 8K road march. Luckily, I had been practicing this and was OK. But a lot of people fell out. After our first range trip, we went to something call LOMAH or Location Of Misses and Hits. It is a computer program that told you where all your shots were going in real time. Another rush job by me because it was cold that day and windy. Terrible conditions for beginning shooters. That night they finally decided to give us the White Guidon signaling entry into White Phase.  The next day was the first of 3 FTX which is a Field Training Exercise. They progressively get harder and on FTX 3, you stay in the field for almost a week.  For this one, it was a day at a MOUT site learning about OPORDS, First Aid, and Access Control Points. This was the first time we put on “full battle rattle” and walked around. We looked like some bootleg G.I. Joes. Lol. Anyway, that night in garrison, we did something called top 5 and bottom 5. We picked the top 5 people in the platoon and the bottom 5 based on votes. I was number 3 on the list but somehow got 1ST Squad Leader and Assistant PG. I was ok with this because as it turns out, PG is a lot of work. The next week included a lot more shooting and the grenade range. Throwing the M67 frag was fun. It made a big boom. That’s really all there is to it besides them showing you how to throw it.  In our next BRM sessions were pre-qualification and qualification. This is the DS time to shine, because they take pride in how well they teach privates to shoot.  So you have 40 targets to hit. They are 50m, 100m, 150m, 200m, 250m, and 300m. Turns out I was a pretty good shot. On the practice pre-qual, I ended up with 23 out of 40. Not bad for the first try. There were 5 of us out of the company that got a “go” on this round. Felt good to be one of them.  By this time, we were just days away from HBL. Tensions were high because everyone was ready to get away from everyone else and the DS’ threw a wrench in the mix with the PG. The PG or Platoon Guide is the person in student leadership that they put in charge to simulate having a Platoon Sergeant and Squad Leaders. This was also a time for the DS’ to put more responsibility on the high speeds. Catch is, if we messed up, the punishment fell on the PG/Squad Leaders. As 1st Squad Leader, I was the PG’s go to and we started settling into this role right before break. The rest of this half of White Phase was spent qualifying (I qualified with a 33) and getting ready to head home for break.  The night before we left, we had to clean 50 M16s. When they say weapons immersion, this is what they meant. By the time you get done with BCT, you will be able to take apart, clean, inspect, and put together a rifle in your sleep. Except we didn’t sleep. We stayed up for almost 34 hours cleaning weapons then doing turn in at 0300. They then tortured us with a brief at 0500. The DS’ said we looked like bobble heads. They weren’t even mad. One DS went so far as to say “you deserved that privates, for the hell y’all put us through.” I just kind of laughed it off. Pretty soon we were off and on our way back home. BCT really didn’t end once we got to the airport. We had DS’ there and I spotted a Command Sergeant Major at the Atlanta airport when I landed. They gave us a final warning before we left and I quote “Dont jack it up privates. We are ready to put you back in red phase.”

A little about HBL. Holiday Block Leave or Christmas exodus is a time when Tradoc shuts down and lets trainees go home for Christmas and New Year’s. If you are lucky enough to go during December, enjoy this break. It is a good time to unwind and get well (everyone was sick) and relax. The best part was not getting away from the DS’, but other trainees. We were ALL on each other’s nerves. Even the people that liked each other.  So take this time and use it to relax and get some rest. Just don’t relax too much. Do PT if you are bad at it, watch what you eat, and don’t do anything dumb. The Army will find out and they will chapter you out. A note to females, don’t get pregnant on HBL. They will find out…maybe not in BCT, but in AIT. This will also get you chaptered out.  Go back to BCT,  ready to go.

*edit

I just thought about something else from HBL. You will be paid or the two weeks off. BUT there is a catch. Nothing is free in the Army (except P.T.), so they will charge you leave for 14 days. If you dont have leave, then that means you will owe the Army vacation. In my case as a National Guard soldier, I had accrued 10 days because I enlisted in September and left for BCT in November. I only ended up owing 2 days. In the case of Active Duty, you wont have any leave for a few months until you accrue that vacation back,usually 14 days in the hole. Stinks, but it is what it is and you probably wont care because you’re going home. Also, the Army will help you get home. They will pay for your ticket, but once again, you will have to pay the Army back. I just used a credit card and paid for mine out of pocket. Some people ran up bills close to $900. Ouch.

