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Pre-Basic Training


posted Nov 11, 2011, 6:15 PM by Brandon McGuire

(Original Date: Tuesday, April 6, 2010)

These entries are from the letters that Brandon has mailed to me. 

There is something about this hotel that keeps me from getting a good nights sleep. I thought having my wife stay with me  would make it different, but I was wrong. I was tossing and turning all night, it was after midnight when I last checked and I had to get up at 4:45am. So I started the day off tired, then I had to say goodbye to my wife. After that I was not only tired, but sad and grumpy as well. I ate my free breakfast and then we were all shuttled off to MEPS for processing.

Processing consisted of reviewing all my paperwork and biometrically signing everything (a.k.a scanning my fingerprints). Six of us who were shipping out then all had to sit around in our underwear and wait. (This day we did a lot of that Army saying “Hurry and Wait”) Finally I got weighed (192 lbs…hmmm I gained a few pounds, maybe it was all that easter candy) and measured 73 3/4 inches tall (hmmm... I also grew 3/4 of an inch, maybe that is where the extra weight came from.) We watched the AWOL and desertion video again and then swore in. After that we were told that we were on the government payroll. It helped a little knowing that all this sitting around and waiting was now my job and I was getting paid for it. Ha!

Our sack lunches arrived and then I was able to catch the encore of the Duke vs. West Virginia Final Four match-up.

Finally, around 1:30pm we were given our travel instructions and meal vouchers. I’m the only one heading to Ft. Benning, but I am flying with another guy named Brandon to Denver before we separate. We watched a video on how to travel (i.e. don’t say “bomb” on the plane).

2:30pm the shuttle arrived to take us back to the hotel. Laying in bed felt so good. Tonight I’ll eat my free dinner and then watch the NCAA championship basketball game. After that I’ll talk with my wife for a bit then hopefully get a good nights sleep.

The Sad Goodbye

posted Nov 11, 2011, 6:13 PM by Brandon McGuire

(Original Date: Monday, April 5, 2010)

Today we celebrated Easter at my sister’s house. We enjoyed a big breakfast and then hung out while extended family arrived. It was really nice to see everyone once again before I had to leave. Everyone wished me well and is excited for the adventure that lies ahead. I planned on leaving at 1PM in order to make the 6 hour drive to Spokane. 1PM came faster than I had hoped. I made my rounds saying goodbye to everyone and then brought my kids outside to say goodbye to them again. That turned out to be a very emotional moment for everyone. I’m not an extremely emotional guy, but I’ll tell you that we all started crying and I continued to cry like a baby for ½ hour after leaving. That really sucked leaving my kids knowing I will not be able to see them for such a long time. We are planning on writing a lot though. I talked to them after I got checked into the hotel with my wife and everyone (me included) is feeling much better now.

Once we arrived at the hotel and got checked in Leandra and I had dinner and then just relaxed pretty much the rest of the night. We will both be getting up early tomorrow morning. I will be heading off to MEPS and my wife will be getting ready for a three hour drive to work. I’m really glad she was able to come and stay with me. It’s nice to spend as much time with her as possible before I head off.

Hangin’ with the family

posted Nov 11, 2011, 6:12 PM by Brandon McGuire

(Original Date: Saturday, April 3, 2010)

Not a whole lot happened today, just hung out with family.  We went out for a family movie day and watched the remake of “Clash of the Titans”. All in all it was a pretty good movie. Lots of action and everyone enjoyed themselves.

We then had dinner with my wife’s family, which was great. My mother-in-law made an awesome spread of which I ate entirely too much…and then I had two servings of her awesome lemon cake dessert with ice cream. 

We bought some college ruled spiral notebooks for each of my kids to use for letter writing to me while I’m gone. My wife had the idea for me to write a little note inside each of them. After finishing the last note I was a little misty eyed. It’s starting to hit home that I’m going to be away from them for so long. That may be the toughest part of joining the army.

Tomorrow is going to be tough saying good bye to everyone.

good luck with everything.

