You’ll have to forgive me for my tardiness. Life has definitely got in the way. I know only a few people read this blog anyway, mostly people getting ready to go to BCT. But its all good. I’ll press on anyway. You’ll also have to forgive me if I miss some details. AIT was a long time ago. I have found my journal so we will go off that. Here we go.

I want to preface this by saying there isn’t a whole lot of detail in the goings on for AIT. For us, everyday was basically the same. We got up, did PT, went to breakfast, then went to “course.” Course is the schoolhouse basically. It felt a lot more like a 8-5 job than training. But once again, I’ll get to that. AIT means Advanced Individual Training. It’s where they teach you how to do things good. Like soldering if you are in the infantry, computers if you’re Signal, and in my case, how to operate heavy equipment.

At the end of BCT, we all got held over because the class schedules got jacked up. So for a week we got to sit around/clean/stay out of trouble. That is hard to do for a bunch of privates that are ready to move on. The DS’ were on cycle break, so they wanted nothing to do with us either. There came the stay out of trouble part. Basically we just existed for a week. Didn’t do a whole lot of PT, just ate and cleaned the barracks. That Friday, armed with duffel bags and a packet, I shipped to AIT. And by shipped I mean I got on a bus and went right down the road. Eight more weeks of FLW goodness. I hit the lottery.

We got to what can only be described as very “soviet” looking. Cold, dreary, overcast, and windy. Of course we had to do a gear layout when we got there, hands freezing, but everything had to be dumped. Once that was over, we got hustled into out bay and met out PLT Sergeant for the cycle. Of course, he had to establish himself by smoking us. And we were all kind of like “here we go again.” Gotta love TRADOC-land. Turns out he was pretty cool and that only happened once. So before we started anything, we were assigned “squad leaders.” The next few days were dedicated to taking a PT test and getting things ready for class. We got up at 0400 for the PT test. There was a storm coming, but it hadn’t hit yet so we pressed on with the test. Take this to heart, you have to work on your PT on your own. We went 3 weeks without doing any PT and it showed. A lot of people failed because of the lack of PT and the cold weather. I being one of them.

In true FLW fashion, blue skies turned cloudy and the sky opened up. Snow/freezing rain/hail started coming down and sticking to everything. They shut down post and we didn’t go to class. At this point, we were 3 days behind. Get ready for anything in AIT. Especially having to wait or catch up. Especially when your classes are outside. We were all eager to get started.

The weather was so bad at FLW we didn’t do anything for a week but sleep and do PT. You start to get a little stir crazy after a while even though the break was welcome. Part two coming soon.

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Is this thing on?

Posted: May 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

Whats up everybody. I know its been forever but as you know, life gets in the way. Once you get to your unit (especially the Guard) there isn’t much to report on. I know I haven’t written about AIT, and I will. 12N AIT is very repetitive and wasn’t very exciting, so I didn’t try to hurry a post. But, I will start keeping up with this thing again. It still seems to get a pretty decent amount of traffic. Be on the lookout for my post about AIT and the last two years of service in my unit. There have been some changes.

  1. I have a 2.5 year old. Crazy I know.
  2. I lost my job, got another one, and have moved cities
  3. Stopped playing a whole lot of rugby and focused primarily on coaching
  4. I bought a house. That was nuts.
  5. And I’m no longer a Specialist. I got promoted to E5.
  6. Putting in a packet to go to WOCS (Warrant Officer Candidate School)

More on those things later, including a couple of Annual Trainings to Romania.

“Better late than never, but never late is better” – Drake

2-chainz

Truuuuuu

I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been? In the past year I’ve kept with drilling, worked, and continued a master’s degree. Actually, I just finished it. Oh, and we had our first child. No big deal right? So forgive me for my absence because I know you all were waiting with baited breath for the conclusion of my IET experience. Lol. Anyway, without further ado, blue phase.

The next big event was the buddy team fire. Nothing too special here. You learn to fire your weapon and cover your buddy while they move and vice versa. Once again, it was freezing at Fort Leonard Wood, so that zapped any fun out of this event. In Blue Phase, you will complete your final FTX. FTX3. Everything you have learned thus far will be used at this FTX. This FTX was already leaps and bounds better than FTX2. No mud, no shelter halves, and it was actually warm (more on this later). We stayed in something called a “hooch” which is basically a house with 4 walls and some windows. You set up a cot and slept. There was a chimney in the middle for a pot belly stove. It beat the crap out of staying on the cold ground. Your mileage will vary, but our DS pulled a fast one on us. We thought we were in trouble, so our company commander called us into formation and started getting on us. Meanwhile, DS’ dressed as insurgents infiltrated our camp and stole our crew served weapons. Then proceeded to kill just about all of us. If you were shot, you had to lay on the ground. Probably the most fun (besides Urban Ops) I had at basic. It taught us a lot about securing your equipment. Then our platoon got the short straw and got to pull guard duty all night…that’s when it started to get cold… Anyway, the next day we ran our lanes and did dismounted patrols and a rescue mission. We failed miserably. But it was ok because they expected us to. Per Ft. Leonard Wood standard, the weather changed yet again and a thunder storm rolled in. Since out hooches were in low lying areas, we packed up and headed back to the barracks because they were starting to flood. By the time we got back, the temp had dropped 20 degrees and the wind was blowing about 15-20 mph. We had the last guard shift and they pulled us out of the tower about 10 minutes in. They told us to wait in our rooms for further instructions and that was that. The next morning was the last of the graduation requirements. The 16k ruck march. For those not European, that is right around 10 miles. After we got finished up policing the area, we lined up and started walking. At mile 6 we halted. In true Missouri fashion, it started snowing.

Ruck

Now, this actually is our BCT company. Not sure who made the meme

And sticking on the road and on us. Our 1st Sergeant decided to call it and we rode cattle trucks back to the barracks. Once again training was foiled by the weather. That night, we did a “rite of passage” ceremony. Basically where the battalion commander congratulates everyone on completing training and you receive your challenge coin. Again, your mileage may vary, but we had something called Super Lunch. Where they let us eat what we wanted and we had people impersonate the Drill Sergeants. Some of it was pretty funny. From here until graduation day, we cleaned. Everything. Literally. Latrines, hallways, cracks, each other, CIF gear. If it could be cleaned, we cleaned it. We were preparing for our IN4 inspection. That is the final inspection of everything. Lockers, gear, your class As, appearance. Etc. When all that is over and if you do right, you will get family day. It’s a day where your family will sign you out and you can go eat or whatever. The drawback of Fort Leonard Wood is there is no overnight passes. So we all had to be back at 2100. Oh well, it was better than nothing. The next day was graduation. Nothing to it really. Walk across the stage and don’t jack it up. And that is the conclusion of BCT. Pretty anti-climactic, right? Depending on your MOS, this can be very different so your mileage may vary. And when I got to AIT, I found out some companies never made it out of White Phase. So take that for what it’s worth.

Blue Phase Takeaways

  • Be squared away. This is the downhill and its hard to mess up.
  • Don’t lose your Military bearing. This is when everyone gets complacent and starts violating rule number one.
  • I’ll reiterate this again, listen to your student leadership. BCT is rough on them (I know from experience) especially during FTX.
  • Graduate

P.s. – For those wondering about my PT, yes I did pass (obviously) on the retest. I feel like I have the hardest time running. But keep trying and push yourself (cliché I know) and you’ll pass. As one of my battle buddies said “You can die afterward.”

Be on the lookout for my next few posts about AIT and life outside of TRADOC land. Stay tuned

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
Tags: ,

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.