Photo from EST

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A photo from the range. I would explain what all goes into shooting, but that’ll ruin the surprise

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Red Phase, Part 2

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Half way through Red Phase and its really cold by this time. It was around the first week of December and we were close to finishing week 3. This week we had the Confidence Course. This is the one you do with a buddy and do everything from monkey bars, to climbing a cargo net, to walking across a rope bridge. Today we also got our first taste of Commo. Using the radio was pretty cool. The next day was the (first of many) moment of truth. Our first PT Test had arrived. The day started at 0330 and guess what…it was raining.  So we went to the gym for the push ups and sit ups. For this first test, I did 32 pushups and 41 situps. Not breaking any records, but it was enough to pass that portion of the test. Then came the run. That sucked the life out of me. Mentally and physically. I ran/walked a 22 minute two mile. The only reason I post this is to encourage people. My time went down significantly by the time it was all said and done. More on that later though.  And to add insult to injury, we double timed all the way back to the barracks (about a mile). Its about this time I started wondering  “what did I sign up for?” You have to let things go quickly in the military because we kept moving. The rest of the day was spent at EST. It’s the rifle simulation. You shoot and your targets are all electronic. Kind of like Duck Hunt but with an M16.

Our next adventure was the last and final obstacle course, the Team Confidence Course. You may recognize these from BCT videos or pictures. It’s the most common one.  Here is one of the obstacles called “Jacob’s Ladder”

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This course is all about teamwork and overcoming fears. We had a girl that absolutely refused to climb an obstacle.  After a long discussion with our DS’s and a talk with the 1SG, even she went. So anyone can do it. We all had fun. Its hard to believe we were getting paid to do some of this stuff.  Red phase was starting to wind down and we could feel our DS’ let up on us ever so slightly. The last weeks consisted of our 8K road march, going to the shooting range ( The first time you shoot an Assault Rifle after being trained is liberating) and of course PT. The first few times you shoot will be grouping and zeroing your weapon. That is getting it “tuned” to you and being able to shoot a tight shot group. This is basically the end of Red Phase. Once you start shooting, it’s only a matter of time until they give you the white guidon and you are officially in white phase.

Red Phase takeaways:

-Keep your head down. You don’t want to be that guy that gets the Drills attention early

- Be prepared to be smoked. A lot depending on your DS. Luckily, we never got woke up to get smoked but I have seen it happen to other companies. So its not out of the realm of possibility

- Learn to eat fast. Get only what you can eat and shovel with a spoon.

-Listen closely. It will keep you from the aforementioned smoking session.

- KEEP YOUR HEAD. Its going to suck. Its different. The Drills aren’t going to beat you (physically anyway). Keep your wits about you and keep pushing forward. Look at your end goal.

I may have missed something. Questions? Comments? Fire away.

So its been a little while sue me.  Actually its been about 6 months since I graduated BCT. Crazy, because I felt like I was there yesterday. I got busy with school and my new role at work so I never found the time to write this up. Better late than never I guess. So I’m going to split this up into phases red, white, and blue. I’ll leave reception out since I already posted about it.  So here we go, my red phase experience.

 

Nov 19th was the first (real) day of BCT.  After our last little bit of reception, we lined up and our Drills came and just looked at us. We were all standing behind our bags being looked at like gazelle about to be pounced by lions. We got on a bus and headed to our home for the next 9 weeks. I was standing so I couldn’t see where we were going then all of a sudden “GET THE F*** OFF MY BUS” “HURRY UP.” Holy crap. The next thing I know I’m holding my green duffel and squatting.  After about 15 minutes of this, they assigned us to platoons and corralled us inside. I was assigned to 3rd platoon, in Alpha 1-48 Infantry. Today was also when we got introduced to running everywhere. I mean…everywhere.