I look forward to reading as you go through basic
Sunday, April 4, 2010 - 08:01 AM
Indeed it will be hard...the wife will be loney, the kids will have a void and the friends and family will wonder eachday what you are doing.  BUT..... We willall be srtong and through God and love all will be together again for many many many years of great times... LOVE YOU!!!!!!
Sunday, April 4, 2010 - 01:17 PM

Casual Friday

posted Nov 11, 2011, 6:08 PM by Brandon McGuire

(Original Date: Saturday, April 3, 2010)

Checked in with my recruiters for the last time today. I was able to sleep in and enjoy a cup of chocolate macadamia nut Kona Coffee (my favorite). I threw on some sweat pants and a t-shirt and then drove over to the recruiter’s office. I knew I was supposed to take a quick physical fitness test as well as get any last minute paperwork taken care of.

I arrived and to my surprise the recruiters had on jeans and some very modern-hip-graphic looking army t-shirts. Now this is a casual Friday! They said later on they were heading out to some businesses and they are much more approachable when not in full uniform. After going through a checklist to make sure I had all my forms in order the recruiter said the fitness test consists of a timed one minute push-up test, followed by a one minute sit-up test, and then finally a timed one mile run. The recruiter knows that I have been running quite a bit, so he said we were not going to do the run. Normally we would have done it outside, but it actually started snowing today….in April!! It was pretty crazy there was snow all over the place and it was continuing to fall. So he asked me what I could comfortably run a mile in and I asked what‘s the maximum? He said 8:30 for one mile. I said I’m sure I could run an 8:00 mile pretty easily, so he marked down 7:55 for my score. After that he proceeded to show me how to do a correct push-up according to Army standards. He said I would need to be able to do at least 13 in one minute. Since there was nothing given for extra credit I wasn’t going to strain myself. I quickly did 14 (just to be sure all of them counted). He then did the same for sit-ups showing me the standards and then saying I needed to do at least 17 in one minute. I quickly did 18 (again just to be sure all of them counted). So I passed my first official Army Fitness Test! LOL

Later on in the day we cleaned up the house and I finished packing my “basic training back pack” crossing off the final items on my checklist. We threw everything in the car and headed off to pick up the kids for the last visit I’ll have with the family before I leave. The drive through the Cascade Mountains was a little crazy. It was almost white out conditions and the snowplows hadn’t been out yet. Luckily I drive an all wheel drive Subaru, so we didn’t have any trouble getting through. We just had to drive a bit slower than usual. Much better than some of the other poor suckers that were on the side of the road. One car looked like it slid right over the edge of the road with its rear end sticking straight up in the air. After taking it slow and steady we made it to my sister’s house without incident.

The End of The World

posted Nov 11, 2011, 6:07 PM by Brandon McGuire

I still keep in touch with the folks at my previous job and when I told them I was joining the Army, this is what they came up with...complete with a windows laptop with the “blue screen of death”

(Original Date: Friday, April 2, 2010)

Today was my last day working for The Wenatchee World newspaper. It was hard to get much done, but surprisingly I was able to close about 5 or 6 help desk tickets. The day was full of my fellow employees wishing me well and saying goodbye. I went to lunch with a few co-workers and their significant others, and then attended my going away party complete with apple pie (I politely said no to the standard sheet cake. I love cake, but those big sheet cakes are just gross. They taste like cardboard and there is so much frosting on them it makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about eating it) Short speeches were said and I received a few nice cards. I really do work with some great people!

Even after all the goodbyes and the pie it still doesn’t seem real. I guess I haven’t mentally left yet. I still feel like I’ll be coming back to work next week. It’s a strange feeling. I think reality will come soon once I arrive at Ft. Benning for basic combat training.

Took another hike up to the top of Saddle Rock after work. I wanted to see if I could beat my time from last Saturday with my friend Matt. It was a good hike and I tried to jog anytime the grade wasn’t too steep. I ended up beating my last time by a minute and a half! Very happy about that. This will probably be the last time I make the hike up that hill. I will miss that, it’s a great workout and the reward is some awesome views. This place really has some beautiful scenery!

At 9PM I met up with some co-workers for happy hour at Applebees. We shared a few drinks and some stories.

Wow…I no longer work for The World (

What the Pho?

posted Nov 11, 2011, 6:04 PM by Brandon McGuire

Pho is a Vietnamese soup that is a staple of Vietnamese cuisine and culture. Many Vietnamese people eat pho for breakfast rather than as an evening meal. Pho can be made in more than 20 variations, but always has either a flavorful beef broth or a chicken broth base.

(Original Date: Thursday, April 1, 2010)

Today was my second to last day at work. My boss took me to lunch at a local Vietnamese food restaurant. I’ve never tried Vietnamese food before, so I decided to try one of their standard dishes called Pho. It has been described as “The National Dish of Vietnam” and is pronounced “fuh”. I would describe it as kind of a noodle soup with beef and a number of spices in it. The soup was excellent and I can now say I’m no longer a pho virgin. 

I had two exit interviews today. One was the formal exit interview with the HR Director. I was shown a bunch of paperwork and signed some papers. The company had my last day marked as today, but in reality it is tomorrow. It makes a big difference because tomorrow is the 1st of the month and if I work on the 1st I will keep my benefits for the entire month. That will give me a little piece of mind just in case something happens between now and when the military benefits kick in.

The second exit interview was at the end of the day with the general manager. It was a bit more informal and we just went over what I thought was going well with the company and what wasn’t. What is going well with my department and what is not. Also what would I change if I were CEO for a month? I honestly told him that I thought the company’s best asset is it’s employees and being a smaller family owned company. I came from a larger corporate newspaper and my experience here has been much better. What would I change if I were CEO? That is a tough one. The only thing I could come up with on such short notice was to add some sort of tuition reimbursement plan. I started to try and finish my 4-year degree, but the cost was just a little too overwhelming. Helping your employees gain an education will help the company as well. 

-- On a side note I know times are tough, but I also wouldn’t have frozen wages. I think the thought of no hope for raises coupled with rising health care costs and no 4-year degree is what ultimately made me start considering my future. I knew if I stayed put that I would be in the same exact situation I am in right now. I want to do something exciting, I want some adventure, I want to know that I can grow and advance both personally and professionally. (Also it seems there is no bright future for newspapers. I believe the staffs will continue to shrink and they will face increasing competition for advertising revenue).

The Beginning of the End

posted Nov 11, 2011, 6:02 PM by Brandon McGuire

(Original Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2010)

After picking up a few of the last minute items I believe I’m almost ready as far as packing goes. We purchased a backpack to throw everything in. I figured it would be the easiest way to carry everything around. I was going to try and bring everything in a carry-on, but I am afraid with all the new airline security measures that this would not be possible. I do have nail clippers in my bag you know lol, but it was the shaving cream that I was really unsure about. So the backpack will be checked in at the airport and then I will have no worries (unless they end up losing it which would really suck). We also picked up stamps at Costco and put half of them on envelopes that I will be taking with me. The other half will be for my wife and kids to use. The backpack is almost entirely packed, I still have a few things left to throw in there such as my razor and my new mouth guard that I need to fit tonight. 

I also have to check on some paperwork. The Future Soldier Center sent me an email with a checklist on it. One of the items is “a certified copy of spouse’s valid photo ID. (Recruiter can have this certified at MEPS by a guidance counselor)”. I sent my recruiter an email asking about this and he said he had never heard of such a thing. He’s going to check into it and let me know when I check in with him on Friday. 

I’ve been using a program called “Zenbe Lists” ( to keep track of everything I need to pack and do before I leave. It can be used from a website and also my iPhone. They sync any changes made so the website and multiple iPhones (or iPod Touches) stay up to date. We have been using it for our grocery lists, but it has really come in handy to make sure I get everything done before I take off. 

You can check out the app from the iApps link on the sidebar to the left.

I have two more days left of work and one weekend left before I leave. The weekend happens to be Easter weekend, which should turn out nice because my entire family is planning to get together at my sister’s house where we will be staying. The only bummer is that we will have to leave around 1PM on Easter. We will then make the 6-hour drive to Spokane so my wife can drop me off. (The alternative was a free ticket from the Army to ride the Greyhound bus from Wenatchee to Spokane… no thank you)

Now that’s a big Hummer!

posted Nov 11, 2011, 5:59 PM by Brandon McGuire

The Hummer limo that arrived to pick us up for the wine tasting. Me and my wife in front with the rest of my co-workers.

(Original Date: Monday, March 29, 2010)

Wow… all I have to say is that I have some great friends and co-workers here. I was told we were going to have a get together to say farewell to me since this will be the last weekend I will be in town. The details were all a surprise, I only knew that it was indoors and to be ready on Sunday around 11 AM. 