Some days passed and we got used to being yelled at, running everywhere, and got real familiar with the squat and the front leaning rest position. We took the 1-1-1 sometime in the first week which is one minute of push-ups, situps, and a one mile run, so be ready for that. I didn’t do bad considering some guys only did 3 push-ups. My Drills were surprised that I could do as many sit-ups as I did (like 25) considering how big I was (thank you Insanity). The run got me, but it got everyone else too. I ran a 10 minute mile and there were still people behind me. Our Drills were losing faith in us quickly. Lol. One crazy thing happened though. We went to take a urinalysis and people weren’t able to pee. So those lucky individuals had to chug water until they had to pee. Unlucky for them, it didn’t hit them until an hour later when they couldn’t use the bathroom. Yes, what you’re thinking happened….they pee’d themselves. At least 3 people. Crazy/traumatizing to say the least. I hadn’t seen that since I was a very little boy. Just something else to look for when you get there. Make sure you have to pee for the drug test (most likely in week zero) and empty your bladder. Moving on…

After week zero (briefs after briefs) we actually started training. First on the list was CLS which is Combat Life Saver training. Basically first aid training for combat situations. It’s pretty cool stuff to know in case something happens and teaches you what not to do.  This week we also started AGR’s. This is where that advice of run and run some more comes into play. They break up groups usually A,B, and C based on your one mile run time. I started in C. It was quite embarrassing because we ran so slow and I was struggling to keep up. Our first one was only like two miles. It was good though because I had one DS that wouldn’t let me quit. He motivated me the whole time. Contrary to what you may have been told, the Drills do care as long as you’re motivated and are squared away. If not, that’s when your life gets rough.  We also started carrying around our rucksacks everywhere preparing us for road marches. The first few are short, but they get longer. The longest being 12 miles.  We weren’t there yet, but they eased us into it with 5K and people were falling out of that. I can emphasize enough the need to work out before you go. Doing Insanity and practice ruck marches helped me out tremendously.

By the end of the week we were settling into a groove. PT in the mornings, chow, then going to do what we had to do. Lather, rinse, repeat.  One day during PT, our company 1st Sergeant came and called all the DS’ to her. She gave them a good yelling at. Apparently we hadn’t cleaned the barracks good enough and she cancelled PT so we could go clean.  I thought the Drills were going to smoke the life out of us for getting them in trouble. They didn’t. I think they thought it was silly too.  Today was the day we shot the AT4 and M203. The AT4 is a rocket launcher and the M203 is the M16 mounted grenade launcher.  Good times. Hard to believe they are paying us to do some of this stuff. The next big activity was the Team Building Course. This is different from the obstacle course, as you have to do this one in teams.  We ended up running out of time so we only got to do two obstacles. At this point,  we’ve all gotten used to each other, so personalities were starting to show. Especially in the case where there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.  This same day, we took something called a GAT. It stands for Global Assessment Tool. Google it if you want more info. I don’t even remember what the questions were. It’s a BCT requirement though. For the sake of reading, I’ll cut this short. More Red phase coming soon. To be continued…

 

Side note: if you are lucky enough to go to Basic in the winter, you will have Christmas Exodus or HBL (Holiday Block Leave). That’s when they let you go about 2 days before Christmas and require you to be back after the new year. I was lucky that HBL was the halfway mark in Basic. It broke it up quite nicely.

 

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This isnt us, but its pretty dang close

Dont call it a comeback

Posted: May 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

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This is a pic of me and one of my battle buddies at AIT graduation. Im the mean looking one. lol

Well folks, I’m back. Actually I’ve been back for a few weeks now, but I had to reboot a little. Turns out my other blog provider closed, so I had to move residences. No biggie. Moving on…

I graduated AIT on April 18th, 2013. Man, was I glad to get off Fort Leonard Wood. 20 weeks is a long time. Well I chronicled BCT as best I could in a journal but it was hard some days because we had so much going on. I attempted to in AIT, but we did the same thing almost every day, so it was a lot easier to keep up. At any rate, be on the lookout for my next few blog posts about BCT, then AIT. There is a lot of content, so it will take me a few blog posts to get it all done. I have also had my last RSP Drill and first Drill with my unit. Phew. Stay tuned people…