Shortly after 11 a Hummer limo pulls up at my house and picks me and my wife up. Wow! Once in the limo we were treated to mimosas and doughnuts. We took off to Lake Chelan and visited a number of the local wineries for wine tasting. After the first winery I think I can say that I was feeling pretty good. Each winery had some amazing wines (we ended up purchasing quite a few). The entire trip was a blast. My co-workers are a lot of fun and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. The last winery’s owner asked what the occasion was, and when he was told that I would be joining the army he quickly grabbed a bottle of wine. He then signed the bottle and thanked me for my service and gave it to me. It was a very nice gesture and it was a perfect ending to the tour. The drive back involved more champagne in the limo and then back home for some much needed rest.

Back in the Saddle Again

posted Nov 11, 2011, 5:57 PM by Brandon McGuire

A View of Saddle Rock on the way to the trail head

(Original Date: Sunday, March 28, 2010)

My best friend Matt drove up from Portland Oregon to remove his car from our driveway and pick up the last of his stuff from out house. (He stayed with us for a few months before making the move to Oregon). It was nice to see him again. After we took care of business he asked if we could hike Saddle Rock before he took off. (Now I have to give you a little history of my friend Matt and Saddle Rock) Matt used to be a cross-country runner back in high school and has always been running since I have known him. Back in high school I never even came close to staying with him on any runs. We were always competitive, I could sprint faster and basketball was always back and forth, but any distance running was no contest - Matt would easily win every time. During the few months that he stayed with us last year, he started to hike a local trail that led up to a peak called Saddle Rock. The trail up to Saddle Rock is well used with most of it at an incline of course. He would do this about 3 times a week, each time trying to run the whole thing. Although he was never able to run the whole thing, he did make it to the top pretty fast only taking 3 or 4 rests along the way. I went with him the first time just to show him the trail and we hiked up at a normal pace together. The second time I went up with him he ended up leaving me in the dust.

Fast-forward to today… since moving to Portland Matt had some family emergencies and other stuff that took up his time. Long story short he pretty much stopped all forms of exercising and ended up eating out a lot.  We took off on the trail together and not too long after we started he was out of breath and had to take a break. I kept up my walk and even jogged a little here and there until I made it to the top. Matt finally made it, but it took him quite a while.

I have to say that it felt good to beat him to the top even though he had put on a few pounds and was totally out of shape. I think it motivated him to start running again, so this may be the only time I can savor the victory. 

A view of the trail from the top of Saddle Rock

The view of the Wenatchee Valley from the top of Saddle Rock

brother that has been the lowest day in my life lol! and not because of you, because of me. i was so disappointed in me, but so happy for you, i could honestly see the improvment youve made in fitness( and we had quite a few delicious beverages the night before remember!) bro i have had 20mile runs that were easier than that day! and im 100% not kidding lol.. i kind of hope you keep the house so i can visit saddle rock annually :)
Saturday, May 1, 2010 - 10:42 PM

Fitness Week 12

posted Nov 11, 2011, 5:41 PM by Brandon McGuire

(Original Date: Sunday, March 28, 2010)

Week 12: Weight = 189.2

Sun: a day of rest

Mon: 1.66 mile jog outside 14:07

Tue: a day of rest (and indulgence)

Wed: Weight Lifting (chest/arms) Sit-ups 3 x 30 reps

Thurs: a day of rest

Fri: Push-ups 1 x 30 reps

Sat: hike up Saddle Rock

Notes: I’m finding myself trying to enjoy some of the foods and restaurants that I know I will not be able to enjoy for a while. It’s hard to balance working out with having a good time and enjoying some great meals. 

This will be the last actual post of my fitness routines. I am winding down with the workouts. I will continue to do some push-ups and sit-ups as well as a run or two this last week. When I look back at my original plans and goals I see that fell far short of where I thought I would be at this point. I do think I have built a solid foundation that I will be able to improve upon once I get to basic. I don’t think I will have any issues actually passing the fitness test in the end. My goal is to do a little better each time they test us.

and you beat me up saddle rock... never thought i'd see that day my still pissed about that ! hah! i'll list my 10 excuses later....
Saturday, May 1, 2010 - 10:33 PM

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