Since I’m on my last day of HBL (Holiday block leave aka Christmas Exodus) I figured I’d hit yall with a little update. I’ve been in BCT for approximately 4.5 weeks and am currently in White Phase. Not sure how life is going to be when we get back, but I hope they dont take us back to Red Phase for too long. I will make detailed posts about BCT when I actually graduate, so for now I will go through my experience at Fort Leonard Wood’s 43rd AG Reception Battalion. It is the place you go before you even start training. And it is a whole ton of fun. Here is my experience…like to hear it? Here it go…

When we got to St. Louis, we couldnt immediately leave the airport so we waited around for about 2 hours in the USO. The bus that took us to FLW came around 8:30 PM and we got to Post at about 10:30. This bus was hotter than 40 hells…so it literally felt like I was going to purgatory. Nobody talked and the windows were fogged up so we couldnt see where we were going. When the bus finally stopped, we were greeted by two brown rounds (aka Drill Sergeants). I felt like I had joined the Marines for a second. He hollered a lot more than I expected him to. At any rate, we got introduced to group punishment and then were ushered inside. We then turned in our cell phones, made a 15 second call home, and got a line number. This is the first part of breaking you down. You are no longer a name or a person. You are a line number. Just like cattle. I was officially 068. At around 0230, we finally got to go to bed after filling out paperwork and getting our first set of PT’s, just to be woken up at 0400. 

The next day we were woken up by what I can only describe as…scary/rude. A female drill sergeant got on the intercom and started barking orders. Very rudely I might add. You’ve heard the term “cuss like a sailor,” well, it should be “cuss like a female drill sergeant.” She said words I’d never heard before. After numerous threats we were finally ushered to breakfast chow, which was an adventure in itself. We had 2 minutes to eat. She told us not to even get a fork…we wouldnt need it. Then we were ushered into the foyer and lined up for pay cards. This is the $350 card they give you to buy haircuts and stuff from the PX. When people tell you dont bring half the stuff on the packing list, dont. We spent 230 bucks on stuff from the PX they made you buy. Half of which I had already. So if you dont like spending money twice, just take the bare essentials. 

By the second day, we were all dying of boredom. Here’s how the day went: Wake up, eat, wait in lines, eat, wait in lines, eat, wait in lines, eat, sit in a brief, go back to the barracks. Some of the people were starting to crack. Some people werent used to all this structure. At any rate, today we got ACU’s, got paperwork squared at PAB, and had another hearing test. ACU’s were cool, but not as cool as I thought they were gonna be. They were kind of hot. I would have rather kept on PT’s. lol. Last but not least of the day, we got shots. Not the kind that LMFAO were talking about either. Remember how I said you were a line number? Getting shots made me feel like cattle. We got 5 total. You roll up your sleeves and someone stands on either side of you. You walk down the line, they stick you and you keep moving. The worse one was the penecillin or Peanut Butter shot. It was a thick shot that they give you in the butt. It has to be kept cold. After they stick you, it hurts for about 2 days.

The last day of reception is the best or worst depending on who you ask. I was done with processing, so I did nothing but sit around and wait, then eat, then wait some more. We also had to contend with trying to stay awake. No sleeping in reception, that’s a no-no. It made it even harder since I wasnt doing ANYthing. But oh well. At least I was done and everything was processed. Three days and we were shipping to our company. I feel for people that have to either be a holdover or have reception for a week. I would have went nuts.

Some take aways from the 43rd: Stay awake. Sleeping is a no-no. Pretty much a trend through BCT. Be patient to the people giving you shots, etc. They will probably be mean to you, but they are supposed to. Pack as light as possible. They make you buy a bunch of stuff you need. Be prepared to do a lot of sitting and waiting. I think I waited in line for 3 hours one time. Just remember…your BCT company is nothing like Reception. Somebody told me “The hardest part of BCT is Reception.” While I dont think that is true, it is a huge part of the mental game they play to break you down. 

Well, back to finish BCT and head to AIT. I’ll be able to update from AIT since we have a bit more freedom. So I’ll catch you on the flip side.

 

P.s. – For those wondering about the underwear thing from a couple posts ago, I got away with it at reception. They dont check. Now when you get to company, that’s a different story.